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Every so often, a post comes up about how this or that character is a ‘Mary Sue’. I’m sure Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens was one of these unfortunate female characters, who certain viewers regard as being too good at things to be believed.

Allow me a moment of rocking in my chair on the porch. I was around when the term Mary Sue was localized to fandom, and in fandom – I think – it had a useful purpose. You see, the thing about fan fiction is that people read it hoping for more of the characters they loved from [whatever the canon is.] If they’re Aragorn fans, they want to see more fic about Aragorn, in which they can revel in how cool he is, feel sorrow for his sorrow and happiness for his joy, etc.

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In a situation like that, I think it’s perfectly valid to resent the introduction of a female character who wasn’t even in the canon stories, who inserts herself into the universe and immediately becomes the focus of the story. Especially when she outshines Aragorn by being better than him at everything, by advising him against the bad choices he makes, being wiser than him about his moments of self doubt, more beloved than him by the good guys and more hated than him by the bad. That wasn’t what you were looking for when you went looking for Aragorn fan fic. It claimed to be Aragorn fanfic, but it was actually Legolas’s-Sister-the-real-heir-of-Lorien fanfic.

As the story misguided you as to who it was actually about, you had every reason to resent it.

However, when you take the female character who is good at everything – who outshines all the other characters, has a cool name and a destiny, who is chosen and favoured and successful – out of fanfic, I think she ceases to be a Mary Sue.

Mary Sue doesn’t just mean ‘a female character who is implausibly good at things.’ Because you know who else can be defined as ‘a character who is implausibly good at things’? The hero. That’s who. The hero, by definition, tends to be that character who always comes through in the end, and often does it by being better than everyone else.

Outside of fanfiction, there are plenty of male characters who are handsome and devastatingly sexy and dangerous and destined for greatness. Or if they’re not destined, they fight their way to greatness anyway.

It’s a classic superhero trope isn’t it? Young man finds himself in some hidden valley/ancient temple/bat-cave and is taught to be a superhero by a secret society who only exist to give him the tools to be great. Then he goes off and fights crime and dazzles high society with his wealth and debonair attitude, while carrying the fate of the world on his shoulders.

No one seems to call James Bond a Mary Sue. We’re just happy to go along with him for a wild ride of a power fantasy in which we vicariously enjoy being awesome.

So, outside fan fiction, I don’t see why you can’t also have a female hero who exists entirely to be badass and better than anyone else. A female character who gets openly admired for that.

In fact, I thought that sounded rather fun. And so Aurora Campos from the Cygnus Five series was born. I wanted her to be the kind of unstoppable force of nature that Hornblower or Jack Aubrey are, but in space. I wanted her to be the kind of person who, when she’s abandoned on a hostile world by her venal bosses, who hope she’ll be murdered and thus be no more embarrassment to them, would go “No. I’m Aurora Campos. You should be afraid of me.” And then take over that world and make it happen.

I suspect she’s a direct descendent of Susan Ivanova from Babylon Five, who initiates a war from the bridge of her battlecruiser with a speech that still makes me want to punch the air. I get to the end of this speech and I have chills even now, so very many years since I saw this first.

“I am Death Incarnate. I am the last living thing you will ever see. God sent me.”

How often do we get to see this? When do we ever get to see women have this kind of crowning moment of awesome? It’s so rare.

And that’s how Aurora came to be. I wanted her to be the kind of character who could pull off a speech like this, because she has the force of will, intelligence and strength to follow through on it.

She’s still not a Mary Sue, for the reasons I’ve given above. She’s a hero. And writing her was such a blast. Such a relief. I hope if you read her, she’ll come as a vicariously enjoyable power fantasy for you too, and that you too will find that something of a breaking of mental chains.

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Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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Hello!  And thanks for agreeing to be interviewed!

Now that I’m an Indie author myself – a very new one who doesn’t know what they’re doing – I’m fascinated to hear from other indie authors who’ve been at this longer than me. So have a variety of questions, and choose the ones you’d like to answer, and I (and I’m sure my readers too) will be fascinated to hear what you have to say 🙂

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  1. Who has been the biggest influence upon your work?

A number of different authors have been firm favourites of mine over the years but I’m not sure how much they’ve each influenced my work. I haven’t consciously tried to emulate the styles of any existing author- I tend to only think about other authors when I’m reading their books.

  1. How long have you been writing? What made you start?

I’ve been writing to one degree or another since about the age of 5 or 6- as soon as I could physically write, pretty much. I guess I had an overactive imagination and I just used to come up with stories about anything and everything when I was a kid- obviously most of them were nonsense, but I remember being quite proud of them at the time. As time went on and I struggled into the grey miserable world of adulthood, I also discovered that I didn’t really have any particular talent for the world of “proper work” so I guess that made me even more determined to stick with it.

  1. What was your first book and what was it about?

That was so long ago I can’t even remember the title or even what it was about. Most of the stuff I wrote during my teens was awful. I honestly don’t remember 90% of it, and the other 10% I wish I couldn’t remember.

  1. What are you enjoying reading at the moment?

I’ve finally got around to the third book of Tad Williams’ Shadowmarch series, and I intend to read the fourth and final volume immediately afterwards. It’s excellent.

  1. Do you do anything to summon up inspiration – write to music, have a special writing hat etc?

Well, I don’t own any hats, but I do usually write with some sort of music on headphones (for the full surround in-your-head effect). It can be almost any sort of music except that misogynistic, violence-glorifying “gangsta” or “grime” stuff, or cheesy glam rock which I also can’t stand.

  1. What do you do when you’re not writing?

I read, or go for walks in the countryside, or listen to music. Sometimes, if I feel especially interesting I will even try and do all three at the same time.

  1. What works in progress have you got on the go at the moment?

I’m collecting together some short stories for a digital-only release which will be launched on September 29th. Some were written a long time ago and others more recently. This is something I’ve been planning to do for a while, and finally got around to doing.

I’m also working on the sequel to my YA sci-fi / fantasy novel Summer’s Dark Waters, currently titled The Light From Far Below. This is a challenge of a quite different sort for me- it’s become a pre-apocalyptic tale of urban paranoia which makes uneasy reading even for me, so it needs to be shaped appropriately for its intended readership- those poor folks who will have to contend with what remains of this world in the decades ahead.

Thirdly, my book for younger kids, which I’m reluctant to give any details about at this point in case it doesn’t see the light of day. It’s a big leap into the unknown in terms of writing style, and depending on what the beta readers think, it may be shelved. But I’d like to think it has some potential- so I’m aiming to complete it and then we’ll see if it wilts or blooms in the light of scrutiny.

I also have a standalone book in progress- it isn’t really fantasy in any conventional sense (I’m not sure what it is) but I’m pleased with what I’ve written so far.

  1. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? What do you do then?

I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I just think the brain can only come up with a certain level of creativity at a certain rate- and sometimes you just have to wait for ideas to come along. We can’t operate on the “higher level” all the time. So I just keep at it (on what I call the lower level) and sooner or later the switch gets flicked in my head.

9: Have you ever won any writing awards? If so, what?

I’m pretty sceptical about “writing awards” – there seem to be hundreds if not thousands of them and almost every other author seems to like to describe themselves as “award winning” or “bestselling”. I’m more interested in what readers think of my work. If I can pull someone into my world and if it deeply affects them in a positive way, that’s really a reward in itself.

