Tag Archives: books

Book submissions – why they really said ‘no’

You’ve written your book, edited and copy checked, and submitted three chapters to an agent or a dozen following all the advice you can find. Many weeks later, their responses trickle into your inbox. They are all in the negative. And you’ve now run out of mainstream addresses to query, plus the inclination to spend more time submitting.

What is the real reason no one wants to represent you (yet)? And by all means insert your favourite euphemisms e.g. it’s not right for our list; while it has merit we just don’t feel passionate enough about your work; this kind of book doesn’t sell (all of which I’ve received).

It’s all about the book market and timing, assuming of course that the book itself doesn’t actually suck. And it might.

(A quick test of whether your book sucks:  have a stiff drink, read the first chapter or two of a quality bestseller in the same genre and then read the first chapter of your own work. Flinching is a sign your work is not good enough, yet. Schedule another round of re-writing possibly with a coach or freelance editor. If you are honestly pleasantly surprised by what you read, and you want to read on without making any changes, you could well have a good book on your hands.)

Agents look for the following –

  • A facsimile of a recent bestselling novel only with its own slant (yes really)
  • A book which has a strong chance of featuring in the bestseller lists of the day
  • A book they think they can sell to their publishing contacts
  • A work which hits the sweet spot between literary award winner and an easy read (oxymoron noted)
  • A work which ‘takes them somewhere’ and tickles their taste buds (whatever those may be)

In addition, publishing is a self-selecting industry run by people who don’t necessarily need to work for a living. And they can be ‘book snobs’. Those who make it as agents follow the norms and provide their bosses and publishers with what they want. And what they want is what sold well recently or won an award recently. Or is linked to a high profile celebrity / marketable story.

You will notice a clear omission from the above list – originality and innovation.

As with the music business, innovation happens by accident when there is a groundswell of support for something that is outside of the cosy world of what sold last quarter or last season. Or by sheer luck.

Inevitably this leads to a paradox. Without taking business risks how can the publishing industry innovate to attract new generations of readers and retain existing readers?

Further, how can a future Fifty Shades, Harry Potter, Girl on a Train or Game of Thrones type phenomenon happen again unless a publisher takes risks?

The answer?
Celebrity books, media tie-ins and cookery books. They keep the literary world solvent while a handful of bestsellers or worthy books pick up the prizes. And of course the long tail of classics, school reading lists etc. help keep the ship afloat. Of course, quality new books continue to be published, but with what levels of promotion?

So what do you do if you have written a book, it reads back well and it is nothing like a recent bestseller or award winner? And your submissions led nowhere?

In short, write another and consider whether you want to self publish. Promote yourself as best you can. (Or take a break and do something else for a short while to live a little.)

The chances that an agent and publisher will actively consider your work are low at best, descending to non-existent for an off-zeitgeist and unpopular genre. There are a lot of people out there writing and submitting.

It can be tough to keep the faith and keep believing in the merit of your own work, especially in the face of rejection. It is all the more poignant when many consider the badge of ‘published’ to be the accolade in itself (and glaze over at any attempt to explain the challenges). In addition, many people still actively exclude self-published authors from events, reviews, blogs, festivals, libraries and so on. It can feel like a disease at times – the great untouchable author syndrome.

So why do we do it?  I suggest for the pleasure and pain, and out of a need to express ourselves. And surely that is a good enough reason to persevere?  Of course there is also self publishing which connects readers with authors they would otherwise not know.
Where next?  Well for me it’s more plotting and writing the next book – the ideas are already calling to me. If you are interested check out www.SeanYeager.com .
In conclusion, if you’ve been there and received the agent-not-interested tee-shirt, you’re not alone. It’s a complicated world and the rejections may have nothing to do with your writing ability. It is often said that writers become better with practice, so keep on keeping on.
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.
Best
D.M. Jarrett
Hunters Hunted Text 2l

Where next after Fantastic Beasts?

As an author, I am also a fan of J. K. Rowling’s work. I love the films, the theme parks and most of the books (less so the fatter ones if I’m honest). I was inspired by the parallel shift of Fantastic Beasts and the repositioning of the magical world in the USA. It rang true, complete with the bureaucracy that modern-day America exhibits on entry. Right down to the typefaces and official blurb of the supporting material (briefcase shaped). Based on recent experience, I half expected Newt Scamander to be asked if he was a) harbouring magical creatures; b) a terrorist; or c) carrying foreign fruits or vegetables in his luggage. Just as (unbelievably) you are asked to confess all when entering the USA. Err, real criminals tend to lie…

In addition, what a great achievement to co-write a stage play and progress to screenplay writing. And why not? The formats may vary, the content may require different disciplines, but surely the creativity is the common thread? I was impressed. By both the challenge and the outcome. Entertained too. For once, a film surpassed my expectations and (bar the overlong attack sequence) the originality, warmth and plotting of the movie was touching.  A movie with soul amongst the magical goings on.

And there it is, for me at least. The magic ingredients – warmth and humanity. I see the Harry Potter series, including Fantastic Beasts, as less about the outsider coming good, and more about the friendships and bonds between people. This aspect is the one which has inspired me the most in my creative thought processes. People standing together against evil and bureaucracy. People striving for better.

This inspiration I have carried over into my own writing. And a long road it is. I started writing Sean Yeager Adventures with a wisp of an idea. The wisp grew into characters, motives and a secret world set amongst our own. A world where things go wrong and people make mistakes, but also strive to help each other. A world with evil, goodness, and also ambiguity. A world with a rich background and complexity stretching through time and space. And yet nothing like Harry Potter. For that is the real challenge – to create something original and unseen, unread. It’s not easy. I take my hat off to J.K. (not that she needs it, and not that I wear one) the confidence to press on and create can be lonely place. It can also be amazing, as Fantastic Beasts shows.

When I write I am happy. When I read back and review I am often annoyed with myself for not writing better. After several rounds of revisions and improvement, I become a whole lot happier. For one simple reason – when the work stands up and speaks to you, you know it has something. You know your characters have life and something to say and strive for. And that others will ‘get it’, eventually. It’s a weird thing creating – all that effort and you are second guessing what ‘good’ looks like. Inevitably, you write what works for you. And inspiration from other genres helps a lot.

