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Kindle Unlimited: Why I Don’t Like It When I Should

Kindle unlimited in essence is a wonderful idea, just like netflix and sites like spotify it allows people to pay a monthly set fee and listen to as much music or watch as much tv as they’d like. It’s affordable and it makes it easier to find the things you want to enjoy. As a reader I think it’s the way the industries ought to be going.

None of the models are perfect. Spotify pays 70% of subscriptions to musicians but it does it based on listens over all not listens per subscriber so the money is pushed towards the sorts of musicians who have people repeatedly listening to their songs. Netflix pays outright for streaming deals and this often means it can pay way too much for some shows and not enough for others.

The one thing both do, though it pay a reasonable amount of what they get from subscriptions to the makers. Spotify especially have at least pegged the figure at a percentage that pretty standard for entertainment. Kindle pass on 70% of ebook royalties to the publisher/author when one is bought.

But that’s where Kindle Unlimited loses its appeal for me personally. Kindle Unlimited costs $10/£8 which is only a little more than netflix and it provides access to the books in the Unlimited library for free. It’s a great deal for someone who reads a lot. But the author has the raw end of the deal. The author only gets a share of an arbitrary pot Amazon decides upon 15 days after the end of the month (worked out by pages read of all books by all readers). There’s no percentage or total gross subscription revenue to give an idea of if this is even a fair amount and has the same flaw that the spotify model has in that it’s not a single persons subscription broken up by what they read, but pages out of the total of everyone.

On top of that Kindle Unlimited demands exclusivity of the ebook. It literally can’t be offered for sale anywhere else. Now in some cases Netflix also does this, but they pay more to get a show exclusively.

In the past Amazon has been heralded as the saviour of the author. Giving the author way more money per sale than a traditional publisher does and giving far more literary freedom. There’s whole new waves of fiction that exist thanks to what they’re doing and a whole load more authors making enough money to live of their writing. In comparison to ten years ago it’s a great time to write books (although still way harder than your average career), but Kindle Unlimited needs work, and I have to admit, I’m kinda hoping someone else comes along with a more transparant pay scale and competes with Amazon, because as it is, it’s a return to keeping authors out of the driving seat of their own career.

Sneak Peak: The Unexpected Coincidence

I’ve been working on a bunch of different things lately, trying to get back into the zone of writing and I thought I’d share the first chapter of the 2nd novella in the Mycroft Holmes Adventures series.

Mycroft took another sip of his tea from the delicate china cup Mrs Wintern had provided. It would have tasted perfect if it wasn’t for the lingering smell of formaldehyde. Sherlock’s flat never smelt normal at the best of times but his younger brother had a case and was experimenting on some severed body parts.

“It’s not that bad,” Sherlock said, disturbing him from his thoughts.

“What’s not?”

“Having to look over a crime scene for yourself.”

“Apparently not. You seem to enjoy it,” Mycroft replied, not sure whether to be relieved that his younger brother hadn’t read his current thoughts or annoyed that Sherlock had figured out the real reason he was there.

It had been a week since Mycroft had realised his own people were too incompetent to do what he needed and still he hadn’t gone himself. Coming to see Sherlock was always his last resort. Most of the time his younger brother was only too eager to go take a look at a crime scene or evaluate a suspect but Mycroft had found him in the middle of his own case.

Since Mycroft’s abduction along with Amelia Jones Sherlock had changed his tune a little. His younger brother seemed to think it was good for Mycroft to be in the thick of the action. He, however, felt as he always had, that it was far too much effort when he could get someone else to do it for him.

“You could get Amelia to do it?” Sherlock plonked himself down in the armchair opposite Mycroft. He had a smug grin on his face. He put his cup down on the nearby tray to buy him a few seconds to compose his voice.

“And why would I ask her? She’s hardly suitable for the task.”

“She’d be perfect. I’ve taught her plenty and I’m sure she’d love to help you catch the people who took both you and her. I’m sure the event was more traumatic for her than you, even with your aversion to getting physically involved.”

