Sunday Surprise

Quick update on Kaylyn… 26K in, more than halfway, BUT I had to skip a chapter. I need to check the Travels of Marco Polo for some details, since the one chronicle in readable language isn’t enough. Enough Olde English and medieval Latin for now! 😀

Tomorrow I will have to go back and write the visit of China, at the court of Kublai Khan, then I can resume the story after Chittor and the meeting with Rajveer, which I have completed with a couple of deleted scenes from the very first version.

Onward now to the rest of the story! The mythology of my vampires is considerably expanding from Rajveer’s book, haha! Hope I don’t lose track of everyone! 😀


Writer Wednesday

This week I’m trying to wrap up the vampire stories. Two shorts and a novel. More research and one last check of the final draft of Rajveer the Vampire, but it’s really the last books I’m reading for this novel.

I found useful info in the Invasions of India that I will keep handy for writing one of the next books, but totally gave up on History of the Moguls, since they seem to mix everything (Tamerlane with Babur, Akbar with Alauddin Khalji) – unless one reads it just for fun. But the history is  really messed up.

I found many more books on the subject, but I’m not going to check them now. I’m also reading Vikram and the Vampire – I’m sure the English translation is not exactly as the original, but well… it’s also giving me nice insights on the country! 🙂

After this vampire week, I’m trying to stay offline for 10 days – but I’ll bring a notebook, just in case! 😉 As soon as I come back, I’ll upload another ex-B.G.Hope title with new cover, then I’ll start publishing some Star Minds Interregnum stories. I know, I’m supposed to say this on the publisher’s page, but…

It doesn’t have any followers yet. I finished working on the single books pages – adding maps, characters interviews, whatever I could, so please go have a look. No, I’m not asking to tell me what you think, but if you like what you see, subscribe to the newsletter. I don’t post there as often as I do here, and only about new titles! 😉

If you’re an author and would like to be featured on my blog, drop me a line. Author and characters interviews are available. With a change of interviewer for characters. Brenda is probably not the best person, so Samantha is taking over the character interviews. See them bickering here, and answer Samantha’s questions if you dare! 😉

Gentle reminder – it’s the last week at 20%off on DriveThruFiction and DriveThruComics. On DTF the ebooks have all kinds of files (PDF, mobi and e-pub) and there are even bundles discounted available (Books of the Immortals and Chronicles of the Varian Empire). On DTC… S.K.Y.B.A.N.D. has only PDFs (and a POD version for the Omnibus).

Writer Wednesday

Since I shared some of my research when I wrote the historical novel (still in that drawer, by the way), I thought I’d do the same this time. Mostly because I found conflicting stuff! 😉

In the History of the Mogul dynasty in India : from its foundation by Tamerlane, in the year 1399, to the accession of Aurengzebe, in the year 1657 (try to find the PDF version since the TXT is unreadable) I’ve skimmed over Akbar’s chapter and I’ve seen where someone thought something came from.

Chittorgarh. Wikipedia informs us that it had 3 “jahuar” (the self-immolation of royal ladies in case of siege). The most famous being the story of Rani Padmini (siege by the Sultan of Delhi in AD1303), the last being by Emperor Akbar. In the aforementioned book, they’re mixed. Like I said, I only skimmed (while trying to make the text-only version readable) the above book, but it was kind of funny to see two stories set one century and a half apart mixed together. I’ll have to go back and read the PDF! 😉

I also gave up trying to read the mobi versions of any 19th century text dealing with history or other stuff I might need for research. The software really can’t figure out what is written and nobody checks what comes out of it. And if there are notes under the page, the mobi file is impossible to read. So, back to PDF for scanned old paper books! 🙂

Anyhow, from now on, I’ll stick to the suggestions of good ol’ Bram (Stoker, who else?). When criticized because he didn’t go to Transylvania to write Dracula, he said,

Trees are trees, mountains are generally mountains, no matter what country you find them and one description may be made to answer for all this reinforcing the old adage among novelists: Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

Before I show off the covers for the former-B.G.Hope-titles, another post on book cover twins. That’s why I prefer to hire artists to do my covers. Here’s more reusable cover art for your historical novels – except mine is (will be) historical fantasy, so… commissioned cover(s) again! 😉

The secret art of reaching “the End” – just in case you still have procrastination problems! 🙂 Or rewriting problems. Or “I want to make this perfect” problems. Finish what you write and move on! 😀 And don’t waste time fighting the wrong war.

Have a great week!

