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Waiting on a Dust Jacket

The Proofcopy of my last Hardback, Dagon’s Revenge

The song says the waiting is the hardest part and it’s a truth that is too easy to dismiss. I’m currently expecting my proof copy of a hardback of “Darkness on a Foreign Shore”, my first role-play book. I ran a Kickstarter for that project and we were vey successful. I’m keen to give out the pledges my backers signed up for but I am waiting to see how the interior artwork looks before getting all the books ready to post and letting the finished product go on sale.


Christmas is a funny time for books as hardback sales go nuts and eBooks can often take a wee hit. I haven’t written anything particularly seasonal yet and so I am not in a mad push for a specific book other than getting behind “Water’s Edge”, my just released Hebridean detective thriller novel. And so I’m in a kind of limbo where I carry on with the daily write (a pandemic novel by Dictaphone and the follow up to Water’s Edge on the tablet) as well as other projects. But my eye is on the post.


You see the first time you hold a finished book in your hand is quite special. There’s a sense of completion, a little pride and a general satisfaction before the inevitable draw of breath as you launch into the marketing. There’s also that feeling of the start or continuation of something, depending on whether it’s the first or later book in a series. And unlike an eBook it’s tangible, the feel of the paper, the book in your hands, flicking through pages and placing the copy on the shelf.


This time I’m waiting on a dust jacketed hardcover which is a first for me. I did produce hardcovers before but they were hardboard, the last being Dagon’s Revenge. This time it’s something new and there’s more than a few butterflies flying around my stomach. But as I wait, I’ll keep writing, keep plodding on, for there’s nothing else I can do but pass the hours until the book arrives. Kids are lucky, at least you know the night Santa comes!

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My First Detective Thriller

One of the joys of living in a place for a long period of time is that you get to see it in its fullness, good and bad, different and passionate. Couple this with a desire to write a different genre of fiction than I previously had and you begin to understand the genesis of my new novel “Water’s Edge”. But little did I know where the writing process would take me.


I live on a conservative island where changes that cut against both traditional and religious views can dominate the debate. Yes, there are extremes in this, but there is also a vast number of people who simply want to get on with life and learn how to get by with everyday necessities. But often the extremes of the argument do not allow this to happen. And it was this effect that was to dominate my main character.


Seoras Macleod, born and raised on the Isle of Lewis returns after a long time away, forced by his job to make a return to the scene of the worst moment of his life. The death of his wife years before has dominated his personality, and left in him a conflict with his God and his view of life. Through the resultant clash, I was able to throw the newer way of seeing things against the older conservatism and hopefully find the good and bad in both.


In societies the unspoken, lying beneath the veneer of normal life, shows where things are really at and I use the murder of a young woman to drive my detectives through this layer, exposing the lies beneath. This caused my murder mystery to become more of a thriller, events becoming less of a conundrum and more an act of social discovery. But still some have said they didn’t see the perpetrator coming.


Ultimately the book explores how wholly different characters can find support in extreme circumstances to drive through their mission when the house of cards around them starts to kick when toppled.


“Water’s Edge” my first Highlands and Islands detective thriller is available in paperback right now in my own store, or at Amazon (UK / US / AUS / CAN). If the eBook is your preference then you can pre-order here until the 1st Dec 2019 when it goes on full release. Check the 3 chapter sample out here. And let me know what you think. Book 2 is underway because all things come to the surface eventually.

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Beware the Brandished Torches!

One of the hardest things in writing is telling a story about a place everyone knows, The fact is they live there…, with you…, and like you they know everything about the locale. Except they don’t. And neither do you, the writer. This is because everyone views any place they interact with and contribute to through their own experiences. This is what makes stone-walling seem like honourable defence, one person’s bigotry seem like justified anger and one person’s paradise another folk’s hell.


As a writer taking on the challenge of story telling about the area around you, even if the characters are fictional, though based on various people one knows or has had experience of, you have to be careful. Not in case they come for you in the night, pitch forks at the ready and dipped flaming branches giving the night sky an eerie glow and your feet a hot toasting. Not in case some people don’t speak to you, offend by who they believe themselves to be in your story. No, the part to be careful of is to say what the story wants to say.


Stories are generated from thoughts and deeply held observations or beliefs and therefore deserve to be written in their entirety, not altered for passable consumption. And should the writer fear having caused offense if they are actually describing what is? Surely worse happens. They could simply put the book down in boredom. Now that would be devastation. So write to your observations, your revelations, your take on this life.


