What’s in a name?

When writing historical fiction it’s sometimes difficult to pin down names. Things change and sometimes the change is gradual. For instance I live in a tiny Yorkshire village called Birdsedge, or maybe it’s Birds Edge. No one really seems to know for sure. It’s currently in a state of flux and both names work. (My preference is for Birdsedge to be all one word.) When I first moved here in 1980 the village sign when approaching from one direction said Birds Edge, but the sign when approaching from the other said Birdsedge.

Confused? You will be.

An old diary (Adam Eyre’s Diary) from the 1770s called it Bursage and if you listen to some of the long-time residents they pronounce it something closely akin to B’zzidge, the vowel after the B being an uh sound that’s not quite E and not quite U. (A schwa?)

freddraw1The village doesn’t seem to have been known as Birds Edge until the 1851 Ordnance Survey map. That map was literally drawn up by teams of redcoats, often with no local knowledge. I can just imagine some sergeant and his troopers, with chains and tackle, arriving to measure the land for the queen. The sergeant approaches the nearest local and taps him on the shoulder: My good fellow, what is the name of this place? The local replies: B’zzidge. The sergeant looks puzzled for a moment. How do you spell that? he asks. Huh? the local replies. So the sergeant takes a stab at it and the closest he can come up with is Birds Edge. Thus the name is born, but all the locals, quite oblivious, continue to call it B’zzidge. Where did B’zzidge originate? No one knows.

Winterwood front cover-smallIn Winterwood and Silverwolf I briefly mention Wimbleton on the outskirts of London. It’s easy to assume I’ve made a typo because everyone knows it’s Wimbledon, right? Err, not quite right. Wikipedia says: The name is shown on J Cary’s 1786 map of the London area as “Wimbleton”, and the current spelling appears to have been settled on relatively recently in the early 19th century, the last in a long line of variations. But when did it change? I don’t know. It’s probably one of those gradual things, but there’s a fair chance that in 1800 and 1801, when my books are set, it’s still Wimbleton.

At one point my characters (in Winterwood) are riding through London. They’ve crossed London Bridge from the south and turned right, heading towards Wapping Old Stairs to meet up with their ship which is anchored in the Thames. They ride down St Catherine’s Street. My copy editor checked the name and stuck a note on the manuscript that said: Just a history note, it seems like (as you must have found out yourself) mapmakers from 1740 to at least 1840 called it St. Catherine’s, but back in the 1600s and then starting again in the 1880s, it was written as St. Katherine, and now’s gone even weirder to Katharine. I can’t figure out any kind of reason for this, but you’re spot-on with your historical street names! Whew. I found the closest map I could to the date and it seems (more by good luck) that I got it right.

Silverwolf final front coverMy editor also queried Kennington Gate, which is where my characters paid their toll on the road into London. Should it be Kensington? she asked – because that’s a name everyone knows. Nope, Kennington Gate is correct for the period.

I’m sure I have some errors in there somewhere. There are many traps and it’s impossible to avoid them all. Anachronisms are bound to creep in. Every author tries their best, but unless you are a historian expert in that particular time period, you can easily get something wrong. Sometimes you deliberately change things for the sake of the story. Other times mistakes slip in.

I was reading a popular historical novel by a very well known author and it’s set in the 1750s. The end of the book happens in London. A crowd gathers on Vauxhall Bridge. As I read it my blood ran cold, In Winterwood, my characters are on the Thames in 1800 crossing the river by boat at Vauxhall Stairs and plainly Vauxhall Bridge is missing. Aaargh. So I rushed to the all-knowing internet only to find that Vauxhall Bridge was indeed NOT THERE in 1800 (so certainly not there in 1750). Wikipedia says: Opened in 1906, it replaced an earlier bridge, originally known as Regent Bridge but later renamed Vauxhall Bridge, built between 1809 and 1816 as part of a scheme for redeveloping the south bank of the Thames. The original bridge was itself built on the site of a former ferry.

Another Whew!

Winterwood came out in February 2016 and Silverwolf is due in January 2017, so you can see for yourselves whether I’ve made any historical mistakes. Just in case I have, I would like to remind you that it’s a historical fantasy. If I can invent Bacalao, a completely fictitious island that sits in the middle of the Atlantic, then any street name in London that you think is wrong is probably wrong for a reason.