“Which is exactly why I would never involve her further. The last thing I need is a woman’s emotions clouding a delicate situation. And besides, I’ve not even seen her since. It’s not as if we’re even acquainted.” Mycroft rolled his eyes and hoped his brother would drop the subject. He didn’t want to talk about Amelia. Every time she was brought up he ran the risk of giving something away about their arrangement and it was bad enough that Amelia spoke to Sherlock often.

“Then I can ask her. I’m sure she won’t mind.” Sherlock grinned and got up again to go back to the kitchen table which was covered in laboratory equipment.

“No, she won’t have the time. She starts another book tour tomorrow and they have her signing all over the country. It seems the new book is a big hit.”

“So you’ve been keeping an eye on her then,” Sherlock said as he stared down the microscope lens.

“Of course. She’s an acquaintance of yours. For her safety I thought it best.”

“Perfect,” Sherlock muttered under his breath right before taking the specimen out from under the light. “I’m sure it has nothing to do with the novel, does it brother of mine. The one she re-wrote for you. I suppose you feel she ought to be thanking you considering how well it’s selling.”

“Nothing of the sort. I only know that part because she seems to have charmed Daniels.” Mycroft let out an exasperated sigh. “Every time I come back to the car he’s got one of her books in his hands.”

“Well, she is very charming. But if we’re done here. My case is waiting and I really have a lot to do.” Sherlock put his hand out towards the door and gave his brother another brief smile.

It was fake, and Mycroft knew he’d outstayed his welcome. With another sigh that was a last attempt to sway Sherlock into helping he got up and nodded his parting.

“Have a good day, brother of mine, and try not to cause an international incident,” Sherlock said as Mycroft was part way through the door. He rolled his eyes and ignored the jibe. It was meant to annoy him and he wasn’t going to give his brother the satisfaction of seeing his success. But it wasn’t the only part of their discussion that irked him. Sherlock had focused on Amelia much more than Mycroft was comfortable with and even worse, he was going to have to look over the house himself. He’d gone to Baker Street for nothing.

When he stepped outside the sun was shining and helped to take the chill off the late November air, but he knew the wind had a bite to it that reminded everyone it wouldn’t be long until Christmas. Not wanting to be out in such cold when wearing nothing but his favourite suit, he took several quick steps to the car and the door Daniels already had open for him.

“Back home, sir?” the chauffeur asked once he was back behind the wheel.

“No, Moffat Road in Thornton Heath. Number eighty-nine. And try to avoid traffic. I want this dealt with as swiftly as possible.”

“Of course, sir.”

Mycroft gazed out the window as his driver did his best to wind through the traffic and ensure it didn’t take too long to get to their destination. For a few minutes he let the details he picked up from the passers by go through his mind, noticing a young woman evidently having an affair and two teenagers who were about to try and rob a local shop. He knew they wouldn’t succeed or he might have got out his phone and sent a quick text to the chief of police.

When the people in the streets failed to keep his interest he re-focused his thoughts to business. Since his little adventure with Amelia, where both had been abducted from the Thames barrier in Silvertown, he’d been trying to track down the terrorist group responsible. It didn’t make it easier that the North Koreans and Russians appeared to be working together on this.

Of all the countries causing concern they were two of the worst. Russia was making threatening moves in Eastern Europe and North Korea was adapting to its younger leader. Like all people who were brought up knowing they would run a country the Korean was a spoilt brat used to getting his own way. Despite knowing all this, it didn’t help in finding the terrorists who’d tried to flood the capitol city. There was no guarantee they were acting on orders and not simply some extreme group of mercenaries who happened to have aligned goals. Whoever they were, they had plenty of funding from somewhere.

The yacht they’d held him and Amelia on hadn’t been small and so far they had moved house twice since Mycroft had become aware of them. Each time they’d sent someone into an estate agent with the deposit and several months rent in cash. On top of that, the first house Sherlock had found had been left in such a hurry that there was technology and money left behind. Most of the computers had been wiped clean but Mycroft had found enough information to know it was the right place. The police had completely bungled the attempt at catching everyone, alerting them to the discovery and giving them time to run.

