A fantasy writer’s lament

(shutterstock – public domain – fractal art/poly dragon – photoshopped)

There’ s a dragon sitting in my head,
not breathing fire unless I refuse
to give him a role in my latest work
or choose
to pretend he’s not in my head at all but just
a figment, imaginèd.

In shadow behind the dragon
a silvery unicorn prances,
slipping in and out of mist,
taking his chances
I’ll add him to the story,
wild and moon-kissed

Hunting (both dragon and unicorn),
seeking friendship, not conquest,
fae creatures try
to convince me they’re wonderful and strange,
not just like every other sentient being
under the sky.

(Magical families and travels
or fantasy love and crime
don’t differ from the mundane kind;
they’re merely more exotic
to observe,
and in my mind.)

They make incessant noise in my head,
these uninvited guests of mine,
chattering day and night.
Sometimes I’d like some peace and quiet,
all for myself, and so…
I write.

Typos.

(Obviously I used a published cartoon as my illustration. It was too perfect not to use.)

Typos. We all make them. Sometimes I think there are typo gremlins, just waiting till I do some editing and slipping a few typos in for a treat (for them, not for us). Sometimes it’s just that my brain goes faster than my fingers even though I touch type quite rapidly. The main thing is to make sure you and your editor/proof reader check, check and check again. The odd one will still slither through. I’ve noticed that since the big publishers decided to rely more and more on authors using some kind of spell checker, there are typos in books by people who would never in a million years have had typos at the start of their careers. Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, and others.

However, there are typos and typos. There are the kind like ‘teh’ for ‘the’ which are pretty obviously just that: typing errors. The same goes for triple or single letters that should be double. Or mis-spellings of place names, especially in foreign countries, when elsewhere in the text they are perfect. Then there are the ones that actually annoy me and if too common in a work can throw me out of the story completely.

I think this sort are caused by writers with a less than stellar grasp of spelling placing huge reliance on their spell checker. Now, we can’t all be brilliant spellers, but we can all learn to be less in awe of spell checkers and go with our own instinct or knowledge. Word and Google Docs often disagree, especially over things like correct hyphenation or other punctuation. They are not omniscient!

I use Word’s spellchecker and it hasn’t a clue about the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’, or ‘bear’ and ‘bare’ or ‘lead’ and ‘led’. It thinks it has but it hasn’t. It gets very agitated about ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ and the advice it gives tends to be wrong. It is puzzled by unusual names or names that are similar to actual words. For instance, the dragon in my Skilled Investigator series is called Scratch and Word is horrified that I should capitalise this… One of the investigators is called Raf when he is under cover, and Word would like him to be RAF. Yes, well…

Contrary to the apparent assumptions of some writers, spellcheckers are not really intelligent and can’t always work out the context of a word. So we get errors like ‘reign’ for ‘rein’. The first is for royalty and the second implies control, particularly for horses but also in such phrases as ‘reined in their feelings of aggression’ or something like that. Sometimes the writer accepts the spellchecker’s advice because they don’t know any better. They may only have heard the word or phrase and never seen it written. They may have no idea of its origins. Another common mistake of this nature is ‘past times’ for ‘pastimes’ which are to do with passing the time and nothing whatsoever to do with yesteryear. Admittedly some shops and manufacturers have added to the confusion by using things like this as a play on words, thinking all their customers will know the difference. I have news for them…

Spellcheckers don’t seem to have grasped the issues with regard to the various forms of the verbs to lie and to lay. These muddles are in fact exacerbated by things like the old prayer that starts: ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’. The verb in that is being used reflexively and does not mean you can go ahead and lay on a bed, unless you’re a chicken. Nor should you use ‘lay of the land’ instead of ‘lie’. Though I think that one might be caused by confusion with ley lines.

Sometimes the problem lies with the local dialect that the writer hears all around them and assumes is the norm. Or with one they hear in a show that might not necessarily reflect the reality of the region they’re writing about. I was thrown out of a story recently because the writer insisted on its Irish character using ‘yous’ at all times and for both singular and plural people despite the fact that they were an educated person and that in any case would be unlikely to use it when addressing a single listener.

The bottom line is that we can all type things like that – I managed to mis-spell aggression in the first draft of this post. But – and it’s a huge BUT – we can learn to check and there’s that button on Word’s spellchecker that lets you click ‘ignore’. I don’t think it actually teaches the program anything (going by its attitude to Scratch throughout six novels) but at least you can tell yourself you’ve considered the advice and rejected it.

My own most common errors (outside the occasional total typo) are extra spaces or missed spaces. Spell checkers pick those up beautifully. But then I do some editing and the gremlins have the last laugh.

Happy Halloween. Have a free story!

The story is dedicated to smallhobbit, a friend in real life and on social media, who entertains me with her fanfic offerings and whose birthday falls on Halloween. The house in the story is real; I live in it. The characters and plot are based on something I wrote some years ago, but recently rewrote and edited extensively.


Hallowe’en Changes.

Adam ran quickly upstairs. Time had passed while he was putting the finishing touches to Ewan’s costume for the Hallowe’en party tonight and he hadn’t noticed, lost in considering how to attach the tail and horns so that a six year old would be unlikely to dislodge them. He was due at the school gates in ten minutes and and Ewan would cry if he was late again. Then the other parents, mostly mums, would tut and frown and mutter about children with two dads having problems. Mentally slapping himself for being such an irresponsible parent, he dashed into the bedroom and grabbed his coat. It was still October for just under twelve hours, but the temperatures were threatening frost, and since the hour had gone back it was almost dark when the children came out of school.

