26 September 2014

Five Thousand Stars

Nearly two years ago now I marked a milestone of 1000 ratings on Goodreads.  The time since seems to have whizzed by, and a lot of reading has obviously gone on.  Not every one of those ratings has been positive, but it's still a privilege for a self-pub like me to be read at all, and I definitely want to celebrate the milestone.

This time I've put together a give-away with three different prize options (and will be picking three winners).  All you need do is use the rafflecopter giveaway below, and select your preferred prize from the included survey.  [If. for some reason, you can't complete the rafflecopter survey, just email me with your preferred option and I'll add you.]

The prizes are:

Complete your collection

Let me know which books of mine you don't have, and I'll send them to you - ebook or trade paperback format (or mix and match).  [Includes the upcoming The Pyramids of London.]

A draft Touchstone

Back when I was getting Touchstone ready for publishing, I got myself a couple of galleys printed up.  These are basically as the story was when it was a blog, without the minor edits and corrections I made for publication.  [No really significant differences - just a bit of Touchstone history.]

A partial!

I've written a TON of partial novels.  I've grown better at finishing what I start (and, ah, generally better, I suspect - some of these are kinda embarrassing).  But I quite like a lot of these stories, and will happily convert one to an ebook and send it to someone if they can stand typos, awkward writing, and the fact that most of them stop halfway through, with no kind of resolution at all.

The choices for the partials are;

Inn: (11 chapters)
Starts memorably with "The inn fell sideways".  This is an epic fantasy partial, where an entire inn (containing 50 people) is transported in moments to a magical wasteland.  Because. 
Lammersgach: (24 chapters - technically complete)
A spy meets a demon snake and regrets it.  I call this 'the demon rape book'.  It's not terrible, but not quite salvageable.
Lines of Resonance: (8 chapters)
A world where mages can enhance their powers by linking with particular people capable of amplifying power (not nearly so easily as a Touchstone!).  A prince is kidnapped, a mage needs power in a hurry, and the main character is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Mage Trap: (6 chapters)
This is Sleeping Beauty if Sleeping Beauty was an annoying man with enormous magical power.
Rune-spinners: (13 chapters)
Space archaeology, black market 'jackals', world discovery, a genius hiding her smarts, and a fellow with purple-dyed hair, the face of a Pre-Raphaelite Angel and enough arrogance for two.
Solitary Stars: (8 chapters)
A solo survey pilot is kidnapped by people racing to be first to find a legendary planet.  [Reads much like an Andre Norton novel with excuses for sex.]
Surrogate: (11 1/2 chapters)
For a book I refer to as "the space naga smut" this has a whole one sex scene in it (so far).  The focus is mainly on being captured by space pirates, deadly mines, and, ah, the consequences of the sex.  [Title should give you some ideas there.]
Talismans of Godshelm: (5 chapters)
An attempt at a redraft of my first novel - a collection quest involving masses of cliches. [I can't send the original Tals, since I typed it on an actual typewriter and very much don't want to transcribe it.  However, I might entertain you all when I get home by scanning a few pages - iirc it starts with a prince falling into a puddle.]
The Shadow of Wings: (8 1/2 chapters)
A rare from a male viewpoint fantasy novel involving a super-stoic prince facing an oncoming evil, but struggling rather more with the discovery he has a heart to break.
The Sleeping Life: (14 1/2 chapters)
The sequel to Stained Glass Monsters - this will be finished in the next year or so, theoretically, so you'd at least get to see how it ends eventually.
Wellspring: (7 1/2 chapters)
One I intend to go on with one day - magic as a limited and difficult to transport resource.  Plus a murder mystery.  [I think I could add "plus a murder mystery" to half my story ideas.]
 The giveaway runs to mid-November (since I'm not back in Australia 'til then).  Best of luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

23 September 2014

Mountain Lakes

The "Lake District" sounds all very mild and bucolic, but those lakes are there because there's mountains holding them up.  The roads were all a bit too narrow, making the district the most dangerous so far in terms of driving - a good deal harder than the single lane roads, where people drive a little more cautiously rather than madly cut corners around blind turns.

Our holiday let this time was a little south of Ullswater, and just north of Kirkstone Pass, and a good base for walks.

Aira Force (a well known waterfall) was a short drive (and a...number of stairs) away.