<Ahem.> That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Fantasycon-By-The-Sea, 2016

Grand Hotel, Scarborough, 23rd – 25th September , 2016

Fantasycon was… interesting. It remains the most writerly of cons with most panels aimed at writers and peopled by writers and industry professionals. Its progamme is hard to fault and there are lots of book launches and plenty of freebie books. (I’m looking forward to reading my freebies: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Guns of the Dawn, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, and Helen Keen’s The Science of Game of Thrones.)

I signed up for a couple of excellent small events, including the Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear one on being a writer.Meg Davis was particularly interesting on the process of being a literary agent.

The panel rooms were a good size (some of them in the Grand’s sister hotel just round the corner) and there was always social seating available in at least one of the bars.


The Grand Hotel was actually a perfect setting for a horror con (or an Agatha Christie novel), but it worked for fantasy, too. 365 rooms, 12 floors, four turrets for days of the year/months/seasons. It’s Victorian Gothick or possibly Victorian Grotesque. (Just check out the brickwork in the photo.)

It must have been very grand in its heyday, but now it’s being milked by Pontins. The maximum profit for the minimum amount of renovation/upkeep seems to be the way of things, so there are patches of damp plaster, broken toilets, lifts that don’t work (and when they do you kind of wish you weren’t trusting your life to them).

The lounge bar which still has glorious ornamental pillars with plasterwork similar to the ones in the Brighton Pavilion now has a row of fruit machines, and the corridor leading to the dealer rooms was jam-packed with re-charging mobility scooters.

But for all that was wrong with the Grand, the staff were unfailingly pleasant and you can’t beat it for value for money. The basic room-share cost £40 per person per night for bed, breakfast and evening meal. (Compare that to the £130 a night that I paid for a single room for the York Fantasycon, and that was only for bed and breakfast.) I’m surprised the Grand can function at all at that price. We paid an extra tenner per person per night for a sea-view room and a place in the ‘posh’ dining room. (Same food but no queues.) That was a good move. Our twin bedroom was tired, but functional and clean, and the view over South Bay was magnificent. Sadly the windows were so salt-caked that getting a photo of the view was pretty difficult.


Of course you could step out on to the terrace for a good photo opportunity. Below is South Bay at dusk with the harbour down below and the Norman castle on the headland.


An unexpected bonus was an enormous ‘afternoon tea’ in the Grand. Terry and I ordered tea for two. We should have shared tea for one. When it arrived, it was so big we didn’t know whether to eat it or ride it. I don’t normally take photos of food but this had to be an exception. In addition to the pot of tea for two, I counted: eight sandwiches, a pile of crisps and salad, four mini cream eclairs, six profiteroles, two huge pieces of cake (carrot cake and chocolate fudge), two mini cupcakes and two scones with clotted cream and jam. Price? £8 each. After an hour of munching we admitted defeat and took a plate of leftover cakes to our room where we had them for supper. The following morning there were still cakes staring back at us. With a cry of ‘Not for breakfast,’ the last few pieces went in the bin. Defeated by a plate of cakes!


I’m told that next year’s Fantasycon is in Daventry. It may be a sensible central location, but I doubt it can live up to the sheer quirkiness of Scarborough.


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Milford 2016

September is always a busy month. Milford takes up threequarters of it (with the prep, the actual event and the recovery time afterwards). I only had  four days at home before Fantasycon in Scarborough (see next post).

So… Milford SF Writers’ Conference is a one-week event for fifteen published writers of SF in its widest sense (i.e. speculative fiction encompassing science fiction, fantasy and associated subgenres).

We get togather at Trigonos in North Wales – within sight of Mount Snowdon – and spend the week talking shop, reading and critiquing each other’s work in progress,. socialising, playing games, eating and quaffing. If you want to know more about how Milford works, visit the website at http://www.milfordSF.co.uk and there you can find all you ever wanted to know and more, including Milford’s 44 year history in the UK and details of the exciting bursary for two writers of colour to attend in 2017. Bursary applications opened today.

