Tag Archives: arthurian fiction

Facing the enemy for #WIPpet Wednesday

I’m crazy tired right now — watched the US – Belgium game last night, which went late, and I have only just now finished packing for my flight to London tomorrow. But at least I *am* done now, and since I know I will not be posting next week — Wednesday is the Wedding! — I figure before I trundle off to bed for my much deserved rest, I will post another snippet from A Wasted Land for WIPpet Wednesday. My math for today, 7/2/14, is to add up all the digits, giving me 14. So here are 14 short paragraphs from the same scene as last week. Taliesin’s plan has worked, and they have been called into the presence of Cerdic, the enemy they went to Venta to spy on:

Cerdic called Taliesin forward, the ostensible head of their troupe of musicians.
Taliesin bowed in front of the King of the South. “How may we serve you, Lord?”
The corners of Cerdic’s mouth turned up in a surprisingly charming smile. “Serve me? Is that what you want to do?”
“Certainly. That is what bards and minstrels do.”
“And do you know where you are, bard?”
“Why, we are in Venta, Lord. Our most recent stop was Leucomagus, and before that, Cunetio. In Cunetio, our audience was generous, in Leucomagus not so much, so we decided to continue on.”
“And do you know who rules in Venta?”
“You?” Taliesin ventured.
A wave of barely repressed chuckles could be heard around the room. Kustennin found himself in awe of Taliesin’s spontaneous acting ability.
Cerdic shook his head, and his lips twitched — it appeared he too was repressing laughter. His son Cynric was grinning as well.
Kustennin gazed under his eyelashes at the British leader of a largely Saxon army. Arthur’s former general appeared to possess a rare combination of character traits — ruthless ambition and the ability to laugh at himself. But that might well explain much of Cerdic’s talent for drawing men to his cause.
You must shield your thoughts more, came Taliesin’s whisper in his mind. I feel the presence of magic in this room.

This time tomorrow, I should be much closer to Winchester / Venta, where this scene takes place — Salisbury, to be precise:

Salisbury Cathedral by John Constable
Salisbury Cathedral.

Depending on how much time I spend running around the Wilds of Wiltshire and the surrounding area, I may try to blog a bit about the research half of my trip while I’m there, so watch this space. And I think I’ll also try to get to Stonehenge again, just for the fun of it. 🙂

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Reintroducing Guinevere / Ginevra for #WIPpet Wednesday

It’s been a mostly good week writing wise for me, with an effortless 1,000 word day last Thursday. The last couple of days have been a bit slower, what with lots of garden work on the weekend, and then the news that my friend Jay Lake has been admitted to hospice. That’s been eating my brain a bit. 😦

Anyway, back to writing. I mentioned a while back that I was doing some of the exercises in the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook right now to flesh out the middle of A Wasted Land and help with my focus for the novel. While working on a completely unrelated exercise, I realized I really need a pov character back in Caer Leon (Caerleon), while Kustennin and his buddies are duking it out with Cerdic on the border of the British-held lands. I just can’t have all the events going on in the area of present-day Wales being brought to them via messenger.

And then it occurred to me that I have a main character from the last book, Shadow of Stone, not far away: Arthur’s widow Ginevra, who is in a monastery there in penance for her sins.

Guinever / Gwenhwyfar / Ginevra

After banishing Ginevra to her monastery along with most of my predecessors, I wasn’t intending to bring her back, but as soon as the idea occurred to me, my mind was racing. I don’t know yet what exactly her character arc will be and how it will fit into the rest of the events of the novel, but I’m having a great time figuring it out. 🙂 It’s fresh off my fingers, though, so hasn’t been though any editing passes. I intend to make it the second chapter, after Kustennin and Bedwyr inspect the ruins. So please, be as brutal as you care to be! I’m particularly interested in feedback on whether I’m providing too much backstory all at once.