Sean Yeager and Emily Campbell will reappear book 3, eventually.  When they have rebuilt Kimbleton Hall and re-programmed the cat probably. The editing is taking a while, because I don’t write in the conventional way and I don’t write conventional stories. Where’s the fun in that?  The flip-side of course is that if you are reading this and look-up Sean Yeager Adventures, you are in a select few.  And I thank you for it.

You see, I write films in book form. I write science magic adventures with strong relationships and humour. All my characters have a reason for being and things they strive for. I also write about gizmos, parallel worlds, mind control, sentient computers, alien lifeforms. But not in a way I’ve seen before. I aim for the soul. In Sean’s England the factions are hidden, secretive, small in number and yet deadly. Sean and Emily have to discover the truth for themselves, there are no prophesies or fast-tracks to the stars. They have to rely on their own wits and clues. It’s a tough write. And I love it.

I still remember a time before Harry Potter. When the idea of a book about a wizard was viewed as nothing much, nothing new. It really had been done before (Books of Magic, A Wizard of Earthsea). And now look at the audience and the achievements. And the undoubted hard work that’s gone into it all. It is the classic – it’s not what it is, but how well it has been done.  And I have little doubt the next big thing will be fresh and different, just as J.K. was when people saw the merit in the work before them.

That’s creativity I guess, the balance between who ‘gets it’ and the energy of the creator to keep going until enough people do. So bring on the warm cuddly creatures, the strong friendships and rivalries and the impressive plotlines. I love it when things get good.

As J.K. once said ‘rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life’.  Everyone needs a foundation and belief in what you are striving for is a good starting point. The unread author really is at rock bottom in the literary world, and yet the work itself could be incredible/

Thanks for reading my ramble. All interest in Sean Yeager Adventures is appreciated. Remember, you were here first. As Cassius Olandis (Sean Yeager character) would say: ‘open your mind and everything will become clear to you.’

Sean Yeager Adventures

www.seanyeager.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-editing your novel

Hi there,

Happy 2017! I’ve been busy lately with family matters and editing my third book – Sean Yeager Claws of Time. Here are some thoughts collated from the arduous task of self-editing and the further research I did before kicking off the same:

What is self-editing?

It seems self-explanatory, but let’s define our scope. You’ve written your first draft from start to finish and now you want to edit to the stage where it is good enough to present to either a) a professional editor b) your agent / prospective agent c) your self publishing platform d) your beta readers.

In the main, I suggest it is a combination of a) to d) depending on whether there is a commercial partner expecting to have approval, and have their editor work with you prior to acceptance of a manuscript for publication.

The nature of the editing will vary from simple typos, to wholesale changes to scenes and structure. In my experience, it is wise to expect a lot of rewriting and improvement until you reach the happy place of being satisfied with the words on the page, and of course the flow. Or until your publisher says ‘yes’ we’re going to publish your work.

Stages of self-editing

Leave it in a drawer edit

Yes, leave your draft to one side and read other people’s work for a while. This will help to create a sense of separation from your work and a mental benchmark of what ‘good’ looks like. Once your mind has absorbed enough outside works and experiences, you’ll be ready to properly read your own work with fresh eyes. This is vital.

Coarse edit

This is the pass where you iron most things out. Typically I expect to remove, reduce, re-phrase, augment or re-write pretty much every page. Only the really good writing remains untouched. If it reads as ‘clunky’ it needs changing / improving / removing / scorching off the face of the planet. Delete as applicable.

I check for typos, perspective inconsistencies, speech attribution, adjectives, use of language, word flow issues, punctuation, scene progression, dialogue quality, plot points, character reactions, and so on. This is a heavy edit.

Tips – set your objectives clearly and write out your own editing checklist and refer to it regularly. Use a tool to check for overused words such as: that, then, with, like, towards, felt, looked etc. Consider each character’s path through your book – write it out as a brief flowchart and check that it makes sense. If it doesn’t, the chances are you have missed out necessary actions / speech / narrative, or even entire scenes.

My aims in this pass are to ensure that every section is effective and well written. I also re-consider the key plot points to check they make sense. I amend them or remove them if they don’t.

By the end of this stage, you will have a draft manuscript where you are not ashamed of the quality of the writing, and which you have begun to understand as a reader.

Structural edit

Once I have a sense of what I have actually written – as distinct from what I imagined I had written – I take a step back and review the story I am telling. I refer to my notes about each subplot and each character’s progression through the story.

The key question I ask about each sub-plot is – what does this add to the overall story? i.e. Do I need to keep this? Or do I need to move things around? Or should I delete a minor sub-plot lock, stock and barrel?

Tips: Structure – your main character (protagonist) should appear on page 1 or at least early in chapter one. Prologues usually suck and should be burned.

The key question I ask about each scene is – what is the scene’s purpose (action, fear, joy, discovery etc.) and does it work? i.e. is it effective enough or in need of a re-write?

Tips: Scene review – imagine the scene happening in real life and check how plausible it would be for actors to portray it. If it sucks, you need to augment and improve it. If it’s unclear, you may be overwriting and using too much purple prose. Short paragraphs work, pages of narrative by and large do not.

Self honesty is really important, and usually less is more. Also, it is worth recalling the established rules of writing and plotting (web research / books on the same) and breaking less than 30% of them at a time. Unless of course you never want anyone to read or recommend your work.

Removing unnecessary scenes or sub-plots can be really hard, and I don’t do so lightly. However, if you have a sneaking suspicion that the scene about the tree guardian who appears halfway through your story and does nothing except say two lines, is a bit flabby, the chances are it needs to be cut. Unless of course your story is about tree guardians, in which case they should have made an appearance on page one and regularly from that point on.

By the end of this stage, you have a manuscript draft where you are happy with your story, the major plot points and the length of the book. If not, go back and do it again…

Read aloud edit

I print and I read out loud, with a pencil at hand. I never cease to be amazed at how many outright mistakes sneak through until this stage.

