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 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.

Walking: Five Short Stories from the Sands – Book Review

Met a nice author on Goodreads and read their book. Enjoyed it. You can have a look at W.G. White on Goodreads and purchase the book (it’s cheap) from Amazon.

walking

Here’s the review:

It’s a challenge with 100,000 words or more. But with Walking: Five Short Stories from the Sands, White has created depth. Introducing a new protagonist with each story, each bringing a new perspective and trudging through poles-apart circumstances—this is despite the Walkers and Riders living practically on top of each other and highlights the distrust between them—White has crafted a full world with limited page space. More little touches, such as differences in speech even among the Walkers, help flesh out the life going on around the stories and make this book fulfilling on more levels than only the surface plots.

I’m a fan of dystopian stories and was attracted to this uniquely-imagined rover future. The people here still manage to be selfish and bigoted despite having lost everything—somehow I’m not surprised. But there’s still good, and it shines through in each story in different ways, both blatant and quiet. A literary boost now and then, reassurance there’s no need to give up on our race just yet, is always welcome.

As with many indie books I’ve read, there are some grammatical issues here. As well, there were a few words that seemed out of place, a few sentences that were confused and briefly confused me. However, White’s style is generally engaging, and there are multiple examples of quite powerful descriptive writing.

The Rider and The Shuffler stood out in my mind, the former painfully close to the bone and the latter a solid redemption story. The Cultist was violent and sad, always a poignant combination. The Walker manages to be both twisted and touching, a feat I respect, while The Chaperone covers twisted and twisted, if that’s your thing—White should be proud of that creature of horror he’s created here.

Walking imagines a bleak, evocative world through appealing characters we can get behind, even if we don’t agree with what they’ve done. Three and a half stars from me; I’d recommend this book to those who like satisfying, visceral reads in one sitting.

More Exciting News! Chasing Nonconformity Soon To Be Released! Its Cover Is Shiny!

And now it’s December. Hope everyone’s November was lovely. Had a successful NaNoWriMo experience over here, so that’s good.

Here to let you know there’s more good news from author Michelle Proulx: the sequel to her fabulous debut novel Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It will be released in spring 2015 (that’s northern hemisphere, people – autumn for we southerners). The sequel is titled Chasing Nonconformity, and, in case my prose is lacking tonight and you can’t tell – feeling a bit creatively clunky here – I’m excited.

And now, the cover reveal:

chasing_ebook

A lovely piece of work this is. The talented artist here is Ravven, who you can visit at http://www.ravven.com/ and is also responsible for the lovely new cover of Imminent Danger, revealed last month.

Not only is the cover revealed today; we also get a taste of the story. Here’s the book summary:

Still reeling from accidentally marrying an exiled alien prince named Varrin, and from almost getting her head blown off by a six-armed lizard man with anger management issues, seventeen-year-old Eris Miller is ready for a vacation. But Varrin is desperate to rescue his beloved spaceship, the Nonconformity, from the clutches of the galactic government, so her vacation will just have to wait.

While Eris and Varrin chase after the stolen ship, they’re unaware that trouble is brewing on the other side of the galaxy. The villainous Emperor of Rakor has assembled a task force, led by the commander of the deadly Skin Slicers, to hunt Varrin down. With enemies closing in and the Nonconformity slipping further and further from their grasp, Eris must ask herself: how much is she willing to sacrifice to ensure her happily ever after?

If you want to know more about Michelle and her books, you can visit her at michelleproulx.com. If you’d like to support her creative endeavours, maybe consider donating to her IndieGoGo campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/book-imminent-danger-ya-sci-fi. There’s many lovely perks on offer for as little as $3 for a little bit of love.

That’s all from me for now 🙂 Shall quietly look forward to the next book in the Imminent Danger series over this long summer.

Exciting News! New Cover of Michelle Proulx’s Imminent Danger Revealed! Will Be Re-Published In Coming Months!

I love the NanoWriMo 1 November midnight sitting. Already feel like I have a head start. Project this year: Treading Twisted Lines. The short story cycle’s not technically a novel. But why not be a NaNoRebel? With any luck, this year’s NaNoWriMo will see the next few stories complete, possibly released before year’s end. Cross all of the limbs.

But no more NaNo for now – there is some exciting news I must share. Hopefully many of you are aware of Michelle Proulx.

MP Author Photo

This is Michelle…

…she was born on the market moon of Vega Minor where she spent her formative years reading, writing, and gambling at illegal underground jsgarn fighting rings. While en route to Alpha Centauri, Michelle crash-landed her space yacht on the planet Earth. She now lives in Canada and divides her time between observing the local fauna and repairing her star ship.

If you have not met her, she lives here online and is the talented author of what remains the best indie book I’ve yet read – Imminent Danger and How To Fly Straight Into It. I would gush here, but, to save on postage, here’s a link to my review. As it happens, Imminent Danger has just gotten some work done in the cosmetic sense and now has a brand new shiny cover for its upcoming re-publishing!

