Blades of the Fallen – Out Now

One last update: Blades of the Fallen is now available for Kindle, in all other e-formats, and in paperback.

Blades of the Fallen is a standalone novel in the NEXUS space opera series.

Blades of the Fallen Cover

The murder changes everything. The Vanguard is supposed to protect against such violence, not fall victim to it. But even the so-called ‘Fallen’ wouldn’t kill without reason. Would they?

The murderer changes everything. The Fallen keep to themselves, living comfortably separate to other Necurians. But he is dragging them towards war. Why is he so convinced that it’s the Vanguard’s fault?

The inquisitors have changed. As teenagers, they witnessed the murder in front of their eyes. Five years later, they wield the authority of the Vanguard, and they will hunt down the killer. The motives must be uncovered. Because even the Fallen would not kill without reason.

Meet a handful of the characters:

Solan | Rialen | Ailan | Mara

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Blades of the Fallen: Meet Mara

Last in this short series of character spotlights is Mara, Vanguard inquisitor.

Mara

Mara graduates into the Vanguard at the same time as Solan and Rialen, easily matching the intelligence of the former and skill of the latter. She is the first of them to be sent on a mission: a hostage situation on an alien world. Something is off from the start – there are no Necurians among the hostages and these aliens don’t like anyone meddling in their affairs, so why call for the Vanguard?

The mission goes bad. People die. Mara kills. The natural compassion of Necurians is pushed aside by necessity and her specialised inquisitor training allows her to cut her way to the hostages with ease. But if she survives, she won’t soon forget that huge blade, or the mountain of a so-called ‘man’ who wields it.

Blades of the Fallen is coming 1 August.

Now meet:

Solan
Rialen
Ailan

Blades of the Fallen: Meet Ailan

Next up is the moody teenager, Ailan Suhn. Sent to try talking him round, Solan and Rialen quickly realise he is more than just a typical teen.

Space Katana

Suhn is dangerously sympathetic to the so-called ‘Fallen’: those men and women who do not adhere to the conventional ways of Necurians. He feels that they are unfairly treated and vilified for simply wanting to do their own thing. He identifies with them. Perhaps even feels as though he would find his place among them.

But when he witnesses a brutal murder committed by one of these misunderstood people, his sympathy disappears. He becomes obsessed with hunting down the killer, now the symbol of those he suddenly hates more than anything: the Fallen. He’s in over his head, but he won’t let anything get in his way; least of all the laws of other, lesser galactic races.

Blades of the Fallen is coming 1 August.

Now meet:

Solan
Rialen
Mara

Blades of the Fallen: Meet Rialen

The second character in this short series of introductions is Solan’s closest friend, Rialen Solaax.

Rialen's Katana

Seventeen-year-old Rialen has already developed his psionic abilities beyond the reach of most students and likes to meet Solan’s lectures with practical jokes and displays of aptitude his friend is yet to attain. Twenty-two-year-old Rialen is a powerful inquisitor with anger problems.

The murder of a Vanguard agent in front of his eyes drives the practical jokes and rash, thoughtless actions from Rialen’s repertoire. His only focus becomes joining the ranks of the Vanguard and protecting his people.

But when the ferocious killer again drives a blade through someone he cares for, Rialen’s anger may get in the way of him preventing the same fate befalling a friend he feels responsible for. If he can’t get a handle on it, will he become what he is fighting?

Blades of the Fallen is coming 1 August.

Now meet:

Solan
Ailan
Mara

Blades of the Fallen: Meet Solan

As we draw closer to the release of the third book in the NEXUS universe, I thought I could write a brief series of introductions to some of the characters in the book. The cast of characters is not as broad as in previous books, but there are still a handful to meet. These men and women are agents of the Vanguard, the Necurian people’s first and last line of defence.

Solan's Katana

Eighteen-year-old Solan Ashar sometimes remembers to check his arrogance before he lectures his fellow students. Mostly, he forgets that he hasn’t even started his training for the Vanguard yet, let alone graduated. Twenty-three-year-old Solan is full of doubt and worry. He is an inquisitor of the Vanguard, but is the responsibility of this role too heavy? Is the darker side of his new position too much to bear?

The moment teenage boy is suddenly forced into adult is the moment he witnesses the brutal murder of a Vanguard agent. The moment his ideas of a noble, adventurous life of sailing the stars and spreading peace to undiscovered races is shattered by the wrathful and merciless face of reality.

