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Back; Not Necessarily…

… in the land of the living.

Yes: I’m back from my holidays.  For the record, I only had a couple of cheap weeks on the beach and returned a while ago to the usual chaotic crash-dive of return-to-work-related issues.  To be honest, I feel like I need another break already!

But enough of that.  My holiday did exactly what I needed it to.  It cleared my head and, sitting on the beach, a little bit every day, I’ve somehow, amazingly, drafted over 25,000 words of my next story.

Being straight with you, I’m under no illusions that many of these draftings will end up in the recycle bin.  Equally, many sections will require considerable, relatively easy, expansions when I start pulling it all together into a comprehensive whole.

When I get some time, I’ll pull together a graphic like I did for Thunder, to illustrate progress. I have no idea whether any of my visitors find this useful but, hey ho, it does serve as a bit of self-stimulus to make sure I keep putting in the writing hours!

Anyway, I suppose I ought to get back to the somewhat abstract title of this post: it’s a veiled reference to the subject matter of the new novel.  I’m not going to reveal too much yet, but I can say that I’ve settled on the title…

The next book will be called G’host.

The Wild Blue, Yonder…

Time for me to vanish for a while.

For many months I’ve been wrestling with good and bad spirits, and now it’s time for me to put some dedicated effort into ensnaring them; in black and white.

I’m hopeful that a stretch of golden sand, some warm weather, blue skies and crashing surf will provide a suitably undisturbed backdrop for my notepads and meditations.

So wish me luck and see you soon…  :)  AB

From Snow to Snow…

I’m back from my trip to Canada.  The long journey was recompensed by lots of nice powder-snow, some bright sunshine, and news that the UK was colder – at times – than British Columbia!  Have to admit: it is blooming chilly here…   Roll on Spring!

I’ve noticed that, whilst I was away, both Firebird and Thunder have picked up some nice reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  I’m always very grateful for any words of support and encouragement, so thank-you to those who have taken time to write them!  I really appreciate your support.

Am still storyboarding my next project which will be a return to a science-fantasy, action and adventure, theme.  More news and updates shortly…

[Now then, where did I pack my woolly jumpers…???]

Thunder: The Countdown Clock Has Started…

Thunder Cover v4Thunder is now on my Kindle…

I’ve finished my hardcopy edits and transcribed the changes into my master manuscript.  Yesterday, I started the file conversion process and the usual iterations of layout corrections necessary to get the document into eReader format (which is something of a mind-numbing task that I’ll need to produce a guide for at some point…).

The net result is that I have a pre-publication copy of the first edition on my own device.

Now I’m doing a final page turn.  Just to make sure that everything looks okay and, if all goes well, Thunder will be published at the end of next week.

Now a combination of nerves and excitement kick in… After over a year of hard grafting, I’m finally in the home straight and, I have to say, I’m feeling very satisfied with how the book is looking.  The scary part is whether readers will feel the same way…!

Planned Publication Date: Saturday 15th December.

Thunder: A Brief Editorial Update

I know… I know…!

I was a little ambitious with my timeline for Thunder…

This post is a short update to let you know that I’m about halfway through my final edit and I suspect it will be a few more weeks before the book is finally ready for publication.

Why is it taking so long?  Well, firstly, it was really important that I let the book settle for a few months before coming back to it.  Being able to read with a “fresh pair of eyes”, has helped me to see that the front end needed quite a lot of fine tuning to improve flow and consistency.

With hindsight that’s understandable, I suppose.  Even though Thunder was written over a few months, as an almost full time activity, the opening sections didn’t quite fully understand the final richness of the characters when they were written.  Neither, despite working to a comprehensive storyboard, was all of the fine detail of the story fully fleshed out.

Proof readers haven’t complained.  But I noticed that any comments were clustered into this area of the text.

The main delay, however, has been that I’m back to having to write part-time and have to find slots in my day where I’m not too tired, or grumpy, to concentrate as much as is needed for this somewhat onerous – yet at the same time strangely enjoyable – task.

Anyway, I’m past the 50,000 word point and corrections are becoming fewer and farther between – though I’m still finding the occasional apostrophical goof here and there!

Time for me to get back to it…

[NB1: Apostrophical: A British English, Warwickshire County, made up word meaning: the description of an author’s doomsday-like feelings when discovering that a possessive apostrophe has snuck, unbidden, to the wrong side of a pluralising ‘s’]

[NB2: Pluralising: also a made-up word… meaning: not enough time to concentrate properly on a post…]

Thunder – The Playlist

Thunder Cover v4Decorating hostilities have ceased – for a while.  The bedroom is completed and, so far, nothing has blown up or fallen down.  I am therefore back to editing Thunder, and I’m really enjoying it.

Initially I found editing laborious and unpleasant, but on reflection – given how long it takes to craft a draft novel – it’s well worth spending the time and running a fine-toothed comb through anything you write.

For me, the hardest part of this process is leaving it to ‘settle’.  By this I mean, putting the work away for long enough that you can come back to it with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’.  For Thunder, the settling period has been just over four months.  For a shorter work, like this post, it might only be a day or so.

