Monday, 31 December 2018

Jordana and—

Jordana and—

Another band...this time a band of necessity...I invented for my w.i.p. is Jordana and—. The in-story reason for this is that Jordana Dane and Court Leopold together form the band Courtesan. They are booked to play for the ten day Counterpoint festival, but Court disappears in the early hours of Day 2. Jordana, her sister Gemma and husband Chess think Court must be tied up with family business, so they don't report his disappearance. However, that leaves the problem of Courtesan. 
On the first gig without Court, Gemma's new friend Josefa gets two dancers to join Jordana. She is announced as Jordana and Timbre and Amalie. The next time the duo Sunshower join her, and they're billed as Jordana and Sunshower. Next comes a tenor... hence Jordana and Dai.
This continues, with the word spreading among the other bands and performers. The band-of-necessity becomes known as Jordana and— with the blank being filled in by whoever volunteers for that gig.
So why not? I've noticed people in the book business are helpful to one another, so why shouldn't this extend to musicians?

On this friendly note - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Deconstructing Fusilier

Deconstructing Fusilier

When populating my fictional music festival with bands, I used some I had prepared earlier, for other books. I needed some new ones, and one I came up with I called Fusilier. This is composed of men and women who wear period military uniform and play kettle drums and fifes. When I invent this kind of thing, it generally just comes to me, but I sometimes deconstruct the process afterwards.
In the case of Fusilier, I believe one of the sources was probably a Eurovision act I saw a few years ago. The song was called Only Teardrops and the introduction consisted of drummers and flutes.  The fifes may have come from the Punchbowl Farm series of books which I read in the 1960s and 70s. In one of the stories Lindsey, who had been saving up for a flute, bought a fife instead because it was less expensive. I remember  knowing what a fife was because of the old song Soldier Soldier. Finally, there's the poem Following the Drum and, even longer ago, a book called The Ship from Simnel Street. So, there you are... the band Fusilier... It just came to me. Or did it? 

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Even the Dog

Even the Dog

I'm not artistic, or musical. I can't sew, beyond putting on buttons. I mostly wear shorts and shirts, jeans and jumpers or long skirts and my usual jewellery consists of my engagement and wedding rings. I'm currently wearing a bracelet of garnet beads, but that's in the spirit of possible therapeutic benefits. 
Despite the above, or maybe because of it, I love creating characters who have the attributes I lack. 

My current wip is set at a music festival. My inner performer is as happy as a dog with two tails about that. Ooh! Ooh! I get to name a whole festival? (Nearly worthy of an interrobang, that.)
I named the festival.
A festival needs acts, right? 
Ooh! Ooh! I get to invent band names? Even better, I get to put in bands I already invented! I get to create dances, food stalls and instruments, and costumes and songs.
Happy as a dog with two tails, as I said.
The Tuesday morning opening act was a super group. I don't know why. It just happened. As well as the acts that had already appeared in the earlier days, a few impromptu groups got up, just for fun.
One of these was called Even the Dog. It consisted of three young women performing a sister act, although they're not sisters. Two of them are the young aunts of the third. They've grown up together and they sing close harmony, which is all very well until the fourth member of the act begins his input. His name is Unka and he is a black dog who howls in harmony. 
Even the Dog, see? Unka doesn't look at all like my dog Pepper who is a Jack Russell but Pepper is possessed of a surprisingly tuneful howl.
Even the Dog.
Happy as a dog with two tails...


  

