A tall ship and a star to steer her by…

22/10/2013 21:14

The nicest thing about writing is getting to write about things that I love. I’m currently working on Salt Winds (or Salt Water – the name seems to have stabilised as Salt Winds for the moment), and as the name may suggest, it features the sea quite strongly. I absolutely adore sailing; well, I love the feeling of sailing. I love the salt wind on my cheeks, the feeling of speed, the water and the sea and the air. What I absolutely hate is being stuck inside a small boat in horrible weather and rough seas. My worst fear is being trapped and drowning – so, I think understandably, I don’t entirely like confined spaces and rough weather. But give me the seaside and a wind, and I’m in absolute heaven.


Writing Obak is hard. He’s essentially selfish, rude, horrible and oblivious to everything else…but he does get to change. I’ve got various methods for the change, amongst which is a slap around the head from several people (all of which are quite theraputic to write), and another is sailing. He’s a complete novice to it, so it’s a bit of a challenge to myself to explain the jargon without being tedious. I also get to try to put all my feelings, all my love of wind and water, into words. I would say it’s a challenge, but it really isn’t – the words come quite easily!


Have a snippet:

“Push the tiller to the right a little.” Rhea said, and Obak could feel the wood strain against his hand. “That’s it, you should be able to feel the tension.”

                “I can.” Obak said, completely unaware that his voice was soft and gentle. He was so caught up in the movement, the wind and the water, the rushing of the breeze against his cheek and the faintest hint of salt spray on his lips, that he had almost forgotten everything else.

                “Go and sit in the bow, and we’ll do some tacks.” Rhea said after a while. Obak reluctantly relinquished the tiller, and crawled forward past the mast. There was a small hatch in the bow, and he realised that by sitting on it he could look over the bow. Swiftwings’ hull was cutting the water, sending white froth back in two white curves. In between, the water was a dark blue, but when Obak raised his eyes to look ahead of the bow, the water was a dull flat grey. How could it change colour so much?

                “Ready about.” Rhea’s voice said from behind him. “Sit down and hold on, we’re going to turn.”

                Obak quickly sat back down in the boat, and held on to the sides. But the turn was so gentle that he couldn’t believe that was all, and stayed in the bottom of the boat.

                Rhea laughed at him. “That’s it, Mage. We’re not going fast enough for a rough tack. You can sit back on the bow for a while if you want.”

                He stayed there for the next tack too, thrilled to feel the boat tilting and then recovering, picking up the wind again as it smoothly turned. The way the grey surface turned to deep blue and white spray fascinated him, but he couldn’t resist lifting his head to feel the wind and spray on his cheeks, sensing the speed despite the seemingly gentle pace at which Swiftwings covered the distance back towards the harbour.

Three down, many to go?

05/05/2013 10:47

I think – barring changing my mind, publisher’s edit requests, reader’s comments etc – that I can declare another story finished. (N.B. The three in the title: Shadows and Ghosts are also finished, barring a publisher’s edit requests if I ever get anyone interested.)


Green Sky and Sparks, the first in a trilogy of steampunk/fantasy stories, is complete at 30,000 words. It is short, so my current plan is to put all three of the stories together in one book. At the moment Changing Winds is approaching 50,000 and I suspect that Empty Skies will be shorter, so those three together should reach 70-100,000 words.


It feels weird to have finished it, but I get to work with the same characters in Changing Winds, so I’m not exactly leaving them behind. My biggest gaps in Changing Winds are Toru, who is the main character in Green Sky, so that’s quite a nice continuation.


And while you’re here, have the beginning of the book as a snippet…


“Hey, watch it!”

Anoé slewed her runner sideways, trying to avoid the back tyre of Catter’s. The man had just stopped in the middle of the road, oblivious to the rider stopped next to him.

Anoé followed his gaze, and smiled. “Get over to the side.” she said kindly. Catter slowly walked his runner over to the side of the dusty road, still staring at the view ahead.

It was an amazing view. Although the Mountains had been in view from the time they left Aleric, the Drek Ridge had continuously appeared and disappeared behind the next ridge in the gently rolling landscape. And finally they had crested a higher rise, and the farmland ahead of them spilled down towards the ridge. The road was stretching ahead of them down the slight hill, and Catter followed its slow curve. It branched, one fork heading to the jagged gap in the dark rock of the Ridge, snaking through to the Mountain Pass. The second fork turned, rising up the edge of the Ridge, and then rising into the city of Meton.

Catter let his eyes travel up towards the city, following the road. The dark rocks of the buildings blended in with the ridge, and he could see the winding road as an absence in the buildings. And then the Castle rose, sitting on the edge of the Drek Pass, looming over the road below. The huge spikes, five of them around the walls, rose even higher. He found his eyes going between the city, seeming to loom over the land below, and then to the white-capped mountains behind; they dwarfed the city in turn, shrinking the Castle and its spikes to insignificance.

“The spikes are the spark towers.” Anoé said. “I’ll see if we can get a tour.”

“That would be interesting.” Catter said, staring in awe. “Why are they shining?”

“They’ve got copper wrapped up the outsides.”

“It’s a beautiful city.”

“It’s one of my favourites. Not as beautiful as Belmont, but then that’s beyond belief.”

Catter smiled, and tore his eyes away from Meton. “I want to go there. Anyway, shall we get going? Otherwise I’ll spend all night here.”


Reworking an old story

21/04/2013 15:52

I need to find a new title…


Anyway. Have a snippet of old/new story.


“I thought you were helping the Council.” Marianne said when the children had scattered to their evening activities, leaving the three adults sat at the table. “Has something happened?”

Eeloia shrugged. “In a way.” She pulled a small box out of her coat pocket. “Have you seen anything like this before?”

Marianne took the box, and Drano leaned over as she opened it. Together, they examined the contents.

“You can tip them out.” Eeloia said. “They’re ok to handle.”

Marianne tipped the shining shards onto her palm, and Drano picked one up. It was slightly curved, and tinged as he flicked it with a fingernail. “I haven’t come across anything like this. Ceramic?”

“I wish.” Eeloia said. “Dragon egg shell.”

Two faces stared at her. Eeloia made a face. “Yep.”

Marianne tipped the shell back into the box, and held it out for Drano to drop his piece in. “So are the legends about them true?”

“I think so. They live off magic, that much is true. So I think one must have hatched, and has been slowly using more magic as it grows.”

“It’s been fading for fifteen years, so that makes sense.” Drano said. “Why have you not mentioned this in the Council?”

Eeloia was glaring at the table. “The dragons were all killed. To get an egg, you need a dragon. So where did it come from?”

“Where did you find those bits of shell?”

“In the lava beds to the South.”

“Could they be ancient?”

Eeloia shrugged. “They could be, but they were on the surface. A thousand years usually buries things.”

“How long do they last? How do they hatch?” Drano asked. “Could it have happened naturally?”

“Based on what I know, they get laid in hot places – volcanoes, lava streams, that sort of thing. And then they hatch fairly quickly, a year or so. I admit that there could have been an egg left over that has only just got into the right place.”

“You think someone might have deliberately hatched it?” Marianne said incredulously.

“According to the legend, there were three eggs left over.” Eeloia said, staring at the table. “I went looking for them. I can only find two.”

“Who would…”

“I have no idea. But you see why I don’t want to bring it up in the Council?”

Drano nodded. “You’d be accusing someone, but you don’t know who.”

“I don’t even know if I’m right.” Eeloia said frankly. “I think that’s dragon egg, and I think there’s one missing. But I haven’t found the dragon and I only think there is one because it fits the loss of magic over the years.”