This year the writers who attended were: L-R standing: John Moran, Dave Gullen, Terry Jackman, David Allan, Guy T Martland, Jim Anderson, Liz Williams, Jacey Bedford, Glen Mehn, Elizabeth Counihan, Lizzy Priest. Kneeling L-R: Sue Thomason, Amy Tibbetts, Pauline Morgan, Siobhan McVeigh.


We had a great mix of people this year. Everyone is published, of course. In order to attend Milford you have to have sold at least one short story. Some attendees are first and foremost short story writers, and others concentrate on novels. Several have sold multiple novels to major publishers on both sides of the Atlantic. People come from all over the UK and this year we also had one visiting American. (This is not unusual. Since Milford started in the USA in 1956, long before James Blish brought it to the UK in 1972 there have always been transatlantic ties.)

We blogged every day on the new-ish Milford blog and you can read what people wrote here: https://milfordsfwriters.wordpress.com/


Lunch at Trigonos

Trigonos certainly doesn’t let us go hungry. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are shored up by elevenses and cake o’clock around four each afternoon. The fruit bowl is always available and there’s 24/7 access to teas and coffees. This is a simple lunch. There’s always a superb soup, fresh homemade bread, a quiche or fritata or (in this instance cheesy jacket spuds) with a variety of fresh salads grown on the premises.

Of course, being writers, we also fuel up on chocolate, especially during the formal crit sessions.








Below, Dave Gullen, Terry Jackman and Guy T Martland at a crit session. They don’t look too scary, do they?

crit01Crit sessions are always good-hearted whilst being rigorous and constructive. This year I took the opening of my upcoming novel, Nimbus only to be told by everyone that it didn’t need the flashback… so I came home and began to prune. They’re right, of course. It’s another case of ‘kill your darlings!’

lake-4The surroundings are beautiful. This is the view from the main house own to the lake (Nantlle) in the early morning. The mist is rising and the sun is just beginning to burn through. There’s another beautiful day ahead. Of course, this is North Wales in September, so anything can happen, weather-wise.


Mornings are quiet. You can read, catch up with your crits, write, walk along the lake-shore, pop into Caernarfon (9 miles away) to ogle the castle or buy yourself some Welsh tourist souvenirs.

Here’s David Allan, deep in thought in the Trigonos library.

Milford is all about writing. I always come home with my writerly batteries recharged and already looking forward to next year’s event.

Milford is popular. At the time of writing twelve of the fifteen places for September 2017 have been filled and we already have five places booked for 2018. Because we like to encourage new people to come we always ringfence places for new writers up to Easter of the year in which Milford takes place. Of course it’s first come first served and those new writer places can book up early, too.



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Editing Anthologies – A Guest Post by Joshua Palmatier

[Digital]AA_4-25x6-75 (1)I’m often asked what it’s like to edit anthologies.  What’s the process, why do I do it, etc.?  The answer to why I do it is easy:  because it’s fun!

Patricia Bray and I started editing anthologies for DAW Books almost by accident.  We were at a bar after a multi-author signing with 7 other authors and everyone got joking around about doing an anthology about a time-traveling bar where Gilgamesh was the bartender.  Everyone laughed and had another drink.  I went home and wrote up the proposal and at the next World Fantasy con, I pitched it to Techno, who pitched it to DAW the next day.  And suddenly Patricia and I were editors.  We had no experience at it, but we’d both had multiple books published, so we knew the essential process.  Within the year, we’d produced AFTER HOURS: TALES FROM THE UR-BAR.  We did one more anthology for DAW—THE MODERN FAE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY—and then there was upheaval in the publishing world, along with the death of Martin H. Greenburg, and DAW cut their anthology line back dramatically.  I waited a few years to see if things would settle and they’d bring it back, but that didn’t happen.  And so, one summer, I got bored enough that I decided editing anthologies was just too much fun and I created my own company, Zombies Need Brains, with the intent to produce SF&F anthologies funded by Kickstarters.

[Digital]Were_4-25x6-75_Cover_w-Bleed (2) So yes, the answer to your question is I AM insane.

