Oops! It appears that you have disabled your Javascript. In order for you to see this page as it is meant to appear, we ask that you please re-enable your Javascript!
Nassau, Bahamas – where the hunters base

Nassau, Bahamas – where the hunters base

Nassau, Bahamas – base for the Artemis hunter team

At the beginning of Death is for the Living, the Artemis team is based out of Nassau, in the Bahamas. It’s a nice central location, and a thriving city, which provides supplies, and much-needed cover, as well as a large enough marina complex that a yacht moving in and out won’t attract much notice.

The Bahamas are actually very pretty, but offer very unusual sailing conditions. With shallow seabeds and low-lying islands, it’s not the first place I’d take a deep-keeled yacht like Artemis, but in terms of finding tourists for cover, it’s a popular destination – and, as we know, Artemis isn’t just there to look pretty.

Nassau, Bahamas mapFor those of you wondering where the hell the Bahamas are, exactly, here’s a map. You can find Nassau without too much trouble, due East of the tip of Florida and North of Santiago de Cuba.

You’ll see the whole area is a mess of little islands and sandbars, which makes for gorgeous blue-green water, really nervous watching of the depth-sounder, and a lot of white sand beaches.

Because vampire clans like a large, transient population, the Bahamas are a prime area for them. Violent crime in Nassau is high, meaning that a few disappearances don’t raise too many eyebrows. Yachts move through the Bahamas in numbers, especially in winter, and liveaboards vanish all the time – either intentionally dropping off the map, or through accidents.

Due to the presence of vampires in the Cays, Artemis was based there semi-permanently to watch and hunt, and was supplemented by the presence of the wise-woman, Mama Gale, a magic user of some power and influence – at least until a routine raid went startlingly sideways.

However, don’t let me put you off the Bahamas. They’re a lovely place to visit – especially in daylight.

Chapter quotes – why add them?

Chapter quotes – why add them?

Why add chapter quotes? Where do you get your chapter quotes from? Aren’t chapter quotes hell to format?

Me, personally, I enjoy chapter quotes. Dorothy Dunnett, Seanan McGuire, and of course Frank Herbert are all awesome examples. If you’ve never read any of these authors, don’t tell me because I will get very judgy.

“Facts are a commonly accepted interpretation. Truth is a commonly argued fiction.” A Planet’s Philsophy, Ankara Zaneth (From book 8…yes, I’m way ahead of myself.)

They’re an insight into the world backdrop, a good laugh, or a context-setter, depending on what the author is doing with them and with their book. I put them in because, well, I’m a pure pantser. I don’t outline. I generally have no idea what my characters are likely to do once I’ve dropped them into a scene. I find out when I write it down. As you can imagine, therefore, I usually end up writing my chapter quotes well after the fact. They’re actually help me in the editing stage, because they act as a kind of focus mechanism for me when I’m editing a chapter. I can stare at the chapter quote for a bit when I get stuck, remember the awesome thing I was trying to do in that chapter, and return to hacking and slashing motivated and refocused. (Hah.) At least, that’s how it sometimes works.

“Modesty is like arsenic: safe only in small doses.” Sayings of the Wise, Olar Fantoml (From Fighting Shadows, book II in the Cortii series.)

As I kind of gave away in the last bit, I don’t get my chapter quotes from anywhere. I make them all up. My father, who had very serious tastes in most of his reading, and considered sci-fi to be an extreme form of escapism, never actually read any of my books – but he would steal them from my mother when she was reading them, and he would read my chapter quotes. I still regret that I never really asked him why, because I think the answer would have been interesting.

“Avoidance requires continuous effort. Confrontation merely requires standing still.” Universal Truths, Jahira Suran (From Elemental Conflict, book IV in the Cortii series.)

And yes, sometimes, depending on the platform, chapter quotes can indeed be hell to format. Kobo, for example, thinks my chapter quotes are a whole separate page unless I spend hours tickling it with an ostrich feather while immersing it in chocolate. (Kidding. I had to get much kinkier than that.)

“Training is not a substitute for experience; it is merely easier to survive.” Training of a Cortiian, Nadhiri Longar (Yeah, Book 8 again…working on it.)

