Stuffed – Full Length Fantasy for Free on Inkitt

Good morning, lovelies:)

So my novel Stuffed has been up on Inkitt for a while now. If you’re someone who was about when I was doing a lot more blogging, you may remember me referring to this particular novel as “Tom”, after the protagonist. It’s a fantasy/thriller-ish/young adult-ish story set in a world resembling the late 1800s where steam trains and gramophones are the height of technology and mystical creatures near extinction. Stuffed is intended to be the first of a three-part series. It may be some time before I start Book 2 … it’ll be an interesting process. My style has changed a lot since I wrote this.

Stuffed is currently entered in Inkitt’s Grand Novel Contest – winner gets published. Good prize, yes:) Love-heart votes required to push it up on the site listing – basically, more love = more love. And Stuffed would love your love, as would I.

So if you’ve a spare few moments – or more … I think last check it was roughly 136,000 words, so would probably take a few sittings – I would love if anyone could give my novel a look and a vote. Any comments and feedback would  be adored – it’s currently sitting on 5/5 from the lovely three reviews I’ve gotten so far. Check out these reviews, maybe, if you’re wondering what it’s about.

Also if you’re wondering what it’s about, here’s the short summary:

Snatched by a taxidermy-happy countess and her unsettling assistant, young shapechanger Tom Ness only wants to live. But how can he save his skin when that’s all she wants?

Also if you’re wondering what it’s about, for your enjoyment, an excerpt from Chapter 1: The Silver Vixen:

The silence in the shallow valley but for the breath of wind through pines was total. Weary and weighted by age, Vera did nothing to disturb that quiet, even as coughs clawed to escape her withered lungs. She hid in a tangle of scrub just beyond a little shack. Micah squatted beside her. He had chosen their cover; its view of the dwelling was uninterrupted. Micah’s black eyes were fixed on its crude door.

The shack stood—slumped, rather—at the base of the valley. There was a little glade there dotted with flowers. The patches of heather and clover brought to mind a classic cottage garden, though the clearing appeared natural. There were signs a few trees had been felled for fuel—a cluster of wood and a small axe rested by the wall nearest. Vera was pleased to note those trees chopped down had been replaced. Most were saplings, but several fine, strong young fellows stretched their branches into the air alongside seniors.

There was little evidence of the outside world, only a lead pipe stuffed through the thatched roof to pump out smoke. The shack’s walls were stone to Vera’s thigh, then interwoven twigs given strength by clay, insulation against the wind. The only window was shuttered; they couldn’t see inside.

But there was no one inside. Not yet.

Though the shack was primitive, probably constructed by its inhabitant—apparently they were determined, though lacked notable building skill— it blended so well with the undergrowth it was near invisible from all but a few perfect angles. Vera and Micah had traipsed the taiga for three weeks before they happened upon it, about to sit down for lunch. Vera’s grasp of the forest’s spoils and the rabbits and scrub fowls Micah shot kept them well fed.

From above, the taiga was a stretch of embroidered velvet; green, grey, black and glimmering night blue. Such fabric spun the gowns of countesses of old, donned to welcome the most esteemed of guests and dazzle at the most important parties. Streams and rivers twined flashing silver chains and sparkles of white—evening frost on twigs and stone—were tiny precious gems. The great lake was the crowning piece: a glistening sapphire brooch so large it would topple any silly old countess who pinned it to her breast.

Vera was a present-day countess. She wore no such finery, not now—not even when she was young, some sixty years ago. The only jewellery she wore was a small pendant on a fine chain. It was as precious to Vera as life. She never took it off, the pendant forever nestled to her bony chest.

The fresh scent of pine on cold air seemed auspicious and filled Vera with expectation, stalling surrender to the ache of her stiff old body as late afternoon eased toward twilight. Her information promised the shack’s inhabitant would return by then. It couldn’t spend the night exposed. Even in late summer, it grew bitterly cold in the dark so far south.

Light waned. Vera reached beneath her collar and gripped her pendant. Beside her, Micah was a statue. Though Vera was intent as he, his eyes were sharp, her own touched by age. It was Micah who first spotted their quarry.

