C for Corylus Avellana

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

C for Corylus Avellana (2014)

Ogham and the characters it inspired stemmed from learning about the Tree of Wisdom and Knowledge, Hazel – Corylus avellana one of the ‘chieftain’ trees of the Irish Celtic tradition.  From here sprouted a central character and a multi-faceted project.

All the research nuggets unearthed while I was creating the game-world for my novel ‘Wyrm Bait’, evolved into my post-apocalyptic saga Gossamer Flames. And the research is ongoing.

Links to my other A to Z posts can be found here: https://rolandclarke.com/blogging-from-a-to-z/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-2020/

A to Z April Challenge Theme Reveal 2020

As April draws nearer so does the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge and lots of exciting posts on loads of new sites.

I’ve been doing the A to Z Challenge since 2014 and began pondering my 2020 theme sometime last year. But in the last few months, everything has overwhelmed me – emails, regular posts like IWSG and WEP, replying to comments, and my own writing. Plus, my health issues.

So, I’m taking the simpler way out – reposting my best posts from 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

Thanks to Jacqui Murray for triggering that approach with her 2019 solution: ..a genre for every letter of the alphabet, but with one or two posts every month. Her reasoning chimed with my own thoughts about too many posts to write/read/comment on etcetera in April.

She wasn’t alone as others found other solutions to negotiating the A to Z Challenge.

However, I’m still going to post on the official A to Z days, starting with A for Assault on Wednesday April 1st, 2020. If you’re tempted and follow that link, you will discover Part One of Azure Spark, which evolved into a novella featuring my Welsh detective Sparkle Anwyl. I edited the posts into three acts, and all three will be posted during April: on the 1st, 11th, and 23rd.

I suspect not everyone got to read ‘Azure Spark’ so this will be another chance. A chance to to revisit older posts on other themes; like my 2017 History of Kanata or my 2015 The War of 1812. But I’ve yet to decide what posts to choose.

Watch this space.

All I can say is Sparkle Anwyl’s case will be complete, and Azure Spark is referenced in my WIP ‘Fevered Fuse’ – my current priority along with the more imminent and crucial release of the IWSG Anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost on May 5th.

V for Voyagers on April 25th?

Sparkle or Skaði

My mind is already churning around the themes for the 2020 WEP/IWSG Challenges. There are 3 options:

  1. Standalone Stories inspired by the individual themes. Six separate spontaneous seasonal stories.
  2. Sparkle Anwyl case. Six episodes of a new Snowdon Shadows case for my Welsh detective and her partner-lover, Kama. The threads for this are scribbles with substance.
  3. Skaði, Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. More Norse mythology with a twist – and a few more kennings. Not sure why Skaði is at a cafe with my favourite artist or his sunflowers.
Skadi by Michael Jorvik
Eve Myles as Sparkle Anwyl

I could try doing a poll but comments seem better – if I get any. Tell me what you would like to read, please.

WHERE NOW WITH SPIRAL OF HOOVES?

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My writing year has got off to a good start as I completed Stage 1 of my writing plans. Over the last month, I have managed to finish a re-edit of my debut novel “Spiral of Hooves” with the aim of getting it republished. For those that missed the original release, it was in December 2013.

So, I removed a subplot that didn’t work and garnered some negative comments. I also tidied up some strange sentence constructions, and corrected all the Americanisms, as it’s set in England, and I had a UK publisher in mind.

Then, everything went awry – I read more about the publishers including an interview with their main man and I concluded that my mystery was wrong for them – not gritty or dark enough. They also tend to go for writers with a few books to release at the same time.

The problem now is what next? Do I submit this novel to a UK agent, a UK publisher, a US agent, a US publisher, OR do I translate it into German or Martian? Joking…

Oh, in case you were wondering, it’s a mystery set against the horse world, but not a cosy mystery. It has action, darker moment, and a couple of erotic scenes, but it isn’t really bloody or violent except for a few brief moments.

A shorter version of this post first appeared on Facebook, and several friends made helpful suggestions, some of which I will mention here.

In the FB comments, and back on my January blog, several people talked about self-publishing. However, I know now that will require extra skills that I need to acquire or pay for – not just the editing services that I already use. I have been reassured that I am capable of learning to format but I’m a writer. I am aware that there are excellent companies out there that will help in that process.

