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Early reactions to Labyrinth seem to confirm that it’s something of a marmite book – people have either loved or hated it. I can understand that. I remember when Ursula LeGuin went through her feminist awakening-goddess-y-‘lets talk about weaving instead of war’ phase, and I hated it, because I was still in my own ‘whoa, spears are cool!’ phase. Not that I’m claiming any kind of equivalence to Ursula LeGuin of course, apart from the slow awakening to the fact that even the way we tell stories – the things we think of as being story-worthy – has been shaped by patriarchy and sometimes we need to expand our minds to be able to find other things worthwhile too.

Anyway…

Why on earth, when faced with all human history, did I choose to write about the Ancient Minoans? Historical novelas, as you know, tend to cluster into similar eras of interest, leaving vast swathes of the past untouched. Popular eras are the Regency (balls, duchesses, carriages,) the Romans (slaves, gladiators, Imperial decadence), and the Egyptians (mysterious, supernatural, full of gold.)

What all these eras have in common is that they were literate, and we have access to reams of information about what life was like there. This is sadly not true of the Minoans, who have left (so far) very few written records, and as far as I know some of those are still untranslatable. Meaning that we actually know very little about what their life was like, and such things as we do know are down to looking at their artwork and making an educated guess as to what’s going on.

So I repeat, why would I want to write in that setting?

Firstly, I’d have to say “Doesn’t it look beautiful!” Look at the sun. And the colours! Look at the ruins of palaces, with those iconic blood-red pillars standing out against that indigo sky. Can’t you almost feel the warmth already?

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And now look at the artwork! Doesn’t this civilization seem a nice place to live? It does to me. If I imagine the sun-drenched shores and tamarisk-scented hills of Crete inhabited by these long-haired, long-limbed beautiful people in their colourful kilts and their ridiculous belled skirts, athletic people, bedecked with jewellery, gathering saffron among the flowers, of course I want to be there.

I find a lot of people are attracted by the glamour and the peril of times of war. They want to read about macho warriors doing manly things. But I’ve become a little bored by that, and I wanted to write about a civilization that didn’t seem to revolve around its warriors, or who it could kill.

Scholarly opinion is, as always, divided on what Minoan civilization was really like, but there seems to be a strong case for the Ancient Minoans being a civilization dominated by priestesses. Earlier archaeologists assumed from reading Greek literature that the Minoans were ruled by a king called Minos, but nowadays there’s a core of people who think they were ruled from a temple, by the priestesses, and ‘Minos’ was a religious title of some sort.

It’s all a bit vague and speculative, particularly as anything the Greeks said is being filtered through their own preconceptions. But I thought it would be interesting to explore a culture where being female is associated with power. What would it be like, being a man in that culture? Would it be easier for a genderqueer person, or harder, than a culture in which a person’s value was determined by how manly they were?

And what would that culture think when it came across a patriarchy like the Ancient Greeks? That culture clash fascinated me. If Minoan society was indeed peaceful and matriarchal, how on earth did it survive in a world full of societies that would have regarded it as abhorrent and against the natural order of things?

The answer for which drew me into a world of ecstatic goddess worship and drug-fuelled religious rites, a bit of hands-off research into the effects of opium smoke, and an enlightening crawl through the many early cults with ‘third sex’ eunuch/transgender or genderqueer priest/esses.

I was left with the realization that even the most peaceful places hold extraordinarily interesting stories, if you just look. I hope you enjoy mine!

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Labyrinth at Amazon.com

Labyrinth at Amazon.co.uk

Labyrinth at B&N

Labyrinth at Kobo

At All Romance Ebooks

At Riptide Publishing

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

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Click on the banner to be taken to the blog tour page.

Hurray! Today is the launch of my experimental novella Labyrinth, in which I look at the minotaur from the Minoan point of view; I cast the Homeric Greeks as a bunch of bullying bad guys; I attempt a possible reconstruction of the Minoan attitude toward third-gender people; I examine life in a female dominated society; I put a bunch of queer characters together in a found family, and I do all of this while I also attempt to prevent a war and tell a love story.

Am I successful in doing any of that? It’s up to you to judge 🙂

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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.

