News

Tring Tiles: more book research (Middle Ages)

There's a bit of mystery about how these tiles ended up in a curiosity shop in Tring, U.K.
 After all, they date from about 1330!

They portray a series of scenes from -- supposedly -- the life of Jesus, but they aren't just the same old New Testament tales. They are a medieval take on biblical stories and are particularly interesting because they portray the everyday life of the 14th century England rather than the Palestine over a thousand years earlier. They can be seen in the British Museum in London.

The above tile supposedly shows Jesus playing by the river making pools. When a bully destroys one, he falls dead, only to be resurrected by the young Jesus, apparently achieving this miracle by giving him a kick, after being admonished by his mother. (Or touching him lightly with his foot. Take your pick.) The first English comic strip?

RESEARCH: LINENFOLD WOOD MOULDING

 When in the U.K. on the recent trip, visiting castles and manor houses formed part of my research. Today I used a tiny part of that research in the book I'm writing -- Book 3 of The Forsaken Lands.

I just wrote this:
Flattening herself against the solid oak of the linenfold panels, Sorrel stared at the King.

I'd never come across "linenfold" panels until I visited The Vyne Estate, a National Trust property in Hampshire, and I was fascinated. 

 



Along this gallery, once walked Queen Katherine of Aragon and King Henry VIII. Still later he came back, this time with Anne Boleyn on his arm...
 I got shivers just walking down this long gallery, thinking of the feet that had trodden those floors, the eyes that had feasted on those panels, the men and woman who had lived and walked here.

Not to mention the long-forgotten artisans who created these lovely wooden panels.

EVERY NEWLY PUBLISHED AUTHOR SHOULD READ THIS

Every time an author freaks out about poor or unfavourable reviews of their book(s), and then comments publicly about the review and the reviewer, it blows up into a huge internet kerfuffle among the literary/reviewing/writing community. Every. Single. Time. 

The latest such author versus book blogger event is possibly more egregious than usual, and I'm not going to link to it. There has been enough said already, and I don't have anything to add.

Usually the end result of this kind of blow-up is that the author has to back down, either apologising, or simply learning to shut up.

And that is the way it should be. Yep, unless there is some kind of deliberate, proven vendetta going on which is demonstrably having a deleterious outcome, the author concerned should ignore a bad review.

Why? 


Firstly,  
because we authors write books to be read, and we have no say whatsoever about how it will be enjoyed -- or hated. If any author thinks they can write a book everyone will enjoy, they're off their rocker, or incredibly narcissistic. If you are going to be published, get used to the idea that not everybody will think your work has merit.

Secondly, 
remember this: EVERY SINGLE REVIEW YOU READ is a valid one. Yes, even the one that says your book sucks and you write like a sloth on valium. Yes, even the one where the reviewer hates it because you wrote a thriller (true, and it even said so on the cover) when they expected a romance. Or maybe they expected a thriller and got a romance. Every review is valid because that's what that particular reviewer thought/felt/believed when they read the book. It's their opinion and they are not only entitled to that opinion, but they are entitled to make it public. It is valid for them, pertaining to that particular book of yours. If it bothers you, go read a five star review to make you feel better, or never read another review of your own works, ever again.

Thirdly,  
as a continuance of that last sentence, I'm going to show you why pounding your computer keys into broken plastic bits over a one star review (or even many one star reviews) is ridiculous. The following extracts are all from reader reviews of one of my published books (and many thanks to every single one of those reviewers. I love you for reading it, and I'm sorry not all of you liked it.) Remember, these comments are all about the SAME book. Each comment is by a different reviewer, and I don't think any of them are known to me.
  • Buying the next one immediately. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long time.
  • This book reads more like a rough hewn, overlong indie than a professional, polished work. 
  • I loved this book. It's not short but it gripped me so much that I read it in less than a day. My only gripe was having to wait for the next book.  
  •  My one major major gripe with this book is all the filler.
  • While the plot and story line draw you in, you become attached to the characters, so attached that you cry when something goes wrong, laugh when something funny happens, and rejoice when there is a great victory. You just have to know what is going to happen next in this book.
  • The characters left me absolutely indifferent.
  • The characters are so detailed and alive, the background descriptions vivid! 
  • The characters were incredibly unlikeable, I could not root for any of them.
  • Glenda Larke has ticked all the boxes for me; she writes well, has a good story and plot, likeable and original characters.
And so on. I could fill several blog posts with similar contrasting snippets from reviews.

Fourthly, 
we authors should be grateful to reviewers. They are readers, and we write for readers. They tell others about our books. They advertise us. Sometimes even their bad reviews will say enough to convince a reader that they will actually like the book. 

Fifthly,  
we can learn from reviews, if that is what we want to do. When I started writing, there was no internet. If a reader wanted to let an author know what they thought of a book, they had to sit down and write a letter to the publisher and eventually it would get to the author. Or, they had to be a professional reviewer for a magazine or newspaper. So mostly a writer's only real idea of whether a book was well-liked or otherwise were the sales figures. Worse, they had very little chance of finding out WHY. There was a huge barrier between reader and writer, especially from the author's point of view, and it was hard to see on the other side of that divide.

