Friday, 14 December 2018

I Promise

I Promise
I Promise, published today, is a Christmas novella. Promise Grene and Valentine Caffrey first met when they were children. They played at skipping stones across the river, but since they were on opposite sides they never got to have a conversation. Instead, they made do with scratching messages on flat river stones.
Promise was called away to her family picnic and when she returned to the river, Valentine had gone. 
They met again eighteen years later, when Promise's brother married his sweetheart. Promise wasn't going to the wedding, but her cousin Corin kidnapped her in Paris.
Stuck in a family that had moved on from her, Prom made one last ditch effort to find her red-haired boy.
I Promise is a comedy romance, but it's also about family, and the different faces of love. I had fun with tinsel, holly, and an unusual Christmas Tree. 
Like all the titles in this series, I Promise is a feelgood romance, suited to readers of 18+. You can check it out,read an excerpt or buy it at THIS LINK.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

The Other Sides of the Story

The Other Sides of the Story

There are lots of ways of telling the other side of the story. Just as witness statements can vary widely even if no one is consciously lying, characters taking part in a scene might interpret it in different ways. Recently, I wrote a book which was told from two points of view. Court Leopold is a young man whose life with his indie band Courtesan is royally disrupted when he discovers his mother did a favour for a friend. On the eve of his twenty-fifth birthday he has to go to his old home and take possession of something that was promised before his birth; a special horse. Tansy Thrift is twenty-one. She's spent the last seven years caring for a horse that isn't hers. Court turns up to take possession and messes up her life even more. Things are told from their points of view and obviously they see the same events from very different perspectives.

Along the way, certain key scenes occur with one of the two main characters in the company of someone else. These include Court's mother Nanette, his singing partner Jordana, and a childhood friend named Yvanne. Nanette made the bargain in the first place, and then put off explaining it to her son. Jordana got left metaphorically holding the baby for the band when Court left in a hurry to fulfill his mother's promise. Yvanne was having a little crisis of her own when Nanette pushed her into something she didn't want to do.  None of these people could have their perceptions aired except in dialogue, and some of the conversations happened beyond the boundaries of the book.

Apart from these, were the fans; a group of people who appeared at most of Courtesan's gigs. Court had his own eclectic names for them, Orange Indian Skirt, Earnest Bearded Bloke, Marie Antoinette, The Cavalier, The Musketeer and Pisky in a Blanket. To the band, these were valued fans but not especially real. What did they make of it when Court disappeared in the middle of a festival? What about the roadie, Gemma, and Jordana's husband Chess? All these people were disrupted, puzzled and troubled in one way or another. Again, I couldn't put their parts in the book, because it would have made it too long. Still, I really wanted to tell the other sides of the story. The only viable way to do it was to write another book.
 

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

The Stag Stone at Stag St. Martins

The Stag Stone at Stag St. Martins: Place Post 15

The Stag Stone at Stag St. Martins is a standing stone of time-out-of-mind antiquity. It stands three or four km from the blink-and-you'll-miss-it village, which is somewhere in England. You could look it up if you like, but you won't find it. It appears in nineteenth century guidebooks, but the rail has gone, the motorway doesn't go there and when the sign to Flurry Bridge blew down nobody noticed for months. If you get to the village it's probably by mistake. Even then you might be surprised to find a mossy-stoned churchyard with three ancient yews and grassy hummocks where the church used to be. You might want to try a metal detector but you'd soon give up after the fifteenth bottle cap.

The Stag Stone has no signpost. It used to have one but it went the way of the one at the Flurry Bridge. Rumour has it someone nicked it as a prop at a stag party. It might still be propped in the garage of the best man. The way to the stone is one of those tracks that wanders and branches and changes its mind. If you do get there, you'll find the stone hip deep in grass. It would be worth a photograph if the background wasn't cluttered. It's shaped like a rough doorway and carved from one piece of stone. In the place that would be the lintel if it was a construction like Stone Henge, there's the black outline of a stag. It's not painted, or carved. No one seems to know what it is. Obsidian is the general opinion but no one is going to let you chip off a piece to see.

You can walk right through if you like. Tradition says if you go with someone else you should be holding hands, just in case. So that's the Stag Stone. Step through as often as you like. It has been said some folk step through and disappear. You don't want to believe everything you hear though, right?  

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Not on Your Nelly

Not on Your Nelly

Would They Really?

Well, would they? The question is more like would they REALLY? and it's one all authors of fiction end up asking themselves. Planning, plotting, character bios... these are all very well, but for a story to work, for readers to suspend disbelief and get carried along with the characters, it has to make logical sense.

So, would this character, in this situation, in this place and time, with this personality and this background REALLY do whatever you have planned? All too often, the answer is Not on your nelly. 
Therefore, the writer has three viable choices. 
1. Change the plot so the character doesn't need to commit that not on your nelly action.
2. Change the character so that character would indeed commit that action.
3. Leave the plot and character alone and stack the odds so the character must commit that action because the alternative is worse.
There. Easy Peasy.
The fourth choice, the one you cannot make, is to go forging ahead with that not on your nelly action still screaming not on your nelly.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a brand new story published today. It's a new one in the Fairy in the Bed series. This one concerns a fairy midwife who gets an urgent call on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, although Eve Adeste knows she's needed, she doesn't have the address. Enter Raph Angelus, who is driving a taxi that isn't his when he sees a brown-eyed beauty looking lost at the lights.