Oh no! He simply had to post the birthday card he’d made for his mother last night and it was up in his craft room in the attic. Two at a time wasn’t really an option on the steep narrow stairs from the spare bedroom but he did try to hurry.

And came out into a loft space full of strangers. Strangers working at cramped benches in an atmosphere of smelly chemicals and damp felt. Well, the house wasn’t called Hatters’ Court for nothing and he was tired. Maybe his brain was taking liberties. He knew the loft had been part of a communal workspace, accessible from the whole terrace. The previous owners had found a hat form and bobbins when they were renovating. Maybe the card could wait till later; there was a post at 5.30. He and Ewan could go for a walk to the postbox. There’d be plenty of time before the party.

He backed but didn’t quite make the stairs. A fatherly looking man in shapeless clothes took his elbow and ushered him to a bench.

“I know you’ve just lost your wife, dear, but you really must try to be at work on time. Those kiddies of yours depend on just your wages, now, don’t they?” It wasn’t a question so much as a threat, made softly but very firmly. And the man was all too solid. Not, definitely not, a figment of an overwrought imagination.

The other men at his bench were busy, their fingers impossibly entwined in felt and thread and needles. He watched them for a moment then gasped as a hat, or rather, the makings of a hat, was thrust into his hands.

“Come on, Timothy. Stop day dreaming. And get a move on.” The words were rough but spoken quite kindly and Adam stared at the speaker. About his own age. Badly dressed and careworn, but pleasant looking, with blue eyes and fair hair, a bit like his friend Mike. Very like Mike in fact. A joke? A hoax for Hallowe’en? Surely not at hometime. Mike would be there now. Maybe he’d pick Ewan up, take him home to wait for his idiot father. The other parents never looked critical when they regarded Mike, but then they didn’t know he was gay, too, just that he was a writer, and worked at home, and was therefore free to pick up Callum. Mike’s partner Dave had died in a road accident when Callum was a baby.

So, play along. Suss out what was going on and avoid making waves till he had more information. He worked carefully but rapidly, watching the others and picking up the intricacies of the task with growing confidence. For someone with experience of a variety of sewing techniques, it wasn’t too difficult. Once, he’d been a fashion designer and now his main contributions to the world of clothing were the costumes he made for Ewan, and some local garment repair jobs but it was, he thought, like riding a bike. However, he was soon tired, fancying a coffee or just a loo break. His fingers hurt. Nobody moved from their appointed workstations. No drinks were forthcoming. When he tried to get up there was a gasp of shock and he sat again, pretending he was just making himself more comfortable.

The windows were smallish and not at a height to let the workers see out but he could see that daylight was fading fast. What on earth would Richard think when he got home and there was no one in. No husband, no son, no dinner. There would be a row later for certain. People who gave up their high paid city jobs to be at home with their children were expected to cook and clean and wash instead, even if their card creation and tailoring skills were still pulling a respectable income. Richard had encouraged him to stay at home but he sometimes thought the price was steep.

“You can do your job anywhere,” Richard had said, coaxingly. Had he just been keen to have a house-husband waiting on him hand and foot? Sometimes, it seemed that way. To be fair, Richard’s work in the bank demanded a physical presence, though more and more of his financier colleagues were taking advantage of flexi-time and job sharing.

His fingers faltered as he mused and the overseer, the man who had greeted him, frowned and rapped on the table.

“Timothy, dreaming again! That’s no way to make a living! If finishers don’t finish, hats don’t sell.” His voice was sharper than that of the younger worker and Adam looked across the table for sympathy but the young man’s face was intent on the hat in his hand.

“Look, this has gone far enough.” He sounded as exasperated as he felt. “This hoax or whatever. It’s beyond a joke now. I’m out of here.” He threw the hat on the table and made his way to the stairs. To his surprise, others were following him. The overseer was saying,

“Time to knock off. Same time tomorrow morning. Expect a shake if you sleep in.”

And with that, they all trooped downstairs. Except that they didn’t come out into Adam’s spare bedroom. It could have been, he thought. It was about the right size. But there were three narrow beds crushed into the space that usually held one double and a dressing table. And the cheerful crimson and mushroom colour scheme had melted into brown and dirty white. The carpet was gone.

He looked out of the window and got the biggest shock yet. Now he could no longer pretend that this was a joke or a trick. The Fold, as the tucked-away lane was called, was there all right, but beyond the last house there was nothing but fields and there was no sign of the car park.

Mike’s house at the other end of the terrace was in darkness. There was what looked like a candle flicker next door. Adam’s house was the short leg of an L-shape. All present and correct. Only not correct. Not correct at all.

The other men took no notice of him as they made their way through the house and down to the ground floor. Not all of them. He could hear footsteps above his head, fading as they reached the corner where the lofts joined. They shouldn’t, he reflected, be able to get through the walls erected for fire safety. But they evidently did. The men in his house seemed quite at home. One of them went straight to the lounge. Adam’s lounge. Richard’s lounge. A kitchen in this reality. Heavy blackened pans and a fly covered ham hung from the beams. There were empty hooks, too, as if food were scarce. A woman was already stirring a big pot over the range where Richard’s expensive woodstove ought to stand.

“What’s for dinner, Sal?” The questioner didn’t sound hopeful.

“What d’you think?”