My math today: 5 + (2+8=10) / 5+1 = 6, six paragraphs from the first scene with Ginevra:

Ginevra hurried along the path from the house of women to the abbot’s residence. Spring flowers bloomed along the pathway, and several pupils from the school were working in the herb garden. Most of the buildings of the monastery had originally been part of villa built before the Roman troops pulled out of Britain, and the foundations were of massive stone in the Roman style. But the site had been sacked in raids by Pictish, Erainn and Saxon warriors during the reign of the legendary British high king, Ambrosius Aurelianus, after which it had been abandoned for many years. It was not rebuilt again until Arthur enlisted his cousin Illtud to reestablish the school on the grounds of Cor Teudwys, the “college of Theodosius”. Many of the original Roman structures in the central complex of buildings could be saved; what couldn’t be fixed was torn down and the stones used to repair less damaged buildings. Destroyed roofs were replaced with wood and thatch.
The house of women stood outside of the main complex and was a newer building of wood in the style of a long house, simple, functional, less massive. Ginevra didn’t mind. She didn’t pine for her former life, which had been so full of selfish mistakes. She welcomed discomfort: the cold of winter and the heat of summer that crept much more quickly through walls of wood than walls of stone; her simple room with its simple bed; the many manual tasks she had to perform throughout the day.
Ginevra had found refuge in Illtud’s monastery after the battle of Camlann. At first, it was very nearly an imprisonment, with at least two British warriors always on site, monitoring her movements, ensuring she would not run away to some imagined freedom. When the first snow fell, Illtud had chased them away, saying that if Arthur’s widow fled now, it would surely be her death sentence. In the spring, the guards had failed to return.
Since then, Ginevra had spent much of her time in her small room in the house of women, where female guests would stay when visiting their relatives, or women were lodged who came to Illtud’s church for shelter. With time, she had become what amounted to administrator in the house of women. One thing she knew how to do was manage a household, and this was not so different — only without servants. The women had to do the work themselves, cleaning, cooking, harvesting, bartering for what else they needed at the local market, just as the boys and men in Illtud’s school did.
Someone had to organize that work, however. For that, Ginevra’s experience managing hill-fort and town house had come in handy. By necessity, she had also begun to learn how to tend the communal gardens and heal common ailments using the herbs grown there. The last struck her as particularly ironic — it had been Ginevra’s insistence that Yseult tend her ailing son with her knowledge of herbs and medicines that had nearly led to Yseult’s murder at the hands of Medraut. But even after Yseult told her the fate she had seen in the minds of Medraut’s guards, Ginevra had refused to believe that her new consort could possibly intend to kill her friend.
And so the evil she had ignorantly unleashed continued unchecked — until the Battle of Camlann, where so many had died.

A little background regarding my sources for the novels of the Pendragon Chronicles. There is no Lancelot in my tales because I am trying to avoid the inventions of the French writers of the 13th century and later. Lancelot is one of those, a new character added in the Age of Chivalry. I’ve tried to stay closer to the Welsh legends of Arthur and the first “historical” accounts, such as Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth. I’ve also tried to avoid French versions of the names, which wouldn’t fit very well in my 5th and 6th century setting. For that reason, I chose Ginevra, the Latin version of the name. It is in the Celtic Arthurian tradition that I found the tale of Arthur’s wife running off with his nephew Medraut / Mordred rather than his champion. So if you’re a huge Lancelot / Guinevere fan, my books probably aren’t for you. 🙂

Also, for those who find it odd there are women at a monastery school, the strict separation of the sexes was not instated until the high middle ages. Nor was it a closed system where those in the monastery were cut off from everyday life. You can read more about Celtic Christianity here, if you’re interested.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Reconsidering the Anglo-Saxon “Conquest” — and an update

Last week, I mentioned a couple of interesting books I’ve been reading in researching the era of The Pendragon Chronicles, and I had a request for more info. So I will try to provide a brief summary before I continue on to my writing update.

Both books treat the era of the so-called “Dark Ages” in Britain, dark because we have so few written records from the period. One of the few is “The Ruin and Conquest of Britain” by Gildas, a jeremiad written in Latin, which truly does paint a very bleak picture of the era in which he lived. As to the dating, it must have been written before 547 AD, since one of the contemporary tyrants he addresses, Maelgwn, is supposed to have died in a plague which struck Britain in about 547. But Gildas, a monk, had an agenda, to chastize the contemporary kings he addresses, and persuade them to turn away from their sins.

