Penny White Returns!

The fifth book in the urban fantasy series 'Penny White' will come out on 26 February. 


Haven't met Penny yet? The first book, 'The Temptation of Dragons', is only 99p on Kindle.



The series is also available in paperback. 




'The Temptation of Dragons'--download your free copy!


Click the link below:

A reading from 'The Temptation of Dragons,' with interference from a parrot.

From Traditional to Self Publishing

I still have my first short story, written in large letters when I was seven years old. From that moment on, I was always writing, first by hand and later on a manual typewriter. The keys would jam as the machine struggled to keep up with my imagination.


When I was seventeen years old, my short story, ‘Dragons Can Only Rust,’ was one of the winners chosen in a competition run by a science fiction radio programme (‘Hour 25’). I was invited to the studio to hear it read out loud, and one of the judges, an agent, invited me to contact him when I’d expanded this first chapter into a novel.


University and marriage held matters up a bit, but in 1995 the novel was split into two (‘Dragons Can Only Rust’ and ‘Dragon Reforged’) and published by TSR (of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ fame). The initial payment wasn’t huge, but when the paperback copies were delivered to my house, I had high hopes that this would be the start of my professional writing career.


The innocence of youth…


There were all sorts of things I didn’t know about the publishing world. That bookstores stock books on ‘sale or return.’ That publishers can go bankrupt (as TSR did a few months later) and bookstores will ship back the books so they can’t be treated as a debtor. That agents can decide you aren’t worth keeping on as a client if your books only sold 10,000 copies, and they decline to look at any else you’ve written.


I wrote a few more novels during that heady year, and then became so discouraged that I actually stopped. I had a career and a faltering marriage to worry about. My agent did ensure that the rights to my books reverted to me, and I kept that piece of paper safely tucked away in my files.


Fast forward nearly twenty years. Career change and divorce transformed my life. And I found that characters were bouncing around in my head, refusing to leave until I wrote their stories. Initially I thought I’d try to find a new agent, since previous one still didn’t want to renew our relationship. But so many agents warn you ‘If you have not heard from us within a month, assume we’re not interested.’ It’s very discouraging to spend so much time on a query letter and a synopsis, only to hear nothing at all.


Then I discovered the world of self-publishing. No longer do you need to pay a vanity press to print hundreds of copies, which then slowly decay in your garage. Many books are now read on ebook devices. If you do want to also offer a paperback copy, Amazon offer Print on Demand, which does what it says on the tin.


I used Amazon Createspace and Kindle on Demand to reissue my earlier books, and some others I’d written along the way. More recently, I’ve been adding to my urban fantasy series ‘Penny White.’


So, having been both professionally and self published, what are my thoughts?


Being professionally published does lessen the strain on you, the writer. The publisher provides the editor who looks at your overall book and offers suggestions. I still have my notes from ‘Dragons Can Only Rust’, and I made additions as suggested by the editor which improved the book. There was also a copyeditor who spotted those nasty little typos which crawl into any work.


The publisher commissions and pays for the cover art. I found this to be a mixed blessing. I liked the first cover, for ‘Dragons Can Only Rust’, but the second cover, for ‘Dragon Reforged’, shows a scene which simply does not exist in the book.


I was perhaps fortunate that the editor didn’t insist on any major changes to my book. Sometimes writers are put under pressure to make alterations which they don’t agree with.


Self publishing gives both responsibility and freedom. I am responsible for the work which a professional publisher would do on my behalf. There are people who will edit for a fee, but I’m fortunate in that I have several fellow writers who look through my book before I publish (I do the same for them). Some typos and continuity errors still creep through, which are usually spotted and commented upon by reviewers (opps!).


I also have to spend my own money on cover art. After much research, I found an artist whom I could afford and I like the work she’s doing on my ‘Penny White’ series. It is important to have a good cover, as an amateur one is often a warning sign about the quality of the contents inside.


‘But what about the marketing?’ I can hear someone ask. Yes, it’s down to you to somehow make your book stand out in the sea of published work. But it’s not much different for those who are professionally published. Publishers expect writers to do much of their own marketing these days.