And so remember me, when you see the brandished torches, or the small boat with the man, hands tied behind his back and walking a modern day plank into the sea. They will say, he wrote to his convictions, he called it as it was. Short career though!

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A Change will do you Good!

One of the ruts to fall into with writing is to simply write the same thing over and over again. I’m not talking about when you have a good series and you need to keep churning out the books for the readers who are keen to read more and more. Rather, when times get tough and you stay put on your favourite genre and keep doing the same thing. Terry Pratchett spoke of reading other genres to keep the writing of your own material fresh and I think it’s productive and refreshing to try another type of writing, even if your love for a particular genre still burns strong.

The book purchased from Jonathan Green


I used to love the Fighting Fantasy books back in the eighties and I was lucky enough at the UK Games Expo, to meet a man named Jonathan Green, author and one of the biggest names behind that type of book. I bought a copy of his latest book, based on the wizard of Oz, and as much as I enjoyed playing it, it actually got me thinking, maybe I could write this kind of book

If you’re not familiar, these books allow you to make different choices in the story and this directly affects your hero journey. Decisions come back to haunt you and often there are a number of endings. They also tend to be highly varied in topic, from fantasy adventures to star ship captains, ninja warriors to explorers and wild west cowboys.

Cover art for the new novel by J Caleb Clarke


I decided to write a spy story but based in the second world war when many female spies were sent by the allies to France. It’s a classic set-up as you make decisions that could cost you your life, based on scanty information and guesswork.


And so I set about mapping out the adventure, writing the paragraphs for each option and winding various paths back into each other, desperately trying to hold the whole thing together. I don’t need to tell you, it was a lot of fun, a lot of work and an education in seeing things from all angles.

The cover for the book


Now I have a first book in what will hopefully become a series of books, suitable for teens and young adults but perfectly enjoyable for any age above. Testing so far seems good, not just in the number of errors but in the enthusiastic responses of the players.


In order to fund the book I have also begun a kickstarter, a place where fans and interested parties or people can put up funds in return for rewards. These funds will ensure the book will be launched successfully, and with a little advertising revenue to go with it. You can check the action out at the Kickstarter website. Please do and support this new venture of mine, it’s a right good ripping read and a lot of fun as you replay situations you initially made a mess of.


I’m already thinking of book 2 and the nautical theme it’s going to have. But only if we float this first book. But then that’s what it’s all about. Branching out, learning more, so that when I turn to my traditional fantasy writing, I’ll be a better story teller and a more accomplished writer.

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The Changing Face of Evil

Don’t panic, you’re not about to get a lecture on the current terrible state of the world, rather a bit of an observation on the dark characters we seem to be getting on the screen and in our books.

Nice Tie

I think it all started when we started taking what would have been traditionally evil characters and creatures, and made them a bit more friendly, more human (if indeed we are friendly). Suddenly werewolves were simply shape shifters following a social change agenda, wronged and mistreated. Vampires were just unlucky people who didn’t want a break in the summer sun. And ghosts were actually helpful, misunderstood souls who were in the wrong place due to some supernatural accident.

Noone knew his years on the dole


I remember growing up and evil was evil. Often there was no understanding of why the bad stuff was happening, why these dark things of the night wanted to do these horrible actions to us. They were simply evil. It seems with changing times and the acceptance that old ideas about different lifestyles, race and social classes are erroneous, our characters seem to reflect that. In fairness I remember it starting in “Cabal” by Clive Barker, a super novel I thoroughly enjoyed but one that invoked sympathy for the dark things, even if they were all far from perfect.

“Don’t you just love him and his lights!”


Maybe it is a good thing that art mirrors the times we are in, but forgive me if I crave that unfathomable entity that simply wants to destroy because that’s what it is. It has no understandable social make-up, no difficult back story, no sad tale of its own – it is simply evil. And it is distinctly un – human, bearing nothing of our qualities, unfathomable. I guess it’s because against such a thing we can throw the full weight of our aggression and defence, knowing there is nothing to understand, nothing to rectify in its past. Today’s depictions don’t allow us that luxury and in truth, neither does real life, and it really should not.


But this is fantasy so give me one more malevolent, undeniably evil being to pit my fragile heroes against. You know you want to.

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Write Apocalyse Now!

I’m just starting out on writing an “end of the world “ thriller and have been thinking about how these will compare to my dark fantasy adventure novels. The term apocalypse for me has always brought up great heavenly battles, four horsemen (updated to persons these days of course) racing across the sky, the world gathering at Megiddo and such like. So are the apocalyptic tales in the pandemic / zombie / EMP / natural disaster genres really any different.


