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

5things2

In honour of the launch of Blue Eyed Stranger, a novel that will teach you the secrets about the mysterious world of morris dancing you never thought you needed to know, I present – Morris, the life guide :)

  1. If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth doing.

Just as nobody dons their baldrics and bellpads and capers in the street for strangers to sneer at because they think they’ll gain great glory or wealth from it, so you probably won’t gain great glory or riches from writing. You dance because it’s fun, you write because it’s fun, and any other health, social or financial benefits are secondary. Do it anyway, because you love to, and when it gets hard and you’re tempted to grumble, remember that nobody is making you do this, you’re doing it because it’s what you want.

  1. If you’re not having fun, people can tell.

I won’t name any names, but there are some morris dancing sides I’ve seen where the moves are perfect, the dances are done with enormous attention to detail, getting all the tricky footwork right. Excellent hankywork, good looking uniforms, perfect teamwork etc. And yet it’s so damn dull to watch. You stand there and you watch these people take it all terribly seriously, with frowns of concentration and a font of judgement for anyone who does it a smidgen less traditionally, and you can’t help but think how ridiculous it all is.

You can get away with a bit more poe-facedness as a writer, but it will eventually come through – the fact that you think very highly of yourself, and nobody is allowed to simply enjoy your books. And then, well, I guess you’ll get the poe-faced followers you deserve. If that’s your goal, go for it, but it sounds like an awful grind.

  1. If you are having fun, people can tell.

One of the first things we tell the new dancers is “If you forget what you’re supposed to do next, just lift your head, put on a big smile, and get back to place when you can. As long as you look like you’re having a great time, most people won’t notice the mistakes, and if they do, they’ll share a laugh with you and enjoy those too.” I think that applies to writing too. If you’re having so much fun with the exploding zombies and the big misunderstandings and the triple adultery and the cavalry charges, people aren’t going to notice the occasional plot hole or clunky sentence. If they’re being breathlessly swept away by your enthusiasm and big smile, they’ll forgive all sorts of technical faults.

  1. If your audience aren’t having fun, don’t even bother.

Like morris dancing, writing is a spectator sport. You may dance out because it entertains you, but if it doesn’t entertain your audience too you come away feeling dispirited, let down, and despondent, because what’s the point? Plus, you’ll soon find that even the semi-interested, curious onlookers you had at the start begin to drift away. However much you have a message to get across, or a mission to pursue in your writing, if it doesn’t entertain the reader they won’t stick around for anything else. Bear your readers in mind, and if you’re fairly sure they won’t enjoy that hundred page digression detailing the history of tin mining beginning in the stone age, maybe take it out of the story and put it in an appendix.

  1. You are your own master.

Morris and its accompanying music are folk arts. That means that anyone can do them. With a half hour’s practice every day, I learned to play the pennywhistle well enough for people to dance to, well enough to attend sessions with other musicians, well enough for a new art to have entered and enriched my life. Just the same way, if you put in an hour’s writing practice every day, you will soon get good enough at that to entertain yourself. Then you’ll progress to being able to entertain others, and before long you’ll find yourself making art.

At that point, you can get yourself a publisher, or you can choose to publish yourself, learning all the skills an indie publisher needs to know. But the truth is that you are the producer of the content, you are the provider, the artist, the entertainer, and if you don’t like the way you’re being treated, you get to take that content elsewhere. Unwelcome morris dancers go to drink at another pub. Unwelcome writers get to make their own cover art and market their own ebooks, but neither of us need approval or permission, we will do what is in our hearts to do, and if everyone is having fun in the process, everyone benefits.

BlueEyedStranger_200x133


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

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

“Beecroft’s very English contemporary romance, a standalone linked with Trowchester Blues, is note perfect from start to finish.”

Publisher’s Weekly

Wow! This is the kind of thing that makes me feel like I’m a real author :)


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

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

The summer holidays have thankfully come to an end, edits on the Trowchester books can only last so long, and that leaves me with the rest of the year to write something new. So, what should it be?

I’m currently writing a fantasy about three sets of people from diverse cultures who get stranded together on a floating island due to shipwreck/the death of the gods. That’s slow going as I gradually work out the world building, but very entertaining. But after that, I have a choice of:

1. Another 3 Trowchester books – small British city contemporaries featuring the occasional murder and a bit of morris dancing.

2. A follow up of The Reluctant Berserker where Brid the slave gets a story of his own. (For which I need to do some research on Celtic Britain in the 6th Century.)

3. Kind of tempted to do a sort of action/adventury jewel thief m/f romance with an option of turning it m/m/f later on.

4. A follow up to The Wages of Sin.

5. A follow up to The Crimson Outlaw.

6. Something else of your suggestion?

I’d welcome anyone’s advice, as I really don’t have a preference at all.

~

I keep thinking I ought to leave Tumblr because it’s such a time sink, but I find so many interesting things there. For example, this post about a multi-racial casting for founders of the Hogwarts houses

http://themarysue.tumblr.com/post/97309699977/supernatasha-part-ofthecult-hogwarts

particularly the erudite response of supernatasha to the claim that everyone was white in Europe during the middle-ages. I feel sure this is going to be of particular relevance to me once Blue Eyed Stranger comes out and people discover that one of my main characters is a black Viking reenactor. As a matter of fact, the knowledge that people of colour have probably always been in Britain is a fact that Martin himself is passionate about passing on to his own pupils. It’s nice for me not to have had to assemble the research on that myself. I can just refer anyone who objects to go to the excellent Medieval POC.