Nowadays by contrast, reviews -- whether they are from Amazon, Goodreads or book blogs -- are an accessible insight into how our work is received, and I treasure that. Yes, I read the bad reviews. Sometimes I think a reader has misread the book and I shrug and move on; more often I learn from what they say, taking it on board, using the criticism to make my writing better. 

So, 
if you are a book blogger, whatever your forum, I love you. Keep it up. 
If you are an author and find a bad review, either learn something, or just be thankful someone is reading your work. Either way, DO NOT COMMENT.


INSPIRED BY A SALT CELLAR

 While I was in the U.K. on my recent trip, 
one of the things I did was to visit museums, 
castles, art galleries and stately homes. 

There was a reason beyond just enjoyment: 
background research for my novels. 
Today this photo I took of a salt cellar 
became the inspiration for a section 
in the chapter I am presently writing 
of Book 3 of The Forsaken Lands.

(Yep, you read that right: salt cellar)
Called the Burghley Nef, it was crafted in France 
in the early part of the 16th century. 

It's now in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. 
Made from a nautilus shell and gilded silver,
 it's more than 40 cm high. 
Yep, rather large for a salt cellar! 

The salt was put in a dish on the deck, 
and the whole thing placed in front of 
an honoured guest... 
 

LISTEN TO ME…

Well, I am back home. Minus luggage for a while, but it did turn up. And I brought home a cold. That was NOT a good exchange, airline people!

I have since been trying to do my taxes and write a book -- those two things don't mix very well, I find. When I'm doing one, I worry about not doing the other...
Anyway, until I get back to posting pretty pictures and such, here's something to listen to:



 Cheryl Morgan is the interviewer, Ujima Radio is based in Bristol, UK. The first person interviewed is also a writer, Amy C. Fitzjohn, speaking about going the self-published route and how to raise profile.

Then me, chatting about my life, writing and such. Enjoy!

FANTASYCON 2014: MY SCHEDULE



 The British Fantasy Convention this year is in York 
(Friday 5th-Sunday 7th September), 
and I will be there -- my first time at this particular convention.


I will be a panellist on two panels (see below)
and also giving a 20 minute reading from either
 The Lascar's Dagger or The Dagger's Path.

And I'd like some help here. 
If you have an opinion on these panel topics, 
email me, or comment here or on facebook or twitter... 

For example:
What fantasy/SF books have you read
(apart from The Isles of Glory!) 
where there was a platonic friendship between women
forming a central part of the book (or fantasy TV series/film)?

Why do you think (if indeed you do) that such platonic friendship 
between women in fantasy fiction is rarer than male ones?

Is it necessary to dispose of the parents of young protagonists? 
Can you think of successful examples where parents were a full participant of the young hero/heroine's adventures?


Saturday 12.00 Noon  
Dead Parents, Burned Homesteads and Wicked Stepmothers
Is it essential to write out the parents before youthful characters can head out on adventures? Are adult figures always unhelpful or malign? Should writers search for ways to keep parents around — or do fantasies of a world without parents fulfil a real need?
Marc Gascoigne (m), Edward Cox, Emma Newman, Sophia McDougall, Glenda Larke, Laura Lam

Saturday 3.00pm 
She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Sister
Kirk and Spock, Luke and Han, Frodo and Sam – epic friendships between men are common in fantasy, but friendships between women, or platonic relationships between men and women that stay that way – are much thinner on the ground. The panellists discuss why it matters and examine some of the rare exceptions.
Roz Kaveney (m), Mhairi Simpson, Glenda Larke, Charlaine Harris

THE FORSAKEN LANDS: BOOK TWO

Here's the cover!
 
That's Ardhi, by the way...
 

Due out January 2015!
 
THEY FOLLOW WHERE THE DAGGER LEADS

When sailors came to Ardhi’s island home, they plundered not only its riches, but its magic too. Now Ardhi must retrieve what was stolen, but there are ruthless men after this power, men who will do anything to possess it . . .
Sorcerers, lascars, pirates and thieves collide in this thrilling sequel to Glenda Larke’s epic fantasy adventure, THE LASCAR’S DAGGER.

 ‘Outstanding all the way to the last word.’ – Elizabeth Moon on The Lascar’s Dagger

Loncon 3: The Worldcon in London

 I will be attending the upcoming World SF Convention in London in August. This will be my 4th Worldcon -- the first was in Glasgow in 2005. I also went to the one in Melbourne and another in Denver.

I've received my tentative programming, but please be aware that things may change between now and then, and attendees should always check on the day. If there are changes I know about in the meantime, I will adjust here.