I’m not really seen as part of any clique or group or association so I very much doubt that I’d get put forward for an award anyway. But that’s ok. I write for readers to enjoy my work. Awards are forgotten over time. Books that profoundly affect the reader can last a lifetime in the memory.

10: What one thing are you the most proud of in your life?

I don’t think I’m actually “proud” of anything as such. I’ve enjoyed writing my works and I feel a certain sense of achievement, but “pride” feels like an odd emotion to me. I could probably be proud of other people depending on what they had done or achieved, but it’s not something I think about in terms of my own life.

11: Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?

I don’t have a single one, rather a list, including Alan Garner, Clive Barker, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Ian Irvine, Tad Williams, C J Cherryh, C S Lewis, Aldous Huxley and a number of others. I tend to read fantasy and fantasy-horror (sci-fi is something I tend to prefer in film), but I do read some character-based contemporary fiction- particularly John Irving, whose works I really enjoy.

12: Do you enjoy TV and movies? If so, what are your favorite shows/films? Do you find they inspire your writing?

I loathe most TV and the celebrity culture that infects it, but there are a few incredible series- off the top of my head I would say Twin Peaks (my vote for the greatest series of all time), Ashes To Ashes, Waking The Dead, League of Gentlemen, X-Files, Game of Thrones, American Horror Story, Carnivale…

I couldn’t possibly list all my favourite films here but again off the top of my head, Blade Runner (best film ever- no, I won’t be watching the pointless “reboot”), Alien, Terminator 2, Jacob’s Ladder, Event Horizon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Inland Empire, A Field in England, Mulholland Drive, all three Lord of the Rings films (though I didn’t care so much for The Hobbit- too long-drawn out), Predator, Melancholia, Martyrs, Kill List, Wolf Creek, Nymphomaniac, Trainspotting, The Shining, 51st State, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (yes the original), Interstellar, The Box, District 9, Inception, Westworld, Moon, The Machinist, THX 1138, Solaris, Brain Dead (one of very few rom coms I love- maybe because it contains zombies)… many many others.

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13: Where can we find out more about you and your writing?

 Readers can find out more at any of the following links and networks:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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It is autumn. My son has had his first week at university, leaving me in the house on my own. Naturally I had to be busy busy busy in order to justify my right to existence.

Rather than actually tidying the house (I did do some of that, but it never lasts), I have been beavering away on several writing projects at once.

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I narrowed down the whole of history into a focus on 50ad, and the whole of the world into a snapshot of the area of Britain belonging to the Brigante tribe, letting me conclude that the novella I intended to write for my newsletter would involve Queen Cartimandua, notorious backstabber and Roman sympathizer.

I also spent like three days wrestling with the names of my heroes. Do you know if a Brigante man called Tamm whose father was called Cara would be Tamm MacCara or Tamm ap Cara? I didn’t.

Do you have any idea how to work out this Roman naming system, when the Roman in question is not a member of one of the original Roman gens? I really didn’t. I am very very fortunate to have Wulfila to talk me through it. But if I had any confidence going in, I’ve emerged from the experience without it.

And that was without deciding my Roman MC needed a Phoenician personal name because his family were still proud of being Carthaginians first. Apparently the Phoenicians (like other ancient cultures) didn’t believe in writing down vowels. So it took me most of this morning to decide on Kpr as my MC’s Phoenician name and decide it was spelled Kepir. To make it pronounceable for his mates, he would tell them it was Kepirus, or just to call him Africanus and have done with it.

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That was all research. In addition, I have been plotting. *Steeples hands in a sinister fashion*

What have I been plotting? I’ve been plotting another adventure for Charles Latham and Jasper Marin of The Wages of Sin fame. This one is to be called Waters of the Deep.

In which Charles’s Latham family entitlement makes a bad situation worse when he and Jasper are called in to investigate a multiple stabbing in (the cotton mill town of) Paradise. 

This will be another combination of m/m romance, murder mystery and fantasy. No ghosts, this time – other than Lily, Charles and Jasper’s adopted ghostly daughter – but other denizens of Faerie instead.

I haven’t set a firm deadline for getting that finished, other than ‘hopefully before Christmas.’

But!

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as a way of whetting people’s appetites for it, I’ve written a 10,000 word short story in the same universe. Buried With Him is a prequel to The Wages of Sin and tells the story of what happened after Jasper was pilloried that managed to save his faith.

It also manages to keep on with the theme of vaguely sinister Biblical titles, though I worry that this one in particular – though thematically appropriate – is really offputting.

That’s currently being edited, and I’m hoping to release it in mid October. Since, once that’s done, there will be two (soon to be three) volumes in this series, I’ve given the whole thing a series title of Unquiet Spirits. I hope to do at least one more novella in the series afterward, if only to justify calling it a series at all! Watch this space for more definite news on that.

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

I’m determined to get my money’s worth out of Netflix, despite the fact that even with all those programs to choose from, very often I don’t see anything I really want to watch.

At any rate, having worked my way through Daredevil Series #1, Jessica Jones Series #1, Sense8 series #1, Grimm series #1 and #2, Gotham #1, and iZombie #1 and #2, having tried and failed (again!) to watch Once Upon A Time, I blazed through Shadowhunters #1 in about a week and a half.

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I’m not familar with the books. I have the feeling there’s some kind of plagiarism debate going on about where the series concepts come from, in a similar vein to 50 Shades coming from Twilight which itself came from something else. Although I was in fandom at the time there was something going on with Cassandra Claire, I wasn’t in that part of fandom, and I don’t know what it was. All I really know is that I’ve heard of her and I’ve heard of the books, but not necessarily in flattering terms.

As a result, I really wasn’t expecting to like the series. And in fact the super-hyper-real high fashion glossiness of its visual style was very offputting to me at first. I have more or less got used to the fact that even the characters’ faces are a part of the overall aesthetic, but I still need an occasional double-take over the fact that everyone in this series is beautiful in exactly the same way. (Except for Jace who just thinks he is.)

The dress standards of this universe are way too high for me – even the werewolves manage to be stylish – and it is a world in which you will believe a woman could be born with neon orange hair. But it’s beautiful in its own highly saturated, highly coloured way, and better to have a consistent aesthetic than not, right?

Story-wise, it hits the ground running and accelarates from there – corruption in the heart of the good guys! Sworn brothers put at odds by the appearance of a mysterious lady! Tragic disappearance of our MC’s mother just as she was about to tell her the world-changing secret concealed from her at birth! OMG! My father is the villain! The demons are invading! Accidental near incest! My best friend is a vampire now!

Okay, perhaps the emotional realism is a bit lacking, and the characters tend to explain their emotions to each other rather than acting like they actually have them. But the sheer exhuberant invention of the entire thing is charming, and it manages to unify the appeal of a soap opera – weddings, jiltings at the altar, surprise siblings, cross-species romance, who’s dating who, whose parents are up to some dodgy stuff (all of them!) etc with the appeal of angels, devils, werewolves, vampires, warlocks and fairies.

I mean, there’s something for everyone in here.

I won’t deny that I’m probably hooked because I so rarely get a canon couple to be invested in, and I am terribly terribly happy to have the canon romance between Alec Fairchild and Magnus Bane to cheer on. (If something terrible happens to them later, don’t tell me! Netflix UK only has series 1. Let me enjoy it while I can.) I would definitely be fannish about Magnus Bane if I had time.

