At last! After some technical problems involving tearing my hair out (after going grey) and relying on wonderful friends, my novel The Virgin and the Unicorn is finally available on Smashwords and Amazon.
Kian, son of a lord of the manor, finds himself with an arranged marriage to a foreign prince. The prince’s sister needs a unicorn horn for her dowry and Kian wonders if his only qualification is his virginity. (Same sex relationships are illegal in his home country.) The marriage brings problems faced by most newly wed couples alongside culture clash and the royal duties that take Alair from Kian’s side. It also brings court rivalries. Eventually, the unicorns of the title appear but are not quite as expected and Kian has no intention of parting one from its magnificent horn. So can the marriage survive, and will the princess ever get her dowry?
Serious thanks and lots of love to all my FB friends especially Tal Valante, Jackie Keswick and Gynn Silva (and Gynn’s cousin).
Oh, and it appears I need to subscribe to or buy a new version of Word. I think I’ll subscribe then I’ll never have this kind of chaos again. My current copy is 2013 and was state of the art when I bought it – so I suppose in this age of built-in obsolescence it has served me well till the last couple of weeks.
I’m about to publish my latest novel: The Virgin and the Unicorn should be available towards the end of next week. It’s a story of arranged marriage and is a standalone but I’ve left room for a sequel featuring some of the minor characters in more prominent roles.
I’ve finished all the final proofreading, the formatting and the cover. I’ve been working on the blurb which I find harder than the initial novel writing. I’m also working on marketing, which is why I’m actually giving advance information this time!
I never realised, when I started out, just how much time is taken on all the peripheral aspects of publication; time that detracts from writing and that, to be honest, I don’t enjoy. I especially don’t enjoy marketing. It requires a totally different skill set from writing, and I just don’t have it! Besides, tagging and marketing are particularly hard, because although the novel does contain one major sex scene, it’s by no means erotica.
Here’s the blurb (which might have some changed details between now and the time when it appears on Amazon or Smashwords).
“I knew you needed a unicorn and I knew I was a virgin and…”
A same-sex marriage is arranged in a Regency-style alternate universe . Can a hard working prince find wedded bliss despite his duties? Does his sister really need a unicorn horn as her dowry and if so how can she get one? Will a young foreigner ever settle in his new country and accept his own family’s attitudes? Find out how Alair and Kian cope in this tale of discovery and romance. There’s only one explicit sex scene (the wedding night) but the discussions of sex and emotion are probably only suitable for adult readers. A full length novel that explores culture clash, social expectations, the problems that beset any young couple and a new slant on some mythical creatures which turn out to be very real.
And the cover, which won’t change other than to have slightly different sizing for the different sites, is the header picture for this post.
As you know from my March reviews, I read virtually no fanfic last month but that didn’t stop me from thinking about it, and about my own tendency to write both fanfic and original work.
Over the last twelve months I’ve published two novels, a couple of short stories and three fanfics. (For details, see previous posts.) The fanfics were longer than the original short stories, and took more research. It occurred to me you might like to know some of the differences between original and fanfic writing from the point of view of the author.
First of all, when writing fanfic, it’s important to know the ‘canon’ or original book, show or film. There’s no need to stick to it. As soon as my story starts, I’m veering away from the original, whether my tale takes place during the canon, before or after, or in an alternate universe. However, it’s important to know what the characters were originally up to. If, for example, one of them died in canon but I want them alive in my story (my The Paths of the Living which is LotR fanfic)has Boromir survive the attack of the orcs) I have to explain, credibly, why my version differs. Other fans are unlikely to read or enjoy something that ignores canon and drives a coach and horses through it. My novel SGX has original characters set against the concept of the Stargate – it has failed to attract any attention from SG fans and cannot, of course, be published as anything other than fanfiction. I’m still quite proud of it but I can understand that fans of SG1 want ‘their’ heroes. In a completely alternate universe (The Morning Gift has Bodie and Doyle of The Professionals in eleventh century Oxfordshire) the core character traits need to be maintained or there is no point using the character or trying to appeal to other fans.
