After Death

This was supposed to be an exciting week, the run up to the publishing of my fourth novel, The Blade’s Fell Blow, but real life suddenly took an unexpected turn; a very good friend died!

I say that it was unexpected but perhaps more truthfully it was simply unlooked for. My friend had cancer but was receiving treatment for it. His decline was rapid, however, so when the news broke it really did take me by surprise. We had been clinging onto a frail hope, perhaps too tightly because it broke. Losing someone whom you have known for so long really changes your perspective of life and the presumed reality.

Writing has not been at the forefront of my thoughts recently, which is hardly surprising. Grief strangles creativity. That said, my friend was one of my first readers. He read ‘The War Wolf’ when it was still in first draft and gave me some great pointers as to how to move the action on. He raved about ‘Eugenica’, in fact he said that it was a book that everyone should read so as to challenge their opinions on disabled people. He is never going to get the chance to read my latest novel. I ordered a paperback copy for him but it still has not been delivered. Way too late now.

In the fullness of time I expect to return with my usual energy and commitment to writing, but not right now. I hope that I will write some stories that my friend would have enjoyed reading. He was a great reader, voracious even, and probably one of my inspirations. He’s gone now and so has my inclination to write properly. When the pain subsides I expect to find it still there, however, unlike him.

Until then…

 

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I Write Because I Enjoy Telling Stories

So, ‘The Blade’s Fell Blow’ has gone to be published and will be delivered to any pre-Blades Fell Blowrelease purchasers on the 951st anniversary of the Battle of Hastings! Of course I am very pleased about this as it is the culmination of a lot of work. I was very impressed when Amazon linked all three of my books together in one advertisement. I am hoping that the existence of a complete trilogy will encourage more readers of historical fiction to enjoy the adventure that I created.

I have now moved on and I am primarily working on my fantasy novel, to which I have given the working title of ‘The Queen of the Mountain’. However, I always seem to need to have the next book underway as well and so I have started preliminary work on a science fiction novel. The first draft is underway but what I have found to be really interesting is that my style of writing has changed. For the Sorrow Song Trilogy I used a very descriptive style and I did this consciously. I wanted to recreate the world of the Saxons in as much depth as possible to help give the books a significant degree of credibility. This produced a very lyrical style that I enjoyed working with.

For ‘The Queen of the Mountain’ I did not consciously set out to change my style of writing but I found that during the first draft it became less descriptive and more immediate. I think that this was necessitated by the tone of the book in that there are more exciting events happening. In the ‘Sorrow Song’ each novel worked towards a significant battle with a lot of scene setting and character development going on. There were the occasional skirmishes of course but the books each traversed a set path. With ‘Queen of the Mountain’ there is a lot more going on. Even though it is a fantasy with a whole new world to explore my writing uses more brevity so as not to slow the pace.

To be honest I had not realised this change until I started work on the science fiction book, which has the working title of ‘Pangea’.This is also something of technological thriller in which there is a lot of action and it is even more immediate than ‘The Queen of the Mountain’. With ‘Pangea’ I have stopped writing long descriptive paragraphs and instead the characters are describing what they see in the same way that people do in real life. I have quickly found that this allows me to develop the characters through their dialogue. Another advantage is that it has stopped me from writing a Palaeontological field book, which might have been fun in itself but only to dinosaur nuts like myself. By restricting the descriptive passages to only what is absolutely necessary I found that the story moved faster. Fast is good. The main motivation of the book is a chase across prehistoric landscapes and slow chases are boring.

Clearly, writing different kinds of books encourages me to develop different writing styles and that in turn, I hope, improves my skill as a writer. Of course, if I had decided to write only historical fiction, which I was encouraged to do, then this would not have happened, or it certainly would be less likely. The moment I stepped out of the genre to write ‘Eugenica’ was the moment that I confirmed my decision to write what I wanted to write. To be true to myself as an author, hopefully that does not sound pompous? When I started writing I read several articles that were concerned with a writer writing for a specific audience, getting to know the reader, identifying what they wanted, and then directing your efforts down that narrow path. I do not criticise this approach as it has worked for some and as much as I would enjoy commercial success it is not the reason why I write.

I write because I enjoy telling stories.

This is the reason why I am not a genre writer. My imagination is not confined to any one particular genre of literature or cinema or theatre or art school or science. In fact I actively choose not to have any favourites. I believe that having favourites is limiting, that it closes you to new experiences whereas I want a broad horizon. There are things that I like and there are things that I do not like but there are also things that I have yet to experience and I am eager for that. I hope that my opting not to write for any specific genre will not put people off my work but rather reflect my own philosophy of being open to trying something new.