Note that I’ve not said anything about money. If you are professionally published, you do get an advance against royalties. If you’re self published, no such advance, but the royalties are much higher as these go directly to you. Either way, don’t expect to get rich quick. Very few writers do. Remember that my two professionally published books ‘only’ sold 10,000 copies, which wasn’t enough for my agent to keep me on.


One final positive regarding self publishing—the people you meet along the way! I’ve become friends with a number of other indie writers, and I enjoy the interactions we have by email and social media. And that’s the best part of being an indie writer. You get to meet some terrific people along the way.


Penny White Returns!

Penny White's third adventure, 'The Marriage of Gryphons', is now available. Go to Amazon to buy!


Amazon UK:



 Amazon USA:



The Tale of Two Parrots

A story of a second chance at love--and inspiration


If the smoke detector hadn’t gone faulty, Xander would not have died on Christmas Eve.


23 December 2015. A malfunction in my house’s alarm system had meant that every thirty minutes, for around ten minutes, an ear-splitting noise would spiral throughout the building. The alarm company, after trying to talk me through a fix over the phone, finally sent someone out. He cut the wires, advising me that the fault was irreparable and the unit would have to be replaced.


The four hours of aural hell had left me with a splitting headache. I let my green cheek conure out of her cage and started to get ready to cook my dinner. I popped into the next room to collect a magazine, and when I tried to shut the door, it caught on something.


It only took a moment for me to realise that the ‘something’ had been my bird’s head. Xander flew onto a kitchen cabinet, and made a noise of such distress that the air was sucked from my lungs. I could see that her head pained her. Only the next morning did I notice that the lower mandible of her beak had been shoved sideways. She couldn’t eat, and even drinking was difficult.


Finding a vet open on Christmas Eve was a challenge. The specialist avian practice was shut for the holidays. The general vet sent me home with a syringe and liquid hamster food (!). However, even when I managed to pin Xander down and squirt food into her beak, she coughed and gasped. The physical damage was just too great. So I arranged for a friend to drive me back to the vet. And I held my little bird while the vet gave my beloved bird the injection which would end her life.


Xander had been with me through so much. My divorce, a change in career, more house moves than any creature should have to face. She had given me a reason to smile on the darkest days. And now she was gone.


This should have been a good time for me. After many years of writing fantasy novels, I had finally come up with a new series which beta readers loved. Xander had been the inspiration behind Morey, the small gryphon who accompanies the main character, Penny White. When I published the book, ‘The Temptation of Dragons’, I dedicated the novel to her.


My life seemed empty. I was now living totally alone. There seemed no reason to return home from work. I knew that I had to share my life with a new companion, for my own sanity’s sake.


Since there are so many parrots looking for second chances, I started looking for a rescue bird. Through searching the web I found Tilly, a year old green cheek conure looking for a new home, and in March I collected her.


I was very nervous. I felt I had the experience to deal with whatever issues a rescue bird might have, but on the other hand, Xander had been so tame and trusting. And I’d had Xander from the age of three months old. Would this new bird and I be able to form a bond?


Things were a bit rocky to start with. I’d make assumptions which Tilly didn’t share! But I read up and employed clicker and target training, and taught her a number of tricks (including flighted recall). Our relationship grew from strength to strength.


There were some adjustments to be made. I’d gone from a mature bird to a youngster! I went to the Think Parrots show and spent a small fortune on toys--Tilly becomes bored far more easily than Xander ever did. I bought a bigger cage and transitioned her to a different type of pellet diet. Unlike Xander, Tilly doesn’t really care for dried chilli pods, but she would sell her grandmother’s egg for a Nutriberry.


My new companion also influenced my next novel. Tilly is much cheekier than Xander, and her antics fed into the character of Clyde, the small snail shark who lives with Penny.


A few days before Christmas, ‘Your memories on Facebook’ offered me a video I’d made of Xander. Watching her dance to my rendition of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ brought tears to my eyes. But then I lifted Tilly to the computer screen, and let her see the video. ‘That’s your sister,’ I told her. ‘And I love you both very much.’

