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Stephen King’s advice to writers

Posted July 25, 2014 by

Stephen King gives the best advice about writing. No kidding. Here you go:

On where ideas come from (1):

‘Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.’

On where ideas come from (2):

‘So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.’

On taking your work seriously:

‘You must not come lightly to the blank page. It’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business.’

On distractions:

‘If possible, there should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades, unless it looks at a blank wall. For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction. When you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you not? Of course you do. When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.’

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On drafting a story (1):

‘When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.’ John Gould, writer and editor of Lisbon’s weekly newsletter, who employed King when he was a teenager.

On drafting a story (2):

‘Gould said something else that was interesting on the day I turned in my first two pieces: write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right – as right as you can, anyway – it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticise it. If you’re lucky, more will want to do the former than the latter.’

On drafting a story (3):

‘In the spring of my senior year at Lisbon High I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%. Good luck.

On writing what you know:

‘Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work. Especially work. People love to read about work. God knows why, but they do. If you’re a plumber who enjoys science fiction, you might well consider a novel about a plumber aboard a starship or on an alien planet.’

On reading:

‘There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words–the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.’

On self-awareness:

‘I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.’

On perseverance:

‘Running a close second [as a writing lesson] was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.’

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On thesaurus abuse:

‘One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.’

On passive and active sentences:

‘The timid fellow writes The meeting will be held at seven o’clock because that someone says to him ‘Put it this way and people will believe you really know.’ Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulder, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write The meeting’s at seven. There, by God! Don’t you feel better?’

On adverbs:

‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.’

On Swifties:

‘Don’t do these things. Please oh please.’

On dialogue:

‘While to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine.’

On sending your work out:

‘Submitting stories without first reading the market is like playing darts in a dark room – you might hit the target every now and then, but you don’t deserve to.’

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And possibly my favourite bit of advice about writing ever:

On why we write:

‘Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.

Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.

Drink and be filled up.’

Excerpt: DARK CHILD (COVENS RISING): EPISODE 4 by Adina West

Posted July 24, 2014 by
Kat brought her eyes back to Amber. “Am I still in danger?” she blurted. 
      “Of course you are.”
An unexpected visit from Kat’s grandmother adds a shocking twist to the unfolding mystery of her hybrid heritage. Add to this a romantic tangle of epic proportions and Kat’s visit to Akilina’s chateau in the idyllic Loire Valley is shaping up to be anything but relaxing. 
Kat’s powers are growing, and with war between the races looming new alliances are being forged. And everyone, it seems, wants Kat on their side …
This title is the fourth novella-length episode of Dark Child (Covens Rising), which will conclude with Episode 5. Please visit momentumbooks.com.au for further information.

Chapter 35

Kat woke to birdsong. The morning light streamed through a tall open window; a tasseled cord held back brocade curtains. Though Alek’s sable rug lay tumbled across the foot of the bed, the sheets and coverlet were crisp and unfamiliar, the room surrounding her equally so. She had a vague – very vague – memory of being carried downstairs from Sabine’s apartment by Alek, and being transported out of Paris by car. So this must be Akilina’s château. Her aunt hadn’t refused her entry, despite their disagreement last night – which, now she came to think of it, had probably been caused mostly by her being in a rotten mood because she was hungry and overtired. Right now, none of it seemed important enough to fight about. Akilina had one set of beliefs and Kat had another. Maybe they didn’t mesh, but it was hardly the end of the world. She stretched, yawned, and looked around.

There, on the other side of her bed, lying full length on top of the covers, was a familiar giant cougar. He regarded her sleepily through half-closed eyes, and when he saw her looking at him, started to make a rough, throaty rumbling noise. He was … he was actually purring.

She reached out to smooth her hand over the thick fur on his head, and he closed his eyes again, and nestled his head into the spare pillow. So Alek had found a way to stay past dawn, exactly as he’d promised. Funny to think how, only a short time ago, she’d found him terrifying in his cougar form. Now that she knew he wasn’t a wild animal and she was in no danger of being eaten alive, she was almost more comfortable with him when he was like this.

Kat pushed back the covers, and slid her legs out of the bed. Her bare legs. Her t-shirt, bra and panties were all there but her jeans definitely weren’t. She glanced back at Alek, but his eyes were closed, and the golden brown fur on his back rose and fell with his regular breaths. Any bet, it was Alek who’d stripped off her jeans before putting her to bed. Luckily, that was all he’d taken off. She’d been seriously out of it last night. She didn’t even remember arriving here. Being so dependent on others, so vulnerable, was frustrating as hell. She’d no doubt be rediscovering the joys of claustrophobic restrictions on her movements now the attacks on hybrids that Ionescu had predicted had begun in North America. Her protectors would be back on alert again.

Kat found her clothes, including her neatly folded jeans, in an armoire against the wall, and she changed her underwear and dressed quickly with a wary eye on Alek. At least she was feeling good this morning. More than good. Alek’s blood obviously packed more of a punch than Jonathan’s, which probably made sense. He was older and, from everything she’d seen, definitely more powerful.

When fully dressed, she went to stand by the bed. Alek opened one eye a crack to survey her. Not asleep then.

“I thought I’d go exploring,” she said. “I’ll be fine on my own, given it’s daytime and all.”

She expected a protest but he just rolled his head to the side and gazed at her sleepily. A pretty clear body-language signal that he didn’t mind what she did. “You don’t seem worried about me going wandering by myself.” She paused to eye him speculatively. Only last night he’d been the one telling Akilina she had to be moved out of Paris without delay. So why wasn’t he protesting against her leaving his sight? Kat rubbed her wrist absent-mindedly, moving her bracelets up and down. She frowned, then looked down at the one Luc had given her last night. On impulse, she covered it with her hand, pressing it into her skin. And then she could sense them out there, like pinpricks of light in her consciousness. Most of the Paris unalil were spaced evenly to form a distant perimeter around the house. The rest were in a group somewhere outside.

Kat rolled her eyes. “Let me take a wild guess. This entire place is ringed by unalil on guard duty, isn’t it?”

Alek answered with an expression that was probably a cougar’s version of a grin.

Kat shook her head with annoyed resignation, before heading for the door.

As she walked down the wide stone hallway, a memory returned to tickle her mind. Alek had said something to Akilina last night. Something about the others coming back. So, hopefully, that meant Alek’s unalil family were all here somewhere, even Amarok. Yesterday, for a brief moment on the train, she was sure their minds had touched. Was it really possible she had contacted Amarok somehow, even though he’d been hundreds of miles away? A sudden pang of homesickness rushed through her, a need for something familiar. Kat closed her eyes with that thought running strongly through her mind, and immediately sensed another, brighter spark.

She had no idea whether she was doing this mind-connection thing right, but sent a thought toward that familiar energy source. Amarok?

Waiting for you to wake up.