“Pea soup, I s’pose. It’s always pea soup. Did you put a bit of ham in it?”

“Naw, that’s got to last us, that has. Till Christmas, any road.”

Adam was shell-shocked. Confused rather than frightened. They didn’t seem to mean him any harm but surely they couldn’t be real? Or at least, they probably had been real once. He must be seeing the house as it had been a hundred and fifty years ago. But they could see him, talk to him, hand him things. He shook his head and tried to stop the sense of panic that was rapidly overtaking him.

Someone handed him a dish of greyish liquid. Pea soup, presumably. And a heel of bread. That was greyish too, and very stale. He was hungry, however, and curious. He dipped the bread in the soup, as the others did. It helped to soften it and he had soon polished off his helping. There was, apparently, no more. The others were washing their ‘pots’ as they called them, at a sink in the corner. Using a jug of cold water to pour over the dishes which they then left to drain on a sloping wooden board. Adam followed suit, grimacing inwardly at the lack of hygiene. Richard would be horrified; Ewan would be ill. He tried to think about them and shook his head to clear the fog that was forming in it.

Even in this once-upon-a-time world, surely hygiene mattered? He tried to recall period dramas he’d watched.

“Is there no hot water?” he asked of no-one in particular.

“Not for washing up.” It was Sal who spoke. “Can’t afford the wood any more.” He heard mutters from some of the others and realised there was the same slight disapproval here that he’d sensed among the mums at the school gate. He sighed. It seemed altogether too easy to annoy whatever group he found himself in.

There was little conversation, but he gathered these people were related. A sister and three brothers, plus himself, of course, and a couple of small children in a cot, in the corner opposite the sink, under some sacking. He glanced at them and was thrown by their resemblance to Ewan and Callum. One of the boys opened sleepy eyes.

“Papa,” he said. Shocked but touched, Adam kissed the little upturned face and replaced the sacking. He whispered a tentative goodnight and followed the others upstairs.

Two to a bed. That seemed to be the rule. And only one candle, guttering. It was quite dark outside now. He would have to sleep here and hope to wake in his own bed in the morning, next to Richard rather than this stranger. Unless he woke in a hospital ward which seemed increasingly likely.

The woman had a bed to herself of course. But that didn’t last long. A large man came up the stairs and joined her then turned straight over and started to snore. Adam sat on the edge of ‘his’ bed, staring at the candle. Nobody had undressed. It was quite cold and he was glad to keep his clothes on. Thank goodness he was wearing his warm jog pants and sweatshirt. Except that he wasn’t. Where on earth had he got the woollen trousers and the knitted jersey? And when?

“Come on, Tim.” His bedfellow sounded sleepy. “Moping won’t bring your woman back to life. Get to sleep now.” He turned over and Adam joined him in the narrow bed. He didn’t sleep much; he spent most of the night clinging to the edge so as not to fall out. There had to be a knack to this but he hoped he wasn’t going to have to learn it.

The next morning, after a cup of something that could have been either fruit tea or a vaguely alcoholic drink but was too weak for recognition, and another hunk of bread each, two of the men set off up to the workroom. The other looked set to follow, tying his shoe laces and draining his cup.

“Don’t just stand there, Tim. See to the kids then get yourself up there as soon as you can! Him in charge’ll get mad if you’re late again.” It was Sal speaking.

Adam helped the little ones out of bed. There was nothing to give them except water.

“Don’t be daft!” Sal was speaking again. “They can’t drink that! Haven’t you been listening? There’s cholera in town. Give them some ale like we had.”

Frightened by the mention of disease, as he had not been by the whole situation to date, Adam did as he was told. He might be immune to the cholera, if that was what it was, but the children wouldn’t be. One of them spoke.

“Is it time to go to Sairy’s, Papa?” he said. He let the children pull him out of the door and down the lane to the house where, in normal times, Mike lived. The woman who opened the door was not Mike, nor even some kind of female replacement. She was old and huge and exactly like Adam’s mental image of a witch. There were half a dozen listless children huddled round a small coal fire and Adam’s pair joined them without looking back.

He returned to the house and climbed up to the loft. The hats were waiting.

As he worked, he tried, haltingly, to explain what was happening to him, but even to his own ears it sounded mad and unlikely. The others seemed to think it was mad, anyway. There were mutters about hatter’s complaint, the mercury poisoning that sent so many of the workers insane. But his brother, if he was his brother, Bob spoke up for him. Losing his wife that way was turning his mind for the moment. What way? He couldn’t exactly ask but it couldn’t have been the cholera or someone would have been sharper with him about the water. He’d soon be back to normal, said Bob, grinning at Adam with a mouth full of rotten teeth; not quite full – there were a number of gaps.

They did knock off at lunch time. Adam had wondered if they would and had not felt hopeful. Someone brought some stewed tripe and it was shared out eagerly. He tried to eat it and almost gagged. Being hungry evidently didn’t extend to tripe. Bob was eyeing his plate and he handed it over without a word.

“Not hungry, our Tim?” Bob didn’t wait for an answer but tucked in.

After lunch the work stretched on into the afternoon and early evening. He was aware of sounds below. Sairy had brought the children home and put them to bed. There were noises in the lane. A horse and cart and a man whistling his dog. Older children playing. The sky was growing duller and still the hats filled his time.

