Monthly Archives: December 2012

This time last year…


It’s quarter to ten, I’ve had a few glasses of white wine, I said I would do another blog post before the year was out, so here it is. Let’s visit my former self in 2011, pondering what she would aim for in 2012:

Complete editing on the novel and submit to agents

This turned into a rewrite, and I have one scene left to go. If I push it I might squeeze it in before the chimes of midnight. The submitting will have to wait though.

Submit and become published in an anthology

I made the grade. A very proud moment when my first short story got published in Tales of the Nun and Dragon. Watch this space for another coming out soon from Fox Spirit Publishing.

Enter Rapier 2012, Swordfish and Fightcamp tournaments.

I did all three – 5 competitions in all – and I had tremendous fun. Goal for 2013 will be to move a bit higher up the rankings, that’s going to involve a lot of focus and training, as well as dealing with my mental attitude to fights I think – I just don’t get worked up enough.

Achieve Laureando status

I passed. In my fencing school this is the ‘intermediate’ level of competence, there’s only one more to go after that and it’s spadaccino, swords(wo)man. That’ll be a way off from 2013 I think.

Get fitter

This went on the back-burner after a bout of illness, and I found it very hard to get back to my former level of fitness. I really need to develop some good habits and will try to be a lot more active in 2013. I’ve taken up the million steps challenge (not man brave enough to take on the million words) with a few other writer buddies, so that’s something. I’ve still got my fencing which is something I actively enjoy, perhaps some sword-based fitness training is in order.

Write every single day

This too, was less than daily. I’ve spent a lot of time editing which I guess doesn’t count but I will start another good habit: always have a short story in the pot perhaps, just to keep me scribbling.

Read more books, especially non-fiction

Yes, and no. I read around eighteen books this year, that’s a lot for me. I read slowly and always have more than one on the go (ten at the last count). Most of them were SFF but I did manage to get some non-fiction and other genres in as well. It’s really hard when there’s so many great books out there though, especially ones in a series (GRRM, Abercrombie, Aaronovitch, Cooper, Lyle). In 2013 I will try and alternate.

Help other people to achieve their goals, whether it’s writing, swordfighting or anything else that I can assist with.

This I can definitely polish my halo over. In April I was introduced to the founders of Esfinges, a group for women in HEMA, and have kind of become the non-official gopher for Europe. I’ve been doing my utmost to get women talking about swordplay, and to get them involved and interested in this growing martial art. So far it’s been very successful and we have over two hundred and fifty members world wide. Writing wise I’ve been critting for friends and giving advice where I can. This is a difficult one, as I’m sure a lot of authors suffer feelings of inadequacy to some degree, especially un/newly published ones, and we don’t want to feel that we’re giving advice that we’re not qualified to distribute. So I just try and give as honest an opinion as I can, and hope it helps.

In 2013 I will be trying to get some events organised for Esfinges and meet people face-to-face that want to take up HEMA. It should be exciting. Writing wise I will just continue to be as available as I can, help friends out, as I have been helped countless times.

Put our regular content

*Looks awkward, studies shoes*

Well, not exactly regular, but as I said this time last year I don’t want to put in irrelevant waffle. I do only post when it is worth doing so. Given that a lot of the time I am editing and drafting, that I have little advice to give as I’ve not been in this game long enough and I’m finding out for myself, I think that’s forgiveable.

For 2013 I should have more writing-related news to post about, as well as all the usual swordfighting shenanigans. A happy new year to you all, I hope it brings you what you need and deserve most.

My Top Reads of 2012

Inspired by the recently agented Jennifer Williams AKA Senny Dreadful, I thought I would dust off the blog and post about the top five books that lit my fire this year. I have the obligatory year in review post coming up too so yes you could say my posts are like buses.

Trinity Rising by Elspeth Cooper

This is the last book I listened to on Audible. It’s book two of a fantasy secondary-world quadrilogy called The Wild Hunt. The basic premise of the world in which the tales are set is that there is a ‘hidden’ world beyond a veil, a barrier between them, and that this veil is under threat. Should it break bad things will happen.

I read book one, Songs of the Earth, on my Kindle and I found it to be a solid, well written, fantasy tale but I just didn’t get enormously excited about the plot or the characters. Amazingly for a mid-series novel, where we normally just get a load of filling before the big showdown at the end, Trinity Rising instead got me enormously excited, about everything. We follow some great characters, from all sides of the good-evil divide, the writing is as elegant as in the first book, but the themes are a lot darker and grown up. There is the elf healer Tanith from the first book, along with Gair from book one, sulking over his lost love. Both of them are thrown into different environments so we get to see different sides of them. We also meet Savin, the antagonist who was vaguely distant in book one, and see what an evil and twisted git he really is. Interestingly the plot is non-linear and doesn’t follow immediately on from the last page of Songs, we see particular events again from other points of view, which certainly makes them much more interesting. The best bit for me was a new character, Teia (apologies for the spelling, I didn’t see it written), similar to Gair in that she has  hidden talents for magic, a chosen one, but far more interesting to me for the cultural setting and the situation in which she finds herself – pregnant and ostracised from her tribe. She is a young tribeswoman of the plainsfolk – a kind of Sami/Viking/Mongol people – being oppressed on every side, at one point even her family are forced to reject her.

Really enjoyed this, was left in tears at one point. Definitely looking forward to the rest of the series.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

I’d heard lots of good things about this, and lots of bad, but bad in a good way such as the protagonist is a horrible bastard who does terrible things. That sounded perfect to me and I was not disappointed. It’s the first in a series called The Broken Empire, all told in the first person by the titular Prince Jorg. We meet him in a very unprincely situation with a gang of cutthroat mercenaries who he, at only fifteen years of age, manages to bring to heel as together they sack a small town. We soon learn that it’s all part of a greater plan, and in flashback we discover why Jorg is who he is, what he has suffered and lost, and what he plans to do – become king, and eventually emperor. A typical ambition realised and told in a very original way. Every character is fleshed out, every setting is distinct, but the best thing has to be the snappy dialogue and Jorg himself. I look forward to following his exploits.

Red Country by Joe Abercombie

As everyone probably knows, Joe Abercombie likes to take fantasy and dress it up in unusual ways. Red Country is no different and it views fantasy through the filter of a western. Not a genre that has seen a lot of popularity in recent years, but Abercombie makes it work with huge success. No high noons, shootouts or  sheriffs, this is still the First Law setting and is about exploring unchartered territory, tracking loved ones across pitiless lands and settling old scores . . . and knives, you can never have too many of those.

Several familiar faces rear their heads, but most are new, wittily and sharply drawn as always without ever falling into caricature. The protagonist is a feisty young woman called Shy South who sets off with her stepfather to retrieve her kidnapped younger brother and sister. Do things work out okay in the end? That’s up to the reader to decide I suppose, but things are never what  they seem in these stories, which is why I love them.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

I had been looking forward to this for a while as it takes us out of the quasi-medieval Europe of typical fantasy and takes us to quasi-medieval Arabia. Like me, Saladin is an unabashed D&D geek and I was keen to see the monsters and settings that would be brought to life from Arabian folklore. It did not disappoint, the ghuls were truly terrifying, the magic internally logical and yet still magical, and best of all the protagonist was an overweight old man. Not your standard fare. In fact three of the main characters are well past their physical peak and the youngsters are often the sullen voice of reason. But it all works, splendidly so. Another one to follow up in 2013.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I have to say, after this monster of a tome, book two in the Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man’s Fear, had a lot to live up to, and it fell short of the mark for me. That doesn’t stop me admiring this vast debut of Rothfuss – it is another twist on fantasy delivery – fantasy as an autobiography.

The protagonist Kvothe is a bard and magic user, depicted in layer upon layer upon layer of story, so that we can’t see where the truth ends and the legend begins. We start in the present, through the eyes of Chronicler, the man who is transcribing the story, then we enter the tale itself as Kvothe tells it to him in reminiscence. Parts are missed, embellished, switched back to, interrupted. Other characters step in with their version of events. We follow him from a blissful childhood, discover everything about all the people around him, to the streets where he scratched out an existence as a beggar, and eventually to the University where his prodigious talents earned him great fame and  also countless troubles. His search goes on and on, pulling the narrative as he hunts some strange creatures that destroyed his loved ones, but this is essentially a device to keep up momentum. It’s a vast world, with hundreds of little side alleys to explore. Rothfuss is a master storyteller, and I hope that book three returns to this form.