Obviously when writing original fiction there’s a need to know the ‘backstory’ of each character but at least I’m responsible for that backstory and readers can’t contradict me. I do, however, have to be careful not to contradict myself!
Most of us don’t recall every detail of the shows we have seen. Books are easy, because it’s always possible to re-read. Happily, TV shows are easy, too, because the episode scripts are online and can be read and referred to. In this way, if I missed an episode I can still get its full impact provided I know the context, and if I can’t remember e.g. a minor character’s name, well, there it is on iMDB. There are also trailers and so on (on YouTube) to help the writer become reacquainted with movements, voices, etc. Sometimes, as with two of the auction fics I wrote, there’s a need to binge watch a new show. For The ballad of o guerreiro I had to watch Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard and for The fault…is not in our stars I had to finish watching the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. The watching is not pure pleasure; it’s important to concentrate and notice details that can be incorporated into a story. Having said that there has to be some pleasure involved or the stories won’t arrive in the author’s brain.
When writing original fiction, once I have created the characters I feel as though I know them in much the same way as I ‘know’ characters in books or on screen.
Most fans talk about needing to get the voices right. It’s essential to listen carefully to characters in a show. Listening gets the writer closer to their patterns of speech, vocabulary they frequently use, mannerisms such as pauses, and so on. I try to use a beta reader who is also familiar with the canon so that they can spot where I’ve deviated from any particular character’s norm. I usually write Brit characters but if I ever write e.g. American ones, I look for a beta who is also familiar with the speech patterns and vocabulary of the country. I once wrote a story in The West Wing (Campaign) and my beta saved me from calling a sweater a jumper…
In much the same way it’s important to keep original characters ‘in character’. Many writers (I’m one of them) use extensive notes and glossaries, some of which they share with their readers but the primary purpose is to keep the writing consistent. Not to mention details like eye colour or favourite drinks!
Some critics and authors sneer at fanfiction, calling it derivative and lacking in imagination. This should not need to be countered, but here we go.
All art is in some sense derivative. The creator is inspired by other art or by events in real life. Many artists begin by trying to recreate well known works. An original writer who is using historical fact or current scientific research to underpin their story is no less derivative. Similarly, much original work relies on traditional tropes and we all know there are very few original plots. A book or show introduces characters to readers and viewers. If these characters are sufficiently well developed and likeable fans will inevitably weave further stories about them. Writers create new stories about Arthur and his knights, about vampires and about elves; artists and architects such as Gaudi (see header picture) are inspired by the natural world. When I wrote Lord of Shalott I had to be careful about ‘canon’, particularly Tennyson’s poem, and the only reason my work could be published was that the ‘canon’ was out of copyright.
All writing requires imagination. (Even the writer of non-fiction has to imagine how their words will come across to the reader.) Imagining a story or scene involving someone else’s characters is not much different from imagining a story or scene involving invented characters. Nobody accuses the creators of the modern BBC Sherlock of lacking imagination but this is fanfiction all through.
Another common misconception about fanfiction is that it inevitably revolves around sex. Admittedly there is some erotica. After all, readers like it! But a great deal of fanfiction is either ‘gen’ or only brings in erotic elements as part of a complex plot whereas I have read a great deal of original fiction that is more sex than story. Obviously, mainstream commentary will highlight anything that titillates the public. I have personally included explicit sex in some of my work, such as The Paths of the Living, and The Morning Gift, but I have written other fanfiction where sex barely rates a mention. As with original work it really does depend on the story.
Some people seem to regard writing fanfiction as a kind of apprenticeship to what they call proper writing. As I began writing both at about the same time I have never subscribed to this idea. Also, the words ‘proper writing’ tend to assign a higher value to things that are made for sale rather than given out of love. Much fanfiction is written and posted freely for the pleasure of other fans and the resultant fan community is itself a reward.
I enjoy the fanfic community and I enjoy the company of other original writers. Sometimes the two sets overlap, possibly more often than people think. I don’t feel my writing is really different in either genre. I do know both give me pleasure and I hope they offer something to my readers too.
For anyone who wants to find my fanfiction, it’s all (96 works) on AO3 (Archive Of Our Own) under the pseudonym moth2fic. You don’t have to be a member to read, to download, or to comment. And most of it is, I hope, accessible to non-fans who have no idea of the canon.
