Sunday, 1 November 2015

Coming Soon - Sapphire Sky

Sapphire Sky, the third and final book of the Diamond Sky Trilogy, has been fully written, edited and is now undergoing final checks for release in the new year.


The trilogy follows the story of Astrophysicist, Dr Emmy Rayne, whose experiments into astral travel has ramifications so powerful that the fate of all humanity is placed in jeopardy. Her adventure takes her from a secluded observatory deep in the Australian outback to the mountains of Tibet before finally ending in an epic showdown at the centre of a distant galaxy. Along the way she will redefine the laws of physics, blur the boundary between life and death, and unleash forces too powerful for any human being to control.

Books one and two are currently available to buy for Kindle or in paperback. Both are free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.



Order today on the following universal book links.

Diamond Sky
Emerald Sky

More of David Clarkson's books can be found HERE

Sunday, 19 July 2015

From the outback to The Outback


When I returned to the UK after three years of hostel hopping, I found the country languishing in recession. It took me three months to find myself a job and in order to fill these long days as a member of the vast unemployed, I began transcribing some of my hand scribbled travel journals onto the computer. I worked long and hard and dreamed of one day handing a bound and printed copy of the result to my  then girlfriend (now wife), Katie, as a present.

When a job eventually came, the writing seemed to fall onto the back burner. Then one day, after a particularly nasty shift at the office (I worked in a call centre dealing with queries from job seeker's, mostly regarding the non-payment of their benefits) I decided I needed to escape. I had to get away. So when I got home from work I tried to imagine the one place in the world that I would rather be. The one place in the world that would make me happy. The image that I came up with was the outback. There is no feeling in the world like the one that you get on a clear night in the desert, with the entire universe spread out before you in HD clarity.

Although I was not in the financial position to return to this most beloved of places, that did not mean that I could not go there. I still had my imagination. That night I powered up my laptop and typed the first chapter of what would become my debut novel.

Of course, there is more to a story than just its setting. I needed a plot to go with it. Being new to writing fiction, I decided to stick to that tried and tested rule of writing about what you know. This brought me back to my time working on outback farms and one job in particular. For three weeks I had the dubious privilege of "stick picking". This was quite literally a job that involved walking up and down a field picking up sticks. Perhaps not the most conventional basis for a thriller, but I had my reasons. You see, back on this farm, there was one mystery for me that was unresolved.

My fellow stick pickers were all backpackers, but our boss was a local. To give him is due, although he was certainly a rogue, he appeared mostly harmless. I say mostly, because all of us were pretty sure that there was something he was not telling us. One of my friends on the farm had noticed that our boss smoked the most tightly rolled cigarettes that any of us had ever seen. A habit, that my friend insisted must have come from time spent in prison (tobacco is scarce and therefore used sparingly).

Old Smithy never did tell us whether he had ever "done time" or not, but he did get me thinking. He ultimately became the inspiration behind my novel's villain; Rhett Butler (irony fully intended and woven into the plot). What if an old farmer in charge of a group of young backpackers was hiding a dangerous secret? What if that secret were to get out? What lengths would the old man go to to protect it? And so The Outback was born.

THE OUTBACK

Matt is an English backpacker in Australia. When he signs up to do 3 months of harvest work in the small town of Birribandi, he finds that drink, drugs and sex are just as easy to come by in the outback as they were on the coast. What he does not count on, is his new farm boss.

Rhett is a mean and miserable old Aussie who cares little for those in his charge and he treats the backpackers with the same disdain that he treats all things in life. Hoping to avoid trouble, Matt and his new friends vow to try and stay out of the old man’s way.

What these young travellers do not realise, is that Rhett is hiding a terrible secret and unless they can discover what that secret is, they may never escape the outback alive...

The Outback is currently on sale at $0.99/£0.99 for Kindle. It is also available in paperback.



Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Don't P*** In Your Wetsuit

It was the part of the tour I had been most excited about and most dreading in equal measure. My journey down the Eastern coast of Australia was coming to an end and I had arrived at Surf Camp, just a few hours drive south of Byron Bay.

I have never been a natural in the ocean. It took me 27 years just to learn how to tread water and even then I was unsure if I was not still sinking, just at a slower rate. So the idea of squeezing into a wetsuit and spending the day trying to balance on a plank of wood in deep water was more than a little intimidating. But this was Australia - how could I not give surfing a go?

Our group was unusually small with only 6 of us on the bus including our driver, Dale, himself a former surfing instructing. There were also two instructors at camp. I forget their names, so let's just call them Sheila and Bruce. Sheila was obviously in charge, and of all the orders she doled out during the course there was one that kept cropping up again and again, though it was never explained - "don't piss in your wetsuit" she would say, as regular as the tides.