Friday, 28 December 2018

Tarry

Character Post 73: Tarry

Tarry is a fay goat who belongs to Sebastian "Baz" d'Chevalier. That's the theory, anyway. Tarry probably has a different view of the matter.  Tarry is a mottled grey and white beast--a blue marle--with an aggressive beard and eyes of a peculiar shade normal goats don't have. He is somewhat shaggy, but appears healthy and hale. Most people seeing him would think he was four or five years old.
Tarry is always there when treats are being dispensed. He lives in a well-appointed paddock and stable with a dun horse named Hugo (see Character Post 72). Even if they don't appear to pay much attention to one another, each is always aware of where the other one is. This is because Tarry is Hugo's proxy; the constant in his life for when his master is away for even a short time. Tarry sleeps in the stable with Hugo, and on the rare occasions Baz is away from home, they travel in the same horsebox. Baz' wife Phillipa refers to Tarry as "The blessed billy-o" because, on the occasion of her wedding to Baz twenty-six years ago, the unconventional priest blessed Hugo and Tarry made it plain he was going to be blessed as well. Or else. Phillipa says he was "Best Goat" at the wedding, but with Phillipa it's difficult to tell exactly what she means.
No one puts a halter on Tarry. No one. Extremely curious, Tarry pokes his nose into everything, including an engine being serviced. He must be well over thirty years old. Goats don't live that long of course. No one had better mention that to Tarry. Now and again he enjoys a pleasant interlude with a doe, but he's always back on duty before Hugo even notices he's gone.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Hugo and Hero

Character Post 72: Hugo and Hero

Hugo is a fay horse who belongs to Sebastian "Baz" d'Chevalier. In appearance, Hugo is a dun of about fifteen hands. He has a pleasant nature, and is somewhat greedy. He's fond of carrots and one is never enough. He loves attention and being groomed. Most people who see him assume he's nine or ten years old and very well trained, since his master rarely bothers to halter him. On closer acquaintance, one might notice a few odd things about Hugo. He always chooses to graze closest to wherever Baz is. He has what Baz calls moods when he makes a lot of fuss in the stable. One of Baz' few rules is that no one ever goes near Hugo when he's in a mood. Longtime acquaintances of Sebastian and his wife Phillipa might also start to wonder just how old Hugo is. Baz brought him into the marriage and that's twenty-six years ago. Then there's Tarry... the subject of Character Post 73. 

Hero is considerably bigger than Hugo. He is heavier in the legs and neck, and he is almost the exact colour of polished brass, with an extra long mane and tail. It's difficult to get a good look at Hero, because he's always in action. There are no known photographs of him. It's possible Phillipa has had a go, but the result is likely to be a blur. Most people never get to see Hero, and if you ask Baz about him he'll look mildly puzzled and say courteously that maybe you had a little too much cider.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Jordana Dane

Character Post 71: Jordana Dane


Jordana Dane is a singer with the serene good looks of a painted madonna and an unexpected alto voice. She is a gifted musician and dancer, and plays the harp and the flute. 
Jordy has a university degree, "not in music" as her sister puts it. While gaining this degree she shared a flat with her younger sister, Gemma Creed, in a student house owned by their parents. 
On finishing her degree, Jordana turned to her first love, music. To her parents' distress, she decided to try going pro. With this in mind, she went to a studio called Indichord run by a young man named Chess Dane. She took Gemma with her for moral support, but at first sight of Chess she was so smitten Gemma left them to it.
Jordy soon moved in with Chess and married him within months of their first meeting. Her parents were not pleased, especially when Gemma took her sister's side over her desire for a small wedding.
With Chess' support, Jordy released an album called Iris and did reasonably well on the club and festival circuit.
In temperament, Jordana is easy-going and calm. She has no nerves to speak of and interacts well with fans and other musicians. Her only Achilles' heel is Chess. She refuses to be apart from him for any length of time, claiming it makes her "woeful". Since Chess feels the same way this isn't much of a problem.
Two years after their marriage, Gemma met Court Leopold who, like Jordana, is good-looking, and has singing, musical and dancing talent. He is a tenor and Gemma introduced him to her sister and Chess. He and Jordana are a natural match on-stage and before long they are performing as Courtesan, a duo with a larger fan-base than Jordana has on her own. Naturally, their on-stage chemistry leads to fans believing they're a couple, but the attraction is nothing more than stage love as Gemma puts it an they shed it when the music stops. Three years after Courtesan was formed, Court Leopold disappeared from a festival, leaving the band's future in doubt. By then Jordana and Chess were expecting their first baby, so Gemma speculated Jordana mightn't have wanted to continue touring in any case.
    