One thing that comes straight to mind is that the old magical / fantastical element is gone. The days of a learned genius waving his hands and opening portals or creating hellfire will have to go and more pragmatic solutions will have to be found. This causes a greater emphasis on tactical or mechanical solutions, or simple butchering in the case of zombies. Transformations of people may have to be kept to a low variety instead of the many magical forms that characters take.


Another point spotted while reading these genres is the technical detail, sometimes far and beyond the grasp of many characters: you need to be an expert to survive. How far this is the case and how far the human spirit and determination will get you is another question but certainly the science (or at times pseudo-science) needs to be to the fore and loaded with the best bullets.


But overall this one thing remains although it has been lost in a few tales from the genre I have read. The character remains the thing. The human conflicts, the dreams hopes and aspirations and then the devices that thwart these goals, must not be simply there but must drive the tale. As I read across many genres, the best stories always resonate around the person whether it’s a woman stuck at a train station in the middle of nowhere (Absent in the Spring, Agatha Christie written as Mary Westmacott), a captain of the guard holding together a magical and manic city (Feet of Clay, Terry Pratchett) or a woman fighting to reunite her family after a nuclear holocaust (Point of Impact, Kyla Stone).


So whatever I come up with, it will certainly take my characters and break them as ever, only to have them claw their way back. But this time it will be in the midst of a pandemic, lawlessness and a country falling apart. It almost feels like home! My writing home that is, the Outer Hebrides hasn’t got to that stage yet!

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Who is Mr. Kirkgordon?

As an author I am often asked where my ideas come from for characters and plots which makes me pause and actually think, where have they come from? In response to this feeling, I’m taking a few blogs to discover for myself which bit of this dark mind of mine has produced my main characters.


Mr. Kirkgordon is the one of feuding duo who had their relationship first formed on paper in “Crescendo!”, although a later short origin story, “Footsteps”, takes us back to their first actual meeting under a grave. Agile and a former bodyguard, Kirkgordon can handle himself in trouble and is ideal to look after the volatile eldritch genius that is Mr Austerley.

Kirkgordon comes from that part of us that knows what the right thing to do is, and that we’re going to have to do it despite the hardship that comes from doing it. He cannot walk away, even if the people he’s involved with do the exact opposite to what he would. Having a faith in God, Kirkgordon is not a religious nut but rather is the atypical believer struggling with his faith as well as his behaviour to others he loves and those he loathes.

“Death? That’s it? Indy, everywhere we go there’s a general implication of death. Do you mean death here, in the corridor, or death in a more widespread sense?”

From Ship of Doom by G R Jordan


As a man of faith I wanted to have Kirkgordon put under pressure, both from the outside darkness but also from his own darker sides. He has a wandering eye when it comes to women and when Calandra comes on the scene, they have to fight the immense attraction between each other while working closely together in front of her former lover Austerley.

The archer in Kirkgordon comes from myself and was a lot of fun to write, although I doubt anyone in the real world has handled a bow like him. One of the sides of Kirkgordon brought out to me by a reader was how harsh he is on Austerley. Constantly pilling on the banter and sometime abuse, his understanding of his colleague takes time to grow until there is a mutual respect and distrust in the same measure. Each knows the other frailties and the trouble that comes from them.

“Nailed to your cross then. I hope you believe in redemption and foregiveness too, Havers?”

From Crescendo! by G R Jordan

Ultimately, I think Kirkgordon is ourselves thrown into the mess of situations with all fears, beliefs, pressures and blind corners, knowing that we still have to get it done. He’s not the most powerful, most clever, wisest or even the bravest of the characters but he always gets it done, fighting his conscience all the way. In that I reckon he’s like a lot of people on this earth, albeit his demons tend to jump out of the ground at him.

Check out Kirkgordon’s psychologist’s report here and see what the professionals at SETAA think of him. Or for the books check out my shop and find Kirkgordon for yourself!

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Better to tell a Story or Write a Story 

In the forthcoming year there’s going to be a slight change in the way that I produce my books. Actually it’s a pretty fundamental change. Various authors have seen the benefit of dictating their books in a rough first draft before then editing. But the amount of writing produced has increased and enabled them to produce more whilst not sacrificing quality.

I have prepared for this step change by purchasing a dictation machine with software for my computer which will translate the dictation into written format. So far I have completed some tests with the device and have started training it to my Northern Irish brogue. And I have to say that first results are pretty good.

