Monday, 28 April 2014

Sneak peek to my next book

The next book in my Two-Natured London series, Her Warrior for Eternity, will come out in May. It’s currently being edited, but here’s an unedited sneak preview from chapter three where my hero and heroine meet for the first time – in less than propitious circumstances. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

The woman woke up faster than Jeremy had thought possible. He had barely got her in the car and the vehicle moving when she jolted awake. One moment she was placid on the front seat; the next she was screaming at the top of her lungs. He almost crashed the car at the sudden sound.
“What the fuck are you about? Stop shouting.” She didn’t listen and instead made to open her door. Instantly worried, he locked all the doors, even though she was wearing a seatbelt and wouldn’t have fallen.
“Let me out, let me out!” the woman screamed.
“Relax. I’m taking you home.”
It had no effect. Abandoning the door, she turned to him and began to pound him with her fists, the punches accurate and surprisingly strong.
“Ouch. Will you quit that. You’ve nothing to fear here.” He glanced at her and saw pure panic in her eyes. Shit.
A tiny pulse of magic calmed her instantly, but only on the surface. He had never met a human who could resist vampire charm that effectively.
He pulled over and killed the engine to better be able to calm her down. “You fainted. What was I supposed to do, leave you there?”
“You’re a murderer,” the woman spat.
Ah, yes. She had witnessed that. “Don’t worry. He wasn’t human.” Renegades were a Circle’s secret, not even other vampires knew about them, but he didn’t mind telling her. He would wipe her memory afterwards.
“Neither are you. You’re a vampire, aren’t you.” It was an accusation.
He had no idea how she had figured it out. Humans as a race were unable to tell the difference between one and two-natureds, but he nodded. “Trust me, compared to renegades, I’m human. I’m just an improved model.”
His attempt at humour had no effect. “You’re going to kill me too, aren’t you?” He could smell her fear and it aggravated him.
“For fuck’s sake, will you quit with that already. I’m not going to kill you. I’m taking you home.”
“You don’t even know where I live.”
“I’m a vampire, remember.” He tapped his forehead with his finger, indicating that he could read minds. He hadn’t actually done it, as she had to be conscious for it. He had simply checked her bag for the address, a UCL hall on Gover Street.
She wasn’t assuaged. “And it’s supposed to make me feel better that you’ve violated my mind instead of my body?”
“Yes.” He had long forgotten what it was like to have a complete privacy of his mind. When a bunch of people had the ability to communicate with you in your mind, you tended to lose certain inhibitions.
“That’s illegal, you know.”
“You won’t remember it.” It wasn’t the right thing to say either.
“So I won’t know if you rape me?”
Her accusation stunned him. “I’m not going to rape you. Why would you believe I would?”
“Gee, I don’t know. Maybe because I’m locked in a car with a vampire I just witnessed to kill a man!”
“He wasn’t a man.” Jeremy was beginning to lose patience.
“Says you.”
Jeremy rubbed his face to clear his mind. He needed a shave, but that would have to wait. “Look, we had a bad start. Hi, I’m Jeremy Grayson, a vampire warrior of the Crimson Circle, and I spend my nights hunting the creatures I killed so they won’t kill vampires and hapless human women. Who might you be?”
She regarded him suspiciously. She had a nice face, pretty even though she was frowning. A strong, stubborn face. “Can’t you get it out of my mind?”
“I can, yes, but I’d rather not.”
“Suppose I give you a fake name, then.”
“Suppose you do. I’m sure you have a name you give to annoying guys at bars all the time.”
A ghost of a smile tugged the corner of her mouth, suggesting that she indeed had a fake name ready. It softened her features, transforming her from pretty to beautiful as her large, moss green eyes lit. Her light brown hair was pulled back tightly, but wisps had escaped and were framing her face nicely. Her sharp nose and dark straight brows didn’t look so severe anymore either.
He reached for the inside light and switched it on. His eyes adjusted instantly, but her human eyes were slower to react. “I just realised you probably don’t see me as well in the dark as I see you,” he explained. The light might make her feel more comfortable too.
She nodded. She was studying him as curiously as he had her earlier, and he waited patiently. Anything to make her calm down. It was beginning to dawn on him that the situation might seem somewhat different to her than it did him. No wonder she was frightened.
“My name is Corynn Sparks,” she eventually said. “Spelt with a ‘y’ and two ‘n’s and no ‘e’ at the end.” He got a notion that it was her actual name, and it delighted him.
“I knew a girl with the same name once.”
“What, spelt the same way?”
She sounded so affronted that he smiled. “I have no idea. People weren’t fussy about spelling those days and, anyway, I couldn’t read.”
She stared at him. “The way you said it makes it sound like it was a long time ago.”
“I am a vampire, remember.”
She was truly curious now. “So how long ago was it?”
“You can’t expect me to spill all my secrets at once,” he teased her, and was rewarded with a smile that had almost no fear in it.
“Why not? You already told me you’re going to erase my memory.”
That was true. “Well, I was born in 1663.” He watched her take that in.
“Wow. That’s… You’re really old.”
He didn’t feel old. Never had. He looked about the same age he had been when his promise was fulfilled, twenty-six, and if he didn’t feel quite as young as modern men of that age, it was because he had been older than that already before he was twenty. Life had been harder when he was still human, and people matured fast.
He shrugged. “I’m young for a vampire.”
“I’m twenty-two.”
“A veritable baby.”
“Hey!” But he just smiled and started the engine again.
“Come, let’s get you home.”