About half an hour before ‘home’ time, he needed to pee. Desperately. Caught the overseer’s eye and asked for permission. Made his way downstairs and…

… found himself in the spare bedroom. The phone was ringing and he answered it automatically, reaching the landline handset in their bedroom before the rings could stop. It was Richard. Breathlessly he stumbled his story out to him and became aware of an ominous silence.

“Adam, it’s nearly hometime and I know you have to pick Ewan up. I haven’t time to listen to your trivia.” Trivia! “I’m phoning to say I won’t be home tonight. Or tomorrow for that matter. Or ever, apart from coming to pick up my things. I’m only telling you so that you don’t contact my firm. Or the police.” Adam held the phone away from him, not sure if it was real. He looked around at the turquoise carpet and aqua bedspread, chosen so carefully a lifetime ago. And yet he thought he’d been waiting for this and it was almost a relief.

He heard himself asking faintly what day it was and Richard’s puzzled reply that if it mattered, it was Hallowe’en and he’d have to go to the party without him if he wanted to go at all. Ewan would be disappointed. It seemed Halloween would be a joyless celebration this year but he would make an effort for Ewan’s sake, and he wasn’t quite as upset as he’d thought he would or should be.

He put the phone down and picked up his coat. The card for his mother was already lying on the bed beside it. The clock said 3.01. The children would only just be leaving the classroom.

He hurried and was at the school gates before they came piling out. Ewan was clutching a ‘Hallowe’en card’, a gaudy thing with a witch and glitter. Callum was behind him, sucking his thumb, all big eyes and untidy hair. Adam looked round for Mike then heard a teacher saying something about Mike not being able to pick Callum up and would he…?

Still in a daze, he shepherded both children home, made hot Vimto and opened a packet of Rich Tea biscuits. The phone rang again and it was Mike, a troubled, nervous Mike, who seemed to be apologising for something and hoping that Callum wasn’t rubbing salt in the wound. He became aware of Richard’s voice in the background telling Mike to put the phone down. Then everything clicked into place and sent his world spinning into uncomprehending mist and white noise.

Later, a minute later or an hour, but more likely a minute since the children hadn’t finished their Vimto, he was aware of Ewan pulling at the hem of his sweatshirt.

“Daddy, there’s a man at the door. He’s doing a pro – pro – well he wants to know about the hatters who used to live here, and did you get my devil horns for tonight and what time are we going?” Listening to a six year old could be confusing but Adam knew the man at the door didn’t want to know about the horns.

Adam pointed to them, attached to the hood of the red velvet onesie on the dining room table, and thought quickly that he’d have to dress Callum as a ghost; sheets were easy. Next time there was a fancy dress party he could sent them as twins, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Appropriate for people who seemed to have fallen down a rabbit hole.

The he crossed the room and opened the door.

Sebastian, tall, red-haired and handsome, was a researcher for television and his admiring first look at Adam turned to real interest when he found he could tell him a lot about the hatters. Adam wondered if he had it all absolutely right. After all, there was no proof that he’d gone back to a real situation. But then it probably didn’t matter since television histories were often full of inaccuracies and nobody really cared. Besides, it would be really hard to prove him wrong. Sebastian seemed conscientious and very, very interested. So interested that when Adam pointed out that he had a ghost costume to pluck from thin air and a party to attend with two small children and no significant other, Sebastian seemed to think that was an invitation for him to join them.

He was still interested when Adam told him about the cards and the sewing, briefly sorry about the loss of the high-powered fashion lifestyle but only for Adam’s sake.

“You’re well out of it,” he said. “It’s a rat race out there. And if you get itchy fingers we can always do with someone to help with costumes for shows.”

So there was a glimmer of permanence, maybe? Adam smiled. Maybe Halloween was going to prove joyous, after all.

Flying Free is published.

Flying Free, the third volume in my Living Fae series, is now available!

I was surprised at the speed at which Smashwords accepted it into their ‘premium’ catalogue and therefore shipped everywhere in various formats. Usually they take a few days, and this time they didn’t. So I am now scrambling to get this post out!

Harlequin is the narrator for the various sections in this book. He is still on Alderley Edge with his lover, Yarrow, after Yarrow’s time in Tara but before Harlequin’s. He tells the stories of some of his siblings. Peasblossom, Columbine and Cobweb all find romance and the book is hard to categorise as the romance is both same gender and opposite gender.

Whilst the main focus is on the various love affairs, there is an underlying theme of a family saga and although there is foreign travel, most of the action takes place in midsummer on the Edge. There are fairies, goblins, humans, unicorns, cats, etc.

The story probably won’t make sense unless you’ve read the first two volumes, Growing Up Fae and Tales from Tara. However, there is helpful (I hope) page on my WordPress blog with a glossary and a timeline, and the fourth (and final) volume is complete and with my editor.

Buy links:
Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TGH19MS
Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/945685

Meme adapted for original work.

Someone suggested adapting the AO3 meme for my original work. I found it resulted in a neat summary of my work, which might be of interest to anyone who wants to know what I write but doesn’t need the hassle of trawling through my old WordPress posts. So here we are!

Rules: Go to your Amazon, Smashwords or other works page & answer the following questions!

How many works do you currently have published?
I currently have 10 works, all self published. I also have poetry and ficlets on my WordPress blog.

What’re your most common work ratings?
6 are flagged as adult and 4 are general.

What’s your most common warning?
I suppose mm romance/sex or fantasy

Least common warning?
Not really applicable but I don’t write horror and I don’t write crime from a criminal pov.