The reply came so immediately that she couldn’t doubt it was really him. And he was close. By concentrating, she found she could trace a path toward him, through the quiet building. The place was huge. Already she’d climbed a staircase and passed dozens of closed doors, and the scale of the hallways and foyers she’d gone through gave her an image of how big the rooms inside must be.

She rounded a final corner, and found Amarok, in wolf form, lying across the doorway of a room. He jumped to his feet when he saw her.

“Hey!” She bent down to put her arms around him, and he nuzzled the curve of her neck. Kat gestured at the partially open door. “Is this Amber’s room?”

Amarok nudged her behind the knees, and she pushed the door open a little more and stepped into the darkness. She paused a moment so her eyes could adjust, then crossed to the bed she saw against the far wall. Amber was nestled beneath the blankets, sleeping. Her expression was peaceful, her features porcelain smooth. There was nothing pinched or gaunt about her anymore, and she’d been both when they’d first rescued her. Kat stood silently by the bed for a while, but Amber didn’t move. Her chest rose and fell, in unhurried rhythm, as she slept.

Kat left the room quietly, then turned to Amarok, who was still waiting outside. “She looks so much better!”

She wants to speak with you, tonight.

Kat nodded, and pulled the door back to its previous position, slightly ajar.

“Can we … is there somewhere we can talk?” she said.

Amarok nodded his shaggy head.

“Good.” She stretched out her hand, and he touched it with his nose. “I have to do something first, though.”

Kat led the way downstairs, to where she could feel the Parisian unalil grouped near the house.

“Do you mind waiting here?” she asked Amarok, and then opened the final door leading out to a walled courtyard abutting the château. It was paved in weathered stone, with beds of rosemary and other herbs in a formal pattern. On the many paths crisscrossing it, half a dozen giant dogs were sprawled, soaking up the sun and resting.

Kat stepped outside, and the nearest, a huge, shaggy Leonberger, jumped to his feet. This one she recognized; even though she’d only seen him out of the corner of her eye for a moment, flying through the air yesterday morning, he’d kind of stuck in her memory.

“Luc,” she said, with a nod of greeting. “Thank you all for coming here and protecting me. I’m sorry I don’t know everyone’s names. I guess I’ll get to know you all with time.” Kat frowned as a sudden thought came to her. “Unless … ” She covered their bracelet with her right hand, and pressed it into her skin. She felt it get warm as she pulled energy from the sunlight around them. As she focused on each stone in turn, she realized they each contained their own unique energy, and she could feel those sparks, like a signature attached to the being they were linked to. It made sense; from what Akilina had told her last night, each stone contained an individual drop of blood. She could sense each of them and call to them in her mind, individually or – for their energies were interlinked with each other, as they were with hers – as a pack.

Can you all hear me? Asking the question felt a bit silly, like saying “Testing, one two three … ” into the microphone in front of a half-filled auditorium.

A chorus of acknowledgments met her; French, and Karpat, and muted canine growls. It didn’t seem to matter. The eyes of each of the huge dogs in the courtyard were focused brightly on her, and she could sense the others out there were also listening, beneath their shady trees and sprawled on top of stone walls.

I know you now. I know you all. She touched the mind of each in turn, and their names came to her. There was Emeka, the big barrel-chested russet mastiff over beside the fountain. The chocolate-coated pointer lying alongside a bed of sage and thyme was Thierry, and, with his floppy ears, he certainly looked less fierce than some of the others. Like Guy, the black Rottweiler, and Jaouad, the black and fawn Doberman beside him, both watching her alertly, ears pricked. Each was solidly muscled and looked bred for attack. And then there was Stéphane, a Carpathian sheepdog, who rose to his feet and shook himself before trotting over to stand beside Luc. He looked immense, though maybe that was just because of his abundance of shaggy gray and black fur.

Far away on the property perimeter were Julien and Rémy, one a speckled black and white setter and the other a chestnut-colored Irish setter. There was Kwasi, a light brown ridgeback, and, finally, Marcel, a lanky gray wolfhound. From each, she could sense both gratitude and devotion.

I’m getting to know you unalil males. Kat let her humor shine through their connection. You tend to be the type to protect first, ask questions later. But you need to know what sort of threat we’re facing.

Then she let the images flow from her mind to theirs: the memories she had all but repressed, of her battle back in the White Mountains with the enhanced monsters from the laboratories beneath the Hema Castus, of their subsequent trip to Hema Castus, and of the emaciated trapped seers, and, finally, the building collapsing in on itself, in ruins.

You must all have heard about the attacks on Tabérin hybrids in America. We don’t know if or when the Directorate threat will find us here. But from something Luc said, I gather you all have your own history with them, and I’m asking you to remember that we are few, and you’re all valuable to me. Dont take unnecessary risks with your own safety to protect mine. We talk before we fight, and, as Ive shown you, when I need to, I can protect myself. Okay?

Again, a chorus of acknowledgments, tinged with respect this time. They’d heard rumors, heard part of the story, but most of what she’d shown them had been unknown to them.

As she finished, Luc separated himself from the rest. The big dog came right up to her, and bowed his shaggy head, butting his black nose gently against her leg. She could feel his approval of what she’d just shared. She hadn’t liked reliving some of those moments, but these males – however new to their roles – were now her inner circle. In a funny way, she felt, they were her ‘pack’. They wouldn’t respect her leadership without knowing what she was capable of, and given the critical nature of the threat they were facing, it was imperative that they work as a team.

As Luc raised his eyes to meet hers, she smiled, and ran her hand through the fur on his neck. There’s someone I’d like you all to meet.

“Amarok?” she called.

 

 

 

What makes a good bookshop?

Posted July 23, 2014 by

It’s a fair question, given the rate that bookshops both large and small seem to be either closing or suffering from the changing dynamics of book buying and reading.

And given that the large-scale bookshop behemoth model seems to have reached its natural conclusion and collapsed, we can deduce that enormity isn’t really what works. A bookshop doesn’t need to be the size of a small moon, complete with planet-destroying superweapons and tea-towels in the shape of Marcel Proust’s head. It just needs to sell books, and sell them well.

In a recent article, several architect firms were asked to design a bookshop, according to the brief, ‘to save bookshops’. This is a bit silly in one instance, in that it implies bookshops are dying out. Which isn’t true, they’re just changing. But the odd thing was, the proposed designs seemed a bit, well, dull. And trivial. Like when films set in the future come up with concepts that they think are brilliant but ultimately irrelevant and obsolete, like robot bartenders and fridges that talk to you.

The firms designed bookshops that had features like a glass screen façade with QR codes for downloads, vending machines of books, display screens for upcoming events and something called a ‘Harry Potter wonderwall of discovery’, which just sounds like the soundtrack to some weird JK Rowling fanfic. There’s also a design that includes a tree (because trees=paper=books? I don’t know), floating robots, and a stage where authors are literally treated like rock stars.