A silver vixen ambled into the clearing with a scatter of needles and pine cones. Though fleet, her gait was clumsy, as though the vixen was unbearably tired or her limbs slightly crooked. The creature padded toward the shack; the clearing her home and she was unafraid of danger there. Vera’s gnarled grip tightened. The glass capsule of her pendant, around which gold and gems were fashioned, seemed to pulse, the rare syrup within rippling green-black as Vera’s hand trembled.

The last rays of sunlight filtering from heaven vanished.

The vixen gave a shudder, nose right to the tip of her limp tail aquiver.

Vera almost groaned and clutched her pendant all the more tightly. Any other capsule might have shattered, but this was a Moore heirloom. It would take more than pressure to damage Vera’s pendant; what it protected was too precious.

The vixen began to change. Her limbs lengthened and fine silver hair retracted, leaving human skin. Her tail vanished, body lengthening and bending upright so she stood on her hind legs. Soon nothing remained of the vixen. A naked woman stood in her place.

She was bent and crooked, thin silver curls sweeping to her wrinkled waist.

She was old. Older even than Vera.

Micah uttered a soft sound of satisfaction, no more than a sigh of wind. But Vera’s heart dipped, crestfallen.

The very old shapechanger stepped into a pair of worn boots and took a faded bluebell dress from a nail stuck in her door. It was a young woman’s dress: practical, smart attire for ducking out to the market, taking tea with friends or visiting relatives. At least, it would have been fifty years ago. Vera had owned several like it, buttoned down the bodice on an eye-pleasing curve, tied with pretty white sashes.

‘Countess, what’s wrong?’ Micah asked, barely moving his lips as the shapechanger wriggled into her dress. It was very loose—she was as string held up by some miracle. ‘She’s just what we need. I’ll set the traps once she sleeps and we’ll have her at first light.’

‘She is too old,’ Vera sighed, deflated. Despite deep regret, she couldn’t tear her eyes from the magnificent creature. The aged shapechanger took a stout cane, muttering about disobedient kits and quarrels over mates. Her voice was the scratch of sand on stone, the rustle of dried leaves. A voice of the earth and forest. Leaning heavily on her cane, she tottered about patches of vegetables at the edge of her clearing, gardens disordered so they appeared wild. The shapechanger filled a small sack with a few potatoes, onions, carrots and a sprig of thyme.

‘Too old, Countess? What do you mean?’ Micah asked, eyes narrowing.

‘She is too old,’ Vera repeated, initial devastation fizzling to sad resignation. She was used to disappointment, but the loss of her precious shapechanger hit hard. ‘She is beautiful, but how would she look by our other pieces? The shapechanger is our very last creature to collect. I want perfection.’

Micah wasn’t impressed. Their contact, a tanner from the south, had written of a story widespread in his town, that silver foxes became human with the setting sun and threw great parties filled with food, wine and dance. Scornful of the tanner’s reliability, Micah had reluctantly accompanied his eager mistress south; the countess had hunted shapechangers for over half a century and lived for such tip-offs. His fervour on the hunt had kindled when they found faint boot prints where no sensible villager would roam, and discovering the dwelling had sparked terrific excitement. At last seeing the shapechanger, all recent hardships were now worth the great effort he’d spent.

That it had been pointless was not what Micah wanted to hear.

‘We have spent the last month slogging through this damn forest, tailing every silver fox we’ve come across. Now you forsake possibly your very last opportunity to complete the Moores’ collection for mere cosmetic concerns?’

‘It is not only that,’ Vera insisted, eyes locked to the shapechanger as she ambled to her door and opened it with a creak. As though a signal to charge, a quintet of kits bounded from a nearby bush and skittered through her legs, barrelling into the shack. She sighed, but chuckled with two vixens and a fox that followed more sedately. They gazed up at her, noses twitching.

‘Yes, you can come in. At least you’ve got manners to ask. Those kits…’

She shook her head as though nothing could be done with them.

‘Let’s get in, then. Hope the kits’ bellies’re full, else they’ll be disappointed. Getting my fill of roots tonight—bowels’ve been letting me know I’m not getting enough.’

She chuckled again. The foxes seemed to join in.

‘Might have a bit of old fowl lying around. They can fight over it, if they’re diresome hungry.’