If he is to help bring a murderer to justice and uncover the truth behind a spate of child abductions, Solan will have to come to terms with the contrast between his once rose-tinted view of the Vanguard and its true nature.

Blades of the Fallen is coming 1 August.

Now meet:

Rialen
Ailan
Mara

Book 3 Cover Taster

Book three of NEXUS is slowly creeping closer, though working seven days a week until midnight is slowing down its progress. The cover is ready, but I don’t want to reveal it until I know when the book will be released.

I will probably also start putting out brief character spotlights as the release gets closer and, obviously, announce that release when I know it. Until then, here is a little square of the cover. Look, it has a foot! A sci-fi foot!

Book 3 Tease

You may have noticed my Facebook and Twitter (oh, and G+…) banners change. That was your first taste!

So until I know more, I’ll try and put out more guides for surviving unlikely situations you’ll definitely find yourself in should you happen to be some kind of Hero.

How to Write a Book: The Middle

So, we’ve covered the preparation stages in part 1, now it’s on to the main event:

NOW, WRITE!

Finally, we’re ready to start the fun part. It only took us 3,000 words to get here. All of that preparation might have been a pain, but there are two bits of good news. First, if you made it through the pain, there’s a good chance you’re definitely writer. Second, you’ll be glad of all the planning and research while you happily write away, fully aware of who your characters are, and their motivations and whatnot.

Fountain Pen

While fun, this part is also tricky, because it’s where people are unsure if they are ‘doing it right’. It’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to tell someone how to write something good. It either happens or it doesn’t. That said, don’t expect to have something publishable come out of your first attempt. Some authors have numerous fully completed manuscripts lying in drawers that will never see the light of day, because they’re not good enough.

The best advice I have heard or can give is to simply write for yourself. Write something that you would want to read. Try never to think ‘ah, that’ll do’. Enjoy the process and the work itself. As for knowing when it’s properly finished, or if it’s publishable, that’s pretty much up to you to decide for yourself – but don’t forget you have friends and family!

– Just Write

This part of the process is all about getting everything out of your head. Don’t edit what you’re writing. Don’t worry too much about your sentence structure, how many adjectives you’re using, and how many iterations of ‘was’ and ‘that’ you’re using. Hopefully, you should be writing fairly well by default, but all this will come in the rewriting and editing stages.

Characters come alive

By Jodi Harvey-Brown

If you’re not sure where to start even after planning, just start with anything you’re sure of: maybe a scene you have in your head, or have the protagonist do something normal and everyday, like going to the corner shop, so we’re introduced and you get into the flow of writing. You’re not chiselling into the side of a mountain, so you can afford to do things out of order and write stuff that will never make it near the finished work.

Your characters will take you in directions you didn’t expect, and reveal things about themselves that you may not have known without a thorough background check. This is part of the fun, and you will do more harm than good if you scold them and force them back onto the path you’ve set out for them.

– Backup

Remember what I said in part 1 about my computer deleting all of the work I’d done? Save to multiple computers, flash drives, external hard drives, Dropbox, even send your work to yourself in an email attachment. And backup very regularly.

– Chapters

You don’t have to decide how you want to do your chapters at this stage. You may find your scenes splitting themselves up into natural chapters as you go, or you may have to go back through later to insert them. You may decide that you don’t want to use traditional chapters. In my NEXUS series, I haven’t so far used chapters in the normal way, with numbers and/or names. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Terry Pratchett book in which he uses any kind of chapters.

It’s up to you and what you think suits your particular book. There isn’t really a right or wrong here. Choosing where to insert your chapters can be surprisingly tricky, and you may find yourself doubting your choices. Equally, not using chapters may have its own issues.

– Take A Break

Take a Break

– ‘Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit’

Know when to stop writing for the night, or for the morning, or whatever it happens to be. A good piece of advice for finishing is to never write until you’re empty. When you are in the mood to write, and it’s all flowing out of you, it’s tempting to just write and write and write, but if you finish while you still have ideas, it will be much easier to pick it up again when you return. But don’t stop after an epiphany, obviously, as you don’t want to come back the next morning and realise that you’ve forgotten where you were taking things!

