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Battle of the Bards!

While there are a lot of good things about living in Australia, one that sucks is that everything happens while you’re sleeping. We snore our way through Brexit, sleep peacefully while Trump fires his latest member of staff and wake up just in time to check the world hasn’t ended yet.

This morning I woke to discover I had won Mark Lawrence’s Battle of the Bards flash fiction competition! In my sleep no less!

My story? Between Lanterns and Corpses, about two generals on a battlefield. I’ve had quite a few people ask about the outcome, and the answer is actually in The Grave at Storm’s End, the third book in The Vengeance Trilogy. So without further ado, here it is!

 

 

I watched from the window as Shimai burned. The day I was elevated to Minister of the Left, Kin had invited me to stand here beside him, not an equal, but not a servant, the space in-between the treacherous ground we would tread in the years to come.

But I had knelt at his feet and kissed the hand of a liar.

Beside me now Malice stood with his hands clasped behind his back, reading the scrolls that lined the walls. ‘“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it”,’ he said. ‘That isn’t particularly apt for the situation, yes?’

‘Shut up, Spider,’ Katashi snapped, the tap of his sandals across the floor like a chorus of snapping beetles. ‘This is insane. I am winning, Laroth. I could have taken the bridge by now.’

‘You will take the bridge soon enough,’ I said, not turning my gaze from the window. It was starting to drizzle.

‘What general in history ever called a truce to play a game of Errant with his enemy?’

‘General Mikuzo, in the ninth century. He lost the game but went on to win the battle, I believe.’

He stopped pacing, and reflected in the glass I saw fire flare on his fingers. ‘Just give me Hana and be done with this stupidity. She is mine.’

I turned. ‘Stupidity?’

‘Stupidity!’

‘Your opinion of my skill at Errant is not high, it would seem,’ I said. ‘Tell me, what would hurt Kin more? Losing Hana to you without having the chance to save her, or having the chance to fight for her and failing?’

‘“What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others”,’ Malice said. ‘Now that one seems much more appropriate, yes?’

Ignoring Malice, Katashi said: ‘I don’t care what hurts him more I just want him dead. I want my throne and I want Hana.’

‘You will get her when I say you can have her.’

So there you go! There’s a whole story in there as yet untold, but the outcome is an easily missed detail in another story because that’s how my brain works.

Many thanks again to the judges and to Mark Lawrence for hosting the competition and best of all, I get signed books from two of the judges – Sebastien de Castell and Nicholas Eames  *squeeeeee*

But wait, there’s more!

No, not a complete set of steak knives. Although daggers and other blades to feature in abundance they aren’t cutting steak. Not unless steak is a euphemism for a living person who is about to be a dead person. Or a dead metaphor. Moving on! It’s been a little while since I updated with a bit more detail on what I’ve been working on since The Vengeance Trilogy, so here it is. (And for those interested in keeping up with it more regularly, I do update the info on my homepage at least once a week).

1

My new series of chunky, multiple-POV novels is well underway with the first instalment currently off hitting beta readers in the feels. These are set a few centuries after the events of The Vengeance Trilogy, but in the same world with plenty of wonderful little hark backs for long time fans. I will continue working on this and start the second book next year, but unfortunately you’re not likely to see this one until 2019. I want to get deeper into the story before putting any of it out as it’s a big ‘un.

2

Prequel novella to The Vengeance Trilogy – In Shadows We Fall (so called unless I change my mind in the next few weeks). This is a few days from heading to the editor and July should see some lovely art showing up from my wonderful new cover artist. I’m pretty excited about this. The story follows Empress Li in the few days leading up to the outbreak of the civil war that predates the beginning of the Vengeance Trilogy by sixteen years. A place either to begin your journey in my world, or to go back and new characters and old friends.

3

I have finished the planning stages and about to embark on the first draft of a new trilogy that comes about seventeen years after the end of The Vengeance Trilogy, following three new POV characters into an expanded world. You won’t need to have read the previous trilogy, but it’s always good to have the full story and all the nuances. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this as it is going to be one hell of a ride.

 

At the rate my brain is throwing out story ideas the completed set of books in this world is going to end up looking like this…

In terms of release dates, nothing solid yet, but the novella is looking to be late August/early September. And the first of the new trilogy maybe March-ish next year with its second instalment coming near the end of 2018.

YAY FOR BOOKS!

2017 and Beyond!

There was a time I could not see beyond the end of The Grave at Storm’s End, the book that haunted me through the shittiest portion of my life to date (no, 2017, do not take that as a challenge, you have enough crap going on already. Focus.) But that time is no longer now and it is with much SQUEE that I have planned novels for the year ahead.

