Monday, 31 March 2014

A is for Archery

So, it's the A-Z. My goal in these posts is to look at the bits of medieval history that are useful to writers of fantasy. I’m going to begin with archery. Descriptions of medieval battles have a couple of oddities to them. The numbers in armies (another A word for you) were usually massively over inflated. At the same time, the impression given was that knights did most of the work, being effectively invulnerable.

Archers were written out, perhaps because the bow wasn’t seen as a weapon for a noble man. Yet they were effective. Agincourt didn’t come out of nowhere. Curiously, fantasy writers also have problems with bows. Book after book has shown the big, muscly types at the front avoiding their use. Bows are for elves. Or girls, because it is another issue with fantasy fiction that women are often stuck at the back in fights, shooting stuff while the men get on with swinging swords. Even in the Hunger Games, what weapon do we see the main character using? It says something about both our attitudes to female characters and our attitudes towards archery. If you’re writing fantasy, it’s probably worth looking hard at both.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


I'm re-reading Tricia Sullivan's Someone To Watch Over Me at the moment, and it's interesting how reading a book again after a while away from it can totally change the way you see it. Obviously the book hasn't changed, so that leaves me. But then, I think it's been probably something like ten years since I last read this one.

The first time I read it, I wasn't really in the right space for it. I didn't get the more literary SF elements, or didn't see them for what they were, so reading it now is at least partly an exploration of the way time can unlock different approaches to reading. Mostly though, it's just an enjoyment of one of the best SF books I've read.

Thursday, 13 March 2014


Okay, all kinds of things, all at once today. I've been away from the blog for a bit because my interest in it tends to come and go, and because I've been busy.

How busy? Well, I'm very nearly at the end of the biggest piece of writing I've ever done. Not by much. I've written 90,000 word things before, but this breaks into three figures, which feels like some kind of milestone. Particularly when it's non-fiction. Making stuff up and writing it down is easy. Writing real stuff down and getting it right is harder. This one is longer (though hopefully less dry) than my PhD was.

I've also started writing a list of things for the April A-Z, trying to stick with my theme of medieval stuff for writers. The trick there seems to be finding things that are interesting and medieval enough, while still being useful to other people.

I've got a couple of pieces of work in the pipeline at the moment, one of which is out to publishers, the other I'm writing. Although I'm writing bits of several things at the moment, trying to find what works for me. I typically find that I need to go at a particular piece of work repeatedly to try to get the shape of the story clear enough to work.

Oh, and I've worked out how to do freebies on Amazon now, so anyone who wants to pick up a copy of The Glass, but who doesn't really do Smashwords can get the kindle edition for free from Saturday for five days.

Incidentally, if you've read any of my novels and you liked them, it would be doing me a big favour if you took a moment to review them, whether over at Goodreads, on Amazon, or on your blog. I'm sure you've got a lot of authors asking the same, but it really does help other readers to see what books are like.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Glass Goes Free

If you're looking for the IWSG post, it's immediately below this. This is just a quick announcement that for the next few days (until I get horrified by the prospect of it, essentially), my novel The Glass is going to be free on Smashwords. I would do it on Amazon, but I haven't worked out how. Anyway, here's the link if you want to pick up a copy:

I hope you enjoy it.

IWSG March

This month, I thought I'd share something that I find encouraging rather than an insecurity. That thought is simply that I'm doing what I always wanted to do, and I'd guess that it's the same for a lot of writers. It's not a race to some far off finishing line of achieving something, but an on going situation where you have.

What do I mean? It's simple. When they asked me what I wanted to do as a child, I wanted to be a writer. I didn't say that, because I didn't think it was conceivable that anyone could just decide to be one, or that they could make a living if they did. I decided to be a solicitor instead, or a civil servant, or a lecturer.

But the truth was that I wanted to be a writer. Notice the simplicity of that desire. Children want to be writers. It's the adults who talk about major successes, bestsellers, and the rest. I've never had a bestseller in my own name. I've written them for others, but I suspect that whatever it is that makes things bestsellers, I don't have that in me. My novels tend too much towards the funny and the weird for that anyway.

But the thing is, I'm making a living through my ghost writing. I'm a writer, and I'm in a position to go on being a writer. I could be upset that I'm not Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, but those are more recent dreams. The child who just wanted to make things up for a living would be perfectly happy, and that's enough.