The psychology is this – reading is the first pass through your brain, speaking is the second pass, and hearing what you have said is the third pass. The combination means you are much more likely to notice mistakes in your work.

Also, the flow or otherwise of what is written on the page comes across most clearly when you read your work aloud. If it flows, you can imagine what your readers will experience. And where the flow is poor, you will hasten to smooth things out out of sheer embarrassment or even boredom (as a reader). Yes, the section your always hated which dragged on still sucks – so now it’s time to edit it properly…  or cut it.

Tips: Dialogue check – do people really speak like that?  And would your character say those things in that manner? A key way to show a character is through their interactions, therefore what they say and how they say it matters. Provided of course – they had a plausible reason to say what they say. i.e. Action to reaction. What they know and what they don’t know.

By the end of this stage, you have a draft manuscript you are pretty much happy with, bar the detailed proofing. If not go back and do it again… Or if you absolutely hate the book, perhaps you need to park it for a while?

Writer’s proofing

Once happy with all the key ingredients I run the document through a couple of software tools and consider all the corrections I’m offered. Even the stupid ones which seem to make no sense at all. It’s boring and unfortunately completely necessary. The number of times I have found misused words spelt perfectly, or doubled up words in plain sight, is surprising and a relief – provided you correct them early enough. One tool alone is not enough to spot them all – for reasons I’ve never fully understood. (Software rules and such like).

Tips: check out tools in trial form first and see if you like them. Word alone is not enough.

By the end of this stage, you have a manuscript you are willing to share with others.

Professional editor edit

In an ideal world, all books would be further edited by a professional who gets the aims of the writer and is sympathetic to the effect they are trying to achieve. This may take the form of technical editing, structural editing and further proof editing.

It’s a partnership thing. If you find a great pro-editor, cherish them and send them greetings cards. If not, find someone else if you are able to. (Me, I’m looking.)

By the end of this stage, the book is quite different to the first draft – usually for the better, though I dare say – not always.

Final, final edit

More of the same until a) it’s done or b) someone say’s it’s getting published next week. Quite often a beta reader will raise an important omission or mistake. Sometimes this reaches the writer in time… I jest, the more complex your story the more edits will be needed all the way through to published editions, and corrections to published editions.

When is it good enough?

Never. Provided a writer keeps improving as a writer, they will always want to go back and revise a lesser work until they are sick of the sight of it. Incidentally, by the fifth round of editing I am usually sick of the sight of my own work. When this happens I call a break and go and write or do something else for a while.

Golden tip?

Fresh eyes are essential, as is a sense of detachment.Take a break and read other people’s work – ideally writers who are better than you are. Edit often and in hour chunks.

If you can forget you wrote the first draft manuscript and polish what you see in front of you, you can self-edit. Once you can no longer do this – take a break and/or get help.

 

Hope my insights help. Best of luck with your writing projects. Next time, I plan to write about plotting your book, click your bookmark or subscribe and please feel free to comment.

In due course, I will publish Sean Yeager Claws of Time. Having hurried on previous books, this time I’m following all my own advice and plenty of other people’s. Please check out my website and consider the younglings in your life who are missing out by not reading Sean Yeager Adventures. They are just a few clicks away on Amazon and elsewhere, somewhere between Harry Potter, Star Wars and James Bond.

Enjoy.

D.M. Jarrett

www.SeanYeager.com

Hunters Hunted Text 2l

 

Choices to improve your writing

Hi there,

We all make choices when we write and the decisions we take fit together to shape our style. Becoming aware of these choices helps the author when planning to write and when writing. Here are some further thoughts and learnings from the coal face of an active writer who is writing while learning to improve the craft of his writing. I hope you find these ideas useful for your own projects.

Perspective

First person, third person or omniscient?

Whose head do you want to get inside when you write? And who are you most comfortable writing about? This makes a big difference to whether you enjoy the writing process and also how convincing the outcomes will be. Expressing motives, thoughts, emotions and characters’ voices are vital to building sympathy or antipathy for the main characters. Of course the writer builds up the story and chooses who to build up in their written characters – the question is – can you be convincing as the part you are portraying in the first person?  Or would it be better to observe their actions from a third person viewpoint?

Balance of parts

How much narrative, descriptive, speech and internal voice?

Seasoned authors move between the different parts of writing with ease, at least in their finished work. The key choice here is what is needed, when and how long to stay with each part of writing. A long narrative can quickly become dull, too little action and the plot will not move forwards. Also be aware that an internal viewpoint can help build depth, but too much deep thought can also become tiresome. In other words it’s all about choosing the balance point for the work in progress. Pieces build up into a tapestry and readers need some space to fill in with their own imagination.

Emotional journey of your protagonist & antagonist

To drive the story you need plot points (events) and an emotional arc to support the main characters’ development. It’s essential that the hero / heroine has an emotional journey at the heart of the plot or the reader will not feel sympathy or pathos for their plight. In other words they need to go through hell and back metaphorically. As writers we need to map out this journey and show how it affects them, then review it in flight to ensure it makes sense and has plenty of twists and turns as the writing on the page develops. I find it useful to have an outline and to allow myself to evolve that outline as the characters react to events in the written story. I also constantly review whether it makes sense how the characters react or adjust to each situation they face. In this way the characters becomes alive on the page or demand a better script – and that’s when you know something is happening…

What to leave out

As writers we choose what to show and we choose what to hide or skip over. This applies particularly to twists, love scenes, violence and how much of the story our chosen writing perspective allows us to show. Often, hinting at events and writing around the outcomes can be as powerful as taking the reader to those places. Then again we have to decide what the book genre needs and how to keep the writing engaging. Wall to wall action, description, erotica and such like can quickly become dull, hence our need to choose what needs to be left out and what is essential to the telling of our story.

Choice of words & structures

Obviously the words on the page can be written in many ways. I recommend reading widely and choosing a style that sits comfortably with your own preference for reading. It is often said that creators create primarily for themselves. That being the case, we choose what kind of book we would like to read and set about writing in a style we would like to read. As a personal check if I find myself reading back work that is clunky or dull, I cut or rewrite. If I don’t recognise that I wrote a paragraph and I like it, that for me is a kind of success. I also recommend collecting lists of words, phrases and structures that you enjoy and to set about using them in the appropriate context.