Two novels will be going through construction in the Madson cave this year.

  1. Soul War #1 (Working Title) – This is the first novel in what could very easily turn out to be quite the epic series. Work on this started about twelve years ago, and while I’ve completely reworked it there are a number of characters and moments that have been with me for a long time. Call it a magnum opus of sorts. The first book is set about 300 years after the end of The Vengeance Trilogy and encompasses not only Kisia but much of the world around it.
  2. The Fate of Kisia #1 (Working Title) – First novel in what I expect to be a trilogy in the same vein as The Vengeance Trilogy, picking up about 15 years later. This is still in the planning stage at this point, but the intention is to return to the 3x first person perspectives that worked so well in the first trilogy, but I’ll wait and see how it writes before committing to that.

 

 

There are also going to be four short stories in production this year, although only one is currently in the planning stage at this point, which is the origin story of Hope, from Vengeance Trilogy. I’m interested in looking at Shin’s backstory sometime too, but I’m not sure if that will be this year yet, or in what format.

Another short story, The Girl Who Carried Silence, which follows on from The Vengeance Trilogy, is all done and dusted and waiting for a decision on what to do with it! So look out for that one when it comes.

To keep up with all this I’ve added a Progress Report bar to the homepage where you can check out how things are coming along and prod me to make sure I’m working so you guys get more awesome stories.

And if you’d like special sneak peaks and updates sent to your inbox monthly, go ahead and subscribe to my newsletter. It’s going to be an awesome year! 😀 

And done. Finally.

On Saturday night I finally hit send and The Grave at Storm’s End went flying through the internet-ether-satellite-space-dohicky system thing and magically landed in my editor’s inbox (or inbos as we like to call it). FINALLY.

It has been two years. TWO YEARS, since I last sent the manuscript to my editor. She got it back to me in very good time ready for the next pass, but it never returned to her because shit had hit the proverbial fan. Marriage breakup. Moving back to Australia from the other side of the world to start all over again with two young kids. New relationship. Moving house. Baby. Moving house again.

Talk about a mess.

And honestly working on the book became associated with a lot of pain, so whenever I did sit down to hammer it out, I struggled.

In fact I struggled so much that I restarted this pass nine times in those two years. Sometimes I got as far as halfway before everything went downhill. Sometimes it was only one or two chapters. As soon as I hit an issue I couldn’t immediately solve I became a depressed mess. And then the words dried up altogether.

Some people write because they enjoy it. Some people write to make money. I write because I’m yet to find anything else that fulfils my existence. When I don’t work I’m miserable and cranky because quite frankly I’m dying inside without the words to feed my soul. I love that people enjoy my books, but I don’t really write for anyone else and even if no one read them I would still write them. You don’t want to meet me when I’m not working.

The point of all this? Well, it took time, it took the constant loving support of a truly amazing partner, it took visits to a psychologist and a lot of perseverance, but I did it – I just hit send on the email that once again flew The Grave at Storm’s End to my editor’s inbox.

All I can say to my fans who have been waiting forever for this book is that I am very sorry, but life is an unpredictable beast. Thank you very much for bearing with me while I fought it and I hope that when the book finally comes out later this year that the wait will have been worthwhile.

For me the release of The Grave at Storm’s End will be more than the completion of a trilogy, it will signify closure. This is the beginning of a new era.

 

 

 

Ink Me!

I went to visit my lovely editor in Sydney recently, a once a year mini vacation because it turns out that she lives in the wrong city (ie not Melbourne). I get a few days away from my kids and the chance to talk shop without having to type in a little window and get distracted by Facebook. But this time, there was another reason for going.

In late 2013, Amanda (yes, my editor totally has a name, isn’t that amazing?) got the Eye of Vice tattooed on the inside of her forearm. Her love for Darius was just that strong.

This time it was my turn.

Tattoo2

 

So, I’d been told it didn’t hurt too much. I’d been told that having given birth to two children, this would barely rate a mention on the pain scale. Quick. Painless….

Yeah right. It HURT! Like, it really hurt. Like a dozen tiny chipmunks gnawing at my arm with tiny sharp little teeth, tearing each bit of my skin away cell by cell. But I digress. The purpose was worth the pain. A symbol to remind me always where I started from, to remind me to work hard and not lose sight of my goals… I would have gone through more for that. As it happened it took about seven minutes, although I had to lie there for quite some time afterwards due to my tendency to feel faint, even when horizontal. So I ended the seven minutes pale and sweaty and in need of cold water. But after about half an hour I was able to walk out with a smile on my face and a bandage on my wrist.

