Working on Book 2: The Fractured Portal

Bookmark FrontBook 1 ‘The Cracked Amulet‘ is out there and yes, I’m still working on book 2: The Fractured Portal. It’s been a longer and harder road than I imagined it would be. I now have to create a huge battle near its end to create a powerful ending. One where I draw together disparate threads and characters to make of book 2 a story in its own right, which lies within, yet is still part of, the greater story arc of the trilogy.

There is more journey, more tension, and more action than I had initially envisaged. I’m truly hoping the wait will be worth it for all my readers. I am sweating and have sweated and will no doubt sweat more blood over this book as I continue on this writing journey. Tears of frustration and joy have been wept – and more will certainly be wept – as I work my way through yet another draft tweaking the characters onto the right paths to get them to the great denouement for ‘The Fractured Portal’. I’m doing my best to create the best bloody rollicking read I humanly can, one which I intend to be as near to a standalone that the middle book of a trilogy can be. I have cut thousands of words and have written thousands more – many of these new ones even make sense (hehehe).

The big battle is now fully researched, planned, and ready to be written.

Above you can see one side of the bookmark design I created especially for EasterCon2017. What do you think of this? Any good? Any comments?

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A Story for Saturday

This is a theme for Saturday’s where I post short stories I either host or have written myself.

‘Moss’ is a powerful story written by a talented young man Nick Watkinson. Enjoy, but watch out – it will play with your emotions.

MOSSsunset C

 

Through the Teign valley, the river meandered between high crags
and dense forest. Where it was visible from his vantage, it shone gold with the late afternoon sun and a scattering of pearl stood a clear warning that the river ran faster and rougher than it might appear at a distance. Marianne pulled at his arm.

‘I’m cold, Papa.’

He caught her hands in his and dropped his knee to the slick grass. ‘Do you want to go back, Marie?’

She scrunched up her face for a moment, then shrugged, then said ‘Chase me!’

She was out of his hands and bounding from the boulders before he could stand. He paused when his knee cracked, waited for the pain to wash through him. It was always accompanied by a smell, a grey nothing that never the less smothered all other scents, and a prickling fire in his skull. A hangover from the crash. With learned caution, he picked his way between the broken stones as his vision swam.

‘Papa, chase me faster!’ He heard her shout and, somewhere in the distance, saw the violet of her coat.

Faster, with a laugh forced out, he stumbled down the sheep track. Marianne screamed and laughed and her splash of violet bounced up and down, and down. He saw the shape of her hood, the dark sweep of her hair, her cheeks red with the cold. When he caught her he swung her up and fell, rolling on the generous wetness of moss and grass. Marianne caught her breath and climbed onto his belly.

‘You’re crying again, Papa,’ she said and pawed at his cheek.

‘It’s from the grass, Marie.’

He tore a handful of stems from the ground and brushed them on her face. She batted him away with tiny hands and helpless giggles. Smiling, he eased his head back into the dry cocoon of his hood. Gunmetal clouds choked the sky above, though the west still glowed golden.

‘Not because of Mummy?’ asked Marianne. ‘Grandma says we’re allowed to cry.’ His daughter sounded reproachful.

‘I don’t need to cry, Marie.’ He rolled over so she toppled onto her belly, and he shifted so he was too. He pointed down the valley. ‘The river cries for me. The moss, the sky. If I cried I’d do nothing else. I’d not be able to cook you dinners, or wash the clothes. The world cries for me, so I can look after you.’

Marianne lay still. He couldn’t see her face. She threw out her arms and dug her fingers into the moss and earth.

‘Thank you world,’ she said, with a moss-muffled voice.

With his face pressed to the moss, he said in a strange deep voice, ‘You are very welcome, Miss Marianne.’

She giggled and burrowed into his side. He gathered her up and stood carefully, biting down on the pain. He walked back towards home, up a path he could hardly see, while his daughter tucked her nose into the crook of his hood and shook without sound in his arms.

The End

Dangerous Skies by Brian James – A Review

 

Dangerous Skies by Brian James

Synopsis:

It is the height of the Blitz. Night after night, wave after wave of German bombers pound London’s streets, determined to bring the city to its knees.

Alan and his best mates, Tommy and Wilkie, have virtually given up going to school. Classes are continually disrupted. Many of the teachers, dragged out of retirement because of the war, hardly care whether their pupils learn or not. Some days there are silences at school registration – where the names of children injured or killed by falling bombs once were.

As Alan and his friends roam the streets of Clapham and Brixton, they get sucked into Duggie‘s world – a teenager who runs a gang of looters. Alan vows never to steal for Duggie again. But they become caught up in the dangerous dealings of an armed robber called Ted.

Ted is on the run after shooting a bank guard, hunted by the police. Duggie tells Alan and his mates if they help Ted escape, they need never work for him again. As bombs fall all around his lookout, Alan believes it is the end of their troubles. But he is wrong. Alan is taken by the gangster’s and faces certain death.