He’d been praised for saving London, despite Amelia being involved, but since then the trail had been difficult to follow. Little head way was gained until his brother helped him track a lead to a second address. The address Mycroft was now being driven to.

Over half an hour after setting off Daniels pulled the car over to the side of Moffat road right in front of the driveway of house number eighty-nine. It looked worse than Sherlock had said. The drive had once been bricked over but areas had sunk while the bricks themselves had worn and crumbled. Weeds grew up in the cracks and a large pile of rubbish filled one corner of the front yard.

As Daniels opened the door he was assaulted by the smell of the rotting refuse. He wrinkled his nose up in disgust and hurried over to the front door. Before he made the six steps to the porch he’d managed to fish his skeleton keys from his pocket. Pretty much every door in London opened to these.

Once inside he paused in the hallway and surveyed the area. It smelt musty but nothing that opening a window wouldn’t fix. There were a few sparse furnishings in the living area and he expected to find the rest of the house in a similar state. A couch with old cushions sat near a coffee table. No television or music player of any kind and no lamp shade.

The curtains were drawn in every room, but all the doors were open everywhere, including up the stairs he could see to his left. Thankfully, the material hanging over the windows was thin so enough light from the shining sun still bled through to the rooms. So he could see the detail he might need, he pulled a small torch from his jacket pocket and shone it at the floor in a path to the sofa.

The carpet was yellowing and threadbare in several places, but traces of dirt from some kind of boot still lingered near the very edge of the sofa. Mycroft pulled an empty envelope and a small spatula from another pocket and scraped up some of the residue before sealing the packet and tucking it safely back. He could have his brother analyse the make up of it and tell him where it had come from.

A glance at the sofa let him know the occupants had put a plastic covering over it. There would be no evidence for him to find. Although he didn’t expect anything in the kitchen to aid his search he put his head through the doorway all the same and looked over the appliances.
A fridge and freezer combo stood on the far wall. He knew it would be empty but he went over to it and checked anyway. On his way back to the living room he opened the oven and the few cupboards but they were unused and dusty from neglect.

He sighed wishing this sort of process was quicker but Mycroft knew he had to be thorough. After decades of sending his little brother he couldn’t do a worse job.

With a sigh Mycroft padded up the carpeted stairs, using his torch to scan important locations as he went, such as the bannister and the walls at ankle height. Not even a scuff mark appeared beneath the bright light.

Each of the three bedrooms contained a single or double bed frame with a clean, barely used mattress. None of them had a single stain or blemish although he noticed the surfaces weren’t perfectly even. They had been slept on, but just like the couch the occupants had protected them from the transference of any dirt, sweat or substance.

He took his time to look over the floor around each one, hoping to find a hair or flake of skin, but he could spot neither. The bathroom was equally as unhelpful. The shower looked like it had been hosed down and the faint smell of bleach lingered in the air. Whoever was in charge of these men, he had them being far more careful than terrorists of their type usually were.

After two hours of combing the house for clues, Mycroft gave up and headed back to his car. Other than the small scraping of dirt he’d found nothing. It made him feel a little better about the competence of his own men as they’d reported a similar story, but it didn’t solve his problem. Somehow the terrorist cell was staying one step ahead of him.

Once he was on the way back to his house, Mycroft thought over everything he knew and had done in response to the recent threat. He had under cover operatives in Ukraine, Russia and South Korea as well as several working on the case in London, but so far none of them had found anything useful. He knew if he sent his brother to one of the countries the information might be found immediately, but the British best weren’t normally so ineffective. He also knew his brother disliked leaving London almost as much as Mycroft disliked being anywhere but the house or club.

He sighed and knew he would have to do some more digging himself. At least until Sherlock snapped out of whatever notion he’d got himself into over Amelia. She wasn’t ready to help with the sort of work he needed, that was something he knew even she would admit.
By the time the car arrived at his house grey clouds had pulled in and covered over the sun sufficiently to bring an early evening. It would rain, something that had happened surprisingly little for November in England.