I had a lot of fun with Christmas Eve. It marks the fourth appearance of Frances and Niall, the couple whose Christmas 2016 romance launched the whole series.  If you want to read their story across four novelettes, start with Fairy on the Christmas Tree, then go to Hot Summer Knight, then to Tied up in Tinsel and finally to this one - Christmas Eve,

Each of the chapters has a Christmas carol title which took a little thinking out. The thing that took me the most time was coming up with a surname for my lovely Eve. I originally named her Eve Lullay, after the Coventry Carol, but after I read the words of the carol with more attention I realised it wouldn't work. I tried all sorts of names, and eventually took the problem to my sister. I explained the name, and what I needed, and she came up with Eve Adeste. I think that's perfect.

To buy this fairy tale Christmas themed romance, go HERE.  Just one small point - this one, as with all the others in the series, is for 18+ readers only. The cover is shared by several "stocking stuffer" stories.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

The Laws of Magic

The Laws of Magic

Conjuring is something the fay do in my Fairy in the Bed series. It is a kind of magic, although the fay don't think of it that way. Magic in fiction needs rules. These apply to the author as much to the characters, and they are necessary. Almost all fantasy that introduces magic has rules. For example, there might be three wishes, or magic might be dangerous, expensive or illegal. Three of my recent series employ magic in different ways.

In the Pearl the Magical Unicorn series, Pearl does magic by a variety of movements. She might shake, shimmy, stamp, toss or swish in any combination. Magic comes easily, but it takes a little time and it often goes wrong. Therefore, Pearl does have to be careful.

In the Garlands of Thorn and May series, the hillfayre do a kind of magic. The hill lord, Flynt dan Apfel, has to spill his blood to do some things. This is because he has "clod blood"; a villager ancestor. His kin sister Genista dar Whin is pure hill blood. She is one of the last, and is too closely related to the hill lord and his cousins to marry any of them. She does magic as simply as breathing. It generally has to do with plants. She doesn't need to spill her blood but she pays by being unable to spend much time out in the sunshine she loves.

In The Fairy in the Bed series, the fay, halflings and some trace fay can cast glamours (illusions) and conjure. Some fay don;t use conjuring at all. For those who do it looks like magic, but it has strict guidelines. These are practical, not moral. A fay man can conjure anything he owns or could reasonably obtain. For example, he might conjure a shirt, or a book or a quilt of his own. If he conjures something belongs to someone else, it has to be someone he knows would without hesitation lend or give him the item. Sentient beings cannot be conjured with or without consent. One man, seeing his female acquaintance combing her hair out, asked if she could conjure the tangles out. She says she can't, because it's alive. Her hair isn't sentient, or even truly alive, but it is part of her and can't be changed. Clothing is different, not being a part of the person wearing it.  The same young woman, having broken her tea-set, explains that she can't conjure her father's set because he's probably using it. Furniture can be conjured, but not if anyone is using it at the time.
The fay consider conjuring perfectly safe. As one of them observed, "If it works at all it works properly. If it won't work properly it doesn't work at all."

These rules are not a price, but they are guides which help the magical worlds to make sense. The real world often doesn't make sense. Maybe we need some magic.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Thornfair

Thornfair  Dec 7th 2018

Thornfair, the first book in the trilogy Garlands of Thorn and May, has been a while coming. Back in 2006-7 I was writing metrical fantasy verse. The collection Fernseed for Fairysight was published in 2008 and one of the poems in that book was Willow, Willow. That is the story of a couple who fostered a child they found under a hawthorn hedge. It begins this way:


The child we found by the hawthorn hedge
was a sleeping son all wrapped in cloth
of a foreign weave with scallops on the edge.

We thought him a babe someone had lost
so we left a sign by the hawthorn hedge
and we brought him home to a cradle in the moss.

Oh, willow, willow, oaken rod
Keep the secrets of the sod.


The story continues as the foster parents wait to find out what will happen. This poem isn't particularly long (324 words) but it played on my mind because there seemed to be more to it than that. After a bit I decided to take some of the theme, though not the story line, and write a book. I wanted to call it Garlands of Thorn and May, because hawthorn, with its beautiful white blossom and its vicious thorns is a recurring image. I got part way through writing it and then things happened. My mother, who was ill, needed a lot more care and I shelved the story. It kept coming back into my mind though. Every hawthorn blossom season, which happens to fall around my son's birthday, reminded me of it. It felt so real that it always came as a little shock when I remembered it existed only as a partial manuscript.