This thrilling story, based on the author’s own experiences growing up during the Blitz, is an antidote to nostalgia. It shows the terrors of the Blitz and how war brings out both the best and the worst in adults and children alike.

Review:

This was a good read, bringing me back to a snapshot in time when London suffered under the Blitz.

The terror of living through frequent German attacks, as seen through the eyes of a child, is vividly described. Brian James has done a fine job of putting flesh on the broken scaffolding of those dire times, using Alan and his friends’ adventures, their imagination, and their sense of fun on even the worst of days. The immediacy of his descriptions gives the reader a real sense of a primary schoolchild’s life in wartime London, one with no rose-tinted glasses in evidence. The realism of a working-class boyhood in the 1940’s, and how children could and did fall into the hands of dangerous gangs by unlucky chance is quite graphic. The children, getting an inadequate education in an ill-run school, find it all too easy to roam the broken streets. Streets that are as full of bad as good, as a policeman Alan meets says:

Lot of bad people out there,” sighed the policeman. “You’d think with this war on, bombs dropping all over the place, killing innocent people, it’d be enough to worry about. But it’s times like this when the rats crawl outta their holes and take advantage. No one’s safe from these gangs. And there’s plenty of guns about too. As if we haven’t got enough bother with Hitler and his evil crew.”

The boys become almost feral, and survive experiences that might scar them for life, but where there is life, there a chance to dream, and Alan dreams of living in quieter, happier places.

James’ writing is both gripping and grim, with scattered moments of pure joy in the children’s improvised games. The snappy colloquial dialogue of the London streets and plenty of action, makes this story a real page turner for any youngster.

As I said, I enjoyed the read and recommend Dangerous Skies to both adults and children who would like to know more about how dangerous the gritty streets of London were, and not only from the skies above, during the war.

R B Watkinson

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COVER STYLE FOR A FANTASY BOOK AND WHY?

So I have been told a few times now by various readers, that the cover for my book The Cracked Amulet, is a bit meh. What I’d like to know is: WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COVER STYLE FOR A FANTASY BOOK AND WHY?

There is such a huge variety of covers out there, from the symbolic to the realistic:

enchantress-james-maxwellcracked-amulet-cover-design

 

From the up close and personal of a single character to a landscape:

prince-of-thorns-mark-lawrencethe-book-of-transformations-mark-charan-newton

All of them are eye-catching for different reasons and all appeal to different tastes. Also, over the years, tastes have changed, for what worked in the 70’s certainly would not this century.

Everyone has their own opinion of what works and what doesn’t. I’d be very interested to know those opinions, and I’m sure there are a great deal of other new authors out there who would love to know too.

TELL ME: What do you like?

 

All the best

R B Watkinson

I was interviewed – I survived

R B Watkinson Interviewed by Katie Isbester

At the launch for Essential Audio Books  in the lovely Senate House, London University, I was pounced upon by Editor in Chief of Claret Press, Katie Isbester, to do an interview. I have given the link above for those desirous of a good laugh or, alternatively, an ideal remedy for sleeplessness.

I was prepped to mention a few key points about The Cracked Amulet a few minutes before but, as you can see, that deer-in-the-headlights moment hit, and pretty much everything disappeared from my noddlehead. Ah well. Obviously I’ll not have telly or radio interviewers knocking on my door in the near (or far) future. Next time, maybe a script Katie?

A few good questions from the lovely Katie get me going however, and so I chat about The Cracked Amulet, especially the kick-ass protagonist Katleya. A girl I would love to have been and, I like to think, the kind of girl a lot of readers would love to be. An independent, resilient, fighter with lots of attitude – and knives. She’s so good with knives and curses, you’ve got to love her, want to be her even (well, I do anyway). Some might say the book has a certain feminist leaning to it, for it also has another strong female character, an older woman who mourns her dead love, another woman. Then there’s the antagonist, a warrior, focused, ruthless – and female.

I also mention book two of the Wefan Weaves, The Fractured Portal. And let slip that the portals, mentioned in book one, are actually used to travel extraordinary distances not only within a world but also between worlds. Two new protagonists travel this way, through an unfortunate set of circumstances – and a Bloodhunter – from London to the world of Dumnon. It was hard enough for Coryn and Katleya to travel through that world and they were born there, how will Evie and Alan survive?

Anyway, enough of that for now.

All the best to you all

R B Watkinson

Review of The Summer Goddess by Joanne Hall

Summer GoddessWhile at BristolCon, I acquired a copy of the lovely Joanne Hall’s latest book and got her to scribble her name in it. I only managed to read it during my trip to London and back last week. It’s a long journey to Devon. So here are my thoughts on The Summer Goddess:

This is a story about a woman called Asta, chief of her village after her father’s death. She vows to her dead brother, now a spirit who piggy-backs within her, that she will find his son, six-year old Rhodan, taken by slavers in a raid, along with half of the village, and bring him home. But she is betrayed and taken by the raiders before her search begins.

On her journey from one land to another, she discovers that the world is vast, strange, and filled with beliefs other than the one Asta knows. One where Summer Goddess’ are worshipped in hope of deliverance from famine, another where a hungry God requires regular sacrifices and its oppressive priesthood subjugates the people.