“Have this taken to my brother,” Mycroft said as he got out the car and gave the envelope to Daniels. “Be careful with the contents.”

Daniels nodded and tucked it into his own pocket, ensuring it remained the same way up. It might take a day or two for Sherlock to get around to the experiment and then another few days for him to bother passing the information on to Mycroft but it was some progress.

Once inside Mycroft went straight to his study. He was late for his afternoon tea, but the usual tray with teapot full of hot water was there. The biscuits weren’t. He clamped his mouth shut over the desire to yell for some, knowing he had told his housekeeper not to bring them for a few weeks. Although his supernatural abilities gave him a younger man’s metabolism, he still had to be careful what he ate. If he wanted to keep to a healthy weight he needed to manage his diet.

When he pulled open the nearest desk drawer he noticed the thud as his spare mobile phone jerked against the edge. The light on the bottom flashed green to let him know it had a message. He frowned.

Only Amelia Jones had the number and it was quite a large coincidence for her to be contacting him today if his brother hadn’t followed through on his threat and told her about his difficulties. As he grabbed the device he started to think of all the ways he would punish Sherlock for the betrayal. When he managed to pull the text up on screen the lines on his forehead deepened even further.

Stage 2?

Her question gave nothing away but impatience and definitely didn’t give him an indication of why she’d decided to message him now.

Is your lack of patience the only reason you messaged? I won’t reward impatience.

Mycroft pressed the send button before he thought that his message sounded angry, but he wouldn’t apologise for it. If she chose to message him because of something Sherlock had said to her it would only fuel the temper that already simmered. It didn’t take long for her to respond. He flicked the screen on again hoping she had a good answer for him.

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound impatient, I just noticed that it has been ten weeks since you last sent me a message. As always, I await your instructions.

He exhaled and considered the reply. If Sherlock had prompted her she’d have said. Lying to him wasn’t something she’d risk when she was so eager to learn from him.

After leaning back in his chair he thought over her request. Ten weeks was a long time to leave her without a lesson of some kind, but he’d had little time to think about it since their last communication. It would take little effort from him to begin the second stage of her teaching and he knew just the person to start her off. He used his main phone to send instructions to one of his agents before typing a one word reply and sending it to Amelia.

Tomorrow.

The Wonderful World of Print

Recently both Sherdan’s Prophecy and Sherdan’s Legacy were moved over to the 2nd edition, complete with the shiny new covers. I’ve also recently published Sherdan’s Country, the third book in the series, and that has a matching cover to the new editions. While I try to get my books in print fairly soon after the ebook it sometimes takes a little while to sort out the logistics, but we’re finally all there.

2015-01-14 14.12.14As you can see the new set look wonderful together, and I’m really pleased with them. They make me want to work on some further plot ideas for Sherdan’s world just so I can have some more with shiny covers like these. It’s just a shame I can’t think of a really good idea at the moment.

As usual I’m selling signed copies of these myself, so if anyone wants one, drop me a message here in the comments or to my email address under about me and I’ll get back to you with how we can make that work.

Now excuse me while I go back to stroking the shiny.

How to prepare for writing lots in one month (or NaNoWriMo)

Yup, it’s almost that time of year again when a large chunk of the world wide writerly community goes crazy in the attempt to cram as many story telling words into one month as possible in the aim of having actually got their ideas out onto paper so they have something to work with and polish up, no matter how crap those original words are.

Now I’ve managed to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge the last three years running somehow (typically 50k words in one month) and I’m of course up for doing it again as it tends to be my most productive month of the year even if I’ve come close a few other times. I have found the best NaNoWriMo’s though are the ones where I actually put some planning in and knew what I wanted to write in advance.

I’m not much of a planner, in fact I come much closer to the pantser type of writer, but for November I’m much more of a planner than normal. Instead of having a few scribbled plot notes of scenes in my ideas notebook to go on and mostly ignore, for NaNo I usually spend the last couple of weeks in October mulling over plot details. Important character decisions and the main scenes where important matters happen or dialogue is said are the things I focus on.