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Colliding Worlds 3: Curly Whirly Ever So Swirly

Colliding Worlds 3: Curly Whirly Ever So Swirly

I love to play with colliding worlds. It sounds violent, but it's just another name for networlds. I write quite a lot of stories in different series, genres and at different levels. Sometimes, just for fun, I let my worlds collide.

Back in 2001, my picture book Cinderella's Wedding was published. This wasn't a re-write of the Cinderella story, but a guest's journey to the wedding. When the three little pigs make a cameo appearance, the playful refrain remarks that they are curly whirly ever so swirly in regards to their tails... or something like that! To be fair, it's a while since I read the book.





Yvanne Skipton is a character who has been mentioned in a couple of my books. She is a kind of cousin to one of my POV characters from Sam and the Sylvan and Sunshower. Yvanne is the eldest of three sisters. She is highly musical and has curly hair and a serious nature. She rarely leaves home. I needed someone to carry a message to another musician, so I employed Yvanne in that role. She plays a small but key part in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of one half of an indie band at the Patterdale Music Festival. Gemma, the roadie whose sister is the other half of the band sees Yvanne but has no idea who she is. Gemma has a habit of using Cockney slang and of using other colourful descriptive language. When she has to describe Yvanne to others, she calls her Curly-Whirly-ever-so-Swirly, a moniker which soon becomes shortened to Ms Curly-Whirly or Ms Curly.  Gemma, it is stated, is quoting from a half-forgotten childhood favourite.
That story, for those who know, is obviously Cinderella's Wedding. Gemma would have been born in 1996, which lines her up perfectly for this memory. To add to the serendipity of the collision of worlds, Gemma has something of a Cinderella quality as she is sometimes overlooked for her more talented and more beautiful sister. 

So, there's another little matter to make some reader, sometime, maybe pause and smile...

Monday, 24 December 2018

Cherries on Christmas Eve

Cherries on Christmas Eve

It is the manner of publishing that there is a lag between writing and printing. Therefore, I and several other writers found ourselves writing Christmas stories months before December. The first synopsis was done in February and the story completed in July. That meant getting in the mood.
When I wrote Christmas Eve, which was published earlier this month I brought in a lot of Christmas icons, some of which you might not expect.
This is a feel-good romance, so I named my H&h (romance-speak for Hero and Heroine) Eve Adeste and Raphael Angelus. Eve means life, and so is appropriate for a midwife. Adeste is the first word of a familiar carol. Raphael is an angelic name, and his surname also derives from angel. To top it off, Raph's cousin is named Gabriel. And no, he's not an angel. The baby Eve delivers on Christmas morning is named Evangeline, which refers to both of them.
So, there we are... full of Christmassy names.
Next, Eve goes swimming. Since Christmas falls in summer where I live, it tends to be associated with swimming.
Moving along... each chapter title is derived from a familiar carol or Christmas song.
Raphael has a holly and ivy wreath on his door, bought because it is the only decoration tough enough to withstand his cat Rasputin's paws.
A Christmas tree, which starred in my first Christmas tale in this series back in 2016, makes a guest appearance.
Finally come the cherries. For many Australians, cherries are strongly associated with Christmas. There is a carol called The Cherry Tree Carol, but its words don't fit the theme, so I passed on that. I didn't pass on the cherries though. Raph grows espaliered cherry trees in his Sydney cottage's walled garden. He shares some with Eve and they take some back when they visit new parents Frances and Niall.

So, there you are; an offbeat Christmas story called Christmas Eve.  You can see it here (of you're over eighteen). There's little left to say but MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Colliding Worlds 2: Unicorn Pearl

Colliding Worlds 2: Unicorn Pearl

I love to play with colliding worlds. It sounds violent, but it's just another name for networlds. I write quite a lot of stories in different series, genres and at different levels. Sometimes, just for fun, I let my worlds collide.

Pearl the Magical Unicorn is a children's series I write. In it, Pearl the unicorn and her friends Olive and Tweet embody friendship and can-do in the Kingdom. I'm fond of Pearl.
When I invented Tash Vasiliev, the "feral ferret in a tutu" as her dad affectionately refers to her, for a fantasy romance called Man Overboard, I arranged for her step-uncle, Zach, to recall her fifth birthday party - saying to Nikolai...