Just in terms of representation, it’s got to be rare to have a bisexual POC character who gets to be openly in a m/m relationship while being Magnus’s level of awesome, surely. I hesitate to recommend the series just for that. (I’m braced to hear that they kill him off in series #2.) But it’s up there in my list of ‘top three reasons to watch this show.’ Number 1 of that list is that this series is a real masterclass in how to keep the hooks coming, so there’s never a moment when the viewer doesn’t wonder what the sinister plan is now, and how the characters are going to get out of this one. It’s fast and fun. I like it.

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Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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Thanks to everyone who replied to my newsletter blog post saying what kind of story you would like to see. We had a three way tie between the Roman/Celt idea, the Victorian tattooist idea, and Pacifist Prince meets H. Rider Haggard.

I’ve got to say the idea of H. Rider Haggard or any of his muscular explorers meeting my pacifist prince character is a delight, and I personally would love to write that most of all. But in the spirit of first come, first served, it seems the Romans have it.

Story stage – assembling the ingredients.

As I don’t actually know anything at all about the Celts, and very little about the Romans. I need to take a while to narrow down where this is likely to be set, when, who would be involved and what exactly they would be likely to be doing. Then I need to research the heck out of all of it. So this week will be devoted to looking things up and trying to get enough of a feel of the setting to allow me to vaguely see the shape of what kind of a story it could be.

I will post a newsletter on Friday containing an update of my progress, any interesting research I might have come up with, and the usual selection of news about all my other projects (of which there now seem to be many!)

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I’m going to have to get some form of time planner to keep track of it all. Anyone have software they can recommend for an author trying to keep track of lots of different projects at the same time?

 

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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Prithee, Mistress, what art thou about, fixed to that glowing square as though ’twas a broadsheet? Art though mazed by its unearthly glow? Nay, surely it will bewitch thee, and thou shouldst smash it. Smash it now afore thy soul be sucked from thy very bones!

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Gytha and Wulfwaru at Kim’s feast, informally dressed – it was very hot!

Funny, right? Me talking in bad mimicry of the little I remember of Shakespeare, and pretending not to know what a computer screen is. It’s funny because we both know it’s a game, and in fact I am well aware of the internet and I’m also well aware that you know about computers too. If we stopped pretending, then we could have a conversation about what a Tudor person might make of the internet in the relaxed and informal atmosphere of knowing that we are two people of equal standing, with a similar grounding in the concepts that we’re using.

If one of us knew of research or evidence that proved the Tudors would have thought the computer wasn’t a danger to your soul, they could share it, easy as saying “There’s an article in History Today that suggests the Tudors were already blase about the printing press – I think they’d have seen this as a parallel technology rather than a spiritual threat. I’ll send you a link.”

But imagine trying to have that conversation while the first person is determined not to break character – not to say anything that could not have been said or thought by a Tudor person. Suddenly you have a communication gap. Suddenly you have to explain the internet to someone who already knows what it is, because they refuse to stop pretending that they don’t. If you want to talk about research, you must invent some period-appropriate method of getting it into the conversation. Woe betide you if it’s archaeology, and you then have to explain why 21st Century archaeologists think it’s okay to dig up graves.

If you’re anything like me you’ll give up in frustration within the first few sentences.

I imagine there is a way to interact with re-enactors who are determined to pretend they’re actual inhabitants of a different time period. Perhaps I should have come up with a backstory for myself involving time travel, allowing me to also pretend I was in the past.

The trouble is that if I was in the past, I wouldn’t have walked round in a modern sundress and shorts taking photos. I’d have known that was inappropriate. I’d have found a way to get some Tudor clothes and prepared a story about being a Finnish princess whose strange behaviour could have been treated as foreign eccentricity.

In other words, to enjoy the pretence, I would also have had to pretend. I would have had to pretend in some way that put me on a footing where I could converse with the reenactors as an equal, rather than allowing myself to be a prop to whom they could impart their wisdom.

I didn’t like being cast as the clueless modern who knows absolutely nothing about the past. I am a re-enactor myself and I know how to churn butter. I know perfectly well what you’re doing with that spinning wheel, mistress, I don’t need you to explain it to me. I know, Mr. “Coppice Worker,” that this clearing you’re sitting in with your pole-lathes hasn’t been coppiced since it was planted. How about you stop trying to tell me things I already know and allow us to have a conversation where you treat me like a person instead of your stereotype of a clueless member of the public?

Perhaps I should explain. It was our family summer holiday recently, and naturally we used the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the things we like. Which turns out to be history and eating large meals. We managed to encounter two different species of re-enactment in the same week. One day we went out to Kentwell Hall, for one of their Tudor days, and the next we went to Wychurst, the feast hall of Regia Anglorum, to celebrate the life of Kim Siddorn, its founder, and erect a cross in his memory.

Gytha adds a handful of soil to the base of Kim's cross. Everyone present added theirs before it was filled in.

Gytha adds a handful of soil to the base of Kim’s cross. Everyone present added theirs before it was filled in.

I should declare a bias – I am a member of Regia Anglorum, and although I don’t take part in many of their events any more, I am still proud of Regia’s simultaneous commitment to authenticity and cheerful willingness to discuss anything with anyone.

Regia takes the view that if we were to pretend to be Anglo-Saxons or Vikings, we would be speaking a different language to the public. We would be mutually incomprehensible – and what would be the point of that?

So if you come onto a Regia site, you will see nothing that you would not have seen in the 9th Century. You will see people carving wood and stone, cooking on a fire-pit, making cheese, spinning, weaving, telling stories, playing music etc as closely as we can get it to how they would have done it in the 9th Century.

But if you come up to someone and say “I thought the draw-knife didn’t come in till the Normans? I thought everything was done with an axe before then?” A Regia re-enactor will look up and smile, recognising a fellow enthusiast, and either say “Oh blimey, I don’t know. Let me get Ketil, he’s the woodworking expert,” or “Well, there’s a marginal drawing in the Gesta Anglorum that shows something that looks like a draw-knife, and the cut pattern of the timbers on the Oseberg ship suggests something more controllable than an axe, so we’ve ruled it as a possible. You’re into woodwork yourself, or…?”

And then you can have a conversation in which you both learn from each other. This is not to say that Regia doesn’t also meet clueless members of the public(tm). I remember one who asked me “Did they have wood in those days?” and about my daughter – sleeping in a rush basket by my feet – said “Is that a real baby?” But (a) we don’t go into any conversation assuming the person knows nothing, and (b) we had a good chat about both of those things anyway, because we could do it without making them feel stupid or talked down to.

Everyone has moments of saying awkward things when they’re doing something stressful, like talking to weirdos in strange costumes. It still doesn’t mean you’re always going to be teaching them. Quite possibly, if you chatted like equals, you would find out that they were experts at knitting and they could help you work out that naalbinding stitch you can’t figure out for the life of you.

Is there a point to this rant?

Mostly, I admit, it is to help me to figure out why the experience of being talked to by the Kentwell Hall re-enactors freaks me out so much. What are the underlying principles behind my feeling that it’s such a horrible experience I don’t want to go again?

I think it is this – history is more fun if you don’t forget that your audience are modern people just like you. History is more fun if you assume your viewers/your readers know as much as you do, and talk to them with the mindset that you are talking to an equal. They might well know more than you about certain things, but even if they don’t, they are still someone who has valuable insights of their own. History is hard enough to get to grips with if you don’t introduce a deliberate culture chasm by interposing several new layers of pretending and falsehood.

We can’t talk to the Tudors, and there’s something very fake about pretending that we can.