The Cult of Unicorns

Penny White's second book is now out! Order your copy on Amazon, available in both Kindle and paperback versions.


Here's the blurb:


Raven’s ears flicked. ‘Dragons aren’t known for their patience.’


‘More is the pity,’ said the unicorn. ‘Father Penny and I were about to amicably settle our differences. A dragon invading our home vastly complicates matters.’


Five months ago my life was changed forever when I learned about Lloegyr, the sister nation to England on the magical parallel world of Daear. Thrilling rides on Raven, a darkly beautiful search dragon, break up the monotony of my life as the priest of a small village church. Nor are things dull at home, not with a sarcastic gryphon, a snail shark, and my younger brother all sharing my living space. And then there’s Peter, the almost too perfect police inspector who enjoys Doctor Who and single malt whisky as much as I do.


But Lloegyr is facing its own struggles. As various races such as dragons, gryphons, elves, vampires, and harpies flood to the rapidly growing cities, they all trust the unicorns to act as peace makers. But dead humans are turning up in the city of Northampton, with wounds which only a long spiral horn could have made…




Character Arc!

The Temptation of Dragons (Penny White) (Volume 1) - Chrys Cymri The Dragon Throne (The Four Kingdoms Book 1) - Chrys Cymri Dragons Can Only Rust - Chrys Cymri

One way for a writer to obtain reviews for a book is to agree to do reviews for other writers. The advice is that you need reviews in order to entice someone to buy your book, and also that very few readers will take the time to leave a review (no matter how nicely you ask!).


I’ve been involved in ‘review rounds’ organised by a group on Goodreads. Ten authors sign up, and the moderator ensures that there are no reciprocal reviews. You agree to read/review four books in return for four other people reading/reviewing yours.


Some of the review rounds have been in a specific genre. Others have been ‘open.’ So I’ve found myself reading historicals, romances, and even a children’s book along the way.


What I’ve discovered, now that I’ve been forced to read outside my preferred genres, is I don’t mind what the book is, so long as there is a character arc. Let the setting be in an alternative Japanese history, or an 18th century melodrama, or a small town in the 1970’s. If I find the characters engaging, if I can see (rather than be told) them change during the course of the tale, then I can take pleasure in a wide variety of settings.


Conversely, if the characters remain static for the course of the book, it doesn’t matter if the novel fits into my preferred reading material. I want to go on a (sometimes metaphorical) journey with the person I’m reading about. If I finish the last page and what s/he has been through hasn’t changed her/him in some way, then I find myself wondering why I’d bothered.


When I wrote my first two novels, my inspiration for character change was the singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg. I had many of his CDs, and I was intrigued as to how his voice had changed during his career. My thought was, ‘I want Gonard’s voice to change during the course of his travels.’ Not literally, actually, but in the way he would go from cowering in front of humans to a willingness to challenge them.


For my next two novels, ‘The Dragon Throne’ and ‘The Unicorn Throne,’ I knew the beginning and the end point for the characters, so writing their arcs seemed to come easily. Forgiveness features across the story of both Fianna and the Prancer. Both of them act in foolish ways, because they’re young. Part of growing up is to realise that your parents make choices which they feel were for the best, even if you didn’t think so at the time. Both of the main characters learn from making their own mistakes that they can forgive their fathers for those mistakes which their fathers had made.


But those novels, and ‘The Judas Disciple’, were written to be more self contained than my new series. The first ‘Penny White’ has been published, I’m reaching finishing line on the second book, ‘The Cult of Unicorns’, and I have ideas for at least another three. So it’s a challenge to both provide some character development in each book, yet leave matters open ended for the next one. That might be why I loaded so much on Penny’s plate! For example, jer parents dying when she was a teenager, her husband drowning just a short while before the first book starts, an annoying younger brother for whom she is and yet is not a mother. And the traditional romantic triangle, although perhaps not entirely traditional as the sexy ‘bad boy’ is a dragon.