Tattoo3

 

It’s been nearly two weeks now and it is healing beautifully, so here it is at last, alongside my editor’s Eye of Vice. This. This is how committed we are to these characters, these books, and to the world I am creating. Or perhaps spewing forth… whichever image you prefer…

Without further ado, I give you …. The Empath Mark.

Tattoo6

Throwback Thursday #1

So I’ve decided I’m going to do a series of throwback posts looking at old writing of mine.

1) Because it’s funny

2) Because you can learn a lot from it

3) Because it’s interesting

4) Because it’s funny

Throwback 

In light of the fact that I’ve been working on The Vengeance Trilogy non-stop for the last two years, it seemed the best place to start. Not the new stuff, but the old OLD OOLLLLLDDDD stuff. Endymion and Darius have been around for quite some time. I think I started writing them in 2008, the second major series of books I ever worked on. Back then they didn’t have Katashi or Kin, although Malice existed, as well as a very very different version of Hana merely called Regent and owning a penis. (That is one attached to his body, not merely one he carried around in a bag or something…)

So, here goes. I’m hoping I don’t need to disclaimer this in more detail than saying this work is more than six years old. Do not take it as any measure of what my published works are like.

Enjoy!

 

~

     “I’m sorry to wake you, Laroth,” a calm voice said beside me, sounding genuinely apologetic. I looked around sharply, afraid that someone had witnessed my uneasy night. A pair of unruffled brown eyes were watching me out of an interesting, if not precisely attractive, face.

“Oh, it’s you,” I muttered, putting a hand to my head. “Why did you wake me, Marek?” I sat up, waiting for his reply. He had been my secretary for long enough to know never to wake me after nights like that. We never spoke about it, but he had learned through experience that sometimes I wasn’t quite my usual self. It had been a very bad storm. “What time is it anyway?”

“It’s just after noon,” Marek replied. “Your breakfast is on its way, but I woke you because a messenger just arrived at haste from the town of Yolbrun. He says he’s been travelling all night and is under orders to give the message into your hands only.”

I rolled my eyes. “I hope you disabused his mind of its unfounded feelings of importance.”

“You don’t pay me for nothing.” As he spoke Marek held out a sheet of heavy parchment that had been folded back on itself and sealed with more wax than could ever be considered necessary.

I took it from his hand. “It seems that the inhabitants of Yolbrun are overenthusiastic.”

Breaking the seal with my forefinger I spread the sheet across the silken covers of the bed, staring down at the tiny scrawl covering the sheet from edge to edge.

“Definitely overenthusiastic.” I handed it back to Marek without reading so much as a sentence. “I do wish people would learn to limit important missives to as few words as possible. Tell me whether there is anything worth knowing in that effusive ramble.”

Marek took the sheet back without comment, his dark eyes swaying back and forth as he read each line in turn, occasionally squinting at a small and poorly formed word in an effort of comprehension. Half way through he was interrupted by a knock at the door, and went to let in the servant who was bearing my breakfast tray.

“Nothing but platitudes so far,” he said, going back to the letter while I lazily began slicing an apple with a silver fruit knife.

Before the maid left she placed a large pillow behind my back. I leant against it while I ate, feeling the last strains of my headache resolutely refuse to disperse. It was nothing if not pathetic, being so affected by pain throbbing through one’s temples, but no matter what I did I could not escape it. Distance, time, indifference – everything seemed to change except for this.

“Ah!” Marek lowered the parchment and grinned at me over the top. “Overenthusiastic they might be, but–”

“Just tell me what it says,” I interrupted, holding up a hand to stem his enthusiasm too.

Without displaying even a flicker of annoyance Marek cleared his throat. “Commander Ovael of the Yolbrun town guard has written to inform you that he has a man in one of his cells who bears a peculiar marking on his left forearm. He goes on to say – among other things – that it exactly matches the drawing which was sent out with your last orders.”

I paused with a slice of apple halfway to my lips and stared up at him. “Then for once you did right to wake me,” I said, taking a bite. “Call my dresser. I will go see the queen.”

“I believe this morning she is negotiating the possession of that young man who arrived with the Marscian rebels,” Marek commented, folding the parchment and holding it questioningly over the coals smouldering in the grate. “You know, the one with the long curls?”

“I know.” I nodded, and Marek dropped the parchment, waiting until it had caught alight before turning away.

“Very well, Laroth. I’ll send for Rhys. Is there anything else you wish?”

I shook my head, taking another bite of apple as he left.

~

I read through that but I shuddered at the early flutter of adverbs and nearly bailed. Looking back at old work often makes me want to curl up and die a little inside… Looks like a fun year of Thursdays coming up!

 

And yes, that is me playing on my brother’s toy car. I only know it was his because he labelled the photo with the words ‘my toy car’ when he sent it to me…