I have been scheduled as a panellist on the following 5 panels:

1. Recentering the World Storm: 
John Clute's "Fantastika" and the World

Thursday 16:30 - 18:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)

In recent years John Clute has argued that fantastika is "the planetary form of story", originating after 1750, "the point when Western Civilization begins to understand that we do not inhabit a world but a planet." But where does this leave fantastika written in non-Western, non-Anglophone traditions? Is Clute's formulation adequate as an understanding of Western fantastika, or is a more explicit accounting of (for example) the relationship between the colonial imagination and the fantastic imagination required? Can readers and critics from multiple traditions identify common ground for the discussion of truly "planetary" fantastika, and what would that ground look like?

Geoff Ryman, John Clute, Glenda Larke, JY Yang, Gili Bar-Hillel

This should be a fabulous panel. John Clute is one of the convention's guests, a Renaissance man if ever there was one. Geoff Ryman is the author of some brilliant novels, including "Air" (a favourite of mine); he's a multiple award winner. Gili Bar-Hillel is a very well-known Hebrew translator, a multi-talented professor. J.Y. Yang lives in Singapore and writes SF; she is a Clarion survivor.

2. I Like My Secondary World Fantasy a Little on the Techy Side

Friday 10:00 - 11:00, Capital Suite 4 (ExCeL)

Some secondary world fantasies, like Brandon Sanderson's "Alloy of Law", Francis Knight's "Fade to Black", and Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Shadows of the Apt", have ventured into industrialisation. To what extent can the kinds of narratives common in secondary world and epic fantasies find a home in these kinds of settings? Is technological development less "believable" in a world with magic?

Django Wexler, Robert Jackson Bennett, Floris M. Kleijne, Glenda Larke, Adrian Tchaikovsky

I actually first read the topic as "on the tetchy side", and envisaged a quite different slant to the discussion ... Belligerent characters? Bellicose nations? No, wait: tech-y. Right.

3. SF/F Across Borders

Sunday 16:30 - 18:00, Capital Suite 9 (ExCeL)

Genre writers such as Vandana Singh, Geoff Ryman, Tricia Sullivan, and Zen Cho are already travellers to other worlds. Many authors write as resident outsiders, and want to write their new homes as well as their old. How does the experience of moving between countries affect the writing of fiction? How can or should writers respond to the varying power dynamics of race, language and culture involved in such migrations? And how should readers approach the stories that result?

Stephanie Saulter, Jesús Cañadas, Glenda Larke, Yen Ooi, Suzanne van Rooyen

4. All the Traps of Earth

Monday 10:00 - 11:00, Capital Suite 8 (ExCeL)

Thinking about the long-term existence of humanity requires us to examine the relationship between our culture(s) and the physical world we inhabit. How have SF and fantasy explored this relationship -- not just in terms of technology and stewardship, but by looking at the grain of daily life and work? What is the place of the "natural" world in SF and fantasy, and how is it linked to, or contrasted with, the human world?

Sam Scheiner, Anne Charnock, Glenda Larke, Amy Thomson, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

5. Amateurs talk tactics; professionals talk logistics

Monday 15:00 - 16:30, Capital Suite 5 (ExCeL)

How are wars and other conflicts won? It doesn't matter how good your troops and generals are if they don't get the resources they need, so the logistics of warfare, and the economics that drive them, play a far larger role than usually appears in fiction. What is the real story from history and how can science fiction get it right?

Phil Dyson, Nigel Furlong, Glenda Larke, Juliet E McKenna

_____________________________

 I am also scheduled for a Kaffeeklatch:
That's a discussion over coffee where readers can book a place at the table to meet writers they'd like to grill chat with about their work, etc.

Friday 13:00 - 14:00, London Suite 5 (ExCeL)

Glenda Larke, James Patrick Kelly

This sounds as though there are two of us sharing. I've never had a Kaffeeklatsch with another writer before, so this should be interesting, especially as Jim Kelly is more a SF writer. He is a Nebula and a Hugo winner, so I will be in distinguished company!

Anyway, if any of you are at Loncon 3, do feel free to hunt me down...

My programme for SUPANOVA PERTH


 THIS WEEKEND!!

Apart from lunch between 1pm and 2pm, I'll be available for chatting, signing, whatever (and as I will be a lot less in demand than the mega stars, there will really be time to chat!!)

And, as well:

Saturday 3.30-4.20pm in the Supanova Seminar Room
Panel Name: Mr or Mrs Smith?
Panelists: Keri Arthur, Glenda Larke, Bruce McCabe and David Henley

Sunday 3.10-4pm in the Supanova Seminar Room
Panel name: Blood on your hands
Panelists: Jo Spurrier, Lara Morgan, Robin Hobb, Scott Baker, Colin Taber

Panel descriptions:
  • Mr or Mrs Smith?: Gender in fantasy & Science Fiction – Was Peter Jackson correct to add a female character to the film adaption of ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’? What causes an author to create a female or male protagonist and does the publishing industry, society or even the fans influence this decision? Come and hear our guest authors take on this contentious topic.
  • ·Blood on your hands: The art of killing, maiming and torturing your favourite characters – Come and see how our guest authors deal with making their characters’ lives a living hell, while still keeping the reader on the edge of their seats and wanting more.