Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Dawn Herald - Chapter I

Am craning my head over the metaphorical parapet and putting the first chapter of my children's book, The Dawn Herald, online for your delectation. All comments/suggestions would be most appreciated. And of course, I'll acknowledge you once it's published!


There is a world just over the horizon which nestles in the topmost branches of a great tree.
If you pluck a hair from your head and look through it in bright sunlight, you might be able to catch a glimpse of this world. But you must be swift, for after you have seen it once it will not reappear again for seven years.
Woven into the gnarled roots of the great tree that cradles this world in its boughs is another world, all fire and ice; and beneath that world there is another tree. A strange shadow-world hovers around roots that grow deep into the foundations of the universe itself.
The world at the top of the trees is called the Third World. After twelve thousand years of argumentation and two serious wars, the philosophers could not come up with a more poetic name for the bowl-shaped world with its twin suns and great Sky Goddess whose nebulous body stretches from horizon to horizon.
On the edge of the Third World’s largest sea there is an angel-shaped city named Ellyra. Many years ago, in a time when dragons and two-headed men and talking Tygers roamed the land, it was home to a very unusual princess.
She was supposed to be a boy.
Her name was Isolde. She was the last of the Dîn dynasty which had ruled the Kingdom of Gerena for six thousand years; the last descendant of Belial, a fallen angel and Alnair, a fallen star. Alnair and Belial had thirteen children, all boys, who went out and conquered the lands of the Third World. Some kings were like their star-mother and were wise and just. Others were like their beautiful but wicked father and used dark magic to slay their enemies. All their descendents, only one in every generation, were male. Their fathers arranged marriages for them with beautiful girls whose families were happy to sell their daughters in exchange for wealth and power. There had never been a female descendant of the fallen angel and the fallen star. Until Isolde.
It was customary, while awaiting the birth of the Heir, for the King to divert his attention from his wife’s agonies by playing a game of chess with live pieces. At the moment of Isolde’s birth King Halliam dispatched his opponent’s screaming bishop to the afterlife. He turned, smiling widely, as an angel drifted across the giant chessboard and hovered before him. In the brilliant sunlight it looked grey and sombre. Its face was downcast and its wings drooped.
‘Your Majesty,’ it begun. King Halliam spread his arms wide.
‘Let me guess. My wife has given me… a boy!’ he announced. A ripple of laughter and a smatter of light applause ran through the crowd surrounding the monarch. The angel was silent. ‘A boy,’ King Halliam prompted. The angel looked at the ground. After a very, very long pause it shook its head. King Halliam stared at it incredulously. His eyes began to bulge and his face turned bright red with fury. ‘A GIRL!!!” he bellowed at the top of his lungs and evaporated the entire chessboard on the spot.
In a dreadful panic the King’s Sorcerors sent out envoys to every court in the Third World, from fire-bright Oriel on the Dawn Sea to dark and tricksy Trimmaeus in the Dragonspine Mountains, to find a star-born consort for the future queen. They slunk back to the angel-shaped city of Ellyra empty handed. All the little princelings had already been promised in marriage. The Lady Claire, lying exhausted in her ivory bed, watched helplessly as King Halliam raged back and forth.
‘Our royal line will come to an end!’ he stormed, his handsome face red with fury. ‘Six thousand years lost! All because you had to bring a wretched girl into the world! You are a disgrace!’
‘I am sorry,’ murmured the Lady Claire, rocking her newborn child. King Halliam snarled.
‘Had she been a boy she could have married anyone and their bloodline would have been cancelled out. But no. You had to spawn a wretched girl, a girl who will never be allowed to wed a commoner. Why in the Goddess’s name did I ever marry you? Damn you!’ he bellowed, great veins standing out on his neck, and bit his knuckle hard enough to draw blood.
‘Perhaps you could… change the law. If you allow her to marry a commoner she—’
‘The blood of stars does not pass on through the female line!’ bellowed Halliam. He slammed his fist on an ebony coffer, sending a tray of goblets flying. With a great effort he reined in his temper. ‘After Belial died in the First Great War,’ he said through clenched teeth, ‘Alnair wed again. Another fallen angel, even fairer than Belial. Alnair brought two girls into the world. They wed but never bore an heir. They were barren.’
‘Why would that be?’ asked the Lady Claire, tucking a fold of blanket carefully around the sleeping Isolde’s ears. King Halliam glared.
‘I do not know or care. Keep your theophysical questions for the Court Philosopher and tell me what is to be done! If we do not find a boy to wed your brat the entire kingdom will fall!’ he hissed.
‘We do not need to give up hope. A star-blooded boy may yet be born. I hear that Queen Mittuan of Gandolfia is increasing.’
