Wagon Master is published!

I am delighted to tell you that Wagon Master is now published.  Readers of this blog can get it for free here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/467743  Please leave a review!

I like Wagon Master.  It is, to me, a very interesting subject, dealing with a type of courage that I find very hard to understand and leaves me awestruck.  The courage to carry on and complete your job with no attempt to protect yourself when you are in mortal danger.  Where there is nothing you personally can do to protect yourself.

It is a courage personified by many people in the army, people normally ignored because their job isn't sexy and exciting.  I was inspired to write it by the anguish of a friend, whose uncle had died.  It turned out his uncle had been in the Royal Corps of Transport and he had known absolutely nothing about his life, what he had done, how he had lived.  His uncle had been close-mouthed about himself.

Be warned, though, it is a sad tale.  Uplifting, yes, but sad nonetheless.  Not all stories can have happy endings.  I am not at all sure whether or not this one has a happy ending, I leave that for you to judge.  It should certainly stir your emotions.

Slow Progress

While I am pleased that people continue to download and read Feeding the Dragon and Thief in the Night, plus there is one excellent review, progress has been a little slow otherwise.

The Wagon Master is completed, but the illustrator and I had a difference of opinion on what the cover should look like and I am now working with a different illustrator which has put things back a bit.  A Tender Embrace is complete, though I am wondering if I should not draw out the end a little bit more.  A nice double twist that I rather like, and I like that they come so quickly on top of each other rather than be drawn out, so I shall probably keep it.

The Making of Suzanne is proving difficult.  Firstly it is damn difficult to write the point of view of a teenage girl, and make it appear realistic.  Secondly, the story is huge.  No way can I compress it into a short story, which I have finally appreciated.  I am not sure whether I will tell her story in a number of little ones or in a novel.  I think I shall start it off as a short story, then we will see about the next chapter in her life which is already part written.  The first part does not contain any abuse and is just a fun story.  The second part starts off grimly, but highly realistically in those times.  Takes awhile to cheer up too.

I have also germinated the first idea for a follow up story about Wu Nu, a year on from Feeding the Dragon.  That should be fun - I have a few ideas about her progress to which I look forward.  Somehow it is easier writing about her than others.

So, to recap, I am waiting for a good cover sketch and I shall have published The Wagon Master, hopefully within a fortnight.  I am also thinking of publishing a collection of short stories, which won't be free.   

Also having a little trouble with this website and need to spend some time getting the images resized so they are not so massive.  But where is the time... :) 

Bringing you up to date

This is just a short blog to say where I am up to at the moment.

Four short stories have been written:  Thief in the Night, which has been published.  Shortly I will have a page on here from which you can download it as well.  Feeding the Dragon is a story about a little girl in the Kingdom of Sung who selects herself to be a monk.  She has big ambitions.  This story is written, and the cover is in draft form.  I expect it will be published in about one week.  The Wagon Master is written and being beta read.  This is a different story, set before the time of In Search of Spice, about a soldier whose job it is to deliver food and weapons to the front line. A haulier.  He's not brave and he's no good with weapons. Or women.  A different story.

And I have finished A Tender Embrace which needs to be beta read.  That was interesting.  The octopus hunt turned into something a little larger.  It was difficult setting it during the voyage of the Queen Rose.  I needed to explain characters who developed in an entire book!  A nice double twist in the end.  Probably a good month away, but worth waiting for!

Writing that has put me in two minds as to how to play Not Yet an Officer.  I had planned to set the story in Hind, some years after the first arrival.  And to use some of the characters from the novel.  I have now learnt that I cannot do that, for in writing the book and short stories characters develop in unforeseen ways!  I expected Perryn to be a major character in the book, and he just wasn't.  Yet much of the underlying message, which was to do with racism, forces the story to be set in Hind.  I cannot set it in Harrhein or it just doesn't work.  So either the story must wait, probably until the third book is finished, or it changes to be focused purely on leadership and ditch the racism.

Meanwhile, another idea is bubbling up.  Paedophilia and child abuse is in the news today, and it isn't a subject greatly covered in Fantasy, maybe just in passing.  Perhaps I may look at Suzanne's youth and explore the subject slightly.  I shall ponder.