Writer Wednesday

So, writing progress! The weekend before the writing rant I spent mostly on Star Minds Snippets, rewriting Shooting Star (it’s now 15k, so double of the first draft) and asking for advice on a couple of scenes, set in India in the 1950s. A description of Delhi I found here, but for the rest I had based my research on Wikipedia entries and Bollywood movies. And The Householder – which is not Bollywood and it’s set in the 1960s, but I guess Delhi hadn’t changed much in those ten years and it’s a fairly good portrait of a young Indian couple of the time. When my expert checked, I was glad to discover I had gotten things right – yes, one of my favorite Agneepath songs is the Ganesha festival in Bombay (although not of 1954, more of 2012, but well… it hasn’t changed much, I suppose! 😉 I’m not Indian in this life, but maybe I was in a previous one!), yay! 🙂

MaeraSivaCol_resizeThen I went to work on Half-blood – again with some help from Indians of both descents (India and First Nations or Native Americans). A “study” of Garuda (yep, only Wikipedia again, although I could add the Encyclopedia Mythica as well…!) helped me define my Carians (the bird people) and Caroids (half-blood of the title, the offspring of Carian and Humanoid). And then the problems of mixed blood children (red/white), if and how they fit with both worlds. I’ve had this book on my TBR pile for 2 years now… so glad I started it, although I’m not writing that historical novel I had in mind when I got it! 🙂

3comI also decided to cut the opening, since the whole thing was too impersonal – for a reason, but it didn’t come through, so I started rewriting it almost from scratch, with a new outline. The couple of betas won’t recognize the final version of either! 😉 Then I went to work on The Rogue Years, “recycling” deleted scenes from the original Technological Angel (in Italian) and a short story that seemed to fit the characters – and realized while writing that I was telling a story. So I pondered again – but I promise this ramble will be shorter.

My screenwriter card said “A story is told, a new world is born”, then a fellow screenwriter told me “That’s passive!” so the new card for the author (writer/artist) says “Tell a story, create a world”. See how I got rid of the passive voice? But mostly, see the first world? I’m a storyTELLER, not a storySHOWER! 😉 While writing the Snippets, I was fully aware I was telling a story and not showing it, but I wrote it down as it came to me anyway. I f I can come up with a neat way of showing it, fine, if not… well, I’m an old-fashioned storyteller, sorry.

My writing has evolved in 30+ years – and not only with the language switch. I did experiment in genres I don’t read, therefore can’t write them. I’ve experimented with prose, poetry, stream of consciousness (yikes!), screenplays, plays, whatever came to mind. I’ve come up with my own way of telling stories, and since I’ve started getting feedback (from friends, since my readers haven’t written to me yet), I’ve evolved even further. I know I’ll keep learning and evolving, and sometimes I consciously break the rule of “show don’t tell”.

As long as I write what I want to read and have fun doing it, I’m fine. Writing is a chore for you? Check Dean’s post on how to have fun while writing. I’ve been having fun again after I stopped rewriting and started publishing. Trust me, it’s liberating! And I’m still having those popcorn kittens bouncing in my head, that’s why I try to alternate old stories with brand new (Amazon Sisters is an old story that I’m rewriting, Star Minds Snippets is mostly brand new, albeit based on an existing story). Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check Kris Rusch’s attack of the popcorn kittens! 😉

I will never be a bestseller like any of them, but as long as I find my readers, I’m fine. I’m writing, publishing and having fun. Eventually I’ll live off my royalties – like I said, it’s a 5-to-10-year plan. If I get laid off from DayJob (you never know, these days!), I’m not worried, since I know I’ll be able to keep myself busy with writing, formatting, doing covers, and maybe even translating, for myself – and others for a small fee.

Star Minds Omnibus is finally live everywhere and you can see the combined edition (Kindle/paperback) on Amazon – courtesy of the sweet people at Author Central who kindly combined the editions. Here’s the link to the US i-bookstore that wasn’t present two weeks ago. And now a batch of links for your shiny careers! 🙂

Smashwords introduces pre-order distribution! If you want to launch your book as event, you might want to use that! Personally, I don’t do “book as events” and I go direct to Kobo – and use D2D to go to Apple and B&N now. But at least I know that if I ever want to put out some title with a pre-order, I can always go back to Smashwords! 🙂

Advice on how to target your readers! Personaly, I’m like Stephannie, I’d rather be writing the next book. That’s why you don’t see me marketing like crazy, neither here or on Facebook or Goodreads. I am my first reader and fan, and I’m sure there are other people like me who like the kind of stories I write. And they will find me eventually! 🙂

Thinking about legal questions – all those doubts solved. Sort of. I’ve added the blog to the blogroll, along with other interesting blogs. Terrific essay from Stephen King on Voice – whatever that is. Not to be confused with Style and Tone, apparently. I think I have my voice, but somehow someone is trying to change it. Sigh. I’ll keep writing what I want to write the way I want to write it, or I’ll stop having fun and quit – so it’s not going to happen, uh-uh, no way. You don’t like my voice/style/whatever? I don’t care. I’m having fun, LOL! 🙂