"You have a five-year-old. I distinctly remember attending a Pearl the Magical Unicorn party which featured five candles on a cake.” 

That's the only mention of Pearl in that book, but she pops up again, obliquely, in A Little Bit Pisky, my work in progress as of December 2018. In this story, Nanette Fanshaw's self-possessed third daughter Paola has a stuffed Unicorn Pearl which accompanies her just about everywhere. Nanette reflects that when Paola's baby sister is born, bringing the Fanshaw girls to a total of four, Unicorn Pearl will have to give up her car seat.

So that's it. Maybe one day, a parent whose child has the Pearl series might encounter Tash's party or Paola's cuddle-companion and smile.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Colliding Worlds: Jedket's Harp

Colliding Worlds 1: Jedket's Harp

I love to play with colliding worlds. It sounds violent, but it's just another name for networlds. I write quite a lot of stories in different series, genres and at different levels. Sometimes, just for fun, I let my worlds collide.
Jedket's Harp is one example. In a work in progress, Jordana Dane is a singer who also plays the harp. One of the solo pieces she does at a festival is called Jedket's Harp. In a story called Lilly of Mirryam, young Lilliandra has a friend named Jedket, who shows her the rare crystal formation called an elf harp.
So, Jordy must have read Lilly of Mirryam...
Probably not one reader in five hundred would have picked up that allusion. But now you know!

http://sallyodgers.weebly.com/lilly-of-mirryam.html

Friday, 21 December 2018

Henry Dark

Character Post 70: Henry Dark


Henry Dark was the third and youngest in his family. His sister Vivienne was the eldest, then came his brother Chas and finally, Henry. 

Henry was of average height, with dark hair and a beard. He wore heavy glasses and, in his own words, "I work with numbers. Now and then I haul ailing companies out of their self-dug pits and shame them into success.”

Viv's friend Sarah, who is the mother of Chas' son, reckons he's "on the spectrum" but Chas and Henry himself don't see it that way. As Henry tells his new friend Gemma during a "getting to know you" date, he's short on social filters. He also has a two-track mind so he never forgets things and he can hold a conversation while doing something that would usually take a lot of mental effort. 

Despite his slightly odd personality and not-so-striking appearance, Henry is very good indeed at getting what he wants. He does it by making people want to give it to him.  He doesn't lie and he is utterly reliable. He is the go-to person for his nephew when he needs a grown-up who isn't a parent.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Louise Hardy

Character Post 69: Louise Hardy

Louise Hardy was the first child and only daughter of Philippa Hackney and her husband Pierre Hardy.  Premature twins followed, and Philippa insisted enough was enough. When Louise was seven, her parents parted amicably, and Pierre married Brooke, who shared his desire for a large family. Louise and her brothers lived with Pierre and Brook and a growing number of half-siblings, but spent holidays with Philippa who unexpectedly provided them with a stepfather named Baz. Baz came complete with a horse and a goat, and Louise and the twins liked him. The situation was quite acceptable to everyone until the twins hit adolescence and developed a disturbing talent. 
Philippa, never especially maternal, left it to Baz to sort out. Certainly their father couldn't, because he was human and they were, as Philippa termed it, a little bit pisky. Although Baz got the twins into line, he declined to deal with Louise. She was two years older, but her talents didn't manifest until she was nearly sixteen. She went to her mother, as Baz insisted, but Philippa simply told her to go back to Baz. It was probably fortunate Louise lived with the human side of the family most of the time.
By the time she was thirty-three her teenaged problems were well behind her.  She had her own mail order herb business, and her own home. She was still in occasional touch with her mother and stepfather, and rather more frequent touch with her father's family, but the people she knew best were the wayward twins. They were peculiar and unnerving, but they were her brothers, so when she saw someone who looked like a younger version of Baz at a music festival it was the twins she called to verify her opinion. This innocent act embroiled her and the twins in a mystery that had its roots over twenty-five years before.

Louise Hardy was an interesting character to write. She had an odd upbringing which led her to be self-sufficient. Being a little bit pisky was at once a joy and a frustration. What, exactly, did it even mean?  

