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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Zodiac Posts - ARIES [2]

A is for Action 

I thought it would be a good idea to ask three very different talents the same questions on action and dynamism in their work. I got this idea from my Zodiac theme - Aries being apparently all about action. 

First, I interviewed Steampunk author Kara Jorgensen, on #WeNeedDiverseBooks, writing a linked series, and writing dynamic scenes. 

Now it's the turn of blogger, author, editor, bookseller, historian and all-round legend Charlotte Ashley, who should be nominated for a Hugo Award. Seriously. People need to get on this.

Interview with Charlotte Ashley

Charlotte AshleyCharlotte Ashley collects the works of Alexandre Dumas, and owns 19 editions of The Three Musketeers, one of which is a purse. Her family tolerates her book obsessions because they pay the bills: she is also a writer, editor and independent bookseller in Toronto, Canada.

1. You have several short stories published now. [Check out Charlotte's work in Invisible, ed. Jim C. Hines ; Lucky or Unlucky, ed. N. E. White featuring Mark Lawrence ; Fierce Family, ed. Bart R. Leib ; Library of Dreams ed. Charlotte Ashley ; Chamber of Music ed. Charlotte Ashley] Do you find the short story structure more difficult than a novel in terms of constructing the plot, balancing action with world-building and character-building etc? 

At first, yes, it was harder. You can't mess around in a short story. You simply haven't got the space. Every scene, every action has to have a reason for being there. Characters have less chance to sit around gazing at their navels. You also learn to dispose of a lot of pointless action and description, which can sometimes make building a complex world difficult. There's no space for 1500 words of world history in a 5000 word story. 
But the same diligence makes short stories easier to write. Once you think of every scene in terms of how, exactly, it moves the plot forward, you are able to keep a tighter grip on your story. Now that I'm letting myself stray into longer forms (first it was a novelette, now a novella,) I realize how much more plot you need in a novel to justify all those words. You can't just publish a puffy version of a simple story. You need all these extra layers.

2. How do you build up to that climactic moment in your narrative?

To be honest, I write like a reader. I read my whole story (or scene) beginning to end again and again with each new paragraph, trying to get a feel for the pacing. If I find myself skimming or getting bored, I know I need something to build. If it feels like it's time for a major climax or confrontation, then I know it is time to trow in that bombshell. If it feels like we don't know the characters or situation well enough, it isn't. 

3. What do you think you've learned about writing dynamic scenes, keeping the interactions engaging, hooking the reader etc, from when you started writing?

First of all, that people prefer to read dialogue than description. Readers engage better with the human element than the intellectual one! Secondly, do the unexpected thing. I am a plotter - I break my stories down scene by scene before I start writing so that I know, in broad strokes at least, what will happen. When it gets to a major decision or climax, I sometimes have to make a decision tree for the story. What COULD happen at this point? Is it too obvious, too boring, out of character? I keep coming up with possible outcomes until I hit on something which has the right balance of inevitability and surprise. People keep reading, I think, because they want to know what will happen - if they can guess, than you've lost half the reason they turn the page.

4. How much energy and drive has it taken for you to get where you are now in your writing career?

I am a total type-A workaholic. I also didn't start writing seriously until I was in my 30s, so I am impatient. For so many writers, it takes ten years to go from "I'd like to write" to seeing something in publication - I just wasn't willing to wait that long. So my writing work day is every bit as long and intensive as any other day job. I write, read, edit, revise or critique at least 8 hours a day, sometimes more. I write when I'm busy, I write when I'm sick, I write when I don't want to, and when I have nothing to say. I write when I have had three crushing rejections in a single day and when my beta readers say they don't understand my latest story. 
That's life - that's a job. Only, nobody is going to make you do it. You are your only boss. If you don't push yourself, you won't get there. But it seems to work! 
Thanks Charlotte! 

You can follow Charlotte @CharlotteAshley on twitter, follow her blog, or check out free drafts of her novels, short stories and flash fiction on wattpad, also @CharlotteAshley.

Compare Kara Jorgensen's answers to the interview questions here, and get her views on novel writing and action scenes!

NEXT WEEK - #DoYouHearTheBuzz? Oh yes - it's Amazon bestselling romance author, Jaycee Ford. Love Bug fans, UNITE. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Zodiac Posts - ARIES [1]

A is for Action 

At last, we get to Aries - the dynamic sign, I am told. This made me think of action as a genre, and action/dynamism in particular scenes.