Anyway, to the subject of this post, I set up a playlist whilst I was writing Thunder.  Mood music, if you like.  I found it helpful.  Music is very important to me.  It seems to entertain my muse and open up my imagination.  I started with a few songs, then added items as the weeks went by and now, of course, I’ve got it playing in the background while I edit.

The final list has eighty-four songs on it, so I’m not going to post them all here!  Some are quite popular, some more obscure, and here are the YouTube links to five of my current favourites, in case you’re interested in sampling a musical flavour of what’s coming in the book (don’t forget to skip the ads!)…

No One by Maja Keuc (live performance from the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest Finals).

[AB: A Eurovision song…  I know…!  Nonetheless, it’s a brilliant tune which builds dramatic tension through to an awesome conclusion…]

The Only Hope For Me Is You by My Chemical Romance.

[AB: I especially like the gothic-opening followed by classic MCR, creative, thump-rock, heartbeat-lifting, guitar-pounding energy and – of course – an uplifting, glorious, lyric…]

The Running Free by Coheed & Cambria

[AB: I have to blame a couple of ‘youngsters’ for introducing me to the whacky world of Coheed and Cambria.  This is classic rock at its very best…  And, what a hook…!]

World’s On Fire by The Prodigy

[AB: Thunder is, at times, an angry book.  This track spent quite some time on repeat play…]

And finally, something completely different:

O Mio Babbino Caro by Giacomo Puccini (this version sung by Angela Gheorghiu)

[AB: This is one of my favourite operatic pieces.  Simply beautiful…  :'(  ]

A small but serious post-script:  I listen to legitimate copies of these tunes and am sharing these links only in the hope that it supports the promotional interests of the artists involved (Mr.Puccini excepted).  Please support fellow artists by avoiding file-shares and other forms of piracy… Thanks.  AB.


Who’s that, hiding under all those blankets…?

That’ll be me…

Yes, I’m back from my holidays.  Two weeks of unbroken sunshine, twenty-eight degree heat (Celsius, of course), and a nice constant breeze.  Perfect for someone like me, who only has two skin colours: red and white.

I went back to the Canary Islands this year – a crazy collection of Atlantic-bound rocks, located just off the western shores of Africa, and dominated by volcanic landscapes and often whacky architecture.  We selected it as good weather is almost always guaranteed, all year round, and importantly because for Europeans it’s an affordable destination.  As holidays go, it wasn’t the cultural delight of last year, but nonetheless it was good to chill-ax for a while.

It was a bit of an odd couple of weeks from a creative perspective.  Compared to last year, not much drafting got done – I guess because I’m still working on the characters and storyboard for book three – but I did (unexpectedly) end up writing a possible first few pages for Thunder’s sequel (where did they come from!), come up with some nice plot-line components for the next novel, and even added some flesh to my outlines for a possible Firebird sequel.  So, overall, I’m quite pleased with what I achieved.

So what’s next?  Well, it’s time to see if I can get Firebird onto the Apple iBookstore and, after that, I will revisit Thunder and start preparing for publication.  Lots to do!  I just need to top up my hot-water bottle, and then I’ll get started…

Time To Go…

…somewhere else.

Summer, for what it’s been worth, is already showing signs of its inevitable fade toward Autumn.  There’s a slight chill in the air, fresh dew on the morning grass, and a noticeable shortening of the days.  I think I’ve made the best of what little warmth there’s been in the UK these last few months, but need to get a few days of reliably good weather before Winter returns.

It’s time, therefore, to go travelling.

Holidays aren’t an unproductive time for me.  I’m not very good at doing nothing.  Last year, my holiday netted several thousand words of base-drafting for Thunder and I’m hoping this year will be similarly fruitful.

Thunder itself is still with various proofreaders, and I’m continuing to leave it alone.  When I get back, I will aggregate all of the comments and observations I’ve received, and then do my own – hopefully final – front-to-back read through.  Based on current feedback, this should be little more than a fine tuning exercise.  Release is therefore still on track for early Autumn.

For a few months, after I’d finished Thunder, my muse seemed to vanish – presumably hitting its own beach somewhere in muse-land.  Whilst I knew what the next book would be about, knew the main storyline and the lead characters, nothing was happening in my head.  I suspect I was just written-out and needed to rest for a while.

Now, I’m pleased to report, that all sorts of interesting – and sometimes not so interesting – ideas are popping up.  Many will not make it to the story, some will get mashed-together, some will get flipped; all together, they auger well that a slab of drafting will get done whilst I’m away.

Fingers crossed!

Have fun, keep safe, and enjoy the next few weeks.

Making Interior Artwork & Maps

Perhaps it’s just a personal preference, but I like it when books include some internal artwork.  Most usually these seem to appear in the front matter of thrillers and fantasies.  I guess they’re most relevant when the plot-line spans several countries, or an entirely invented landscape.  Sometimes they’re used to support the text – such as the puzzles in Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ or Kate Mosse’s ‘Labyrinth’.

