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With Samhain closing its doors, hundreds of authors are now wondering what to do with their backlists. I’ve been busily making mock-ups for new cover art for my own books, and I thought this might be a good time to repost this “Absolute basics of making your own cover art” post. Learning how to use a photoshop-type program like Gimp takes a long time and a lot of effort, so if you’re reasonably well off but short on time, I think your best option is probably to buy your Samhain covers, or pay a professional to make new ones. If you’re short on money but long on time, however, this might be the point to teach yourself how to make book covers.

First of all, go to http://www.gimp.org/ and download The GIMP. (This stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program” and has nothing to do with leatherwear unless you want it to.) The Gimp is almost as powerful as Photoshop, more than capable of allowing you to make highly professional book covers, yet totally free.

It’s also offputtingly complicated and has no user manual, but who cares about that, right? 🙂

So, today let’s make a cover for a book which you are going to upload to Smashwords. Smashwords likes its book covers to be 2400 pixels tall by 1600 pixels wide. If you want to make a cover for Amazon, you’ll need to check what dimensions they recommend and use those instead.

Read the rest of this entry » )

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So, in an email that went out to Samhain authors this morning we were asked to keep this confidential, but as it’s already out in the public here on The Digital Reader I think that part of it is moot.

Samhain has just announced that they will in fact finally be closing on 28th of February (ie in 18 days time.)

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If you’re a Samhain reader who’s been storing their books in Samhain’s cloud, this would be the time to download them to your own hard storage so that you don’t lose them the way readers lost books they bought with All Romance Ebooks.

Authors are getting their rights back once the closure has happened, and I intend to reformat my books and self-publish them as soon as I can. But as you know, I’m still recovering from an operation and I have a deadline for a new manuscript which I intend to turn in first, so it may be some time before I can get around to re-launching my backlist in print.

(Ebooks may be faster, depending on availability of cover art. I’m looking into buying some of my covers back from them. All the haggling with the artist that went on to make the cover of The Reluctant Berserker as authentic as possible was in my view 100% worth it, and if I can possibly keep that one I will. It’s gorgeous. But otherwise, making new cover art is quite fun, though laborious.)

If there’s a book of mine you haven’t already bought, but were idly thinking of getting on some future day when you felt like it, let me know and I’ll prioritize my re-release list to get to those ones first. But if I can beg a favour, I would ask you to hold on a little longer and get them from me, rather than buying them from Samhain now. On a callously monetary basis, I will recieve much more of the royalties if you buy from me than if you buy from them – and you will probably get the book cheaper too.

My royalties from Samhain halved during this last year, so I am quite pleased at the prospect of having my rights back from them, but I’m still sad about this. They were an excellent publisher while it lasted – which is why they have so much of my backlist. There was a time when, in my view, they were the best m/m publisher out there. The genre will be poorer without them.

It does seem to me that the m/m publishing boom has finally burst. This may yet have its good side, in that the people who leaped on the bandwagon because m/m seemed like the place to get easy sales will find somewhere else to go, and we’ll be left with the people for whom it actually has meaning. I think that’s been quietly self-selecting inside the genre for a long time anyway.

tl/dr

Download your Samhain books to your own storage now. They’ll be gone on the 28th.

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

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Well, provisionally, following my surgery I am more or less happy to declare that I am not dead yet 🙂

I’ve also come out of the hospital to news that the Porthkennack series is now available for pre-order.

A complete change of pace from the historical-fantasy of the Arising books, the Porthkennack series is a shared universe series, where several authors write stories based in the same location. In this case, the location is a small seaside town in Cornwall, and the ‘several authors’ are me, Joanna Chambers, Charlie Cochrane, Garrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Each book is a standalone, but locations and some characters may be shared between them. (You’ll find Garrett’s Brix from Blood Rush has a walk on part in my Foxglove Copse, for example.)

The series is planned to contain mostly contemporary novels, but with a few historicals thrown in for background. I’ll be writing one of the historicals for the second wave, but my first novel in the series is the contemporary Foxglove Copse in which eco-traveler Sam Atkins and local boy Ruan Gwynn investigate what looks like a nasty bit of cultic activity on Ruan’s aunt’s farm.