‘Getting fat, more like,’ King Halliam sneered.
‘Uangnaq of the Seal Fishers—’
‘I will not merge my kingdom with the Ice-Realms!’ shouted King Halliam.
The Lady Claire winced. ‘Does not the law change,’ she pursued valiantly, though her lips were white with pain and fatigue, ‘if she is Chosen by the Sky Goddess to be her Dawn Herald? May not she then wed a commoner and continue the line?’
King Halliam snorted. ‘Chosen? She? I should like to see a child of yours Chosen to be the most powerful person on the Third World!’ he spat and slammed out of the room. The Lady Claire looked thoughtfully at the closed door. The elderly nurse who had been fussing over the infant’s crib bustled over at once, clucking with disapproval.
‘Give the little lamb to me now, there’s the poppet,’ she said, holding her hands out for the baby. The Lady Claire looked at her beseechingly.
‘Just one minute more, Nursie. After tonight I will have such little time alone with her,’ she coaxed. The nurse tutted.
‘Just one more minute, then. And mind it’s not a moment longer!’ she warned. ‘I’m going to make you a nice milky drink and when I come back, you’d better be ready for a good long sleep.’
‘Oh, I could sleep for a thousand years.’ The Lady Claire stretched lazily, watching the nurse bustle out of the room. ‘Perhaps you will be Dawn Herald one day,’ she whispered, kissing the little crescent birthmark on the baby’s ivory-fair brow. The baby sighed in her sleep, small hands flexing. ‘Perhaps you will. Indeed, why should you not? Any girl who is completely pure of heart may be Chosen.’ She smiled as the child awoke and looked up at her. ‘Behold your world, my little one,’ she murmured and held the baby up to the window. Outside little cascades of snow drifted from the darkening sky. The Lady Claire pointed to the Sky Goddess, just visible through the clouds, slumbering in her rainbow Arc of matter beneath her cape of stars. ‘There she is,’ she said to the tiny child. ‘There is your destiny.’ Her eyelids fluttered and she yawned. ‘You must make her love you so much that she wants you and only you to serve her.’ As she yawned again so hard that tears ran from her eyes a great snow goose swooped from the sky and hovered outside the window. A basket was securely tied to its back. The Princess Isolde, safe in her mother’s arms, awoke and reached out a small hand to the goose which tapped on the window with its beak, looking at the child with a dark, intelligent eye.
‘That’s quite enough of that,’ said the nurse, whisking into the room and drawing the curtains shut with a clatter. ‘Time for mother and baby to rest.’
‘Oh, Nursie, can’t I just… All right.’ The Lady Claire relinquished her daughter and snuggled down on the pillows. Outside in the dark the goose tapped on the window again. She frowned. ‘What’s that noise?’
‘Must be some nasty branches. Nothing for you to worry your pretty head about.’ The nurse bustled around damping down the fire and snuffing out candles, casting the Lady Claire a wary look every now and then from her sharp old eyes.
‘That’s funny… there aren’t any trees outside my window…’ sighed the Lady Claire as she fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. The nurse waited for a moment and tiptoed from the room, closing the door tightly behind her. She hurried along the corridor to a round chamber with a pointed glass roof that glittered in the light of the falling snow. There, waiting for her in a shaft of radiance, was an angel.
‘That wretched bird gave me quite a turn, tapping at the window like that. Has it gone?’
‘Yes. The snow goose is even now flying towards the Sea of Forgetfulness on its journey to the Witchlands. It pains me,’ said the angel who had come into being when Isolde was born, ‘to send a soul away from its mother.’ The nurse tutted.
‘One of them had to go. You know the law. The Queen can only have a single heir. If there was twins the King’d know my poor lady played him false and then where would we be? He’d send my poor lady to have her liver pecked out by the Carrion Crows on Traitor’s Rock. She doesn’t deserve to suffer any more, oh no: being married to him’s enough of a burden for anyone. The other baby’ll be safe in the Witchlands. She’ll have a good and happy life. It’s better this way.’
‘I am guardian to both the souls,’ said the angel.
‘Then you’re going to have to be in two places at once, aren’t you?’
‘How is it possible that the Lady Claire does not know she has a second child?’
The nurse looked a little ashamed. ‘When I felt there was two babies I had to put her into a deep sleep. She never knew a thing, bless her. I was afraid that this might happen, I did try to warn her—’ She looked into the distance, her face pensive, and gave herself a little shake. ‘When all’s said and done, least said, soonest mended and you can’t help who you love. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to see to Baby. You should be down in the Infinite Library. Life-books don’t write themselves, and you don’t want to be leaving out any of Baby’s story, do you?’ She glared at the angel and bustled off, forgetting the little lost girl at once. All that mattered now was the Princess Isolde.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Day In The Life Of...

