It's been a while since my last book. The truth is, I have spent the last few month painting, decorating, plumbing, and dry-walling our new house, so the writing pretty much stopped.
As Jake’s Break is on sale at an Amazon near you, I thought I’d recap on the wonderful world that Jake inhabits and maybe drop some clues on where it’s all going.
I think of the Wizards books as being something like a season of Buffy. For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, a typical season of Buffy ran for 22 episodes and had an overall thematic story running through it, though individual episodes were stories in their own right. I don’t quite see 22 novels in Jake’s future, but it won’t be that far off. One day the war will start and the battle for the survival of the multiverse will begin.
At the moment the players are lining up. It will not be clear even during the war as to whose side each group is on.
The Multiverse contains a near infinite number of universes of which ours in one nondescript component. It isn’t a static place; new universes are born from time to time and old ones are slowly dying. Raw magic wafts around the multiverse and living things can change it into something useable by the power of their minds. Because some living things will hop (teleport) to somewhere safe under duress, lots of worlds exist with humans or their close cousins on them.
Parallel evolution has taken place on millions of worlds through occasional cross pollination. Actually, there are lots of truly alien worlds with methane breathers and silicon life forms to name but two, but they don’t mix much with the oxygen breathing worlds for obvious reasons.
Empires have risen and crumbled, civilisations of every conceivable kind have been tried. There are worlds where humans have risen to the status of Gods. Our close cousins who rose to sentience with rather more magic in them than us occupy the hidden worlds where elves, dwarves and the fairie hold sway. There were even the soothsaying Norns, though they mysteriously died out. The hidden worlds are purely magic oriented and tend to be deeply interwoven with the natural world.
Humans tend not to be naturally talented in magic, though in some empires the majority have at least some magical power. This tends to happen when their civilisation discover how to enhance the magic power in individuals. The Valhallans are one such group, the Balmackians another. Where there are a lot of Wizards laws develop to protect the normal, where they
are rare, wizards tend to use their power for personal pleasure and power.
Some human worlds take the technological path and a high powered rifle can always take out a wizard if the user picks his moment. Many of these worlds hate wizards and take steps to kill them. Despite this, most of the technological worlds use magic to some extent, especially ‘chain bridges’ which are portals linking one world to another.
A very small number of worlds combine high technology with sophisticated magic. Jake knows the Progenitors are such a people even though he knows next to nothing about them.
A mystery exists on Earth. A world in which magic had become nothing more than fairy tales because nobody was born with a wizard’s power has suddenly produced three of the most powerful wizards ever known. Dafydd and Jake were related, but Bronwyn isn’t and yet was born only a few miles away from Jake. Thus the Earth is starting to be noticed by some of the more formidable powers in the Multiverse.
Jake doesn’t want to be a hero. He wants a quiet life, though his attitude has started to change because of the fun he is having at university. He is far from ready to lead people into battle, let alone the major powers of the multiverse. All in all, he would rather move timber with a fork lift truck than fight evil.
He is a ‘make love not war’ sort of guy, but others keep pushing him into situations where he has no choice but to fight.
Jake has already proven that prophecy can be broken. Many have plans for him, but he is determined to stay true to himself whatever the cost.
I’ve been fairly quiet for a few months, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I finished writing Jake’s Quest (Wizards V) in September and published it in October. Now a new Wizards book generally does so much better in sales than my other books, that if I was writing for money I’d never write anything else. But I am not in it only for the money.
I don’t want the quality of my books to drop and I think if I only wrote Wizards books then it would. I have a lot more to say about that world, but I need a break between books to follow flights of imagination in other directions.
I could have started Tom and Laura IV. However, I became a bit daunted by the weeks of research that would be needed to get the ‘white slave trade’ of 1861 right, not to mention trade winds and travel times. I'll get around to that one eventually.
In the end I concluded that there was a world that would make an interesting contrast between Wizards books and might even sell a few copies. (While I’m not in it for the money, I wouldn’t write if I made no money at all.)
It's a world I’ve been to before, filled with characters I’m very fond of. However, my recent writing is aimed at older audiences than I used to write for. I used to write young adult, now I write adult books with sexual encounters as a major part of the mix, and Magic Limited is a series with adult story lines and themes. I don’t want very young people getting to it via The Magic Series so I don’t mention the link in the blurb, but it features characters from those books now grown up.