I really wanted to use my blog to showcase the work of other writers, and so I've got three more exciting interviews for you to enjoy! 

First up, as a bridge between the "active" topic and #WeNeedDiverseBooks is Kara Jorgensen, author of The Mechanical Devices series. Book 1, THE EARL OF BRASS, is already out, and I am among those fans eagerly awaiting Book 2, THE WINTER GARDEN. So, it's a real pleasure for me to host Kara's interview here. 

I will also be interviewing author, editor, bookseller and historian Charlotte Ashley, and bestselling author Jaycee Ford - all will be answering similar questions, and the three different perspectives should make for some fascinating reading!

Interview with Kara Jorgensen

Kara JorgensenKara Jorgensen is an author and professional student from New Jersey who will probably die slumped over a Victorian novel. An anachronistic oddball from birth, she has always had an obsession with the Victorian era, especially the 1890s. Midway through a dissection in a college anatomy class, Kara realized her true passion was writing and decided to marry her love of literature and science through science fiction or, more specifically, steampunk. When she is not writing, she is watching period dramas, going to museums, or babying her beloved dogs.

Q1. What inspired you to write a linked series, and the Mechanical Devices theme?

I started writing The Earl of Brass when I was an undergraduate, and the further I got into it, the more I began to care about characters who were not the stars of the show. The second book, The Winter Garden, shows what happens to one of the side characters after the first book. What I love about a linked series rather than a continuous one is that hypothetically it can go on forever. I can explore every character’s back story or future without having to worry that it doesn’t fit with the overall series arc. As much as I would love to write a trilogy or quartet, I’m not sure if I have enough forethought to plan the whole thing out.

The title of the series, The Ingenious Mechanical Devices, came to me while I was working on The Earl of Brass. While I was researching automata for the story, I discovered that in the Middle East during the Middle Ages there was an inventor named Al-Jazari, who created automata for the royal courts that were not only functional but beautiful. To chronicle his creations, Al-Jazari wrote a book entitled, The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. One of my main characters, Eilian, is entranced by the culture of the Middle East and this married well with the steampunk aspect of the book. The theme continues into the other books because in each one there is an anachronistic device that in some way drives the plot. In The Earl of Brass it is Eilian’s prosthetic arm, and in The Winter Garden it is a machine that can either infuse a body with a soul or pull it out.

Q2. What is your take on the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign? How do you see your work fitting into that? Is it conscious, or unconscious?

When I started writing The Earl of Brass, I never thought I was doing anything special by having a handicapped main character. Eilian loses his arm in the dirigible crash and tries to regain the normal life he lost in the process. Throughout the first half of the book he is rejected and alienated by his family and society for being different, but the point is, he knows he is the same person he was before only now he has to do things differently. After writing it, I think about how many soldiers are returning from war with injuries similar to Eilian’s and I wonder if any of them would see themselves in him. Representing people with disabilities is incredibly important in modern literature. If you choose to ignore an entire group of people, you are essentially saying their stories are not worth telling.

In The Winter Garden, a gay couple is introduced into the series. I am bisexual as well as a huge supporter of LGBT rights, and the Victorian era was one of the most controversial times to be gay. My characters meet and begin to fall for each other, but in future books, they will find that with the Oscar Wilde trials, their lives become much more complicated. While many of the issues gay Victorians faced have faded, readers will still be able to relate to what they go through, the good days and the bad. In future books (not necessarily in this series as I have another on the back burner), I would like to possibly have a bisexual female protagonist or even a trans main character.

Q3. How do you build up to that climactic moment in your narrative?

This is one of the questions I ask myself every time I get toward the end of my stories. A good way to put off the climactic moment in a book and build tension is to alternate between moments of calm and moments of action. By preceding an action-packed scene with one that is calm, it creates contrast. Another way I like build up to climactic moments is to alternate between tension and emotion. They can easily go together, such as in a romantic scene, but sometimes a tender scene where a character opens up creates a rise in action as the reader experiences it as a rise in emotion. I think I’m still learning how to do this and wish I could do it as masterfully as suspense writers.

Q4. What do you think you've learned about writing dynamic scenes, keeping the interactions engaging and hooking the reader from when you started writing?