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

The Laugh of the Giraffe

The Laugh of the Giraffe
There was a stuffed giraffe in the antique shop. It's not there anymore. There is, a wire sculpture, a Victorian nightgown and the scariest looking doll I've ever seen. And a stoat. (Unless it's a weasel.) That shop is packed with stories.

This, however, is a poem from a collection called Animals in Silhouette.



If a giraffe told a joke to another giraffe
And if one (or both of them) started to laugh
How long would it take
For the laugh to quake
All the way down so the tail would shake?

It’s peculiar to ask
If giraffes can laugh
But I tell you I passed
A giraffe that laughed…

And how long did it take
For the laugh to quake
All the way down so the tail would shake?
I really can’t say, ‘cos it happens, you see
The giraffe that was laughing
Was laughing at me!


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

A Rose By Any Other Name

A Rose By Any Other Name

One of the oddest things in writing is changing the name of a character or of a book. Sometimes, authors do it themselves. When writing a book with a big cast it's easy to end up with names that are too similar. In a w.i.p. I changed Cari to Nanette (because I had a number of C-names already) and Gerard to Sebastian (because there was already a Gervais in the story). It was surprisingly easy to think about the characters under their new names. I once changed a character called Melissa to Melinda at a very late stage simply because it was a ghost story and between my beginning the book and finishing it, a book called "Melissa's Ghost" had been released.

It feels a bit more problematical when someone else makes the change. I've been disconcerted more than once to find the published version of my book has a change of character name. This is especially annoying when a carefully chosen thematic name gets changed to a generic one.

Book titles - well! That's another story.



Monday, 17 December 2018

Various Parties Converging on the Sea

Various Parties Converging on the Sea
When I was in high school, one of the set books for English Lit was John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps. I remember it because it was one of the only set books (perhaps THE only set book) I enjoyed. I disliked almost every set text because the books were poles away from what I liked reading. They still are. I like books that are exciting, joyful, beautiful and written in a style I enjoy. Anyway, one of the chapter titles I remember from this long-ago reading is Various Parties Converging on the Sea. I'm not sure why it struck me so much, but I have never forgotten. Mind you, I may have got it wrong. (Might it have really been Various Parties Converging FROM the Sea?) Memory is a fickle thing.

I think of this title often when I'm writing. Some of my books are linear affairs with single viewpoints or maybe two. At other times, as with the one I'm writing now, there are multiple POV characters. They are all women. This is unusual, but this is very much the women's tale.

The first is Nanette, first met at eighteen and later in her forties. A choice Nanette made when she was young has far-reaching effects twenty-six years later.

 The second person is Louise, who is in her mid-thirties. She has never met Nanette or even heard of her, but she is still affected. Louise has always felt mildly overshadowed by her twin brothers who are two years younger. She is a devoted fan of the indie band Courtesan and travels to all their gigs.

The third person is Gemma, the twenty-something Courtesan roadie. She doesn't know Nanette. She knows Louise only as Marie Antoinette, because of her gig costume.

The three other women, who have just one or two chapters each, are:
Jordana, Gemma's elder, prettier, more talented sister, married for five years and co-lead singer of Courtesan
Yvanne, who knew Nanette and her son eleven years ago and who resents it when Nanette sends her on an errand
Philippa who is Louise's mother. She doesn't know any of the others, but she was the comparatively innocent cause of Nanette's fateful decision.

These six women, along with others (notably Illya, Martina, Keeley, Ryl, Josefa and Richenda) who are important but who are not POV characters, all play their parts in a story spanning twenty-six years. Most of the action takes place over the first few days of a music festival during which Court Leopold, co-lead singer of Courtesan, disappears. All the women know part of the story, but none of them knows it all. If they just got together, it would all be clear. The last chapter, with luck, will tie all the strands together.

Various parties are converging on the sea --or at any rate, on the Patterdale Music Festival.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Daily Love: Chess and Jordana

Declarations of Love Post 10. Daily Love: Chess and Jordana

Declarations of love are a staple in fiction and they vary enormously according to author, audience, characters and situation. We mostly think of such effusions as romantic. We hope they're truthful, and we hope (usually) that they'll be made and received in a positive manner. Love's not always romantic though, so not all the declarations in this sub-set will be between romantic partners. This one is an observation from a third character whose sister has been married for five years.