The other challenge is to seed things into earlier novels which can then become important later on. The main idea for the fourth novel, ‘The Vengeance of Snails’, came to me while I was just about to publish ‘The Temptation of Dragons.’ So I was able to add an important point to the description of Clyde’s parent before I released the book.


Perhaps part of the challenge for me, personally, is that I haven’t read too many book series. The ‘Harry Potter’ books, of course, but those were able to develop the characters because the series followed them growing up. As a teenager I loved ‘The Dragonriders of Pern’ series, but the author’s attitudes towards women and gays now disturb me. I liked the first few books of the ‘Temeraire’ series by Naomi Novik, but these have become less interesting as the series has progressed.


So I’ve been making notes, and plotting story arcs, and trying to leave clues in earlier books which will make sense later on. But there’s only so much I can think of in advance. Or as my favourite Doctor once said, ‘Even I can’t play this many games at once!’ (Ghostlight, 1989)

Show don't Tell

I’m still getting used to the life of a self-published author, particularly in this age of Amazon and customer reviews. Authors are advised that books need to have reviews, the more reviews the better, even those which are not entirely positive.


In order to obtain those reviews, I’ve been involved in various ‘review exchanges.’ I read one writer’s book and post a review, and s/he does the same with one of mine. Better yet are the non-reciprocal reviews set up by groups on Goodreads, in which people sign up for a review round and the moderator ensures that you are not reviewing the work of someone who is reading your book. This is to ensure complete honesty.


So I’ve been reading a lot of self-published work. Some of the books have been real finds, and I’ve enjoyed them. Others... Sadly I’ve had to leave some less than complimentary reviews, for various reasons.


One of the greatest failings of these books, which have not been screened by any professional publishing process, is the emphasis on telling the reader. In great detail. The advice to writers is always, ‘Show, don’t tell.’ But many writers seem to ignore this. There are long paragraphs telling us exactly how the character is feeling, rather than finding some way to show us these emotions by means of what the characters does and says.


There are several levels to telling versus showing. For example, one could write, ‘Sarah glared at John, annoyed at his interruptions.’ There may be no need to state that she’s annoyed, if the dialogue earlier showed his multiple interruptions, and ‘glared’ already indicates this. Better yet might be indication her feelings by dialogue. ‘Sarah glared at John. “Maybe you could let me finish a sentence once in awhile?”’


Perhaps writers fear to trust that the reader can fill in the gaps. If a piece of dialogue ends in an exclamation mark, I don’t think there’s any need to add, ‘he shouted’, never mind, ‘he shouted angrily.’ If we have the line of dialogue, ‘Look out!’ I don’t think there’s any need to add, ‘she shouted in warning.’ Again, surely that’s obvious?


It’s made me more aware of showing versus telling in my own writing. In my most recent novel, ‘Penny White and the Temptation of Dragons’ (to be released in April), I was very conscious of trying to show rather than tell emotion. For example, Morey, the small gryphon who has come into Penny’s life, is proving to be very annoying. In a scene in Morey’s room, I originally wrote this:


         We were in the room he had decided to adopt as his own. The guest bedroom, of course, the second largest in the house. He was striding along one of the many bookshelves. ‘I read a lot,’ he said, tail whipping past the leather-bound volumes. ‘I left most back home.’

         ‘Even what you’ve brought is more than I own.’

         ‘Only because you fill your shelves with science fiction DVDs.’

         His snobbery was beginning to eat away at my patience. ‘They’re easier to lift than your books.’

         ‘Have you read Summa Theologica? Simply magnificent.’

         ‘Don’t tell me. You have the whole set.’

          ‘Back home. I had expected any well read priest to have the Summa in her own library.’ He cocked his head. ‘You didn't offer me any wine.’


I worked with this scene because I felt there was no need to tell the reader that Morey was being a snob. The conversation made this very clear, I felt. Nor did I want to tell the reader that this was annoying Penny, at least not directly. So after some work, this is how the exchange now appears in the book:


          We were in the room he had decided to adopt as his own. The guest bedroom, of course, the second largest in the house. He was striding along one of the many bookshelves. ‘I read a lot,’ he said, tail whipping past the leather-bound volumes. ‘I left most back home.’