When I first started writing, I was not good at cutting to the chase. My stories would drag on for a twenty pages before anything exciting happened. With The Earl of Brass, it took about three or four pages into the first chapter before the dirigible crashes and the action begins, and in my second book, The Winter Garden, I was able to get to the action even sooner. I’m still fighting my natural tendency to ramble like a Victorian novel. Modern readers want action and they want it now. I typically don’t start the action immediately, but I’m definitely getting better at hooking my readers with something out of the ordinary happening.

In regards to keeping interactions engaging and dynamic, I think writers need to study how real people interact. Most complaints readers have with characters interacting is that it’s stilted or unrealistic. Read your work aloud with another person. Check to make sure it flows correctly and that the replies and questions make sense and don’t try to cram information in where it won’t fit. It isn’t worth having in a scene if it breaks up the realism and flow. Also, while writing dialogue, it’s important not to forget that characters fidget, their eyes rove, and their tones change while they speak. All of these quirks and habits will help to make your characters seem more alive and break up a giant wall of dialogue.

Q5. How much energy and drive does it take for you to get where you are now in your writing career?

Some days I can barely get out of my own way and write even a few hundred words and other days, I can write an entire chapter in one or two sittings. The drive is always there, but it definitely waxes and wanes with my graduate school schedule and life. Sometimes when I think about all the work I have to do to get my book ready for publication or even finished, I wonder why I do it, but then, I remember that I love it. My parents would much rather have seen me go to medical school as I planned when I entered college, but writing is my passion. Also, once you have one book out and people tell you how much they enjoyed it and how they are dying for the next one, it gets much easier to bang out those next hundred words. Success breeds success, and with each positive review or bit of encouragement from readers, I find that I am able to write more and do it more efficiently. It’s much easier to write when you know you are writing for people who are looking forward to your work.

Many thanks to Kara Jorgensen for this interview!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Zodiac Posts - PISCES [2]

Emotional Souls - Spotlight on the Work of Maya Starling

In my quest to find blog topic inspiration, I have looked to the signs of the zodiac and their reported personality traits to help me think of things to write about. Pisces are, apparently, emotional souls, and so that got me thinking about emotional issues in fiction, and representations of mental health. 

Very often, those with mental health issues are cast as antagonists. It is incredibly easy to list antagonists who exhibit psychotic, sociopathic, narcissistic, or other mental disorders. It is very easy to list antagonists with mental illnesses, too - paranoid schizophrenia is a favourite for serial killers and the like, for example - but it is far more difficult to list protagonists (as opposed to antiheroes) who exhibit the same traits and struggle with these kinds of problems. I tried to come up with a list of main characters (MCs) who were: 

(1) Protagonists, not antiheroes or antagonists 
(2) Happened to have a mental health problem at the start of the story which was not the main thrust or theme of the plot 
(3) Were not "cured" at the end of the novel suddenly or implausibly, but instead learned to deal with their condition - which should be character development, not the whole point of the plot (see point 2)

Most of the ones I could think of were detectives (and some of those were tenuous), although perhaps the best example for SFF was Danny Torrence, Stephen King's protagonist in Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. In discussion with other writers, particularly Kara Jorgensen, author of The Earl of Brass, and Maya Starling, prize-winning author of Dragon's Treasure, I realized that I was not the only one to think about these things. We had a really interesting discussion along the lines of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, a Kid Lit hashtag but one I think applies to YA and adult literature as well.

Maya Starling's current work in progress is a novel called Vengeance Upturned, which, as the title suggests, is a novel charting the protagonist Etta from her vengeful beginnings to a better, healthier place. At the same time, this is a story of bandits, murder, kickass action, a shadowy figure manipulating lives and orchestrating death behind the scenes, and the ultimate threat: the rise of Mor, god of chaos.

I asked Maya about the inspiration for Etta, and if she would be willing to talk about her new novel:

Etta - Maya Starling

On the inspiration for the novel: 

When I started writing Vengeance Upturned, I had my mind set on a flawed main character. Since I mostly read fantasy, science fiction, paranormal and some romance, the characters always seem so perfect, pretty and strong minded. There are rare occasions where characters start the story with bad experiences behind them (traumas, flashbacks, nightmares; the whole deal not just something minor) and it mostly happened in romances, where the main female character went through a certain trauma, but again, those traumas are often repetitive and stereotyped.
I wanted my character to be flawed both physically (some scaring, unusual looks for the region she is in), emotionally and psychologically. I wanted to challenge her further, to let her fall deeper, to the pit of despair before she slowly started to build her way up.
What bothers me a lot in majority books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen, is that when there is a strong female character where I’m finally woohoo! - but through the story, when that female character meets her “destined”  male character, they somehow lose that strength, become dependent on the man, and in the end he often saves the day. 
Mind you, there have been stories that have proved me wrong, but still, those are rare. It’s the man that’s the hero and the woman that needs to be saved.