Pace of your writing

It is often said that the middle of a book can drag or be flabby. I have found this to be true even with genuine bestselling authors. There are remedies available, such as speeding up the pace or introducing new twists at the point where this becomes apparent. In truth, any part of a book could drag and as writers we choose the pacing of each book we write. Too much and heads can spin, too little and they hit the pillow. Perhaps we should start at the end and race to a conclusion? At least it’s an option when plotting out a book or working out how to write in an engaging way.  Personally I am easily bored by detailed everyday life accounts when nothing much is happening in the plot. Then again if the writing includes insights and expressions I enjoy, where’s the harm.

Humour and darkness

What overall tone are we seeking to put across?  Further choices are how we balance light and darkness and the extent to which we introduce humour and horror. My suggestion here is to identify points at which light relief is needed and to crank up the intensity where a climatic sequence is due. Surprising the reader can work, but too much of a good thing can quickly become wearing. Comedy only works when someone is having a bad day, horror only works when it is a contrast to the setting. Much like real life. A series of choices lead to the sequence of scenes and tone that we write, being aware of those choices is therefore the starting point.

Twists and surprises

Clearly we design the slights of hand, the twists and surprises that we include in our work.  A recent trend I’ve noticed in some bestsellers is excessive use of these devices to the extent that nothing that’s left is reliable or plausible. Sometimes the work can become too clever clever for its own good. This may be a good thing for movies, but I suggest choosing a balance and keeping the surprises as big shocks with little or no clues because this can be more effective. Also taking lateral leaps beyond the well trodden path and taking an alternate view can be refreshing.

Editing

As writers we first edit ourselves and then submit to whatever it takes to be published. We should remember the choices that we are willing to accept and reject those that have no proper basis in improving the work. Anything that improves quality and reduces flabbiness is most likely a good thing, but there is a line that someone needs to understand implicitly for each piece – i.e. what makes it work? Perhaps the detail makes the work or the depth of a character. We need to understand this of the work on the page and choose to ‘direct’ the improvement of the work from that perspective. As the saying goes, you can only serve one boss. For me that’s the reader. Editing out all the good bits would of course be a bad thing. The question is – what are the good bits? And are there enough of them?

That’s all for now folks. I hope these ideas help your personal writing journey. I’ve been busy of late writing Sean Yeager Claws of Time, which will see the light of day when my own choices have run their course.

D. M. Jarrett

Hunters Hunted Text 2l

Inspiring young readers with STEM

I hear a lot of talk about encouraging youngsters into technical subjects and careers. My take on this is that hearts and minds are won early, through inspiration and positive experiences. It could be a great teacher, project or visit. Most likely it is a personal experience that is rewarding and fun. All the better if there are opportunities to follow up and develop those interests hands-on. But what really sparks the enthusiasm and motivation inside a young person’s mind?

I believe it is imagination and the space to create and build on ideas.

When I began writing I had a series of choices to make. I could chase the market and write what was most likely to be published next. Or I could play safe and fit in with the typical bookshelf of the day.

I decided to do neither.

I asked my son and his friends what they really wanted to read about in their leisure time. They talked about adventures, gizmos and technology. I set about weaving real-world science and history references around their interests, while keeping things fast paced and witty. And so Sean Yeager Adventures was born.

Here’s an example — How does a light sabre work?

Possibly you are now thinking about energy, particles, plasma, heat, contact, radiation. Perhaps batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, nuclear reactions, matter, laws of thermodynamics, the properties of light etc.

There’s no right answer. My digression was to get you thinking about science and design. Who knows, perhaps one day there will be a real light sabre? I’ve asked this question at home and our conclusions were hilarious.

I’ve heard it said that Star Trek communicators inspired mobile phones. Either way, I suspect we are far more visual than we realise. If we see it, imagine it and think about it, do we then set ourselves the tasks of concepting, designing, researching and building?

Of course the world is full of ideas. Skill, knowledge and application are huge factors, and that is where the education system comes in. Perhaps if we start encouraging imagination and enthusiasm as well, future generations will be better motivated to follow through on their ideas in technical areas?

I’ll leave that debate to academics and educators.

My aims as an author are to inspire, entertain and encourage young readers to investigate science and history for themselves. To date I’ve woven in references to Egyptology, cloning, artificial intelligence, robotics, mind training and numerous technical gizmos.

I have to say that researching the facts has been fascinating, and writing the books has been a blast!

Thanks for reading.

D.M. Jarrett

Author of Sean Yeager Adventures

www.SeanYeager.com

www.seanyeager.com

Sean Yeager Claws of Time – Chapter One – draft

www.seanyeager.comHunters Hunted Text 2l

Hi,

Here’s a sneak preview of the first chapter of Sean Yeager book three – Claws of Time. As you can see, things begin to hot up for Sean, Emily and The Foundation when Darius Deveraux arrives in London and presses on with his evil plans.

While I edit, revise and complete book three, please check out the first two books – DNA Thief and Hunters Hunted – which are available from Amazon UK, Amazon US and all major online stores. Also see the website here at: www.SeanYeager.com .

For newcomers: In Sean Yeager Adventures, two factions battle each other while shipwrecked on Earth, leaving Sean and Emily to figure out why they are involved and how to find their missing fathers. As events unfold around them Sean and Emily strive to live normal lives and find out clues about their past, present and future.

Sean Yeager Adventures are action, mystery, adventures with sci-fi and wit, set on a near-real Earth. They are written for middle grade to young adult readers (8 to 17) and upwards. If you or your children like James Bond, Star Wars, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter or Alex Rider, they will most likely enjoy Sean Yeager Adventures.

Read on and find out for yourself… Note: this is an early draft and will magically change during the editing process.