The first session did not go too badly. I did not manage to stand up on the board, but the most important thing was that I did not drown and the experience was still fun, largely due to Dale entertaining us with his headstands performed mid wave. By the time we got back to camp for drinks around the fire, everyone was in high spirits. Everyone that is, except for Sheila and Bruce.

Bruce had only just returned from an extended vacation in the 'Top End' and I caught the tail of a conversation he shared with Sheila when they thought none of us backpackers were within earshot.

'Are those two dolphins still hanging around?' asked Bruce. 'There's no better feeling than sharing a wave with nature's best swimmers snapping at your heels.'

Sheila went pale. It was the first time I'd seen spirit dip all day.

'They've gone,' she told him. 'They left when the pointer moved in. I haven't seen them since.'

Bruce's eyes widened.

'You've told them about the wetsuits, haven't you?'

'It was the first thing I told them,' she replied.

'Well, we better remind them. You know, to be safe.'

They then both turned to the 5 of us gathered around the campfire and said in unison; 'Guys, whatever you do, don't piss in your wetsuits.'

The next morning I was sat on my board about 20 metres from shore with Sheila next to me. I desperately needed to relieve myself. I was tempted to defy the rule just go then and there, but something about that conversation I overhead the night before was niggling at my brain.

'What's a pointer?' I asked. The term was completely alien to me. I thought maybe it was a type of boat. If fishermen were throwing down nets close by, I could understand why the dolphins weren't hanging around.

'Why do you ask?' replied Shelia, glancing nervously over her shoulder.

'It's something I heard you and Bruce talking about last night. Just before you reminded us for the one hundredth time not to piss in our wetsuits. I should warn you that I may be close to breaking that rule if a wave doesn't come along soon.'

I laughed. Sheila didn't.

'DO NOT PISS IN YOUR WETSUIT,' she said, much more firmly than usual. 'I cannot stress how important this is.'

'Are you that worried about hygiene?' I asked, 'because we're in the water and we rinse the suits thoroughly when we get back anyway.'

'A pointer is what you will know as a Great White Shark,' she said.

This time I was the one looking nervously over my shoulder, searching the depths below for that tell tale shadow. The shore had never seemed further away.

'There's a great white shark here?' I asked, incredulously.

'Yes, and it can detect just one drop of bodily fluid in the ocean from miles away. Blood or piss, it really doesn't matter.'

I felt like throwing up. No doubt it would smell that too. Why had they let us put ourselves in such danger? It seemed that dolphins really are smarter than humans.

'Where's this shark now?' My biggest fear was that it was between myself and the shore. If that was the case, I had no chance.

'Sleeping,' said Sheila. 'It's feeding territory stretches out about 30km along the cost and it's unlikely to come in closer than 3km to the shore. Best not to tempt it though. It could cover that distance quicker than you could swim to the beach.'

Thirty seconds later, the wave came and I rode it all the way to the sand standing on my feet.

If there is a moral to this tale, then I guess it is to never ignore advice that has been given. You do not necessarily have to follow said advice, but always find out the reason for the advice before deciding if it is worth following. That and never, under any circumstances, should you ever piss in your wetsuit.


If you found this post interesting, why not sign up to join my blog using one of the tools on the sidebar to the right. You can also check out my three published novels The OutbackStealing Asia and Diamond Sky. All three are available as ebooks and paperbacks at Amazon.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Applying the Page 99 Test

I recently came across a book promotion website, which rather than posting samples from the beginning of books, posted the 99th page. The logic being that this puts the reader straight into the middle of the action and provides them with a truer representation of what to expect from a story than they would get from reading the first few lines. Having been let down by several books with strong openings, I was intrigued.

When it comes to the books that I have written, I was a little nervous about putting them to the page 99 test. My biggest fear was that using a random sample could bring up a passage that is incomprehensible when rendered out of context. Worse still, what if it brought up a major spoiler? Whilst page 99 is unlikely to give away too much about the plot as a whole, reading it could reveal details that affect the opening section.

I loaded my novel, Stealing Asia, onto my Kindle and used the navigation menu to take me straight to page 99. Suffice to say, I need not have worried. Apart from the first line, which was a run on from a sentence on the preceding page, I was presented with a very neat and clear little scene that alluded to, without actually spoiling, a much grander and more exciting part of the story.

Here is the passage with the first line removed.