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The Sorrow Song Trilogy is Complete!

I have submitted The Blade’s Fell Blow to Kindle Direct Publishing and it has been accepted for pre-order publishing. It is now live on Amazon for release on 14 October 2017, which happens to be the 951st anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

I have to admit that I felt a moment of pride when I saw my author’s bookshelf at KDP as it now contains four novels. A lot of work has gone into creating that collection of stories and I do not regret a moment of it.

Finishing the Sorrow Song Trilogy actually felt like quite an accomplishment. I do not, at the moment at least, feel any inclination to return to this world that I created. Unlike Sir Arthur Conan Doyle this is not because I have grown to dislike my protagonist, Coenred, but rather because I just feel that there is nothing more that I can add to the tale. In fact I very much like all the characters from this series. When I set out to write these books the whole point was to create a character who could logically find himself at each of the three major battles of 1066 and a warrior was an obvious choice. Once those battles were fought and concluded, however, then I think it is best if the surviving character’s stories continue in the imagination of my readers.

It may well be that I will return to them at some point in the future but only if I am inspired by a new and original story to tell. Until then I will be archiving all of my research, notes, back-stories, and manuscripts. I do have one project left, however, and that is to produce a complete collection of all three books in one volume but that will be something to do in the future.

Right now I feel like I have really accomplished something. I have told the story of 1066 from the point of view of the Anglo-Saxons and with a concentration upon historical accuracy. Balancing the facts with the fiction was a great exercise and I think that I largely achieved it. Although I had a latent sympathy for the Saxons I tried not to judge the Vikings and the Normans. They had their own motivations for what they did, something that I tried to express through principal characters. I could not change the history but I think that the Anglo-Saxons are represented as a people who were full of life and energy with a rich culture and a society far more liberal than the one that was to be imposed upon it.

If you have read The War Wolf and For Rapture of Ravens then I hope you will complete the experience by also reading The Blade’s Fell Blow and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

All 3 Books

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Fiction is an Escape from Reality

Fiction, any kind of fiction is an escape from reality. It is not a question of genre it is a question of need. Human beings need to escape every once and a while into their own imagination. This is hardly earth-shattering news, it has been discussed previously by more eminent commentators than me but it does explain something, however, it gives me a reason as to why I write in the first place.

Coenred01Writing seems to have always been one of the things that I have done. Thanks to my mother I could both read and write before I started school and it was not long afterwards that I wrote my first story; I think it was about a dinosaur. Yes, it probably was because dinosaurs have also been with me since a very early age.

My imagination has always been good and I have always enjoyed stories that have inspired it. Movies, television, comics, and books were all an important resource of new adventures and ideas for me. If I was not being inspired by them then I was acting on that inspiration. When I was at school I used to write, draw, and circulate my own comics among my friends. This would involve me spending hours drafting stories, drawing compartments, and then using pencil and ink to populate them with some fantastic heroes’ puerile adventures. In fact, I would say that this occupied most of my time but I would also say that it was time well spent.

Growing up in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s exposed me to a less than compassionate society with regards to my physical disability. Having the ability to create my own imaginary worlds gave me an avenue of escape when I found the real world to be less than hospitable. I do not know if this helped me cope, the fact that I am still here and still creating suggests that it did something good, I believe. My worlds are immersive. When I write or draw I tend to get lost in the whole creative experience. Whole days have gone by with me paying very little attention to anything else but what I am doing. It often seems that only the most basic body functions have the power to eventually bring me back to the here and now. As I have grown older the need to enter the world of my imagination has never diminished and in some respects it might even have grown. I seem to spend a lot of my time just thinking. Of course, I did spend a lot of my early life just waiting to see doctors at the hospitals. Many of my appointments used to last all day and we did not have mp3 players, kindles, or android tablets to divert ourselves with back then. I think that I learned to live in my head as a coping mechanism to deal with the sheer boredom of sitting in the waiting rooms of the various clinics that I had to attend.

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Feeling powerless might also have something do with it. Children are relatively powerless in comparison to adults in almost every way. Society is something that you have to grow into and even when you have achieved the status of an adult you can still be left with a feeling of a lack of power to change things to your own advantage. Being disabled, even today, only magnifies that problem, but living in your own world can remove that feeling.