Gildas’s little rant has had a big effect on the way the fifth and sixth centuries are portrayed in history, the time during which Britain transformed from primarily Roman-British to primarily Anglo-Saxon, at least culturally. The two books I’m reading right now argue that Britain wasn’t overrun by invaders during this period, and the transition was less a “conquest” and more a cultural shift. One of the books, Britain AD by Francis Pryor, makes the argument based on archeological evidence, primarily the lack of wholesale destruction an invasion would entail, as well as gradual changes in use of sites that were originally Roman-British so that they began to seem more “Anglo-Saxon” in character. This, he argues, is the pattern seen when there is a change in the ruling elite rather than a wholesale invasion. Makes a lot of sense to me, given all the research I’ve done for previous books in The Pendragon Chronicles. One of my main resources for Yseult and Shadow of Stone, Christopher Snyder’s An Age of Tyrants, also argued for a more gradual change from Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England, from an archeological standpoint as well, given how many major Roman cities seemed to have survived far into the fifth century and beyond.

The other book I’m reading now, The Origins of the British by Stephen Oppenheimer, makes a similar argument based on a combination of linguistic evidence and DNA. While I’m not completely convinced yet by his linguistic analysis, his comparisons between genetic markers in England and northern Germany are fascinating. He says there is definitely a genetic divide between the so-called “Celtic fringe” and the rest of England, but he also points out a difference between southern Britain and those areas regarded as “Anglo-Saxon.” Oppenheimer then examines a much longer history of immigration to Britain which has led to these differences — including Iberian, Viking and Norman — as well as Germanic. He argues that all of those waves of immigration contributed in different ways to the genetic differences between eastern and western Britain. He concludes that the “intrusion” (from a genetic standpoint) from traditional Anglo-Saxon areas is only about 5.5% in England.

Fascinating stuff — at least for me. 🙂

Now on to recent progress. Here’s a visual:

Presents

I wrapped all those presents in the last couple of days. And while you may not be able to appreciate it from the side, I like to make my presents pretty, and it took me a while.

Still also working on organizing gifts for friends and family. So I was very surprised when I checked my word counts today, to discover that I’ve managed another 1500 words on Amber’s story since Wednesday, as well as a couple hundred more words in notes and ideas on A Wasted Land. Not too shabby, given all those presents stacked on the shelf! Of course, I would like to be producing more, but Christmas takes its toll. 🙂

And here’s a final pic, just because the sunset today was so pretty, and I probably wouldn’t even have noticed it if one of my granddaughters hadn’t pointed it out, since I was in the wrong part of the room.

Sunset

Hope everyone else is successfully surviving the holiday season!

“Dragon Time” live as Countdown Deal, and “Gawain and Ragnell” finally free!

I posted yesterday about the new KDP Select “Countdown Deals” and my decision to give it a whirl with my YA short story collection, Dragon Time. It took a while, but the sale is now live:

Also, I am very happy to announce that today Amazon finally price-matched Gawain and Ragnell, and it is now permafree. Download! Tell your friends! Send links to everyone who enjoys Arthurian fiction! *g*

I want to thank everyone who tattled on me and helped to make this novelette free. Cross your fingers for me that it helps with sales of the other Pendragon Chronicles books. 🙂

Being accountable: Progress on my first quarter goals, 2013

End of March, time for some navel-gazing, to see how well I did on the goals I posted back in January. Since I strive to stay as positive as I can (not always easy in this business), I will start with the successes, the things I did achieve in the last three months.

Revisions and rewrting:

– Did a complete pass of my novel Chameleon in a Mirror

– Finished revisions on my Story Hunger collection

Publications:

From Earth to Mars and Beyond

The Leaving Sweater

– Published Never Ever After to Draft2Digital to make it free on Kobo and iTunes (but still hasn’t been price-matched on Amazon, unfortunately)

Writing:

– Finished the first draft of Island of Glass (Alternate history Venice / Murano with magic, present draft 18,000 words)

– Started a new book in the Pendragon Chronicles series, A Wasted Land (20,000 words written; not on my original list of goals)

Writing business:

– Made a book page for my blog

– Started publishing to iTunes through Draft2Digital

When I look at that list, it makes me a little less irritated with myself. I may not be the writing fiend I would like to be, but I did get a fair amount accomplished.

But now for confession time. Here’s what I didn’t get done:

– Finish Ygerna (The prequel to The Pendragon Chronicles)

– Get Yseult up for Createspace (ditto Shadow of Stone)

– Edit web page and add links to my ebooks

– Put together a collection (or two) of my stories co-written with Jay Lake

– Finish cover and publish my mini story collection “Oregon Elsewise”

– All the other writing projects I listed that I would love to tackle if I managed to finish all the stuff on my list (which I didn’t).