This usually leads me to the plot points I’m not sure on yet. By thinking over the scenes and what might link them it forces me to decide on stuff that needs to happen that I normally leave until I’m writing the book. This can be minor details like what someone is doing in a scene while a conversation is happening or it can be a big detail like the motive for an action or even the entire plotline for a less major character who needs to be given more detail. It can even lead to me realising I need another POV character or something as fundamental to the writing as that. I also find it helps me do my research in advance. Knowing the science, history or forensics before the scene is written usually helps me imagine it that much quicker.

As a pantser I often don’t plan too much because I don’t want to take the fun out of writing, and I know other pantsers say the same thing about why they don’t do detailed plans, but whatever your method and whatever your reasons, to get the wordcount at the end, it definitely helps to have thought through enough that there’s no stopping to work out important details that could have already been fixed.

The final thing I try and do to get me off to a good start is harness the part of the book I write best. I know from my own writing habits that the first 25% of any story and the last 10% go the quickest for me. I love delving into a new plot and I love getting close to the end, so I harness this for NaNoWriMo, especially if I’m stuck. I almost always start something new for NaNo (the rules say you’re meant to anyway, but plenty of people cheat) and push myself to get ahead while writing that 25% because I know I’ll find it easier and it will provide me with some grace if I get stuck after.

I’ve also been known to give up on the story I started for NaNo and write a complete shorter work to give me a boost. I did this last year and wrote the first 39k of Sherdan’s Country before switching to write the entire 21k of my novella in the Kiss anthology, which I penned down in only 6 days towards the end. With the little bits I did in the few final days I entirely rescued my NaNo target and smashed it by over 10k, hitting almost 62k by the end of the month. Technically I cheated. I didn’t quite get to over 50k in one story, but I had a completed novella and was over half way through the novel I originally wanted to write and that’s a success for me.

This year I’m going to start with my Mycroft Holmes Adventures 2 novella and then when I’ve got that done, if I’ve had time to plan 3 I’ll try and write 3 as well, if not continue on with finishing Hearts of the Seas 2, Victorious Ruin. Whatever I write though I’m aiming for at least 60k. I’ll be blogging about my progress each tuesday through November for those who want to see if it goes according to plan or not.

Release day: Sherdan’s Country

The books is finally available, and if you were one of the people who pre-ordered it then it probably appeared on your devices sometime around midnight.

It seems like it’s been quite a ride with these characters and I’m a little sad to have finished the third book but I’ve always made it a rule not to write sequels just for the sake of sequels so until my brain can figure out what more might happen in Sherdan and Anya’s world that’s the trilogy wrapped up.

Sherdan’s Country concludes the beginnings of Utopia and continues the fast paced action and emotion fuelled politics around the new country and its leader, so if you’ve not grabbed a copy yet and want to find out what happens you can do so at all the major ebook sellers – Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Sherdan’s Country Pre-order

There’s only 2 and a bit weeks to go until Sherdan’s Country is available in ebook format.

The book is available to pre-order and you can pick up the first one free here if you’ve not got started on the series yet. If you haven’t read the previous two and don’t mind some spoilerness here’s the blurb:

With Utopia established but no longer under his control Sherdan finds himself with no where to go. Wanted dead by the British government and the new leader of Utopia, he must find a way to take back what’s rightfully his, but even his normal allies are wary of getting involved in this fight.

Can Anya keep him alive while convincing those who hate him to help? And even if they do, will the cost be worth it?

Sherdan’s Country is the third instalment in the Sherdan series and continues the roller-coaster ride of emotions and suspense as the super-humans Sherdan has created fight for independence and freedom.

The book will go live on October 24th at 1 minute past 12 in the morning PST which is just after 8am in the UK. If you’d like to pre-order the book and get it sent straight to your kindle, you can do so here. At the moment that’s the only type you can pre-order on but it should be evailable eventually on Apple, Nook and Kobo.

