24 September 2017

Writing Fiction: Seeing Ideas

So this person comes up and says, I have an idea for you which will make a wonderful book...

I doubt it. Or maybe it could, but not via my hand. Why? Because I haven’t seen it. 

I don’t mean as in photographically seen. I mean in the sense of the imaginary lines that join the dots of stars in the sky to create named constellations: Cassiopeia, Pegasus, Andromeda, Ursa Major.

The lines don’t exist; the stars aren’t close together, they just look that way from where we’re standing. That’s if you’re standing with me in the northern hemisphere. And some fella who may have been Greek, or an Arab, or... decided to see them that way, and everyone after him shrugged and went along with his vision. Call him a fiction writer, then. Of sorts.

So what’s this got to do with an image of a British parish church? I was in Louth a couple of days ago visiting friends and we explored Saint James’ Church with the help of a volunteer. Not only is it a bit grand for a parish church, it is has the tallest steeple of any parish church  in the country.


It also has this – one of two remaining medieval wooden angels which stood high in the roof and now adorn a wall in an old chantry chapel once funded by one of the town’s medieval guilds.

                                                       It also has this blue plaque.


Do you see the lines?

If you do, great. But I bet they aren’t the same lines I see.

Food for thought. In fact there's enough meals for a starry night of what-ifs for a writer of fiction.

17 September 2017

Thoughts on Book Reviews

When I next (next?) launch a novel it will not be during the summer months. Sales are slow, and reviews even slower. Authors shouldn't care about reader reviews -  in fact I know authors who refuse to check theirs - but there is no denying that it is often the only feedback we authors receive. There is also no denying that reviews offer a peg from which to hang a bit of promotion.

And then amid the drought a little rain does gently fall. Into my Inbox came the following. Why not on a retailer site? This reader doesn't do reviews but use what you like. So I am. It is so cheering when a reader not only "gets it" but gets it enough to say so.

"...I couldn’t put it down! The plots that parallel Nick’s are sharply focused, and like all such “sub” plots the potential for stand free novels is obvious. What is also obvious is your deft, consistent (across the whole trilogy) ability to use “slight” material which generates a powerful presence for your reader: from a long list I’ll just choose material associated with medieval Ernald—Eco’s Name of the Rose Brother William of Baskerville meets Chaucer’s Friar!— it’s not just those blisters… the pairing him with the more world-weary reeve brings out the subtle difference in the character; we believe in him; he believes in the potential for good in his fellow human beings: his integrity is sustained. A glance, a phrase, a touch, all go towards his presence as a character, building by increments gradually. Understatement can often be more compellingly authentic than pages of description.
      I could never see Nick returning to the south… his home was always with Alice. I liked how you made the echo from The Bull At The Gate: the desecration of the Temple of Luna by the Christ men is paralleled by the desecration of the Pool by the opportunistic stealing of the water, and the fracking operation. And how fitting that in its new status the Pool will have a symbolic Keeper.
      The trilogy works powerfully at so many levels, all bound up with history’s continuity. So, thank you for the trilogy; I enjoyed it very much, and, of course, look forward to the next..."


So yes, it gladdens my heart that the 'craft' has been noticed and appreciated for what it offered to the story. Most readers who do make the effort to leave a review concentrate on summarising the blurb and saying whether or not they enjoyed the read. To an extent, I've been guilty of this myself, though I do try to offer more. Writing a review for a novel, or a non-fiction book, is akin to viewing a piece of embroidery from a distance and giving a yea or nay opinion. Perhaps we should all step a little closer to appreciate the stitching and the subtlety of the colour combinations.

Now then, about that next....

9 September 2017

Interview and SciFi+Fantasy Giveaway Thoughts

The Torc of Moonlight trilogy is complete, Hull's FantastiCon is over, and I'm gearing up for the British Fantasy Society's annual FantasyCon in Peterborough at the end of the month. As part of my RandR in between I'm slowly turfing out the house and hacking back the garden, but the digital promotion continues, nonethless.

I'm interviewed on the Fantasy & Magic website with the questions focusing on why I chose to write the trilogy, and Fantasy in particular, and the evergreens of who my influencers were. It's never that simple, of course. I consider all Fiction to the Fantasy; to me, some elements of storytelling are just more fantastic than others.