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Blurb:

After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.

Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him.

Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other.

Foxglove Copse available here for preorder

And if you would like to read the rest of the Porthkennack books, you can find them here on the collection page.

Meanwhile, I hope to soon be fit enough to start writing again on my second novel for the series, which is the first Age of Sail novel I’ve done for a good long time, and is currently five chapters long out of a planned thirty.

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

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The proof arrived this morning and was a joy to behold, so I have okayed it, and you should now be able to buy a paperback of the new edition.

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I don’t know how long it will take until it’s available on Amazon or other retailers, but it should be available right now on the Createspace website here. (From which I may say I get the maximum royalties 😉 )

Now that I know that worked, one of my projects for the new year will be to do a paperback version of Lioness of Cygnus 5. (The last time I tried, I got a doorstop of a book 600 odd pages long because it was doublespaced with extra spaces between paragraphs throughout. This time I will do it properly, reformatting everything and then cutting and pasting each chapter individually into the template.

It is, I have to say, worth it. The new version of Captain’s Surrender is a very good looking book, with a nice large text size that makes it easy to read even without your glasses. Very professional! I am pleased.

On other news, I have finally started work on Contraband Hearts – the second of my Porthkennack books. This is going to be an Age of Sail book from me! A new one, after all hope was lost. It’s not going to be a naval one, though – this one is smuggler versus Customs officer, with some wrecking, some mining and some pilchard fishing just for local colour.

Subject to my health, the plan for this year is:

  • Blog posts for the Arising series release tour
  • Write Contraband Hearts and get it to Riptide before August.
  • Edit Foxglove Copse
  • Release Lioness of Cygnus Five in paperback.
  • Edit Heart of Cygnus Five and release in ebook and paperback
  • Edit Waters of the Deep (sequel to The Wages of Sin) and release in ebook format
  • Edit Pride of Cygnus Five and release in ebook and paperback
  • Write something else – possibly a Trowchester murder mystery book. Or – if I don’t have time after everything else – the third Jasper and Charles story, so I can bundle Wages of Sin, Waters of the deep and Torments of the Damned into an anthology of Unquiet Spirits novellas.

Ideally I would like to get back to the point where I have a ratio of one book in need of editing to one book in first draft stage. My concentration on producing new stuff in 2016 has left me with a serious second draft/editing backlog.

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

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Well, what an interesting year 2016 was, (in the sense of ‘may you live in interesting times.) My father died in February. We had always had a rocky relationship, and making sure he was cared for in his final two years, when he was suffering from dementia, was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. 2014-2015 brought the rest of my dysfunctional family back into my life in a big way too, putting me in their spotlight in a way I hadn’t had to endure before. I soon discovered I was not going to make it without help, and I put myself into therapy to try to make myself into the sort of person who could cope with this.

It was a year’s course of therapy, and how I wish I’d done it earlier! I learned that I had the right to say ‘no’ to my sisters. This did result in one of them deciding never to speak to me again – but after the months of weeping and raging over the rejection had settled, I discovered that I didn’t actually want to talk to her much either. So I am actually quite proud of her for making a move that did us both good, in the long term. Our family had always caused us pain – let it end, then.

And I’m sad to say that when my Dad died this year, that also came as a relief. I debated not saying this, because it’s not the sort of thing you’re allowed to say about your family. But then I remembered that this was also the year in which I promised myself I would stop being silent, and I decided I would say it after all.

I loved him – all my life I wanted his approval and raged because it seemed to me that although he loved me, he profoundly wanted me to be someone else (and therefore he didn’t love me at all.) Although the last two years almost killed me – literally, the stress symptoms were wild – I’m thankful that we had them, so that (maybe) he could see that my refusal to take money from him was because I didn’t need to be paid to love him, and so that I could see that his insistence on trying to give me money was because it was the only way he knew of to express love.

(We fought a lot about money. Dad used it as a way to gain power over people, and to accept it was to accept a position of subserviance. Everyone could be bought, but he didn’t think there was anything wrong in that – it was just the way his world worked. He honestly couldn’t conceive of anyone doing anything for any motive other than money. My writing was a mystery to him, when I could have earned much more in almost any other job.)