The picture shows details on Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We visited before construction was finished.
I’m giving away the first volume in my Living Fae series this week on Smashwords (but not Amazon) in the hope that it will encourage interest in the rest of the series. Just go to the buy link using the tabs above and enter PZ65N at checkout for a free copy. Offer ends 28th February.
It’s the first part of the story of modern fairies who live in Cheshire UK (near where I live). It’s told in diary form by the main character of the series, Harlequin, who grows up on Werneth Low. He then moves to Alderley Edge where he meets his partner Yarrow, leader of the local unicorn troop. Their relationship forms the background to the four volume series. You can find out more about it on this website using the tags. Enjoy!
Why some chapters are a lot harder to write than others.
So I, or rather my characters, had reached the ball – the one the fairy princess didn’t have the right shoes for. And suddenly, my writing turned to treacle. It wasn’t writer’s block – I knew perfectly well what would happen next, what all the participants felt, thought, did, and so on. I could see the scene vividly in my mind. Translating that into something that would make sense to readers was what was giving me a headache.
I realised, rather belatedly, that it had a lot in common with the other things I find hard to write, and for exactly the same reasons. Sexual encounters and battle scenes. What on earth, you may well ask, have these got in common with each other and then with dancing?
Think about it. They all involve quite detailed choreography. With dancing that’s fairly obvious. Battle scenes and individual fights have to be carefully constructed so that the required outcome is reached. The correct ‘side’ has to win. Some characters really mustn’t lose their heads or their limbs. Serious injury has to be avoided by anyone whose story is unfinished, and yet there usually have to be some deaths. So it’s all a bit like arranging a fight for stage or film. (Some people make an entire career out of that.) The sex scenes, too, have to have all the limbs in the right place at the right time. I find the sex, the duels and the individual dances slightly easier; I can always fall back on the feelings of one of the protagonists though in some way’s it’s a coward’s way out. But the crowd scenes defeat me every time.
They really shouldn’t, should they? I mean, most of us have been to dances, had some kind of sexual encounter, wanted or otherwise, and probably indulged in at least play fighting as children. We’ve also witnessed crowds dancing, and sex and fighting on the screen. So I know what goes on, what should go on, what my characters need to do, etc. It’s not at all like using my imagination to create something like magic or aliens or a landscape.
Well, that’s part of the trouble. I can visualise the scenes so well. I can even feel the physical contact, smell the gunpowder, and so on. But when I experience them that way I’m caught up in the speed of what happens and that’s definitely at odds with the speed of describing them for readers. I’ve tried using dolls and those posable wooden artist’s models but dolls don’t move rapidly whereas people do. A doll can show me what positions in sex, dance or a fight are impossible, but can’t show movement in slow motion which is what I need if I’m to describe the encounter in a meaningful way.
If I’m describing a long journey, readers don’t expect a minute by minute account. An overview is fine. But for some reason close personal stuff, loving or hostile, needs detailed description. I believe some publishers demand detail, and certainly my beta readers tell me to expand those scenes.
There’s a further problem. When I read explicit sex or battle scenes my mind usually switches off. I skim till I reach the end when the characters start talking to each other again or till I know who has won. This doesn’t apply to dancing but dancing other than ballet tends to be boring to me as a mere observer. Since I don’t often read the details I find them even harder to write.
And yet the fairy princess had to go to the ball, with the right shoes, and meet her fairy prince, if the novel was to progress in the right direction, and somehow, merely saying there was a ball and starting the next chapter with: And the next day… wasn’t quite going to work.
I sorted it, but slowly. As I say, some chapters are a lot harder to write than others.
As for the picture, yes, we really did find a nail that shape, so I photographed it. I now use it (from a different angle) as an avatar.
Fiona Glass didn’t tag me but said anyone could join in with the five things in your current WIP meme.
The Seekers (working title) is a stand-alone fantasy based on some characters I developed in an rpg some years ago. I started it during Nanowrimo but always knew it was a long term project. I got about 30k words done in November but have been busy with Christmas ever since. Yesterday I got back to my characters who were getting fretful and feeling ignored. I only managed 500 words but it was a start! I mentioned my current writing in my poem about plot bunnies but thought I’d make it clear what I’m working on at the moment.