On Etta:

Etta’s had a great childhood and difficult late teen years. After losing her parents to a common disease, it was just her and her twin brother. The two were very connected as most twins are, depending on each other and living on their lives on the family farm, until their home got raided and her brother was murdered. That one event is the catapult of the main plot of the story and also a start of her descent. There are people who know how to deal with loss, those who try to move on and heal along the way, but there are also people who get consumed with anger, rage, guilt, sadness, despair, desire for vengeance. Etta is one of the latter. She spent years trying to find the one person to blame so she can avenge her brother’s death and get closure. She sinks deeper and deeper into that dark need, until she loses herself and finds her meaning in reaching that goal, still being haunted by that fateful night… not only haunted, but driven forward.

The story starts a few years after her brother’s death, when she is close to discovering who the person to blame is, and where she also draws nearer to that ultimate downfall, the bottom. She meets people on the way who help her “see” better, learn a new perspective, teach her that it is alright to lean on others, but she is the one who deals with her feelings on her own, calling upon the memories of her family in happy times, and the teachings of her father. The main plot isn’t about her state of mind and how she deals with it, but it is one of the major parts of the story, influencing the choices she makes along the way. I hope to inspire people who find themselves in that darkness to find their way out, that things can be worked through, and yes it can and will get better, just don’t give up, and find support. Even the most unlikely people can surprise you by being there for you or saying the simplest thing that turns everything around.
What she has been through and how she has dealt with it makes her a very impulsive, and emotional person (even though she doesn’t show it). She gets into fights easily and is easily provoked; she’s strong-headed, and single-minded. She thinks she has her life under control, but in reality, it’s driven by the emotions she’s not willing to face.
Also, another thing I did on purpose, that often misses in stories, is that she has control of her sexual life. She was never raped and will never be, and she considers sex to be a causal thing. The first male character she hooks up with is not the one she gets “shipped” with… it’s just sex for her. Of course, she has problems connecting with people and developing deeper relationships (friendship and romance wise), most people who have lost those close to them deal with the same issues.

On the challenges of writing the novel:

The challenge of writing such a character is getting into that dark mindset, into that state of being that’s so far from my natural one. I mostly put myself into her shoes and try to react to the challenges before her the way she would, not I. It is also one of the first main characters that I’ve written that doesn’t have any connections to my own mindset and life values. Also, it’s very challenging for me to come up with Etta proper cuss words because I just don’t curse, while she has a very vast vocabulary for that, and almost never repeats them.
I actually haven’t done much research on such psychological issues, but I have friends, I listen to others, supporting friends when needed, I read and I watch documentaries, I took some psych classes, and I also lived through my own loses. All that helped me shape Etta the way she is. The one thing I did research on is meditation and Zen Buddhism as an inspiration for Etta’s coping mechanism, a heritage left by her father. Here’s a sneak peek quote about that:
“Henrietta though, was left with a choice, follow her mother’s teaching, or those that her father, Tao-Sihn, imparted to her. The way of the balance, where everything returns to its source, where everything has a reason and purpose. The way of nature and the spirits. Born, dead, reborn. He taught her three key driving forces in life she should live by; kindness, simplicity and modesty. I have strayed too much. Henrietta sighed, for she had followed her father’s teaching, learning to appreciate the smallest things; each breath she took, each flutter of her eyes, the sun warming her skin, each little bug and insect, each animal, rain, a stream, a flower… all a part of the circle of life.”
I don’t plan on Etta being magically healed or suddenly enlightened so that all her problems and traumas vanish by the end of the book, she only learns how to accept her emotions and learns how to deal with her past so she can move forward in future.

You can read drafts of the chapters for free on wattpad: 

Follow Maya Starling on Twitter: @MayaStarling
Like Maya Starling on Facebook: Author Maya Starling

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Zodiac Posts - PISCES [1]

Diversity in Fiction - Mental Health

A while ago I started to do a themed series of blog posts, using the zodiac signs and their associated traits as the central inspiration for the blog post topic. I'm resuming this because it's a ready-made series of topics, and it's a bit of a challenge!