Paul is a fun guy. Married and divorced he has distinct ideas on what he wants to do with his life. He had the option to sell magic and seized it with both hands, but he avoids the responsibilities that come with his lineage. He lives in my favourite place (Central London), and is part of that multicultural environment. He mingles with the rich and the poor, the honest and the crooks, the successful and the failures.
I hope you take the time to read about Paul. If you are fans of Jake Morrissey you’ll find many similarities between those guys. They both have a taste for strong women and a tendency to make fools of themselves. I’ve even considered writing a cross-over novel, though that is not going to happen anytime soon.
The Heist will be on sale from the 2nd of February. I’m about to start writing Wizards VI, which might be available as early as May.
The world spun and we landed hard on the cobbles where I had loaded the cart a few days earlier. The ground shook and the buildings trembled. A mushroom cloud grew in the sky from the direction of our warehouse.
The girls had fallen onto their hands and knees, mouths open as the mushroom cloud was followed by a blinding hemisphere of light. We needed protection from the coming shock wave. I started to create the magic required.
Someone grabbed my shoulder and I was turned around and a fist hit my jaw. Falling backwards I used magic to avoid banging my head on the cobbles. Even so, I was dazed.
“You bastard,” Josh said. There was blood on his knuckles and anger on his face. He stepped forward.
A howling fiery wind attacked the building. Horses and people screamed. Josh watched in astonishment as a cart flew past us, his desire to hit me forgotten. The air didn’t stir around us. Then I saw Lana and Esta in crouching positions with their hands raised, deflecting the firestorm with a combination of magic and sheer will power. They didn’t have enough power to win such a contest.
I stood up and concentrated my magic. My energy shield passed through theirs and the girls collapsed in exhaustion. The shield spread outwards, nullifying the firestorm for thousands of yards. When I sank down to my knees the only sounds were of buildings burning and the collapse of roofs.
“You stopped it,” Josh said in a whisper. “Nothing human could stop that.”
“Wakey, wakey,” Alisandra said softly and I was instantly awake. I was standing spread-eagled in front of her, my legs and arms forming an X. Whatever was holding me in place was invisible and I tried to imagine it gone with no luck at all. At least I was clothed.
She stood inches from me, our faces level. Moving closer she blew gently on my face, her breath sweet, warm, and intoxicating. Then she licked me from the bottom of my jaw to the middle of my right cheek. I felt a familiar tingle as certain parts of my body responded on automatic pilot.
“You taste wonderful.” She laughed and stepped back.
She wore a toga which she undid and let drop to the floor. “It’s our time, Jake; time to fulfil our darkest fantasies.”
“Let me go.” I am not particularly good at being faithful, but I’m trying to be.
“You can get out of here simply by wanting to, Jake.”
She waited expectantly, but my best efforts to get free came to nothing.
“But you’re still here, I see. Let’s play a game where you’re my captive and I can do whatever I want to you.”
I struggled against my bonds and imagined walking free, but nothing happened. The rules of the Conference seemed to have changed, at least as far as I was concerned.
She put a finger to her lower lip and tilted her head, contemplating her next move. I closed my eyes and willed myself to Fluffy. When I opened them she was still there and I was still bound.
I was suddenly naked. A large cube of ice appeared in her hand and she rested it against my chest. It was surprisingly cold and I gritted my teeth.
“Is it cold, my lovely?” she murmured softly as she slid the cube down my chest to my belly button. “But we must quench the heat below, now mustn’t we?”
I grunted as she held the ice against the family jewels. They drew up into my abdomen in response. Strangely, this didn’t stop another part of my body from remaining as hard as stone.
“I can’t stop you. Let me go.”
“Of course you can’t,” she giggled. “I knew you really wanted me.”
Well, let’s be clear about this. For the vast majority of us it isn’t for the money. Just to give you some idea, the average income of those able to get a traditional publishing deal is less than $1000 a year. For ebook writers and the self published in general, the average is somewhat less.
Think of writers much as singers. For every Miley Cyrus there are a thousand acts in bars around the world earning just enough to pay their costs. And many are doing it for less than their costs.