Five things in the story?
*A found family on a quest to escape their current lives
*Disinherited royal fairy twins – one gay and one asexual
*A goblin pedlar (on his coming of age travelling year) who is seeking his heart’s desire
*A large talking bird who helps fight bandits
*A fairy princess who needs new shoes for the primce’s ball in the desert
The icon was made for me about fifteen years ago by kethlenda, a friend on Live Journal.
A free Solstice story for you and some other gifts and price reductions. My new free novella Across Two Seas is set in the world of my Living Fae Series.
A quick summary: Eichhorn, from Germany, visiting Alderley Edge in Cheshire (UK), meets Velvet, who has come from Tara (Eire) to lead the Solstice Wild Hunt. Their instant attraction leads to an equally wild affair but will the relationship survive being separated by two seas?
It takes place after the events in the books and concerns the romance (mm) between two minor characters. I hope it’s accessible to people who haven’t read the series and will give you a glimpse of the world of my fae. I might get round to formatting it for Smashwords in which case it will be permanently free there, but meanwhile you can find it here on my website as a pdf you can download. To anyone who isn’t sure and prefers e-readers, remember Calibre is a free download and will convert almost anything to the e-book format of your choice.
That’s my free gift to celebrate the Solstice but the series Living Fae, which is in four volumes, all about the lives and loves of modern fae living on Alderley Edge, is enrolled in the Smashwords end of year sale so they are all half price till Jan 1st. At only $1.49 each and all well over 60k words that’s $5.96 for four full length novels. (I was going to create a box set but time got away from me!)
If you don’t read them in that order you will get desperately confused. Across Two Seas follows them but shouldn’t cause confusion as it isn’t primarily about the main characters of the series. There’s a glossary under the series tab but it needs updating and also needs the timeline I keep promising.
My fae celebrate the Solstice rather than Christmas so this is the perfect date to launch my new story and slash the price on my series at the same time. It’s my preferred holiday, too, though I also go along with the traditions to fit in with everyone around me.
Do any of you have children? Another free pdf is a children’s book, Answering Amanda, which is in some respects is the prequel to the entire Living Fae series. It works well for children aged 7 – 11 but young teens also like it, finding the concept amusing. Amanda corresponds with a fairy at the bottom of the garden. (Harlequin’s saga started when the fairy’s big brother pestered for his own novel.) It’s in colour – not just the illustrations but some of the text, and the colour is an integral part of the story – so if anyone downloads it for children to read, make sure you use a device that shows colour, not e.g. a b&w Kindle. Guaranteed no sex or violence, but this website has plenty of the former so please don’t let children explore.
Also in the Smashwords sale, and FREE until Jan 1st, is the first book I self published: Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers is a retold and twisted fairy tale – Snow White, transported and transformed by taking place in mediaeval Great Zimbabwe with a prince instead of a princess. It’s a novella rather than a novel. As Snow White is a traditional holiday and pantomime story, I thought people might like to see the same (but mm) story told about an African prince. It also seemed a good idea to make it free in this time of trying to make sure that Black Lives Matter.
When I was at boarding school (UK) we made a big fuss of Halloween. We dressed up and told ghost stories, and the older teenagers put on spooky plays. We had candles and games like bobbing for apples. I have no idea how the staff coped with a lot of excited children in sheets rushing around a dark but candle-lit Victorian building. They must have been foolish or brave or both. I don’t suppose today’s health and safety rules would allow it! That’s the school in the header photo – imagine it with candles in every window and no electric lights on!
American trick or treat hadn’t crossed the Atlantic in those pre-internet days, so we didn’t do that, but in any case, trick or treating was associated with Mischief Night, the night before Bonfire Night in November. Everything nowadays seems to have been amalgamated into one end of October/beginning of November festival, no doubt to satisfy the demands of council-supported firework displays. And we got the American trick or treat bug, though Brit children mostly stick to spooky costumes, not princesses or supermen. In Portugal the older teenagers rush around with very ‘realistic’ ghoulish masks and I’m told by friends that Portugal has declared a 48 hour lockdown to prevent too much mingling this year!