Imminent Danger Cover Reveal

It’s just so pretty!

And now, from the author herself, the story behind the shininess:

In the far-gone year of two thousand and twelve, a naive young authoress with a trusting heart gave unto a company called iUniverse thousands of dollars with which to publish her novel. But alas! For this foolish young authoress did not realize the assisted-publishing path was fraught with peril, and the thousands paid were not in value received. Control was relinquished, prices did skyrocket, and the young authoress cried out to the heavens, “Woe is me! Would that I had done this publishing business myself!” And the young authoress did take it upon herself to publish the novel, commissioning a talented artist to provide her with a new cover that doth more accurately capture the spirit of her novel. And lo! The new cover is revealed.

And in case my word of its quality and the promise of a beautiful cover to spruce up your bookshelves isn’t enough, here’s the book summary to further entice you – there just aren’t enough young adult sci-fi romances in the world.

High school junior Eris Miller thinks she’s having a bad day when her roommate’s boyfriend catches her stepping out of the shower wearing nothing but a towel. Then she gets abducted by scaly six-armed aliens with a strange fondness for the color blue, and her day suddenly gets a whole lot worse.
Trapped on a spaceship bound for the slave markets of Sirius B, Eris fears she’ll never see her home again. But then fate whisks her away from her reptilian captors and into the arms of Varrin, a fast-talking space pirate who promises to deliver her safely back to Earth. He claims to have her best interests at heart, but Eris soon discovers that her charming rescuer has a hidden agenda.
As they race across the galaxy, outrunning a villainous figure from Varrin’s past, Eris begins to realize that their relationship is putting her planet, her life, and her heart in imminent danger. She knows that trusting Varrin could prove deadly … but what other choice does she have?
Cannot recommend this read enough for fun and giggles and excitement. And there are alien shopping scenes – I love shopping scenes! And the aliens just make it better! Shall provide links to purchase pages once this fine work is re-published. Very much hope all you lovely people will support a deserving artist by enjoying her work.
Also, an exciting giveaway is happening on Michelle’s blog – get over there to see what you could win and how to win it!

Imminent Danger Book Review

I took my time about it, but here it is:  a review of Michelle Proulx’s exceptional novel Imminent Danger and How to Fly Straight Into It. A fantastic read—why not head over to her site (links above) for a look? Definitely worth more than a click.

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I’d been meaning to read Imminent Danger for some time. When I finally did read this independently-released young adult science fiction romance—a genre I’m now hoping to see much more of—it was after trudging through a book a really didn’t enjoy at all. I’m not meaning to make comparisons here, but reading Imminent Danger directly after that disappointing book did highlight many glowing aspects of this very well-written novel.

For starters, despite being set predominantly in space surrounded by many-armed blue aliens and the like, this novel felt real. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s a good, realistic speculative fiction. Extra-terrestrials and setting aside—vivid as the descriptions of beautiful space crafts and sprawling alien marketplaces are—I think a heavy contributor to this strong sense of real is the dialogue. This was natural and unforced—an author’s skill in generating such dialogue may be easily overlooked until a few samples of novels chock-full of unnatural dialogue are endured.

Eris I found to be a brilliant protagonist. Though she spends much of her time forced to be a damsel in considerable distress by the increasingly dire situations she finds herself in, she is down-to-earth about it, a determined individual and very easy to relate to. Varrin is terrible and wonderful, charming and appalling—the kind of person anyone would dearly love to shove in a muddy puddle. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone would be able to pull it off—he’s too wily. I hope Eris manages something along those lines in the sequels—sequels I’m very much looking forward to.

This novel was exciting to read, fast-paced, and somewhat addictive, but perhaps what I loved most about Imminent Danger was that it made me laugh. A lot. A sizable fraction of my time with this novel was spent giggling aloud—there are not many better signs of a good time than that.

Michelle Proulx’s Imminent Danger was an absolute delight to read and a novel I highly recommend to all lovers of the young adult genre. Four and a half gold stars for you, Michelle 🙂

Dry Spell Released

Decided now was as good a time as any to release Dry Spell, an uber-short story that I wrote in January.  It’s up for free on Smashwords if you’d like to have a look.  Young adult drama with a hint of fantasy, Dry Spell tells of teenager Paul Fields’s difficulties getting through drought when an inner voice keeps urging him to hurt anyone nearby.

cover2Paul Fields has had a rough few years: elfin mother assaulted, well-known father arrested, and unfairly turned away from his rugby club. Now, the weight of the clouds is upon him. And as Paul sits unwillingly through his younger brother’s school play, intrusive thoughts of violence assail him, demanding he act. His brother in his arms, will Paul break him to ease the suffering of all?

Click here to have a look or download 🙂