We don’t write because it is easy. Writing a novel is hard work. Not only do you need a plot, but you also need to create a cast of characters. Characterisation is tough. Not only do you have to keep track of what they’ve done, you have to let them grow with the story.
Even once you have mastered Plot and Characters, you have to decide on narrative. Narrative is a medium size word for a massive stumbling block. What ‘person’ are you going to write in? Once you start you can’t go back and change it when it gets difficult. JK Rowling chose Close Third Person, past tense for HP and that means her narration could only see what Harry saw. She cunningly invented telepathy through dreams (of Voldemort and his snake) and the pensieve so she could cover backstory without boring her readers silly with ‘And then Harry read in a book…’ Though she did do ‘Harry talks to dead people’ in the final volume.
Narrative also covers how the story is told in scenes and chapters. You can tell a story linearly, linearly with flashbacks, or all over the place. Most novelists start fantasy stories in the middle; hidden and mysterious past events which must be deduced while your heroes hopefully stay alive. When you think about it, detective stories are usually about discovering the past by searching for clues in the present.
And last, but hardly least, writing takes up a lot of time. That’s time that we could have spent, reading, going to the movies, having sex, getting drunk. Or even, as a last resort, doing paid work. Put it like this, the vast majority of writers would earn more on minimum wage for the hours they put in writing their book than what they earn from its sales.
Then we charge you the price of a coffee for our work and a lot of the readers out there bitch that we are ripping them off. Authors should give their works away because it cost ‘nothing’ to download it. Forgive me if I choose to disagree.
So why do writers write? There’s a bit of ego in it. But that tends to wear off after the first book. The first book you get published is special. However few or many you sell, you can go around claiming to be a published author and every copy for which you get paid makes you a professional writer.
But mainly we write because we want to tell readers good stories right along with telling ourselves. A reviewer recently wrote that one of my books was good, but could have been better. To which I reply; That’s true of all of them. I do my best.
I don’t give my books away (except for the odd special offer) because I think that devalues them and me. If you are not prepared to pay me the price of a cup of coffee for my work, then you don’t respect me or my writing.
What I hope is that after you have paid the entry fee you get hours of enjoyment from my work. That you will laugh out loud, feel like crying, and get a sense of fulfilment, at some point in every single book I’ve written. What do you get from that cup of coffee and how long does it last?
Not every reader will like my work. That is true of every book written by every writer. I just wish a higher proportion of those of you that have read and liked my work would put a positive comment on Amazon. I can dream.
For those of you waiting for news on Wizards IV. I’ve written it, I’m currently giving it its first line edit. It will be published later this year, most likely in the summer.
John Booth 14th April 2014
***** (5 Stars) And well deserving
The thirteenth book of the Spook’s series finally concludes the first story. The author says he planned a trilogy, but it took on a life of its own.
The trouble with endings of long stories is they rarely live up to the hype. This is a good book, it is one scene short of being a great book, but I understand why that scene was omitted, even if I don’t agree with the reasoning. I would bet money it was in the first draft before the editor persuaded the author to remove it.
The Wardstone Chronicles started by presenting us with an uncompromisingly description of good and evil, if you used magic )always Dark you would eventually become a servant of the Dark and it was a Spook’s job to take those so afflicted and imprison or kill them (sometimes both, though not in that order.) But Delaney subverted that view almost from the start by showing that not all those using dark powers used them for evil. Everybody is compromised as the story progresses, even the Spook turns out to have fallen in love with one of those he fights against.
Delaney created a relationship between a practitioner of the dark arts (Alice) and Tom (our hero). This relationship soon blossoms into the beginnings of a love story. The age range the book is targeted at preventing it from going any further.
What has bound me to these stories is that relationship between Tom and Alice, its strengths and its weaknesses, as our characters discover that for the world to escape the rule of evil, Tom must sacrifice Alice and she must be willing to die. Tom is hopelessly fallible (and to be honest, not all that bright) while Alice has a resolve that burns so intensely it sometimes hurts to see it on the page.
I’m not going to say what happens in this book, but that story is not resolved unless you carefully put together all the clues the author left scattered around. For those of you who have read the book, look carefully at the prophesy made by Mab about what would happen to Tom and then Alice’s last words to him.