Nowadays, I live in an old stone cottage (seventeenth century) with low ceilings, oak beams and a resident poltergeist. (A next door neighbour who has since moved away actually got her priest to come and do an exorcism.)
I don’t watch scary films – they make me jump, hurt my neck muscles, and give me a headache. But I like ghost stories, just for reading, not viewing!
You might recall my free story last Halloween which was based on our house’s history. The photograph that accompanies it is of our lounge window – where I write! And it’s clear that someone (not us) pebble dashed the front wall, presumably to stop it falling down. The modern facing hasn’t deterred the poltergeist in the slightest.
All of which leads to my free Halloween story for this year. It’s called Halloween Gift and is, like last year’s, in my ‘free stuff’. (See the tabs at the top of the page.) It’s about ghosts and witches (and a cat) but is ff and is (hopefully) cheerful fluff to offset the creepiness of the season.
I’d also like to link to some ficlets I wrote for an October ‘monsterfest’ run by a writers’ group I belong to on Dreamwidth (ushobwri). The ficlets are a mix of original writing and fanfic. They are interspersed with a few posts and poems you might recognise from this site. They can be found at https://archiveofourown.org/collections/Shoobie_Monster_Fest/works/27267490 and you could enjoy exploring the other contributions too.
Sorry this is so late in the day – possibly too late for friends in Australia and NZ – but I committed myself to posting on a FB group and that needed the first ‘publication’ of the freebie. I got a 3.30.pm slot UK time, so…
I don’t suppose many people will allow their children to go trick or treating this year. Greater Manchester, where I live, is in Tier 3 lockdown and visiting other people’s houses is illegal. I suppose you can knock at the door, but think about handing over coins or sweets without adequate hand sanitiser – not recommended!! So I’m going to curl up with some TV (not Halloween related) and then do my usual screen switch-off an hour before bedtime and read a couple of spooky stories.
Whatever you’re doing, enjoy the festival – and stay safe!
A Dreamwidth community I belong to (ushobwri) has a Monster Fest during October when members are prompted to write about various ‘monsters’ and link to things they have written in the past as well as reccing work they have enjoyed by others. At the end of October they are encouraged to upload their offerings to a collection on AO3.
(At this point they go into support mode for members who are doing nanowrimo in November. The group’s name is a condensation of ‘you should be writing’.)
Not all the work is fanfic. AO3 is happy to host original work if it is part of a fannish collection or uses obvious fannish tropes. Members of the group are mostly interested in fanfic but write original stuff too.
One or two of the things I posted are already on this site in among other ‘free stuff’ and poetry, but most of the ficlets apart from the first one are new. The shifter ficlet is mm romance (nothing explicit) but otherwise the fics are gen. I have still used ‘not rated’ and ‘chose not to warn’ because my volunteer work for AO3 showed me you can never second guess what will trigger readers.
They are, inevitably, very short, because there were only a couple of days between prompts. But taken as a whole I’m quite pleased with them. I hope you will be too!
I was going to write about what appeals to me in the books I give four and five stars then I saw this meme.It’s one a few of my friends have done. I think it was originally conceived for the world of fanfiction but it works for original fiction tastes too, although it doesn’t cover crime stories which I also like. If you want to play, copy and paste the whole thing then post substituting your choices.
Slow burn OR love at first sight
Slow, please. Love at first sight always seems more like lust at first sight and either unrealistic or realistic but doomed. It can be fun, but not for longer stories or novels. Besides, I like following the details of decisions made over time.
Fake dating OR secret dating
Fake dating, because it’s fun to read as it gradually turns into not-so-fake. Secret dating – if that means people are in the closet about their attraction to each other and don’t want to be seen together – no, not for me. Again, if it means one or the other is already in a relationship, it’s a no-no. Not that I don’t think it can happen, and might make a good topic for a novel, but it isn’t a trope I go for.
Enemies to lovers OR best friends to lovers
I like both. If I have to choose I’ll have best friends to lovers because, as with the previous tropes, I like the slow realisation. With the enemies trope it sort of depends why they’re enemies in the first place.