Asta is strong, fragile, intelligent, stupid, brave, reckless, focused, and bewildered. In other words, a normal human being. No perfect hero, just someone trying her best to find her way through one problem after another to find her nephew and her people and bring them home.

The world is populated by many other characters, none of whom are all good or all bad. Each are multi-faceted, each bear their troubles, each pursue what they believe to be the right course for their people. Some help Asta, some use her, some she uses, some she must kill to survive.

It is a well written story, but there were times when I got annoyed by Asta’s choices, thinking that perhaps a woman in that particular situation would not have made them. Too reactive to perceived wrongs rather than adding together the information she had already received. Yet, exhausted and confused, there are times and situations when thinking things through was not something Asta could do. I understand what Joanne Hall was doing here.

The story had an ancient world flavour to it, but was written with a visceral, modern, and fairly pithy voice.

Overall a good and enjoyable read.

I hope you find this review interesting, and perhaps pick up a copy to read for yourselves.

All the best

R B Watkinson

Late Chat about BristolCon 2016

Hello all and sorry that I’m so late in writing of my experience at BristolCon 2016. To those who have never been, go. It’s a wonderfully welcoming and all embracing event, with the best people you could ever ask for running it and attending.

Check this out for next years BristolCon event

At BristolCon 2016 I had the best weekend ever. Technically, it is only a one day event, but there was a fringe function on the Friday night and some breakfast banter on Sunday morning, both in which I was an enthusiastic participant.

BristolCon was my first ever convention, being a newbie on the scene. My first book was published earlier this year and the lovely peeps at BristolCon launched my book in September and, liking what they saw and heard of my reading and interview (or being tone deaf) invited me to the Convention to both do a reading and be a panellist.

Awash with authors, artists, and readers, the convention was exciting and rather awesome. A particular highlight was meeting so many authors of books I’d read or wanted to read, including Mark Lawrence, G R Matthews, J P Ashman, and T O Munro. A more friendly, enthusiastic and generous bunch of folks you couldn’t hope to meet.

There were a variety of panels, workshops, an art gallery, a brick-out room (for chilling and gaming), and a trade room (stalls run by local small presses, jewellery, memorabilia, small local bookshops, and Forbidden Planet).

I attended the excellent reading workshop on the Friday night, run by BristolCon Fringe, which was followed by an open-mike session. Literally, and I mean that literally, I shook like a leaf when I read my extract. No one noticed – I know not how. Steven Poore read a hilarious short story. Thanks Steven, it’s always good to laugh.

The Art Show was amazing. To see the style of art on canvas that I have seen on many a book cover was wonderful. I chatted to the delightful Fangorn and drooled over his art, sorry Fangorn.

panel-at-bristolcon-2016-cropped

I was a panellist on ‘When the heroes have gone’, a discussion on who cleans up the mess after the evil megalomaniacs/monsters have been defeated. A lively chat, covering the post Blitz London clean-up to shovelling away monster poo in New York City. My co-panellists were Juliette E. McKenna, Joel Cornah, Joanne Hall, and Fangorn (who created the wonderful cover art for the programme).

One of the panels I attended was ‘Murderous Women’, another lively and interesting discussion on whether women want their reading grim and dark. Anna Smith-Spark certainly wanted it grim; the darker and bloodier the better as far as she was concerned. Amanda Kear, Jonathan L. Howard, David Gullen and Dolly Garland were the other excellent panellists. All agreed women are not faint-hearted creatures; we love to read gritty stories containing scenes of dismemberment and death with all the gory details, the only provision being that it should belong within the narrative.

‘Under the Covers’, a panel on how important the cover art is for a book’s success. A good variety of covers were used as examples. Don’t use green, was a comment I didn’t quite get to the bottom of – any comments? In the main, everyone agreed that the book had to reflect the genre of the book or it just wouldn’t succeed. I couldn’t agree more. Terry Jackman, Jaine Fenn, Fangorn, KS Turner, and Patrick Samphire were the illuminating panellists.

Robert Harkess’ new novel, Amunet, was launched in the Brick-out room. His interview was interesting and inciteful, and his reading enjoyable. Yet another book to add to my teetering TBR pile.

I am sad to have missed the ‘Stage Managed Fighting’ workshop run by Dev and Dolly Garland. I heard it was excellent fun. A lot of high kicks (jinks) were involved, apparently.

I’d also like to flag up the new game, devised by Mhairie Simpson, called ‘Be A Bard’, that I played with her. A game requiring both strategy and imagination. She designed the game, the artwork on the cards, and even cuts each card by hand. Such dedication.

I will most definitely be attending next year. Luckily, I have been invited to sit on another panel and do a reading from book two of my Wefan Weaves trilogy, The Fractured Portal. Thanks Jo.

Even though the lovely Joanne Hall has stepped down as Chair, I am sure it will continue to be a most excellent science fiction and fantasy convention overseen by the new Chair, MEG.

All the best to you all

R B Watkinson