One of the designers even admits it’s all a bit pointless, as he declares there’s no point trying to save books when they’ll only become digitised, and treats his bookshop proposal as a kind of shrine to the soon-to-be obsolete paper book. A curiosity shop, then.

Hidden in these designs are a few more practical bits of advice: books that face outward so that the cover, rather than the spine, sells the book. They suggest books on long flat tables, rotating displays of featured genres, and the understanding that a bookshop should not just sell books, but become the focal point for events and happenings that surround the book industry.

But is that all? There’s nothing new there, nothing drastically innovative or earth-shattering to how good bookshops run these days.

In one of my highly scientific studies where I canvas the opinion of lovely people, most seemed to suggest the following for a bookshop:

  • Good and diverse books
  • Approachable and knowledgeable staff

Which does seem kind of obvious as well. But it goes to show just how much simple things translate to good business sense, at least in the customer’s eyes. While some people liked the idea of speciality bookshops, that catered to specific genres or readers, most seemed to agree that it was more difficult financially, and better to offer a diverse range across a range of styles and genres.

But by this point, some seemed to say certain bookshops have merely token nods towards genres. There are shelves that get short shrift, and have only the most obvious or clichéd titles on offer, which naturally drives those readers to alternative methods of procuring their books. It’s almost as if some shops will provide depth and quality in their own interest, but neglect others while pretending to include them. It’s that type of thing that doesn’t work. Better to specialise, or admit only certain readers are catered for, or do it all well.

Most liked the idea of having a good online catalogue, if not for ordering at least for browsing. If staff aren’t available, sometimes it’s easier to find the availability of a book by using the phone in your hand. Particularly if it’s a crowded shop.

Places to sit and read were certainly recommended, which can sometimes be difficult to come by. Especially if larger bookshops are being squeezed out, physical space becomes difficult as shops increasingly pack more in to less. But still, bookshops sell reading, and should – where possible – aim to encourage it.

Probably the most obvious thing from people’s suggestions is how much everyone approved of a more classic model for a bookshop. And yet in the architect designs above they all seemed to go out of their way to pretend that their bookshops weren’t bookshops. As if that would turn people off.

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And I don’t want to turn this into a nostalgic lamentation for the loss of an unsustainable model, but a bookshop should be a bookshop, right? If you walk in and don’t see books, you lose your faith in the business. Bookshops should have shelves of books, they should have a range that you can actually sink in to and find not just what you’re looking for, but also discover what you weren’t looking for.

The alternative methods of buying books that have taken hold in the last few years work not because they’re pretending to sell some kind of book-ish experience to buyers that pretends not to sell books (we just buy them by accident!), it’s because they have range and convenience. A bookshop should work the same – and the best ones do.

I was reminded recently of a moment in Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! where the nature of a bookshop is discussed – the kind of bookshop that draws you in and keeps you there, letting you find what you want (and what you don’t want), and while Pratchett’s idea of a bookshop isn’t a new one, it’s still the model that – to me – works, because it’s about a bookshop that has books.

‘The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned secondhand bookshop, one that looks as though it was designed by M.C. Escher on a bad day and has more stairways than storeys and those rows of shelves which end in little doors that are surely too small for a full-sized human to enter. The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.’

Sounds like a good bookshop to me, whether it happens to be online or down the road.

 

We need to move on from Star Wars

Posted July 18, 2014 by

We need to unlearn what we have learned

Star Wars changed everything. It’s become that singular defining moment of cinema history, the film that changed everything, pivoting cinema from the innovative and critically acclaimed new wave of the 70s, into the barnstorming blockbuster era of the 80s and 90s, and franchised, serialised, merchandised juggernauts of the 21st century.

From Star Wars, sound design, special effects, visual effects, and soundtracks all changed dramatically, entire industries and companies spontaneously thrust to the forefront of filmmaking. Spin-offs, TV shows, video games, books and comics all extended the reality and the life of Star Wars beyond the two hours of screen time. And, most importantly, a whole generation of filmmakers rose up in George Lucas’ wake, benefiting from the investments in technological advancements that Lucas orchestrated, as well as the influence Star Wars had on their own cinematic visions and storytelling.

And the influence was immediate.

Ridley Scott went out and began work on what was to become Alien, and then later Bladerunner. Jim Henson made The Dark Crystal and then Labyrinth. James Cameron started with Terminator, took over on Aliens, and then made The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgement Day with ILM, which Lucas founded, and which subsequently spawned the beginnings of Pixar. Christopher Nolan, Jon Favreau, Kevin Smith, Peter Jackson, Edgar Wright, J.J. Abrams, Lana and Andy Wachowski, Rian Johnson, Diablo Cody and Eli Roth all identify Star Wars as the ignition for their desire to make films.

Lucas’ use of Joseph Campbell and foreign films as guiding influences on his story design has been endlessly copied to the point of canonising Star Wars as its own archetype. The structure, tone and characterisation of the trilogy are effectively the blueprints for every modern franchise. And this is where we start to run into some problems.

The Star Wars franchise ran awry. Lucas’ storytelling limitations and obsessions over technological advancement drove the prequels into frustrating, hollow territory. The ever-inflating Star Wars universe left the narrative riddled with inconsistencies and irrelevancies that brought about Disney’s takeover and inevitable reset on the Star Wars universe. So much so, that J.J. Abrams, in making the upcoming Episode VII, has gone to great pains to reassure audiences that the film is returning them back to where they started.

Now we are the masters

In Star Wars’ legacy, we not only have a legion of talented filmmakers, we also have the model for how blockbuster films are failing.

Star Wars was released in 1977. Thirty-seven years ago. Given cinema’s fairly young history, the day George Lucas changed filmmaking is closer to the midpoint rather than acting as some kind of recent influence. The generation of influenced filmmakers are getting old. Ridley Scott seems stuck on adaptation-remake autopilot. Cameron is more concerned with technology than story. Jackson and Abrams are almost parodies of themselves lately, while Smith, Wright and Roth seem to abandon more projects than start them. And then the Wachowskis managed to cram Lucas’ disastrous prequel trilogy tailspin into their original trilogy, ruining everything The Matrix established with the swift crash and burn of the sequels.

And yet we still seem to be in an endless cycle of monomyths and trilogies, where we can recite the character beats and plot points in our sleep. We watch for the spectacle, but forget the story (were there any classic lines in Avatar?) We all remember that opening shot where the fleeing Rebel ship is dwarfed by the enormity of the Imperial Stardestroyer. And we remember the first sighting of the Death Star. And the lightsaber. And Darth Vader. Star Wars was spectacle, but it’s remembered because of the strength of the story underneath it.