Finally I pulled it out, rewrote it and then asked the editor at Devine Destinies if it might suit the list. It was much too long, so I cut it in three. This wasn't difficult as it falls naturally into three parts. Thornfair, this book, introduces Rowan Amhill, a romantic 18-year-old who is fascinated by the tales of fairies and the hill. Her slightly younger cousin Hazel laughs at her, but Rowan is persistent. Both girls are longtime friends of Ash Coleman, who helps his unsociable father at his charcoal-burning. Hazel pretends to think Rowan is in love with Ash, but she's not - Then Rowan, wearing an old-time traditional dress, meets the fairy man Flynt dan Apfel. Ash wants to save Rowan from her dangerous obsession, but he has plenty of trouble of his own.

Thornfair is out now, and can be purchased here.  The website that explains more about the books, the world and the characters is here.  As of late 2018, Book #2, Summerfeste, is in proof-stage and Book #3 Crossover needs a bit more work. I hope to have that one finished and off to the editor soon.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Widow's Wreath and Feathergillie

Widow's Wreath and Feathergillie

Some writers, most maybe, plan the big plot points in books. We also think about our characters although they don't always develop just as we expect. As more and more of their backstory and personality emerges, they become more real to their author and, with luck, to their readers.
It's the little touches that can creep up on us though. I've been reading a proof today and I came upon the following lines. This is a small scene in which Ash Colewin, a hardworking and over-serious young man, sees his father enjoying the company of a woman for the first time since his wife died.

Ash slowly circled the stalls, pausing often to scan the wedge of crowd that gathered at each. His father, white teeth bared in an unaccustomed geniality, conversed with a comely woman in Twentystoner garb. She wore a widow’s wreath on her cap, but the accompanying bunch of feathergillie hinted that she might consider putting it aside if an opportunity beckoned. She and Teak held apples in their hands, unbitten as yet. 

Barberry Chalk is someone Ash comes to know well, but this is his first view of her. I wrote that scene and through the edits and proofs it has barely changed, yet it is only on this occasion, on the umpty-umpth time of reading through the ms, that I stopped to ask myself exactly what a widow's wreath looks like and what feathergillie is. I did come to a conclusion, but I can't recall what I was thinking, if I was thinking, when I first wrote the scene!

Here's a little list of terms coined for this series.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Wiggle Room

What's a man to do when he finds the perfect woman and seconds before he plans to propose she tosses him a bombshell that could see all his plans go to hell in a hand basket? In the case of Sebastian, what the man does is find some wiggle room. Here he is playing fancy footwork with the truth.

He wanted to play for time, but there was no time. If he procrastinated or explained she might reject him for his own good. Under all the chatter she was a virtuous woman and a kindly one. He couldn’t let her make that sacrifice. She was his perfect love in every way but one. Right. There was a way around it and he’d take it. It wasn’t a noble way but it wasn’t entirely selfish either. He’d be helping someone else. And besides, the alternative was losing his lady and that was not to be borne.
“Philippa, I have something I have to do. Call it a knightly horse lord duty.”
“To do with the gee-gee?”
“Exactly. I have to take him over there to arrange for a breeding.”
She looked perplexed. “You’re pimping out the gee-gee?”
“Indeed. There are so few steeds of his type that his bloodline has to be passed on with an appropriate mare. It’s something I promised when he was foaled.”
“I suppose it has to be a fay horse? There are a few likely fillies around here.”
“She’d have to be compatible, and he has to make his choice. I should have arranged this for him before, but you see…” He let the sentence trail off and continued as if the two were related. “You see, I have something to ask you and I was waiting for the perfect moment.”
He paused, breathing hard. He hadn’t lied. Not quite. That was the important thing. A little rearranging of the timeline and a little grafting of sentences wasn’t lying.

Sebastian's wiggle room lets him have his cake and eat it too, but it makes a heck of a mess of things for other people down the track.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Emerging Themes

It's odd how themes appear in novels and series without conscious input. As of December 2018 I've just finished writing a novel called Court in Between. It's a fairly common practice to write a chapter by chapter synopsis of a new ms, and it's at this point that the themes often emerge into view. I was aware that this book had a strong theme of self-image, which led to many of the characters acting in a certain way because they felt they had to do it to keep faith with themselves or with someone else. Sure enough, these themes are visible throughout, but I came upon two others I hadn't noticed.

The first is plants. The hero, Court, smells of dried tea. This attracts the heroine, Tansy. One of her main pleasures in a lonely existence has been drinking tea with her friend, the warm-hearted Finn. Tansy associated the smell with happiness. Tansy herself is named after a strongly-scented herb that has green fern-like leaves and bright yellow flowers. The horse Art, whom Tansy cares for, is really named Artemisia, a family of herbs.  His mother, Southernwood, was named for one of the plants in this family. Trees are important to Tansy; if she can grow trees for seven years she gains a reward. Blackberries and carrots also play a thematic part in the story, as does soapwort and springyweed, a plant native to the courtlands. Rowan, the traditional tree that is a defence against fairies, appears in the song Woman of Lore, which Court performs with his singing partner Jordana.

The second theme is rings.  Court inherits a gold fief ring from his unknown father. In accepting that he accepts far more than he intended. His mother Cari has her grandfather's fief ring, which she wears remodelled as an earring. Philippa, who appears in Chapter One, requests her fiance to get her a silver ring. This has far-reaching effects. There is also a ring, this time made of tin, featured in the song Woman of Lore.