Do you consider yourself an adventurous writer?
As I said for fanfic, I’m not sure what other people consider adventurous! I write in a few genres, fantasy, crime and romance. Sometimes a book will have more than one of these. I adapt my style for different series and for that matter for different volumes. For instance, the first volume of Living Fae is in diary form. I don’t write much kink though have some ménage (four male fae) sections in my Living Fae series. I tend to steer clear of too much violence, and the sex, whilst sometimes explicit, is usually vanilla. So – wide ranging within a limited set of genres. I also write poetry and critiques of others’ writing. On my friends-locked social media sites I have written travel blogs and have vague ideas of publishing those some day. The Living Fae series grew out of a children’s book (no sex or violence…) which is also available following the link at the end of the next volume to be published.

How many works have you made in each pairing category?
I have written mm, mmmm, mf and ff in Living Fae. In that series I have also explored interspecies relationships such as werewolf/fae romance. In The Skilled Investigators series there is an mm sub plot but there is never any explicit sex which is why the series is not flagged as adult. My 4 stand-alone books are all mm.

Is this more accidental, or do you have preferences?
I enjoy exploring different cultures and culture clash. Both fantasy (fae and elves) and mm romance fall into this category. So yes, there’s a preference for anything that is not typically conventional and for issues that might lead to problems of various kinds. I also like revisiting folk tales and giving their elements a new twist.

What are your works?
Living Fae: Modern fae, living on Alderley Edge in Cheshire, UK.
Volume 1: Growing Up Fae. (Harlequin, the narrator, grows up, moves to The Edge, and ends up with Yarrow.)
Volume 2: Tales from Tara. (Harlequin and Yarrow spend time, separately, at the court in Tara and we see the start of the ménage with Starling and Ferdy.)
These are published. Volume 3: Flying Free, which follows the stories of Harlequin’s siblings, is in the final formatting process and Volume 4: On The Edge is currently with my editor. That will complete the series and bring all the stories up to date but as I said above there is also the children’s book, Answering Amanda, available to readers of Flying Free. Or, if you’re interested, comment here!
The Skilled Investigators: Elf detectives in a fantasy kingdom.
Volume 1: The Scroll. (Genef has to struggle to solve a murder and start her training as an Investigator, assisted by her dragon friend.)
Volume 2: The Market. (Genef, her brother Fel, and the dragon, Scratch, sail to the Spice Islands to track down some stolen royal property.)
Volume 3: The Crown. (Genef, Rath, her mentor, and Scratch journey to the Ice Country in search of a missing crown.)
Volume 4: The Lantern, (Genef, Rath and Scratch investigate murders in Cave, Rath’s home town. Rath and Fel are forming a tentative relationship.)
I have just sent Volume 5: The Road (Genef and Rath go undercover in the human kingdom of Norveria) to be edited, and the final volume of the series (no title yet) is still in note form.
Stand-alones:
Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers. A prince of mediaeval Zimbabwe meets a merchant prince of Benin. Loosely based on the legend of Snow White.
The Lord of Shalott. The cross-dressing lord of Shalott meets Lancelot then Merlin.
Three Legends. An mm retelling of the Northumbrian Jingling Geordie, an invented legend about early mm relationships, and a contemporary ‘mystery’ about a new boyfriend and some loss of time.
Silver Chains. Angus is a country lawyer who meets Damien, a city bartender, online.
A further stand-alone, Beating Hearts, is in the editing queue. 5 mm short stories, each with a fantasy/supernatural twist.

Are you still active in any of your series, & do you tend to migrate a lot?
Both main series are unfinished from the reader’s point of view. Living Fae is finished in draft form and The Skilled Investigators has one volume to go. I alternate between the two, depending on whether something needs edits, formatting, or writing. I have another novel mostly written but on a ‘back burner’ till those series are complete. It might be the first volume of a new series.

What are the main relationships in your stories?

Living Fae has an overall main focus on Harlequin and Yarrow.
The Skilled Investigators has a sub plot with a focus on Fel and Rath.
Silkskin in Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers meets a merchant prince of Benin.
The Lord of Shalott meets Lancelot and later Merlin.
Angus, in Silver Chains, meets Damien. (This is my only book with no fantasy element.)
I won’t list the short stories.

Does this match how you feel about the characters, or are you puzzled?
These are ‘my’ characters. I tend to have stories arrive quite well developed in my head. The characters are at liberty to do their own thing with regard to details so long as they stick to the eventual destination… So minor plot points sometimes surprise me but mostly I know in advance who’s who and who they’re going to meet, etc. I suppose that as Living Fae developed I was intrigued by the different cultural attitudes of my fae characters towards sex. Similarly, in The Skilled Investigators I started to explore elvish attitudes to crime and punishment. No puzzlement, but great interest on my part.

What are your top most used tags, & your bottom 2?
The top two are:
fantasy
crime
and at the bottom are all the multitude of things I don’t write about but also contemporary romance.

Romance in general comes in between because The Skilled Investigators is primarily fantasy and crime and that’s nearly half my output.

What would happen if you combined all 4 of these into a fic?
This isn’t really applicable. If I put a contemporary romance into a fantasy world it would in turn become fantasy…

How many WIPs do you have currently? Any you don’t plan on finishing?
Living Fae is finished but only two of the books are published so far. The Skilled Investigators needs another two volumes. One is finished and one is in note form. I have every intention of finishing it. The Virgin and the Unicorn is the book on the back burner, but it is mostly written and just needs some editing and amendments. Once I’ve started something I don’t like abandoning it. I might alter it a lot – for instance, the first volume of The Skilled Investigators was originally written in first person and I felt obliged to change it. If anything isn’t worth finishing I delete it immediately and don’t give it another thought.