I still remembering having dictation on the computer some 20 years ago when the results made my words look like Yoda was on speed. Despite creating a whole new language, it was a disaster and I abandoned the idea of “talking” to the machines. But technology has moved on and hopefully it will move on my writing this year.


Last year I produced 2 novels, “The Darkness at Dillingham and “Surface Tensions”, both early in the year. Things got a little delayed after that but I also have my 3rd Austerley & Kirkgordon novel in the final drafts as well as a short story to go with it. There is also a totally new venture, “Dark Wen” awaiting more editing.


The thing about using dictation is that my writing habits need to change. I need quiet to dictate, so for the first drafts the coffee shops will not be so prevalent (this is a major disappointment). Even in the house it will require getting up early to dictate so as not to be disturbed. This will hopefully also fit better into the daily workings of our household but there is definitely a suck it and see aspect to it all.

The grand plan is to produce 8 books next year. This is ambitious but then we need to aim for the heights or we stay in the valleys. So look forward to more intrigue, fantasy, action and adventure, as well as some new characters, including a Scarlett O’Meara and a myriad of mythological beasts.

So this is a sign-off for this old year and hopefully bounding into the new year to bring novels aplenty!


Happy reading in the New Year and as always thanks for your interest!

Gary

G R Jordan

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What is it With Covers?

When you go hunting for a book, do you judge a book by its cover? And if so, in what way. I’m a self-publisher and so covers are important to me as they are the first line of attack in amongst a mass of books of reaching my audience. But I have a dilemma. Is the cover I like, the cover I want and which I think best suits my book, the cover that will draw the audience?

In short, no!

If there is a cover that is unusual, wacky or just downright weird, I’ll probably pick a book up and read the synopsis. The natural assumption in my mind is that everyone else will do the same. The trouble is that I always assume I am normal. Well in taste, though my wife happily points out quite often(too often!) that I am not normal in most things. The grapefruit yoghurt with mushrooms incident is a common example she quotes. Alas some people do not like adventure! (By the way my son keeps pointing at the cover above and saying “Mum-ma”. He has many people fooled.)

And so it would seem with books. Readers seem to want a book to have a cover that is similar to something they liked or know is already popular. Thrillers these days tend to have someone in shadow on the front, especially thrillers about gunmen or agents. Others go for the title in large lettering and some sort of fast motion behind it. And then there’s romance which has varying levels of couples in arms, fully dressed but big loving smiles for the gentle romance and naked but very carefully positioned bodies for the erotic tales.

I get what is going on but in honesty I feel very sad about it. Not that it will stop me following suit. To not do so as a newbie author would be story suicide. So expect my upcoming novels to reflect the genre. It’s all marketing these days alas.

I once bought a book by Clive James based on the cover called “Cultural Amnesia”. Simple but intriguing, I sought out what was inside. It remains to this day one of my favourite books. And yet I doubt I would have ever have read it if someone had simply said to me it was a collection of short essays about people of our time. I owe a debt to that artist.

And isn’t this a life lesson. Sometimes we need to go with the flow for good and solid reasons. But you know what, we don’t have to like it.

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Sarcastic Innocence – Here’s Nefol!

One of the joys about writing fantasy, be it dark, urban or whatever, is that you can play around with the “norms” of society in one facet of a person while keeping their everyday traits. In my new novel, “The Darkness at Dillingham”, I introduce a new character Nefol. She’s the daughter of a priest, only twelve, and a sarcastic bane to Kirkgordon. But she’s also a stronger fighter than Kirkgordon and better versed in the weirdness of the A&K world than he’ll ever be.

This allows for the normal dynamic of senior and junior to be challenged and often overturned. And in that I believe lies an important point to the real world. Too often we quieten down those around us with less life experience or who are weaker in body or mind. And yet we get the most honest assessment from these people, too honest for us more often than not.

When taking Kirkgordon and pairing him with Austerley, the insane but highly driven seeker of the weird, Kirkgordon has a perfect forum to unload all he sees as wrong with getting your hands dirty in the occult world. But lest our hero becomes too high and mighty, here comes Nefol to show up his ineptitude and blast his fondness for all the wrong women! Ultimately the book highlights how paths to our redemption become blocked or at least sullied by others and that a little humility can help get us on the real path, the one so rarely seen from the mountian top!

image

Coming soon from Carpetless Publishing “The Darkness at Dillingham” the second Austerley & Kirkgordon adventure. Not read the wild ride that is “Crescendo!”, the first A&K adventure then you can pick it up here.