Labyrinth at Amazon.com

Labyrinth at Amazon.co.uk

Labyrinth at B&N

Labyrinth at Kobo

At All Romance Ebooks

At Riptide Publishing

 

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

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There’s a lot of despairing going about today, so as someone who walked around in a daze for a week after Brexit and then realized I was still alive and I still had a chance to make a difference, here’s a small list of practical suggestions for what you can do now.

Take care of yourself while you are still mourning/processing/panicking stage. Maybe disengage, go for a walk, take your meds, pray, meditate and save yourself first of all.

 

Read this calming tweettweet

If you can, now would be a good time to donate to organizations who support the things you care about. Human Rights Campaign, for example or the American Civil Liberties Union or whatever other cause matters to you and would benefit from some money.

Once you’re feeling a bit better, then you can consider further action. The time for political apathy is past – it’s become very obvious that no, progress will not happen automatically, it still has to be fought for, and it’s our job to do that fighting.

If health and finances permit, you can get involved in activism in the real world. There must be causes that need help, protest rallies that you can attend, Queer clubs and meeting spaces that need volunteers. (And if there aren’t, perhaps they need starting.)

If health and finances don’t permit that, there’s still online activism. I’m a huge fan of Avaaz, for example. There are things you can do even from your computer. Mean time, although we now live in interesting times, we still live in them from day to day like always. Let’s just do the best we can while we can.

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

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As a Brit, I have no real right to be invested in American politics, but we all know that the result of the US election will affect the state of the rest of the world for the immediate future and goodness knows how long after.

I went out and voted against Brexit. I fell asleep confident that my countrymen would make the right decision, and that we would remain in the EU, because we were a country that valued tolerance and freedom. Because at our hearts we were good people who would not be swayed by inflammatory rhetoric that blamed our problems on people worse off than ourselves.

When I woke, it was to find out that all the people who believed as I did had also assumed that of course we would remain, so they had not bothered to vote at all. Or they had made a ‘protest’ vote, thinking their vote would not matter enough to undermine the outcome they wanted.

As a result, we are now stuck in a country soon to be isolated from the rest of the world, where rising levels of racism are probably only the ugly tip of the iceberg of anti-women, anti-queer, anti-poor, anti-[insert convenient minority] prejudice that we thought was beaten, but will now have to be fought all over again.

You still have the chance not to let that happen to you. Please go out and vote! Don’t waste your vote on a protest or a third party. If you care about rights for LGBTQ people, for women, for people of colour, for poor and disabled people, don’t stay at home today. Please vote. Not only for your future, but also for the rest of the world.

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

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Yesterday I was at QC2, a meeting of queer romance writers organized by Manifold Press. I chaired a panel on how much reality we want in our historicals and am definitely going to have to blog again about lots of the issues that came up. So much was covered! And then in the hours that followed I remembered how much I’d meant to say and hadn’t, and probably should get around to mentioning later. I am as always occupying an equivocal position of “Well, it’s complicated.”

People love easy answers, but easy answers can’t cover complex situations, and human behaviour has always been hair-tearingly tangled and contradictory. Why should it be different in art?

I hope I’m going to talk later about KJ Charles’s talk about finding the complexities in history and opening them out and discovering that in examining them we also examine ourselves. Also I need to shout out to whose talk reminded me what a genuine pleasure it is to encounter well presented historical research, and also how much I loved the Georgians.

But for now I’m posting here the article I wrote for the event booklet. Some of you may remember the incident that gave me my inspiration for this!

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How much reality do we want in our historical fiction?

Not so long ago, it was the summer holidays, and my family decided to go to one of Kentwell Hall’s Tudor days, at which their beautiful house and gardens are flooded with beautifully costumed reenactors. We have some problems with their reenactors, who pretend to be people of the past, and with varying degrees of accuracy put on ye olde English speech patterns and try to get you to play along with the pretence that you are actually visiting Tudor England.

Our family are reenactors ourselves, but of a different sort – a sort that acknowledges that we are in reality modern people who share a culture, language and knowledge base with any member of the public who might talk to us. We like to have conversations where we and the public share notes. A chat where we say “This is how the Saxons did [whatever],” and the member of the public says “Oh, that’s interesting. I read that the Romans did it [some other way]. I’m interested because I do [whatever craft] myself. It’s cool to see how it developed,” is the kind of chat that we aspire to. A dialogue, in other words.