To be frank the whole experience drove me up the wall, like that ‘game’ cruel children used to play at school where instead of responding to what you said they’d just repeat it until you had to accept that language was broken, the social order was destroyed, and you could only protect yourself by running away and refusing to speak around them ever again. It was, for me, an experience of an utter failure to communicate, and you can call me a killjoy all you like, but I found it almost scary.

This is without the whole sexual harassment thing, of course. That’s another story.

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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In a move that seems to go against any kind of good economic sense, I’ve made Lioness of Cygnus Five free from today to the 5th of September. I’m only allowed to do this for five days under KDP’s policies, so grab a copy now if you would like one.

If you had time to spare, an honest review would be very appreciated. (It doesn’t have to be a good review. I’d just like to know what you thought.) And if you liked it, and you’d like to tell other people about it, that would be awesome!

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Aurora Campos’s days of heroism are behind her. Deemed a shameful failure, she now captains Froward, a prison transport filled with criminals sent out to colonise new worlds for the Kingdom.

Bryant Jones, technocrat and falsely accused ‘murderer’, is not going to let his future be taken away by this low-tech luddite of a woman and her backward society. He’s staging a break out from Aurora’s brig when the Froward is shot down around them.

Cygnus Five is a failing colony. Starving convicts have taken over and found themselves a spaceship wrecker among the ruins of an abandoned alien city. The only way off-world is the Governor’s launch, sealed in its silo beneath the convicts’ headquarters. But as they team up to capture it, Aurora and Bryant discover love, institutional betrayal and the lurking remnants of a self-destructive alien civilization. Soon they have bigger problems on their hands than their own survival.

When they arrived, Aurora thought she had only her crew to rescue. As it turns out, she has to save the whole world.

Get it here for free!

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

Well, I said I would release it in August, and I have just scraped in.

Bar a bit of formatting and making sure the links worked, it was ready last week, but I had forgotten that I was going on my summer holidays, and I didn’t want to release it while I was away in case something went wrong which I needed to fix. So, here I am back, the links are all tested. Amazon reports zero spelling mistakes, and I think we’re as ready to go as we ever will be.

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You can buy it here

via an extremely cool link that takes you to whatever is the correct Amazon for your country 🙂

Blurb

Aurora Campos’s days of heroism are behind her. Deemed a shameful failure, she now captains Froward, a prison transport filled with criminals sent out to colonise new worlds for the Kingdom.

Bryant Jones, technocrat and falsely accused ‘murderer’, is not going to let his future be taken away by this low-tech luddite of a woman and her backward society. He’s staging a break out from Aurora’s brig when the Froward is shot down around them.

Cygnus Five is a failing colony. Starving convicts have taken over and found themselves a spaceship wrecker among the ruins of an abandoned alien city. The only way off-world is the Governor’s launch, sealed in its silo beneath the convicts’ headquarters. But as they team up to capture it, Aurora and Bryant discover love, institutional betrayal and the lurking remnants of a self-destructive alien civilization. Soon they have bigger problems on their hands than their own survival.

When they arrived, Aurora thought she had only her crew to rescue. As it turns out, she has to save the whole world.

Lioness of Cygnus Five – an excerpt

I’ve made this book a Kindle exclusive, so I can run a giveaway for its launch. If you get it any time during the period 1st-5th of September, it will be free. So if you’re curious about trying my SF/Space Opera, but you’re not sure if you’ll like it, you’ll be able to get it in that period, risk and expense free.

(I’ll remind you again on the 1st when the giveaway actually starts.)

Please, if you do try it and enjoy it, consider leaving me a review on Amazon. I don’t have the backing of a publisher for this one, so I need help getting the word out there about it. Thank you!

Get it here!


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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EcrivainAuxChats

By Morburre – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

This is probably oversharing or something, but what do people think of this as a blurb?

~

Busted to command of prison ship Froward, taking criminals out to colonise new worlds for the Kingdom of Peace, Aurora Campos’s days of heroism are behind her. No more conquering the fleets of the Source Worlds’ soul-less technocrats. She’s a fallen woman, a failure.

Bryant Jones, technocrat and ‘murderer’, is not going to let his future be taken away by some dark ages Neanderthal. He’s staging a break out from Aurora’s brig when the Froward is shot down around them.

The convicts have taken over the penal planet. Shipwrecked on a hostile world, where the only escape route is a single spaceship buried in a guarded silo beneath the convicts’ main building, Aurora and Bryant must work together to survive.

Aurora wants the ship so she can rescue her crew. Bryant just wants off world as soon as possible. Neither of them are expecting the aliens.

~

Interesting? Cliche? Would you want to read it? What would you do differently?


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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I’ve mentioned the Cygnus Five series before, haven’t I? It’s more of a Cygnus Five trilogy at the moment, and comes to a satisfying close at the end of the third book. But there’s lots of room for expansion later on if people like these three books.

LionessFinalLarge

I’m in the final stages of polishing up Lioness of Cygnus Five at the moment. I’m writing a blurb/cover copy, doing one more proof-reading sweep, and – as you can see – creating the high-res cover, rather than the mock-up I showed you earlier.

This series is a massive experiment and learning experience for me. I’ve used self-publishing in a casual way before, as a way of testing the waters with things that I’d already written/published before, but I’ve never committed the time and energy to write three books specifically with an intent to Indie publish them.

Hanging around the internet over the last few years, I’ve heard more than one person wishing for queer books that were not, first and foremost, romances. “Why can’t we just be heroes? Why can’t our sexuality just be one aspect of who we are, not the focus of the book?”

That jived with me, because if you’ve known me since my early fandom days you’ll know that I was always primarily a gen writer. I like the fighting, blowing things up, saving the world and philosophizing on the nature of good and evil better than I like the romance. This is a problem for a romance writer.

So, I thought “I have no idea who would publish a space opera with a variety of queer leads, where the queerness wasn’t really the point, but wasn’t invisible either. Particularly when the first book revolves around a m/f relationship.” (Hero is bi, straight heroine spends some time body swapped to male-appearing and learns something about dysphoria in the process.) Later books continue the m/f relationship but also follow a f/f pairing and an ace m/m pair as they liberate prisoners and act as ambassadors for the human race to an alien AI.

Basically, I don’t think a mainstream publisher would know what to do with it, but it’s very much the sort of thing I wanted to write, and it’s the sort of thing I’ve heard people asking for, around the MOGAI and fandom sections of the internet.

I don’t have a game plan going in. I probably should. But if I waited for one, I would probably never do this. If there are any wise, established Indie Publishers out there who could give me hints as to how to do this, I would be very grateful. Equally, if any of my writing friends would like to host me on a blog tour for this, I would also be very grateful. (My blog is always open to you in return!)

I will be blogging about how it goes and what I’m up to, on a fairly regular basis. (That’s my aim, subject to depression and spoons.) So if you’re interested in a case study for how someone starts off in self publishing with a book, high hopes and zero knowledge, check back when you can. I’ll try to remember to tag all relevant posts Cygnus 5 books.

Now to write a blurb!

 


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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GhostbustersPoster

Late as usual, I finally saw Ghostbusters 2016 on Saturday. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Tumblr had loved it, but then Tumblr loves Jupiter Ascending and Pacific Rim vastly more than I do for things that I’m not really seeing in either.

On the other hand, when I first saw the promo material come out, I couldn’t believe it was true. I could not believe anyone would make a big budget mainstream comedy/sci-fi film, the reboot of a beloved cult franchise, and have every single one of the heroes be women. I spent a lot of time reblogging trailers and promo material while commenting “I don’t believe this is actually happening.”