Now might also be a good time to revisit your notes and plans. Perhaps not to edit them, but to add to them. I prefer to update my notes with new information and ideas, rather than ‘correct’ the old notes. Apart from anything, the planning and note taking – and especially the editing – is a different kind of writing to what you’ve just been doing, and you don’t want it to break your creative flow. So perhaps just jot down important revelations and the like, and then go to bed. Or work. Don’t forget to go to work.

– Don’t Fear The Internet

This could have easily gone in the research section, but it’s as relevant here. The internet isn’t just for Googling your name to see if you’re a famous author yet (hint: you aren’t; you haven’t finished the book). There are a lot of people on the internet: some most are a******s, but plenty will be a lot like you. Websites like Authonomy are good places for writers to learn, meet other writers, and even ask for help.

If you are active in a website such as Authonomy, you can learn a lot about writing, as well as receiving (hopefully constructive) criticism of your own work. Not only does the latter help you improve said work, but it will help thicken your skin for the inevitable bad reviews and so on later. You can also make a lot of good connections.

FINISHED!

Hooray, you’ve written a book! Calm down. At this point, I usually go straight back to the beginning and start going over it again. The better plan would be to take a longer break of anywhere between a week and a few months, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

– Rewrite

How you go about this is up to you, but I’m going to dictate anyway. Rewriting and editing are fairly in-depth topics in their own right so, as with everything else here, you should probably read (or have read) a book or article specially written for the subject. That said…

Rewrite

Don’t start with edits. I didn’t say ‘rewrite/edit’, I just said ‘rewrite’. You could say they are practically synonymous, but here that means that you should start with structural changes, not line edits. Line edits being rearranging sentences and the words within. Structural changes are drastic things that may change even the basics we planned out: genre, setting, narrator, etc.

You might, as many of us do, find that your opening just doesn’t work. Perhaps you have a prologue, the information in which would be better scattered throughout the first few chapters. Information dumps are bad!

Perhaps a character turns out to be quite boring and unnecessary, and should be deleted. Or perhaps the book is missing a vital character that you need to insert.

You might start by reading over your book with a notebook beside you. Skim over it, ignoring the wording for the moment, and just concentrate on the bigger picture. Anything that strikes you as out of place, unrealistic, overflowing with information, or anything that trips you up or catches your eye, write it down to come back to it once you’ve finished your read. Apart from anything, skimming through like this is more likely to help you catch plot holes or scenes that are too slow or too fast, etc., than a normal read, or while editing.

Some people go for a more literal rewrite at this stage, and will write the book again from scratch. Presumably, you would write an outline of each chapter and work off that, but I don’t think that method would work for me. The closest I’ve got to that is with the novel I’m currently working on. I have already written a fair amount of it, and now that I’ve finally gone back to it, I have it open on one screen while I write it again on the other. This means that some lines are identical between the two, while others are added to, or taken away; in other parts, entire chapters are added. But, again, I don’t think this benefits me any more than simply rewriting in the same document.

– Edit

Now it’s time for the line edits. Would this sentence work better if it came after that one? Would they both work better if they were merged into one? Should that whole paragraph be condensed into one sentence, or deleted completely?

Line Edit

You will almost certainly find yourself rewording individual sentences at this point. If you can avoid doing so until you make a dedicated edit run for that, it may be for the best, but it may also be unavoidable.

Just as when you finished your first draft, it is a good idea to leave the book to rest a while between edits. Fresh eyes will see new issues every time.

The final step of an edit – for me at least – is to look at the individual words. You will probably have reworded many of your sentences by now. But even when looking at the big picture, it is hard to see when you’ve overdone things. Using a character’s name too many times in quick succession, too many iterations of certain words, etc. I have a list of words I do a quick search for, to begin with. I have a tendency to use the word ‘suddenly’ a little too often. While I have slowly weaned myself off this habit, I still search for iterations of it. It’s one of those words that is rarely necessary. If I have more than, say, three iterations of it in the entire book, then it’s overused. I try to aim for only one or two but, again, only if it reads well.

Other things to look out for are unnecessary/superfluous words (usually adjectives or adverbs), correcting misused or mistyped words (it’s/its, their/there/they’re, your/you’re, learnt/learned, though/through/thought, quite/quiet, etc.), common mistakes that have become ingrained in most people’s minds (percent vs. per cent, alright vs. all right, damnit vs. dammit/damn it, affect vs. effect, etc.). I’d like to give a special mention, American readers, to ‘I could care less’. This is NOT the phrase. It’s ‘I could NOT care less’.