This training makes it difficult for us to suspend disbelief in the historical reality of the Kentwell Hall reenactors. And because they won’t drop character, and we’re caught in the existential uncertainty of how to talk to people who are pretending they don’t know anything about our shared culture, we find we can’t talk to them at all. We don’t care to be treated as props to be monologued at.

However, they do look pretty! So we decided we would go anyway, keep our heads down, avoid interacting with them, and take some nice photos.

It was a scorcher of a day, so my daughter was dressed in shorts and a strappy top – nothing out of the ordinary for a 21st Century young woman. When we first passed a reenactor who shouted out something about “These young maidens going about in their underwear,” we rolled our eyes at each other, sourly thought “oh ha ha,” and walked on, continuing with our attempts not to engage.

But he followed us. And he continued to pester her about how she was going to hell, leading people into temptation, a harlot who ought to be ashamed, and us about how we should rein her in and put her under proper control and teach her to be properly modest.

It was excruciatingly unpleasant. No doubt we were supposed to take it as a joke or an enlightening glimpse at an ugliness so far removed from our present lives that it can be fun to contemplate. But it wasn’t, of course. Both my daughter and I have had plenty of experience of being followed down the road in modern life by creepy middle aged guys who wanted an excuse to rant at how sinful our mere existence in female bodies was. We didn’t find it any more amusing couched in ye olde English.

Which leads me finally to my point.

When does the pantomime of an abuse become an abuse in itself? The more convincing it gets – the closer to reality it gets – the more you are actually inflicting that very abuse on your reader.

If we had actually been Tudors ourselves (a) we wouldn’t have been dressed like that anyway, and (b) my husband could have hit him across the face with his cane and had him put in the stocks for insulting a respectable young lady. But we weren’t – we were at an unnatural disadvantage very like the disadvantage a reader suffers when they open a book.

When a reader opens a book, they can’t have a free and mutual conversation with the author or with the characters. An author, like our harasser, can drop the reader straight into the intolerable ugliness of the past, and rub their faces in the fact that people like them – women, queer people, people of colour, disabled people, even sensitive non-heroic cishet men – would have largely had a worse time of it than they do today.

That would be the reality. And the reality is not fun. Fill a book with the kind of misery, suffering, fear and abuse, the kind of grinding, soul destroying prejudice that such people would encounter in the past – do it without any glimmer of assurance that you, the author, a modern person, know that this stuff is vile – and you can be sure your reader won’t come out of reading it feeling uplifted. Your reader will come out of it feeling crushed in a way they’ve been crushed too many times before.

If your queer characters always die; if your women end up silenced, relegated to the roles of wife, mother or whore; if your people of colour end up slaves or outcasts, run out of the community or dead, it doesn’t matter how ‘realistic’ that might be. You, the author, are still deliberately choosing to hurt people in ways they get enough of in real life.

It’s important to remember that you, the author, are a modern person telling a story to other modern people. You can’t hide behind the claim that you’re just being ‘realistic’. You choose what goes into your story. You choose whether you start the conversation with “You’re a harlot,” or “Lord, mistress, are you foreign? Do they dress like that where you’re from?”

The sexual harassment is perhaps more likely and therefore more realistic, but one of these openers is an assault, and one is a respectful invitation to play along. If you know that, and you choose the ‘realistic’ option anyway, what can I say? You’re a douche.

 

 

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

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Writing News:

Angels of Istanbul has been having a bit of a make-over this past week. Riptide decided it was too long to go in a single volume, so now it will be split into two. This means it now has a series title: The Arising Series. And each volume has a different name. Currently we’re going with Sons of Devils and Angels of Istanbul.

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We’ve tentatively scheduled the release dates as follows:
  • Sons of Devils: 13 March, 2017
  • Angels of Istanbul: 27 March, 2017

And they will now both have artwork and their own blurbs. So I get to have pictures of both Frank and Radu 🙂 Exciting stuff!

Apart from that, this week has been me ploughing on with Waters of the Deep – the next Jasper and Charles story. I’ve just done chapter 11 of 16, so the first draft of this should be finished either by the end of next week or the beginning of the week after.