Impatient as his mistress listened, entranced by the one-sided conversation, Micah reclaimed Vera’s attention.

‘Tell me then, Countess Veradine: why would you abandon your life’s work? Why would you forsake your dream?’

‘Do not be so dramatic,’ Vera chided, but Micah scowled. ‘I am hardly giving it up. It is only she cannot be collected. She just cannot. She is…’

‘Too old,’ Micah grumbled.

‘We need something younger: a young, firm shapechanger that will heal well. Our traps might kill a creature as old as her.’

‘If that’s the problem, I don’t think we need to use traps,’ Micah said, again eyeing the door, lids so narrowed he might squint through solid wood at his target. ‘We can ambush her inside. I can overcome a small skulk easily,’ he declared, hand at the revolver on his hip. ‘And she can’t put up much of a fight, old as she is. I would be gentle, Countess.’

‘I know you would handle her with utmost care,’ Vera said. Micah behaved gentlemanly towards women whether toddler or school girl, maiden, married or crone. Perhaps due to his time in the army, he considered women rather delicate, as well. The few times Vera had been annoyed with Micah was when he hinted that, as a woman, Vera was in any way incapable. ‘But such an old body may not take well to the mounting process.’

‘What of the kits?’ Micah wondered, unwilling to give up on their prize. ‘Or the younger vixens and fox? They are the perfect age.’

‘But they are not shapechangers,’ Vera said sadly.

‘If she’s lived her life with the foxes, no doubt she’s bred. They could be hers. They might just change on different schedules. This is such a rare opportunity, Countess,’ Micah pressed. ‘We must be sure.’

‘I am sure. Shapechangers do not pass on their abilities,’ Vera reminded. Micah grimaced. Vera had taught him that. He’d read it many times in the museum. ‘If they could, no doubt enough of the creatures would remain that I wouldn’t be so desperate to find one.’

‘Of course,’ Micah replied.

‘And if the tanner’s story is true, and her schedule renders her vixen in daylight, how could she have carried any offspring? They would not have survived.’

‘You are right, of course,’ Micah relented grudgingly, but gave a short bow where he crouched. ‘I’m sorry to complain, Countess. Disappointment is a brute of a thing.’

‘That it is,’ she smiled sadly. The two waited until they heard the scamper of kits at play within the shack and a crackle as dry kindling was set alight. Then Micah helped his mistress to her feet. Together, starting slow to stretch cramped muscles, they began the long trek from the taiga.

Hooray if you read this far:) Hope you go on to read the rest at Inkitt!

Treading Twisted Now Free

Huzzah, happiness and good things – it’s Read an Ebook Week. Consequently, every single one of my books – the whole Treading Twisted series as it currently stands, from The Chosen Voice all the way to A Courtesy Call – is free at Smashwords until 12 March when you use the code RW100. A whole series … as it currently stands … for free is a pretty good deal, I think. By partaking of this offer also, you make a humble author most happy:)

You can have a lovely browse of the series right here on my Smashwords author page.

Would love any feedback, critique, support, manic grinning of enjoyment … anything you’d like to offer that you get out of my stories. I hope there is much said manic grinning of enjoyment … if you enjoy them. Thanks in advance to all the lovely people for your support and hope to hear good things from you!

Book 6 Happened Too

Book 6, A Courtesy Call, was out about a month and a half ago now. I fixed up the Treading Twisted Lines page and such but, of course, neglected to actually post. Shall do so now:)

A Courtesy Call 01 full

When privileged Darren Brown stumbles upon a body outside his apartment, the idealistic but naïve student attempts to do right by the victim. Unfortunately, in Oshi Daini, alerting police is not enough to trigger justice.

Treading Twisted Lines is a story cycle (previously short story cycle) set in the Four Free Areas, a technologically advanced world where Gods watch from rivers and fantastical arts are practiced by wizards and priests. It is the normal roughly $US0.99 from all the good places – Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo eBooks and so on.