I started with Capricorn, my sign. Because Capricorns are meant to be down to earth and display maturity and responsibility, I was inspired to write about realistic character development over longer periods of time, especially in family sagas following a group of people across several generations, and the fact that few Children's books deal with families where the Grandparents are in a parental role, despite the fact that in reality a great many grandparents are in that very situation, bringing up their grandchildren. 

Then, I looked at Aquarius. One of the traits of an Aquarian is the ability to consciously and unconsciously absorb impressions and information, apparently, so I used this as an excuse to look at 'conscious and unconscious writing', using Galbraith/Rowling's latest novel, THE SILKWORM, as an example. I compared Galbraith's voice in THE CUCKOO'S CALLING [when no one knew it was really J K Rowling's pseudonym] with 'his' voice in THE SILKWORM, after everyone had found out who 'Galbraith' really was. I think there's a difference, and that made me a bit sad. 

Anyway - this time, I'm on Pisces, who are apparently emotional souls. So that made me stop and think. I've had my say about elders and their portrayal in Kid Lit ... but what about heroes with emotional or psychological problems? Are people with emotional and psychological issues considered "heroes" by society's definition or mainstream readership's (whatever that is assumed to be...) definition? In England, there is the Time To Change campaign underway, and Mental Health is being put under the spotlight in a more overt fashion. I'm not sure how this is being reflected in terms of what we watch, and what we read.

 I've suffered from depression, and believe me, there is nothing heroic about it. More heroic to my eyes is my oldest friend, battling and overcoming an eating disorder. To be perfectly honest, if I could block out those years and the things I said and did (and did not do) to people I cared about, I would. I had counselling twice, and I am very aware that depression is a part of me that I need to be alert to, and identify before I permit it to take over. I have the tools to deal with it now, but I am certainly not heroic. Sometimes I am not even likeable. And I think that is why I don't see myself - the old me, angry, aggressive, unable to express myself, or unable to understand or desire basic social interaction and unable to look at myself in a mirror - in many fictional protagonists. I think it's also interesting that I've chosen to encase this confession - confession? - in protective pictures from the Time to Change campaign. If I had a problem with my mental health issues, I wouldn't put them on the interwebs in the first place. But for some reason, I need Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax for moral support.


Where it comes to fictional characters, Buzzfeed have, of course, had their say with Disney. Wikipedia has a list of works of fiction that deal with mental health problems: you can read that here. However, not all characters listed there are the protagonists, such as "the hobbit with Disassociative Identity Disorder" in Tolkein's beloved books, and in some cases mental health is a deliberate theme. I was thinking of characters who happen to have a mental health problem, not books which focus on mental health. Wikipedia also has a larger list of characters with neurological or psychological disorders. Again, not all of these are protagonists, such as Renfield from Bram Stoker's Dracula, or DC's Batman villain, The Joker. 

So, I've asked a few fellow writers to help me think of protagonists who fall under the following criteria, and do some analysis. 

1. They have to be MCs, not side characters. 

2. When introduced, the reader must realize that their condition or issues are a part of who they are: they must not develop throughout the story.

3. They must not "overcome" their condition suddenly or implausibly: it must be something they deal with as a matter of course, while the main action of the plot itself has nothing to do with their personal struggles and challenges. Things happen to them - they deal with it - they happen to have a mental health problem which impacts their way of dealing with things, but is not the point of the plot. In the same way that some MCs happen to be orphaned or divorced, or physically impaired, or have magical powers, or even don't have magical powers, but the plot isn't about that. If you see what I mean. It's part of their character and part of their conflict, but not the whole point

This rules out Septimus Smith, the PTSD sufferer in Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, because he is not the title character - however, he is key to the novel, and so deserves a mention. (Thanks for the suggestion, Kara Jorgenson!)

It also rules out Harry Potter, although years of neglect and psychological abuse at the hands of the Dursleys should certainly have given him a more obvious complex from the start.

My own suggestions are mainly limited to crime fiction:

Lord Peter Wimsey, scarred for life after seeing action at the Western Front, the 'gentleman detective' of Dorothy L. Sayers' series - he solves mysteries, mainly but not always murders, but happens to suffer from PTSD as a result of WWI.