Physical Person News:

I continue to be ill, but at least I now have a hospital appointment on the 24th, so there is a prospect of something being done about it some time in the next six months. (It’s a saga, but it’s probably one of those medical things you only talk about face to face.)

But speaking of face to face, tomorrow I’m going to be at the Manifold Press’s Queer Company #2 meet up in Oxford, chairing a panel on ‘How much realism do we want in our historical fiction.’ I’m really looking forward to it – it’s been ages since I’ve seen anyone else in the community, and I’d begun to feel very isolated and alone. So yeah, it’s going to be great to see people again. I don’t know if any of you are coming, but if you are, come and say hello 🙂

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

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I’m really not feeling great today, and executive dysfunction is kicking my butt when it comes to actual writing. So in an effort to feel like I’ve accomplished things in other directions, I’ve worked out my Halloween face paint for tomorrow. Sutton Masque will be dancing in various locations in Ely, starting outside the cathedral at 11 ish and moving on to various other spots in the town throughout the day.

I’ll probably not be doing much dancing, since (as previously mentioned) I am not well. But I’m sure I can do one or two, and I’ll certainly be playing the music.

My normal facepaint is a dark green base with a golden dragonfly on top, upper set of wings across the eyes. But for Halloween that’s obviously not scary enough. So I’ve tried to do a golden skull with green hollows (gold and green being our colours). I was hoping it would be scary, but I think it simply looks weary and sad, but that’s ok, weary sad skeleton. Me too. Same.

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

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This is where I find out exactly how offputting that title is 🙂

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Buried With Him is a short (10,000 word) prequel to The Wages of Sin, in which we get to find out how Jasper managed to keep his faith despite being defrocked and publically pilloried for his relationship with George.

Sentenced to the pillory for the crime of having kissed a man, Jasper Marin has been stripped of his vocation as a priest, and seems poised to lose his faith with it. He has always been able to see ghosts but it’s just like his luck that the one who’s harrassing him now seems obsessed with collecting human hearts.

~

It’s been great coming back to this ‘verse. When I originally wrote The Wages of Sin, I wrote it hoping that it would launch a series, because I really enjoyed the constraints of writing a mystery story and I wanted to do that more. And because it was me, I wanted it to be a mystery with fantasy/supernatural elements and some history. It’s taken me a long time to actually make the series idea a reality, but I am now finally at work on a sequel to The Wages of Sin, called Waters of the Deep.

With that in mind, it suddenly occured to me that I needed a series name. So as of now, the series is called the Unquiet Spirits series. Buried With Him is volume 0. The Wages of Sin is volume 1, and Waters of the Deep is volume 2. Volume three is nothing more than a twinkle in my eye at the moment, but it’s already a vague concept, so it will happen eventually. And once it does, I’ll figure out Createspace and do a paperback containing the whole series.

But in the mean time, Buried With Him is only 99p/99c, and you can buy it here if you’re interested in Jasper’s backstory 🙂

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

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Once upon a time I used to do one project and finish it before starting on another. Goodness knows exactly how things changed, but those days are now a distant memory. I’ve been tallying up what I have on my plate at the moment, and deciding I’ve maybe gone a little over the top.

(Not a faithful portrait of Alex)

Angels of Istanbul

This is my 18th Century fantasy in which Romanian nobleman Radu invades the Ottoman Empire at the head of an army of strigoi (aka vampires.) Coming out from Riptide’s Anglerfish imprint some time next year, I think.

I’m half way through copy edits on this and have dropped everything else in order to get them done. I’m still in doubt about whether I’ll manage it in the fortnight I’ve been given, but if I do need a bit more time, it’s not likely to be more than another three days or so.

I’ve seen cover art for this book and it’s going to look awesome 🙂 We’ve got Frank, our shy magician, summoning an impervious barrier between the armies of the Turks and the Romanians, with the minarets of Istanbul behind him in the sunset. It’s very cool! I can’t show you yet because it’s not finished, but I think you’ll like it when I do.

Humbling of the High Ones

This is my newsletter novella of which the second episode went out today. It’s very Enya-Celtic at the moment, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s only 500 words a week, so I think I’ll manage to keep producing that indefinitely no matter what else is going on.

