Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A little history . . .

I have struggled with writing for many years. Since I was a teen, I harboured a secret desire to write, to publish. At that time, I did not really have any idea of exactly what I would write. I tried my hand at the odd novella, short story and so on. But in the end, I regretfully concluded that I simply did not have anything interesting to say.

Thirty years on, and all that has changed. Now I find that I have far too much to say. This is, you might think, a good thing. However, my ambition far outweighs my ability to actually execute all the ideas I now have.

So, my first painful lesson as a writer, is to take things slowly. Don't rush. Anything.

I have been published now in a half dozen or so anthologies, some of which you can find on the books page. I have written four full novels, so I feel that I am getting to the point that I know what I am doing.

But that first lesson, to take one's time, is still the most important lesson to absorb, and a constant struggle for me. I am not the most patient of people, and I want to publish my thoughts and ideas . .  well, yesterday.

And since I have outlined my writing schedule for the next five years, I am eager to burn my way through the 'backlog' as I call them. The stories that I have been waiting most of my life to write.

I am currently working on my first fantasy series. It is called The Guardian, and each of the four books in the series takes its title from one of the four elements. In some cases, you have to use your imagination a bit to see the connection.

Blood in the Sand concerns a teacher of history and his obsession with a historical character; a spy,
linguist, and inveterate whoremonger, Sir James Francis is everything that mild mannered historian Philip Entwhistle isn't. His fascination ultimately leads him to the last surviving relative of Sir James' and the revelation of a shocking story of love, betrayal and revenge. Even more fantastic, is the secret that the Francis family have been keeping for almost a century. What was it that came back from the desert, all those years ago?

Blood in the Snow continues where the previous book left off, just a few weeks later. Now, however, certain things that Philip had to do in order to survive have come back to haunt him and he is wanted by the police. Added to the pot of boiling trouble that is his life, is the fact that he must face a deadly being of incredible power; a confrontation he knows he cannot survive. Yet, duty drives him forward into the most incredible adventure and almost certain doom.

Does he survive? well, yes. More or less. Because he is back again in Blood in the Flames, the third book in the series. This novel is currently underway, and so far, it looks set to be the best of the bunch. Action, adventure, magic, love and yes, revenge!

The story will conclude in Blood in the Heavens, the final book in the series. There is an evolving plot arc over the four books. We discover clues in each that build upon each other until we have a full understanding of the history of the world, humanity, and our role in a cosmic struggle of good and evil.

The Guardian series is set in the real world. There are no elves, dwarves or dragons to be found. One reader commented that it was like The Da Vinci Code meets City of Bones. I like that. Plot twists, turns, surprises and intelligent, character driven action. Who could ask for more?

I will write more about Metaphysical Fantasy in the future. I have a deep and abiding interest in the genre. A great deal of what I have written concerns humanity's place in the universe. Not to mention our seemingly hardwired need for divinity and the impact that this has had on us, as a species.

Consider yourself warned.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Are all editors the same?

When it comes to finding an editor, there are a good many things to consider.

Obviously, talent, cost, availability and how they communicate are important. But so are their knowledge of your genre, their personal experiences and passion about your work.

It is not just the grammar, readability and flow of the writing, but also the little things that make a story more interesting, giving it credibility. God is in the details, they say, and so is good writing.

Let's start with basic research.

A fantasy novel, set in an alternate world.

I had a book where, due to the genre as much as anything, I assessed the technology level to be equivalent with our own medieval history. This is a pretty common starting place for fantasy books. You can have a trebuchet, for example, but not a rocket launcher. Some technology is anachronistic and has no place.

So, when I read that a character 'pulled down on a door handle,' I had stop and ask myself, does that sound medieval? After all, the door handle, as we know it today, was not invented until the nineteenth century, in 1878 to be specific, by a man named Osbourn Dorsey. I did not know that as I was editing the book, but I knew that the door handle was not consistent with the genre. So, as editor, I suggested door latch, which is consistent with the technology, genre, etc.

Not exactly earth shattering, I hear you say, and you are right. But I believe that an editor has a duty to catch little things like that.

Other examples of anachronistic technology would be the use of glass. So often historical writers will have their characters open windows, stare in mirrors, or generally quaff from their glasses. While glass itself was discovered a very long time ago, its use was generally quite limited. Certainly it would be only available to nobility, or ecclesiastics in 'ye olden dayes,' and not something taverns would provide for patrons. For the lower classes, perhaps a glass bead would be a prized possession.

Glass was used in windows, for example during the pre-Norman Anglo-Saxon period in England, but these would be quite small and certainly would not open. The technology simply did not support large, planed glass panels.

Which leads me to mirrors.

A historic novel mentioned a full length glass mirror. Not gonna happen. A small, handheld mirror 'might' be okay.

Another area where expert knowledge is useful, is historic weapons. Now, it might be a bit much to expect your editor to know everything about everything. However, he or she should at least know someone who is an expert in a given field, and can provide advice.

I recently needed to verify the grammar of some Viking age Norse language, so I turned to some online forums and found people who were expert in that field, and I reviewed the text with them.

In another example, the author had written that a sailboat had a ramp in the middle that led down to the lower decks. One of the characters was in a wheelchair, and used the ramp to get up and down, without assistance. This was a key part of the story.

Any engineer would instantly know that a small boat cannot provide a ramp long enough in order to allow a wheelchair user to ascend to a higher deck without being carried. This is due to the angle of the ramp necessary in order to allow a wheelchair user to ascend 2 meters, or 6 feet in height. For this to be possible, the ramp would have to be considerably longer than the entire boat.

According to the principle that 12 inches, requires 12 feet, then the ramp would need to be 72 feet in length. Clearly not something you can have in a small sailboat.

Editing a book is more than grammar checking or even commenting on structure, character and story arc. It is about ensuring that everything is correct. And that means research.

If your editor is not willing to go to those lengths, then I think you need to find one who will.

Friday, 4 December 2015

An Unorthodox Approach to Publishing

What does Wrath of Khan have to do with getting published?

Well, practically nothing, but if you bear with me, you will see the tenuous connection, and (hopefully) forgive me for hyperbole.

Have you tried to get published and been frustrated by rejections, slow responses or no response at all? Are you worried that you are not doing yourself justice if you self-publish your masterpiece?

Is it necessary to jump through the hoops of agent hunting and manuscript sending and suffering rejection after rejection? Is there another way?

Actually, there is. You might think it crazy when you hear what, but only time will be the judge. Find out exactly how you can get published without an agent, without sending your manuscript out, over and over again. And, best of all, find out how you can make your dreams, and those of others, a reality.

In this article, I explain a little of the reasoning behind my decision not to swim with the sharks.

As Khan once said, "better to rule in Hell, than to serve in Heaven."

There...that was the link to Star Trek. I have an amusing story about that reference, but it can wait for another day. Right now, find out about a third approach to the publishing world that might be something to consider. Or not...