Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Search for a Spaceship

Space Shuttle
I am slowly working through the edit of Intruders, and starting to put the word out that there is going to be a new science fiction novel.

Blakes 7 - Liberator
One of the most important things a novel needs is a cover. People really do judge a book by its cover, especially these days with ebooks. As you can see from the image in the blog header, what I have now is pretty rubbish. It's only temporary until I get a proper one.

Star Trek - Enterprise
I'm looking for someone to design my cover and not charge me a fortune. A friend offered, but he only knows how to manipulate images, he can't produce them. The main element I need is my ship, the Kestrel. I have a clear idea of the shape of it, so I went looking on the internet the other evening.

Babylon 5
I hoped I would be able to find something that would fit my idea, and then arrange to buy the image to use on my cover. I also hoped I would be able to afford it! I searched for an hour and a half, and didn't find anything.

Firefly - Serenity
Initially I was disappointed, but then I looked at the situation from a different point of view: no one else has a ship like mine. I'm quite pleased about that. It's kind of nice to be original.

But now I need an artist. Any suggestions?

UPDATE: Artist finally found, who did an amazing job - wait til you see the cover for Intruders!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Alien Races: Zoans

Kestrel is part of the Fast-Response fleet of PACT, the Planetary Alliance for Co-operation and Trade. The Alliance is between the seven races who have warp drive (fast-than-light travel). One of the races is human. I have discussed the Altairians, the Anak, the Kohathi and the Ochrans and Casparians so far. Let me introduce the last people.

Planet: Zoa

Zoans are stocky, somewhat reptilian, with a sibilant voice. They have a tribal culture, and both Balitoth (the crewman) and Hazeroth (the representative in Intruders) easily adapt to accept the Kestrel crew as their temporary tribe.

They are never known to raise their voices or lose their calm disposition, but they can erupt in sudden violence without showing any emotion. Hazeroth says, “My people are... unsentimental.” Their reptilian faces do not show emotions well, but those who mix with humans have learned to compensate with gestures or words.

Zoans don’t have marriage. Couples mate whenever and with whoever they want to, and then the children are raised by the whole community, particularly by the older women. Balitoth has several children, but does not keep in touch with them as they belong to the tribe of their mothers. He pays more attention to the children of the females in his tribe, as their children are his family.

The tribe is dominated by the men, but great respect is given to women. They are not second-class citizens but recognised to have different roles, more nurturing and organising. Businesses are run by tribal families, with the men making major decisions but the women running the practical side.

They live in communal groups. There is rivalry between tribes, but not violent, just loyalty to ones own.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Fascinating Facts: Henry III

After the chaotic reign of King John, his sudden death left his son, Henry III, on the throne at the age of only 9!

Fascinating Facts: Henry III [1216-1272]

  • When his father John died, Henry was nine years old, and large swathes of the richest and most populous parts of England were in French hands.
  • His guardians William Marshal and Hubert de Burgh became regents and settled things with the barons so the country could be united against the French.
  • Within a year of his accession, stability and order had been restored.
  • The regents governed well, but he was a weak and immature king his whole life.
  • He had a high appreciation of art and patronised fine craftsmen.
  • Unlike his predecessors, he had a happy marriage and nine children. He appears to have been faithful – also a rarity.
  • In 1250 he vowed to go on crusade, but never went.
  • He was defeated at the battle of Lewes by Simon de Montford, and his eldest son Edward handed over as a hostage.
  • Edward escaped, raised an army, and defeated de Montford at the battle of Evesham.
  • From then on, Henry left the rule of the kingdom to Edward, and was king in name only.
  • In his retirement, Henry built Westmister Abbey, where the remains of Edward the Confessor were enshrined.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Alien Races: Ochrans and Casparans

Kestrel is part of the Fast-Response fleet of PACT, the Planetary Alliance for Co-operation and Trade. The Alliance is between the seven races who have warp drive (fast-than-light travel). One of the races is human. I have discussed the Altairians, the Anak and the Kohathi so far. Let me introduce two of the others.

Planets: Ochra and Caspar

Ochrans and Casparans look like humans with green skins, but otherwise look alike. Except Ochrans are on average 2 metres tall and Casparans are about one and a half metres tall. There is no love lost between the two races, even though their worlds are both members of PACT.

The Ochrans conquered Caspar and oppressed the Casparans, treating them as servants, and consider them less intelligent. Only 70 years ago the Casparans fought successfully for their independence, negotiated by PACT. The resentment and the contempt is still there.

Ochran and Casparian skin goes pink in an oxygen-rich atmosphere. In Intruders Desmar Barok wears a mask around his neck which he breathes from periodically to keep his skin pure. Merari Two, the Ochran, doesn't bother, and his skin gradually turns pink.

Ochrans are courteous and helpful, but quite formal in the way they behave. Merari's designation as Two indicates he is the second son in the family. He is the Ochran representative in Intruders.

Barok, the Casparan representative, is the son of the Prime Minister and seems to have nothing to offer but his own opinion - on everything. His sole brief is to ensure the Caspar don't get left out of anything or short changed. Because of their heritage of oppression, they are fanatic about rights, and never being under the control of anyone else again.

Since independence, the Casparans are not free of the Ochrans, because they control Casparan trade routes. There is a nebula which blocks other routes, so they have to fly through Ochran space.

The Caspar store their dead in underground vaults, they do not agree with cremation, they think it dishonours the dead. This is a vital clue in a later book in the series.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Fascinating Facts: King John

King John is a man I know a lot about, since he is the protagonist in my history book Broken Reed: The Lord of Gower and King John. I'm studying him again right now for my new book The Magna Carta Story.

Fascinating Facts: John [1199-1216]
  • He was a stocky, red-haired man, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, who put on weight as he aged.
  • He was his father Henry II's favourite.
  • As the youngest son, he was trained under Ranulf de Glanville to be a royal governor.
  • King Henry knighted John himself at Windsor Castle.
  • When Richard died, John claimed Normandy at Rouen, seized the royal treasury, and had himself crowned at Westminster, all in short order.
  • When John's rival Arthur was captured, John starved to death his followers.
  • John later murdered Arthur and threw his body in the Seine, weighted with a stone.
  • In June 1204 Normandy was lost to France, the last of the French lands of the Angevin empire.
  • He fell out with the Pope, who put England under an interdict – the church was effectively on strike.
  • When Matilda de Braose revealed John's greatest secret, he starved her and her son to death. Her husband William died a beggar in France.
  • A prophet said John's reign would end on Ascension Day 1213. On that day, when John was still on the throne, he had a party and then executed him. But, the day before, John had bowed in homage to the Pope and given him his kingdom!
  • John agreed to Magna Carta, but he wrote to the Pope, who annulled it a few weeks later.
  • Civil war broke out and London opened it's gates to Prince Louis of France and offered him the throne.
  • John really did lose his crown jewels in the Wash! The Wash is a five mile wide river estuary, and the sea came in and swallowed his baggage.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Intruders Edit News

As you can see from the header and to the right, I am writing a science fiction series called Flight of the Kestrel. The first novel, Intruders, is being professionally edited. Why did I think my novel would be any different when it came to the first professional edit?

We all love our novels like babies, and think they can do no wrong. I have read so many stories about the volume of changes needed after the first edit, but I honestly thought mine was almost ready. I have been working on it for about ten years, after all, and then I completely rewrote it. Since then I've edited several times.

I just received my book file back from my editor, and had quite a shock. The manuscript is full of detailed corrections and suggestions, which I expected. I didn't expect what came in the overall critique. I'm not going to tell you what it said, I'm not that brave. Suffice it to say, I have a lot of work to do.

Now I've had time to think about it, I can see the problems highlighted are right. As an author you are too close to the work to see it objectively. My main problem is I have a habit of writing shorthand - even in my nonfiction pieces. I outline a point and expect the reader to understand what I mean, to fill in the gaps. Perhaps because I have lived with the story so long, I know what's happening in every scene, how it looks, what the characters are feeling. But I don't actually say!

The good news is that my editor liked the plot, most of the characters and the dialogue. So I'm encouraged to go on. Now I know what's wrong with it I'm excited to get to work on it. But it won't be coming out quite as quickly as I thought! BUT, when it does come out, it's going to be SO much better!

The lesson is clear: you can't edit your own work. Although it's expensive, a professional editor is worth every penny.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Fascinating Facts: Richard I

Most people have heard of Richard the Lionheart, but here are some things you might not know:

Fascinating Facts: Richard I [1189-1199]

  • Richard was Eleanor of Aquitaine's favourite son and she made sure he was well educated.
  • He was steeped in the highminded values of chivalry and grew up believing that the most important goal in a man's life was to achieve valorous deeds.
  • He excelled at all military skills.
  • He allied himself with King LouisVII of France, who knighted him.
  • He governed his mother's duchy of Aquitaine, and then his father gave it to his brother John.
  • He was engaged from childhood to Alice, Louis VII's daughter, who came to live at his father Henry's court. When she grew up, Henry took her as his mistress and she bore him a son.
  • Although he did have mistresses, Richard preferred male lovers. He had an intense relationship with Philip Augustus, the young King of France.
  • He was preparing to go on crusade when his father died and he became king.
  • He showed his visionary, idealistic side when he suggested that Christians and Muslims share Jerusalem instead of fighting over it, and offered his sister in marriage to Saladin's brother Saphadin.
  • When he was captured on the way home from crusade, his English subject pledged one quarter of their annual incomes to pay the ransom.
  • He spent only a few months of his ten-year reign in England and never learned English.