What worked with Star Wars’ story is that it provided something that had been severely lacking in cinema for decades. It did something new and innovative with story that underpinned all its technological advancements. It worked because of so many different facets. Lucas provided a hopeful, triumphant, classic tale at a time when audiences were fearful of further destabilisation. The continuation of the Vietnam War, the paranoia of the Cold War, and the disenfranchisement of an entire population due to increasingly malicious governments left everyone unsure of what was right and what was wrong. Star Wars changed that entirely.

Of the current directors, only Nolan seems to understand this. He rightfully channelled contemporary concerns about politics, media and justice into The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, aware of how that magical symbiosis between story and reality is crucial to a lasting impact. One can only hope that his coming Interstellar brings the same respect for the audience.

These aren’t the films we’re looking for

We have exhausted the lessons from Star Wars. We need to start telling our own stories.

In the way that Lucas drew on everything he loved to create his own original story, we too need to do the same. We need to free sequels and trilogies and heroes from the repetitive and hollow confines of Campbell. As successful as Abrams is, being a modern remix of Lucas and Spielberg isn’t necessarily creating a lasting impression, especially when his lasting trait seems to be lens flares. For a time, it appeared The Lord of the Rings was going to be this generation’s Star Wars, but its impact seems to have been more along the lines of fuelling more classic book adaptations and exhausting our capacity for box-sets and blue-screens.

The current audience is one that, too, grew up with the impact of Star Wars. It is a far more cinematically knowledgeable audience, one well-versed in everything that Lucas brought about. Like anything once revolutionary, Star Wars has become the norm, the standard, the complacent mainstream.

We need a film to come along and have the wherewithal to challenge convention and do something entirely new. And from that, the next generation of films and filmmakers will spring forth.

 

 

Excerpt: DARK CHILD (COVENS RISING): EPISODE 3 by Adina West

Posted July 17, 2014 by
The hunger was worse every day, and now there was only a whisper-thin line holding her back from a dark red sea. 
      “You would feed me?” Her voice came out so husky and low that it was a wonder he heard her.
In Paris, Kat hears of horrifying events back in the States. The leader of the Directorate is openly attacking those with mixed Tabérin and human blood. Hybrids like her. And chances are he’ll be turning his attention to Europe next. 
Kat knows she needs to go into hiding again. But then her Tabérin aunt, Akilina, reveals something about Kat’s heritage that changes everything. If Akilina is right, the Directorate will stop at nothing until they have eradicated Kat and the threat she represents. No matter how many they have to kill to get to her …
As the threat from the Directorate intensifies, Ben and Yara barely escape the US with their lives. But being trapped together on a boat bound for Europe could prove much more dangerous than anticipated. Because one of them is in transition, and needs to feed …
This title is the third novella-length episode of Dark Child (Covens Rising), which will conclude on July 31 with Episode 5. Please visit momentumbooks.com.au for further information.

Chapter 24

Amarok stood staring out into the darkness. Forest smells drifted in on the early evening breeze, and the stone balustrade was cold beneath his forearms. The snow-capped peaks of Slovenia’s highest mountain range rose behind him and continued on toward the border with Austria and Italy in the north-west, while Lake Bled lay far to the east, three thousand feet below. Despite the troubling circumstances that had brought them there, he liked this remote castle of Aron’s. It was too long since the family had spent time here.

Amarok, where are you? I need you.

Kat’s words reverberated through his head, and, for a brief instant, he was aware of her surroundings in far-off Paris: a railway carriage, and her feelings of uncertainty and fear.

Kat? He felt her register his shock at the sudden contact, and in the next instant, she was gone, the brief connection between them sundered. Amarok hesitated only a second before hurrying to see his sister.

“I was just coming to look for you,” Della said when he entered the room. “Things have taken a bad turn.”

“She’s worse?” He went to the bedside to see for himself.

Amber’s eyes were open, but she was staring up sightlessly, mumbling to herself.

“No.” Della shook her head. “She’s fine – I think. But she’s in a vision state of some kind. Something bad is happening elsewhere.”

“Does this have something to do with Kat?” Amarok asked. “I was coming to see if Amber was awake, and ask her what she sees for Kat, because I’ve just received a cry for help.”

“What do you mean, received?”

Amarok tapped his head.

Della’s eyes widened. “Kat contacted you? It was more than a decade before I could establish a reliable psychic connection even with Corrin, who I was so intimate with. With you all, as you would be aware, it took much longer.”

“It was only for an instant.” Amarok frowned. “As if she didn’t quite know how to do it properly. But I’m sure it was real. I saw her on a train.”

Della nodded, her eyes troubled,  and then looked down at Amber’s face. “Perhaps you could try to talk to her. She may respond to you.”

“She’s crying!” Amarok said in wonder. And it was true. Silent tears were streaming down Amber’s cheeks, dampening the pillow beneath her.

He laid his hand against one cheek and leaned down to kiss her on the forehead.

Amber blinked, and looked up at him with recognition. “Brother, I see so much death.”

Amarok gripped the pillow beside her head. “Kat. Not Kat?” he demanded.

Amber shook her head from side to side. “No, this happens far away, across the ocean. Whole families slaughtered.”

Della directed a shocked glance at him. “Who?” she asked. “Is there anything we can do?”

Amarok smoothed back Amber’s hair with a gentle hand. “Who is doing this? And who are the targets of this violence?”

“Our distant kin. Our Tabérin blood. Too many to help. Too many to save.” Amber blinked away tears. “But we must be ready to receive the survivors.”

Amarok exhaled, and shared a look with Della across his sister’s bed. He touched Amber’s cheek gently. “Amber, is Kat in any danger? She … communicated with me tonight. She was afraid.”

Amber stared off into the distance, and shook her head at last. “No physical danger. But she will need us. We shall go to her tonight.” She frowned, and looked up at him, her expression troubled. “Alek is already in Paris. He can get to her faster. Why have you not sent him to her, silly Amarok?”

“Sometimes, you see too much,” Amarok said grimly. He bent and kissed her again. “I’ll contact him now.”

“Amarok?” Amber called as he turned to leave. “The covens will rise. All this death will bring the witches out of hiding. There are dark days ahead, and Katerina will need our faith now more than ever.”

Amarok was troubled as he returned to the quiet balcony he’d been on when disturbed by Kat’s call for help. He wasn’t yet sure of the link between the deaths Amber had seen in her vision and the witches. But, given the violent history between the Tabérin and the Families of Power, any mention of them wasn’t good.

*

Establishing a connection with Alek was ridiculously easy, though Alek growled at the intrusion.

What do you want?

Nice to see you still excel at the small talk, brother. Amber’s been getting visions. Something very bad is happening back in America. Find out what you can. But be careful – she also warned of retaliation by the witches.