Another fanfiction meme

One of my Dreamwidth fandom friends introduced me to this meme. If you’re interested in my fanfic writing, you can find it on Archive Of Our Own and my pseudonym is moth2fic

Rules: Go to your AO3 works page, expand all the filters, & answer the following questions!
(Even with everything expanded I found it hard to access some of the information.)

How many works do you currently have on the Archive?
I currently have 90 works on AO3.

What’re your 1st & 2nd most common work ratings?
I couldn’t get the numbers for these without going through all 90…
Not rated – this is my own ‘default’. It includes sex and violence and saves argument.
Gen – a few that really didn’t deserve to be not rated…

What’s your most common archive warning?
Creator Chose Not To Use Archive warnings

Least common archive warning?
I only ever use Creator Chose Not To Use Archive warnings or No Archive Warnings Apply

Do you consider yourself an adventurous writer?
I’m not sure what other people consider adventurous! I write in a lot of fandoms (40, though some of those are fusions, crossovers and drabbles). I adapt my style for different fandoms. I don’t write much kink though have some incest and threesomes. I tend to steer clear of too much violence, and the sex, whilst explicit, is usually vanilla. So adventurous in terms of wandering around, but unadventurous in terms of staying within my comfort zones.

How many works have you made in each pairing category?
I have no idea how to work this out without going through all 90. Most of my work is M/M but occasionally there is a fic or ficlet with Gen, F/M (especially for minor characters), F/F and Multi.

Is this more accidental, or do you have preferences?
I prefer slash in fanfic. If I want F/M fiction I’ll usually look to canon or to ‘official’ books based on canon. Or to original fic. That’s in terms of reading, but obviously it influences what I write.

What are your top 4 fandoms by numbers?
The Professionals (16)
Stargate Atlantis (11)
Harry Potter (11)
Lewis (9)

Are you still active in any of them, & do you tend to migrate a lot?
I’m less active than I used to be as a writer, partly because I spend more time on my original fic. I’m active in the sense of following communities and news, and of course commenting and I usually read challenges and big bangs. I do beta work for other writers, too. I also follow some other fandoms e.g. Bandom, in which I never write. I don’t migrate – once ‘hooked’ I never leave – but I am very multi-fandom.

What are your top 4 relationship tags?
I could only find 3.
William Bodie/Ray Doyle
John Sheppard/Rodney Mackay
Robbie Lewis/James Hathaway
All the rest are one-offs; if I wrote much Harry Potter there would be Harry/Draco but the fic count goes up because I’ve written a series of crossovers with Lewis and the pairing in the series is the Lewis one.

Does this match how you feel about the characters, or are you puzzled?
I’m not puzzled. I tend to see all shows and books with a kind of shadow agenda where the characters behave differently because of things like alternate universes. I like getting to the core of a character and asking myself what would happen if they were born or employed etc. in a different place or time or if they interacted with characters from another fandom. I don’t write rpf unless I’m being satirical so I don’t have to deal with the real families of actors. Canon ‘realities’ are infinitely amendable.

What are your top 2 most used additional tags, & your bottom 2?
The top two are:
alternate universe and casefic. I just realised this applies to my original writing too!
and the bottom two are:
poetry and meta

What would happen if you combined all 4 of these into a fic?
It might be hard to incorporate poetry and meta sensibly into a fic. There could be poems or lyrics in a story, and perhaps some meta aspects of the plot, I suppose. So I’d compose lyrics to fit and include a theme that had meta overtones.

How many WIPs do you have currently running on AO3? Any you don’t plan on finishing?
I very rarely post WIPs. Only two spring to mind. The Thing (SGA) 2017 was written in response to prompts for each chapter or episode, as a prompt challenge. It was very interactive. Highway Robbery (multi-fandom) 2016 was written for some friends who volunteer for AO3 with their names and roles thinly disguised and I was getting feedback and encouragement from them each time I posted a chapter – it was easier to just put the chapters on the Archive for everybody than distribute them… Other than that, I finish work before I start posting. Any WIP that is unfinished, whether it will remain that way or not, is on my hard drive, not out in public. It’s vaguely possible that I could add to a couple of series but the fics stand on their own as they are. Incidentally, Highway Robbery has a tinge of meta because it deals with the issue of plagiarism in fanfiction.

‘Why I write’ meme adapted for original works.

I promised to adapt this set of questions for my original work so here it is.

1 What made you start writing original stories, poetry, etc?
My first ‘work’ was a play performed by our local Brownie troop. I was five, and because I had written it I was allowed to join the big girls and be onstage. I think this must have gone to my head… I continued with plays, poems and stories until I left uni. Working as an English teacher meant producing work as a ‘role model’ for pupils, and I had neither the time nor the creative energy left to write anything else. When I took early retirement, one story was already in my head so I was itching to get to the keyboard.

2. Which of your own works have you reread the most?
I think sections of my Living Fae series. The story started in a ‘muse’ journal on LJ and by the time I decided on publication it needed a great deal of collection, collation, and decisions about what to include. As a result, I read and re-read various parts till I almost knew them by heart. At first, they were a pleasant surprise as I’d forgotten quite a lot. Later, I just wanted to get them sorted out and sent off to my editor.