Thought of posting due to other Treading Twisted thoughts. Like thinking ahead to distant books when I should be working on Book 7. And consistently planning Treading Twisted stuff when I’m trying to write an unrelated novel. Hard to focus – been wondering if it’s time to attempt a hard copy collection of the first six (plus Book 5.1 …) stories. Did want a few more in each collection, but Book 4 is a long one … Also it seems Amazon.com now supports giveaways for eBooks. May be looking into that soon. I know they’re short and inexpensive, but free stuff is always nice:)

And Books 5 Came

As always, meant to do this sooner. As always, claim to myself I will get back into blogging properly. But hey, new year ahead. I can make the lie to myself all over again:)

Anyway, Book 5 and Book 5.1 of Treading Twisted Lines happened during my absence from doll thermometer. I’ve updated the Treading Twisted section on here, anyway, so there’s stuff up about them there. Hope you have a look, a read, add on Goodreads, review, and all the nice things, should you choose. Thought I should say something, as I plan to have Book 6 out in January:)

Book 5 is Trials of the Gods’ Hands – here’s it’s lovely cover. I about flipped out when Nathan Cover Designer first showed me:)

Trials of the Gods Hands 01

Gifted mind reader Samson prays for some way to aid his blessed, but ailing friend. His prayers at last answered, the young priest struggles to combat the near inevitable: but for a miracle, Kai will be hospitalised, or ordered into his abusive father’s care, by a court bound to act in his best interests. His own prospects so slim, Samson offers all he is for Kai. But even that may not save him.

Book 5.1 is Trials of the Gods’ Hands: The Grid. You will note both name and cover are quite similar. Book 5.1 was the original Book 5, but it didn’t quite work in my head on its own. Still, I wanted to share everything that happened with Kai during this time, so decided to release an extension to the book. This is hopefully the one instance where it’s best to read both to get a full idea of what’s going on.

Trials of the Gods Hands The Grid 01

Never self-assured in his life and forced before a panel of doctors, Kai struggles to save himself from a future worse than death. But though the court-appointed experts mean him no harm, Kai’s father has sneaked an antagonist into the private interview. And that antagonist has teeth.

As always, available for US$0.99 from all the nice book places – Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo eBooks and so on. Links are on the Treading Twisted Lines page if you’d like to click. Mean to do a general 2015 updates post soon. But may wind up getting distracted – I often do. But this isn’t as hard as I always seem to make myself think. So maybe I’ll have the motivation in 2016 to get more into it – I’m marginally more active over at Tumblr, if anyone’s interested in having a look there. And by active, I mean reblogging pictures of books, tea and flowers. That’s pretty much it. I’m not very good at internet-ing anywhere. But here’s to slogging on!

Just A Quick Note of Free

Just wanted to let all the lovely people know that all my books are part of the July Summer/Winter Sale on Smashwords. This means they are all free. Lovely and free – and this includes brand new baby book Suddenly Calling, which only came out on the 16th this month. July will only last a few more days, though – grab while free:) And let me know how they read – Goodreads, here, wherever. I remain in a constant state of anticipating feedback, particularly with a brand-new book out.

The free code is on each books’ page and you can access them all from my author’s profile right here.

And, as an update, Book 5 is going reasonably well. Recently finished the second first draft … if there’s such a thing. Have taken it out of Scrivener and shall now be attacking in Word. Still too long and a few holes that need filling and/or total removal altogether. But shouldn’t take more than a few weeks … hopefully … then should be getting it out to my lovely editors. Trying to give my third novel a little love at the moment, too. Got as far as rearranging chapters tonight. Have many notes for the numerous adjustments that must be made, but think I need several entirely free days to be able to focus.

Hope all the lovely people are well:)

Almost Belated Trumpets – Treading Twisted Lines Book 4 Almost Out!

I’ve been meaning to post this for longer than a while – sorry for the late notice. Thought I should update anyone who may be interested: Book 4 of Treading Twisted Lines with Darren, Maddi, and Kai – Book 4 that I’ve been working on since the end of 2012, Book 4 that has eluded me for so long, caused so much grief and despair – is finally being released. The magical date is 16 July 2015.

It’s called Suddenly Calling – a far cry of the original working titles (Stronger, The Little Strong Girl, etc), but I quite like it. Here’s the lovely cover and short blurb:

Suddenly Calling 01

 

Kana, strong by name and nature, has served the Okens since childhood. As further domestic inequities come to light and realities of a darker world are affirmed in scanty articles and upper-class gossip, Kana is gradually guided from reluctant complacency, and inadvertently scouted by unions, radicals, and Gods.