Last – another David Gaughran post on Author Solutions’ long arms. Spread it as much as you can, it’s true they still thrive because many authors don’t do their research, but also because nobody seems to want to tell the truth. Beware of Author Solutions. Don’t go near them, not even if they promise to publish you with Penguin Random House. Scam scam scam. And did I mention it’s a scam? Right. Have a great week! 🙂

QUICK UPDATE: One last thing on how not to market. Dear authors: If I want your newsletter, I can click “subscribe” myself. And that’s why I added the widget on the sidebar. Not that it has been used yet, but eventually…

Reading break

I must finish my first draft of the historical novel by march 19, and also reading all those neat PDFs I downloaded from Gallica, Project Guttenberg or Medieval Sourcebook. I’m at the beginning of part 3, that will probably be shorter than the middle, but still… I should be able to write it by the end of the month. But then I can’t revise until I finish my reading.

I am still exploring the Chansons de Geste, finding fascinating clues on 12th century life (attributed to long gone, previous centuries heroes, but who cares? ;-)) that give me interesting plot ideas. This story has grown a lot since its screenplay format, and I’m very happy with the little details I have added! 🙂 I’m finishing a study on all the early Arthurian “novels” (“roman” in French, which means “novel”, although not yet in our modern sense), but I took a break because… it was short, sweet and fun! 😀

101 tips for traveling with a vampire is very funny and highly entertaining. Even if I’m not a vampire lover, I enjoyed the ride and look forward to have the time to check the novels related to it.

I have a question for the author: Joleene, how did you get all those images past the Smashwords meat grinder?! I don’t think I’ll have to add that many (a map, probably, but maybe I will send readers to the official page to check it), but Prue, who had neat little chapter headers she had to manually delete before uploading for Kindle, might like the fact that she can put them back in on Smashwords! 🙂

I really hope by April to get back to reading fiction and interviewing (indie) authors… now I must go back to my chanson de geste. But you know what? This reading wasn’t totally off topic.  Walter Map apparently speaks of vampires (it’s medieval Latin, and I can’t read it) and I discovered an adventure of Gauvain who saves a damsel prisoner of a “demon” who keeps her in a crypt and comes out at night… sounds like a vampire to me! 😀

Names and other research

Directly connected the the Happiness Is… I’m going to ramble my historical research. I’ve pulled out my old notes again, and I’m still looking for new stuff, to refine my searches. Hence I discovered that the beginning wasn’t quite right and changed the siege of Fougères to the burning of that same castle – still a motte and timber when Henry II destroyed – and found out also an excellent site of medieval genealogies.

But I mostly found new chronicles and in one there was the story of the 1173/1174 revolt against Henry II where Radulfus de Fulgeriis (Raoul de Fougères, my protagonist’s father) had some part and two of his sons are mentioned. Uh-oh. I hadn’t considered those names. So I went looking for his genealogy tree and found the real name of his wife and of his 5 children (I added two, my character and his younger sister – they’re not recorded in charters, so what? I’m a novelist, not an historian! ;-)). Cool. BUT. I had a problem. With names. I’m not going to use the Latin version because they used it only on official records, but which one should I use? French spelling or English spelling?

Some names are identical (Robert, Richard, Simon), some similar (Philip/Philippe), some completely different (Gautier/Walter, Guillaume/William)… so how do I write them? I decided French, Norman and Breton have the French spelling, Anglo-Norman and the English Kings (who are Normans, but well…) the English spelling. So the Plantagenets and William Marshal can still be recognizable to English readers. Supposedly they were merged by now, one century after the Norman conquest, and most families had lands on both sides of the channel, but Anglo-Norman were bilingual, while Normans spoke only French.

Chateau de Vincennes - a Norman castle

I’m also putting back in stuff I had cut out of the screenplay version for “movie timing”, so I’m going through all my notes trying to find interesting bits to add. I had to change most names of my knight’s family, but as one of his brothers disappears from the charters, I’ve come up with some back story which includes the aforementioned rebellion, Henry the Young King and tournaments. It will be told as conversation/flashback, as he wasn’t present (he was in Normandy, training to be a knight, at the time of the facts), but it’s still another bit of information on life at the time. That chronicle said Raoul de Fougères, dispossessed by the king, hid in the forest… Robin Hood anyone? 😉 Of course it’s Brocéliande, and not Sherwood forest, but he’s closer to Merlin than Robin ever will be, after all! 😀

And I still have to read the Chrétien de Troyes “novels”… but the Chanson de Gestes are for another post! 😉

p.s. today for some obscure reason WordPress doesn’t show my blogroll… which means I will be late this week on visiting all your blogs! My apologies… I WILL come, though, as soon as the list appears again on my sidebar! .-D

The return of the crusader

Here’s how it all started. Doing my research on the Middle Ages, I found this statue and the short story behind it.