~

And since I appear to be doing a bit of a tombola – pick three tickets at random and see what you get – kind of blog post, I’m going to end with something that made me happy this week:

YouTube Preview Image

I just wish I could buy it somewhere!


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

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

So, I’m hating having to write “Blue-Eyed Stranger”, that morris dancer/reenactor romance I mentioned. Possibly this is because the flu has settled into something bronchial and also blocked my sinuses. Possibly being knackered and ill and having the face of ache is enough to make me not want to work on this novella. But possibly it’s just because it’s a contemporary. I don’t know.

It shouldn’t be a burden. So far it’s covered the topics of Cotswold or Border? Jubbly or authentic? Blackface – racist or not? How many people can you seat round a firepit? and Do plastic dragons eat chips? But I’m still failing to feel any warmth for it.

Do you think this is because I’m ill, or is it just that I’m really not cut out to write contemporaries? Have an excerpt to judge.

~*~*~*~
To a person, Billy and his side closed around the gap into the arena, Matt turning on the organiser. “It does say the Stomping Griffins now, doesn’t it?”

He, poor man, took off his flat cap and smoothed down his bald patch contemplatively. “It does–”

“Right, so–”

“But it also says ‘Combat display by Bretwalda.’  Sorry, we’ve double booked for some reason. Maybe you can–”

“Well, we were obviously here first.” Matt signalled to the musicians. Nancy had placed her enormous drum on the ground – a gorgeous red painted thing with the team’s black griffin on the side, its goat-skin drumheads tensioned with snow white ropes. Now she picked it up and shrugged on the harness, bent over it like the sickle moon over the shadow of the earth.

She hit it. Boom! And again. Boom! The melodeon struck up with a bagpipe-like drone just as one of the Vikings on horseback was trying to shoulder his way through the close packed black of the dancers. Maybe the drumbeat spooked it. Maybe it was the way the Boy gave an automatic leap in answer to the music. Perhaps it didn’t like this big dark faceless flapping thing jumping at its nose. All Billy knew was that the horse reared onto its back legs, kicked out, its hoof punching a hole in the drum. Wood splintered and the horse squealed, bucking and dancing to try to shake this terrifying red thing off its leg.

Bravely but very unwisely, Nancy tried to pull her ruined drum away. Billy saw the disaster in the making but not fast enough to get there in time to stop it. He was still running forward when the full weight of the horse drove up against the eighty-year-old’s shoulder, picked her off the ground and threw her. She went sailing in a way that might have been comical in a woman a quarter of her age, slammed the edge of her back into the straw bales and rolled over them to lay still on the inner edge of the arena.

“You fucker!” Billy had a stick in his hand. He didn’t think twice about running up to the horseman and belting him across the armoured shoulder for being a sick fucker who rode down old ladies. “What do you think you’re doing, you fucking wanker?!”

The rest of the side were with him in a kind of synergy that only ever happened in the dancing when they were really on form. Pudgy Matt and the Boy – who was only five years younger than Nancy himself – the normally straight-laced Pete, terminally skeptical Colin and suave Andy just as fired up by his side. Margery had siezed a spare stick and was wading in too, while Annette and Christine were on either side of Nancy’s fallen form, carefully, carefully proferring hankies and support.

The horseman didn’t even have the decency to reply, leaning down over his mount’s neck, whispering to it. But the rest of the army poured out from all around the animal and closed ranks in front of it.

“Fucking watch what you’re doing with the fucking horse!” Spectacle-helm guy got up in Billy’s face and pushed him in the chest. A hell of a lot of weight there, the shove might have knocked Billy off his feet if the dancing hadn’t made him agile enough to twist in the air and come down four-square and balanced.

“Did you see what he did? Did you see him knock down an old lady?”

“She fucking asked for it.”

Even hard-nosed spectacle-Viking himself seemed to realise he had stepped over a line with that. His eyes went wide, he backpedalled a little, raising his hands. But it was far too late for that.

“You utter…!” Graham, the bagman, danced on a Wednesday night, and did karate on a Friday. A tall man and athletic – the guy Billy was in competition with for the unspoken acknowledgement of being the side’s best dancer. He wore a short trimmed red beard and would have looked quite at home in armour, if the roles were reversed. Billy’s untutored slice to the shoulder had bounced off the horseman’s armour and been disregarded, but when Graham hit spectacle-guy in the sternum with the heel of his open hand, the guy reeled back five paces and went down.

Whisper snick sounds of swords being drawn – long blade-shapes of steel sliding against the metal lined mouths of scabbards. And Billy could see they were blunt, the points carefully rounded, the edges a good milimetre thick and smoothed off so as not to break the skin. But they were still heavy steel bars a good two feet long. They might not cut, but like the side’s sticks he was pretty sure they would still break bones.

Some of his righteous anger faltered. There were rules to this – the other side backed down in front of the threat. If they had any decency, they backed down and did not force actual blows. But this lot weren’t backing down. Even the ragged edges of the army – thin guys and short androgyns with nothing more menacing to their name than long tunics and itchy trousers were massing in backup of their leaders. Behind the swords, the jackals of this army were aiming spears at the side.

A long, tense moment, and in it the black Viking caught Billy’s eye. He could see his own thoughts reflected on the man’s handsome face. This is all getting a little out of hand.


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

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