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!

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 …

Valiant or Vain (or Both): A Cunning Time Plan

So I’ve been floundering for a couple of months. A bit. Nothing new, really – so much to do, so little time. It’s a not-so-good thing that I’m not great at optimising my time, due to further not-particularly-new-or-unique reasons – too tired after work to write, kitty to be played with, songs to be sung – the usual.

But now, I will at least have a valiant/vain attempt. Weekdays without evening commitments, be ready. Hopefully getting it down will help with sticking to it – or trying, at least. Just imagine I have an approximate tilde before every time …

6.30 – get up

6.30 – 7.15 – morning chores and readiness for work

7.15 – 8.00/8.15 (depending on bussing or biking)  (or – 9.00/9.15 when I stop working overtime) – work on Treading Twisted Lines

8.00/8.15 – 8.54 (or 9.00/9.15 to 9.54 without overtime) – bus or bike to work

8.54 (or 9.54 without overtime) – 18.00 – do the work thing

18.00 – 18.45 – bike or bus home

18.45 – 20.30 – evening fooding, cleansing, chores, etc (maybe a bit of relaxing?)

20.30 – 23.00 – work on editing and reworking Embraced (first novel)/work on new novel, working title Shimmer, Child of Light/work on other projects. Alternate as necessary. But not on the same night. One night, one project. Things will get too muddled, otherwise …

23.00 – fall asleep instantly. I’m not so good at falling asleep, either …

We’ll see what happens, anyway. Given it’s one of my nights without evening commitments, I’m already flouting this – haven’t showered yet. And I suppose anything related to blogging/social networking/self-publishing/looking for not self-publishing agent-publishing people gets crammed in where it fits. Or relegated to weekend time. Not projecting this will last long. But at least it’s an outline. It’ll be good to use what time I have more wisely (if a bit ambitiously) while I still have that time. Am I an adult, after all … adult-ish, anyway. When the time comes for doing adult-ish things, I’ll probably laugh to even remember this post.

The False Angel and the White Knife: a novel excerpt in an Inkitt contest

Greetings lovely people 🙂

Not expecting many to lift their hand at this salutation – I’ve been gone too long for that, unable to keep up with blogging here at my faithful doll thermometer, attempting other forms of blogging/social media, etcetera. Nevertheless, I hope to still pop things up from time to time – when I put Book #4 of the Treading Twisted Lines series up for pre-release, for one. Should be reasonably soon, I hope. Almost through the last trudge of the final edit. Can’t bring myself to work on it right now, though – just finished Den Patrick’s “The Boy Who Wept Blood”, and I’m having trouble maintaining my composure. Needless to say, difficult to focus with tears streaming. However, there is something I’ve done recently I’d like to share … otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here 🙂 I suppose that’s so with blogging in general, whether long absent or not.

I recently followed the Twitter account of a writing community called Inkitt, and soon after received an invitation to participate in the contest they’re currently holding. It’s called Echo of Another World, held in honour of Terry Pratchett. I wondered a while if I could finish and enter a short story/novelette I’ve had in mind, but concluded I would not have the time to do the story justice. However, the rules indicate that novel excerpts are welcome. So, after a little thought, I spent a few days editing/reworking two chapters from my first novel – the ridiculously long one that no unpublished writer could ever hope to traditionally publish. I nervously popped it up on the site yesterday.

The cover image is awful – text over a Paint-adjusted free image. I am so far from an artist it’s sad.

The excerpt is called “The False Angel and the White Knife”, chapters eight and nine of the presently fourty-four chapter novel, and comes in at roughly 12,000 words. So, roughly, you’d probably estimate the whole thing might be around 264,000 words. Sadly, you’d be wrong – I know for a fact it’s over 400,000.

Sigh.

In any case, I’d love it if anyone wanted to read my work and let me know what they think. Also, it’s community voting to determine the finalists, so, if you do like it, a vote would be very much appreciated. Vaguely hoping someone with their foot in publishing’s door might magically spot it and see potential. Aren’t hopes lovely 🙂

You can have a look at “The False Angel and the White Knife” at http://www.inkitt.com/stories/13054.

And now, here’s the 200-character or less summary that I hope entices you to have a look:

“A scorned leader of a zealously religious and racist people, the Mirror-to-be uncertainly performs a brutal ceremony on capture of a hated False Angel, whose soul is fused with another’s, far away.”