Roderick Alleyn, another 'gentleman detective' created by Ngaio Marsh, who suffers from bouts of depression. He too solves crimes, finds love and starts a family, all over the course of 32 novels. 

Kurt Wallender, created by Hennan Mankell, whose personal life is disintegrating and who suffers with anger issues, periods of emotional instability, and lives a less-than-desirable lifestyle. Again - the point of the Wallender books is as much the crimes he solves as the character building of Mankell's protagonist.

Temperance Brennan, created by Kathy Reichs - not to be confused with the Temperance Brennan of the TV show, which is not based on the character, but on Kathy Reichs herself. Both, I think, still fit the bill. In the books, she is a divorced, recovered alcoholic.

Urban Grimshaw and Bernard Hare, in Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew, but this is an autobiographical account by Hare, a disgraced social worker, of his experiences of being part of the 'underclass' of 1990s Leeds where he met and helped 'Urban', a twelve year old drug user, and his gang. Names were changed to protect the children's privacy in the novel, and it is now being adapted for the screen with Richard Armitage as Hare, who described himself as "Mr Chips on smack", and Anna Friel as 'Urban''s addict mother. This is non-fiction, but there are so few examples I can think of that I included it here anyway.

My Mad, Fat Diary would also work, but this based on real-life diaries of Rae Earl, and is now a TV show for Channel 4. Teenager Rae comes back to school after attempting suicide, and her friends have no idea that she has been in a psychiatric hospital for the past four months, believing that she had gone to France. Seventeen year old, boy-mad Rae has both mental health and body issues, but tries to reconnect with her friends and family.   

I guess Lolita and American Psycho sort of meet my criteria, but their narrators are both antagonists rather than protagonists, so although they both deserve a mention, that's not what I'm after. 

I found this list too: 11 of the Most Realistic Portrayals of Mental Illness in Novels. I think I'll be checking some of those out. 

I think I just need to read more. I hope I just need to read more, and that there are plenty of examples out there that match my criteria. 

But what about SFF?

In terms of SFF, I guess there are others:

Elena, from The Vampire Diaries, who is going through the five stages of grief at the start of the series/show, having lost both parents;

Game of Thrones is littered with MCs who have serious, serious emotional and psychological scars...

... and then I was stuck, because I really do need to read more, so fellow author Maya Starling came up with a few too:

Carrie Vaughn's female protagonist in her werewolf series; 

Quite a few of Marvel/DC protagonists - Rogue (X-Men), Wolverine (X-Men), Tony Stark (Iron Man) - and so on. The graphic novel Sin City also has some good examples, like Marv.

But then, the more suggestions we came up with, the further away we were getting from MCs - there are plenty of side characters or secondary characters, but I would be open to suggestions.

Leave yours in the comments!


With this thought in mind, I realised that Maya Starling's current work in progress has the perfect example of this kind of character. Free chapters are available on wattpad - it's a very good read so far! Maya will be talking to me later on about Henrietta, her MC, and I can't wait to share that interview with you all!


[UPDATE: Stephen King's latest novel, Dr Sleep, fits the bill nicely. Danny Torrence, the little boy in The Shining, is all grown up and battling his own inner demons of alcoholism, self-loathing, and the scars of his childhood at the Overlook Hotel]. 

Monday, 5 January 2015


Quite a lot has been going on in my academic life, but my fiction writing has resumed.

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!

Thanks for supporting me through 2014.

The build up to THE BOOK OF DEATH, the fourth in the Faustine Chronicles series, is approaching - I'm going to release chapters from April onwards, and have written about 20,000 words so far. It will hopefully be an introductory book for the series as well... I kind of want it to stand alone. My problem is that it was originally inspired by the Celtic Hero Cycle: the conception of the hero, the childhood of the hero, the deeds of the hero as a young man, and finally, the death of the hero. I'm not ready for the last part of the cycle yet... and since the hero is a Necromancer I feel like I can cheat Death a little. So I suspect that while this will be the last novel (at least, I think so at this point), there may be other short stories afterwards. 

One short story is already available to buy - you can find it in the anthology CHAMBER OF MUSIC, edited by Charlotte Ashley, available from Amazon, Smashwords and Createspace in paperback and various ebook formats, including Kindle, epub and mobi. 

Check out for more information - and if you buy, please note all profit goes to charity, and please leave an Amazon or Goodreads review!

Wishing you all a great 2015. 

C. M. R.