Me. Since a very young age I've rather craved being the Luminary Of Note featured on the back page of the Sunday Times Magazine. All said luminaries, however, seem to have very organised lives; mine borders on the chaotic. After waking up at the unbearable and ungodly hour of 06.20 to the morning Market Report, without which The Chap cannot function (I can; and am planning to sabotage him with the Shipping Forecast. I find "Northeasterly 4 or 5, backing northerly 5 to 7 later" oddly soothing), I stagger in the general direction of the coffee pot and quaff a pint or two. After performing various Domestic Tasks (though sadly not in the bell-shaped skirts and heels considered indispensable by the 1950s Housewife: I suspect The Chap may approve of such a get-up) I get on with the day job and try not to let my characters intrude to too great an extent. Writing's a little like a form of schizophrenia; many different, insistent voices clamouring for attention.
At the moment I have not one, not two, but THREE books on the go. AND a play. The sequel to the Dawn Herald, the Shield Bearer, is laid out beyootifully in my imagination; just need to find the time to write it. It opens with A Quest. At the end of the Dawn Herald my bolshy heroine, Isolde, has had her memory stolen by the Faerie King, who intends to sell it off to the highest bidder. Isolde's loyal band of warriors have a month to find her before the Lady Lilith, queen of the Old Ones and a Jolly Bad Sort, obliterates the Third World and all the men and creatures on it. The Shield Bearer is Nat, who was one of few friends Isolde possessed during her turbulent youth (as a young Dawn Herald she was considered highly dangerous, as Heralds Shine brightly when confronted with evil and inadvertantly incinerate everyone and -thing in their immediate vicinity: not the best way to make friends and influence people). Isolde always had the sneaking suspicion that Nat might be vaguely personable if he were only taller, broader in the shoulder, tidier, had better hair, and didn't cut her down to size on every available opportunity.
By the time Isolde's memory is stolen, Nat has been trained in the arts of warfare and diplomacy, has filled out considerably in the shoulder region and has a excellent leg for a hunting boot. A natural leader of men, he is absolutely fearless. Some ten thousand words into The Shield Bearer, he and the warriors (including the Pirate King, an irrepressible rogue, Arielle, daughter of the Witch-Queen of Ira-Doon and Halliam, Isolde's father and deposed King of Gerena) have travelled into the Lands of Fire (which bear an uncanny resemblance to Istanbul, a place I know well, only considerably hotter) to seek out the lost Princess. They discover that she is being held captive by the Monster of the Depths, once the fairest bard in the whole of the Dawn Territories, now corrupt and hell-bent on destruction, and are about to have a jolly good battle with the Monster and his stone goblin minions. Unfortunately once they vanquish the Monster and invade his lair they find that the bird has flown... I'm really looking forward to writing the next part of the quest, in which Nat is imprisoned in Isolde's twin sister's imagination (she's gone doolally-tap or, as Terry Pratchett would have it, completely Bursar) and ages ten years overnight.
Obviously at some point Isolde will have to be rescued and her memory restored. But writing a Quest is jolly good fun. Reminds me of all the Arthurian tales I read in my youth.
Alas; must put creativity on one side. The washing up awaits....but at least I have the evening to look forward to, during which The Chap and I will probably read, argue gently about anything and everything, and sip contemplatively at a glass of fizz or three. Wonderful stuff.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Bores, Beowulf and the Like