      ‘Thank you,’ I said, placing my arm around her shoulders.
      ‘For what?’ she replied.
      ‘For saving my life.’
      ‘I suppose this makes us even now.’
      ‘Hardly; I’d gladly take a hundred muggers over one tiger shark any day.’
      ‘They were both sharks. The only difference was that one had a gun and the other had teeth.’
     She was right. I held her tightly and we said no more for the rest of the journey. Everybody was tired when we got back to shore and no one felt in the mood for socialising. The only exception was Esteban, who persuaded Manu to stay and have a beer with him. I guess he knew that I wanted to spend time with Asia as he did not invite me to join them. The other couples stayed in their beach huts and Asia and I did the same. When we got inside, we lay down on the bed and just held each other. For once, sex was not at the forefront of my mind.


Alternatively, here is page 1:

Travelling is supposed to be easy. People join the trail all the time. It is simply a matter of bumping into them in the right place and at the right moment.
      A hostel dorm room, a crowded bar; anyplace can provide the backdrop to an unexpected bringing together of kindred spirits. You could find a drinking buddy for the night or make a lifelong friend. Who knows? The whole world is waiting for you and all you have to do in return is simply show up. At least that is how it should be. You see, sometimes the timing is just not quite there.
      It was the third time I had been to that particular bar. On both prior occasions I had been left to drink alone. This was not by my choosing. I tried to start conversations with people who I presumed to be of a similar age and in a similar situation, but without success. The biggest problem seemed to be the language barrier. It felt like I was the only English speaker in that part of town. Every person I spoke to possessed a different native tongue and we would never progress past the most basic of pleasantries.


Taken purely on a page against page basis, 99 is the clear winner. It both introduces the stories central protagonists and establishes that they are in a relationship as well as hinting at the level of peril they will face. From this excerpt we can see that the story contains elements of both action and romance. Page 1, on the other hand, simply gives us the voice of the narrator and establishes the unfamiliar exotic setting he has found himself within. Taken on its own, this could be the beginning to anything from a travel journal to an action thriller. The reader would need to carry on with the chapter to get as much information as they did from the single 99th page. If they did so, they would be introduced to the heroine as the narrator rescues her from the mugger referenced on page 99.

Overall, both samples would ultimately convey the same information, but it is page 99 that does it most effectively as it does on a single page what the beginning takes a whole chapter to do. Maybe this is just my style, but when reading I always prefer to be given a proper introduction to characters rather than being thrown directly into an action sequence. There is a fine line separating intrigue and confusion, but the outcomes of each differ wildly and only one of them is good. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more common for books to have confusing openings as publishers try to dazzle with a frenetic first few paragraphs instead of actually providing a credible beginning that serves as an introduction to the story. Therefore, substituting page 99 for the beginning seems like the ideal compromise.


StealingAsia is currently available for Kindle or in paperback at most online book retailers.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Diamond Sky Trilogy Covers Reveal

When I started writing, I never intended to write a series. I had half a dozen or so novel ideas and each one represented an individual, standalone story. It was only after completing my third published novel, DIAMOND SKY, that I realised there was a great deal more story waiting to be explored with this particular set of characters. Diamond Sky is now a trilogy and though each novel is very distinctive and unique in its plot/themes, there is a wider reaching story arc running through all three books that I am really pleased with.

Of course, having a consistent arc is not the only essential ingredient of producing a successful series. The trilogy also needs to be easily recognisable as a brand, and this is where the cover art is so important. The original artwork for Diamond Sky was as follows:


Like with all of my published books, I designed the artwork using a photograph taken by me as opposed to purchasing a stock picture. At the time I was not thinking about any future consistency regarding the trilogy, and when it came to designing the covers for the sequels, this did pose problems and amendments were needed. Next is the updated 'Trilogy' cover for the novel:


As you can see, it is the same basic design but with two distinct changes. Both of which are necessary in order to create a brand or theme for the trilogy. Firstly, I added the subtitle "Book I of the DIAMOND SKY trilogy". The next, more subtle change, is in the background to the title. I removed the clouds and added a dense cluster of stars, which can also be seen reflected in the title. This fits better with the tone of the book, but also creates a common theme for the covers that follow.


Again, the covers reflect the individual themes. Emerald Sky is largely set among the Himalayas* and the "green mist" first referenced in the first novel plays a major part. Likewise, Sapphire Sky deals strongly with the issue of using the astral technology for space exploration** and a blue coloured Neutron star plays a significant role. Most important, however, is that the three covers are clearly related in everything from title to image and colour.