Jordana sings romantic duets with Court, who is tall, fair and elegant. They are so convincing many of their fans are Court-for-Jordy 'shippers. Offstage, Jordana has been married to her record-producer husband Chess, who is large, round-faced and found of out-sized shirts. Here is Jordy's sister Gemma contemplating the phenomenon.


The trick is to leave it behind when you jump off the stage. That’s what Court and Jordy do.
She’d seen it happen. Jordy would be hand-in-hand with Court, glowing and dewy-eyed, and then she’d let go and step down into Chess’s arms, shedding the performance glamour as she went.

That’s the real love. That’s the love that comes from putting parsley in the scrambled eggs because he likes it and rubbing her back when she has PMS, and getting the giggles when he gets a button undone on that enormous shirt and goes hunting for the hole, and lighting up when they think of a pot of tea.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Writer's Serendipity

Writer's Serendipity

Writer's serendipity happens a lot. It's the phenomenon of finding exactly what you need at some point of a story. Sometimes it works with props. Your character needs to write a note and you remember mentioning a notebook she always has in her backpack. Or you need to put someone out of touch. Hey, remember that long phone call she had a few pages ago? Obviously, that flattened her battery.  You need someone to take your heroine out for the afternoon to occupy her while she (and the readers) wait for a five o'clock gig? Wait on... those two men you mentioned do have an elder brother. You mentioned him six books ago, so you can dust him off, age him up  to the appropriate vintage for the 2020 setting and voila! Better still, your heroine and he have something quite rare in common!

None of this is conscious invention. It just happens. Writer's serendipity. Where would we be without it?

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.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Lark's People

Baggage Handling Post 5: Lark's People

The farther one goes in a series, the more complicated the baggage handling gets. The Fairy in the Bed series now comprises around twenty novels, novellas and novelettes. The stories stand alone, but characters do reappear from time to time. My running baggage list, the file called Lark's People, comprises character names and relationships, some dates, places, concepts and other odds and ends. As of December 2018, this file runs to over 16000 words. It may seem excessive to add an absentee's father's wife, her ex-husband and her three adult children to the list, but when I mention these three are known to the hero as Marie Antoinette, The Cavalier and The Musketeer and that he has no idea of the connection until the last reel of the story you may see why I need baggage handling to keep them straight.

You can see a much-abbreviated list at https://larksinger.weebly.com/larks-people.html but I assure you the real one is a lot longer!

Monday, 3 December 2018

Court Leopold's Lady Lyonesse

Object Post 149

Lady Lyonesse
From Court in Between

Source: Court made the lute he named Lady Lyonesse under the tutelage of Kieran Shamrock, the leprechaun fiddler.

Until he was fourteen, Delacourt “Court” Leopold lived at Leopold Manor with his great-grandfather Baptiste and his mother, Nanette. Neither was especially musical, but Court was, so when he was thirteen Baptiste arranged for him to go to Kieran Shamrock, the fiddle maker, to craft his own musical instrument. Kieran expected Court to make a fiddle, but instead he made an ash-wood lute, which he named Lady Lyonesse and decorated with teapots.

Tansy, the stable hob who had been caring for his horse, asked him about it.

“Why teapots?” she asked.
“I like teapots. They’re generous and I like the shape. And they’re easier to carve than tea, which would look like any leafy twig. You have tansy sprigs on your cup so you ought to understand.”

Tansy might as well have asked, why tea? but that would have been disingenuous. Court happened to smell like tea. He also drank quite a lot of it with Tansy.
He had a confession to make about Lady Lyonesse.

“Lady Lyonesse is my favourite. I made her, and she sings only for me.”
“Why?”
 “I used a me-only charm, I’m afraid. I wouldn’t do it now, but I was thirteen then and I had so little that was mine.” He remembered Tansy Thrift had less, but she made no comment.