Some words that are commonly used unnecessarily are ‘that’, ‘very’, ‘suddenly’, ‘just’, ‘then’. The list goes on, and it’s not difficult to find whole articles (and probably books) written on the subject of such words. Don’t say ‘ran very fast’, say ‘sprinted’. Don’t say ‘very angry’, say ‘furious’.

Dialogue Tags

But don’t go through your work changing words for no reason. Don’t go through and think ‘Uh oh, I saw that on a list somewhere; I’d better change it’. For example, some people say that the word ‘said’ is overused. Well, I’d like to see a writer not use ‘said’ as a dialogue tag without crossing into highly irritating, contrived territory. Other sources will say that ‘said’ is by far the best dialogue tag, because it becomes all but invisible to the reader, allowing them to be aware of who is talking without having to focus on contrived tags.

It can be difficult not to fall into the trap of changing words simply because they’re listed as overused or unnecessary or whatever. If you do start changing words for no real reason then at best it will come across as contrived or pompous, or at worst…remember the episode of Friends when Joey used a thesaurus to make his letter ‘better’?

In other words, use your own common sense and stick to your own style. Sometimes an overused or cliché word simply works. Again, people complain about J.K. Rowling’s overuse of adjectives and adverbs, but has that damaged her writing and career? If it works, it works. Just make sure if you break ‘rules’, and leave things in that might be topics of complaint, that it’s for the right reason (i.e. it reads well).

Consistency may need its own pass. Do you have something capitalised sometimes and not others? Is your character wearing a jacket in one scene and in the very next, he’s scratching his bare arm? Consistency in the writing itself and in the content is, obviously, very important.

There are some automated writing services online that may be of use, especially when you’re just starting out. I can’t for the life of me remember the one I used for Shadow of the Wraith, but it looked for a lot of stuff, from spelling and grammar errors to word usage and those overused words I mentioned earlier.

Whether or not you use such a thing as a basic part of your editing stage is up to you, but I would suggest you’re careful not to rely on it any more than you do on Word’s spellchecker. DO NOT RELY ON WORD’S SPELLCHECKER!

If you make it all the way through this guide and don’t notice any errors or inconsistencies, you might need to give your own work some extra goings over. For example, I’ve capitalised some words for emphasis, while italicising others. If you pick up on stuff like that, it’s a good sign.

I mention it in part 3, but it’s worth noting here too that it’s notoriously difficult to proofread your own work. You will end up reading what you know is meant to be there rather than what is there.

– Beta

The next stage for a lot of writers is to send the book off to beta readers. This basically means you give the book to family and friends, perhaps writers’ groups or websites, for feedback.

Beta Reader

While this is a good idea, it can be quite disheartening. While professional or pseudo-professional writers will likely be pretty harsh, you might find friends and family will let you down completely. I sent Acts of Violence to a handful of friends, and not one of them read it. So don’t rely too much on beta readers, as there are a few too many people out there who don’t know how to say ‘no’, and it ends up screwing things up for you a lot more than that ‘no’ would. Plus, it’s difficult to be totally honest about the negatives to a friend or relative.

So places such as Authonomy are probably your best bet, but there are downsides here, too. You can’t just upload your work and expect people to flock to it; you have to put work in. You will end up reading and commenting/critiquing more than you receive comments/critiques, but even that will help you. Even while you are identifying problems in other people’s work, you may realise that you’re making the same mistakes, for example.

In this stage, you have to be ready to take (constructive) criticism. Even pretentious writers who consider themselves wordsmiths of the highest order, yet can’t get an agent any more than anyone else, may have valid points. The main thing to remember is that, much of the time, it’s just one person’s opinion on how writing should be done. It may or may not be relevant to you, your writing, and your style.

In short, read/listen to and take in everything, but don’t make these assumptions: A) That these opinions and views all need to be implemented into your writing; B) That none of these people understand you/your writing, and they should be ignored.

Finished Book

If you have no desire to take things any further and get published, or just print out a nice paperback copy of the book for yourself, then read no more! Otherwise, part 3 will cover what you need to know next…