Amarok wished the next part of his message was as easy to raise with Alek, though he knew Amber was right. If Kat needed protectors, Alek was closest. Maybe his reluctance had something to do with the fact that Alek had received a phone call last night that had sent him hightailing it back to Paris, only he’d refused to tell anyone what was going on.

Spit it out. What is it you’re so reluctant to ask me?

Amarok could hear the amusement coming from Alek. It was impossible to hide feelings from each other when engaged in this sort of connection, and clearly, his own conflicting motivations were coming across loud and clear. Kat had called to him, not Alek. It frustrated him no end to be sending Alek to do a task he’d have infinitely preferred to reserve for himself. But, with Amber still in a fragile state, Amarok’s loyalties were divided. Alek’s were not.

Kat needs backup. You’re closest.

Got it. And then Alek cut their connection.

It could have been worse. He’d expected to feel gloating triumph radiating from Alek at gaining the upper hand in their ongoing tussle, and he’d been spared that. Mostly he was annoyed at himself. For years, he’d been selfless in his protection of Kat. But lately, especially where Alek was concerned, he had trouble putting his own needs last. Perhaps Alek’s innate competitiveness had awoken his own, and realizing what he had to lose had shown him how much it was worth fighting for.

Amarok sighed, and turned to go back inside. Amber had made her pronouncement, so they would travel tonight.

 

9781760081508_Dark Child Covens Rising 3_cover

Dark Child (Covens Rising): Episode 3 is available now where all good ebooks are sold

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Dark Child (Covens Rising): Episode 1 is available FREE where all good ebooks are sold

 

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Go back to where it all began with Dark Child (Awakening): Episode 1 available now for FREE where all good ebooks are sold

 

 

The genre kids are all right

Posted July 15, 2014 by

So when I’m not writing posts here I’m actually living a whole other secret life full of action, teaching secondary students about books and writing and stuff. Kind of like Batman. Just without the hero status and heaps of money. But otherwise just like Batman.

Anyway, one of the enviable tasks I get is to introduce fifteen year olds to the subject of Literature. Which means a type of explanation needs to occur where what distinguishes Literature from ‘normal’ English is clarified, and why the books read in Literature are different to those read in English.

It’s a strange conversation, and it’s noticeable just how much the students struggle to articulate the difference between something that is literary and something that isn’t. To be honest, I’m not sure if I have yet worked out a way of making this point clear. What is clear is that they quickly discover that they need to divide their reading, between what is serious and worthy of study, and what is enjoyable.

I loathe this moment. The point where teenagers feel they must put away childish reading and grow up, as if that’s what literary means. Yet we see this distinction reflected everywhere.

In her piece for Slate, ‘Against YA’, Ruth Graham argues that adults should be embarrassed for reading a novel targeted for a younger audience. Titles like Divergent and Twilight and The Fault In Our Stars are singled out for being pleasurable yet trivial moments of escapism, and far beneath a mature and ‘adult’ sensibility.

A cursory glance at the book reviews in last weekend’s papers reveals something in the region of seventeen titles that would appear on the literary end of the bookshelf, and three toward the genre end (if one is running with the literary-genre dichotomy). Of the three genre reviews, two are under 200 words long, compared to the 800-plus afforded to the literary reviews. The genre titles are described as ‘taut’, ‘terse’, and ‘well-structured’, whereas the literary are allowed to look at ‘complex and persistently myth-confused questions’, with characters who are ‘witnesses to extraordinary revolutions [yet] resigned to their fate.’

Even more, one of the genre titles is unfavourably held against Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch – which is comparable neither in plot, style or genre – and Charles Willeford, whose entries into the genre have been around long enough to earn literary esteem.

Okay, maybe it was a bad weekend. But I hazard not. We seem unable to escape this idea that one type of book is worthy, and another not. That one type gets all the ink and the awards and the measured reflection, the other is sidelined and measured against redundant standards. One gets festivals, the other conventions.

And when one might stray into the other, there’s short shrift that borders on disdain.

But I think there’s something in this idea that (some) people view genre as childish, and therefore embarrassing to read – as Graham suggested – and that it is a guilty pleasure and we should really be above such indulgences. It’s the moment I see in the classroom, when the students feel like their childhood imagination is being frowned upon.

It’s hard not to see why.

With almost clockwork regularity, the books that top the lists of favourite/best/most acclaimed young fiction are distinctly genre titles. They involve magic, talking animals, imaginary lands made real, wizards and witches and adventures through time and space. There are distinctly dystopian stories, and others that are pure fantasy, others that push magic-realism into childhood imaginations, and collisions between one genre and another, between one real world and one entirely fantastic.

And like that, we ask it all to stop. All these award-winning titles must then be shelved, and we must go and read serious things. And yes I know we don’t, but this is the illusion that is presented. This is the fallacy that is created by calling a subject Literature, by classifying and critiquing one set of stories one way, and others entirely differently.

What is so wrong about the types of stories we read as children that so many are afraid to recognise their worth as adults? Why can we easily view The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe alongside Anne of Green Gables in children’s book lists, yet shudder at Doctor Sleep occupying the same space as The Perfect Scent, as ABC’s The Book Club did recently?

If we consider genre titles to be enjoyable, even necessary for children, there is something in that for us adults. In spite of the limitations of a subject called Literature, the one thing I try to impress on my students is that once upon a time, Romeo and Juliet was popular, genre fiction. As was (and is) Frankenstein. The only reason they can be classified as ‘literary’ now is the good grace of time, and familiarity.

The stories that last are the important ones, and the ones that will last are the ones we read the most. And just like Batman, they may not be the books we feel we need but instead they’re the books we deserve. And keep coming back to.

 

 

The path to publication I: The pitch and the contract

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Today we’re joined by Momentum author Steve P. Vincent, whose political thriller The Foundation will be published in September. You can find more of his articles on his website or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

In the July 2014 issue of Writers Victoria Magazine, I wrote about my experience in finishing a manuscript. You can read the article here. In it I committed to doing my best to let readers in on the publishing process for The Foundation as I experience it for the first time.

Between now and the release date, I’ll be writing on each of the major stages of the publishing process: pitch, offer, contract negotiation, editing, cover design, marketing, release and the first review.

I’ll be sharing as much as I can about my experience, the 10 biggest lessons I learn along the way and the perspective of the Momentum crew at key points. It’ll be a fun record of my experience through this process for the first time and hopefully it’ll give others some insights too.

The pitch

pitchIt took me two years to finish the manuscript for The Foundation. With all that I’ve discovered since, I reckon I’ll be able to knock the sequel off in half that time. But finishing the manuscript is the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

On the advice of PD Martin, mentor and crime writing supremo, I tuned out the doubts and wrote my pitch letter. The elements I was aiming for were simple: professional, succinct, the sharpest synopsis I was able to craft and a little bit about me.