Buried With Him

My 10K story set before The Wages of Sin, featuring Jasper and his adventures immediately post pillory. Before the edits on Angels landed, I was about a day away from finishing the final polish on this novelette. It has a cover already and it has been edited. So I think I should still be able to finish and publish it before the end of the month.

Waters of the Deep

This is my Charles and Jasper novella which I am currently writing. Or at least, which I will be writing again after I’ve finished the edits mentioned above. I’m five chapters in to the first draft a sixeen chapter story, so I expect the first draft will be finished this year, but I’ll be pushing it to get it edited and released before Christmas.

Lioness of Cygnus Five

This is released, but I’m now struggling with Createspace to make a paperback version. I’ve had a proof, from which I can tell that the cover looks good, but the inside is mysteriously doublespaced. So when I’ve got time to get back to this, more struggling will ensue.

Heart of Cygnus Five

The first draft of this is complete, but as soon as possible I need to look for someone who will edit this for me. (And I need to complete a couple of edits in return of other people’s books.)

Porthkennack Historical

As soon as I’ve finished writing Waters of the Deep, I mean to get down to plotting and writing this one. I don’t know what it’s going to be about yet, but I imagine I’ll be starting to write it over Christmas.

By which time Foxglove Copse, my Porthkennack Contemporary will probably need editing.

I must also not forget that I have at least five blog posts to write for the release tour of Labyrinth, which is coming up, crikey, very fast indeed!

I never imagined that I would one day be the sort of writer who had so many things going on at once. It’s slightly overwhelming, but I’m so grateful for it 🙂

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

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Here I am on Simon Williams’ blog, talking about my influences and the single book that changed my life the most:

http://www.simonwilliamsauthor.com/interview-with-alex-beecroft.html

Those of you who know me well will probably not find out anything new, but if you don’t know the name of the Saxon poet who changed my life, then you can find it out in this interview 🙂

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And to avoid cluttering up the blog with short announcements, I’ll put this one here too.

Riptide Sale!

Since this October is Riptide’s 5th anniversary, Riptide are offering 50% off titles released before September 6, 2016, as well as a number of titles for $0.99, for the entire month.
This sale is available on Riptide’s site only, and all sale prices will be available as of October 1st.
So I should have mentioned this 5 days ago, but there’s still time to grab some bargains 🙂

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

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So, I have discovered a 10,000 word story I finished and then left to languish in one of my folders on the computer. It’s not doing anyone any good in there, so I thought I’d post it here, on a Monday, in thousand word installments. If, by the end of it, people like it, I’ll tidy it up and make it available with a nice cover, with the typos sorted out 🙂 This version is un-betaed, though and as raw as a good vegan salad.

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Fallen into the Sea

By

Alex Beecroft

“By all means, let us begin.”

Joseph Bowyer took a sip of small beer to moisten his mouth and disguise his nerves. Then, lighting a taper from the workshop’s small fire, he approached his master work. It lay on the great, battered table like the upper half of a dragon, a humped thing beneath spread waxed linen wings.

As he bent to touch the taper to the fuse, his guest – Lady Jane Pergammon – adjusted the set of the model frigate on her towering, blue-powdered wig, and said “Is there no screen or alcove for the convenience of the observer? I may say it will be thought a disadvantage if any explosion were to damage a prominent member of the Royal Society.”

Joseph nudged the air and water intake levers a little further open. The fire had reached the charcoal pellets in the small boiler, and the outer casing of the engine gave out a faint heat. There was as yet no sound of water boiling, but even as he thought it, the first hiss of life escaped all but silently. He raised a hand to push back the curls from his forehead – a habitual gesture, balked now by the unaccustomed touch of horsehair. The thought of damage to his best wig and his velvet coat made him look up, remember that he had been asked a question.

“The… um… door, ma’am? I designed the entire wall as a screen – it’s reinforced with steel bars. If you go through, there is a small antechamber between the workshop and the house. Just let me remove the pictures to afford a view.”

His voice sounded as wheezy to him as the machine on the table. A thin plume of steam escaped it now, and the wings shivered as the steel armature beneath them began to stir. He held open the door, took down the cheap etchings with which he had covered the mesh viewing grills, and returned to perform an agitated dance, foot to foot, as Lady Pergammon attempted to squeeze the massive hoops of her gown through the narrow gap.