Court never mentioned why he chose the name he did for his lute, but the legendary sunken city was the kind of thing to appeal to a thirteen-year-old courtfolk boy and besides, the name would have been a kind of pun on lioness. After Baptiste’s death and Nanette's marriage, Court was the only extant Leopold of his line.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

D'Chevalier's Clarion


Object Post 148

D’Chevalier’s
Gold Clarion
From Court in Between

Source: D’Chevalier conjured it
Significance: It was something he gave to Tansy Thrift for their joint goal
Fate: Court Leopold kept it
~~~~~
“Ha!” he yelled in apparent triumph as a flared tube of glowing metal appeared in his hand.
“What is that?”
“Who knows, mistress? It’s a clarion, I believe. Mon beau cheval may answer to this, I think. It’s keyed to his note.”

Tansy Thrift was having a trying time. She’d spent seven years as friend and caretaker for the horse she called Art. Now his true owner had arrived to take over, so in theory, Tansy’s obligation was over. Unfortunately, no one had informed Art. Newly manifested as a cloud-stepper, he would carry his new owner. No one had thought to explain that his owner would manifest too. Now Tansy was not only stranded on an island with the reluctant courtfolk man named Court Leopold, but she was also intermittently in the company of d’Chevalier, the horse lord, a talkative rogue with an agenda of his own. To get off the island, Art had to manifest again, but Court and Tansy had no idea how to set off the change.
Finally, d’Chevalier gave Tansy a gold instrument he said might be a clarion. Tansy gave it to Court, who was, after all a musician.

Tansy saw Court didn’t know what it was. He turned it in his hands with what looked like absorbed interest.
Of course. He’s a music maker.
“D’Chevalier said he thought it was a clarion,” she said.
“It could be, but if so it’s an awfully primitive one.” He examined the mouthpiece and then ran his fingers along the length of the tube. “There are no valves, or stops, and no slide.”
“So?” She’d expected him to be angry with her for withholding the thing until now.
“Over there, a clarion is a kind of mediaeval trumpet, I think. I’ve never seen one, but I’d have expected it to have some way of varying the note. This looks more like the ones you see in old paintings of angels.” He raised it to his lips.
“Wait.” Tansy grabbed his wrist.

Tansy had quite mixed feelings about being stranded on the island, and no particular desire to go back where she’d been for the past seven years. Once Court blew the clarion all bets were off.

He raised the clarion for the third time.
The sound it made was high, and almost beyond hearing. Tansy felt it through her skull. She saw Court’s ribs move as he blew, bringing the note out full and loud.
It was bright, gold, and exciting, and she turned apprehensive eyes towards Art.
The effect was almost instantaneous. He had been grazing, but he swung his head up, ears springing forward. His eyes widened and he sank back on his hocks, lifting his front hooves in a flash of gold. His mane creamed out his chest broadened and he neighed on a note that exactly matched the clarion.
“It worked,” Tansy said.
“Indeed, Mistress.”

It was, of course, the horse lord…

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Research for the WIP

Research for the W.I.P., on and offline

The work in progress is growing. Research in the last few days includes:
One tansy leaf picked, sniffed and photographed... because my heroine smells of tansy.
A search of famous horse paintings, because my cloud-stepper does a hock-defying stop, and I half-remember a picture (or a sculpture) with just that pose.
Research into growing tea
a sashay into lutes... and the definition of a clarion
Lute music
A check of antique rings
Galleons
French translations of some words
A look at Norman names
A spot check of artemisia and the latin name for tansy
A virtual piano keyboard to check out the sound in my head
The pedigree of cambric and calico
...and that's only in the past few days.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Foxy Logic

Foxy Logic


Aesop (remember him?
He liked to write his fables)
Had a little story ‘bout
The fox and the grapes.
Fox couldn’t reach ‘em
No matter how he leapt
He said, “sour grapes”
And sneaked away…
                        And wept.
Now if you ask a fox about
The story Aesop wrote
He’ll use his foxy logic
And say to you, (I quote)
“Why would you believe it?
Why would I go for fruit?
I’m a fox remember…”
(So lock your chicken coop.)

From ANIMALS IN SILHOUETTE