          ‘Even what you’ve brought is more than I own.’

          ‘Only because you fill your shelves with science fiction DVDs.’

          ‘They’re easier to lift than your books,’ I pointed out.

           ‘Have you read Summa Theologica? Simply magnificent.’

           ‘Don’t tell me. You have the whole set.’

           ‘Back home. I had expected any well read priest to have the Summa in her own library.’

            I was tempted to find out how many volumes of the Summa it took to squash a small gryphon. ‘I can always look it up on-line.’

           Morey cocked his head. ‘You didn't offer me any wine.’


I like this so much better. Not only have I shown Penny’s annoyance, there’s a reference back to the books in question. And she gets in a retort of her own.


But that doesn’t mean I always get it right. In ‘The Dragon Throne,’ I tried to give early clues that the setting wasn’t on Earth. There are references to two moons, for example. Above all, the length of the year is different than on Earth. So although the main female character, Fianna, is referred to as being eleven years old at the start of the book, in Earth terms she is actually nearly fourteen. As I tried to indicate in what Fianna’s father says to her outside her mother’s rooms.


        ‘Take one last look.’ Her father’s soft voice startled Fianna. She glanced at him, but Stannard was studying the room. ‘Fourteen months have passed since I placed my seal on wet plaster outside this door. But the seasons turn on, and the year is soon over. This is the last time we will see this place as she left it. Tomorrow, all must change. Will you want these rooms?’


From the summaries given by some reviewers, however, I think I might have been too subtle. People seem to take it for granted that she’s the age stated as in Earth terms, not taking into account that a year on this other world is actually fourteen months long. *sigh* Maybe I needed to find a way to tell that more directly.


There are times when sensitively handled telling is required. I remember my confusion the first time I read Douglas Adams’ ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’ I was a fifteen year old living in California. I had no idea what a ‘zebra crossing’ was or why the name ‘Ford Prefect’ would be a good disguise (there was never a Ford model by that name in the USA). So after a beta reader for ‘The Temptation of Dragons’ asked what a ‘chemist’ was, I went through the book and tried to ensure that there was explanation for English cultural references. For ‘chemist,’ all I needed to add was, ‘to pick up some medicine’ to make that clear. Simple.


I’m continuing my review exchanges, and I’ve decided to smile at the worst instances of telling rather than showing. To date, my ‘winner’ in the telling stakes is probably this line, from a book and writer I shall not identify:


‘The stars were out in the dark sky. He so enjoyed taking his nocturnal strolls every night.’


Well, quite. Wouldn’t work during the daytime, would it?

Difficult and intriguing

The Scientist: Omnibus (Parts 1-4) - Ryan Michael

This is one of the most intriguing and yet most difficult books I’ve ever read.


The idea of telling a story from a machine’s point of view is intriguing. But I felt it was inconsistent. The machines clearly had emotions and yet at one point the Scientist states that only humans can love (yet the machines can feel hate?). The dialogue loops around and around again, which I suppose was meant to reflect how the machines thought, but for a mere homo sapiens like me it was far too repetitive.


Telling the story in reverse was interesting. The ending helps us to understand the beginning. However, we are still left wondering what finally happened to the Scientist and to Eve. The story is ultimately unfinished.


The story did left a rather unique flavour in my mind, but I’m not quite certain what it really is all about. An extended metaphor on the biblical creation story? An exploration about the ultimate destiny of intelligence and/or the human race?



City on Clouds - Marco Peel


I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.


From the very first page you know that you are in the hands of a skilful writer. The descriptions are always very well done, and the ‘voice’ of each character is distinctive.


The theme of the book is about the horrors of war, and how these horrors affect the innocent, particularly women. The book goes to some very dark places and isn’t for the faint hearted. I wasn’t quite sure why the author chose to write about these two particular time periods. Whatever parallels there might have been weren’t entirely clear to me.


I found that there were slightly too many changes in first person POV. Some characters were more interesting than others, and I wondered if they were really necessary. Also sometimes we saw the same scene again from another character’s POV, when I would have preferred the story to go to the next stage.