She made it, and Joseph darted in behind, latching and bolting the door behind them. Lady Pergammon glanced about his viewing gallery, surely taking in the dust and spiders, and the scent of cabbage pottage drifting from the kitchen behind them. He had just beaten down his agitated nerves enough to formulate an apology when she laughed. “Well, perhaps this was not the best choice of ensemble in which to visit the workshop of a practical gentleman.” Her smile was kind, restoring for a moment a ghost of long vanished beauty to her crumpled-linen face. “But for a visit in which one represents the interest and curiosity of the Royal Society itself, one is not merely a private person, but also an avatar of the grandeur and glory of Natural Philosophy.”

Her gaze had returned to the workshop long before she had reached the end of this sentence. Now her hands came up to grasp the ledge of the grill, as she pressed her nose to it to see better.

Joseph wondered if he was supposed to say something witty in return, or if grovelling would suit the occasion better. But by the time he had thought of an acceptable beginning of speech, the time for it was past. The shrill whistle of the relief valve told him that steam pressure had built to the optimal level. He bit his tongue, and then came the first almighty thud, and a second, until they were beating regular as a heart.

He sprang to his own grill, saw the hump of the engine – strapped to the table with jute bands – strain against its restraint. His windows had been bricked up to save money on window tax, and in the light of the single lantern, table and device came together in the image of a great winged spider. For the wings now rose and braced and beat, lifting the table inches from the floor on the down beat.

Steel capped legs screeched against tile. He tasted blood and took his teeth out of his lip, surprised. The table juddered forwards and to the right. Why to the right? He thought he’d corrected everything after the last time.

A spark jumped from the engine’s chimney and burned a hole in one linen wing, the edges of which smouldered and grew with each rush of air.

“If a man was wearing it,” he explained quickly, “he would know that was there. He could put it out before it became a problem.”

“Hm,” said Lady Pergammon, doubtfully. “But could he straighten the tips of those spokes? They’re looking rather bent to me.”

She was right. The ribs of the wings had already begun to deform when another spark landed on the restraining straps. They burned for two beats and then snapped, and the machine, still beating, whistling, its wings beginning to fold up behind it into a broken parasol, lifted off the table, fell, and began to bound around the room in great leaps, smashing itself against the walls, knocking off plaster and gouging chunks out of the table legs.

The dancing master who lived upstairs pounded on the ceiling with his cane, and above the whumphs of destruction in the workshop, Joseph could hear titters of laughter from the fiddler and today’s pupil, interspersed with swearing in French.

He sighed. “It will take not more than a further three minutes for the engine to run out of fuel. I use… um… pressed charcoal pellets for their concentration of ardour. Perhaps you will sit in the kitchen and take a dish of tea while we wait?”

The seamstress, who lived in the attics above the dancing master, had been persuaded by a gift of a shilling to pretend to be his maid for this visit – the which he could not normally afford. She dropped a curtsey and served the tea in what seemed to him to be a lead lined silence.

Lady Pergammon sipped and shuddered while the cacophony in the workshop slowly ebbed and ceased. When it had finished entirely and the only noise to be heard was the fiddler playing “A gig to the fair,” she put her dish down firmly and said, “Hm. Not quite finished, is it?”

***

And nor is this story – more next Monday 🙂

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

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It’s the nature of the writing beast that no matter what kind of writing you specialise in, someone will tell you that you’re doing it wrong. In the m/m genre they will also find numerous ways of telling you that you are doing it immorally. Either you’re being homophobic by exploiting gay men’s lives for the sake of straight women, or you’re being misogynistic by writing women out of your fictional worlds entirely. Or both at once.

Now I’m not sure how a genre can be simultaneously wrong by catering to women’s needs while also being wrong by being bad for women, but as is so often the way, there may be some truth in both things. So what can be done to minimise the problem? Well, we do what we can to make sure gay people enjoy our writing as much as straight women, and we make sure we have more interesting female characters, so women are well represented in our fiction.

Clearly the main problem in getting female characters into your m/m fiction comes from the fact that both of your main characters are men. Your viewpoints will be overwhelmingly male because your romantic couple are both male. And there’s nothing you can do about that without completely changing the genre to m/f, which rather defeats the object.