Branching Plot Novels: How-to

Otherwise known as a Choose Your Own Adventure, although that title for them is trademarked so sometimes they’re also known as a Decide Your Own Adventure, but they’re all forms of Branching Plot Story.

As most of you are aware, I’ve been writing my very own Branching plot novel and blogging it (see all the Angel of the Sands episodes if not) and I have been putting together the parts not chosen in the background as we’ve gone along. It’s not the first time I’ve written a story like this and allowed readers to decide what they’d like to happen next, but it is the first time I’ve tried to put together all the different possibilities into one file to potentially publish.

When I looked into how to go about making a branching plot novel I didn’t find that much information. I found quite a few blogs and websites that talked about the flow of the different branches and how they’ve evolved in the book that were published through the years, but little that went through how to design one from scratch, so I thought I’d blog about how I did it.

Left and up a little is a snapshot of the way I mapped it out so I could see all the branches on one piece of paper. According to the pictures of the others I saw this is a lot more complicated than most are, but hey, I like complicated. One thing I noticed early on was that I had way too much plot and far too many options. It really helps to have an idea of the end point and try to keep it so the branches come back to those points.

To keep the plot straight in my head as I built the tree diagram of the options I also created a word document with the corresponding numbers at the top of each page and an outline of what it needed to cover as well as the options and which number they led to. I essentially wrote out a detailed outline of the plot as I was mapping it, which is something new for me. Normally I have a basic outline not a detailed one, but I found I really needed it.

I also marked the sections on the tree where the same event happens but with variations, so I knew that all the branches had to eventually pass through these. Like a particular attack that happens regardless of everything that’s come before. Despite all my branches there are only 4 different versions of the attack and somehow all the branches come together at those 4 points and feed through. Likewise with a ceremony. All these are circles on the map and I’ve labeled them. In the picture you can see a few marked C, these are ceremony points.

The boxes are where it goes to another number in the tree but it’s too far away so I’m not drawing an arrow and making it messier and then finally the triangles are my endings. I have 11 of them if you count the two deaths. It was a few more than I wanted but I found I had to stop my plot sooner, so there’s lots of endings of various degrees of awesome.

So my advice on making a branching plot novel. Keep the plot fairly short. No more than a 10k story if you only went through one set of branches, keep your options to smaller numbers and keep bringing them back in towards pivotal moments so your branches are regularly trimmed down and don’t overload you. And come up with some sort of system so you know where the branches lead, like the tree I drew or your own equivalent. Also, if you don’t particularly like the idea of doing it all yourself, there does seem to be this handy software. I’ve not tried it but I have heard good things about it.

Lots of New

I’ve got quite a few new things to tell you all today. All of them very exciting.

As the third Sherdan book is about to be released the first two are also moving into their second editions and as such the covers have been re-done. So here’s the very lovely set of all three!

For now the 1st edition print books will still be available, but I’ll make an announcement when the second edition is available. This does also mean it really won’t be long until sherdan’s Country is available in both ebook and print form. The book should go live on Amazon in the next week or two and then be available to pre-order as an ebook.

On top of that exciting news, I also have the awesome announcement that I’m working on a collaboration with the best-selling sci-fi author Tom Harris. We’ve begun writing and I love what we have so far. It’s going to blend his fast-paced action style with my typical adventure with a hint of romance sort of feel to deliver an action packed emotional ride. It’s more urban fantasy than sci-fi, and has a vampire twist, but I’m sure you’ll all love it.

I’m also sure you’ll totally love Tom’s work. I’ve been munching my way through his novels in the Human Chronicles series and he’s just released the first novel in a new series, that you can find on amazon.com or .co.uk and pictured to the left. For today and tomorrow it’s discounted 40% so snap a copy up quickly. I’ve got mine!

I’m sure we’ll announce the title and all sorts of other exciting details about our collaboration soon, so look out for more info on that and Sherdan’s Country over the next few weeks.