I also had the chance to finally get to know him as one adult to another. It amazed me to see in him the self same anxiety and depression I had been suffering all my life, and that my daughter now shares. It was an eye opener to realize that he too was maybe not entirely responsible for the workings of his own brain – that the desperate thing that whines and batters itself against the closed windows of the inside of my head was in him too. I wish he’d been able to have therapy too, before it was too late. It would have helped him. But he would have laughed for scorn at the very idea. I never told him about my own.

I never told him about his trans grandson. He would have ridiculed us both if I had, and so he never saw his grandson as he truly was… and now I’m just making myself sad.

In February my father died, and after the funeral I went through six months of feeling liberated; I felt wary – waiting for the other shoe to drop – and guilty for not feeling any real grief. (By contrast, when my mum died I felt like the world had ended and it was not to be rebuilt for two full years.)

I don’t know whether I’m a terrible person, or whether dad reaped what he sowed in raising us the way he did. But 2016 has been for me the first year ever when I have not been wrung like a dishrag with anxiety about my family of birth. I have felt hopeful and balanced and strong as a person for the first time ever. I even looked forward to Christmas with no fear that I would get everything wrong and be disowned. It was very odd.

But the world is not like a story, and every time you think you’ve got to a satisfying conclusion something new comes along to throw you back into a state of human turmoil. 2016 was also the year when I found a lump in my abdomen, which has grown rapidly to the point where I now look 6 months pregnant. On 1st February 2017 I will go in for a hysterectomy, at which point we will find out what it is. Is it a huge fibroid? Is it something more sinister? We just don’t know.

And then of course there is the state of the world. I doubt that 2017 is going to be better than 2016, with Trump as president, and Brexit on the way. The future is full of dread.

But even as I say that, I remember that my major lesson in 2016 was that nothing quite turns out the way you expect. The Lord has given me strength to get through two years where I wanted to die. He brought me through without being broken, and enabled me to treat my father as well as I could and make the end of his life as bearable as I could, even though I was terrified of him.

I guess I’ve learned not to look too far ahead. The future may be full of dread, but the present is full of warm electric light and the sparkle of the holographic stars with which I’ve decorated my walls. Good came out of the evil that I endured in the past, and if there is evil to be endured in the future, I have God’s promise that he can bring good out of that too. In the mean time I am counting my blessings while I have them, because I’m beginning to see that the present moment is all I really have.

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

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Just a quick post to say that along with lots of other brilliant bargains, Labyrinth, Blessed Isle and The Crimson Outlaw are available for 99c in Riptide’s end of year sale. Scoop ’em up for cheap while you can ;)*

*if you want them and don’t already have them, of course. I don’t want to make assumptions.

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Given that the Arising books are coming out soon, you might be interested in The Crimson Outlaw. While I was writing Sons of Devils (the first in the Arising series) I found myself wanting to fanfic myself by shipping Radu with Cesar. I’m not entirely sure how that turned into the story of young Vali and his adventures with Mihai the bandit, but the workings of inspiration are a mysterious thing. What can I say? I really liked the Romanian setting and wanted to use it more. It’s distinctly odd that this one came out so long before the book that inspired it, but they belong together, thematically.

The Crimson Outlaw also has the distinction of being a Romanian story entirely without vampires. I don’t know why, but that amuses me.

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

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and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

A bible reading which I am finding reassuring in these times 🙂

I made a Christmas card thinking ‘ha, this is funny. It’s a marine but it looks like Santa, so it’s really appropriate for me:

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But then I thought ‘yet how festive are the redcoats, really, when your audience contains many people for whom they were the enemy? We’re talking about a wish for peace on Earth here!’

So I made another one which was a little less risky:

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Happy Christmas or other seasonal festival, or just general happiness for those who don’t celebrate anything at this time!

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

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In a little while I’ll be able to put this on my own site, but for the moment you can only see it here:

Angels of Istanbul cover art on Night Owl Romance. Isn’t that lovely? I will admit that I head-canoned Frank as being played by Tom Hiddleston in his Wallander days, and the resemblance is definitely striking 🙂 I can’t wait to put up both covers, as they look extra nice next to each other.