I asked Joel Naoum, my publisher at Momentum, for his views on the ‘ideal’ pitch:

‘There’s no ‘perfect’ pitch. A great pitch, though, has a great hook. Concentrate on what will propel readers to pick up the book, and what makes it both similar to and different from other books like it. The initial hook should only be a sentence or two, the letter should have a bit about the author and it helps if it’s detailed and personable. It’s a bit like a job application covering letter, except it’s both you and your book angling for an interview. Also, please follow the submission guidelines.’

My whole letter was a page, and along with the manuscript I shipped it off with some doubts and a little bit of hope. This brings me to my first lesson, because I wasn’t prepared for what happens when you first let go of something you’ve held so tightly for years.

Lesson 1: Once you pitch to an agent or publisher, however long you think it might take to hear back, double it. It may not take that long, but that way you won’t go mad waiting. While you wait, start the sequel or write something else.

As I was working my way through a zombie novella set in Chicago starring a British accountant named Stan, I got an email back from Haylee Nash, Pan Macmillan’s commissioning editor. It had been about a month. I put Stan aside and set my thoughts to business.

The offer

offer
The news was mixed. Haylee loved the book (yay!) but the genre was finding it tough in print (boo!). Pan Macmillan was going to pass on it (boo!), but she was willing to consider it for their Momentum imprint (yay!) if I was interested.

I told her I was, so it was taken to an acquisitions meeting. I asked Joel how those meetings work:

‘Acquisitions at Momentum are a bit different to a traditional publisher. We are empowered to take bigger risks and invest in authors long term on the basis of what we think will work and how much we loved the manuscript. We meet once a week to discuss potential new acquisitions, and if the team at the meeting likes the idea, then generally we proceed with making an offer. It’s pretty straightforward.’

Haylee got back to me a week later. The terms she outlined were fine: global distribution, healthy royalties and no major issues I could see. The catch was a title change, which was fine, because the working titled sucked. I wrote back, accepting the outline of terms and the title change.

The Foundation, and a great partnership, was born.

I asked Haylee for her thoughts on The Foundation after she’d read it for the first time:

‘I was immediately impressed with the book. In terms of quality, I could almost have sent it to press that day! It didn’t read like the work of a debut author, who often fall victim to overwriting, loss of pace or sagging plot. Steve jumped into the action, drawing me into a compelling plot that, while it had all the hallmarks of the best blockbusters, felt entirely original. His writing was clean and spare (perfect for a thriller) with a cast of interesting, layered characters with their own motivations.’

Lesson 2: Don’t let others tell you it is impossible to get published. It’s difficult, there’s a lot of competition and it can take a long while, sure, but readers are still buying books and publishers are still looking to acquire.

The contract

contracts

I haven’t got an agent, so had to front up to receiving and negotiating a publishing contract myself. As tempting as it was to just sign it and get on with the fun stuff (because it’s probably all standard and there’s no need to rock the boat), I decided to get some advice.

After some friendly assistance from the Australian Society of Authors Contract Assessment Service (plug, plug), I was happy with the overwhelming majority of the contract, though I was keen to clarify or amend a few clauses.

I asked Haylee about her views on authors seeking to negotiate terms:

‘I’m always happy to work with authors to come to a mutually beneficial agreement. While I know our contracts are fair and at industry standard, some publishers, particularly in the digital realm, have contracts that aren’t. Thus it’s important that authors read and understand the whole contract, and bring up anything that they are unclear or unhappy about. Publishers and authors have a relationship, after all, and like in any good relationship communication is key.’

Lesson 3: Don’t be afraid of asking questions or trying to negotiate the terms of a contract. Your publisher is a professional who loves your book. They might have good reasons for rejecting a suggestion, but won’t resent you for asking.

After a little bit of back and forth, we settled on the contract. I was through the most stressful and uncertain part of the process and excited for what was to come. Little did I know that next to come was three hundred pages of bright red tracked changes.

I’ll share that with you in a few weeks.

How I Stopped People Stealing My Jack Reacher Novels

Posted July 11, 2014 by

If there’s one book that would beat up all the other books on my bookshelf it would be Lee Child’s first Reacher novel, Killing Floor. The problem I have at the moment is that my shelves seem to be lacking a copy. It’s not like I haven’t taken myself down to the local bookstore and liberated a copy, in fact, I have liberated at least three copies in the past ten years and yet my collection of tough bastard books is still lacking that very title.

The loss of this 400 pages of awesomeness usually unfolds as such:

Someone would come over to my apartment and they will point at a copy of Killing Floor on the shelf and say, ‘I haven’t read that.’

‘How could you have not read that.’

‘I’ve been reading…’

‘I don’t care what you’ve been reading.’ Then I would slap a copy of Killing Floor into their mitts and send them on their way… And the I would never see the book again.

Some would say that I was at least partially responsible for the consistent departure of my Killing Floor copies but that doesn’t mean that my bastard friends can’t return them.

And I thought about this while sitting in the audience at ThrillerFest listening to Lee Child and Joseph Finder talk about writing, crime and baseball.

Cut to ten minutes later, I’m standing in the bookstore watching Lee Child sign books. Now, generally I’m not into getting signed books but then I look down. On the table was a copy of my unretainable Killing Floor. Then I look to Lee Child, back to the book and to Lee Child again. I pick up the book, head over, stand in line and a couple of minutes later I’m standing in front of Lee Child.

I tell him my tale of woe. About the copies of Killing Floor that my asshole friends never return and ask, ‘can you help?’ Now, anybody who has ever met Lee Child or heard him speak, you will know, he’s not a guy to be fucked with. He stared at me for a moment or two, smirked and then put pen to paper.

The following is what he wrote:

photo (5)

 

I doubt my copy of Killing Floor will ever go missing again. Nobody wants Jack Reacher on their ass.

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Luke Preston is the author of the Tom Bishop Rampages, Dark City Blue and Out of Exile. He is in New York to attend ThrillerFest, where Out of Exile has been nominated for Best Ebook Original Novel at the International Thriller Writers Awards!

 

Podmentum: Thronementum

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We’ve done specials on Star Trek and Doctor Who, now we bring you a special episode all about Game of Thrones! We discuss the TV series and the books with special guests, including former Podmentum host Anne Treasure. This is also Mark Harding’s final episode as host. Oh, and massive spoiler warning for Game of Thrones.

 

Recommendations:

Anne 

Death, Sex & Money podcast

Patrick

Words of Radiance: The Stormlight Archive Book 2 by Brandon Sanderson

Joel

Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Mark

Orphan Black

 

Every film is better when it’s set in space

When it was pitched to the studio, Ridley Scott described Alien as ‘Jaws in space.’ And it nailed that brief perfectly, simultaneously creating its own subgenre as a result.

Last year’s Gravity was essentially Speed in space, if you can imagine that Dennis Hopper’s crazed psychopath is basically Isaac Newton.

