Starting about a week from now, and continuing for the next few months at least, the two existing books in my KESTREL technothrillers series will be Kindle-exclusive for ebooks. Paperbacks will continue to be available, of course, but in ebook format the books will solely be available on Kindle. This is an experiment, and I’m trying it for a few reasons. This does not affect any future/new book releases, which will continue to be launched on all the usual platforms.
This brief tale was written for members of this site. Membership includes a weekly newsletter with exclusive essays, stories, updates on my writing projects, and more. You can also take a look at my books!
Wednesday, 11th April, 1821
My dear friend William,
I hope this letter finds you in both good spirits and rude health, and I must convey my most sincere apologies for the unavoidable delay in sending it.
I find myself at last back on the mainland, and have dispatched this letter from a small town but scant miles from the port where I spent last night. Our ordeal in reaching it was considerable, and it is on that topic that I wished immediately to write to you, lest with the passing of further days it might begin to fade from my own memory. Committed to ink and paper, and thus shared with you, perhaps I can begin to find peace with the experience I have had. But you must wonder at my hesitant words. Let me start at the beginning, save to say this:
Those islands to the north are a haunted place.
I received an astonishing gift recently, and I want to share the story with you. When I showed my wife, it made her cry — more than once.
I’m a novelist. I’ve written two technothrillers in a series, with the third in progress. I have a background in tech, and I have a membership/patronage programme on my site, where kind readers can support my writing. I write to them every week, with a story or an essay.
On Thursday of last week, a mysterious package arrived. Heavy. Solid. But I have no particular enemies at the moment, I opened it with curiosity. And I saw… this. It’s a custom-built mechanical keyboard, and I do mean custom. Let me tell you more about it.
Friends, it’s time to reveal some info about KESTREL book three, following CHANGER and TOLL! As a quick reminder, the KESTREL series is a set of EU-based technothrillers, which can be read either in sequence or as standalone books. You can find out about the KESTREL series here.
Several weeks after the events of TOLL, the KESTREL team are still on leave when early one morning they receive an urgent summons. One of their own has been involved in an accident — or was it? Taking place virtually simultaneously with two other lethal cases of apparent bad luck, a common thread unites all three victims.
When Greenwood and her team discover that the deaths weren’t by chance, they find themselves up against a new and terrifying enemy, directed by a seemingly all-seeing mastermind who already knows exactly who KESTREL are, where they’re going, and many of their deepest secrets.
Nothing stays hidden forever, and the line between privacy and liberty is razor-thin.
I’m excited to reveal the title and cover artwork for KESTREL Book Three: JINX.
We moved to a new house last Christmas, and we’ve been slowly getting things sorted out since then. We had a big list of preferences and managed to satisfy virtually all of them. Private parking with adjacent space for visitors’ vehicles, a garden with a greenhouse and a deck, a park nearby for Whisky, a bigger kitchen with room to grow, two bathrooms, a large living room for entertaining and a dining area, a master bedroom plus a permanent and dedicated spare bedroom, an office for me, and a multipurpose room that would primarily be a home office for Lauren and a gym, and could also be an additional guest bedroom.
Having redecorated the master bedroom and the living room before we properly moved in, we waited until after the new year to completely redo the upstairs bathroom. Then we had a break, before redecorating the spare bedroom and getting it set up. Then another break, and we tackled the downstairs bathroom over a long weekend. A further break, and then during the course of three weeks we did Lauren’s office and finally my new office, back to back.
During that whole time — eight months — I’ve been working in the living room each day, using my iPad Pro in a Smart Keyboard Folio. Now, I finally have my own desk back.
Back in May this year, my wife Lauren and I drove through to the city of Glasgow to meet my father for dinner, then the three of us attended the local Mark Knopfler gig for his Down the Road Wherever tour.
When Knopfler performs in Glasgow, it’s invariably at one of the cluster of venues at the SEC, and that was true even when he was still the frontman of Dire Straits. The band’s final tour, which included four nights in the city in September 1991, was for the On Every Street album — and my father and I were both there too. It was my first Knopfler gig, and both my first and last Dire Straits one.
Each subsequent time we see him on stage, every few years, is an echo of 1991.
We’ve all had the dream.
You find out that you have an exam today, and you haven’t prepared for it. Or maybe it’s homework, or a presentation. Or your plane leaves in an hour and you haven’t packed, or even looked out your passport. The details vary, but the feeling is the same.
That’s mostly how this feels too.
Everyone seems to agree that the second one is more difficult. The second album, or the second film. Or the second book.
The thing is, you can only write one second book — because the next one after that is the third book. It’s dubious to talk about lessons learned from something I’ve done only once, and can do only once, but I’m going to try. By reading this, you’re just encouraging me.
My first book was CHANGER, and my second book is TOLL. They’re in the same series, which both simplifies and complicates matters. I can say now that both have been well-received, judging by every metric available to me. I’d had plenty of time to get used to CHANGER being out there, but TOLL is still relatively new to the public eye, being only two months old.
I’m delighted that it seems to live up to the expectations of the people who read its predecessor, and I’m also vaguely surprised — not because I ever thought it was a bad book, but because when you’re the one who wrote it, you can’t see it clearly. Releasing it into the world feels like a leap of faith.
I’d often heard about the nebulous difficulty of writing a second novel, and I put it to the back of my mind when I began working on mine. Maybe it wouldn’t apply to me, I thought. Maybe it was just another of those things like writer’s block, where it’s a slightly different problem for each person, and probably over-diagnosed. Maybe it’s just a lack of preparation.
I told myself all of these things, and I think they each have elements of truth — but there is a unique difficulty to doing something creative for the second time. It’s difficult to generalise, but I can at least talk about the challenges I faced, and some lessons that might be applicable to others too.
It’s been a little over a month since the second book in my KESTREL action-thriller series, entitled TOLL, was released. Lots of emotions are involved when a new book comes out: primarily relief that it’s done, but also some fear. Will people like it? Is it as good as the first one? Does it hold up as a story on its own, and not lean too heavily on the previous book?
I’m glad to say that the reviews are in, and TOLL has been very positively received so far. To those who left ratings or reviews, thank you. I’ve learned some interesting things from those comments, which I’ll mention below.
A month or two ago, I took delivery of something I’ve periodically had my eye on for several years now: a big, chunky mechanical keyboard. It’s the more modern and practical equivalent of a typewriter, and is absolutely an object of desire for writers (or programmers) of a certain vintage — so I had to have it.