CHAPTER ONE : DISCOVERIES

A solitary Hyperjet raced across a charcoal sky, tracing an unseen path above a maze of brightly lit buildings and streets. It flew between vast, metal and glass structures, banking and weaving in anticipation of each cloud-piercing tower. The pilot adjusted his control stick and throttle. He fought against a strong, gusty wind that sprayed his cockpit window with horizontal lines of rain and violently threw his craft from side to side. He raised the Hyperjet’s nose to gain height and felt his neck and shoulders press hard into his seat. Wincing inwardly, he spoke into his headset.

“ETA two minutes. Get ready, it’s blowing a gale out there!”

“Affirmative,” replied Agents Geist and Stafford in unison.

The Foundation Agents patted their harnesses and pouches several times with gloved hands, each running through a mental checklist of their equipment. Their Hyperjet levelled and approached a sharp, triangular tower that glowed turquoise in the darkness. Circling briefly, it began to hover and descend towards a gleaming spire, using a red flashing light to guide their way. Captain Shaw, spoke on the intercom.

“Okay Gents, remember this is a recon only mission. Get in quietly, collect your evidence and get out. We need to know what happened to our delivery man. The Brigadier doesn’t want any heroics, understood? I’ll circle the area and wait for your signal.”

The agents nodded to each other. They rose from their seats and took up positions at either end of the cabin.

“Understood Vixen, we’ll be as quick as we can,” replied Stafford.

“Seriously, we’re looking for a missing postman?” grinned Geist. “Ok Vixen, take us down nice and easy.”

“I’ll do my best, but it’s going to be choppy.”

“It’s our lives on the line,” added Stafford.

“You don’t say?” replied the pilot.

The agents clipped their harnesses to winch cables and waited.

“Opening doors in 5, 4, 3, 2, open.”

A deafening howl of wind and rotor noise filled the cabin. The floor split in two, revealing the flat, glowing roof of the Adastra tower. It was an area no wider than a half a basketball court and was surrounded by angular metalwork. Agents Geist and Stafford stood silhouetted against the city lights and tightened their face masks. They stepped carefully onto winch foot-plates and wrapped their hands and wrists through loops of cord at chest height.

“Prepare to drop. Are you ready? Geist?”

“Affirmative.”

“Stafford?”

“Affirmative.”

“Lowering Geist in 5,4,3,2, now!”

Agent Geist swung a short distance across the floor and plummeted downwards. He braced himself against the wind and held tightly to his hand and foot holds. The storm blew him in a spiral and he swung four feet above the roof.

“Geist, you’ll have to jump!” ordered Captain Shaw. “I’m not going to risk it.”

Agent Geist groaned to himself and repeated a drill he had practised a hundred times. ‘Grip, release clip, hold steady, pick your spot.’

“Ooofff!!”

Geist leapt feet first and landed firmly on gravel, only a few feet away from a row of blue illuminated skylights.

“Geist in position. It’s freezing down here,” he reported, pulling his assault weapon from its shoulder holster and tightening the strap around him.

He scanned the rooftop through the weapon’s scope. There were no signs of life, only air conditioning units, some solar panels, a few aerials, a gantry crane and the appalling weather.

“Why did we have to pick tonight of all nights?” he muttered, shivering in the cold.

Geist stayed low to the ground and crept a short distance across the roof.

“Vixen, the coast is clear. Give Stafford a shove from me.”

Geist kept watch over the rooftop, constantly scanning for movement. He peered up for a moment at the noisy shadow hovering above. A dark figure fell rapidly from the Hyperjet’s belly. It jerked to a halt, and began to swing in circles. Geist flipped his weapon onto his back and ran across to help. He grabbed Stafford’s winch plate at shoulder height and steadied it.

“Come on Twinkle-toes, show time!” he joked.

Agent Stafford leapt from his platform and fell sideways.

‘Crunch!’

He landed on a blue skylight. A hairline crack extended from the front of his right boot and forked violently across the glass. Stafford stretched out to spread his weight and slowly crawled off the glass on all fours. He rolled onto the gravel.

The two agents waited in silence for an alarm to sound, but there was nothing. Above them, their winch cables rose and vanished into the night sky.

“Geist, Stafford, what’s your status?”

“Vixen, we’re down in one piece,” replied Agent Geist.

Stafford nodded ruefully.

“Vixen withdrawing. God’s speed Gentlemen.”

“Stay close, Vixen,” added Geist.

“This is Vixen, wilco and out.”

********************************************************
Sean and Emily crept into the family room at Kimbleton Hall. A log fire flickered invitingly in a large grate. Above it, on a stone mantelpiece, stood a plain ceramic clock with Roman numerals. It was nearly seven pm.

“Where’s the remote, Em?” asked Sean. “Our film’s on soon.”

“Wherever you left it silly,” replied Emily, slouching into the most comfortable armchair and lying back with her legs curled up.

“Ahh! Where is it?” complained Sean, scouring the room.

He overturned scatter cushions in a frenzy and threw them in a heap.

“Phew!” he said, finding the controller beneath a purple sofa.

There was a creak at the door and footsteps rippled through the wooden floor.

“Not so fast you two,” announced a familiar voice. “We’ll be catching up with the news, if it’s all the same with you?”

Sean hissed under his breath, and hid the remote behind his back.

Emily’s mother, Mrs Campbell, entered the room with her dog, Braveheart, bounding along beside her. She was followed by another set of footsteps.

“Sean, hand over the remote,” ordered Mrs Yeager. “Now!”

Sean grimaced and pretended not to hear. He turned on the TV and selected a movie channel. The film was Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of his favourites. Emily giggled.

“Now look here, Sean,” began Mrs Yeager. “If you want any time on your computer this month, you’ll hand me the remote this instant!”

“Oh, Mum!” complained Sean, throwing the TV controller onto a chair beside her. “It’s so unfair…”

“Enough!” snapped Mrs Yeager. “There’s something on the news I want to see.”

Mrs Yeager selected a news channel and turned up the volume. The first program was an advert.

“That’s right, buy one bottle of Aqua Vervier and get three bottles absolutely free! Aqua Vervier, feel the goodness of life inside you!”

“Stuff and nonsense,” muttered Mrs Campbell.

“If it’s that good, why are they giving it away?” added Mrs Yeager. “And what’s wrong with tap water anyway?”