3. Describe the differences between your first published work and your most recent.
When I decided to self-publish I used two novellas and a collection of three short stories as ‘practice’. So they were comparatively short. They were all based on legends and fairy tales, twisted into fresh forms. I was lucky enough to have seriously good editors and I learnt a lot from them.
My most recent publication was a short story – a contemporary romance. I wrote it some time ago, initially for a prompt in a writing group then, in a longer and edited version, for inclusion in a now defunct online zine. I decided to publish it myself and it went through a further editing and formatting process until I was satisfied with it. It has no fantasy and no connection with fairy tales.

4. Do you think your style has changed over time? How so?
I think and hope I use different styles depending on the kind of story I am telling. For example, my novella The Lord of Shalott, and the first volume of Living Fae are told in first person. I write novels, novellas, short stories, flashfic and poetry. I also write reviews and critiques. Obviously I need to use varied styles for all these. I don’t think my style has changed much in recent years; it has changed since I was a teenager, of course, but that’s to be expected.

5. You’ve posted a work anonymously. How would someone be able to guess you’ve written it?
As I said in the fanfic meme with the same questions, I once did this when the online writing group suggested we all write a flashfic in the style of my Living Fae material. Nobody was able to guess who had written what; I assume part of the reason was the choice of similar subject matter, characters, etc. Beyond that experiment, I can’t think how anyone would guess I had written something unless I included locations that people who know me know I’m familiar with.

6. Name three stories you found easy to write.
No real answer to this.

7. Name three stories you found difficult to write.
All writing is easy for me. It’s the editing, proof reading, formatting, etc. that causes headaches.

8. What’s your ratio of hits to kudos?
This was a fanfic question and I assume I need to consider ‘success’ as a writer. The world is drowning in self published material and I am not alone in sinking without much of a trace. My royalties about keep us in pizza and we don’t eat that every week. They also cause intense irritation to me when my tax returns are due. Most people who both like fantasy and actually find my books are complimentary, but too few find them! The same applies to my fanfic and I think the bottom line is just that I’m completely hopeless at marketing.

9. What do your fic bookmarks say about you?

Another fanfic question (specific to AO3) so I’ll refer to my to-be-read list instead. I read widely and voraciously, and at any one time you’d find mainstream novels, genre novels, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction in the queue. I think it just says I like reading! I also keep a record of e-books I’ve read, partly to stop myself re-purchasing them and partly so that I can recall the titles and authors to recommend to other people. That list says I like history, fantasy, mm romance, crime, biography, science (especially the natural world), finance, politics, and cookbooks.

10. What’s a theme that keeps coming up in your writing?
Culture clash, which is something that interests me.

11. What kind of relationships are you most interested in writing?
I have a tendency to focus on mm romantic relationships, though not to the exclusion of anything else.

12. For E-rated fic what are some things your characters keep doing?
I will assume we are talking about books that would be suitable for general audiences. That means my Skilled Investigators series, and as the name implies, the characters keep finding crimes and mysteries to investigate. Other than that, like anyone, they eat, sleep, talk, etc.

13. Name three favourite characters to write.
1. Harlequin, the main character in Living Fae. I call him my muse and he lives in my head and tries to influence all my writing.
2. Genef, the main character in Skilled Investigators. She is training as a detective and I like both her attitude to her work and her ability to question herself. She doesn’t live in my head, and although female, has almost nothing in common with me.
3. Scratch, the dragon who helps Genef in Skilled Investigators. I love writing from a dragon’s point of view, thinking how he might see human and elf behaviour and what he might say about it.

14. You’re applying for the [fanfic] writer of the year award. What five works do you put in your portfolio?
I’d have to think about things that are published somewhere, including my WordPress site. My work wanders around between genres and I don’t think they’d ever be regarded as award material for original writing. However, if I had to put together a selection:
1. Lord of Shalott: a novella set in Arthurian legend and inspired by Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott.
2. Growing up Fae: volume 1 of Living Fae, told in journal form by Harlequin, a modern fairy living on Alderley Edge in Cheshire.
3. Answering Amanda: a children’s story based on Harlequin’s little sister’s letters to a human child. This is ready to send to anyone who asks for it using the information at the end of volume 3 of Living Fae. It was, in fact, the springboard for the entire world/series.
4. The Zoo: one of my poems, based on an actual day at Chester Zoo. It’s on my WordPress site. I might create a volume of poems to put on Smashwords; poems always get more ‘likes’ than anything on WordPress.
4. The Scroll: volume 1 of The Skilled Investigators and the one that introduces Scratch, the dragon.

Why I write fanfic.

A friend (on Dreamwidth and in real life) posted a meme about her fanfic writing. This inspired me and I promised to do my own. I also intend to adapt the meme for my original writing.

1. What made you start writing fanfic?

My daughter knew some of my tastes in books and linked me to a Yuletide story in Arthurian Legend. At about the same time I was asked to teach an upper primary class English Language using Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott (note this was a language class, not a literature one). I was annoyed with the national curriculum approach to poetry and felt able to write to the same standard as the Yuletide fic so I wrote Lord of Shalott which I originally posted as fanfic. A lot of editing and additions later it turned into a self-published novella… I was already writing original work but was panic stricken at the thought of submitting to editors. The Lord of Shalott enabled me to try putting my work ‘out there’ and to explore self-publishing. Once I’d started, in both original and fanfic writing, the floodgates opened.