If people find some form comfort from day-dreaming, whether it is winning a jackpot in the lottery (one of my favourites) or scoring the winning goal for their favourite team or meeting a celebrity then that is probably good for their mental health. It is fleeting, however, and largely insubstantial. Creating your own world in meticulous detail is not. I know that I am not alone in this belief or experience. Anyone who does anything creative will, I am sure, understand. It is not just about writing, which is generally a very long process, unless you concentrate on short stories I suppose, it occurs in almost every instance of creativity. A painting can become a whole world in and of itself during the creation of it and the same holds true for other human activity in the creative pantheon.

One aspect of writing that I do not identify with is the notion of playing god. I have never thought of myself in this context. I am very aware that every fictional world that I create is mine logically, but it is not a playground. I do not create characters at a whim to put them through some form of torture for my own amusement. That is not how it works, well, for me at least. The story comes first and it is the driving force behind everything else. My worlds evolve both from and around the story. I only create what I feel needs to be created but I must admit that sometimes I can get a little lost in it all. When I was writing the Sorrow Song Trilogy I really threw myself into the research of the period, 1066. I learned probably more than I needed to know to tell the story. I say this because I am aware that there is a lot of detail that I did not use in the final books. It may well be, however, that my awareness of these other details influenced the way I wrote as well. Certainly, I have had some very kind acknowledgements that my books are well researched.

I do not believe that I write simply to satisfy some psychological need to createEUG Falconer 01 imaginary worlds. To be honest, I do not think that I need any reason to indulge in such exercises of imagination. Rather, I believe that I write because I can create imaginary worlds. I write because the whole process gives me tremendous satisfaction. My worlds are not complete, they never could be as they are the product of just one person’s experience of life, totally subjective, but they are complete to me within the boundaries that inspired their creation. They are an escape from a reality that is often hard, cold, and cruel, and a world that is equally beyond our control and before which we often seem insignificant. I write because I can create alternative worlds that are more to my liking and I would like to think that people read my books because they want to live, even if only for a short while, in such a world as I have written about.

 

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What Kind of Novel should it be?

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I have been busy writing a fantasy novel, which has gone very well. Indeed, it has gone much better than I had expected it to. I seem to have a story that has evolved quite naturally and that has given me a lot to write about. It is peopled by a large number of characters and that got me wondering; what kind of novel should this be?

What do I mean by this question? Well, the standard story has a protagonist who is faced with a predicament that they seek to resolve. Often this means going on a journey and meeting other characters, some of whom will appear only once or twice and others who will have a greater input to the development of the story. This is very much the standard approach to writing fiction.

There are some authors who have developed this method to include a number of sub-plots involving characters who may or may not interact at some point with the protagonist but whose own adventures have an important bearing on the outcome of the story. There are also books in which there is not actually a single protagonist, rather the author tells several characters’ stories at the same time and they are woven together to achieve a conclusion.

I believe that there is a great appetite for the standard template of main protagonist, an opinion informed by the huge number of titles that are still popular today. Books like Lord of the Rings employ the second version very successfully. The final version has fewer examples and yet has also proven very successful; Game of Thrones springs to mind.

When I set out to write my fantasy story I actually did not stop to consider how to develop the story, I just let it flow as I wrote. My current manuscript is very much in the Game of Thrones style, I believe. There is no single protagonist to be honest, but a number of people who have fates that are intertwined with each other. I am aware that this style of writing is not to every reader’s taste. I could probably change the template and elevate one character to the main protagonist role and, possibly, write a whole series of adventures based upon them. It might even prove rather popular, and yet I have a nagging doubt.

The thing is, behind this one story there are at least two others that are painted with a broad brush. The most obvious character to take the main protagonist role in the first book is more than likely not to have too much of a role in the following stories. One or more of the other characters could succeed to his place, but that does not mean that are going to continue either.

It is an interesting conundrum. I do not consider myself a genre writer and, therefore, the idea of writing a particular series of books does not appeal to me at all. I value the story more than anything else. On the other hand, attracting more readers to my work is always appealing. Then again, being different has its attractions also.

If I continue with the many protagonists approach then the book will be finished rather quickly, I expect. If I decide to revert to a more conventional style then that will involve a total rewrite, which would then delay finishing the project, obviously. At the moment I remain in two minds.

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What to Do when Finishing a Novel

So, what does a writer do when they have one book nearly finished and another one in second draft needing a lot of work to finish it? Answer: they start another novel of course!

I must be mad. I mean, I have spent a lot of time recently on finishing ‘The Blade’s FellBlades Fell Blow Blow’, the final part of my Sorrow Song Trilogy. It is almost there. Just a few more touches and I will have the finished article ready for submission. As this book was coming to an end I started another one, tentatively titled, ‘The Queen of the Mountain’. Whereas the Sorrow Song Trilogy is historical fiction recounting England’s saga of 1066, ‘The Queen of the Mountain’ is a fantasy novel, I have written previously about jumping from one genre to another. In fact my last blog examined my reasons for doing this. Of course ‘Eugenica’ is an alternate history book, so I have covered three different genres there.