There were other things I was going to say when I opened this blog post to write it, but I can’t now remember what they were. Other than to mention that in honour of Rogue One the next Age of Sail book is going to open with Perry writing a letter home to his mother (who is still alive) and feature a dashing smuggler character who (when he is on shore) lives with his mother (who is still alive.) As a mother myself, I’m tired of being thought of as inconvenient and dispensible for the hero’s journey.

My temporary title for the next Age of Sail book – which will be book two of the books I’ve been asked to write for the Porthkennack series – is Contraband Hearts. Which clues you in to the smuggling theme, but is possibly a little cheesy. It may not be coming out under that title. Watch this space 😉

later…

….Oh, that was it! I also wanted to let everyone know that Captain’s Surrender and Lioness of Cygnus Five, plus all my other self-pubbed books were now available on Nook and Kobo for those who don’t like Amazon. I’m also going to put them on Smashwords when I’m not befuddled with Christmas, and print will be available as soon as I get through the proofing stage.

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

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I was really delighted to see this turn up in my Twitter feed, completely unexpectedly. It’s great to get any reviews, obviously, but it’s even better to get positive reviews of books you didn’t expect to be reviewed, from reviewers whose platform and take on things you admire. Thank you Jackie!

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“Beecroft has penned an adventure-filled utopian science fiction romance, an opposites-attract love story that also interrogates issues of gender and bodies, all with intelligence and a healthy dollop of humor. While Lioness of Cygnus Five will never be mistaken for hard SF, it does gift its readers with an engaging balance of extrapolative thought-experiment and unexpected romance.” 

– Romance Novels for Feminists

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

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Having said I would make this available again on the 18th, that is what I’ve done 🙂 However, some self-publishing platforms are more efficient than others, and although I finished uploading the book to Amazon, Kobo and Nook yesterday morning, only Amazon has yet finished processing it.

I can therefore at least offer you the Amazon link for your Kindle.

While I was putting Captain’s Surrender up on the other platforms, I also put up all my other self-published books, and Nook seems to have accepted all of them without a problem except for Captain’s Surrender. I presume this is because CS is a third edition and therefore more complicated. I’ll continue wrestling with Nook and Kobo over Christmas and we’ll get there eventually. In the mean time it’s been good to finally get the chance to put my entire self-pubbed catalogue onto other platforms.

I can officially attest that Nook’s self-pub interface is really quite hard to deal with, but Kobo’s is very friendly and easy. (Though neither of them has yet managed to work in the case of CS. In fairness to Kobo, I did Nook on Friday and Kobo only yesterday, so I may be expecting a little too much in Kobo’s case.)

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

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Woohoo! It’s all becoming real at last. After an exceptionally long gestation period, the book that was The Glass Floor is showing its face in its true form as Sons of Devils. Allow me to direct you to the exclusive cover art reveal on Night Owl Romance:

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The cover artist is Simoné,

who also did the fantastic covers for The Crimson Outlaw and Labyrinth. I am particularly blessed 🙂

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

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Well, I have re-read Captain’s Surrender and made a (very) few changes. I’m ready to launch it on KDP, but not quite there in print.

I feel like I need to apologise to those people who really didn’t like Peter Kenyon, but I have not changed him. He is just as unreflective, entitled and arrogant as he always was. I know from experience that you can live for many years not even thinking about an aspect of your own personality that – when you’re finally confronted with it – throws you into existential crisis, breaks you and forces you to entirely remake your world-view. That’s happened to me two or three times in my life, with long periods of complacency in between.

After a long period of being almost willfully oblivious, Peter changes rapidly, dramatically and with excessive force, but I think that’s realistic for some people, because that’s how I did it too.

The only thing I have changed, therefore, is the description of the church, which I ignorantly assumed would be made of stone. I don’t remember who it was who emailed me to say that the stone church I was writing about wouldn’t be built for another hundred years, but thank you!

Putting the manuscript up on KDP is as easy as clicking an ‘upload file here’ button and selecting your Word document. But putting it up on Createspace, so there will be an option of having it in paperback, is significantly more difficult.