Throughout the history of movies and TV, it’s been so prevalent to have all male lineups, maybe with a token female character who gets to be the love interest, that we’ve forgotten that it could ever be another way. Things have been slowly improving to the degree that in a lineup of – how many Avengers now? Seven? – there are two female characters. (But one of them gets to sit the film out because she’s too unstable.)

There are better franchises, of course. Suicide Squad has three women to five men (if my hasty count of the poster is to be believed.) And Mad Max had six women to two men, and Mad Max blew my mind by doing that. But it was still unthinkable to me, even in 2016, to have a film in which there wasn’t a male hero at all – all of them were female.

But hell, why not? It’s been a long time coming and there’s a lot of ground still to make up.

Anyway. It was almost total disbelief that they were even doing this at all that made me determined to go and see it, if only to show my support.

ghostbusters-2016-movie-trailer

I’m so glad I did! It’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in ages. For someone who expected to be knocked off my feet by the fact that all the leads were female, I actually forgot about that the moment it started, because I was just caught up in the fact that these were people. It’s quite rare, in fact, for women to be written as people in mainstream media. They’re usually written as women first and individuals after. Which usually means I find it almost impossible to connect with them on any level.

These women though, with their scientific curiosity and fear and glee and indomitability were instantly understandable. Holtzmann’s awkward, honest speech at the end made me feel so much “emotionally repressed nerd tries to be open about her feelings,” sympathy. I know how that feels from the inside. Abby’s insistence on the perfect ratio of wonton to soup is not only something I would do myself, but was a great running joke that culminated in me laughing silently until my muscles hurt. What a joy it was to see Patti’s knowledge of history be as vital to the team as the science. And I wanted to cheer when she backed out of the room full of mannequins. You know you would have too. I certainly would!

I even loved Kevin, though he was a pointed bit of social commentary. Why not? We’re probably owed it. And anyway, who couldn’t love a man who called his dog Mike Hat?

I did totally rejoice in seeing the girls kick ghost ass and be gloriously good and competent at it, but by that time I had forgotten about other films in which that wouldn’t have happened. DH came with me, and I wondered what he made of a film where all the leads were women. He said he thought it was a better film than the first Ghostbusters, because it was funnier and it didn’t take itself too seriously.

I completely agree. I would also say how much better it was for not having a gratuitous ‘love story’ forced in there as ‘something for the women in the audience.’ I didn’t even notice there wasn’t one. The ‘something for the women in the audience’ was the whole film. For once, Erin, a woman, was allowed to be the everyman. That’s actually quite revolutionary and long overdue.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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Sandra and I go way back to the days when we were both hanging out on Livejournal together. She cheered me through the submission of the book that became Captain’s Surrender to its first publisher. So I am extremely happy to be able to hand over my blog to her for a guest post about her first novel, Under Leaden Skies, which came out from Manifold Press on Monday 1st of August. Just this week 🙂 It’s really exciting! Fistbump of authorly solidarity to you, Sandra.

~

Mosquito+Sandra-sm

The author with the prototype Mosquito being rebuilt at the DeHavilland Museum.

Things I learned during the writing and publishing of Under Leaden Skies

My first book, Under Leaden Skies, was released on Monday. As the full story of writing it is fairly long, I thought I would condense my experience into some of the things I have learned during the process.

1) Outline. Or at least have a vague 3-point plan.
They say there are “plotters” and “pantsers”. Well, the first draft of this book was written without any pre-plotting beyond “miner and airman in love during WW2”. Writing it was an adventure, editing it a complete and utter nightmare. I think it took me a month just to sort all the events into a coherent timeline, before I could even start looking to improve any other aspect.

2) When in doubt, research.
Roughly 99% of this story came out of the research I did: reading books and online articles, watching archive training films from the period as well as documentaries made decades later, joining Facebook groups and following people on Twitter who are interested in vintage aircraft. If this were a piece of academic writing rather than fiction, I hate to think how high a number I would have reached in marking my reference notes!
There is so much information available out there! As someone who didn’t have internet access until University, I remain amazed at how easy it is to access archived data. Everything from the dates which Teddy’s squadron moved from one posting to another, and which day of the week they were, to the Met Office weather reports (or at least monthly summaries) for each region of the British Isles during the 20th century (yes, I really did check if the weather in January 1942 was such that Teddy would be ok sitting talking for a while wearing nothing but pyjama bottoms in a minimally-heated room).

3) If you can visit places in real life, do
It was nearly 20 years ago now, but I have been down a coal mine – Big Pit, in South Wales – and my descriptions of Huw’s home village are based on what I remember of the villages clinging to the sides of Welsh valleys. I found it much easier to write the scenes in his family home after visiting Beamish in County Durham – another mining area – and their preserved ‘1900s Pit Village’, than just from reading descriptions and watching documentaries, however good they were. Most importantly, though, I visited the Sunderland flying boat preserved at RAF Museum London. Although one is not able to access the upper deck of this aircraft, I saw enough to realise that I had mis-understood part of the internal layout, and swiftly launched into re-writing at least one pivotal scene!

Sunderland+Sandra-sm

The author with the Sunderland at the RAF Museum

4) Sometimes, things are easier than you think they will be
There was a long gap between writing this story and pitching it to a publisher. Several years. Mostly, that’s because it’s not a romance. My characters refused to comply with any romance tropes, and therefore left me contemplating a much smaller group of possible publishers than I had initially hoped. I used the time to learn more about the industry, to keep my ears open to any information about working with various publishers, and most importantly to continually improve my craft.
When I finally decided to approach Manifold Press, and booked a pitch slot with them at UK Meet, I was unbelievably nervous, and assumed I would have a ‘hard sell’. I should have trusted that my research and instincts about their priorities would be correct. Although we both started off a little tentatively, within minutes we seemed to simply be enthusing at each other about writing and story, and history… and I opened my mouth without thinking and said “and of course, even though the story finishes at the end of the war, we ourselves know that doesn’t mean they will have a happy ever after, with everything which happened during the middle of the 20th century, and even inheritance tax might… Oh!”
I probably should have thought beforehand whether or not I wanted to write a sequel…
Similarly, I expected the cover to need several attempts before we found a compromise both I and the publisher were happy with – and I never really expected to get a picture of a Sunderland right there. But that’s what they offered on the very first version, and not only that but the whole image subtly shows the mood of the story.
Maybe I’m just incredibly lucky, or maybe it’s the decade I’ve spent hanging around with LGBTQ+ fiction and authors. Either way, I’ve got a damn great silly grin on my face and can’t wait to hear what other people make of my book.

COVER IDEAS 4

Under Leaden Skies
Love. Loss. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Honour. Duty. Family.

In 1939, the arrival of war prompted ‘Teddy’ Maximilian Garston to confess his love to his childhood friend, Huw Roberts. Separated by duty – Teddy piloting Sunderland flying boats for RAF Coastal Command, and Huw deep underground in a South Wales coal mine – their relationship is frustrated by secrecy, distance, and the stress of war that tears into every aspect of their lives.

After endless months of dull patrols, a chance encounter over the Bay of Biscay will forever change the course of Teddy’s life. On returning to Britain, how will he face the consequences of choices made when far from home? Can he find a way to provide for everyone he loves, and build a family from the ashes of wartime grief?