I wrote a precis to Chameleonic not so long ago. My attempt at a Beowulfian (if that isn't a word, it should be) narrative:

“From the frame three faces stared down at him: man, man, woman sketched in sepia, age spotted. His ancestors, who fleeing from the wintered wastes of Tartary across the turbulent seas fell into the arms of pirates when their slim-stemmed boat, battered by a full-bellied wind drank water and sank into the darkness. They followed the sinking ship down, down into the black maw of the sea-mouth. And in the drowning darkness drifted. Then to the sky they turned swimming blindly up, up breaking through the icy sea-skin into the perilous night. Wrapped in the lace embrace of cresting waves they saw the firefly glint of lofted lanterns above the salt-trails. Arms raised like masts they called out to the light-bearers above the tempest’s roar. The skipper’s shout flew up into the icy air and the turning ship cut a combing arc through the tumbling sea. Two nets dipped deep and brought up man, man, woman from the wave-bowels. Man, man, woman lay on the deck dripping frozen beyond feeling. Pirate-men in silvered furs, eyebrows iced, surrounded them and swaddled them in seal skins. The Captain, black-giant frost-beard, pulled woman to her frozen feet and took her to the wooden ship’s warm heart. Gold boars bristled on his cheekpads: gold lions roared upon his fingers and his shadow was as big as a bear’s. He sat her in a rocking chair and from a flat flagon poured fiery fuel to melt her. At length the ice-white face flushed faintly and the ice-cold lips parted. With the first smile the Captain was lost in a love-web, his heart given to her through pulse-beating fingertips: beat, throb, beat. But her heart was given already to the land gods: not for her blue acres seeded with salt, wind-furrowed. Bowel-broken the crucified Captain left man, man, woman on a sea-arm flung into the Channel-mouth. Before them lay green hills crowned with coronals of wheat. A loveliness of larks soared—”

Which brings me on to bores. Because whatever merit this derivative foray into ancient literature may have, it breaks the boredom threshold of the average reader ten words in. In the spirit of trying to be modest, non-precious etc, I'm trying to keep my prose light. Buoyant. My characters winsome and interesting, rather than riddled by the kinds of Kenneth Williams-esque (if you haven't read his autobiography, approach it with the mental equivalent of cleansing wipes: the man was obsessed with his genitalia, which he managed to zip into his fly on a regular basis and then whinge about) problems we all try to escape by diving into the nearest work of literature. That being said, there are plenty of literary bores. Who has EVER finished The Famished Road? Or the Eye Of The Sun? Or War And Peace for that matter, the kind of brickish tome one takes virtuously on holiday and which subtly metamorphoses into a blockbuster with "Spy" in the title a few hours later?
Am also Trying To Be Good and not start scribbling down YET ANOTHER book whose plot has miraculously sprung up in my imagination. ('Wait until you get an advance,' noted The Chap austerely: all very well and good for HIM to say, but when inspiration strikes you can't really pen it behind a metaphorical door to liberate later. Like a hungry child, it needs to be fed and *now*). WWII. Young Russian soldier captured on the Eastern Front and sent to Dachau. Avoids being killed when he is befriended by the crippled wife of a German officer. After liberation, is interrogated as a collaborator back in Moscow. Anyone have a list of good resources whereby I can research what life was like for young Russians in the 30s/40s?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Another Day, Another Rejection...

