Category Archives: Blog

To Fantasy or not to Fantasy?

I have started thinking again about The Thief & The Seer, which has a possible working title of “As Old As My Tongue” or possibly eyes. I haven’t decided yet.

Anyway. I’ve got the basis for a plot, which involves politics and a Quest and a Thief (duh) and stealing a Thing. I wanted a Baddy, something huge and overwhelming, and so I temporarily put in Dragons…and the whole thing seems to currently be set in the traditional Fantasy Cliché world. So I was trying to think of a twist that would make it more interesting.

Well, I can’t think of one. And so I was chatting to a friend over the weekend about it, trying to work out what to do.

The plot could move to anywhere; it’s two people and a third and a theft and politics. That could go sci-fi, or medieval, or ancient, or futuristic. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the setting is.

And that, as my friend pointed out, is the point. Why bother? If those settings aren’t going to add anything, then why not write it in the world I’m comfortable in, using dragons?

Ok, sure, it’s clichéd. But actually the plot is going to have a few anti-cliche twists, and it’s the relationship between the characters that is the interesting thing. The world around it could change, and once the story is written, I could tweak. I could edit. It could move if I suddenly came up with a different setting.

So…fantasy might be the way to go. It’ll be traditional Western Fantasy, sure, but…hey, I’ll have fun.

On to the next challenge!

So, having pinged No Man’s Land out to agents, I’ve subbed to 20 and have only had one request for a full. So, at this point I’m shelving the project. And that’s fine.

Seriously, it actually is.

No Man’s Land is a weird book; I knew it when I wrote it. It’s not hard to describe, but I can’t really do it in a sentence – or at least I can (“apocalyptic urban fantasy”) but that really doesn’t describe any of what goes on, and what in my opinion makes the book awesome. I knew it might not be quite right for the publishing world at this stage, so this is just a step in the plan. I’ve got a couple of options now: I could keep an eye out for publishers with open doors; try other agents; try small presses; self-publish; serialise on the blog or Wattpad; or shelve the project completely. None of those are bad options, so it’s just a case of deciding what I want to do.

My friend Adrian commented that it took Brandon Sanderson 6 books to get accepted by his agent, and his plan was to get rejected on 6 books and then hit the bestseller. Adrian himself screwed up and got picked up on his first one (because he is super talented!), but I think I’m of the same mindset.

No Man’s Land is a good book, and it’ll stay in my “done” pile. I’ll work on the next one, and the next – I’ve already got ideas for two, with another four in a pile! So while this one isn’t quite right, it doesn’t mean the next one won’t be – I just have to write it.

On that note, I’m plotting. I started plotting out a necromancy-mafia-grimdark thing, but I’ve now gotten sidetracked onto something that’s started as a medieval-fantasy-politics (ugh, that sounds like GoT…it’s not, really, although maybe as that’s popular I should take advantage) and I’m throwing around ideas of how to make that one work. I need some enemies is the problem…

So, while NML may be currently shelved: onwards to the next story!

Diversity and Interesting Characters

So, I’m trying to decide who to have as a central character for a book I’m currently planning. I need two central characters who will play off against each other, and I’m wondering what’s going to work best.
In all of this, I want diversity. I’m not doing it because I’ve got some sort of agenda, or need to be part of some in-crowd that’s shaking up the status quo. (Well, I do want to do that, but not because I want to be hip). Let’s face it, straight white males are boring. Garion’s journey in the Belgariad is interesting because of the external challenges he faces, and the growing he does – but it’s what he finds out and what he faces that makes the journey. He doesn’t have a lot of internal struggles, or angst because of who he is.
The fantasy world has been embracing its own kind of diversity recently, despite the screams of straight white males – think Mark Lawrence’s Jorg or GRRM’s Joffrey. They’re both HORRIBLE, and that internal character is what makes them interesting. And THAT, to me, is what diversity is about. It’s writing someone who is different, and who reacts differently. Who faces different struggles. I seem to be hearing the same screams of “if it’s not a straight white male I’m not reading it” – so there’s a problem with imagining loving someone who happens to have male bits when you also have male bits, but you’re quite happy living in the head of an angsty, murderous, paranoid ruler for a book? If you can imagine dragons and wizards, humans should be the easy bit!
Anyway, I’m now trying to work out what I want to do with my next characters. While I do feel like I have got a checklist, again, it’s not an agenda thing. It’s because it’s interesting, and it stretches me as a writer. I want a challenge. I want a world that isn’t the same one I’ve read a hundred times. I’ve been polling ideas with myself: what else do people not see in fantasy worlds that we have a lot of in ours? What needs showing? What would be interesting to read?
Gay couple who you don’t expect to be? Anxiety/extrovert?  Loquacious liar and true believer? Asexual and extravagent lover? Old – either 40+ or 60+. Obese? Anorexic or body-conscious? Social anxiety or agrophobia? (is that fear of going outside)? Severely disabled? A carer? Emotional or physical abuse – either as the abused, or the abuser! PTSD?  Even when I occasionally divert back to one-man-one-woman, it’s always with a twist. There might be a romance, sure…but I’m pondering a matriarchal society, just to mix up the power balance. I’m pondering underdogs and hidden secrets. I’m pondering personalities and clashes, and how the they’re-falling-in-love could be subverted.
The point of fantasy is to look at what people do when faced with a situation; that may involve a Dark Lord, or dragons, or a Quest…or may involve politics in a gritty kingdom, thieves and murderers, or magic gone wrong. It might be a twist on our world, or somewhere completely different. But it’s always people. It’s always about what the characters do when those situations hit them.
And that’s why I want to write diversity – because I can’t write the same character again and again. I want to be challenged. I want to read (and write) a different story to the one I read (and wrote) last time. I want a new world to explore, a new face to stand next to – and I want to find new and different ways of turning everything upside-down.
I want to make you love someone so different from yourself, and then break your heart.
That’s fantasy.

Tangents and….Tangerines?

I’ve been going off on tangents today. If you had men wearing kilts, then it would be the socks that would be scandalous…or (whisper it) even a lack of them! Everyone knows that bare legs can inflame the sensibilities of even the most upstanding woman, and the Arran patterns are  just ridiculous, even if they do…ahem…emphasise the curve and length of said leg. Maybe waistcoats, too. I suspect they’d be stupendously fashionable.

Wars, in a different universe, but with similar effects on society…and soldiers who are so scarred they can’t talk about what’s happened. A war of mystery and secrets and magic.

Golems and necromancers, statues and robots. It’s strange how my mind works.

I am going grimdark, too. If you’re using a lifespan for something, surely a young life is better? Killing children for the greater good is the best kind of moral dilemma.

I may have three books in a series that was originally one and then became two.  Apparently I like giving myself more work.

There’s also a midnight-inspired title for a book that only has a start, and no other plot… “As old as my tongue”. I think. “Older than my teeth” could be a second one. I have no idea what universe this is going to end up in, but I like the titles.

And tangerines…just because. It makes me think of a Mediterranean village, orange-baked walls and dusty streets under the beating sun.