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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I’m wondering when I can replace the place-holder covers on my website, but thinking ‘not yet’. This is an exclusive for Love Bytes Book Reviews after all, and I don’t want to steal their thunder. All I can say is, if you would like to be among the first to see the new cover, nip over there to see it. They are having a giveaway of a $10 Riptide voucher to one of the commenters, so that’s cool too 🙂 I almost commented myself and then I thought “No, that would probably be weird.”

Knossos_fresco_women By cavorite - http://www.flickr.com/photos/cavorite/98591365/in/set-1011009/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1350752

(All the ladies in Knossos are talking about it.)

Isn’t it gorgeous though? I’m so pleased! I sent Riptide’s art department a link to my Labyrinth Pinterest board for reference, and they sensibly decided that they probably weren’t going to find stock photos that were anywhere near right. So they handed me over to Simoné, who had previously done the gorgeous cover for The Crimson Outlaw

18th Century Romania
when finding pictures suitable for 18th Century Romania also proved impossible. I’m so glad they did, because there’s something especially wonderful about illustrated covers, and it does mean you can have exactly what you want on them.

It might not be instantly obvious, if you’re not a Minoan expert already, but one of the great things about the cover for Labyrinth is that this is a picture of Kikeru on a female day, wearing the Minoan equivalent of a nice dress. Kikeru spends a lot of the book being visibly queer by the standards of their own society, and in my opinion also visibly awesome, so it’s good to have both of those things on the cover.

The existence of Minoan genderqueerness is more or less historical, in the sense that a number of their artifacts show people who seem to have mixed gender characteristics. These artifacts have puzzled historians and archaeologists for some time, in the same way that graves containing female bones and swords have puzzled them – more because the historians were boggled by the unconscious limits to their own world view than because the artifacts themselves are particularly mysterious. But that’s another blog post for another time.

In the mean time, look at my lovely covers! I’ve got to write a third really obscure setting now, just in a quest to get a trilogy of weird historicals with gorgeous covers by Simoné.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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Well, it’s been a long while since I last had something new out. I’ve actually been working away behind the scenes for most of that time, and I have six new things to offer in total. (Number six is on chapter 31 of 36, so I’m counting it as near to finished as makes no odds. Barring acts of God and accidental death, I expect it to be finished in August.)

It’s always a bit frustrating when you’re beavering away and yet as far as the rest of the world is concerned, you’re doing nothing. So I’m delighted and relieved to be able to announce the near arrival of the first of the six. This one is Labyrinth – a historical novella set in Minoan Crete, featuring genderqueer inventor Kikeru, bisexual ship owner Rusa, Kikeru’s ace mum Maja and Rusa’s aromantic daughter Jadikira.

I have seen cover art and it is truly awesome. I can’t express how pleased I am with it. However, I also can’t show it to you yet because Riptide want to be the ones who reveal it to the world. So here is a flirty little glimpse of the upper right hand corner!

Labyrinth_Teaser

Kikeru, the child of a priestess at the sacred temple of Knossos in ancient Crete, believes that the goddesses are laughing at him. They expect him to choose whether he is a man or a woman, when he’s both. They expect him to choose whether to be a husband to a wife, or a celibate priestess in the temple, when all he wants to do is invent things and be with the person he loves.

Unfortunately, that person is Rusa, the handsome ship owner who is most decidedly a man and therefore off-limits no matter what he chooses. And did he mention that the goddesses also expect him to avert war with the Greeks?

The Greeks have an army. Kikeru has his mother, Maja, who is pressuring him to give her grandchildren; Jadikira, Rusa’s pregnant daughter; and superstitious Rusa, who is terrified of what the goddesses will think of him being in love with one of their chosen ones.

It’s a tall order to save Crete from conquest, win his love, and keep both halves of himself. Luckily, at least the daemons are on his side.

~

I must do a post about the research that went into it, because it certainly seems like a lovely place to have lived, and you can’t say that about many ancient civilizations. I must also go and put up a page for it on my website!

And lastly of all, I ought to mention that it’s now available for pre-order here 🙂

 


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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Hwaet! I was on Twitter the other day when I intercepted a tweet from Dvorah saying “My next book is going to feature an asexual character, so if anyone has suggestions for what to do/not to do, I’d love to talk about it!”

My first thought was “I am an asexual and I have written a novel featuring an asexual character, which several people have told me represented the ace experience recognizably well. I could probably help!” So I said as much. Dvorah said “I’m mainly trying to get a sense of any big Nonos for writing ace, and the commonalities among differing experiences,” which struck me as something I could do, so I started typing out my first thoughts on the subject.

But then my second thoughts were “but I already know that I can’t speak for all aces any more than one person could speak for all straight people.” I’ve been in enough inter-ace disputes by now to know that we’re really diverse as a grouping.

So then I thought “Well, perhaps what I should do is type up my own thoughts, and then put the whole thing on my blog so that other aces could join in and speak up for themselves.” And that’s where I find myself now.

Below is my response to the initial query, unfiltered through my second thoughts, but I invite any other aces who might be reading to weigh in with their own takes, and either correct me, back me up, or add things I’ve overlooked, as necessary.

cropped-ABheart1.jpg

Off the top of my head I would say the things to avoid were any assumption that an ace character must be inhuman in some way – where we are depicted at all it’s often as robots or aliens or childlike innocent beings whose understanding of the complexities of life are poor. We’re not cold and unemotional. We’re not incapable of having crushes and starry eyed romantic feelings (unless we’re also aromantic, which presumably isn’t the case for your character.)

On the other side of things we are missing that orientation towards sex with other people that other orientations have. So we’re unlikely to ever be checking anyone out, sexually. We’re usually going to be completely unaware of how others react to us sexually. We’ll put on nice clothes to look smart and well dressed, and be surprised when that equates to other people as ‘trying to look sexy’ – because sexiness is just not on our minds as a thing to be aware of.

If someone else is wearing a ‘sexy’ outfit, I would probably be like ‘are you sure you’re comfortable in that? Doesn’t all that leather kind of chafe?’ And they’ll be ‘but look at my butt!’ and I’ll be ‘Yeah, it’s a butt. It holds up your legs. So?’ Because to me there’s nothing sexy about sexy clothes or sexy body parts. They’re neutral, like pieces of furnature. They might be pretty, like a particularly nice carpet or lawn chair, but they’re not something to get sexually worked up about.

I personally don’t like dirty jokes or innuendo. It jolts me, because every time it happens it reminds me that human life is driven by this big dumb stupid factor that isn’t even all that important. Every time, it smacks me in the face with the fact that I’m abnormal because I’m missing something that everyone else has. (But I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I don’t want it for myself, I just wish people would stop rubbing my face in it all the time.)

On the other hand, I know there are aces out there who are fascinated by dirty jokes. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s in a spirit of research or something. You’d have to ask them.

When I wrote Aidan from Blue Steel Chain, I wrote him without a sexual fantasy life, because I didn’t want readers who were unaware of things like autochorissexualism to get confused about how someone who was asexual could have fantasies that involved other people boning. But surveys of slash writers and queer romance writers seem to indicate there’s a large number of aces for whom sharing the sexuality of imaginary characters is – I can’t think of a better way to put this – is the closest thing they come to having a sexuality of their own. (I’m only allowing myself to say this, because I’m in this group, so I’m talking about myself.)

It still doesn’t mean we find actual people sexually attractive, mind you. If offered the chance to somehow become part of that fictional world and join in, I would go “ew, no!” Because I’m not actually attracted to either of those people. I’m just imaginatively sharing an experience that I personally don’t have and can’t have in any other way.