Monday, 7 April 2014

Gauging distances

I’ve been virtually travelling around London for my next book, Her Warrior for Eternity. Some of it is to scout locations, but quite a lot has been to gauge distances between them. My heroine, Corynn, likes to run from place to place, which has forced me to study the map. How long would it take to run from Holborn to Greenwich? Would a regular runner be able to do it? How much longer will it take to run the north bank than the south?

People often move from place to place in books. Some of it is superfluous action that doesn’t require special knowledge about distances and the time it takes to reach a certain place with certain means. A drive to a grocery shop doesn’t have to be described to a minute, as long as readers are made aware that time has passed.

Occasionally though, action happens during the transit. Discussions for example. Even a short journey – a lift ride – is difficult to determine correctly, and a discussion that takes place during it can appear either too short or comically long. Travelling from UK to Australia takes over a day. An entire book can happen in that time.

Historical novels present a whole set of different difficulties when it comes to measuring distances and the time it takes to travel them. The road conditions, the slowness of horse-drawn carriages, or the lack of train connections can confound the modern author. It took days for the eloping couple to reach Gretna Green from London even in the best conditions. And the difficulties multiply when the author tries to move large masses, like troops. It took weeks to move an army to a battle field before cars made it slightly faster. Taking that into account can frustrate an author who needs to fill the gap with action. (In epic fantasy, one can ask a convenient god to open a tunnel from one end of a continent to another and move the troops in hours. But I digress.)

Occasionally, the travelling time is essential for the action. A character has to reach a certain point at a certain time. A bomb is about to go off that has to be stopped in time, but the hero or heroine has to get through the entire town to reach it. So how long will it take?

As an author, you can wing it, of course. If you state that it’s possible to get to one end of Manhattan to another in fifteen minutes during the rush hour, then so be it. But your readers might find the blatant disregard of facts annoying or even disrespectful.

Luckily, you don’t always have to guess. Google, for example, tells how long it takes to travel from one point to another – by car – and helpfully estimates how much longer it will take during the rush hour. Simply type ‘distance between a and b’ and youll have an answer in hours and minutes.

The search gives the distance between the places in miles or kilometres too, which is helpful if your character is travelling on foot, like mine often is. Even if they are only estimates, and the route isn’t necessarily the one you would choose for your characters, it makes it a great deal easier to plan believable action. If you only have fifteen minutes to get your dying character to a hospital and the nearest is half an hour away, your character won’t make it. Unless, of course, you decide that they will.

Now, if only there was an app for estimating the travelling time in historical conditions too…


This is my 100th blog post. I wrote the first post in June 2012 and have blogged more or less regularly once a week since. Most of the post aren’t worth remembering, but a couple of them have kept readers’ interest:
Imagined worlds about world building (November 11, 2013)
Learning to avoid thought verbs about a writing advice by Chuck Palahniuk (August 26, 2013)
Take a look!