Oh no there’s only one bed OR long distance with correspondence
I like long distance correspondence fic. I find it amusing and it’s usually a nice slow burn. I’m not keen on the one bed trope – it’s been done to death, and I don’t find it all that realistic.
Fantasy AU OR modern AU
I write fantasy… So I’ll say fantasy but I prefer urban or sci fi fantasy and don’t go much for the heroic kind unless it happens to be Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Modern AUs are fine in their own way – I assume this mostly refers to fanfiction. I can’t be bothered with many coffee shop fics, and college fics are a turn-off, but sticking the characters of e.g. SGA in an urban American setting can be interesting. I’ve personally written modern police characters in a mediaeval setting and find using a different period/location is a good way of exploring the core character. I do think quite often the writer ends up with an original story, merely hung on the names and character traits of the originals.
Smut OR fluff
I don’t really like smut if that means erotica. I tend to skim long sex scenes to get to the next bit of plot. I don’t really like fluff, either, since I like stories to have something serious about them as well as the romance element. Above all, I’m there for the story, not the details of the sex or romance. If I have to choose, I suppose fluff. I have read some very sweet short stories but I would quickly lose interest if they were longer. Mutual pining OR domestic bliss
Mutual pining can be interesting. Domestic bliss rarely is. The details of other people’s domestic trivia simply don’t appeal. Having said that, I do like domestic details – if the characters don’t seem to shop, cook or eat I start to suspend disbelief. Alternate universe OR future fic
Both please. In fanfiction I’m very happy with AUs in which canon characters don’t die, or make irrevocable bad decisions. I’ll even write it/have written it. I like future fic – I think good sci fi lets us explore our own society in a new context, and the same goes for any story set in a future, near or distant.
One shot OR multi-chapter
I have read lots of short stories I’ve enjoyed, but if I have to choose, the longer the better. And I do like people to break their work into discrete chapters, preferably with chapter headings. I actually seek out trilogies, too. I have a horror of unfinished WIPs, though, so each book has to stand reasonably alone. Think Robert Jordan… until Brad Sanderson took over there were a lot of angst-ridden fans, and at the moment the same applies to George RR Martin
Kid fic OR road trip fic
Kid fic if it’s well written. But I suppose that goes for anything, really. Road trips are OK as part of a longer story but I wouldn’t choose to read something with a road trip as the focus unless it was written by a friend and I felt obliged…
Reincarnation OR character death
Neither if it can be helped. I am very wary about reincarnation or anything similar that presupposes religious premises. And I dislike major character death quite intensely though I don’t mind if someone is recovering from losing a loved one who died before the story starts.
Arranged marriage OR accidental marriage
I think arranged marriage is interesting as a concept. In fact, I’ve just written a novel based around it. I find accidental marriage unlikely and can be irritated by the trope. It almost has to be a comedy and I don’t choose comedies often.
Time travel OR isolated together
Isolated together stories (e.g. snowed in cabin) can lead to some good character exploration. I don’t like time travel much.
Neighbours OR roommates
I think I prefer neighbours. Room mates tend to be college fic or very young adult fic which is not really my scene. Neighbours demand some serious world building which I enjoy.
Sci-fi AU OR magic AU
I like sci fi – as I’ve mentioned once or twice already. I also like magical universes and write them… So both, please! If I have to choose I’ll go with the magic but be sad about abandoning the space. Having said that, I don’t much like space opera any more than I like earth-based military fiction. So it rather depends on the context. Bodyswap OR genderbend
I’m not particularly keen on either of these. Bodyswap is difficult for authors to present in a way that lets me suspend disbelief. Genderbend can be interesting, but frankly, I’d sooner read a story about someone who was trans, or cross dressing, or something more seriously in need of fictional exploration.
Angst OR crack
What a strange pair of tropes to set against each other. I’ve read brilliant versions of both and can’t choose.
Apocalyptic OR mundane
I quite like post apocalypse future fic but am rarely keen on zombies. Mundane modern stories have to be extremely good to hold my interest over a whole novel but some authors do a fantastic job.