As to what my chapter quotes are supposed to achieve other than providing a focal point for my edits – I mostly leave that up to the reader. If they’re something that you just skip on your way to the main events, no worries. If they make you grin, or start an interesting train of thought, then I’m happy. I frankly suspect most of mine actually come from Khyria’s choices of reading matter. Most of them are downright cynical and sound like the kinds of things she’d remember.

Top ten books – also known as author torture

Top ten books – also known as author torture

Name my top ten favourite books? Ten?!?

This must be some kind of bizarre mental torture.

Those were pretty much my thoughts when a well-meaning friend tagged in a #10in10days event on Facebook. (Every author has a secret drama queen. If they claim they don’t, they’re probably being contextually inaccurate.) To add to my woes, my personal library downstairs currently runs to several thousand books, and doesn’t by far cover all the books I’ve loved and left in my life.

So, after I calmed down, and checked out various other peoples’ entries, I got into it and started thinking. My top ten books of all time? What would they be, and why?

I figured I’d share below, in case anyone’s looking for something new to read.

#1 - Favourite book of all time

The Horse and His Boy. Yes, of all the books I’ve read in my life, and as you may’ve gathered, there’ve been a few, this one probably takes the top spot. I fell in love with it sometime between the ages of six and seven, tried to move to Narnia, and very probably it gave me my initial interest in learning to ride. (I lived on a boat at the time…)

I still have a lovely, Folio Society copy of it in my library, a gift from my father, and every so often I get it out and re-read it. Of all the Narnia books, it’s my favourite, and at the simplest level, I think it’s because it’s the only one entirely set in Narnia.

#2 - Because Sir Terry...

The Monstrous Regiment. More than any other author I know, Terry Pratchett can expose the nonsense that underpins society and make it hilarious, and possibly nowhere more than in this book. I made the mistake of reading it for the first time on a bus, and laughed so hard I actually had a seat to myself. Topical, unflinchingly accurate, and stand-alone, I’ve just about worn the covers off this Discworld.

#3 - I want to write like this when I grow up

The Game of Kings. I love Dorothy Dunnett’s writing. I’ve read at least a couple of versions of this series to pieces. She writes historical fiction, and the characters, plots, and settings are incredible. Crawford of Lymond is an incredibly rich and complex character; there’s nothing transparent and open-and-shut about him. In a world of YA written for the grade 6 reading level, this series is like yoga for the brain.

#4 - Dragons, ire, flame and fire

Dragonflight. Anne McCaffrey was my first brush with science-fiction, aged about ten, and I still have that copy of the book – it’s gone in the harbour, it’s got marine varnish on it, and it’s been chewed on by kittens. I don’t like all her later books, but the original Pern series may well be what hooked me on sci-fi. When it comes to epic vision in world-building, this series is a great example.

#5 - One Ring to rule them all

Lord of the Rings. I scared myself so thoroughly with this book aged seven that I wouldn’t go to the bathroom on my own for six months. J.R.R. Tolkien has the ability to write a story that drags you in to the extent that you wake up and shake your head and try to figure out why all the colours are drab, you can’t feel your feet any more, and which century is it, anyway. This is one where the book is and will forever be better than the movie (although get back to me once we have Star Trek-style holo environments…).

#6 - That was opportunity knocking

Valour’s Choice. In terms of military sci-fi, you really can’t do better. Tanya Huff’s protagonist is Torin Kerr, Confederation Marine, and along with cracking pacing and excellent writing, the one-liners and turns of phrase in this book (and the rest of the series) keep me coming back for more. If anyone’s having trauma flashbacks to the Starship Troopers movies, have no fear – there is no comparison.

#7 - Here, kitty, kitty

Magic Bites. Magic and technology rule the world in cycles over multiple millennia, and technology is beginning to lose its sway. Kate Daniels is a mercenary for hire in the USA, front and centre for awakening demi-gods, magical curses, and rogue shape-shifters, even if the non-rogue ones debatably cause her more trouble. This series is a relatively recent find, but for fun and originality, it definitely earnt a spot on my list.

#8 - Because anti-heroes...

The Eagle has Landed. Actually most of the Jack Higgins are on my read and read again list; for gritty, realistic thrillers that are much more than simply point and shoot, he’s one of my go-to authors. I started climbing my parents’ bookshelves to steal these books about age nine or ten, and one of the things I really like about his work is that the villains are often more relatable than the heroes. Jack Higgins has a unique skill for taking everything you think you know and making you think about it again.

#9 - Because (more) anti-heroes...