Also on-going is the promotional side of things. InstaFreebie has recently offered direct hosting facilities for self-gathered groups. One finishes tomorrow [see HERE]...

Link: https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/shUSLwOigkJnTxPjqUbc

...and the other carries on until the end of the month [see HERE]

Authors tend to work in the dark with most giveaways, or at least the dark shadow, regarding the number of ebooks claimed. But with the new InstaFreebie group giveaways authors have access to a dashboard making it easy to see how many ebooks are claimed, both of their own and of the other authors in the giveaway. As I key in this post late Friday afternoon, 25 titles have been claimed more than 50 times; only two have had less than 10 claimed, and my 25% partial of Torc of Moonlight is one of them. Mmm... perhaps I need to rethink my 'partial' strategy. As far as I can see, mine is the only partial in the group.

In this context, it will be interesting to see how my Beneath The Shining Mountains 10% KU sample does in the Romance Samples To Whet your Appetite! giveaway lined up from 10-30th September. Though I'm not entirely sure what the organiser's somewhat chilly snow scene brings to the group's landing page. Especially with no text.

At the moment, though, all this promotion via giveaways is a toe-in-the-water testing for me. We shall see what we shall see.

4 September 2017

Exoskeletons and High-Wire Acts

Exoskeletons and high-wire acts?? It must be Hull's FantastiCon! And it was, 2-3rd September. It was also Hull's Freedom Festival. This year Hull is UK City of Culture and the city is making the most of it in the biggest way possible.

Even the weather came out to play, making a good show of the floral displays in Queen's Gardens (originally a water-filled dock; those are the original dock offices behind, now the Maritime Museum), and keeping the thousands of visitors in comfort while the Amazing Bullzini Family awed everyone with their gravity-defying comedy drama eight metres in the air. My photo shows one of their lesser (!) worrying escapades. I couldn't concentrate on taking photos when the two characters balanced on a chair; I was watching through squinted eyes.

FantastiCon was held in the Guildhall just round the corner, and was no less awe-inspiring. I now understand what a NERF war is, thanks to the ubiquitous ten-year old who explained how it worked while reloading the magazine of a plastic automatic weapon. Put on safety glasses. Really? And then I discovered why. But it was great fun. Note Hubby, well-armoured behind netting, attempting to claim on my life insurance. Yes, he enjoyed it, too. And yes, that is "ammunition" all over the floor, not all ours, I hasten to add.

FantastiCon is a doing Con, and lots of people had brought rigs, including Vesaro (above). How many buttons and switches and...?? Considering spectators come from miles around to watch me reverse-park my car, needless to say I just stood and watched. I did, though, have a go on the virtual reality rigs - my first time - and I can now understand the excitement over those. However, the magnets weren't all digital.

Yes, big blokes hunched intensely over role-playing games with dice and pencil. And it wasn't the only table. There was a lot of interest in the various offerings.

We also had a long chat with Chris Atkin, drone operator, sorry pilot, from Icarus Aerial Film & Photography, whose miniscule craft was producing high-definition images as it zipped in and around the various rooms - all good research material for an author.

As was fascinating Dr Matt Dickinson and his Comic Book Science mini-lectures, hence the "exoskeletons" mentioned at the top of this post. So... you want to know if Iron Man's feats are feasible? Er... yes, and Dr Matt explained why.

He'd also brought along a short tentacle, a la Dr Otto Octavius, which he moved from across the room by wearing that very small headset and his own alpha/beta brainwaves. No, I do not kid you. He had us all entranced. And then he put on a more sophisticated cuff and made Iron Man's hand clench and unclench. 

Want to know something really amazing? Neither items, nor the headset, cost more than £20 each. The headset came from Amazon - where else would you go for an alpha/beta brainwave headset?? - and all the components for both the hand and the tentacle were 3-D printed, and such printers can be picked up from... you're ahead of me.

Best of all? Despite it being Comic Book Science at entry level for schools - if you're a teacher get on his website for the free code - ultimately it is all research for super-prosthetics to help the disabled. Awesome, yes? Well, that's FantastiCon for you in a nutshell.

Oh, I also sold some books. But who cares about that?