So what I’m saying here is that there are aces who have a sexual fantasy life, and there are aces who don’t. It’s just their sexual fantasy life almost certainly doesn’t feature themself having sex with anyone.

Equally, there are aces who masturbate and aces who don’t. Masturbation doesn’t involve finding another person sexually attractive, so your character wouldn’t have to turn in his ace card at the door if it’s something that he did. He just probably wouldn’t be thinking about any real life people – not even his lover – while he was doing it.

However, I’d also say that a level of sex-revulsion is quite common. It’s normal for a person to have a cycle of responsiveness from “we could do sex if you wanted” to “don’t even talk about that gross stuff in the same room as me,” in the same way that presumably allosexual people are not equally up for it all the time.

This is one reason why we insist that it’s an orientation rather than a behaviour, btw, because it’s not about what you do, it’s about the way you think and the things you notice and value in the world. Some aces can actually enjoy the act of sex – because an orgasm will happen if sex is done well and all your bits are in working order, and an orgasm is… nice. It’s enjoyable. But the drive to have sex is not there. It’s entirely possible for an ace to have great sex with someone they love the night before, and still wake up in the morning with no feeling that sex is important or valuable or that they particularly want to have it again. There are many more important things to be concentrating on.

We’re also no more a group-think than any other orientation, so you’ll have aces who are outgoing and bubbly and cuddly and fascinated with everyone’s relationships and great at giving advice, through to aces who are introverted and touch-averse and really love Star Wars. The second sort are the stereotype at present, so if your character is like that, you may get accused of writing a stereotype. However, I am the second sort, so you wouldn’t actually be wrong.

In a similar way, you’re going to get stick whether or not you show the ace character having sex with the non-ace character. A lot of aces will be “oh, fuck it, why are we always the ones who have to compromise? Why can’t the allo-sexual character give up sex for the ace instead?!” And a lot of other ones will be “I’ve had a happy 20 year relationship with my partner. Sex is not that important so why wouldn’t I occasionally do it to please the one I love?”

I am also the second sort in this hypothesis, but I can see the first people’s point. It is vanishingly rare to see a love story where the ace doesn’t have to consent to sex. I think ace readers would find it immensely liberating to read a story where it was the allosexual partner who had to conform their expectations to what the ace character wanted rather than the other way around. OTOH, your allosexual readers are going to find that very challenging!

I think it’s interesting to write a romance where sex is the main conflict rather than a force pulling the characters together. You can’t just have the characters gravitating together by sexual chemistry – there have to be other reasons for why they would fall in love. Shared goals and perils, genuine admiration for each other’s characters, that kind of thing. And that kind of thing has to be compelling enough to counteract the fact that they have mismatched sexual needs. Also the mismatched sexual needs will need to be negotiated and renegotiated every time with continuing respect and love. That problem will never go away. It will always have to be managed and lived with, but it can be done successfully if the love is enough.

Heh. I don’t know if that helps. Now I read it back it sounds angrier than I expected. I thought I was very chill about it, but it turns out it can be quite alienating, living in a world where you just don’t get, at all, that one big thing that everyone else claims is a basic human drive.

Notice on Brighton beach

And with that I throw open the comments for anyone else who wants to weigh in or ask more questions 🙂


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It’s time to talk about Space Opera. It’s a good time to talk about Space Opera, in fact, given that Star Wars roared back to life this year with The Force Awakens. While I did enjoy TFA, I also felt it was a bit of a re-tread of the Original Trilogy. I appreciated that our heroes were now a woman and a black man, and I found both characters endearing, but I didn’t feel there was much that was new in the storytelling. Maybe I should wait and see what the next film does with this underwhelming start before I carp, though. Maybe they’re deliberately setting up parallels so they can surprise us by how differently they develop them in the next one.

I wasn’t this critical about the first Star Wars. And when I say ‘the first Star Wars’ I mean Star Wars: A New Hope, which I went to see when it was first released. I put in my dues as a SW fan! I queued round the block in the rain to see ANH, and it was worth it. I still remember that shot of the Star Destroyer passing overhead – and passing – and passing – and passing – as one of the greatest moments of cinematic awe of my life. It was a moment that redefined the size of science fiction films. They’d been intimate and thoughtful before then. Now they were huge and fun and maybe not terribly scientific any more, but who cared because they still had aliens and spaceships, right?

Heh. I don’t want to get into the argument about whether space opera can be called science fiction or not, because (a) that’s a sidetrack to what I’m supposed to be talking about here, and (b) it isn’t. It’s a genre of its own, and it’s probably all the better for it.

But my massive digression up there is intended to establish that I’ve been a space opera fan for a very long time. I’ve also (I’ve only just realized) always been a complete sucker for scenes of beautiful ships being slowly revealed in all their glory. Three of my favourite franchises ever open with a ‘look at this beautiful ship’ scene – the Dauntless in Pirates of the Caribbean, the Star Destroyer in Star Wars, and Destiny in Stargate Universe. That’s probably all you’ve got to do to ensnare me, then – a glamourous shot of a big war machine, and I’m in.

Putting the second diversion aside, I’ll get to the point of this post, which is that I’ve been very silent recently. Partly due to my dad’s final illness, of course, but partly because I’ve been writing a space opera trilogy. It looks like I’m on course to finish the third book by the end of August, after which I will self publish them. It’s a bit of an experiment. The books are plain old fashioned adventure with alien cities and sentient planets and religious versus secular societies and extreme body modification and intergalactic threats to the future of the human race. There’s a bit of romance, but they aren’t Romances, if you know what I mean.

The main reason I’m not trying to get them published with mainstream publishers is that the heroes are queer – an asexual homoromantic couple, a lesbian couple and a bisexual man/butch straight woman who spends half the first book sex-changed and learns quite a lot about herself and her beliefs in the process.

While the queer romance community is doing great things providing queer romances, I’ve been hearing that people sometimes wanted books where queer people got to save the world. So that’s what these are.

Sadly self publishing means I’m left to my own devices when it comes to titles and cover art. Currently I’m thinking of them as the Lioness Series, comprising of Lioness of Cygnus Five, Heart of Cygnus Five and Pride of Cygnus Five. Final cover art not made yet, but this is a sneak peek at what I think they might look like if the photos I want are still available when I finally go to buy them:

Lioness Heartmockup Pridemockup

You have no idea how hard it is to find pictures of battle-hardened space-navy Latinas in their forties. Aurora is therefore way too young. But I’ve got to make do with what I can get!

 


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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This is the review I hold to my heart whenever the topic of “can women write stories about gay men – or rather ought they to?” comes around. I wrote Captain’s Surrender partly in order to show people that you didn’t have to choose between your sexuality and your faith, you could have both. I thought if even one person got that message, so that they could stop feeling damned and/or condemned, it would justify my writing the books that I wanted to write.

Well, this is that review.

I’m so thankful for it! There are times when I feel the pressure – I’m not gay enough, I’m not male enough, I’m not persecuted enough to speak for this community. (As it turns out, I’m not straight and I’m not female either, but that’s a different story.) And when those doubts strike, I remember this review in particular, and others like it I’ve had since, and I tell myself that nevertheless, I’m still not being entirely selfish in carrying on.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

I know Jay from my old Livejournal days, but I didn’t know that she had been busily writing exactly the sort of books that I love to read. Seriously? Elves! Elven private investigators. Queer main characters? Right there in the middle of the Venn diagram with me, where m/m romance, Fantasy/Mystery and adventure overlaps. How did I not know about this before? I’m very excited therefore to be able to hand over to her:

scroll new title final for S

Hi! I’m Jay. I write a mixture of fantasy, m/m romance and crime. Seems like an odd combination? Well, most of my stories were originally written for my own entertainment and those are three genres I enjoy so it seemed reasonable to try putting them together. I have always told myself stories and I wanted to share them with a wider audience than my immediate friends.