“It tastes disgusting for a start,” replied Sean.

And it’s full of chlorine and calcium,” added Emily.

“Calcium’s good for you, my dear,” corrected Mrs Campbell.

“Chalk?” replied Emily.

“Shoosh!” snapped Mrs Yeager, increasing the volume to an almost deafening level. “This is it!”

“Today, an exciting Egyptian discovery was announced by the British Museum. Over to our reporter James Morgan.”

“Boring,” complained Sean.

Mrs Yeager ignored him and leaned forwards in her chair.

“Yes Mark, a team of international archaeologists, based here in London, has discovered a long-lost Egyptian temple, with the aid of satellite technology. In this image, you can clearly see a complex of buildings hidden beneath the sand.”

Sean and Emily studied the TV screen. It showed a black and white image with two blurred squares. Inside the squares, were some shadowy lines and around them were a group of irregular blocks.

“That could be anything,” joked Sean.

“So James, have there been any finds at this new site?” continued the anchor man.

“Yes Mark, the team have announced the discovery of a significant number of artefacts, many of which will be displayed in a special exhibition later this month. What is remarkable, is that this site is hundreds of miles from any other Egyptian ruins. Of course, its location is being kept a closely guarded secret.”

“Amazing,” said Mrs Yeager.

“More mummies? Don’t we have enough of those already?” asked Sean.

Mrs Yeager scowled.

“It wouldn’t hurt you to take more interest in history young man,” she replied. “The sooner you go back to school the better.”

“Oh Mum!” groaned Sean.

“Or we’ll have to find you both another tutor,” added Mrs Campbell. “After what happened…”

Emily sighed, and glanced first at Sean and then towards her mother.

“Actually, I’d like to go back to school Mum,” she said.

“Hmm, we’ll have to see my dear,” replied Mrs Campbell

The news program moved on to its next story and showed a home-made video of a meteorite striking a parked car. The car had a huge dent in its roof and exploded shortly after impact.

“And this is only one of a number of incidents,” said the reporter.

“Why? What happened?” asked Sean.

“Listen,” said Mrs Yeager.

“Locals here say that last night there were an unusually large number of meteorites, some as large as a tennis ball. This video was recorded by a tourist and shows a meteorite destroying a parked car.”

“And what other damage have they caused?” asked the anchorman.

“Well Mark, we have reports of houses being hit, a school bus, some trees, and several commercial buildings.”

Sean and Emily giggled.

“What’s so funny?” asked Mrs Yeager.

“We can’t go back to school because a meteorite could flatten it,” laughed Sean.

“Why? Is your school in America?” asked Mrs Campbell.

“Erm,” replied Sean sheepishly.

Mrs Yeager laughed.

“You have the attention span of a gnat, Sean. The reporter was talking about meteorites in America. Okay, you can watch your film now,” she said.

“And I’ll make you some popcorn my love,” added Mrs Campbell.

“Yes!” cried Sean pumping his fist. “Thanks, Mrs Campbell!”
********************************************************
Two men wearing full-length, black trench coats entered a dimly lit restaurant. It was situated in a quiet London side-street. Although it was early evening, and already dark, its first customers had yet to arrive. The men studied several rows of immaculately prepared tables and a handful of eager waiters. Satisfied that the restaurant was safe, one man returned to a waiting limousine, while the other held the door open for an older, distinguished gentleman.

“I’ll wait here, Sir,” he said.

The gentleman nodded, and gave his coat to a waiter. He sniffed at the green ceramic up-lighters and informal décor. It was a bistro at best. In the centre of the room, stood an impressively large aquarium containing a sunken ship. It was brightly lit, in shades of yellow and blue, with constantly rising bubbles. It appeared to contain lobsters with their claws bound. A figure walked towards him.

“Ah Minister, thank you for coming,” announced a tall, slim, white-haired man, who reached out to shake his hand.

“Mr Deveraux, a pleasure as always. Alas, I am pressed for time. I have some important reading to do before tomorrow’s Cabinet.”

“Of course, Minister, of course,” smiled Darius Deveraux. “Shall we?”

A waiter led them to the best table in the virtually empty restaurant. It was set with glasses, napkins, and a small table lamp. The Minister for Interior Affairs sat with his back to the aquarium, and reached for a breadstick.

“So Mr Deveraux, how can I be of assistance?”

Darius Deveraux sat opposite wearing tinted glasses. He beckoned for the menu, and offered the Minister a small bowl of olives.

“I’ll be direct, Minister, it’s The Foundation. I’m concerned they are a great danger to the public.”

“I understand your concerns,” nodded the Minister. “But you realise they have friends in high places, including the Prime Minister?”

Deveraux stretched his pale face into a half smile.

“I can tell you are not a supporter of The Foundation, Mr Deveraux?” added the Minister.

“My concerns are that they spend public money, and have a record of causing damage to public property.”

“Well, let me allay your fears, Mr Deveraux, The Foundation does not receive a penny from the Government. It is entirely self-funded.”

The Minister accepted a copy of the menu and sighed. He scanned it briefly.

“I am relieved to hear it,” replied Deveraux, focusing on the Minister through his glasses. “However, my sources tell me that The Foundation are reckless. Only a few months ago they destroyed an entire shopping mall.”

The Minister raised his right hand in acceptance.

“And the whole affair was thoroughly investigated. It was caused by eco-terrorists. The Foundation was cleared of any wrongdoing.”

“How convenient?” scowled Deveraux. “And who was backing these ‘eco-terrorists’ I wonder?”

Deveraux nodded to a waiter, unseen by the Minister. From the aquarium, there was a gentle sloshing of water. The Minister looked up with a quizzical expression.

“I believe that someone’s chosen a lobster,” he explained. “Are you partial to them?”

The Minister shook his head, and returned to examining the menu.

A waiter stood behind them, and flipped open the aquarium’s lid. He appeared to mentally choose a lobster, but looked startled and quickly backed away. He composed himself and approached the Minister.

“Are you ready to order?” he asked.

The Minister peered over his reading glasses and gave an audible ‘huff’ as he breathed out. Deveraux noticed the waiter’s eyes glow red and nodded to him.