This raises an interesting concept: are films better when they’re set in space?

What other films can be improved/adjusted/irreparably damaged by setting them in space?

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Jurassic Park

Monster movies work. Monster movies in space are even better.

So the characters in Jurassic Park In Space discover that dinosaurs didn’t become extinct on the planet, they just worked out things weren’t going to go well for them and the atmosphere and stuff (these are super smart dinosaurs) and so they left Earth and settled on a distant planet with comparable living conditions.

Until they are discovered by some over-enthusiastic billionaire and his team of space explorers, who think they have found not only a habitable planet for humanity, but also a lost colony of dinosaurs. Only it gets bad, because dinosaurs happen.

Key scene: Space raptors get into one of the escape ships and start to attack the crew in zero gravity.

godfather

The Godfather

Imagine this like a really dark version of Star Wars, without any heroes.

Space Don Corleone is about to pass on his galactic criminal empire to his sons, only things don’t go to plan.

And his poor space soldier son Michael, who just wants to go out for space walks, only whenever he goes out into space, they keep pulling him back in.

Key scene: the synchronised hit on the other space Dons across multiple galaxies, using wormholes.

The-Dark-Knight

The Dark Knight

Seriously, how much darker would it be in space?

The one thing we’ve never seen from all the iterations of the batsuit, is a bat spacesuit. And a batship. And a batcave that’s relocated to the asteroid belt.

The basic premise would be that instead of incarcerating all the crazy super villains in Arkham, Gotham has instead been shooting all the bad guys off into some kind of orbiting space prison. Only they get loose. And run amok. So SpaceBatman is off to be the zero gravity hero we all need

Key scene: after some epic battle of wits, the Joker is defeated but not captured, instead drifting off into deep dark space, cackling maniacally, to one day return. In a galaxy far far away.

goodfellas Goodfellas 

‘As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a space gangster.’

Documenting the rise and fall of a bit-player in the space criminal scene, poor Henry Hill bites off more than he can chew after he pulls off the Lufthansa Shuttle Heist of 2578 AD. Despite exhuming bodies on distant moons, and whacking everybody he knows in the solar system, Hill eventually is taken down by the Space Feds, and relocated to some crappy space station where he only eats space food like a schnook.

Key scene: the one take steadicam entry to the Copacabana Space Club.

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Back to the Future 

This series, while great, has always been a bit terrestrial. Imagine Marty McFly going so far into the future that everyone is living in space (because the planet is inhospitable for some reason probably involving Biff Tannen), and so Marty and the Doc have to make the DeLorean into a spacecar while they try to course-correct time and not wind up stuck in a dystopian space future.

Key scene: Biff gets knocked out when the pod bay doors of the DeLorean open in his face.

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The Shining

The Torrance family decide to look after a distant space station in the far reaches beyond Pluto. It gets cold, it gets lonely, and they all go a little mad with the space ghosts. And lots of steadicam shots down the maze-like corridors of the space station.

Key scene: Danny mysteriously finds air lock 237 open, and goes in to investigate.

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The Bridge on the River Kwai

Some decades-long galactic war is raging and a bunch of soldiers are captured and forced to build a space elevator to further the war effort of their enemy by bridging the vast river of the Kwai Galaxy. Only to do so would be possibly see defeat for their own side, yet to build a bad space elevator would be poor form, no?

But they set about building it, whistling as they go. Because in space, nobody can hear anybody whistle.

Key scene: The elevator blows up and Space Commander Nicholson realises what he’s done.

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There Will Be Blood

An epic story of family, oil and hokey space religions, centred on space prospector Daniel Plainview’s efforts to drill every damn planet, moon and asteroid in the galaxy. And if he sells his soul (and his adopted son) while doing so, all the better (worse).

Key scene: ‘I…eat…your…freeze-dried…milkshake!’

 

Excerpt: DARK CHILD (COVENS RISING): EPISODE 2 by Adina West

Posted July 10, 2014 by
In her dreams, she craved fresh blood. Warm human blood. And her incisors were long, sharp – able to bite through a fragile layer of skin with ease. What sort of monster does that make me?
Kat discovers that her presence in Paris isn’t such a secret anymore. But if she has to battle the Directorate again, it seems she’ll have much more support this time. Some of it from the most unlikely sources.
Meanwhile, teenage loner Ben discovers that he has much more in common with Yara Fortes, the girl of his dreams, than he ever hoped. But in a cruel twist of fate, the shared secret that links them together could also get them killed …
This title is the second novella-length episode of Dark Child (Covens Rising), which will conclude with Episode 5 on July 31. Please visit momentumbooks.com.au for further information.

 

Chapter 13

In English Lit class on the morning after his nocturnal excursion, Ben sat at the desk across from Yara, instead of in his normal position near the back. He was still high on adrenalin. He’d hardly been able to sleep after returning home last night and, even now, hours later, he was sure his pulse was elevated above normal – though that may have been for another reason.

“Yara.” He spoke in a piercing whisper, and she cocked her head slightly in his direction, while continuing to face forward.

“I’m sorry about last night at your house. The lights and the dogs and everything.”

She turned to face him in a flash, high spots of color in her cheeks. “What? That was you? You idiot, Ben, do you have any idea how dangerous … ”

“I’ll be more careful next time. Shhh,” he hissed, finger to his lips as he turned back to the teacher.

“Next time? Are you crazy?” Her voice had risen above a whisper now.

“Yara Fortes, eyes front, please!”

Yara gave a last meaningful glance in Ben’s direction. She was clearly biding her time until class ended. As soon as the bell rang, though, Ben escaped from the room. He didn’t want to give her the chance to spend any more time convincing him not to do something he was absolutely determined to do.

*

All the shutters were closed when he arrived home from school. Falcon was up early. Ben walked through to the kitchen and found his guardian waiting for him, his broad shoulders and long legs looking too big for the chair at the kitchen table. Ben rarely ever saw Falcon just sitting like a normal person. He usually went to work soon after rising for the night, and didn’t return until close to dawn. The rest of the time he spent sleeping in his heavily shuttered room.

So, Falcon sitting there at the table already made Ben suspicious. His next words proved there was reason to be.

“Any plans for tonight?” As usual, Falcon’s tone was calm, but the eyes that surveyed Ben were sharp and knowing.

Ben measured him, trying to guess how much Falcon already knew without betraying anything by his own expression. He kept his mind carefully blank as he answered.

“Ah, not really. Why, do you have a night off?”

“Funny.” Falcon’s tone suggested it was anything but.

They continued to stare at each other and, despite his best efforts, Ben felt himself growing faintly defensive. Damn, he hated it when Falcon did the waiting thing. Ben always caved in first. But this time he was determined not to give anything away if he could help it.

“So … ” Falcon continued in an offhand way. “You weren’t planning another trip to the Fortes house tonight, by any chance?”