This one, at least, was pleasant: a 'do-not-take-it-personally-and-your-writing-may-be-really-great-so-don't-think-there's-no-merit-in-it' etc. In fact, it was so pleasant that I can't even descend into nail-biting hair-tugging rage; it would be like slapping a kitten, kicking apart a dollhouse or similar. Nor did my lower lip wibble unbecomingly (I don't "do" crying). Still, there is a certain sense of inevitability when I receive an email from some agency or other. Not that I am in any way defeated by rejection; on the contrary, I adopt a do-or-die attitude (mantra: 'I *will* be a success, I *will*). And, of course, think of JK Rowling, Beatrix Potter and other literary luminaries who were rejected numerous times before anyone took more than a cursory look at their work.
This weekend, am going to get started on my chick lit. froth-book. Debating whether to set it in the Polo or Show Jumping world. A small prize to whomever can come up with a name for my heroine - the more improbable, the better.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Should I Bite The Bullet And...

write a chick lit. novel? Though I've registered my empathic disapproval of such non-literary endeavours, it would enable me to make a few necessary purchases: a manor house, a Steinway Grand, an Aston Martin Vanquish for The Chap, an oxygen tank for hangovers, etcetera. All one *really* needs to pen a frothy bestseller is an improbably-named heroine (Diamante, Taffeta, Chenille) who Works Her Way Up from a caravan park, Borstal or similar and wins the heart of a louche Argentinian polo player. Add diamonds, Pimms, champagne, a couple of arrests, Old Etonians, a lot of shopping, and - voila! It's a knotty dilemma: self respect or a hefty bank balance. It would also provide a little light relief, as writing about the clinically insane is beginning to make me foam at the mouth. Gah! Too many books to write, too little time in which to write them.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Preciousness, Petulance and So On

Humility is something that I am trying, slowly and painstakingly, to learn. It has been pointed out to me (quite forcefully) that when it comes to criticism of my writing, I am anything but humble. And this will be a great obstacle to my getting my books published, because if I can't accept it from The Chap, I'll have a hard time accepting it from those with zero tolerance for the hyper-artistic type. Well. (Deep breath.) I concede that on some points The Chap may well be right. The first of which is that I may, for the first time, actually have to plot a definite narrative trajectory to make my books' structure tight, coherent and engrossing. Difficult when one is accustomed (as I've mentioned before) to scribbling, as quickly as I can, a record of the events unfolding before my mind's eye.
So. At the moment I am charting, fairly painstakingly, a section that will be inserted into the middle of "Chameleonic". My beleaguered middle-class lady, Richenda, has done a bunk with her working-class lover Jack to the Continent. While there, she begins to descend into the madness which always threatens to engulf her, which she has spent a lifetime trying to conceal; blames her lover for all manner of ills both real and imagined, deserts him in the middle of France, and makes for home. On the way, she is picked up by the police for questioning about a murder committed before she did a bunk, the body that she and her lover discovered in the woods during one of their trysts. Terrified that she will be blamed for the murder of the woman attempting to blackmail her over incriminating photographs of Jack and her, Richenda betrays him in order to save her own skin. Yet in doing so, she is wracked with such overwhelming guilt that she loses her mind and is imprisoned behind sanatorium walls. And, in the meantime, her lover, accused of a murder he had not the capability to commit, has lost everything: the future he had planned with her, his past, his friends, his liberty and his livelihood. In the macrocosm of the wider world, the solitude of the village in which they lived has been shattered irrevocably by the elopment and the savage murder. Richenda's husband, Oliver, a cad who cannot bear to be cuckolded, does his best to see that Jack swings for his crime; her niece, Melanie, who has lived with them for years because her silly irresponsible mother is in the habit of decamping with her latest lover, has lost the love and affection of her aunt and all respect for her Uncle Oliver. Gala, crazed with jealousy after seeing Jack and Richenda together, takes to the bottle and shuts herself up in "La Belle Epoque", a virtual recluse; her sweet but weak little nephew, Carson, is obliged to take care of her.
The greatest difficulty in charting such emotional despair is not to descend into it myself, as I *am* my characters for as long as they persist. Must have plenty of Monty Python at the ready.
Thank you to those who have commented: I appreciate your support so very much.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