One of my favourite walks was right from our door and down to the nearby lake of Brotherswater late in the afternoon. It was a very still evening, and the lake very reflective.


The weather for most of the time we were there was "sunny periods" which basically meant clouds with beams of sunlight breaking through - nice to look at but hard to photograph.  These two pics are from the same walk - up to a small lake tucked high up in the mountains near our holiday let.  This was a very vertical climb in parts, and featured a great many sheep and views of other mountains.



And, of course, an obligatory garden visit - Holehird Gardens down by Windermere, which had a nice walled area and a very extensive rock garden.


Finishing up, we detoured through the Yorkshire Dales (dodging millions of motorcyclists) to visit York, and then headed down to the Peak District.

16 September 2014

Northumberland

We started our time in Northumberland in the centre of Newcastle for the Diana Wynne Jones Conference.  I quite liked what I saw of Newcastle (though most of that was this massive mall-amoeba which had grown and sprawled underneath seemingly endless city blocks).

Sadly, the venue for the first day of the conference (Seven Stories) was - while a neat place - hot, stuffy and oddly-lit, which is a perfect trigger for migraines for me, so I had to go back to my hotel at midday and lie down.  The next day was at Newcastle University, which was very pretty (although confusingly right next to another, similarly-named university) and starting to be touched with autumn colours (I get two autumns this year and no spring).

After the conference, we spent an entertaining morning collecting our rental car (there was a big race in the city, the rental office was shut, two hours with suitcases by the roadside, etc, etc) and headed for the first of our holiday lets.  [Much cheaper to rent a place in a district for a week than constant hotel rooms, and so much nicer to have a whole house at our disposal rather than a single room.]

The cottage was near a place called Haydon Bridge.  We walked down into the village one day (and then, wheeze, we walked back up O.o).


After lolling about for a day or so, we headed off to our only castle for this particular county, a place called Alnwick - once Hotspur's castle - and also Alnwick Gardens, which had both a very nice walled garden section, and a garden dedicated to plants that can kill you:


The next day we headed to Vindolanda, an excavated Roman Fort:


We were also planning to do a big walk along Hadrian's Wall the next day, but my sister had been nursing a cold the entire week, and finally managed to pass it on to me, so we did part of a circle walk around Sycamore Gap:


It was very misty most of the time we were in Northumberland, but it had burned off by the time we did get up to the top of the wall after doing the flat part of the walk. It was actually quite flat for most of the wall once you got up to the top as well - the photo quite fails to convey the being on top of a hill part.  I can't help but feel sorry for the people who had to build this thing.


After this, enormous amounts of snot and phlegm, and a relocation to the Lakes District.

06 September 2014

Four Castles and a Rock

In Scotland, it's hard to drive down the road without stumbling across a castle, so it's a matter of willpower (or, increasingly, of 'meh, another castle') to not be stopping every five miles to poke about another.

I'd checked off a couple of castles to visit (more or less by googling 'castles with nice gardens'), and once we were back on the mainland we headed first to the Castle of Mey.



I am very fond of high walled gardens (necessary here due to the exposed position on the north coast of Scotland), but also found this castle tour rather interesting.  Mey was the holiday home of the late Queen Mother (and so functions as something of a shrine to her).  The tour was full of fascinating tidbits about the battle over tacky gifts, and the soundproofing to the kitchen.  Writer hat very thoroughly on there.

Our next visit, Dunrobin Castle, was one we were passing on the way to another castle.  It had a bagpiping busker girl at the front door and some lovely formal gardens below.


I actually ended up liking it more than the castle we were going to see, Cawdor Castle, which was perfectly nice but not quite so spectacular.


All three of these castles, however, paled in comparison with a castle that had little in the way of garden at all (or roofs, for the matter).  Dunnottar Castle, however, has a coastline walk, and the kind of stairs-from-the-bottom access that is exactly what I pictured for the Castle Rotation in Touchstone.



We had a gorgeous morning's walk to it from nearby Stonehaven (and a contrasting woodland walk on the return trip).

After this, however, we were fairly 'castled out', and when in Edinburgh didn't go for a tour of the castle there, but instead took in a nice view of it from Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park.


I expect we'll be seeing more castles in England and Wales, but for now a relative break in Newcastle.