Sigh. Well, I guess it’s better to aim for too much rather than too little, although going that route there’s always the danger of chastising yourself for not achieving your goals. OTOH, now that I have a list of what I did get done in the last couple of months, I feel a lot better about my progress.

I wish everyone wonderful holidays and unlimited abilities to forgive themselves and others. 🙂

Brainstorming new Pendragon novel, more cover art, and progress on time travel

I’ve been quite busy this week. Not only am I still working on revisions on Chameleon in a Mirror, my Restoration time travel starring Aphra Behn, I have also started brainstorming a new novel in the Pendragon Chronicles, tentatively entitled A Wasted Land. I want to share with you the artwork I splurged and bought for the novel, by the incredibly talented Teresa Yeh:

A Wasted Land

Of course, researching, brainstorming and outlining is difficult to quantify, especially if you’re doing it on scrap paper, like I am. (I’ve never become a convert to index cards, as many people are.) But I do have about twenty pages of hand-written notes, questions I’ve asked myself using various plotting strategies. The one that has given me the most success for A Wasted Land so far has been Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. With other projects, however, other structures and strategies have proved more successful. Sometimes it’s the hero’s journey, sometimes it’s character questions, sometimes it’s the research itself that will give me the plot. My strategy is to throw lots and lots of stuff at my idea and see what will stick.

Anyway, I now have a basic structure consisting of both an internal conflict plot and an external conflict plot. I’m certainly not ready to write yet, though (although I have started jotting down notes for scenes that occurred to me). But I still have to throw a bit more at it until I have a better handle on both the plot and the characters.

That’s taken up a lot of my time this week, but I’ve also been moving forward with Chameleon in a Mirror. I’m up to chapter 23 on the revisions. At this pace, I should be able to finish by the end of the week. I’ve become a total slacker on my actual publication projects, however. I have this list of things that are ready or almost ready to go up on Amazon, Smashwords and Draft2Digital — and I did none of them this week. I think next week I need to take another day off from writing for the business side of things.

Just out of curiosity, what kind of pre-writing do other people do — if at all?

Changing your book’s categories (and why you should); plus an update

As I’m sure many people know, the categories offered when you publish a book through Kindle Direct Publishing don’t always match the Kindle store categories. Books published via KDP fall under two different types of categories — KDP uses BISAC codes to categorize books, but Amazon uses a broader classification. When you choose your two categories in the KDP Bookshelf, the book is mapped to the closest classification under the “eBook” category on Amazon.

The problem is, those default categories are (naturally) some of the most popular categories in the Kindle store — which means you’re competing with a lot more other books for those important top 100 category slots. Getting into the top 100 lists is an important way to keep from descending into oblivion and boost sales.

Take a look at this screenshot for the categories in Science Fiction in the Kindle store:

Now look at the numbers behind each category. When I first published Looking Through Lace as an ebook, I chose the categories “Adventure” and “Short stories” (ok, it’s officially a novella according to the SFWA definition, but close enough). What I didn’t know then, I had chosen the two categories with the most books in SF — and thus, the two categories least likely to get my book noticed.

Some time ago, I changed one of the categories for Yseult from epic fantasy to Arthurian — and it’s been selling fairly regularly ever since. Arthurian fantasy is a niche category, and it doesn’t take many sales for my books to remain in the top 10. And that in turn gives them exposure.

I hadn’t looked into changing categories for any of my other books until recently, though. And that was when I saw how unwise I had been regarding the categories for Looking Through Lace. By that time, I had also published the second novella in the series, Beyond the Waters of the World. I wanted to change both to “Series” and “Space Opera.” Space opera is available from the KDP Bookshelf, but not Series.

If you want your book to appear in any of the categories in the Kindle store for which there is no corresponding match in the KDP Bookshelf, here’s a nifty link you can use.