DIAMOND SKY is currently available for Kindle at Amazon or in paperback at most major online book retailers. EMERALD SKY and SAPPHIRE SKY are scheduled for release in Spring/Autumn of 2015.

*I stated earlier that I use my own photographs in the cover artwork. Having never been to the Himalayas, the image is actually a distorted image of Mt Cook in New Zealand's Southern Alps.

**Nor have I ever been to outer space. Sapphire Sky's cover does not use a base image. The star cluster and astral trails are purely overlay effects that are available for free with any good online photo editor.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Finding Lost Dreams Hidden in a Box

Shortly after leaving university I took my first full time job. It was in a bank. On the first day at work we had an ice breaker session where we got to know the other new starters. There were about a dozen of us. Almost all graduates. One, with a law degree from Oxford. All for a minimum wage admin job (prospects for graduates were actually better in those days too). The task was to say a bit about yourself and where you ultimately saw your career heading. Like everybody else, I did not intend to stay at the bank and confidently declared that one day I would become a writer.

I worked at the bank for over four years before eventually having a mini breakdown and running away to the other side of the world! At some point during those wasted years I forgot all about wanting to write. In fact, even ten years later when I had rekindled my passion and begun working on my first novel, I was still unable to recall that early dream, and more importantly, what I had been doing at the time to make it a reality.

Then last Christmas when I was home for the holidays, I was searching through some old boxes looking for my uni coursework to give to my sister in law (she is now studying the same course) when I came across a file full of unexpected papers. There were plot outlines for numerous short stories and two novels, a comprehensive list of character bios for the sitcom I planned to write (yes, really) and a few sheets filled with a pretty cool stream of consciousness exercise I was doing to expand my imagination. All of it I had completely forgotten about. In fact, it took several readings of everything before I was even convinced that it was my work.

For the most part, much of the material is completely unusable. My passions and interests are very different now to what they were at twenty two. Finding this stash did, however, make it clear that in some way, I am destined to write. Even during my “lost” years, I was a constant day dreamer. Always letting my mind drift away to a different place. Never focussed on what I was doing at the time. I may be completely different to the young man I once was, but the need to create stories remains unchanged.

Below is the beginning to what would have been the first chapter to one of the novels. I think it was originally intended to be a vampire story (long before vampire stories were briefly cool, and then completely overdone, and then uncool again). It is rough and parts now make me cringe, but it was also my very first (albeit short lived attempt at writing a novel)

*** 

Untitled

Connor looked up at the world. He had no other choice. When you are flat on the ground, up is the only place you can look. As you do, perspective begins to distort and mocks the laws of physics. The whole world extends away from you, only to merge at a single point a million miles distant, yet right beneath your fingertips. The sky becomes a vast ocean, and the buildings its islands. Connor’s assailant is fifty feet tall. A monolith whose leg is bearing swiftly toward him like an archaic battering ram of old.

If he is to make it through this encounter, Connor must regain his bearings fast. His reactions must be perfect. There is no time to second guess. As the blow strikes, he thrusts his arms out toward it. Feeling the momentum, he quickly takes control of it. Redirecting the danger away, he springs effortlessly to his feet, displaying the kind of medal-winning agility that only the boldest of athletes can command.

For the first time, Connor has a clear view of his attacker. It is no more than a kid. A faded brown leather jacket that looks as though it has been backed over by a double decker bus, accommodates a broad yet emaciated frame. Gradual deterioration from months of drug abuse, Connor wonders. A freshly carved scar, not more than a couple of days old, adorns the youth’s face. Now on an equal footing, the youth slowly begins to back down the alleyway, toward the open street, goading his victim at each step. Connor sees his chance. He launches himself toward his foe, frenzied and uncontrolled. This is a mistake.

Just feet away from administering that vital blow, a blinding light stops him dead in his tracks. Stunned and disorientated, he identifies the source of the illumination too late. The car clips him side on, knocking him hard against the graffiti emblazoned walls of the alleyway. As his sense return, he can just make out the vehicle reversing to line up a second run.

‘What kept you? He almost got away,’ barks the youth as he clambers into the passenger seat, his fingers taking a firm grip on the dashboard.

‘You were supposed to draw him out of the alley. We go in too far after him and I’m in serious danger of fucking a fender.’ The driver is now beginning to wish she had opted for the idea of using a stolen car, but this being their first attempted murder they had been left wanting in foresight.

‘Fuck it! Just go in after him. We’ve gotta do this now or else I’m fucking dead, d’ya hear?’ He grabs the wheel from her, steering the vehicle back towards the alleyway.

‘Jesus, Rick! Do you want to kill the two of us too?’ She wrestles control back of the car as they speed towards their stricken target.

