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Alpha has been a nightmare to write. Some stories spring, fully formed, from the pen; others must be cobbled painstakingly together, a patchwork quilt whose stitches come undone the moment they are sewed. The first incarnation of this story-turned-novella was a disaster: I knew it, even when I gave it to my mother, my Ideal Reader, to look over. I found myself apologising for it, for goodness’ sake.

I’d never done that before.

She confirmed what I’d known all along: what was there was written very well (her words, not mine!) but it was depressing. It wasn’t finished. It wasn’t right. And I couldn’t put it out like that unless I wanted to be responsible for a second Lemming Sunday.

I set about re-structuring it so that instead of a straightforward telling of Dark’s past, it became the story of how he bonded with the twelve-year-old Stryke by the sharing of his history, and how Stryke really learned to be a man by virtue of the trust the older boy put in him. It’s also a good foundation, I hope, for a lot of things that will feature in Out of Egypt.Nothing I wrote before has been discarded, but now it’s only a part of the tale, and for the past few months I’ve had to knuckle down and write the frame through which this older material would be seen. And it really wasn’t as easy as that sounds!

I think I’m happy with it, this time. It’s not quite done, but it’s very close – in fact, I’m hoping to finish it this month (if the bloody horrible weather lets me, lol). I’m glad because the heat has set me back on Out of Egypt a little (more on that another time) and I would love to be able to offer this, completely free, to keep people going in the meantime. I’m not sure if and how I can get it on Amazon as a free title, since KDP sets a minimum list price; but it will be available in every format, including the Kindle .mobi, from Smashwords and any other retailer that allows free titles (I’m not sure if they all do?). It will also be available directly from in every format I can think of, barring clay tablets or carrier pigeon. The only exception to the “free” status will be the paperback edition, but that will be at cost price with no mark-up for me.

The follow-up, I can also reveal, will be the short story Declaration, in which medical intern Stryke meets a young girl about to lose her leg after a motorcycle accident . . . and has to decide between keeping the Temple’s secrets and saving the life of a patient he is coming to love.

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