Hit “Contact us” at the bottom of the page, and you will get a screen that asks you for the following information:

Please fill in the following information:
ASIN or name of book:
Category to delete (optional):
New category (select two):

When filling in the categories, you need to list the complete path. So mine looked like this:

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > Series
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > Space Opera

Does it help? Looking Through Lace and Beyond the Waters of the World are not breaking any records, but they’ve been selling about a copy a day each since I did the category change combined with a freebie run. Before that, they were selling maybe 20 copies a month for both titles combined. On the second day of the freebie for Beyond the Waters of the World it had the following ranking:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > Series
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > Space Opera

And it managed to drag Looking Through Lace with it, which ended up here:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,443 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#51 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > Series

So I would highly recommend taking a look at the numbers in your genre, and if your book fits in a category with less competition, consider changing it. Of course, if you’re already selling hundreds of copies a day, stay where you are. This advice is for the few copies a day crowd, like me. 🙂

* * *

In writing news, I’ve managed to get more done on Island of Glass in two days than I did all last week. Word count 13,700, coming into the home stretch for the first draft of the expanded version. *g* I’ve also been doing some brainstorming for the second novella of the series, tentatively entitled Facets of Glass. With all the promotional work I’ve been doing lately, I’m good with that.

Speaking of promos, don’t forget to check out the Dollar Daze 99c promo and giveaway that I mentioned in my last post!

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and another free ebook!

For Christmas, I’m giving away my novel Shadow of Stone. It was featured today on Michael Gallagher’s “Free Kindle Books and Tips” and it’s getting off to a pretty good start. If you miss it today, it will also be free tomorrow.

The holiday giveaways continue tomorrow with my short story collection Dragon Time, which will be free Dec. 26-27.

I got something of a Christmas present myself yesterday, a new review of Yseult on Amazon. It was extremely detailed and well-founded, went into the Arthurian retelling in detail, and it compared my writing to Diana Paxson. What a kick! I absolutely loved The White Raven, which I only read after starting my own version of the legend. I have to admit, I was very relieved that our retellings of Tristan and Iseult were quite different — I could continue writing my book in good conscience. 🙂

Wishing everyone an excellent holiday season!

Finally branching out: Kobo and Pubit

This week, I finally got a big item off my to-do list: I set up accounts for myself on Kobo’s Writing Life and Barnes and Noble’s Pubit platforms and uploaded my first two books on each site. But while B&N had my books available in less than a day, much like Amazon, my books on Kobo are still “publishing.” Oh well.

The good news is, it was easy enough to sign up, redo the books without the Amazon links, and upload, but as with all things, it just takes time. These are systems I haven’t used before, after all, and I have to get used to the navigation, etc. For both sites, I also had to redo the covers of my books because of different size limitations. But at least for B&N, I can now announce two “new” books:

Never Ever After on B&N

Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur on B&N

Another project on my to-do list that I finally got around to doing this week was to set up a mailing list. Right now, the only sign-up page I have is on Facebook (it’s tied in to my author page there). Getting that squared away probably took nearly as long as signing up as an author in two new online stores and uploading two books each! That’s why I haven’t gotten the mailing list set up for my blog here yet. I really needed a break, and a chance to get some writing done again.

A couple of readers have asked me whether I plan to get some more books up on Smashwords again. I’d like to, but it’s a bit of a problem. Now that I’ve moved all my final drafts over to Scrivener, uploading to Smashwords would be a lot of extra work. First I would have to export from Scrivener to RTF, then I would have to import the RTF into the Smashwords DOC template I made when I first started experimenting with ebook publishing and go through and assign all the correct styles. That’s an awful lot of work for a couple of sales a month. The beginning of this year, Mark Coker (the head of Smashwords) said they would have epub implementation by the end of the year, which is only a couple more weeks away. I hope it happens. I doubt if I will get around to uploading more books on Smashwords soon otherwise.

But with all those projects (which I really had to get done before Christmas), the progress on Ygerna has slowed down quite a bit. It’s presently coming in at 60 pages, of a target of 200. I’m shooting for a short novel for this prequel, something that won’t hurt as much to eventually give away for free as an incentive for people to start reading The Pendragon Chronicles books. Yseult is such a Big Fat Fantasy (~190,000 words) the idea of permanently giving it away for free does not appeal to me at all. 🙂

And now a question: I’ve been referring to the WIP by the name of the main character, Ygerna, a Celtic version of the name Igraine. But I’m pretty sure I will have to give the book a different title because of the similarity to the name “Yseult.” I don’t think I have to rename the character, since Yseult isn’t even born until after the events of the WIP are over. But having two books in a series named Ygerna and Yseult is probably not a good idea. What do you guys think?

I hope everyone has a great week!