“How did you know?” Ben burst out. He was absolutely certain he hadn’t let a single stray thought enter his mind. Over the years, he’d had plenty of practice at blocking out unwanted thoughts.

Falcon glanced down with a secret smile, and then gave a little shrug, as if the answer was obvious. “GPS tracker in your Vespa.”

“Damn. That’s really sneaky, you know that?”

Ben tried to feel angry about it, but couldn’t. It was so like Falcon. No matter what you did, he was always one step ahead, even if it was through using something prosaic, like a piece of human technology. It might have been a complete invasion of privacy, but Ben knew that, ultimately, anything Falcon did was for his own protection.

“Ben, I don’t want to be breathing down your neck, but I’ve got to ask you not to go back there. It isn’t safe.”

“Why?” Ben knew by his tone that Falcon wasn’t talking about the motion-sensor alarms and lights, or the guard dogs, though most people would have thought them reason enough.

Falcon’s eyes met his, the warning in them clear. “They’re not a normal family. Mess with them and it’s trouble, big trouble. And I mean the kind we’ve been trying to avoid for you. What on earth were you doing there?”

Ben’s eyes fell to the ground. He was silent for a moment. Then he faced Falcon, his expression serious. “I already know they’re not a normal family. Yara’s like me, I think. Part Tabérin. And she’s in trouble. Someone in that house … they’re making her drink blood, even though she hates it and it makes her ill.”

Falcon’s eyes narrowed. “And Yara would be … who? The girl from Italian class?”

Ben nodded.

“Let me guess. Yara Fortes?”

He nodded again.

“You like her?”

Ben didn’t want to answer that, but his response was plain from the dark red staining his cheeks.

Falcon swore softly under his breath, and shook his head disbelievingly. “Next time, could you maybe pick someone whose father doesn’t work for the Directorate? Ben, if she’s Victor Fortes’s kid, this is something we really don’t want to get involved in. Especially now.” He frowned. “Some stuff happened recently that caused a lot of tension at work. This is a really bad time to be attracting attention, especially with a background like yours or Yara’s. I want you to promise me you won’t go back in there. It’s too dangerous.”

“I don’t care if it’s dangerous,” Ben said stubbornly. “She’s on her own in a virtual prison. I have to help her.”

He faced Falcon, letting his clear recollection of every interaction between Yara and him float to the top of his mind: the dreams she was having, the way she’d reacted when she cut herself, her narrowed gaze as she caught him watching her in the library and, finally, Yara forcing down the glass of blood, and curling up in pain on the bed in her room.

He knew Falcon was reading his memories, because he gave a grunt, and swore again.

“Like I said, trouble. If she is Victor’s kid and she’s half Tabérin like you, it could be he’s trying to force her transition through feeding her blood. That’s just a theory, mind you, because it’s a godawful, ill-advised thing to attempt, in my opinion.” Falcon fell silent. Ben wished he could see past his ever-present emotional mask and guess what he was thinking.

At last, Falcon shook his head. “Dammit, Ben. Okay, but not tonight. Tonight, you don’t go near the place. We’ll do it my way – in a few days.”

Ben couldn’t believe his luck. Falcon was definitely the kind of person you wanted on your side when doing this kind of operation – but they’d never, ever done anything like this together before.

“You’ll help me? You can get time off work?” He knew that whatever it was his guardian did every night in his job with the Directorate, it didn’t usually leave him time for anything else. Not till now, anyway.

Falcon’s voice was his habitual rough growl. “I’ll make time.”

9781760081485_Dark Child Covens Rising 2_cover

Dark Child (Covens Rising): Episode 2 is available now where all good ebooks are sold

MOM041_Dark_Child_2_01_AW

Dark Child (Covens Rising): Episode 1 is available FREE where all good ebooks are sold

 

wpid-9781743340790_Dark-Child_cover.jpg

Go back to where it all began with Dark Child (Awakening): Episode 1 available now for FREE where all good ebooks are sold

 

On the ThrillerFest Trail: Three Awesome Bookstores for those Lost and Aimless in Downtown NYC

Posted July 9, 2014 by

Damn you, jet lag, you son of a bitch. I can’t sleep and I’m lying in bed chain-smoking cigarettes. After two hours of staring at the roof, I climb out of bed, pull some clothes on and walk out into the street.

At five-thirty in the morning, the only people in the Village who are up are the garbage men, the dogs and me. It’s not even light yet and there’s already a heat in the air, but I don’t care and start to walk anyway. A couple of cups of coffee and more than a couple of hours later, I stop walking and look at the buildings that surround me. I look left, I look right, I look behind and to anyone watching I would have looked lost, and they wouldn’t have been wrong. My navigational skills leave a lot to be desired (unless I need to find a bar; for that I have an uncanny knack). I felt foolish and cursed myself for not leaving breadcrumbs. Then I remembered I live in the future. A place with Facebook, Twitter, cats on YouTube and thank God, Google Maps. I GPS’d myself and there I was, a blue dot – saved. Then not far from that blue dot was another dot, and next to that dot were the words, The Mysterious Bookshop.

There was no doubt about it; my trek back was going to be of Hobbit like proportions but that didn’t mean it had to be devoid of sentences and stories. So I etched out a trail back to Greenwich Village via shelves of pages and here are my three best picks for readers lost in downtown New York.

The Mysterious Bookshop

58 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007

IMG_1109 (1) If you don’t like crime, mystery or thrillers, go someplace else. But if you are into rough men and tough women, this is the place for you. Murder and mayhem are shelved floor to ceiling and there’s even a first edition of the Maltese Falcon in one of the display cases.

Loot purchased:

Satori by Don Winslow

The Hunter by Richard Stark

 

The Strand Bookstore

 828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

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Don’t go here if you don’t have half a day to kill and half a house to fill with books. The Strand Bookstore is three levels of overwhelming awesomeness and if you live in the area, you will never have to visit another bookstore. They even have a ‘Banned Book’ section, which just rocks.

Loot purchased:

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B Parker

Writing in Restaurants by David Mamet

The Old Fashioned by Simison

 

The Forbidden Planet

832 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

IMG_1095 Now here’s a place for all your graphic novel desires. Not only do they have a massive range of graphic novels and comics from all around the world by they also have a life size Terminator t1000 and a Gremlin (the smart one from part 2).

Loot purchased:

Richard Stark’s Parker: Hunter – Book One

The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty First Century by Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons

 

I finally make it back to Greenwich Village with my loot. ThrillerFest hasn’t even started yet and my luggage is already seven books heavier… And I’m not even sorry.

 

 

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Luke Preston is the author of the Tom Bishop Rampages, Dark City Blue and Out of Exile. He is in New York to attend ThrillerFest, where Out of Exile has been nominated for Best Ebook Original Novel at the International Thriller Writers Awards!