The way I finally got it to work was to download a template for the interior text from Createspace. You can choose the correct template for whichever trim size you want. Then I copy/pasted each chapter of the manuscript into the corresponding chapter on the template individually. That seemed to prevent the problem I’d been having with Lioness of Cygnus Five, whereby I could not get the line-spacing down from double no matter what.

I’m going to have to re-do Lioness now I think I’ve got this cracked.

I did the interior first, so I would know how many pages my book would have. Then I downloaded a full cover template. This will calculate the size of the spine for you, as long as you input the number of pages before you download it. (Which is why you need to know how many pages first.)

With the cover template, I could place my front cover artwork on the front and jiggle it so the text was all inside the lines. And I could make a back cover and spine that matched the front. Then all I had to do was click the ‘upload cover file’ button and ignore Createspace’s array of weird and not very nice cover art generators.

Because I’d used the templates, both files passed Createspace’s testing process first time. So now all I’ve got to do is to wait for my test copy to arrive. If that’s okay, I can give the thumbs up to make the paperbacks available to everyone else. I don’t know if that will be before Christmas or not – it depends on whether the test copy is up to snuff, and I haven’t received that yet.

As it turns out, I am going up to visit my in-laws on the 19th-21st, so releasing the new Kindle version of Captain’s Surrender on the 19th as planned is probably not on. I’ll do it on the 18th instead.

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

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But Alex, what the heck is the Arising Series? How come you’ve never mentioned this before? Springing this on us as a bit of a surprise, aren’t you?

Well, hypothetical reader, you make a good point. However, I have talked before about The Glass Floor, my novel in which Wallachian noble Radu and his lover Frank invade the Ottoman empire at the head of an army of vampires, and behold, the Arising series is that very story.

It went like this: First of all, nobody thought The Glass Floor was a particularly inspiring title, so on the first editing pass it was decided that The Glass Floor would become Angels of Istanbul.

Second of all, my editor commented “Mirela doesn’t have much to do, does she? Can you expand her part a little?”

As I’d already been worried that Mirela turned up and was important at the beginning, became important again in the end, but basically did nothing at all in the middle, I could see the justice of this comment. So I wrote a couple more chapters for her – belatedly introducing an actual glass floor to a story that had previously only been using the idea as a metaphor.

But now the story had become humungous in size. It had already been teetering on the edge of what could be fitted into one book – in fact when I wrote it I’d been considering the idea of splitting it into three parts, and selling them as a three volume series. So when Anglerfish came back and said “This is just economically impossible to sell in one volume, let’s make it two,” I went “Of course!”

I don’t know if any of you remember the Under the Hill books, Bomber’s Moon and Dogfighters? This is a very similar situation. This is me writing a doorstopper Fantasy with queer protagonists, rather than writing a queer romance. And naturally I made it the length I expect from a proper Fantasy – long enough to get your teeth into.

So, Angels of Istanbul had to become two volumes rather than one, which meant another title and a series title. As the Istanbul part comes in the second volume, volume #2 got that title. Volume #1 is very much about Frank’s escape from his (metaphorically) monstrous father, into the arms of Radu, whose father is literally monstrous. So it became Sons of Devils.

And after that long explanation I can cycle back to the beginning and announce with more fanfare that this epic is now ready to be read and available to be pre-ordered. Anyone who liked the Under the Hill books will probably like this. Anyone who liked The Crimson Outlaw will probably like this too, because a lot of the research I did for Arising overspilled into the writing of The Crimson Outlaw.

Oh, do shut up Alex. Stop waffling and get to the point!

My internal voice is very rude to me. But it may be right:

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Sons of Devils: March 13th, 2017
Angels of Istanbul: March 27th, 2017

But available for pre-order now!

1742

Ten years ago, the island of Atlantis rose out of the sea, triggering mechanisms all over the world that made magic a genuine force once more. Now paranormal creatures are coming out of hiding and demanding their rights. In every country, scholars and scientists are scrambling to research and understand the occult so they can harness it safely. And all over the world, rulers and warlords are commissioning magical weapons they don’t understand and can’t control.

The Age of Enlightenment has become a race for dominance that human beings are no longer guaranteed to win. This is the perfect time for them to go to war with each other. Obviously.

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

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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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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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