Buy this book, it’s well worth reading.
Some of you may have noticed I have published two Jalia novels in the last two weeks or so, so now seems like a good time to talk about her and them.
Jalia is my favourite character and I have written an enormous amount about her. She and Daniel are destined for great things.
Daniel is the last of the Magician Kings, something he doesn’t believe in the current books. He’s still a teenager, brought up on a farm until his parents died and then dragged around the Golden Triangle (a trade route) by his older half-brother. At this point in his life, he couldn’t be a king if he wanted to. What he does want to do is follow Jalia wherever she wants to go. He knows he is in love with her, even as he knows that she isn’t yet capable of love.
Jalia is the daughter of a Master Trader and was brought up in luxury among the rich and royalty of Bagdor. She is very intelligent and incredibly lucky (you’ll find out why, eventually.) Her mother was a mystery, blonde and blue-eyed in a country where no one like that exists. She claimed to come from a village far to the west, but that was a lie.
Jalia is a sociopath with nothing remotely like a conscience. She puts herself, first, second and last. Ruthless does not begin to describe her. However, she has some rules she chooses to live by, one of which is that her word is her bond. She is drawn towards Daniel, but he is still largely a travelling companion. Because she wants to keep on travelling with him, she often considers what Daniel would want her to do to avoid annoying him.
These books are about the two of them growing up. They are on a sightseeing tour around their world because Jalia wants to see things, and because many of the places they’ve been have a price on Jalia’s head. She can’t keep out of trouble as it’s in her nature. Daniel wanted a quiet life, but by the end of Jalia and the Slavers, he knows he can’t have that and Jalia.
There is an epic story rumbling away in the background as hints to their future are dropped here and there, but these books are a series of adventures caused by Jalia’s irrepressible nature. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Let me tell you about Carlotta… No wait, if I do that I’ll spoil the book for you. Let me tell you about what I’ve been doing while you are all waiting for Wizards IV.
I started writing the next wizards book in November, but then my life got complicated and I stopped. I didn’t think I was doing the book justice and my mind was all over the place.
After Christmas I decided to edit a book then called ‘The Unknown’. The reason for the title was that I didn’t have a clue what the book was going to be about. All I knew was I wanted to write a ‘film noir’ book. Detectives in raincoats and hats, mobsters and steam coming out of vents, sexy women and convoluted plots – that sort of thing.
What I ended up writing about was Carlotta, and even she didn’t know who she was as the story starts. The name was incongruous and we would soon find out that it both was her name and wasn’t. When she changes to vampire form, we discover she is something special. Her need for sexual release at the drop of a hat tells us much more about her.
She’s something special is Carlotta. I often write about strong women, but this girl’s arrogance and willingness to risk her life is something different. Of course, my noir detective story had become a fantasy, but then, it was me writing it, so no surprises folks.
Pretty soon, Carlotta is on a mission to save the world from someone who makes the mob look kind and cuddly. His mission is to remake the world in his image and he knows how to get the power to do it. Carlotta and a few hangers-on are out to stop him, if they can.
This is epic fantasy largely confined to a hotel with a few field trips.
Carlotta and the Krius Scepter is out on Kindle from the 1st of January. If you liked Wizards you’ll love this one.
(Now back to writing the next Wizards book.)
Artemis Fowl has been one of the most entertaining series in children literature over the last ten years. This is a worthy edition to the cannon though not up to some of the earlier books.
This is a claustrophobic novel, taking place over less than a day in the life of Artemis. There are so many characters to fit in to the story that Mr Colfer uses the clever trick of making many of them fill two roles at the same time. The pacing is good, but I felt I was in a tunnel most of the time. There were only a few occasions when Artemis has his head up and is scheming. I would have loved the final book to have played to the genius part, but it was not to be.
On the good side Mulch plays a major role in the plot and when he is in action this story flies (quite literally in places). The scatological jokes are flung without regard for innocent bystanders and it was a joy to behold (from a safe distance.)
I shall miss Artemis Fowl. The journey has been a great one.
Go buy this book because you wont regret it. It's still head and shoulders above most of the pack.