Clinging to the side of the alley walls to support his near useless legs, Connor sees no other alternative. As the car hits him a second time, he is prepared. His leap is timed to perfection. Rolling onto the bonnet as the car screeches to a halt just inches from the concrete wall at the end of the alleyway, he clambers onto the car’s roof. It is a sea green Ford. The roof is not sturdy under his feet, but with the extra height of the car he can make it over the wall no problem. Landing on the other side, the pain in his leg becomes more apparent. He manages four, no five steps before falling helplessly to the ground. The scene takes on that now familiar foreboding as to one who looks up at the world.

This second alley is larger than the last. A rusted fire escape extends down on to a green trash skip. Overflowing with garbage, it appears some time since it was last emptied. A black Tom in the corner acknowledges Connor’s entrance with a shrill cry before dashing away to go about its nightly scavenge elsewhere.

Connor quickly surveys his surroundings for any form of salvation. In the movies the fire escape would make for the perfect means of release. This is not the movies. Considering the ladder is folded up a good fifteen feet in the air, it does not appear to be an option. A superhuman could not make that jump, let alone a cripple with one good leg.

Connor looks down at his battered leg.

‘Fuck!’ The torn shreds of his jeans peel away, agonisingly revealing a putrid cocktail of mangled flesh and muscle.

He knows it is only a matter of time before they find him again. The skip holds the only possibility of salvation. If he can remain hidden until nightfall, that is. Using what little strength he has left in his arms, he pulls himself towards it. The damp on the ground enables his limp legs to slide more easily through the dirt. There is maybe three quarter of a foot’s clearance underneath. It will have to do. As he takes refuge under the bin, Connor, like any man facing certain death, begins to dwell upon what events had conspired to hand him such a cruel fate. His mind casts back to a girl, the most beautiful he had ever seen. It seemed an age now, he thought. A different time. A different place. A different world...

*** 


And that was as far as I got before life (more specifically, a soul crushing day job) got in the way. In the intervening years I not only forgot what I had written, but I even forgot that I had wanted to be a writer in the first place. Going forward, that is something that I must never allow to happen again.



Sunday, 4 January 2015

Flying and Failing Exams - 2 Things That Led Me To Becoming a Writer

When I was younger I used to dream that I was flying. Every night would be the same. Well, not exactly the same. The scenario was always different, but at some point in each dream I would become aware of this innate ability, and then up I would go. Into the clouds.

I remember reading somewhere that flying in a dream represents the search for an impossible goal. Maybe I had lofty ambitions that were unattainable. This makes sense because in all of the dreams I remember taking off, but never landing. Whatever my subconscious mind was searching for, I did not find it.

Then one day the dreams stopped. It was as if my dream self had forgotten that I could fly. Or maybe I had simply stopped chasing the impossible and woken up to reality. This coincided with the time I left England to travel the world so it could also indicate that I had finally found my destination. I was content. Living the dream. But like any dream – one day you wake up.

When I returned to England the flying dreams did not come back. They were replaced with an altogether different dream. Again, the scenarios would differ, but the overall theme was always the same. I was late. More specifically, I was late for an exam. Sometimes it was English and sometimes it was maths (my 2 A level subjects. I actually did 2 maths A levels so the full course was English, maths and maths!) Sometimes, it was art too. In fact, it was probably art more than anything else. It would be the final day of term and I would be a dozen artworks short of completing the course.

Like the flying dreams before it, I knew there had to be a reason that my thoughts kept returning to the same thing. In the original dreams I had been searching for something. It was a longing, a yearning – for something external. These new dreams were different. This time the longing was not external, it was internal. Something inside of me was missing. From these dreams I deduced that I needed to achieve something before time had run out. Actually, achieve is not the right word. I needed to create something before time had run out.

At the time I was working within the Civil Service. In no other job would you find creativity more stifled. These are the rules, they are stupid, they do not work, and they will change for nobody. Dissenters will not be tolerated. You get the gist.

So with no outlet for my imagination at work, it was at home that I began to get creative. Since returning from abroad I had been typing up my travel journals, but this was not enough to sate my inner need. The worse the job got, the more I turned to fantasy, to fiction. I started writing a novel and the dreams changed once more. They became simply dreams. Random and incomprehensible as they should be.

Occasionally the dreams of being back at college return. There is a pattern to it too. I have these dreams when I have gone a prolonged period without writing. This brings me back to my earlier analysis. Creativity is an essential part of my psyche and when I am not fulfilling this need my subconscious mind punishes me. I am a writer and I must write.