Posted on Leave a comment

It’s Right Windy!

This week the weather on the Hebridean island where I reside has been, as a guest at my wedding once commented, right windy. We’ve seen the power of nature once again up close as causeways were closed, and roads and streets flooded. Thankfully everyone seems to have stayed safe.


Living with the more extreme weather up here becomes part of life. I belong to an archery club who, if we shot outdoors at this time of year, would have to shoot sideways to let the arrow return to the target. We cancel meetings when the conditions look rough and non-essential travel is not advised.

Here’s a few youtube clips to give you a flavour.


I’m currently writing my second Highland & Islands Detective novel and the extremities of the weather are going to feature quite heavily. We’re on the Black Isle this time but with winter comes snow, sometimes in a mere dusting, other times in large dollops. The changing features of the season and the frustrations it causes make writing about the landscapes of northern Scotland fascinating. Linking them to the problems suffered by my two detectives helps bring a realism to the stories and gets past the simple picture perfect beaches and moors the brochures sometimes show.


Whilst I stretch the detail of how people misbehave in the Highlands, I never feel the need to “big up” the weather and its impact. For a writer, the elements and how they deal with the landscape and us mere humans give a tapestry to write against that is second to none. From water to land, snow to rain, wind to sun exposure, it all happens here in one of the most dynamic weather patterns there is. They say up here, if you don’t like the weather just wait an hour. And they’re right!


Change is always rife with the Highland weather and that means challenge, picking your time for whatever jobs you have and taking the moment when it comes. No wonder it paints a great scenery to write a story over.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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!

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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!

Posted on Leave a comment

Is Everything Better with a Mythological Beast! Why yes!

My wife was recently reading the tales of Greek mythology to our children and as we talked about the wonder the kids had over some of the stories, I desperately tried to remember the names of the various heroes and heroines. I also tried to bring to mind the origin tales of the mythical beasts that are a core part to these stories. Generally I failed but in my defence I have too many mythologies in my head and too many creatures of various shapes and sizes – one of the dangers of being an urban fantasy writer.

It seems that in our mythologies there are always creatures that are built on, but have surpassed, those that inhabit our planet. Why have simply a horse when you can stick a pair of wings on it and let it fly through the sky. Why have whales or sharks when you can have a creature that has tentacles to smash ships and drag them to the deep. We seem to need to that difference, that strangeness.

As a writer of fantasy I have to confess to making my own beasts up and delving into the mythologies of the cultures of the world for my next great beast. Indeed, HP Lovecraft decided that this earth’s horrors were not enough and those from a foreign planet were required. Tolkien wasn’t content with elephants and produced his oliphaunts. We thrive on the unusual and superlative.

But I have found one thing to be true in my reading and writing of fantasy. All the wonder of these beasts and their vivid and incredible backgrounds only ever highlight the one creature that is imminently more complex and interesting than these giants of fantasy – ourselves. Humans, or their derivatives (dwarves, elves, halflings, and more recently vampires and werewolves), are the truly strange creatures with their shades of emotion and actions, some dark, some heroic and some just foolish. But to highlight this complexity of character, we writers have to place alongside them that which is beyond the norm we are used to.

So, is everything better with a mythological beast? Well as far as fantasy writing goes, yes, absolutely but only to highlight that most complex and strange creature we call a human.

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Has Electronic Life wiped out Books?


I recently read an article about Jacqueline Wilson (link) and amongst the views attributed to her was that she believed that “Electronic life has wiped out books.” This seems like a strong statement but what is the truth behind it? According to the Washington Post (link) there has been over a 16% decline in adults who read at least one literary work per year from 1982 to 2015 from just under 57% to 43.1%. I find that quite shocking as the percentage in 1982 already seems low. 
Apparently there are more things to amuse us nowadays. With our smartphones we can surf the web or read our emails, play games or watch more television programs. I am a fan of television series and do watch a number of films and programs a week but one important thing I find with the cinematic art form is that while it may exercise your brain with issues brought to the fore, it doesn’t drive your imagination.

Surely imagination is the well spring for creativity. Without imagination our whole society would struggle to function. How would we develop, how would we grow without that capacity to think what would be and then working out how to get there? And surely books are the playground for that creativity.


I’m not saying that books are the only playground for any of the creative arts will do that. Sculpture, basket weaving, drama, embroidery, painting, etc.. are all pastimes that will drive the imagination. But when we simply hover over what I would call static detail, that which is fixed and cannot be changed, then our imagination will die.

I don’t think Jacqueline Wilson is totally right, well, not yet. But she certainly has hit the nail on the head with how things are heading.

Posted on Leave a comment

What’s your Favourite Book Den?

You love reading but you need to find that place where you can be surrounded by books, where you know you are in the book zone, the go away and leave me zone, the no disturbance zone, the promise of more books zone (and if you’re me the joy of having coffee on tap as well zone!). Let me wet your appetite with a few quality choices.

Sleeping bag at the ready and cosied up amongst all your books. Walls of books but I ain’t so sure about the light in there.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 7/10

 

A classy look and feel with the rug compensating for the cool wooden floor. Some good natural daylight to read with and a blazing fire to sit in front of – although that looks like a fake! And how do you reach those books at the top, I’d need Indy with his lassoe.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 6/10

Well the colours aren’t the greatest but there is a ladder here to get to the high books. Also a secret compartment which to hide those nefarious books (Necronomicon perhaps?). TV in case you want to compare the movie with the book. However not overly cosyand a bit dull really.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 7/10

Slanty! I really love this piece of furniture, funky and unusual but to be honest whats with these wooden floors. Cold, cold, cold. And that seat’s a bit bland to sit at, no recline option I think!

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 5/10

Yes, it’s /a library but it’s a blooming nice one. Love that staircase and the lounging chairs on the left. Definitely a place of quiet and relaxation but I wonder what their coffee rules are? And if you nod off and snore?

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 7/10

Bit of a couples corner and I don’t mean you and a book. Maybe depends on your partner, if they read or not. And those blasted wooden floors again.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 6/10

Now we’re talking. Who cares what else is there and I might even sacrifice the coffee for a cool beer! Unfortunately I live in the Hebrides so this is a total pipe dream. But it’s a sweet dream.

Carpetlessleprechaun Rating: 9/10

So what tickles your fancy here. Let me know by commenting below. And happy reading wherever you are!

G R Jordan, the Carpetlessleprechaun