My major concern is the money, as we face major health bills that look like a bottomless pit. When my wife spent two days in the hospital after her recent heart attack, the bills came to $30,000.

The logical alternative is to try to find an agent or a publisher in either the UK and/or the US. How many submissions should I do at once? Do I start with agents first? Does it matter where the agent/publisher is?

The big quandary: As I’m disabled, I’m very restricted in where I can go. Flying is out, so that leaves driving – well, someone else driving me. What happens if an agent in New York wants me to go there = 2+ days driving? Book tours would be a challenge.

Then there is the language – British-English and American-English. I changed the manuscript into British-English with a US address, but I’ve found a US agent that is interested in submissions on horses. Guess I need an American-English manuscript for US agents and publishers. Yikes. Back to Grammarly then.

That would then allow me to submit to publishers like Imajin Books when they open for submissions in April? Although they like to see reviews, Amazon deleted mine but my Goodreads reviews are still up. One of their star authors said, “I wouldn’t worry about it. You can do this.”

So, do I submit to agents first and then, come April, I submit to publishers?

Do I mention that I don’t stick to genre? “Spiral of Hooves” is a mystery with a sequel; then I’ve almost finished “Storms Compass”, Book I of my post-apocalyptic saga; then comes “Fates Maelstrom”, first of the Snowdon Shadows mysteries; and my alternative history, “Eagle Crossing”, is flying along.

 

Where am I going in 2017?

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Any realistic writing plans for 2017 are dependent on my health.

My multiple sclerosis has entered a vicious, downward spiral with side issues like pulled tendons and swollen legs aggravating the MS. The consequences are that first, I have to cope with constant pain, sometimes bearable but other times excruciating to the point that all I can do is scream. Second, a combination of medication and lack of sleep at night, from the pain, means that I doze for much of the day, or I struggle to stay awake when I need to do anything crucial.

Excuses over, here are my writing targets for 2017 in achievable order:

I fell asleep here at 17.45, I think [Day 1]

[Day 2] Finally, I’ve got a bit more energy to write.

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TARGET 1 – RE-PUBLISH SPIRAL OF HOOVES

My debut novel, Spiral of Hooves was published on December 9th, 2013 and was available for eighteen months. My publisher, Spectacle Publishing Media Group was changing hands, so I chose to terminate our agreement, receiving all my rights back.

As I don’t feel that the novel was promoted effectively, which is clear by the friends who ask if I ever finished writing the book, then a second release is needed. Furthermore, there has never been a paperback version, so that will be part of the publishing plan.

The first step, though, is to check the reviews, that I copied off Amazon and Goodreads, for anything that needs revising and reading the novel again myself. The resulting revision will also allow me to check the foreshadowing for the sequel Tortuous Terrain.

Next, I need to identify the publishing route. I had presumed that it would be impossible to find a publisher that handled previously published books. However, I discovered Fahrenheit Press that publishes ‘Crime Fiction’ and are “not too bothered if the books have been published before”. I need to check them out more, so if anyone knows about them, please let me know.

The other option is the self-publishing route, and the choice seems to be between Create Space and Book Baby, although there may be better options that I’m overlooking. All recommendations are gratefully accepted. This route means formatting the novel for both eBook and paperback, a major task and daunting – but worth getting right. There are also financial implications at a time when health care has to be the priority.

And then I need to promote Spiral of Hooves effectively and widely – having prepared a strategy in advance.

 

16:00 – can I rest now, please?

20:28 – rested and showered so sort of energized.

 

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Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

TARGET 2 – PUBLISH STORMS COMPASS

Storms Compass is the first book in the post-apocalyptic series Gossamer Flames. Books 2 and 3 are partly written already, as I constructed all three around short stories.

One of my critique partners has done an extensive page by page assessment that will be the basis for my final draft. Even though one of my two line-editor friends edited an earlier draft of Storms Compass, I will have made enough substantial changes to run it past the other editor. There are cost implications at this stage as well.

When I have the polished novel, I will attempt to find a publisher – having ensured that I have an excellent synopsis and blurb, that my author profile reflects the ones on social media, and ensured all recommendations for submissions are checked off.

That process could take me into 2018, so I need to be making other plans.