But really, it is fun.  I love coming up with anthology concepts, usually developed when Patricia and I are having a relaxing drink at a bar at a con with the creativity simply flowing around us.  I love inviting published authors to be anchor authors for our Kickstarters, and then hitting the “launch” button and waiting to see what becomes of putting that idea out into the world.  I love opening up the anthologies for an open call, where anyone can submit, because often some of the best stories come from those who haven’t yet been published.  Reading those submission is often time consuming, but it’s worth it, and you get to see so many interpretations of the anthology theme, twists you’d never thought of, and just downright interesting ideas.  And then there’s putting the selected stories together in an interesting order, getting cover art, designing the book, sending it to the printer, and releasing it into the wild.  Every step of that process is work.  Everyone step is stressful and often frustrating.  But in the end, seeing the anthologies on the shelf, seeing people enjoying them, is all worth it.  Since its start, Zombies Need Brains has produced two anthologies—CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK VS ALIENS (aliens invade Earth and encounter a steampunk society) and TEMPORALLY OUT OF ORDER (where everyday objects are somehow acting “temporally” out of order)—both funded by Kickstarters by fans.

And now Zombies Need Brains is ready to release two new anthologies, on September 15th, that I hope everyone enjoys.  The two new titles are ALIEN ARTIFACTS, about us exploring the universe and discovering objects that aliens have left behind, and WERE-, about were-creatures OTHER than werewolves.  Both of them were a blast to edit and bring to life.  Both of them are filled with stories from well-known published names in the field, along with brand new names we hope to see more from in the future.  They’ll be available in trade paperback and ebook, on the Kindle, Nook, at Kobo, and at other ebook platforms.  Right now, you can preorder copies on the Kindle (the other platforms don’t have preorder options).  But whatever format you prefer, check them out on September 15th.

SUBMERGED_FinalWe’d like to continue producing quality SF&F anthologies as well and we’re currently running a new Kickstarter to fund three new anthologies title SUBMERGED (SF&F stories set underwater), ALL HAIL OUR ROBOT CONQUERORS! (stories with robots harkening back to the 50s and 60s), and THE DEATH OF ALL THINGS (stories where Death is a character).  If you’d like to help us continue bringing brand new stories from authors you love and authors you will love in the future, swing on by the Kickstarter at tinyurl.com/RobotWaterDeath and pledge to the campaign!  We’d love to have you as a backer!


BenTateJoshua Palmatier is an epic fantasy writer with a PhD in mathematics.  He has had eight novels published by DAW Books, including “The Throne of Amenkor” trilogy, Shattering the Ley, and Threading the Needle.  He is currently hard at work on the third novel in the “Ley” series, Reaping the Aurora.  In addition, he’s published numerous short stories in various anthologies and has edited four SF&F themed anthologies with co-editor Patricia Bray.  He is also the founder of the small press Zombies Need Brains LLC.  Find out more about him at www.joshuapalmatier.com or on Facebook or Twitter (@bentateauthor).

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Silverwolf Cover Reveal

I’m so excited to be able to reveal the cover of my upcoming book, SILVERWOLF, second book of the Rowankind. Due on 3rd January 2017 from DAW, Silverwolf follows on from WINTERWOOD in which Ross, my cross-dressing privateer captain has to choose between the forest and the ocean, the living and the dead. The cover is (like Winterwood Cover) by Hugo nominated artist Larry Rostant. I love Larry’s work.

Silverwolf final front cover

Ross and Corwen’s happy-ever-after is short lived. Corwen’s family is in disarray, His father is ill, someone is sabotaging his sister Lily’s mill, and Freddie, his twin, has gone missing in London. Magical creatures are running wild in the English countryside, the Fae are demanding the impossible and the Mysterium is imprisoning the Rowankind.

Winterwood front cover-smallIf you missed WINTERWOOD
Ross Tremayne, widowed, cross-dressing privateer captain and unregistered witch, likes her life on the high seas, accompanied by a boatload of swashbuckling, barely-reformed pirates and the jealous ghost of her late husband. When she pays a bitter deathbed visit to her long-estranged mother she inherits a half-brother she didn’t know about, and a magical winterwood box containing task she doesn’t want. Enter Corwen. He’s handsome, sexy, clever and capable, and Ross really doesn’t like him; neither does Will’s ghost. Can he be trusted? Whose side is he on?

Buy Winterwood (N.America) / Buy Winterwood, UK

Pre-order Silverwolf: N America / Pre-order Silverwolf in the UK

More at http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk

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Thoughts on Editing

I thought I’d toss out some thoughts on the editing process – or rather my editing process because every writer has their own way of dealing with edits, and if it works, then it’s the right way. No two writers are like or follow the exact same process.

There are two phases of content/structural editing. The first is my own, done before sending the first draft of my manuscript to my editor at DAW. The second is the edit based on what my editor wants me to alter or add (more on that later).

Sheila Gilbert wins the Hugo - 2016At this stage I want to stop and tell you that a few days ago my lovely editor at DAW, Sheila E Gilbert, was awarded the Hugo award for Best Editor, Long Form. I am absolutely thrilled for her because she’s been in this business a long time and is vastly experienced and a terrific editor to have on your side. I value her input, knowing that it makes my books better, or rather, it makes me make my books better.

Where was I, oh yes, let’s start at the beginning of the edit phase. Imagine the first draft is finished. My science fiction books usually end up at around 170,000 words, my historical fantasies are closer to 130,000 words. In the past I’ve done edits that have been surgical strikes, i.e. cut, cut, cut, but now I tend to write a bit short of my expected word count because I know I’m likely to add during the editing phase. My publisher, DAW, likes long books, and it’s the fashion for science fiction and fantasy to be longer than romance or lit-fic. Once it was the established wisdom that the longer a first novel was, the less likely it was to be snapped up by a publisher, but the days of being advised to write a debut novel at a length of 80,000 words are long gone. Your book should be as long as it needs to be to carry the story.

So let’s take my historical fantasy, SILVERWOLF, the second book in my Rowankind series, as an example. It’s approximately 133,000 words, but when I finished the first draft it was 123,000 words.  I am one of those people who likes to do rolling edits. Every day I read through what I’ve written the day before, sometimes tweaking here and there, before starting the new wordcount for the day. (Note: a lot of writing advice tells you to just keep ploughing forward, never to go back, but that doesn’t work for me.)

Once the first draft is finished, editing starts with a read-through to give me an idea of the general shape of the finished book.

This first edit is a structural edit. I need to know that I have the plot elements in the right order, that the world-building is dripfed into the mix sensibly and sensitively, and that the characters are developing logically. I need to know whether the pacing works, or whether it sags in places. At this point, I ask a few beta-readers to try it for size. In the case of SILVERWOLF a couple of beta-readers said they got a bit bored between chapters 8 and 13, so the pacing was off. I agreed with them, so I condensed six longer chapters into four shorter ones, trimming out everything that didn’t move the story forward. That felt a lot tighter. I trimmed a bit in other places, too, and added a few scenes where things seemed to be rushed.

Then I gave it another read through and sent it to Sheila for her input. I know some writers resent being told what to do and what not to do by an editor, but I’m not one of them. Sheila has much more experience than me, so when she makes a suggestion I listen. She’s not prescriptive. She doesn’t tell me what to write, but she tells me where she thinks I’m weakest, and then allows me to fix it in my own way. If I’m having problems I know I can call her up to chat about it.

Different editors work in different ways. Sheila doesn’t attack a manuscript with a blue pencil (to be honest I’m not sure anyone uses blue pencil these days, though some editors send written notes) she reads it through and then phones me for a long chat, during which I have a pen and paper and scribble copious notes. I’m only going to hear this once, so I’d better make sure I get it all.

During the editorial chat for SILVERWOLF I ended up with seven closely scribbled pages of notes which (condensed version) said I should:

  • make Corwen’s mother stronger and more well-rounded
  • make Freddie more sympathetic and less of a total asshole
  • check out the genetics of how wolf shapechanging is passed on down family lines
  • work on the relationship between Corwen and Freddie
  • solidify the underlying reasons for Freddie’s problems
  • put a bit more background into the goblin way of life. What are their aspirations?
  • build up one of the antagonists (difficult because he doesn’t appear until 2/3 of the way through the book, although he’s mentioned earlier, so we know he’s a threat)
  • show a bit more of the Mysterium organisation and set-up
  • resolve what happens to Thatcher (a new character in this book)
  • work out how Lily got to be so savvy about business in an England where young ladies were supposed to sip tea and attend dances to find a suitable husband.

In addition to that there were smaller specifics such as:

  • Ross and Corwen should cotton to what’s happening sooner (at a specific point)
  • What’s a hand-gallop?
  • Why give [a specific character] his shirt back?
  • Would Dad really throw Freddie in the lake to teach him to swim?
  • How many magical creatures were released into the wild?
  • How many Kingsmen are there?

It took me roughly two months to deal with all that and the edit added, pretty much as I thought it would, about twelve/fifteen thousand words. There were some new scenes and some sections needed complete rewrites. I interrogated the characters to discover whether they were doing something because it was in character and a logical next step, or whether they were doing it for my convenience as the author, i.e. for the sake of the plot. There was one place where it was the latter, so I had to rewrite about four scenes.

preafrood I went through it several more times, a scene at a time, polishing and refining, and then polishing and refining again.

When I thought I’d finished I spellchecked it and then read it through, aloud. (This stage is important because things that my eyes miss when I’m checking on screen, my mouth catches when I try to read it out loud. If I stumble over a sentence, I need to check it again.)

Then I did a final check for deadwood phrases. These are words that – if you remove them from a sentence – do not alter the meaning. You probably have your own deadwood words. My worst offender is ‘just’ closely followed by ‘back’ and ‘up’.  Example: I’ll just go back and fill this can with water and bring it up to you. I’ll go and fill this can with water and bring it to you. Sometimes you might leave a deadwood word in place if removing it alters the rhythm of a sentence or changes the ‘mouthfeel’. When I’d cut my deadwood words I discovered that I’d trimmed 1200 words from the manuscript without altering the meaning of anything.

One more quick spellcheck and I sent it off to Sheila. With her blessing it went to a copy editor. It’s the copy editor’s job to change my British English to American, fix any clunky sentences, correct my punctuation (Americans seem to use more commas than we English are used to), and check my spelling. And that’s where the manuscript is right now.

The publisher produces an advance reader copy (or ARC) before the final galley-proof stage. Hopefully will gather some reviews by the time publication day arrives: 3rd January 2017.

In a week or two I’ll be doing the SILVERWOLF cover reveal. Watch this space.

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Gotten, Tannoy, and Trug

Another milestone.

I just hit send and emailed the manuscript for my fourth book to my editor. It’s 134,200 words long which is roughly the same size as Winterwood.

Silverwolf is scheduled for publication on Tuesday 3rd January 2017. It’s been through one editorial review (a content edit), but if my editor requires any fine-tuning I’m always happy to look at anything she might want me to change.

If this version is okay for her, the next step will be copy-editing. The copy editor changes my British English into American English, corrects punctuation, grammar and typos, and smooths out any clunkiness. I’ll be the first to admit that my British use of commas (or lack thereof) requires an American copy editor’s expert eye.

It’s also the copy editor’s job to make sure I haven’t used any anachronisms. I was very impressed with the copy editor of Winterwood, who even went as far as checking historical maps to make sure that I was using street names current in London in 1800. (I was, but it’s comforting to know my copy editor agreed.)

I know that some authors struggle against copy editors who rephrase things extensively. I’ve been lucky that copy edits (so far) have been relatively light, though if I’ve used a British word that doesn’t work for the American market there may be changes. I can understand why Americans might not get the word ‘trug’ (look it up), but I was really surprised to have the word ‘tannoy’ challenged in one of my psi-tech books. I do get to check and argue against changes if I feel very strongly, but mostly I appreciate the changes. I did, however, manage to revert my copy editor’s three ‘gottens’ in Winterwood back into something I could live with. (I appreciate the word is perfectly legitimate in US English, but not in the ‘voice’ of my English narrator.)

So while I wait for further comments from my editor, I’m going back to writing the first draft of Nimbus, my upcoming fifth novel – third in the Psi-Tech trilogy. I’ll be aiming at a first draft of approximately 150,000 words knowing that there’s every likelihood of adding another 20 – 30,000 words at the fiirst content edit stage. Empire of Dust is 171,000 words and Crossways is 173,000.

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