I have been left wanting to read a non fiction book about the Crusades as a result. It’s a period of history I know very little about, and I’m now intrigued.




'Where do you get your ideas?'

Dragons Can Only Rust - Chrys Cymri The Dragon Throne (The Four Kingdoms Book 1) - Chrys Cymri

‘Where do you get your ideas?’


When a writer was asked this, at a science fiction convention I was attending, he said, ‘Well, there’s this company we authors write to. We send a cheque, and then about two weeks later the idea arrives in the post.’


If only…


Where do writers get their ideas from?


A month ago I was looking through an old school notebook, and I found the first draft of ‘Dragons Can Only Rust.’ I wrote it when I was fifteen years old, and the whole point of it was The Great Reveal. The story seemed to be about a flesh and blood fantasy creature, but when his Master opened him up, Gonard was revealed to be a robot. In the original story, the dragon was dismantled at the end. It took a friend of mine to ask, ‘Oh, why can’t the dragon live?’ for the short story to become the first chapter of the novel of the same name.


I can’t remember how all of the novel came to me. The green crystalline City emerged in my imagination when, as I was driving through the Peak District (England), I heard the Starship rock anthem ‘We Built this City.’ The combination of the song and the rocky peaks around me gave me the vision of green crystals growing in response to song.


‘The Dragon Throne’ and ‘The Unicorn Throne’ grew out of my reaction to the fantasy novels I was reading at the time. My feminist hackles were rising because, novel after novel, the men got to be knights and go on adventures, whereas the women ran the home and had to preserve their virginity for marriage. So I deliberately created a world in which both men and women could serve as knights, rule kingdoms, and it didn’t matter if you weren’t a virgin on your wedding day. Bringing in a unicorn as one of the major characters was originally meant as a way of emphasising that a Queen could still associate with a unicorn even if she were bedding her squire. That the Prancer would then develop his own character arc wasn’t something that I had foreseen.


My one off move into Christian fiction came from a friend’s fascination with Judas, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus. ‘How could he do that?’ she would ask. And so I explored how it feels to be betrayed, how one can betray with the best of intentions, and set the story of Jesus into our modern day world.

I only had the idea for my latest novel, ‘The Temptation of Dragons,’ on 10 September. I was driving to visit a family to talk about the baptism of their baby in my church. On the way, I was pondering a conversation I’d had with a senior clergyman some years ago. ‘Holy water is a protection against vampires,’ I had told him. ‘But what if a woman priest has blessed the water, and the vampire doesn’t accept the ordination of women?’ ‘Only you would ask that question, Chrys,’ had been his response. But what, I wondered, if he had responded differently? What if he had said, ‘Of course vampires aren’t injured by holy water. How could they be baptised if they were?’ And I pulled the car over and sketched out notes for what became the second scene of the novel.


It can be hard, though, to work out where ideas come from. I’ve sometimes taken a break from writing, wondering what on earth to put down next, when the scene suddenly appears in my head. Other times I can sit and stare at the computer screen and absolutely nothing comes.


Maybe I should have asked that professional writer for the name and address of where he sends off for his ideas…


A really fun read

Skye's Lure - Angel Leya, Sea Chapman

This a fun, short novel. Skye, a mermaid who finds her society’s rules stifling, breaks them by rescuing a drowning man. She is drawn to Vince both due to her curiosity and an attraction she feels for him.

Unfortunately for her, Vince proves to be less than trustworthy. But along the way, as they struggle to understand each other, they fall in love and he changes (both emotionally and physically).

A lovely tale well told, and something perfect to read along with a hot drink on a grey winter’s day. Or with a glass of wine on a summer beach.

On Writing Quickly: NaNoWriMo 2015

Am I the only writer who faces this problem?