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A lot is dependent on (a) the response that I get to the re-release of Spiral of Hooves; (b) my financial situation. If sales are minimal and health care eats away at our savings, I can attempt to finish the re-draft of Fates Maelstrom and doing research for Eagle Crossing.

On the other hand, if both Spiral of Hooves and Storms Compass are well received, I will need to work on their sequels. Is that hopeful thinking?

Have you any advice on this crazy plan, please? Does my strategy make sense?

 

 

P for… Prep for Doom – a review

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Prepper  –  NOUN  –  chiefly North American

A person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency is likely to occur in the future and makes active preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies:there’s no agreement among preppers about what disaster is most imminent whether you’re a doomsday prepper or simply like to be prepared, emergency foods should be kept on hand

 

Since I’m working on Gossamer Flames, a post-apocalyptic series of interconnected tales, I’m looking for similar fiction to read, not just to see how the best fiction works, but for the details about preppers and how they behave. “Prep for Doom” was therefore a must read. So on to the review.

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From the imaginations of twenty authors of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction comes PREP FOR DOOM – an integrated collection of short stories that tell the tale of a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, some of whom will cross paths. What begins with a seemingly innocuous traffic accident soon spirals into a global pandemic. The release of Airborne Viral Hemorrhagic Fever upon New York City’s unsuspecting populace brings bloody suffering within hours, death within a day, and spreads worldwide within a month. An online community called Prep For Doom has risen to the top of a recent doomsday preparation movement. Some have written them off as crazy while others couldn’t be more serious about the safety the preppers could provide in a global disaster. But when AVHF strikes, their preparation may not be enough to save them.

 

Prep For Doom” is a clever anthology by different authors, each contributing a stand-alone story connected by the pandemic apocalypse, so building into one large story from multiple points of view. The level of collaboration on this project must have been impressive, as is the resulting work.

The characters of each story reflect different reactions to the growing crisis, some more intense and visceral than others. Each protagonist takes the stage in a unique way, and plays out their fate in the disaster – some as victims, some as opportunists, even killers, and some as saviours. Some are committed preppers or have known one for good or bad. But most are ordinary people trying to survive.

Much of the time I was asking how I would react in such a situation. Panic? Help?

Each of the writers tells a facet of the story in their characters’ words. So inevitably, some stories are stronger than others, painting more vivid images. Most wrenched at my emotional responses.

Many characters reappear in other stories, whether in supporting roles or even as people in the ‘crowd’. Some get swept up as casualties, others survive and give hope. Memorably one antagonist is seen in one story from a victim’s viewpoint, yet later another writer vividly shows that antagonist’s desperation and driven fall from survivor to killer.

I wanted to give “Prep for Doom” five stars, but a few things let it down in my opinion.

Setting: although the virus spreads worldwide, we only get to see its impact on US communities, predominantly around the epicentre of New York. The opening chapter is the exception as it’s set somewhere in Africa, but I wanted a few more non-US viewpoints.

Resources: food runs out fast as does water, which makes total sense so some people are surviving on granola bars. The desperate looters feel realistic, but I kept wondering why cell phones worked for so long? Why do some people have the power to keep watching the world die on TV? For a few days perhaps, but this felt longer. Since the hospitals are swamped very quickly, I struggled to believe that some services survived for long. Maybe the emergency facilities are far better than I thought, or Americans are better prepared.

Chronology: inevitably many of the stories start at roughly the same point – the virus release – so the editors will have struggled to place them in order. Unfortunately, at times I was lost and wished there were clearer indicators of time and date in some instances. But most were clear from the words.

Stereotyping: in most cases, the race/sex/religion of the characters didn’t adversely reflect on their actions in an unrealistic way. But one crucial episode grated as the minority concerned gets a trite apology and the story gives them a raw deal. Not wishing to spoil the plot, I will say no more.

Missing elements: there were a few things left unexplained, although maybe there is more to come. For instance, I wanted to know about the initials PFD, which appear throughout and not just for Prep For Doom. Is the link a coincidence, or a reasoned choice?

However, these criticisms are minor and don’t detract from an excellent anthology that I recommend. It has the right blend of realistic actions and reactions, weaving a sense of despair as the reader is carried towards hope.

As to my own post-apocalyptic saga, I feel there are lessons to learn and I will attempt to embrace them.

And for my next read, I am tackling a very different novel in this genre – far bleaker and darker… like grey ash: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.