Le retour du Croisé - Hugues de Vaudémont, parti en 1147, retrouve son épouse (XIIsiècle) Nancy, Musée Lorrain


Translation of caption: Return of the Crusader – Hugues de Vaudémont, who left in the year 1147, reunites with his wife. She waited for him faithfully for 14 or 16 years… That’s the Second Crusade (1145–1149), and I’m following the third (1189–1192), but you get the point!


close-up of Return of the Crusader


So I started with a crusader – although at the time they didn’t call themselves “crusaders”, but they spoke of  “taking the cross”. At first I thought to put Robin Hood in the story, except Robin Hood is a legendary figure invented much later and there’s no evidence of an historical person who could become the legendary outlaw in the 12th century.

Thus I went back to the idea of knights, tournaments, chivalry and courtly love. I’ve seen what is left of Brocéliande forest back in 1999, so my knight comes from Little Brittany, his best friend from Normandy, his wife is Anglo-Norman living near Lincoln. Historical characters they meet are William Marshall, Richard Lionheart and Philippe Auguste, John Lackland, Saladin and a few “minor” names found in chronicles of the time (too many to list them all).

I look forward to check my notes and add more specific research in some areas I might have overlooked when writing the screenplay. I read that when pitching historical novels you should point out what in the novel would appeal to readers in the 21st century, as good historical fiction shows us what binds us together as human beings from different historical periods. So here are the reasons for this novel:

  • 12th century crusades are the equivalent of 21st century struggle between Christianity and Islam
  • 12th century chivalry is totally lacking in the 21st century, but maybe reminding us that it existed might help us to believe again in honor and faith
  • hatred for “other” and ignorance of  “other” were present then and are still quite present today, as is the clash of civilizations.

Hence I believe contemporary readers can learn something from those men and women and events of the past.

I pitched it on an agent’s blog as “conflict between Christianity and Islam” and she looks forward to reading it! So stay tuned for more. As soon as I finish the Books of the Immortals, I’ll dive into this brilliant new adventure! 😀

historical research frenzy

Apparently historical novels are doing well again, even according to agents – at least on Books&such they mention them and why write them today.

Having made up my mind, I’m sort of in research frenzy again. Looking through old notes, trying to prepare a bibliography so far and even finding new topics to look at. Some things weren’t necessary in a screenplay, because they were the production designer/costume designer’s business, but in a novel, they’re MY business! 😉

Also I’m thinking of approaching and interviewing reenactors, because I own a sword replica (just like Elspeth Cooper), but I’ve never used it (I’ve been told it would break in a real duel, it’s not made for use, only for display), so I have no idea of which muscles are involved in battle. Heck, I don’t even know what muscles get sore after a horse ride! 😉

But this is going to be fun. I chose the 12th century because that’s what Sir Walter Scott tackled and he was not an historian and gave us some preconcieved notions of the middle ages that I will try to bring down. I also read another novel from 1901 “Richard Yea and Nay” which was fun to read, but historically inaccurate. Heck, I’m the one who got mad at Ridley Scott (or better, his screenwriter) for screwing history in Kingdom of Heaven! 😉 I had just studied that part and seeing it “Hollywoodized” drove me nuts. I think I wrote the screenplay to counterbalance that movie. But then I’m not Ridley Scott, so I don’t have the backup to have it made. Hence let’s write the novel instead! 😀

so I’ll put those CDs back in the CD player and listen to old troubadour’s songs while I do more research, imagining it’s Richard’s voice singing “Ja nuls om pres non dira sa razon“. Of course it will still be fiction (albeit with historical characters interacting with mine), but I’ll try to take most inspiration from those medieval chronicles so easy to find on the internet now – God bless free e-books of out-of-copyright texts!

I guess it’s easier to do research if you already know the story, like Prue – or myself now. When I started researching, I had no idea of what I was looking for. Now I can focus on some aspects I might have skimmed upon when writing the screenplay. I know where my characters are and whom they interact with at every moment, so I can really focus on other aspects such as a more rich prose than the one necessary to write a screenplay!

Of the castles, only one really exists, the others are invented (or you could say they didn’t get to us as they were destroyed, but maybe the ruins can be found buried in Yorkshire and Normandy! ;-)). For the names, I tried to be accurate. I’ll try to read some more chanson de geste while I’m at it, squeezing it among the TBR books…

But I must remember at some point research must end, and I must start the actual writing! Like Eeleenlee says, it’s easy to get lost in research! 🙂 Happy writing!

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