“I need another two minutes,” replied the Minister, shrugging as he returned to his deliberations.

Behind him, a dark shape slowly approached the front of the aquarium, sending lobsters scuttling in all directions. The creature completely covered the shipwreck with its muscular bulk. It was covered in dark, mottled scales, with here and there a few luminous green stripes. It stretched out and extended several long tentacles above the waterline. Using its suckers it climbed and reached over the edge of the aquarium’s thick glass wall.

‘Slap!’

With a sudden whiplash motion, the creature hurled a lasso-like tendril around the Minister’s neck. The Minister sat bolt upright with a startled look on his face and gasped. His veins pulsed and protruded on either side of his throat.

“Are you alright, Minister?” smiled Deveraux.

“Feel my pain!” wheezed the Minister, with his eyes rolling upwards inside his eye sockets.

“Excellent choice, Minister,” added Deveraux. “I knew you would see it my way. The Foundation simply cannot be allowed to continue. Are we clear on this matter?”

The Minister struggled to reply and Deveraux did not wait for a response. He stood and leaned over the table, steadying the Minister’s head with his left hand. The tentacle released its grip and withdrew to the aquarium, as quickly as it had arrived. Deveraux ignored it, and picked up a napkin with his free hand. The Minister groaned quietly as if in a trance, his eyes now shut. Stepping around the table, Deveraux dabbed at a red puncture mark on the Minister’s neck and raised his shirt collar to hide the evidence. Next, he gently lowered the Minister’s head to rest on the table, beside his plate. Deveraux waited a moment, before walking confidently across the restaurant towards the bodyguard.

“I think the Minister needs your help,” he called.

The bodyguard stopped reading his newspaper and crumpled it in two. He looked disgruntled, as if someone had disturbed his rest. Deveraux spoke calmly.

“He seems to be over tired,” he added.

“Leave it to me, Sir,” replied the bodyguard, speaking into a microphone inside his sleeve, and glancing across at his superior.

By now, the Minister was sitting upright and babbling incoherently with a wide grin on his face. The aquarium had returned to its yellow and blue glow, with red shapes wandering slowly across its gravel bed. A waiter stooped to wipe the polished oak floor with a napkin, while another poured water into a bulb-shaped glass in front of the Minister.

“It’s been a long day,” smiled the bodyguard. “He’s barely eaten.”

“Indeed,” replied Deveraux with a smile. “I do hope the Minister will be okay.”

The bodyguard grinned.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep, Sir.”

********************************************************
Agent Geist unclipped a pouch from his webbing. He opened its cover and selected a cutting tool and a spray can.

“Looks like the shutters are pretty strong,” he said. “Lucky for you.”

Geist leaned over the row of skylights. It extended for several paces in a large rectangle, like an ornamental glass pond. Beneath it, he noticed a grid of interlocking metal fins that formed a solid barrier. A faint blue light glowed through some punched holes in the metalwork.

“What do you mean?” asked Stafford, inspecting the glass.

“Or you’d be freefalling into the lobby” explained Geist. “Splat!”

“But it’s toughened glass,” said Stafford. “It cracked, that’s all.”

“Here,” said Geist, passing Stafford a sonic cutter. “We’re behind schedule. Try not to break it.”

Geist motioned for Stafford to cut an adjoining panes of glass. Meanwhile, Geist cut a large oval hole. His sonic-cutter squealed at a high frequency, barely audible to humans. Using a handle with two suction cups, he removed the unwanted glass and laid it on the roof, beside a row of heat-exchange units.

The rain had stopped, but a strong gust of wind nearly blew Geist off his feet. He crouched and leaned into the storm, until the wind had died down.

“So how are we going to get through those shutters?” asked Stafford.

“Watch and learn. If this gel doesn’t work, we’re aborting the whole mission,” replied Geist.

Geist leaned over the first hole and sprayed a fine gel onto the shutters. The aluminium fins spluttered and fizzed, throwing steam and bubbles of noxious vapour into the night sky.

“Stand back!” he ordered. “Or it’ll melt your face.”

Stafford staggered away and nearly lost his balance.

“Of course, that might be an improvement,” chuckled Geist.

Satisfied with his work, Geist repeated the exercise on the second hole.

“Okay, let’s find something firm to hitch onto,” he said.

After several minutes of preparing lines, harnesses and clips, Geist tested their anchor points and nodded.

“Scanners on,” he said.

Stafford shuffled forwards and sat on the window frame, with his legs dangling into an empty space.

“No signs of movement below,” he reported.

Geist sat beside him. A cavernous atrium stretched out beneath them for hundreds of feet. He could just make out a row of elevator shafts in the dim light. Geist felt his heart pounding and checked his harness and line for the third time.

“Remember, we’re heading for the first balcony on the right,” he said. “Last one down is buying drinks!”

Agent Geist cast off into the chasm and whirred down his line, swinging gently as he went. He braked by wrapping his boots around the rope and squeezing with his legs, as the floor approached. Geist landed softly, and quickly detached himself. He took up a position with his back to the wall, and brought his weapon up to his shoulder. Through his scope, he noticed a line of elevator cables and a handrail. Only one of the elevator cars was visible. It was glass-walled and empty.

“Quiet as a crypt,” he reported, scanning the rest of the balcony.

Geist watched Agent Stafford land a short distance away.

“What kept you?” he joked.

“My need to stay alive?” replied Stafford grimly.

“It’s gonna cost you,” grinned Geist.

Geist watched Stafford pull out a sidearm from his thigh holster and check that it was loaded.

The building was strangely quiet and even the gale outside was now a distant rumble.

“Where’s the night watchman?” asked Stafford.

Geist crawled to the edge of the balcony on his hands and knees and peered down into the main lobby. Far below, he could just make out a lone orange spot against a cool grey background. In front of it, stretched a wide, curved desk.

“In the land of nod by the looks of it,” he replied.

“Vixen, we are in position, over,” reported Stafford.

“I copy that,” replied Vixen.