So if the nature of m/m means that both your main characters are male, what can you do to increase the presence of interesting female characters?

We could start off with the evil ex. Does main character A have a wife or girlfriend? She doesn’t have to be an evil bitch – after all, it’s no more fun for a woman to be married to a gay man than it is for a gay man to be married to a woman. So any breakup is likely to be both their responsibility. Maybe they separated amicably and are now working at being friends while raising their children together (or apart)? Or maybe she is an antagonist, but for perfectly good reasons, which can be addressed during the plot without blaming her for being some kind of monster.

Maybe the main characters both have evil exes, and they are genuinely moustache-twirling (what’s the female equivalent? Dog-fur-wearing?) villainess exes with plans to rule the world. Everyone loves a magnificent villain. As long as you have a woman or two on the side of the angels too, a genuinely, gloatingly, over the top villainess can be great fun.

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We could also mention mothers. It’s a fair guarantee that every character will have a mother, and she doesn’t need to be dead or out of the picture. She could just as easily be funny and capable, or doing a glamourous or interesting job. She could be interfering, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Many people have sisters, and your main characters may be among them. Perhaps they have gone into business with their sister, or their sister has a problem they can help with, or their sister has a brilliant idea about what they can do to solve whatever their big plot problem is.

Maybe one or both of your main characters have female bosses? Maybe their bosses are rivals, and that’s how they get together – snooping around each others’ businesses in a series of acts of industrial espionage, and they can’t get together without talking the bosses into a merger instead of a hostile takeover. As long as neither boss is represented as an evil bitch, this could be a great chance to develop two strong female characters with a large degree of power and influence on the plot, who are still neither of them involved in the main relationship.

Along the ‘bosses’ line, your characters might also have female servants, whose below-stairs goings on affect their plotline. No reason why these shouldn’t be fully rounded characters too.

Your characters may work in a team and have female team-mates, whether this is one of a group of paranormal werewolves or werewolf slayers, or floor layers or architects or whatever.

If we’re talking a fantasy setting, ask yourself if your king really needs to be a king? Could she perhaps be a queen instead? If your lead characters are always having to deal with the queen and her (ninja magician) handmaidens, it will make it a great deal harder to end up with a book in which it looks as if you’ve killed off anyone in possession of a cunt.

If you find that, without realising it, you have written a novel in which there are no female characters at all, why not go the Ellen Ripley route, pick one or two of your most important support characters and make them women instead? Generally this makes no real difference to their characteristics or role in the story, and can be easily done. It may even bring some interesting freshness to your novel when the hard drinking, fist fighting, womanising best friend of the hero is a woman herself.

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When I finished my first draft of Foxglove Copse, for example, I thought “this is a bit sparse on female characters! What can I do?” So I changed Jory’s tough farmer uncle John who lives out of town with his ‘close friend’ Phil to a tough farmer auntie Jillian and her ‘close friend’ Phillis. Which was a win all around.

Obviously, all of this is slightly more difficult when you are writing in an all male environment, such as in a historical – aboard a warship, inside a gentleman’s club etc. But usually even in those situations there were women invisibly doing their stuff, whom you can choose to make visible. Servants at the club, wives travelling alongside their menfolk in the warship, a doctor’s daughter serving as loblolly boy rather than being left destitute at home. Look closer at almost any situation and there will be women there, any one of whom might get involved with the plot. And yes, perhaps all she can do is be the washerwoman who scorched the MC’s breeches because he was rude to her, but even that shows there are women in this universe who have their own personalities and are not to be trifled with.

Even the small things can make a difference; the barmaid who offers the hero directions to the castle and grins behind her hand as he goes, the landlady who gets the bloodstains out of the cuffs with a suspicious look, the interior decorator who gets mistaken for a stalker when she tries to break in to replace that lamp…

In short, just because your main characters are both men doesn’t mean you can’t fill your world with interesting women. If you put effort into making your men believable, complex and non stereotypical so as to avoid the danger of offending your gay readers, why not also put effort into including believable, complex, non stereotypical female characters too, so as to avoid the danger of offending your female readers? You might even find you start liking them yourself.

~

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

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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.

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

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.

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

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!

LionessFinal133x200

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.

LionessFinalLarge

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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