I decided to self publish because my initial works were the wrong length or the wrong genre for publishers and because I was anxious to retain control over various aspects of the publication process. I use friends, met through online writing groups, as beta readers, editors and proof readers and trust them to do a good job. As an ex-English teacher I think I’m competent to judge their work but I know I shouldn’t trust myself to do my own editing – you read what you think you wrote!

I design my own covers, using photography (which is a hobby) and photoshopping techniques. I’m pleased with the results. I wanted to get away from the kind of cover that has the hero or heroine as the focus, and give a taste of the ‘world’ I was writing about. That’s partly to let my readers use their own imagination when picturing my characters and partly because I enjoy world building and hope it’s a strong aspect of my stories. I often dislike covers that have a sultry looking model, male or female, representing the main character – I want both more and less from a cover.

I also do my own formatting which is perhaps the hardest part of the entire self-publishing adventure. I ‘practised’ on three novella length publications before embarking on formatting my novels  but I have to tell you it doesn’t get any easier. I love writing, don’t mind rewrites, and hate formatting!

I’m aware that self publishing means a hard slog self marketing, but from what I can gather, this is becoming more and more true of mainstream publishing. And that’s why I’m so glad of the opportunity to talk to more people about my books.

My main novels are a series centred round a female detective-in-training. She’s an elf, on a world where humans and elves live in comparative harmony. Genef has two ‘side-kicks’ in time-honoured crime novel tradition. One is a young dragon, accidentally imprinted on her at his hatching, and the other is her gay brother, Fel. Scratch, the dragon, enables us to see Genef’s world through the eyes of a child though as the series progresses he is growing up – fast. Fel provides the romance interest (nothing explicit) for the series but his adventures are a sub-plot and the main story arc concerns Genef’s training and her gradual acquisition of the magical skills that give the series its name – The Skilled Investigators.

The first volume, The Scroll, deals with Genef’s acceptance into the guild of investigators and the successful though sad conclusion to her first murder case. She must leave home to live and work in the capital but in volume two, The Market, she has to travel overseas to unravel the theft of some royal jewels. There she becomes embroiled in further troubles involving murder and kidnapping which threaten her brother and her dragon. The third book, The Crown, sees her travelling again, to track down an important piece of royal jewellery that was not retrieved in The Market. This story has Scratch as a teenage dragon, acting alone for the first time and in some chapters becoming the focus of the narrative. This third book is written and is currently being edited. The first two are available on Amazon, and, for people who have an e-reader other than Kindle, on Smashwords.

The Scroll – on Amazon

The Scroll – on Smashwords

The Market

The Market – on Amazon

The Market – on Smashwords

There are six books planned altogether. Genef will return to the capital to investigate a murder nearby, then cross the border to a human kingdom in an undercover disguise. Finally, in the last book, she will return to her family home where yet another case awaits her and the possibility of romance, though her personal affairs will remain sidelined and merely a hope for the future. Fel, on the other hand, will find happiness within the series.

The books are mainstream and are hard to categorise. As I said, a mixture of genres! In a sense they follow a coming of age arc but are not specifically directed at a young adult market.

shalott title final 1563x2500

A couple of years ago I published two novellas and a book of short stories. These are all primarily m/m romance with some explicit passages. Whilst definitely ‘adult’ they are not really erotica. ‘The Lord of Shalott’ turns Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ on its head and explores the idea of the curse being the fact that the heir to Shalott was a boy who enjoyed wearing female clothing and was attracted to men. ‘Silkskin and the Forest People’ also twists legend. The basic tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is transferred to mediaeval Africa and the princess becomes a Zimbabwean prince. ‘Three Legends’ has an m/m version of a Northumbrian legend, an entirely invented ‘legend’ and a modern fairy story about a time thief.

You can find these via my author pages on Amazon and Smashwords. Because the books are ‘adult’ anyone looking on Smashwords should make sure the adult filter is off.

Jay Mountney on Amazon

Jay Mountney on Smashwords

You can read more about my books and my writing on my WordPress site. I’d be delighted to answer questions or just chat, about my writing or about self publishing, there or on Facebook.

https://jaymountney.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011794093032

 

Thanks for reading, and many thanks to Alex for hosting me!

 

 

 


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

Thanks to Jay Mountney for this Review of the Trowchester Series

trowchesterseriestwitter

I just finished the third book in Alex Beecroft’s Trowchester trilogy so thought I’d review them all at once. The books are modern m/m romance and are linked by the location, the fictional town of Trowchester which becomes very real to the reader over the course of the stories. The main characters of one book reappear as minor players in the others which is satisfying because we get to know that lives continue after each volume ends. Alex creates very three dimensional characters, with real lives, real problems and real adventures. I found myself caring very much what happened to them all.

It’s lovely to see a review that considers each book individually but also considers the series as a whole. I’m so glad she thinks that the books work well together :)

I keep wondering if I should write some more in this series. What do people think? Is there anything you would like to know more about in Trowchester and its environs?


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

What happened on the 23rd of June? Oh yeah, it was my birthday. It was also the EU referendum. I was ill with a nasty cold and headache that made me dizzy when I stood upright, and so was my husband and son, so our household were all miserable and grouchy. Also it was raining stair-rods and it continued to rain like the emptying of God’s bathtub all day long, while the light struggled to grow brighter than funeral-appropriate charcoal.

In this festive weather DH and I, and son, went out to vote to remain in the EU. There’s a long subplot to this story that involves taking son to the doctors’ for his injection only to find it had been stored wrong and he’d have to come back tomorrow when they’d got some new stuff in, and then the car breaking down in the rain on the way back, but I’m not going into that.

What I am saying is that I went to bed confident that everyone in their right minds had turned out to vote Remain, and that life would carry on without much upheaval in the morning.

First thing I heard this morning was DH going “Bugger. They’ve voted to leave.”

So, now it looks like we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, shut ourselves in with far right Conservatives and UKIP nutters actually having a chance to turn back the clock to Dickensian times, potentially lost Scotland and Northern Ireland as part of the Union and are looking at becoming more alone than we’ve been for three hundred years.

Time to take the ‘Great’ off Britain, I think. In fact, will we even need the term ‘Britain’ any more?

I’ve spent the day trying not to panic. It’s certainly a boot up the backside to my complaisant belief that nobody could really take UKIP seriously – that nothing could really go world-changingly wrong. I take some comfort from the stats that say the overwhelming bulk of the people who voted to leave are old – older even than me. As we die off, things should get better. (A cheery thought.)

And in the mean time it’s time for those of us who thought it was certain that sanity and compassion would win the day to realize that it’s not certain unless we fight for it. I’ve always voted and I will continue to vote, but clearly more is needed. I don’t know what exactly I can do, but I can at least make sure I’m speaking up against xenophobia and far right fascism before it spreads any further. My age demographic is the most evenly balanced on issues of social justice, so perhaps just talking to them about politics will help.

Remaining silent certainly won’t. God save us!


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

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