I'd like to tell you a little about my greatest achievement: a novel entitled "Chameleonic", a three part saga based loosely on The Divine Comedy. I wanted to examine the hypocrisy endemic in the English class system, particularly post-War: all that jovial 'we're in it together' melted away like snow, yet the outward trappings of camaraderie remained. You know: 'good morning, Mrs Lovell. How's Doris? Oh, good morning, Vicar. Yes, the plans for the church fete are going swimmingly.' And so on, whilst beneath the veneer of capability the ordinary middle-class lady, married to a cleanshaven chap who goes off to his office punctually at 8 each morning, returns at 5 in the expectation that slippers shall be warmed and little Bobby behaving himself, is a seething mass of rage, sexual frustration and despair. The ordinary middle-class lady whose husband is more shocked and disgusted not by the fact that she has had an affair, but that she has had an affair with a mere grocer. A woman who has dedicated her life to hiding her fragile mental state, holding on to her sanity by a thread, looking perpetually into the abyss: a state that her neighbours neither know nor care about, because it Just Isn't Done To Pry.
I set "Chameleonic" in a village on the south coast - deliberately leaving it nameless; I wanted to convey more the sense of the time in which my characters lived, rather than place, in order to make it applicable to all England. There's the usual selection of retired Brigadiers and Majors; also a healthy crop of dilettantes, the most outrageous of whom is Byron Stanton. He's married to Gala, a red-headed shrew with whom he has constant stand-up fights (viz. "As she passed by the self-consciously named “La Belle Époque”, Byron and Gala’s tottering cliff top house, the sound of distant shouting came to her ears. She stopped to listen. Above her somewhere a door burst open. ‘Bring me a kipper, anus!’ Byron bellowed.
‘How dare you call me that?’ screamed Gala from her tower room. Melanie could see the violent conflagration that was her hair from the lane below.
‘It means ‘old woman’, you fat ignoramus,’ Byron shouted.") Byron's favourite pastime is to pretend to be someone else: one day a cavalry officer, the next a Maharajah, the next Napoleon. He has a Dressing Up cupboard full of useful items to aid his metamorphoses: monocles for the Country Squire, sagging cardigans for the American Grandpa, togas for Nero, red braces for the Tycoon. He is also deeply unhappy, wandering Dante-like through the dark wood. As is Gala, poor Gala, who goes through life labouring under the impression that she is unloved; their tragic niece, Bella, who knows that if she is not flamboyant and outrageous no-one would take any notice of her, Bella's abandoned pink-eyed trembling son, Carson...
"Chameleonic" is not all doom and gloom, however. There is redemption, humour, unexpected joy and tenderness; the whole gamut of life. Love, too, that escapes the narrow confines of the society which seeks to bind people irrevocably to unquestioned notions of respectability.
"She watched the movement of his intense dark eyes, he felt her gaze and smiled suddenly; looked from one eye to another, lost in the complexity of colours. The clear, near translucent whites flushed a faint rose like the blushing wilderness sky before dawn. He remembered such dawns in France. When the pale landscape took on endless shades of milk-green with the changing light and lavender shadows slid across crimson rock. Remembered the sable fields streaked with gilt ribbons of gleanings, the bowed heads of sleeping sunflowers. And as the gleaming fire eye of the sun opened in the ivory sky and the deep blue of the heavens sank lie a veil towards the horizon, the sunflowers raised their golden faces expectantly. Encircling the landscape of her sight a black wall, perfect and unbroken. The territory within charted by archipelagos of light and deep green sounds, a map that drew the reader inexorably into the heart of her consciousness, the centre of the wheel. He looked upon her soul and found it glorious."
I can't wait to share "Chameleonic" with the world. Also its sequel, "Panopticon", a work in progress; difficult to write because it requires me to live a vast range of emotions through my characters. I average around 300 words a day. But if something's worth doing, it's worth doing well and taking time over. Far better 300 words of excellent prose than 3000 words of chick lit, for example...