The Morgaine Cycle. I found this in a charity shop somewhere near school, and consequently was MIA for most of a week of classes. C.J. Cherryh has her weak points with things like consistency (see the Phoenix series), but in the Morgaine cycle, the atmosphere, the settings, and the characters combine into the perfect sci-fi / fantasy read – complex, dark as hell, and compelling.

#10 - The art of the double-cross

Tarnished Knight. Jack Campbell is one of my more recent discoveries in sci-fi, and his Lost Fleet protagonist is so damn perfect it makes my teeth hurt, but in the Lost Stars series, the characters are dark, cynical, and prone to double-crosses, and totally hit my happy place. Campbell’s books excel in plausible battle scenes, but this later series also brings strong characterisation and great plots to the table.

Why gender isn’t everything

Why gender isn’t everything

In books as in life, gender shouldn’t be everything

I’m a radical. I’d truly like to live in a world where a person’s gender was one of the least important things that other people registered about them – you know, after their sense of humour, their personality, or their intelligence, for example.

However, it seems that humanity as a species can’t keep itself from a prurient fascination with the shape of other humans’ genitalia. From colour-coding new-born infants to be sure that complete strangers can recognise on sight what shape their genitals are, to trying to control who sleeps with who (if it’s consensual and they aren’t trying to get in your pants, why exactly is it your business?), to regulating what a gender can and can’t do, it’s everywhere.

It’s particularly annoying to me that I can go to the effort of writing an entire book (that shit’s hard, folks), with a plot, and character arcs and everything, and the main and possibly only thing that sticks with some people is the fact that it’s got a female protagonist. And *gasp* she’s in a leadership role, not in one of the approved female positions, like between the hero and a mattress.

When are we going to get past this massive hang-up? I’m tired of being told what I can and can’t do based solely on my gender. I’m tired of seeing books filled with characters who are, basically, tropes (princess who needs rescuing, anyone?). I’m tired of reading about US politicians advocating the death sentence for abortion, and seeing adverts where men are repeatedly indoctrinated with what ‘being a real man’ means.

So yeah, I do get mildly irritated when someone reads one of my books, goes to the trouble of leaving a very nice, in-depth review…but focusses strongly on the fact that the protagonist is a woman.

Khyria’s gender is one of the least important things about the character. I can’t help feeling that, much as I appreciated the review, some of the key points about the character and the book were relegated to a secondary position by the sheer level of shock and awe generated by her gender. I also can’t help feeling that this points to something deeply wrong with our society.

Hidden Gems – author services

Hidden Gems – author services

Hidden Gems – the low-down

Hidden Gems advertises as an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) program, although they also accept published books for their reviewers. As well as their core ARC program, Hidden Gems is branching out into cover design and editing.

Once signed up, your book is offered to their readership, and readers request the books they’re interested in reading and reviewing. You aren’t guaranteed any set number of takers, and you aren’t guaranteed any reviews; however, at time of writing, their review rate was 80%, meaning that if 100 of their readers ask for the free copy of your book, you’re likely to get something on the close order of 80 reviews.

The set-up

Hidden Gems asks for a minimum $20 US for basic set-up and send-out of a book in their newsletter. You must be able to provide an PDF and a MOBI variant of your manuscript file, as well as a cover image JPG. After that, you can set the bar for number of reviewers as high as you want, and you will be billed based on how many people volunteer to read and review.

It’s also a relatively simple submission and payment system, which I really appreciated, and their FAQ is well set up and answered pretty much all of my questions.

The results

Well, I was impressed.

I asked to have Through the Hostage circulated on 24th Sept, and I was notified that 15 people had asked for a copy. By 1st Oct, I’d gone from 10 reviews on Amazon to 23, with a nice mix of ratings. A couple of those readers were also kind enough to copy their reviews to Goodreads and even BookBub.

Hidden Gems is still building their reader base for sci-fi, so I presume that in a more mainstream genre like paranormal romance or new adult, you would probably get a higher number of takers, but frankly, I was very happy.

There are way too many review sites out there that ask for money, state (honestly) that they can’t guarantee a review, and then, sure enough, nothing ever happens. Hidden Gems isn’t one of them. Through organisation or some other alchemy, if one of their readers asks for a book copy, there’s a much better than average chance that they will also choose to leave a review.

Pin It on Pinterest