2. Which of your own fanfics have you reread the most?
I don’t usually re-read my fanfics unless I need to refer to something in a series and then I just skim or do ‘find’ (with no ‘replace’). I have re-read First a couple of times when people have asked to quote from it.

3. Describe the differences between your first fanfic and your most recent fanfic.
Lord of Shalott was historic fantasy, inspired by a poem. It was written in first person, it had a focus on cross-dressing, it referenced various myths and legends and it involved a longing for a relationship. My most recent work (other than some meta and drabbles) was …to catch a thief, a mediaeval AU for a cop buddy fandom (Pros), where I wrote part 1, a friend wrote part 2, we co-wrote part 3 and part 4 was my most recent fanfic. It had an established relationship (from the first three parts) as the focus and was a mild mystery story, told in third person. So although both were ‘historical’ fics they had totally different inspiration and were in different fandoms. In the first, I needed to echo the tone of the poem, and in the second I needed to capture the voices of the modern actors.

4. Do you think your style has changed over time? How so?
I use a number of different styles and I don’t think there has been any particular change over time. I try to alter my style to suit the canon I am writing for, but I know some of my work will be recognisable anyway.

5. You’ve posted a fic anonymously. How would someone be able to guess you’ve written it?
I tried this in a writing exercise I did in a Yahoo writing group – we all wrote a fanfic of part of my Living Fae series. Nobody was able to guess immediately which effort was mine. Presumably the others were attempting to copy my style!

6. Name three stories you found easy to write.
The first version of Lord of Shalott just poured out of me, probably fuelled by anger at the way we were supposed to ask children to view poetry and literature. The result wasn’t actually suitable for young children but that’s beside the point.
…to catch a thief was easy, too, because all the period research was already done for the first three parts and all the names etc. were in my head.
The Thing (SGA) was easy because I just went with the prompts people gave me and didn’t have to think about the story in advance.

7. Name three stories you found difficult to write.
This is an impossible question because I don’t find writing difficult. Editing, yes, research, yes, and proof reading, yes, but not writing. I sometimes find it difficult to motivate myself to start a story but that’s a different matter.

8. What’s your ratio of hits to kudos?
I haven’t the faintest idea. I vaguely know which of my fics get most hits and kudos and it seems to be linked to the general popularity of the fandom. (LotR and Grimm). Beyond that, I don’t know and the idea of trying to work it out dismays me. Besides, why would I?

9. What do your fic bookmarks say about you?

I usually bookmark a fic if I want to recommend it. I don’t have private bookmarks as a rule – I either subscribe to an author or series, or I download something I want to read eventually and it lurks on my hard drive. So I suppose my bookmarks say I’m a reviewer. They also show I’m extremely multi-fandom.

10. What’s a theme that keeps coming up in your writing?
I suppose mm romance.

11. What kind of relationships are you most interested in writing?
It varies with different fandoms. I quite like relationships that grow slowly and involve a lot of banter. I also like the kind that connect with a lot of minor characters, both canon and OC.

12. For E-rated fic what are some things your characters keep doing?
I had to Google this and I gather it means gen fic. I don’t write much of this and if I did, I hope my characters wouldn’t keep doing anything, other than sleeping and eating… I suppose they’d talk? I like writing dialogue.

13. Name three favourite characters to write.
Another impossible one. I’m too multi-fandom to have favourites. I should think my favourites are the ones I’m writing at the time.

14. You’re applying for the fanfic writer of the year award. What five fics do you put in your portfolio?
I wouldn’t apply, but if I had to, on pain of death or losing thbe right to be considered a fanfic writer, then:
First (Rome)
Blame Daniel (SG1)
The Morning Gift (Pros AU)
Elegy for a hanged man (Spooks)
Paths of the Living (LotR)

Sale! (and some freebies)

I’m participating in the Smashwords Read an e-book week sale. All my titles have been discounted by 75% for one week, running from 3rd to 10th March. That means some of them are free and the rest are at silly prices. The discounts will be automatically applied when you add a book to your cart.

The Lord of Shalott (a novella) FREE
Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers (a novella) FREE
Silver Chains (a novella) FREE
Three Legends (three short stories) FREE
The Skilled Investigators (series):
The Scroll (book 1) FREE
The Market (book 2) FREE
The Crown (book 3) $1
The Lantern (book 4) $1
Living Fae (series):
Growing Up Fae (book 1) $1.25
Tales from Tara (book 2) FREE (I wouldn’t recommend reading this without reading book 1 first)

This is a pricing experiment to see if I can tweak my marketing somehow. No guarantees it will happen again so make the most of it if you’re interested in what I write!

Go to https://www.smashwords.com and search Jay Mountney in the search box at the top.

Silver Chains

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Shameless advertising. A short story, outside my ‘normal’ style. This one’s a contemporary May/December romance and is 99p on both Amazon and Smashwords. It’s been up for about 48 hours but then Smashwords had a hissy fit when I mentioned my Amazon page in the ‘about the author’ section, though Amazon didn’t seem to care about Smashwords. That delayed things a bit while I hastily edited so that Smashwords would send it out to other platforms.
Incidentally, I wrote it ages ago and it first saw the light of day in an online zine under the title ‘Angus’ (the main character) but I now have the rights back and have done some edits and changed the title. I know some of the zine group follow this blog and I wouldn’t like them to buy the story and feel cheated.
Links:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/924818