My new book is yet another departure, into the realm of science fiction. I have commented before about how I find most modern science fiction rather unimaginative. I was thinking then that if I ever tackled a science fiction novel then it would be very different from what appears to be mostly ‘space operas’. Well, it is. I must admit that the original idea came from someone else, an internet friend who lives in Switzerland. She gave me the germ of an idea that has, quite simply, taken root. As the book is still in the very early stages of development I do not want to give too much away about it at the moment. What I can say is that it involves a future society that is not based on capitalism, time travel, and dinosaurs. My friend suggested that I include them because they are a passion of mine. I really liked that idea!

It is not enough to have the ideas, however. I am currently in the process of developing the themes of the story, along with the characters, and of course the plot. Some of the themes are going to be quite deep, I expect, touching on population control, natural resource management, a civilisation that does not depend upon money, ecology, alternate agricultural techniques, energy supply, and various other related topics as and when they seem relevant to the story.

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Dinosaurs and science fiction, made for each other!

I already have a good idea about one of the central characters, a woman who combines all the traits that I admire, courage, intelligence, femininity, etc., who will be thrust into a situation that most humans have never experienced before; surviving in a time of dinosaurs! This is not a ‘Jurassic Park’ clone, however (pun intended by the way). My dinosaurs will be real, by which I mean, I consider myself an amateur palaeontologist, therefore I will be writing with as much scientific accuracy as I can muster, and not cutting corners or compromising fact for impact like Michael Crichton did in his book.

So, that’s my immediate writing future mapped out for me then!

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What Kind of Author Should I Be?

knowaudience

One of the themes that I have picked up on recently while doing some research on promotional work is that an author should identify their audience and tailor their writing accordingly. I have to admit that this idea has never really convinced me. It seems to have been borrowed from the commercial market. I suppose that this okay if you want to be a commercial writer. If you are crafting text for travel magazines then obviously you must be able to write content that meets the readers’ expectations. However, does this apply to fiction?

Well, I can see how it might. If a writer values commercial success over originality then clearly, having an identified audience might make a good beginning. To do this, however, it seems to me that what you have to do is identify norms within any given genre, probably confirmed by books that have already proved themselves successful, and then creating a strict template to use as a basis for your writing. It will not guarantee success, but it might prove popular. The downside to me of this approach is that it necessitates compromise. Instead of setting the benchmark a writer using this method must follow previous benchmarks set by other authors.

War WolfNow, it may well be that because I do not see myself as a genre writer I just do not identify with this approach to book writing at all. If I took the time to identify the audience for each genre I have written in then I am not sure if I would have much time left for the writing. The point is, for me the story is the most important part of what I write. I am not a commercial author, I am a storyteller. I would like to think that my work is original rather than derivative. I remember reading this precept recently, I do not recall who wrote it but the truth of it has stayed with me:

No one was ever original by being the same.

I cannot help but think that by identifying an audience and then writing according to what appears to be popular for that audience that an author is, in essence, only being the same.

Of course, it could be argued that in daring to be original one runs the risk of not having an audience at all. I agree, that is a very real risk, and yet my books have found an audience. It is true that commercial success has not expressed itself in my bank account (yet), but then I set myself a very low target; to be read by one person who I did not know. Actually, when I set that target, some years ago now, it seemed like quite an aspiration. In fact, every time I see that another book has been sold, I still feel like I have achieved something worthwhile.

It might also be argued that what I am doing is evincing a lack of self-discipline.Grace Flag 01.4 Certainly, writing to a format requires a certain degree of discipline, but I already do that. Most authors do. Any kind of good writing demands a discipline. It is a lonely occupation. Even flights of fancy, like the fantasy novel that I am currently working on, necessitate a disciplined approach. Like all my other books it has had a methodical approach. I have not changed my method of writing simply because the story belongs in another genre. The book had a rough first draft, major characters have back-stories, and I have built up a style-sheet, background notes, plot arc, and a second draft. What I have not done is looked at what is popular in the fantasy genre at the moment, which is because I want my book to be original. I am not writing a shallow version of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, I am writing something different.

When it comes down to it the real difference between writing to format and being original is that the latter means having the courage of your convictions. To write well in a story that is not aimed at any particular audience is to write with a belief in your

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