Octopus Hunting

I remember reading years ago about South Sea Islanders hunting for large octopus by using a person as bait, with the octopus coming out from the reef to eat the person.  His accomplice then swims down and bites through the octopus' brain, located between the eyes.

It occurred to me that this would make a wonderful short story set in Harrhein so I did some research.

I quickly tracked down the story I read, which was by Arthur Grimble in A Pattern of Islands, written about 1949.  There was also a newspaper article.  The story was pretty much as I remembered and I could already see two of my heroes from In Search of Spice fishing in this wonderful manner.  I have already worked out Pat's reaction when Hinatea asks him to be bait :  "Fuck off!  Are you out of your tiny mind!  I'm not letting one of those monsters chew on me - have you seen the size of it's beak!"  The plot is coming together nicely.  It would be lovely to have it inside In Search of Spice but the book is already big enough and it will be better as a short story.

In great excitement I researched octopus fishing methods and also the octopus in general.  Well, there is one big enough for sure, the Giant Pacific Octopus can have ten foot tentacles and have been found weighing over 150lbs, 70kg.  That would be a nasty piece of work.  But they are restricted to the cold water from Japan to Alaska.  Damn.

Grimble mentions Octopus vulgaris, the common octopus.  Great!  Trouble is, it doesn't live in the Pacific.  It is also not very big.  There is the seven armed octopus, recently caught off New Zealand, which is just about big enough.

But I can track down nothing about large octopus in the Pacific Islands, and nothing about eccentric methods of catching them.  I know about the stones that octopus put outside their holes, and how you can tell where it is when it is not at home but the way the stones are scattered.  I know you can tell if there is an octopus in the hole, from the stones, and to catch one you just push a stick in the hole, it grabs the stick, and slowly you pull it out.

Sadly, I must deduce that dear Sir Arthur Grimble was writing fantasy all those years ago, and even managed to get it published by credulous editors.  Good on him!

And of course it frees me to tell the story to the limits of my imagination...  I wonder how intelligent the octopus should be?  Could it conceivably and believably befriend them and join the ship?  Nah.... surely not....  But it sure can become the stuff of nightmares, drowning and eating people.  Oh, what a fun story that one will be!    

Now, how about a title?  Would I be totally out of order to call it The Demon from the Eight Circle of Hell?

Remembering a soldier...

Today a friend of mine commented on Facebook that his Uncle had died, and he was discovering about his life in the Army.  I enquired and discovered that his Uncle had been in the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT).  He was trying to find out about his life and service.

I did not know his Uncle, but this is what I said to him, regarding his Uncle's reticence to talk about his wartime:

'RCT - they performed acts of cold courage that can be impossible to imagine. For me, it's not particularly brave to go into a dangerous situation when you have weapon in hand and can protect yourself and indeed frighten the enemy. But the RCT didn't. They would put themselves into incredible danger, perhaps with a peashooter in the cab out of reach, and essentially trust to luck that they would make it. That's bravery to me. Kudos to your Uncle.'
He commented that his Uncle would not talk about his experiences. 
'It would be very hard to talk about it. 'What did you do in the war?' 'Drove a truck, mate.' 'Really....' is what most conversations would be like. The reality would be driving that truck where the road was impassable and getting through, labouring in the snow and slush to change a tyre and get the heavy truck out of the ankle deep morass; ignoring the bullets and shrapnel and getting on with unpleasant physical labour; shitting yourself looking at a drive through the open, while the fighters prowl above, knowing that if you don't go and pick them up thirty guys will die. Arriving on the front line after a 20 mile drive in the dark with no lights on to deliver hot food to the squaddies, who curse you for being late and aren't interested in the ditch you went into. Cant give you specifics, P***, but I can give you a flavour.'

This has made me think, and I think that there is a short story here.  Of course in Harrhein they don't have trucks, but they do have carts and drovers.  I would like to explore this aspect of courage, and show the efforts of the behind-the-scenes soldiers who are never remembered in history.  I have asked P*** for permission and also to use his Uncle's name for the hero as a tribute.

Now, will it be set in Hind, in the future that has yet to be written, or in the past, perhaps a campaign against the Uightlanders to the north?  The past is better, I think, with perhaps another view of Corporal Andy Russell and that annoying minx, the Crown Princess Asmara.  But it will need to wait till I have written Feeding the Dragon which is coming together in my head, and keeps extending....