It’s a day off work. I sit at the computer, determined to get a good few thousand words written on my novel. I write a paragraph. Then I check Facebook. And the news headlines. I write another paragraph. Then I wonder what reviewers made of the last ‘Doctor Who’ episode. Oh, look, there’s an email, I should check that out! And another paragraph…


Sometimes the words just zing out of the fingers and onto that blank page. And other times it’s so tedious that I’ll do anything to avoid grinding out yet another sentence.


Which is why I thought I’d try the NaNoWriMo challenge this year. I’d never heard of National Novel Writing Month before. This now international scheme encourages you to commit to writing a novel in November--well, 50,000 words. You sign up on-line, provide a title and blurb for your novel, and you update your word count every day. I decided to work on ‘The Temptation of Dragons.’ I was 10,000 words in, but I didn’t include those in the word count for the contest.


The pressure was on. I already faced the difficulty of catching up from a four day break in the middle (to visit friends in Wales), as well how to find writing time in some rather full days. But I managed to complete my 50,000 words a day early and I got my certificate!


I thought I’d wait a few weeks to reflect on the experience before writing about it. So, what are the pros and cons?




  • With the pressure to hit my daily word target, I was able to keep far more focussed. Less wandering onto social media sites.
  • My imagination seemed to rise to the occasion. New scenes emerged as I needed them.
  • I discovered another community of writers out there!




  • I seem to have concentrated mostly on dialogue. At the editing stage I’ll need to go back and add more description into scenes.
  • It worked for ‘The Temptation of Dragons’ because the novel is meant to be light and funny. I'm not certain whether a serious novel could be written under those pressures. Well, not by me, anyway.
  • I’m certain there will be a larger number of typos along the way.


I have decided that it was a useful experience. And I plan to try to participate again next year. Anyone want to join me?

Lovely novel, enjoyable read

Tea with the Black Dragon - R.A. MacAvoy

At first I was a bit disappointed that the dragon of the title was no longer a dragon! But as the story unfolded I was drawn in by the characters. The relationship builds naturally and feels right. An enjoyable read.

Ending Well: Using the Bomb

The Dragon Throne (The Four Kingdoms Book 1) - Chrys Cymri The Unicorn Throne: The Four Kingdoms Book Two - Chrys Cymri

I wrote what I thought were the final versions of ‘The Dragon Throne’ and ‘The Unicorn Throne’ back in 1997. They were rejected by one publisher, and I never tried further. Partially because I was never happy with the ending. I felt that I had great character development, I liked the cultural backgrounds I’d given to the dragons, the unicorns, and the humans, and I felt the plot held together. But I couldn’t get the ending to work. So the novels were filed to my hard drive and were forgotten.

When I found a way to convert the files earlier this year (note to writers: Be careful what word processor you use, you can be left with work which more modern software refuses to open!), I’d forgotten most of what I’d written. So in many ways I was a reader of my own novels. And I could see immediately what the problem was. I hadn’t used the bomb.


I’m borrowing an idea from Alfred Hitchcock here. This is him explaining how to build suspense in a film:


‘There is a distinct difference between "suspense" and "surprise," and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I'll explain what I mean. 

‘We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!" 


‘In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.’


With my characters I had, in effect, revealed a number of bombs to the reader. But I hadn’t detonated all of them. After the build up, we hadn’t seen Sallah carry out her plans, nor the exposure of Arwan’s terrible secret. And what does Fianna ultimately have to give up? I felt cheated, and I knew that any other reader would have felt cheated. 


Nor had I fully understood the ending. I fear I’m not quite certain I still do, but then the Land is supposed to be slightly beyond understanding. Just like the ability of the dragons (the Family) to change the past is also a bit mind warping. (Let’s face it, time travel is always a complex and mind warping concept.)


So, after some new scenes, and revision of older ones, I think I’ve got there. The characters are still, I feel, the main strength of the two novels. As I write in the blurb, ‘Whether human or unicorn, the greatest wars are not fought on the battlefield, but in the heart.’ For those who prefer lots of sword and sorcery, these books ain’t it. But for those who like drama based on the emotional drives of people (humans or otherwise), then this should be right up your street. And the bombs are not only seen, but allowed to explode. 


Currently reading

The Complete Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars
Kim Stanley Robinson