Angel of the Sands: Part 13

You shake your head and look down. You cannot accept his proposal when you know so little about him. At first you worry that he might not react well to the rejection but after a few seconds he shrugs and picks up his chalice.

“No matter. It was worth my asking. Either way you shall lead our people to greatness.” Here he pauses and raises the drink as if to toast. “To a wonderful future.”

You echo his words and drink the wine from your own cup. As soon as it’s gone you place the cup on the nearest surface and get to your feet.

“I have had a long day and wish to get some sleep. I will return to my own tent now,” you say and give him a respectful nod of your head. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

The Khaad smiles in return and follows you towards the exit of his tent. He reaches his arm across the opening as if to draw the flap back for you but pauses, blocking your way instead.

“I understand your reluctance to marry so soon after your arrival, but I fear for you, Angel. The other Khaad’s intentions may not be honourable. I insist that one of my riders accompany you, just until you’ve married or joined the Khaadain. To help keep you safe.”

After hesitating for a moment you nod and accept his offer of protection. You suspect it might be the only way to get out of the tent, but it’s also an interesting offer. Although, you’re not sure what good it might do you, the extra person might come in handy some day, and might know some English to help you communicate with your slaves.

As soon as you’ve given him your answer he sweeps back the tent flap and lets you out. He follows you and calls up one of his dempair.

“This is Gragoro. He will keep you safe,” the Khaad says to you and then mentions something to the new man. He towers above you and carried several swords at his waist but bows a moment later.

“I will protect,” he says haltingly. You nod and thank him and then do the same the Khaad. With the pleasantries done you make your way out of the tribal camp and back towards the Khaadain. Unlike earlier, few people notice your passing and you have to rely on Gragoro to give you directions when you don’t know exactly where your own tent had been set up, but you reach your own haven eventually and step inside.

You’re about to sigh with relief when you see the fifteen slaves you’ve been given are lined up in three rows right in the middle of the tent. As you suspected you’ve been given so much that only a small walkway allows for travel except for the space in the middle where they stand. You also quickly realise that there’s no bed and they’ve fashioned you some kind of makeshift mattress from piles of pillows, all kept in place by the stacked boxes of clothes, jewellery and other assorted items.

“Thank you,” you say, knowing they’re not likely to understand you anyway. You follow it with a smile and scan their faces. A few return the gesture but most look blankly at some point in the distance as if they’re not really there. “I’d like to sleep now.”

At first, none of them move. Eventually one steps forward and bows, bending one knee as he does.

“Angel, I am, Jareen, the most trusted slave of Khaad Ventral. He gave me the great honour of learning the language of the Angels. May I be of assistance in instructing your slaves to do your biding?”

You nod, glad that someone among the slaves you own can understand you so well.

“This is Gragoro. I think he’s the first to form my own dempair,” you say, not sure if the term is correct but hoping it is. Jareen nods and the two men exchange a few words in their own language.

“I’d really like to get some sleep, I’m exhausted,” you say and smile at your new slaves. Jareen bows as do all of the other slaves and after a few words, all but one file out of the tent, leaving you with a teenage girl. She motions for you to follow her towards your bed and then helps you change into the nightwear you were given only a few hours earlier.

It doesn’t take long for you to fall asleep after all the events of the day.

***

As the sound of something glass smashing comes to your ears, you’re jolted out of your sleep. You blink groggily at your surroundings, confused at first, but soon realise you are in your personal tent. The metallic clang of swords hitting each other breaks the silence again and you hurry up from the bed and grab the nearby robe, your servant had placed nearby.

When you’re decent you hurry out of the tent and find Gragoro and Jareen locked in a fight. Both are yelling at each other and Gragoro hesitates when he sees you. This allows Jareen a chance to lunge forward. His sword goes right through Gragoro, cutting the man’s chest and heart open, but the slave impales Jareen’s stomach, sending blood flying from both of them.

Both collapse on the ground and Gragoro is dead before he hits the earthen floor. You rush to Jareen who clutches at the wound, trying to stop the flow of blood, but it does little to help. When you crouch at his side, he frowns.

