Monday, 9 April 2018

In the footsteps of Homer (Athens 1)

Ancient Greece. What does that evoke for you?

Chariots? Trojan horses? War? Sean Bean in a tunic? All the above? 

For me, it's all that and more--a complete world to step into and understand, and now I'm on my second visit to Greece's Peloponnese to immerse myself in Homer and the Greek tragedians and to breathe in the atmosphere that inspired some of my authors (Mary Renault and Henry Treece). 

Athens is wonderful. Despite its age and disrepair, the Parthenon shines over the city as though it truly houses a radiant deity. Its stonework is blinding and, viewed from the Filoppapou Hill (the Hill of the Muses), the thousands of tourists flooding its acropolis are reduced to the size of ants. It's suddenly possible to imagine it as it must have appeared to merchants docking in the Piraeus: a symbol of incredible power and influence with the great bronze goddess glinting in the fierce Greek sun. 

Parthenon viewed from Filoppapou hill 

On the Parthenon itself, its impossible not to be awestruck at the architecture and construction of the temples, as well as ashamed of the ravages wrought by people hacking off pieces to carry them back home. I've seen and appreciated the Parthenon marbles which were removed by the British ambassador Lord Elgin and that are now in the British Museum, but when I saw again the scarring and gaps left by his work I was staggered by his hubris. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

8 Lessons on the journey to publication

Ever heard of the four stages of competence?

In the world of Wikipedia it goes like this: 

"The Four Stages of Learning provides a model for learning. It suggests that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence"

Me starting the journey to publication: unconscious incompetence, for defs.

In all fairness, that lasted maybe 30 minutes before I progressed to recognising my own incompetence. I've spent years learning to write - a constant journey of improvement - and suddenly, come around July, I realised it's probably going to take about the same number of year to wrap my head around the publishing industry and the subtleties of submitting a query. Like maybe, thirty years.


So, for the benefit of people in the same state of cluelessness, here's what I had discovered on my journey so far:

Sunday, 10 September 2017

I love Snake Women and Here's Why

Lilith with Adam and Eve, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel

Snakes, women, power and danger have been intertwined since ancient times and across different cultures. In Crete, nearly four thousand years ago ancient hands shaped figurines of a powerful woman - priestess or goddess - holding two serpents aloft.

Minoan Figurine, c. 1600 BCE

In ancient Egypt, the goddess Wadjet who spat fire at the Pharoah's enemies was depicted as a cobra or cobra-headed woman. In India and across South Asia, the Naga are worshipped and their serpent princesses celebrated - married into ruling famlies. In Korea, Eobshin, the wealth goddess, appears as a snake.

Monday, 21 August 2017

So I'm writing a Middle Grade Novel and it's kind of fun

I made a promise to my daughter that I'd write a book for her. She's had a good deal of input. She's even come up with the title: A Splash of Colour. 

It's not historical romance. It's not paranormal romance. It's not romance at all: it's middle grade fiction and it's kind of fun.

Having a nine year old and loving kids books generally, I've read quite a bit of middle grade and YA fiction. I love it as a genre--MG books are often adventurous, ingenious and action-packed. I like their immediacy, and so I was kind of up for giving it a go and this is what I came up with:

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Soul Mates is a Finalist!

I'm thrilled that Soul Mates is a finalist in the Romance Writers of America Southern Magic Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest (Paranormal, Futuristic, Fantasy category).

This is the second time I've been a finalist for the Linda Howard Award - the first was with Boundless as the Sea

I'm thrilled that this caps what has been a super productive summer so far...

Sunday, 30 July 2017

3 ways to build a fantasy world: language and characterisation

In Soul Mates, my lead male protagnist, Kian Darksoul comes from another realm (Tir na nOg), though he has lived in the mortal world for decades. Developing a character forged in another world, but familiar with the contemporary presents some unique challenges. How do I capture Kian's otherness without making the book clunky? How do I capture his otherness?

1) His cultural touch-stones are different: when revising, I've needed to edit out contemporary references. It's not that Kian doesn't know what a neon light is - he does. He's lived here for years, after all. But when he sees another character glowing, a neon light is not his cultural touch-stone. He thinks of fire swamps or dragons or some such. References to his own world shape his dialogue and his interior monologue. It means when I'm in Kian's point of view, I'm responding in a way that's true to him.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

What category is my romance?

This month  I finally completed my novel. This started life as Lord of Shadows morphed into Dark Souls and now has the working title Soul Mates. 

Edited by the fantastic Miranda Kate and with some AMAZING feedback by incredibly generous RWA judges (I really find RWA contests worthwhile), redrafted, edited again (and again), my novel is finally there.

Time to slap a synopsis down and get querying.

This presents me with three challenges:

1) I've now written four complete novels and I've never yet queried. Because I always want to do one more draft and make it that bit better.  Apart from browsing the phenomenal Query Shark, my experience of querying is a big fat zero. 

2) I hate writing synopses. And I'm not great at it. That's another area of writing I need to practice. 

3) Categories. How the devil do I describe my opus?