I certainly wanted to include artwork inside Firebird, and it’s turned out the same for Thunder.  The challenge was, how could I create the images whilst avoiding copyright problems?  Having just tackled this exercise again, I thought that now was a good time to write down how I’ve done it – before I forget!  Perhaps you’ll find it useful.

I needed royalty and copyright free maps of Europe, so this technique describes the process I followed.  Variations on the theme would work for other line drawings too.

I use a Mac, which makes life easy when handling graphics, but the techniques apply equally to PC’s too.  I haven’t bothered to specify exactly which software I use but the majority is ‘bundled’ or ‘freeware’ and the exceptions are ‘budget/lite’ variants.  The point here is to create good looking graphics on an indie-budget (i.e. nil)…

Okay, here goes:

Step One: Obtain relevant source material as hardcopy (printouts).

It took me a while to find the right (and same) scale maps for the areas I needed.  In the end, I chanced across some illustrations in the back of a promotional airline magazine which suited my purposes almost perfectly.

Step two: Trace and Scan.

Clear acetate sheets are available from most stationers.  I remember them being used regularly for old-style overhead projectors.  Nowadays, they seem to be used for comb-bound document covers.  You’ll need a few of these, some Blu-tack (or equivalent) and a couple of medium/fine tip permanent marker pens.

I’ve found it’s best to stick the source document down onto my desktop (with the Tack), and then to stick the acetate in place on top of it – but perhaps you’re less clumsy than me…!

Carefully trace the original onto the acetate sheet.  The level of precision required will vary depending on personal preference and content.  To be honest, a little inaccuracy is good – this is what makes the image yours.

When you’ve finished tracing, scan the acetate (any flatbed printer/scanner will accept the acetate and scan the image in as if it has a white background).  Use the highest resolution your device will allow.  600×600 DPI is good.

Here is a section of one of the maps from Thunder.

Step Three: Flood fills (or colours)

Almost all painting / drawing packages include a feature for flood fill.  It’s usually symbolised with a paint-can icon (not a spray-can!).

For my images, I wanted the sea to be shaded grey (see above), so I imported the scanned image into my basic drawing package and simply used the flood fill feature.  If you find that you have ‘bleeding’ – where the fill covers more of the image than you want – try adjusting the fill sensitivity (if your package allows it) or check that your line drawing doesn’t have any gaps round the edges.

Step Four: Titles, text and labels.

Again, many drawing packages also include the facility to insert text.  I chose to use a separate package for my titles and labels, but that was just personal preference.

A couple of things to watch out for…

Check that the text size you’re using is big enough to be visible on an eReader screen.

Try to avoid the temptation to use lots of different fonts.  Stick to one, if possible.

Include the image Title (if relevant) in the image itself – this makes life easier when creating an eBook file and prevents titles and images becoming separated across pages (a problem I struggled with in Firebird… Grrr…).

Step Five: Finishing Touches.

Finally, resize the image.  For my eBooks I use JPG format images which work fine for line-art and are efficiently sized.  While I’m building the picture up, I generally use PNG or SVG format (which are bigger, more complex files).  I recommend that, during drafting, you keep your image at the highest resolution/complexity possible.  Only now, at the end, is the time to save lower resolution/quality images (and, don’t overwrite your originals!).

Resizing can be done using the “Save As” function in many drawing packages.  On a Mac, the Previewer Application has both ‘Resize’ and ‘Save As’ features which are extremely useful.

For a standard Kindle, an image size of 600 pixels wide by 800 pixels high is one full page.  If you have text, outside of the image, that needs to stay on the same page (e.g. a page title), then the picture will need to be less than 800 high (how much will depend on how much, and what size, text you’re dealing with – trial and error will doubtless ensue).

Whenever resizing, try to keep the aspect ratio (the ratio of height to width) the same – most software packages will do this for you automatically if you select the correct option.

This then is a reduced-resolution example of one of my finished maps…

So there you go.  A tricky but not too difficult way to produce internal imagery!  Good luck, I hope this helps, and please let me know if you’ve got any other special little tricks and tips you can share!

Thunder – The Blurb

Okay then…  Here goes…  This is the draft blurb for Thunder.

It took me about twenty different attempts to put Firebird’s Blurb together (a.k.a. Product Description, Back Cover, etc…).  I’m hoping I’ve done a better job this time around, but I’d really appreciate hearing what other people think about it.

Thunder will be categorised as Action & Adventure / Technothriller.

Any feedback or comments would be very much appreciated!



Mine is a love story, written in blood.

A tale of an ordinary life, destroyed in the same white-hot furnace of fire and metal that snatched away everything I ever wanted, that stole everyone I loved, that scorched my soul and then forged me into something new.

I am changed, alone, and in pain – with no friends, no allies, and no-one I can trust.

People call me Nick Tonner, but I don’t care much for names.  Some might say I’m a hero. Some might say I’m no better than those I despise.  Call me what you will, because it doesn’t matter to me.

I have nothing left to lose, and only one thing left to live for…

I want you.



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