Friday, 9 July 2010

Black Dog Days

If you ever fall into the slough of despond that I do on occasion, what I call a 'black dog day' when all I want to do is sit by the sea and watch waves cresting endlessly, writing for children is an excellent pick-me-up. What other pastime allows you to break the laws of physics in a variety of creative ways and see the multiverse in a way usually only achievable by ingesting large quantities of LSD? My first children's novel, The Dawn Herald, is set on a bowl-shaped world cupped in the boughs of a universal tree. It is populated by two-headed men, talking Squirrels, Sky Pirates and their crews of Sea Rats, Hares in scarlet jackets which splutter so abysmally when they speak that one must put up an umbrella or risk being drenched, angels, rulers descended from fallen angels and fallen stars, and my two favourite characters of all: Isolde, princess of Gerena and the protector of the great Sky Goddess, and the Karabu:

"The karabu was one of Isolde’s few friends and her partner in crime. A fiery chariot with the heads of a lion, man, ox and eagle at each corner whose upstretched wings formed a shady canopy, it had borne The Almighty Creator from place to place on a very different world in the days of the prophets. However, it had taken a wrong turning in the desert and fallen through an interdimensional door, landing with a crash in the middle of the Palace’s Bee Garden to the astonishment of the King and Queen at the time. At first wildly popular due to its unique appearance and ability to harmonise with itself in song, it had lately been retired by Orochthiel, head angel of the Infinite Library, on the grounds that it was too old-fashioned. The karabu was not enjoying retirement. It refreshed its sixteen heads frequently from a bucket of wine and hiccupped."

After an act of spectacular perfidy by the Regent of Isolde's kingdom, Gerena, Isolde goes on the run with the karabu and thirteen angels. There are battles galore, creatures of darkness, and unexpected allies found in the shape of Mordial-King, Perfectly Round Monarch and Ruler of Territories both Real and Imagined whose country, Yorsin D'Oc, regular gets up and wanders away depending on the weather. I'm beavering away on the sequel, the Shield Bearer. Any advice from those who have successfully placed children's books with agents?

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Trials and Tribulations of the Unpublished Author

This blog will henceforth be dedicated to my ongoing attempts to get my books published. Political rants, when I feel sufficiently irate (unusual, given that we've got the government I've been praying for for the last five years, even with the LibDems orbiting St David of Cameron) can be found over on marasunamusings, however, will be a daily (or thrice weekly, depending on how the mood takes me) chronicle of what it is to write - and to be rejected.
Writing is the easy part. Also a necessity. If I am prevented from scribbling down my thoughts, I descend into uncontrollable melancholy/rage. I can't sit and plan out what I'm going to write, as if I were trying to produce a 1st class Tripos essay. It is rather as though I'm watching a film, the salient details of which I must record before they are lost forever. But, at the same time, I am my characters: young and old, male and female, I become them. When I write them, I speak through their lips, descend into the darkest depths of their psyche and out of the abyss; yet, simultaneously, they are entirely distinct from me and the dearest of friends. I know them better than anyone on earth. If one of them dies, I am distraught.
Writing is an endless joy. I refuse to cease until I've used up all my words. But it is a process of immense betrayal also. One uses the interesting parts of friends' and loved ones' characters and discards the rest. Their innermost thoughts, secrets, pain, all becomes grist for the mill, translated by a traitorous pen into a gripping narrative in a world that would otherwise not take interest. One's moral compass is always pointed Due Self-Interest. It also offers a satisfactory vehicle for vengeance. If someone has irritated one for a long period of time, one can immortalise them. Exegi monumentum and all that.
Being published is an entirely different cup of tea. Learning to commodotize oneself is appallingly different, if not morally and philosophically suspect. Picking up the telephone with sweating hands to call an agent in order to see if they're interested in reading one's stuff, only to have them bang it down with a tart 'no', receiving rejections with such lines as 'your work isn't suited to the talents in our agency' (say what??? Anyone who can decipher what on earth that means wins a Prize) or 'this really isn't one for our list', the 'really' heavily underscored, is a tremendous blow to one's amour propre. It is difficult to ascertain whether the agents play Jenga with unread manuscripts and only flick through those which land at their feet, or whose title starts with 'A', or if they are even bothering to take on new works (but haven't bothered to say as much on their websites). Or is it merely a case of not What You Know but Whom You Know?
Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison