Category Archives: Characters

Love, lies and subplots

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Relationships are fascinating to explore in stories. Particularly how people repeatedly sabotage their own relationships, and not limited to romantic connections either. This article in Psychology Today is typical of how subconscious behaviour affects how we communicate with each other, and the response we get in return from our partners. Most of the time, we don’t realise we are doing it and this inevitably results in us repeating the same patterns, including the lies we tell ourselves.

Although my books are predominantly fantasy, a key feature is a love story subplot. Gereinte doesn’t reach this point until book two, when he falls hard and fast for the most extraordinary love match. And in book three, Allan and Demaris are faced with hard choices that affect the decisions they make.

Nerys has made all these mistakes in her first encounter with love, when she falls for a lowly lad, who turns out to be part of a plot to discredit and destroy her family in the Prince of Carentan. When she arrives in Tordre, she is raw and emotional, not yet healed and this in part affects how her relationship with the Blue King unfolds.

Observation is the first thing that raises the red flags – what is going on at her wedding? She notices unusual behaviour but dismisses it, despite her discomfort and hopes that things will change; she has a duty to her family and to her country. Shocked by what she has discovered, Nerys is in denial for the first part of the story. When she realises things are not going to change any time soon, she gets angry and starts to bargain with her husband in an attempt to get him to allow her to return home and see her family. A period of depression leads her to a crisis point and a number of unexpected events force her to a point of no return. No spoilers here if you want to read what happens to Nerys, but I will say that she learns from her experience and eventually finds love in the most unexpected way.

Read Nerys’ story here.

New book available for Pre-order NOW

Something is amiss in the Kingdom of Tordre. On her wedding night, Princess Nerys of Carentan discovers a sinister secret hiding in the depths of Castle Ryemont; a king with two faces, who is not the husband she was expecting. One day on a journey back home, Nerys is kidnapped and finds herself in the midst of a revolution to overthrow the monarchy.

Nerys: ‘Gods, did it take an army to capture one stray queen?’

‘An intriguing fantasy where there are more twists than a castle maze. The plight of the teenage queen tugged this way and that by unseen forces within castle walls and a faceless king makes for an exhilarating page-turning read.’ @geoffnelder, author of Sci-Fi novels, The ARIA trilogy, and The Flying Crooked series of novellas.

Grab your pre-order copy today at the launch price of £1.99 / $2.99

Discounted e-books and a new release!

To celebrate a new release of book 3 in the Carentan Series, I am offering a ONE WEEK ONLY discount on books 1&2 – available only on the Double Dragon website here for £1.33 ($1.80).

Book 1 follows the adventures of Geriente Andolin, as he grows from a boy prince into a king-to-be. Book 2 sees two new characters arrive in the Western Isles who develop to aid Gereinte in keeping his beloved Carentan from falling into a bloody battle for control of the Western Isles. Stories of love, loss and coming-of-age reverberate throughout.

If you’ve read the first two books, I’m delighted to announce that book 3 – The Prince and the Assassin – has now been re-released with a new cover designed by my talented nephew, Adam Laval. You may still see previous versions of the book cover at various retail outlets, but I think you’ll agree, this one is a huge improvement!

Finally… a sneaky heads up that there is a book 4 in progress – currently with beta readers and if you want to know more, sign up here for my email updates and I will give you priority notice of publication dates. As a special gift, you will also receive a free fantasy e-book.

What are your favourite epic fantasy shows?

Okay, so I’ll admit up front to being a die-hard GoT fan (I’m not going to talk about the ending to the TV show, as it just makes me cross). What a perfect way to spend a bank holiday weekend, tucked up with a great book or re-watching an epic series like Games of Thrones. Actually, that might take several weekends and a few fights over the TV remote! You know already that I love The Witcher and can’t wait for the next instalment. I was pleasantly surprised by Shadow and Bone, the new Netflix adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series – mainly because I’ve tried a few times to read the books but found it difficult to get hooked. However, the style of writing and the world the author has created lends itself perfectly for the screen, so it is definitely one to look out for. If you’re lost for some ideas this weekend, check out this article in Paste Magazine:

https://www.pastemagazine.com/tv/shadow-and-bone/best-fantasy-series-streaming/

Or… you could just go and sit outside in the sunshine with a good book – I’m reading The Thirteenth House, by Sharon Shinn. What are you reading?

