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Posted By Michelle Birbeck

There’s a lot of difference between the two types of editing that happened on The Last Keeper. One being my editing, the other being real editing.

One of the problems that became apparent during the real editing was that my editing had done very little. Sure, there were fewer typos than there had been, and lots of bits had been added to and even a few bits taken away. But overall, I was far too close to the work to be editing it on my own. I missed obvious plot holes and repeated words galore.

But one of the biggest problems with the editing I did on the book, despite the number of times I did so, was that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. All I did was apply what I knew, what I’d read, and what I remembered from college. It worked, to a certain degree, and most certainly improved on the original version of the story, but overall, it really hadn’t changed that much.

Which is where real editing taught me a thing or three. I was actually surprised at how unlike my expectations it was. For a start, it wasn’t as bad as I’d envisioned. Had all the changes that were made come back at once, I think I would have balked, but it was done in stages. Bits at a time over a few months, giving me time to process what was what and why things needed changing.

Most of what needed changing were things I never thought to change, things I didn’t know I was doing wrong. Like too many dialogue tags. And if I never see another ‘please revise this dialogue tag’ again, it will be far, far too soon (but thank you to my editor, Shay, for pointing them out to me!). On the plus side, I know for future books not to use them on every single piece of dialogue.

There have, of course, been some hard decisions, as well as some not so hard ones, but what I read at the end of the editing process what the same story that I read at the start. Its words had changed a little in places, settings in others, but the story I set out to tell was there when I started and there when I finished, which is what counts. It’s just told better and without the confusing parts.

Posted By Michelle Birbeck

There are three languages in The Last Keeper, well, it could technically be classed as four, but one word in German doesn’t really count. Fortunately you don’t have to be fluent in anything but English to understand the book.

The main language has to be English. And by English, I mean United Kingdom English. With all the U’s in place in words like colour and favourite, and the letter S in words instead of Z. It’s not that I don’t like the way the Americans spell things—when I’m reading books by American authors, I don’t tend to notice the differences—but one thing I was insistent on was the spelling. For the most part The Last Keeper is set in England, and to me that mean English spellings.

The second language we see is only seen for a small part, and that’s French. Being that Serenity goes off to France, there needed to be some French in there. Not a lot, mind, just a couple of lines. And there’s no need to speak the language in order to understand what’s happening.

However, the language that we see nothing of but hear plenty about is the Keepers’ language. It doesn’t have a name, but it’s based on a very real language called Theban Script. There were some changes between actual Theban Script and Serenity’s language, but essentially it’s the same. In fact, if you look closely in certain parts of the book, you can see an example of Theban Script. Feel free to go off and translate it.

And those are the languages, all very English friendly, because my language skills, unlike Issac’s, are appalling. I can just about ask for my favourite drink in French. I know about five German words, and I mess most of those up. But I can write in Theban Script fairly well.

Whilst we’re on the subject of languages, here’s a couple of extra language facts about me. I once called my friend Alice, and she’d told me what I needed to say and how to pronounce it. However, when it came to calling her and her mother answered, I messed it up so bad her mum thought I was a crazy person and almost hung up on me.

And finally, one about my husband. We were at a party one night, and he was in charge of writing down the cocktails we drank. In the morning we had to ask him to translate his writing. Because he’d written the entire thing in runic. And didn’t remember.

Safe to say, I’m sticking with English unless I have a phrase book handy.

Posted By Michelle Birbeck

There were a few options for the setting of The Last Keeper. These changed a couple of times during the writing and editing process, but there ended up with four that we see in detail.

Two of them are here in the UK and two are in France. In the UK with have London and Newcastle, and in France we have Lyon and Ferney-Voltaire.

Now, I’m assuming everyone pretty much knows London. If not, it’s the capital of the Britain. These days it’s a big city with lots of people, far too much traffic, and on the expensive side (especially to a lass who’s used to the prices of the north!). During the start of The Last Keeper, it was pretty much the same, but older—though I suppose it was newer then.

Second in the UK is Newcastle, which is about thirty miles north of me. It’s also a city, not as big but perhaps just as crowded. Both London and Newcastle have a nice big river, and both speak English (though the last one may be debatable if you’re a Londoner in Geordie land).

The whys behind these two are fairly simple. The setting of the first was just too perfect to pass up, and being that I’ve lived in the north for almost fifteen years, there had to be a setting up here, too. Newcastle also had an excellent setting for a few other reasons that will become apparent during the book.

Lyon on the other hand was picked because of distance. Both from London and from Ferney-Voltaire.

I’m always surprised that more of my writer friends don’t know anything about Ferney-Voltaire. It was, after all, the home of Voltaire. However, that’s not the reason I chose it for The Last Keeper.

I first visited Ferney-Voltaire about six year ago with my friend, and I fell in love. It is a stunning little place nestled into the French-Swiss border. There’s the Alps to disappear into, a whole other country to hop on over to, and it is just such a beautiful place.

Having such easy access to mountains and other countries was perfect for what I wanted, and it gave me the excuse to go back, which I did… twice. I am hoping to go back at some point, and I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to get away for a weekend, or a week, or longer.


Posted By Michelle Birbeck

There are five different races in The Last Keeper, and today I thought I’d share a couple of bits about them with you.

The Keepers.

They’re the stars of the show. Serenity is a Keeper, one of the last in fact. They really have one main job; to keep the other races in line. Be it vampires who are killing too much, witches drawing attention to themselves, Weres shifting in public, or us poor humans knowing a little too much. Whatever is happening, and whatever is going wrong, they’re there in the background, checking that everything is as it should be.

The Vampires.

These guys are the trouble makers. Strong, fast, hungry, they’re after human blood and human lives. But more often than not things get a little much and they end up stepping out of line and doing something stupid. It’s what they do best.

The Witches.

After the witch trials the witches went into hiding. Though they are rarely shy with their powers, none of them want to be on the receiving end of persecution again, so they try and keep things simple. However, there is one thing that is certain with witches, and that is their inability to obey the rules. Never tell them they can’t do something, because it is a sure thing they’ll go ahead and do it.

The Weres.

Hostile, volatile, and equipped with claws and teeth capable of killing a human being, it would be a logical assumption that they’d cause a number of problems in the world. Quite the opposite, though I wouldn’t want to cross one. There are five types of Weres, the Wolves, Cats, Panthers, Lions, and Bears, and they tend to stay in their own colonies, away from everyone else. But they do protect their own and their mates at any cost, even if that means slaughtering an entire town to do so.

The Humans.

Us poor humans are a bit alone in this world of immortals. With no extra powers and nothing to stop us from getting slaughtered it’s a good job the Keepers are there to keep everyone else in line. But occasionally we get caught up in the world of myth and legends, either by becoming the mate of a Were, witch or Keeper, or being lunch for a vampire. So we either live in blissful ignorance, get eaten, or find love in the strangest place. Not bad odds really. But I wouldn’t recommend getting in a fight with any immortal. We’d lose. Every time.


The Great Cats

Posted By Michelle Birbeck

At the start of The Last Keeper are two pages, one with a dedication and one with acknowledgements, and what I’d like to do today is expand on those a little and give a well-deserved thanks to some of the people who’ve helped me through from start to now.

My husband deserves the biggest of thanks. In exchange for numerous coffees, he sat and read the book from start to finish, pointing out mistakes and bits he thought needed changing. Given that he struggles with things from day to day anyway, I cannot express how grateful I am to him for taking the time to sit down with me and discuss, at length, the book.

Alice, who is mentioned, also deserves a huge shout out. Day after day she’s sat with me on MSN listening to me bounce ideas off her. And she still insists that she doesn’t do anything! Well, I know a few people who would beg to differ with that! I can’t tell you how many hours we’ve sat together talking out ideas and plot holes, not to mention her talking me down every time I’ve had a moment of panic over the last year! I am honoured to have her as a friend.

Prim, whose real name escapes me, as it always does. I’m looking forward to meeting him on May 18th when I have a party to celebrate the release of the book. Back in December 2010 he agreed to proof read my book for me, in its early form, before I sent it into The Writer’s Coffee Shop. He did a fantastic job at picking up the things I missed, and I am so very grateful for him having done that!

Laura, our wonderful UK based marketing intern. I have to say thank you to her, and sorry. I swear she’s had a couple of hundred emails off me in the last few months, and she’s gone off, gotten the answers I needed, come back to me, and then started all over again with the next batch of emails. I’d quite like to keep her forever, she’s been wonderful!

Outofmytree, also known as Bec, my online wifey. She’s given me so many virtual hugs in the last few years since I embarked on writing The Last Keeper. And she has, at every turn, been there for me, with hugs and words of reassurance.

And for a special thank you, Bunny, first name Plot. Alice actually brought her over for me from Germany when she first came to visit. Bunny is a little stuffed rabbit who likes nothing more than sitting on my shoulder whispering words of wisdom to me. Most of those revolve around killing all of my characters, and I do have to reign her in somewhat from time to time. But no matter how many times she wants me to kill them all, she is still an adorable bunny rabbit to me.

Of course, if I thanked everyone I’d be here all day, but for everyone who has helped me get to where I am, thank you, you are all wonderful!


Bunny, first name Plot