Geist rose to a crouched position and scanned each end of the short balcony through his assault weapon’s sight. It had a neatly carpeted floor with fake plants and little else.

“Okay Houdini, work your magic,” he said.

“I’m on it,” replied Stafford.

Geist stood guard, and watched Stafford run past him to examine a door with a long vertical bar for a handle.

“Where’s the keypad?” asked Stafford.

“Come on, we’re running out of time!” complained Geist, turning around.

Stafford scanned the wall looking for signs of heat and shook his head.

“Do you have any burn gel left?” he asked.

“Sure do, but we’re under strict orders not to leave any mess behind.”

Geist reached into his map pocket and pulled out a pencil-shaped device and threw it to Stafford.

“Magnetic impulse detector,” he declared. “There has to be a locking mechanism somewhere.”

The device flashed green, as Stafford swept the wall on the left-hand side of the door frame.

“Set your blaster to impulse, should do the trick,” suggested Geist.

Stafford fired his blaster at the wall. His weapon hummed quietly, but nothing happened.

“More juice,” muttered Stafford, adjusting the power level.

Stafford fired again and a short flash emerged from a tiny crack in the wall. A small gap appeared in the textured wallpaper and a square flap became visible. Stafford pulled out his combat knife and prised open the outer casing. “Looks like a manual override,” he explained.

“Then fuse some wires, Houdini! We’re late for dinner!”

Instead, Stafford reached inside the wall box and flicked a switch.

‘Hiss!’

The door opened inwards with a sudden rush of air. Geist approached and peered into a dark corridor.

“It’s all clear! Come on!” he said.

The moment Geist took his first steps into the corridor, another door hissed open a few strides ahead. He raised his weapon, fearing the worst.

“Wait!” called Stafford.

But he was too late, Geist passed the inner door, and began to scan the interior.

“Stone cold,” he reported. “I can’t see a thing in here for the fog. It’s colder than outside.”

Geist crept forwards, and switched his helmet scanner to sense heat and movement. The room was dark and full of dense vapour. He noticed a cold, blue pattern on his headset, but no sign of activity.

And it stinks of chlorine. What is this place? A swimming pool?” he complained.

“That’s what we’re here to find out,” replied Stafford. “Come on Geist, raise your game.”

Geist inched slowly forwards through the fog, and heard a dull metal ‘clang’ beneath their feet.

“What was that? Did you drop something?” he asked.

Stafford, turned towards him, with his weapon and visor glowing bright red.

“It’s our boots,” he replied, tapping his foot against the hard floor. “We’re on a metal walkway.”

“I don’t like this,” said Geist. “Take your readings, and let’s get out of here!”

“Sure,” replied Stafford. “Just a little further.”

Agent Geist noticed a tiny flash of red light at ankle height on his left. Stafford took a step towards the beam.

“Stop!” he cried.

‘Bamm!’

The inner door slammed shut behind them and hissed. It was followed by the howl of overhead fans. Soon, the fog began to swirl around them. Geist turned to his right. On infra-red he noticed a distant orange spot, it was joined by a second, then another. A row became visible, then a second row. He flicked his headset to ultra-violet and his stomach sank like a lead weight. Geist realised in horror that they were standing in a vast gallery, four floors high that stretched as far as the eye could see. Each floor held several rows of stands, and each stand held a dark figure wearing a mask, tubes, and a combat suit.

“Stop!” he ordered.

Stafford stood with his weapon raised. Around him, a pale orange glow illuminated the clearing fog on all sides, and a series of dull thuds echoed through the gallery. Geist peered into the mist and saw the distant outline of a dark figure. Behind it stood another. One by one, the figures moved, with their eyes shining red. His infra-red sensor glowed with a patchwork of heat patterns, changing from pale yellow to orange and then crimson.

“Hostiles ahead,” he reported. “This is going to get really messy.”

 

I hope you enjoyed Chapter One of Sean Yeager Claws of Time (book 3 in the series). Please stay tuned for more news about Sean Yeager books.

For more information, take a look at the website at www.SeanYeager.com

Books One and Two are available from Amazon UK and Amazon US in print and e-book formats. Book Three will be ready in 2017.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

 

 

 

 

 

 

What next after Harry Potter? 5 Great middle grade to tween book series

Well it had to happen, our son has read all the Harry Potter books and we’ve been searching for other great book series. In no particular order here are 5 great book series for middle grade to tween readers. (I have omitted Young Adult titles deliberately).

1. Harry Potter Click here

Obvious really. If the first three books don’t grab your child’s attention I guess they don’t like Harry Potter. Stand by also for the comparisons and proclamations of the things not in the films which are better presented in the books. Strangely the shorter books were voted the best by our son, perhaps they were better edited?

2. Percy Jackson Click here

Now you do need to allow your child to settle with the idea that Greek and Roman myths have been ‘borrowed’ and transplanted to the US. (Not my idea of plausible I have to say). Apparently the books are an easy and exciting read with lots of action. I would add that they seem to be easily read in next to no time. Good news for the author and publisher, not such great news for the parents asked to buy the next book in a matter of hours.

3. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Click here

Perhaps a push for middle grade and pretty heavy in volume. We started with The Hobbit and it was very well received. A budding fan is born. I await the film and book comparisons. LOL. Given the length of both that could be some years away.

4. Sean Yeager Adventures Click here

Fast paced, exciting and full of ideas. Our son and several of his friends have been up all hours reading and re-reading books one and two. Be prepared for an explosion of ideas, designs and follow on stories.

5. Bear Grylls Mission: Survival  Click here

Apparently these books are non-stop boys own adventures with all the details added in. Useful if you are ever stuck in a jungle and need survival skills. If only there was an episode for commuters and office workers.

6. Artemis Fowl Click here

Technically this is the sixth book series, though I did say ‘after Harry Potter’. We have had a mixed reception with this series. Son loves the action and humour, he’s not so keen on the faeries. Nonetheless a worthy addition to our humble book series list. Lots happens and there are plenty of books in the series.

So there you have it parents, grand parents, aunts, bloggers. We hope you find this list of book series useful when seeking purchases for the children in your life.

Happy reading.

D.M. Jarrett