Happy May Day!

The Witcher: season 2

Are you a fan of high/medieval fantasy? If you didn’t catch season 1 of The Witcher, now is your chance, as season 2 is on its way. Personally, I am not bothered by the wait – the first season was so beautifully rich and evocative, if they can bring the same production values to season 2, it is worth the wait. No spoilers here in this article, just vague promises and a few tweets on the progress of filming. I’ll take that, though and look forward to seeing the trailers soon… If you don’t have Netflix or prefer reading, The Witcher is adapted from the fantasy novel series by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. The protagonist, Geralt of Rivia (played by Henry Cavill), is an assassin trained to hunt and kill monsters. War hangs over a world populated by humans, dwarves, gnomes and elves (as well as monsters!), in which Geralt is bound to a prophesy to protect a child who has the power to change the world. Watch the first season or jump into the books – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

One Fine Morning – Story Development

Story DevelopmentLast Friday, I attended a fascinating workshop facilitated by Caitriona Fitzsimons, the creative practitioner behind One Fine Morning. The workshop was designed to explore creativity through techniques traditionally used to teach drama that have been adapted for writing. The technique used is called ‘given circumstances’, which is particularly useful for character-driven stories, as it has been adapted from the Russian theatre practitioner, Konstantin Stanislavski, who is well known for his unique system of training actors, often referred to an ‘method acting’. Stanislavski believed that in order to convincingly portray a character, an actor should prepare by immersing themselves in the situation of the person, fictional or otherwise. As a fiction writer, it is also necessary to profile your characters and their circumstances in order to be able to walk in their shoes. During the process of writing, you become the character, and as such your descriptions are richer and more convincing.

The Story Development Workshop enabled its participants to map the process of character development across a story arc from beginning to end, using global themes, thematic statements and ‘given circumstances’ for the characters in the story. It was an immersive process which involved collaboration and interaction between participants that resulted in an agreed final story, told by the participants to each other as a group.

If you are struggling with an idea and are not sure how to structure or develop your story, this workshop will give you some practical tools in order to move your creative thinking forward. I particularly liked the interactive nature of the session, as writing can be quite an isolating endeavour. This approach allows you to explore ideas in a safe environment and often, one comment or observation from another participant can open up your mind to all sorts of possibilities. It also gives you the opportunity to road test the credibility of an idea from a global story perspective, and see how each individual story element fits in to the whole structure. An inspiring experience and highly recommended!

Check out One Fine Morning for future workshop dates.

Carentan Series Update

Map of Western Isles

Map of the Western Isles

It has been a while since my last book, The King of Carentan, was published and I realise I have been quiet – various reasons for that; the length of time it takes to write a book, the length of time between writing a book and it being fit for public consumption and… new job notwithstanding… multiple other personal distractions. So I owe my readers a long overdue update on progress.

Yes – you heard right, I am eight months into a new job which comes with its own challenges and priorities. But despite that, I have been busy on the writing front (check out my urban fantasy stories featuring Dryads in London).

Book Three of the Carentan Series is due for release in June 2018 and will resolve some unanswered questions from Book One (no spoilers). If you are now scratching your head and wondering what or whom I am referring to, I have provided links below for you re-read the books and refresh your memory. Or if you are new to the series, the first two books will provide you with a good backdrop to Book Three – although not necessary to enjoy the book in its own right. Indeed, I have been most careful to ensure that each book is a stand-alone story – not dependent on reading the rest of the series.

For you die-hard fans and those who badger me at opportune moments (I am not complaining as it keeps me on my toes!) – you may be pleased to hear that I am getting stuck in to another book in the Carentan Series. Completely independent of the first three books, but explores another character’s story in more detail. I’m saying no more.

So, on that note, I leave you with some links where you can buy the books in the format of your choosing to update or if new to the series prepare for the release of the next instalment in 2018; The Prince and The Assassin.

The Prince of Carentan
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Apple

The King of Carentan
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Apple

Comments, complaints, compliments and reviews (good, bad or indifferent), are always welcome and much appreciated.

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Walking The Dog

Chocolate LabradorWalking my chocolate Labrador has long been an excuse for me to see this corner of London from a different perspective. I have an ostensible reason for loitering around patches of grass area and parks, where you might otherwise be considered a bit weird. A pretext for watching the world go by and observing the strange behaviour of others; human or otherwise. Some random observations:

Helping Hands is a second hand shop, which has been there, trading throughout the recession when other high street shops had long since disappeared. It never seems busy and yet, the stock keeps changing and it remains in business. Perhaps it is a smokescreen for a secret surveillance organisation, or it is really being run by drugs barons who only pretend to sell furniture.

Across the road, a shop called Magic Carpets makes me think of Arabian adventures at sea. I wonder if I bought a carpet from there whether it might take me on a fantastical journey.

The local area has been redesigned with new buildings that look more like prison blocks than residential homes. Was that a deliberate reflection on the social capital of the residential majority?

I often walk my dog in the local park and it has long since been a destination to take my boys (when they were young) on a Sunday morning stroll. For many years I had no idea of the significance of its history. But when the area was being re-developed, a poster history of Steve Marriot, singer/songwriter for the Small Faces, who grew up there was displayed. Its nickname, Itchycoo Park, is said to be attributed to stinging nettles that grew there.

We have streets, blocks and a community centre named after our 16-year-old 1st world war hero, who was posthumously, bestowed the Victoria Cross, for staying at his post in the navy when all others had left. He was the third youngest recipient of the VC.

I have an invisible message stamped upon my forehead. I am convinced that I am marked, as every bizarre person seems to want to talk to me as though I am the only person left on Earth who will hear their story. Over the years, I have collected quite a motley crew, who have made debut appearances in my various fiction. I now carry a public warning; talk to me at your peril, lest you be immortalised in hyperbole.

Every day for a number of weeks, there has been a red fox following my dog and me. It has a weird kind of ‘I see you here and know what you are’ kind of attitude. And it is not afraid of human presence. Perhaps it is a werefox.

The banks of the River Roding are rife with rats the size of guinea pigs and the skies are filled with crows; sinister, satin, black – screeching to one another as though we are all enemies of the state.

Why we love a coming-of-age story

http://www.carentan.co.ukComing-of-age is a genre that typically has a young protagonist who goes on a journey to find meaning to their life. We follow their moral and psychological growth from youth to adulthood with the expectation that they will face significant barriers along the way. They may make mistakes and face life or death circumstances, but the key factor is that the character learns from their experience and changes as a result.

The genre of Fantasy Fiction loves a coming-of-age story. The story arc takes our young protagonist on a journey that often starts with loss or alienation; think Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games. A common theme is the discovery of magical or special powers; Name of the Wind, A Wizard of Earthsea, and part of the quest is to discover how to use this special gift for good. This opens up the genre to that age-old battle between good and evil, often introducing a dark antagonist; Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad.

My all time favourite is The Thief by Megan Whelan Turner and its sequel The Queen of Attolia, which strictly speaking, you might not class as a coming-of-age story. However, it has all the elements that make it so in my mind; a young protagonist who faces a journey which forces him to make moral and psychological choices, love, loss – both physical and emotional – and circumstances that demand him to take responsibility not only for himself but for his family and his nation. Add to that a dash of supernatural powers, a few good fight scenes and I am sold.

We can all identify with the loss of innocence; right from the moment we discover that it is really our parents who are putting presents under the Christmas tree. As adults, our whole lives are coloured by perspectives that do not limit the imagination of the young. Somehow, we long to rid ourselves of the shackles of rational thought and return once again to that age of innocence, when life was so much simpler. So the coming-of-age story allows us to relive a life less complicated and find the answers to our own adult conundrums through youthful eyes. What’s not to love about that?

So what can I bring to bear from personal experience on this well documented genre? Well, I’m still waiting to come of age, so in the meantime I’ll just carry on writing stories.

Burnt Oak

P1020674You might have guessed by now, my curious reader, that I am ever so slightly obsessed by the London Underground and in particular, stops on the Northern Line. This is a little bit of a cheat and a play on words, as was my previous story, Angel. Another departure from my usual SF/Fantasy, but one that explores family, loss and the hidden fire inside us all. One of the scenes in Burnt Oak is taken from a real story told to me second hand and another is lifted from my past and re-told in all its fiery glory. I’m not going to tell you which scenes they are. After all, where would be the fun in that?

This one’s for my brothers; Happy Birthday, Martin – I miss you. x

Many thanks to the Writers’ Hub, an interactive web portal from the Writing Programme at Birkbeck, University of London, for publishing my story.

 

 

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