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!

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.”

Editing Chapter 23 and Exciting New Titles

Laptop’s overheating. Need to wait for it to settle down before continuing with editing. So, thought I’d jump on for a brief blog. Break the self-imposed leave, just for one post.

Finished the first draft of Tom on Sunday, 24 February, I believe. Been in severe editing-mode since then. Currently working on chapter 23. Been getting roughly two chapters edited each day – I’ve split screened the computer, and am re-typing everything from scratch. I think it’s easier to spot errors this way, and realise when something looks/sounds just plain wrong. It can, however, get a little tiresome. Been feeling rather burnt out. Hence why I played roughly two hours of Sims 3 today.

A little concerned that I’m not cutting and/or changing as much as I thought I’d be doing in these later chapters, considering how quickly I wrote them. Perhaps I didn’t leave a long enough gap between the writing and editing, but I am fast running out of time. I don’t think I’ll make my original 10 March deadline; aiming now for between 15 and 20 March. If I use express post and what-not, I should still be fine to submit the story in time for 29 March. It only has to snail-mail it as far as New South Wales, shouldn’t be a problem from where I am. Might be a little expensive though, considering how many pages it’s going to be. Does anyone know if there’s a general rule when it comes to writing competitions, whether the hard copy manuscript can be printed double-sided, or if it has to be printed on one side only?

New and exciting news! Working with a title for Tom, a much more official one than just… Tom. Currently referring to this novel as Tom Ness Changes. I’ve run through a few other ideas e.g. To Keep the Memory, Preservation, Tom Ness and the Mystical Museum, and just plain Tom Ness. While I liked most of these, all of them seemed to place the story in a different, rather rigid box. Tom Ness and the Mystical Museum, though it sums up the story quite well, sounds like a book only for quite young children, which it certainly isn’t; To Keep the Memory sounds more romance/drama than fantasy,  and doesn’t quite suit the folksy feel I’m trying to go for. Tom Ness Changes has a kind of abrupt feeling that makes it quite appealing to me, plus multiple interpretations, which is always a … plus. I think it might evoke curiosity about the story more than any of the other titles I was working with.

And in other totally non-story related news for a change: had a job interview. Crazy. And it actually went well, so I might actually get the position. Which means working in the day, writing at  night, and doing all other stuff… never. Hooray! Entering the ranks of all other struggling working writers 🙂 Hooray … blarg.

Shall return to more regular blogging once Tom Ness Changes is all packed up and ready to send, complete with synopsis and 50 word author biography. Have to write those, too…

Setting Deadlines to Streamline the Writing Process

Wrote two chapters over two days this week. Probably the most I’ve written at once since National Novel Writing Month. I brought it up briefly when a friend asked how I was going. Cause that’s how I interpret that question.

How are you going = how’s your writing going

He has a large project coming up, and asked how I managed it. I claimed by setting deadlines, and writing 1000 words a day, whether I feel like it or not.

The second one I don’t really follow. I try to. When I’m really on a roll, I can get out between 3000 and 6000 a day; I think my record is around 9000 (much easier to accomplish when unemployed). But only over short periods do I generally keep this up. Suppose everything averages out in the end. Sort of.

Setting proper deadlines, however, I find works really well. When there’s no deadline, I just kind of potter around, jump between main projects and side projects, plan a bit, read over a few things. But when I have a date to work towards, like the last day of November during NaNoWriMo, everything kind of streamlines. I can focus. I’m inspired. I don’t want anything to distract me, and it doesn’t. I don’t remember feeling stressed out during NaNoWriMo, either. 30 November was approaching, nice and calmly and slowly. And I knew I’d meet it

Maybe that wasn’t stressful in November as I knew if I didn’t meet it all would be well. The deadline I’ve currently got is mostly the same deal. I’d be highly disappointed if I didn’t meet it, but it wouldn’t spell the end for me.

Decided last week that Pulp Runner (the NaNoWriMo novel) wasn’t ready for the young adult novel competition I plan to enter come the end of March. So, decided to work full throttle on Tom, instead. He’s not quite finished, but I’ve been working on him a lot longer, and I’m more satisfied with the story in general. The plan is to pump out the final four chapters (after the two I wrote across Monday and Tuesday) fairly quickly – I have reams of notes filling my pink book for them – then spend until the end of February editing. Hopefully, I can find a few people to read it for me quick-smart, and I mean to send it on 10 March. Could probably wait a few days longer. But it has to be sent conventionally, and reach its destination by 29 March. Would rather have a bit of leeway.

A lot of work to do. Not hugely worried I haven’t been churning out the same word count over the last few days. Was working on a timeline, and getting a few resultant small, but major edits out of the way. And I’ve mostly written one of the most important parts of chapter 22 already – it was one of the earliest things I wrote for Tom.

The Pink Book is almost full, by the way. It won’t have enough room to finish Tom’s notes. But that’s okay. Already got some nice new ones to start as soon as it’s full. And a lot of stuff for Tom’s sequel is in the pink book, anyway. A bit of crossover is fine.

Now almost full, it has served me well

Now almost full, it has served me well

So, deadlines. Might seem obvious to set them. I’d recommend it, if you’re not. Once Tom’s done, I’ll have to set a good deadline for the next Treading Twisted Lines story. Think I’m developing a bit of a block against it. Hopefully setting a publishing date will kick me into churning it out.

The Elusive Chapter 18 and a 1500 Word Limit

No, no, of course I’m not finished chapter 18 yet. Despite my aiming to finish it mid last week. Odds are it won’t happen tomorrow, either. Up early for a soul-challenging sing, then carolling gigs that evening and early Monday morning, too. Between gigs, shall be working on the short story I started today. That and washing – forgot to put loads on this morning, and the washing basket’s overflowing.

Blogged briefly about getting the idea for this story a while back. Now I’m actually getting it down. Made some fair changes to the original plan, aiming it more at a young adult audience. As I already have two major works in progress and several minor ones as well, starting up an entirely new project probably isn’t the best idea. But it is short. As in, very short.

Writing this for a competition I came across while browsing today (Stringybark Young Adult Short Fiction Award 2013); the word limit’s 1,500. Deadline’s mid-January, and I’ll probably need it. Might be able to write more than that in a day, but that’s novel writing. I’ve always found novel writing much easier than short story writing, and I’m sure many would agree. In novel writing, you can just ramble on and on and on, then dice it up and smooth it all out later. Much less room to ramble with such a stringent word limit. Shall treat it as a challenge, though. And shall edit it to the bone, once it’s all down on the screen. I’ll post it here once the competition’s over, assuming I do not place. Quite a logical assumption, really. Not only are short stories harder for me to write, I’m also much worse at writing them. The short-short ones, anyway.

(Something being hard for me, and me being bad at the same thing, are different to an extent, I believe …)

Also a young adult novel competition run by an Australian publishing company coming up in March that I’m looking into. May try to clean up the NaNoWriMo novel in time for it. In which case, both Tom and Treading Twisted Lines shall probably be neglected a little for a while. But come hell or high water, or any other threatening cliché, chapter 18 shall be complete before the year is done!

So better chapters 19 and 20, but I’m willing to be a little bit more lenient with them. After all, this time of year’s a bit busy.