A rollicking tale of family, puppies, hand-to-hand combat, workplace frustration, celestial intervention, sticking it to the man, and tea …

The main challenge in writing this book was that for a long time it felt like a story of necessity, the other protagonists having already been introduced and this one needing her opening – there was no massive burst of inspiration, like the first three. Inspiration was attained, though, in many random tiny bursts. Also, the story takes place over such a long period of time, and I was keeping very close in mind that this series was meant to be a “short” story cycle.

Well, it’s officially a plain old story cycle now: I’ve got around 60,000 words for you here, all for the lovely little sum of 99 cents. Same format, too – please don’t mind that I haven’t gone with chapters, even though Book 4 is much longer than 1 – 3; I wanted to keep some consistency. Let me know if it really doesn’t work, though:)

Lots of time left to pre-order – and pre-ordering does help. Every pre-order will boost the story higher and higher – maybe high enough it’ll actually be seen. Suddenly Calling can be pre-ordered from Amazon, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. It’s up on Goodreads, too, if you’d like to add it:)

And if you haven’t read Books 1 – 3, don’t worry: each story is independent – you just get the full experience reading them all. But if you do want to give them a go, they should be a click away at the above links:)

Thanks so much for everyone’s lovely support. Here’s hoping Book 5 won’t take another two and a half years …

The Bunker Diary – Book Review

Bought Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary randomly after seeing it in a list of recent-ish YA books. Entirely worth it. You can check it out at Goodreads, and here it is on Amazon.

Here’s the review:

When I finished this book, I slowly rose, lifted it protectively to my chest, walked a short distance to place it tenderly on a shelf, slumped to the floor, and stroked my sweet kitten. Only then did I begin to cry.

Did not expect that. Thinking on it, though, it makes perfect sense. Poetic, beautiful, miserable, realistic, empty-but-not, pointless-but-not sense. How many kidnappings happen like this? How many lives of the most unfortunate, whatever their circumstances—war, abuse, famine, bigotry—happen like this, in total ignorance and agony? Why? There’s no reason, none good enough. This is real stuff. No movie gloss, no impossible stunts. Just cruelty and slow, sad loss of almost everything.

Expected this to be sort of a combo of hellish reality TV and Saw. Bits of both, with added essence from Danganronpa and Changi, with some seriously twisted psychological experimentation included, whether that is His (the unknown captor’s) purpose or not. Was numb throughout most of it, but heavily compelled to read on, gutted by the helplessness, desperation and almost-utter-hopelessness—there is still some lovely, stubborn optimism hidden in here—every sensation delivered painfully by the diary format, nothing to do but self-reflect, survive, and maybe try to make things less terrible for those you’ve come to care for and depend on. Being as in the dark as the characters as to every how and why was frustrating, but, again, it’s real. Most everyone’s guts would be twisted and minced, reading this.

Loved Linus—he’s nothing but a sweet kid trying to sort himself out, only to be snared into nightmare by his good heart. Seeing him left to try and finish this sorting out in such a brutal situation is heartbreaking. Every character, their reactions, their attempts to cope—they’re all relatable, all understandable. Linus’ perspective of his fellow prisoners is poignant—through him, I see much of myself in this mixed bag of individuals. Not a great thought, in some cases. They don’t all get on—there’s some serious dislike going on with any number of causes—but there’s no desire to hurt, no sinking en masse into uncontrolled violence, despite no hope of salvation (though things get rougher with His intervention). I’m glad of this. It’s one of very few bright-ish points in this bleak novel.

The stream of consciousness parts are pretty intense—don’t think I’ve read any quite so raw. The random reflections and great importance of such little things, like remembering rhymes, worked well. What do people think about in this situation? What can they think about in this situation? Anything to distract, even when they can’t think about finding distractions any more—a powerful protective mechanism, I think.

I’ll repeat a few words to finish, I suppose—painful, realistic, beautiful. Very dark, clever and thoughtful, terrible content handled not quite delicately, but humanly. Kevin Brooks is most deserving of the high praise The Bunker Diary has received. Four and a half stars from me—shall be thinking of random moments from this book at random times for a long while.