“What happened?” you ask, not entirely sure that you want an answer.

“Forgive us, Angel. Both our Khaad’s wanted you. I shouldn’t have agreed, But your safe…” His voice trails off for a moment and he grits his teeth in pain.

You notice your slaves have gathered around and are looking at the scene with wide eyes, but you don’t know what to do. You’re no doctor and you don’t know who to trust any more.

“Forgive us, please?” Concern fills his face and he reaches out to you with his less bloody hand. “Please, Angel?”

You nod, not sure what else to do.

“You’re forgiven. Both of you.” he closes his eyes in response and doesn’t seem to notice when you remove your wrist from his grip. You have no idea how much longer he’ll live, if he’s even conscious any more.

“Make Jareen comfortable,” you say to the nearest servant, but he stares at you and blinks a couple of times. You try a few motions that the slave might understand but you get the same blank look. As you try another slave nearby they start whispering among themselves and ignore you altogether.

You begin to shake and soon find the young slave who helped you to bed the night before coming towards you with a blanket in your arms. Of all of the slaves around you she seems to have more awareness and less shock at the bloodshed. You smile your thanks. Not far behind her comes one of the elder women who helped you get ready for the ceremony earlier. Your young slave must have fetched her from the Khaadain.

Instantly she begins to bark orders at the stationary slaves and several of them spring into action. With them all hurrying about she comes up to you and takes your hands.

“I’m sorry this happened on your first night, Angel, but you are safe. We will take you into the Khaadain area. It is our most sacred and we can protect you there. Come.” Like a mother hen she puts her arm around you and gently steers you in the direction you need to go. You don’t resist, but let her take you deeper into the Khaadain’s living area.

She takes you to another tent, similar to your own and only then do you realise the slave girl followed as well.

“You’re in good hands with this one,” the Khaadain elder says before she leaves you. You’re helped into bed once more and left alone again.

You’re not as tired as you thought you would be and you find yourself thinking over your arrival with these people and all the events since. Although some interesting things have happened and you’ve met quite a few new people, you aren’t sure if this was the best way things could have gone.

You’re being protected by old men and boys in a small tent in the middle of a tribal nation’s sacred grounds. Even if you’ve not officially joined the Khaadain, you might look like you have, but events just seemed to lead here, and you have no idea if the Khaads will let you be or not, but you suspect it is going to put a damper on their interest in you. They may even go back to their usual nomadic lifestyle and leave you there.

Whatever the future brought you knew it wouldn’t be quite what you’d hoped.

The End

I hoped you’ve enjoyed reading the Angel of the Sands story. I know 13 parts isn’t particularly the longest of stories, but I found when I put the entire set of branches together up to this point I had at least 400 pages of story and realised if I ever wanted to put all the options together in one book I needed to bring this to a closing point and consider having sequels. To that end I’ll be taking a break while I work on that exact novel and get it finished and published. Then, when you can go through the many various options as many times as you like I’ll consider carrying on here.

Angel of the Sands: The book

I’ve spent the last few weeks, figuring out the plot for the rest of the story that’s been blogged over the last 5-6 months and I’m finally done. I’ve one very large detailed outline file for the entire branching plot novel, with all its glorious options, endings and variations on the plot.

The first thing I noticed was how large the file got. I had a rough idea of possible plot and the direction things would be steered but I’ve since realised it’s far far too complicated to fit into one single printable book so I’m going to have to have a series of them to get through everything I intended, assuming I can work out a way to write a book 2 with multiple beginnings.

Over the next few weeks I plan on filling in the outlined parts (I can’t imagine it will take me long) and then release the story as an ebook, so anyone who wants to explore other options that didn’t get the majority vote along the way can do so. There are a few differences between the parts I  blogged and how it will appear in the book, but it’s mostly the insertion of a few more options along the way.

I’m really rather excited about this one as there’s a lack of good ebook available novels like the choose your own adventure stories I grew up with as a kid, that aren’t really basic and aimed at children so hopefully this will fill a gap for others and not just me!