World-building a Historical Fantasy

Map backgroundI envy fantasy writers because they get to make everything up. But what a lot of work that must be! On the other hand, writing a historical novel involves a lot of research. I, however, have the best of both worlds. I set my novel in a poorly documented historical past (Dark-age Scotland) so there’s not that much research I could do. And because so little is known, I get to make lots of stuff up. Continue reading

Classic Tristan and Isolde Retellings

Tristan and Isolde by Hugues Merle, 1870. Public domain.

The legend of Tristan and Isolde is a great story – a classic love triangle of Tristan/Isolde/King Mark with lots of adventures, and is part of the Arthurian body of tales. So why isn’t it retold as often as is the Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere story? I have a number of theories which I won’t bore you with here, but the fact remains that it really isn’t retold that often, which is why I’m redressing the balance with my own retelling.

But enough of me and my story (until the end). This blog post is about the classic retellings, and they go right back to the beginning of the 20th century. Continue reading

10 mistakes I made with my book design

A book needs a cover. A cover should have a title, the name of the author and some sort of image that relates to the content of the book. How hard can that be? Turns out it’s REALLY hard. There are lots of mistakes to be made, and I’ve made most of them in the few covers I’ve designed for my books. And then there’s the book’s internal design. I’d thought that was all about inserting page numbers. WRONG! There’s a lot more to it than that. Continue reading

10 places to find writing inspiration

flowers on old bookSome people have a million stories rattling around their heads just waiting to be told. But I’m not one of them. Faced with a blank page I’ve no idea where to start. Nevertheless, I like writing. I love the creative process and the craft of writing, the feeling of something forming, of giving it shape, of saying something, of discovering something about the world and myself. Continue reading

How writing poetry improved my prose

handwriting and penA long time ago I enrolled for an on-line writing course because I wanted to write a novel and thought I’d better learn how to do it. So imagine my disbelief when the first thing I was asked to do was write a poem. A poem? What did poems have to do with writing novels? But I’m an obedient soul so I did it. It wasn’t very good and to prove it, here it is: Continue reading

How to use the Mentor Archetype

notebooks and candle background

Who hasn’t had a mentor in their life? Perhaps it was a parent, teacher or friend. Writers often have special writing mentors. This could be a creative writing tutor, or authors who’re generous with their advice to newbies. As in life, fiction is awash with mentor figures. But what is their dramatic function in a story? And how can you use the mentor archetype to strengthen your novel? Continue reading

10 tips for naming your characters

memorial with names

Naming characters is one of the most fun things to do when writing a novel, but there are a few pitfalls and I’ve fallen into most of them. So I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked along during my writing journey.

1 Keep a list of your characters

If you don’t, you might accidentally use the same name twice, as I did, or use a similar name, which could be confusing (see tip 2). A list is also useful to generate a dramatis personae: common in historical and fantasy novels. But what about short stories, where there are only a few characters? A list is a good idea here too. When I collected my short stories together for publication, I discovered I had 5 Julias and 2 Julians as main characters. If only I’d kept a list … Continue reading

10 Classic Arthurian retellings

old booksWho doesn’t love an Arthurian retelling? They’re incredibly addictive. Read one and you just want to read another. You’d think you’d get tired of reading the same story over and over but you don’t. There are so many different tales within the Arthurian body of stories, and so many fascinating characters, that a whole host of different stories can be – and have been – created in a number of genres, from young adult to scifi, from fantasy to timeslip. My personal preference is for historical fiction which attempts to bring to life the ‘real’ Arthur and his times in a dark age Celtic Britain. So, with that in mind, here are my top 10: Continue reading

10 reasons why novelists should write short stories

hand writing in notebook

When I started writing I was a bit dismissive of short stories. I enjoyed reading them but I didn’t want to write one. I was going to be a novelist so why should I bother writing short stories? However, for one reason or another, I’ve written a whole pile of short stories – 88 at the last count – and it’s turned out to be really helpful to me as an aspiring novelist – for all sorts of reasons: Continue reading

How to use the Herald Archetype

Lot, King of Gododdin and overlord of the lands of Lothian and Manau, is a fairly minor character in The Trystan Trilogy but whenever he turns up things change for my main character, Corwynal, and usually for the worse. Corwynal is very much a reluctant hero so when Lot turns up in Lothian demanding a levy of men for his forthcoming war with the Caledonians, Corwynal doesn’t want to get involved. He doesn’t want war, especially with his mother’s people, the Caledonian tribes of the north, and he’s afraid war will take his half-brother Trystan away from Lothian and out of his protection. He also resents Lot turning up after eighteen years’ absence. Lot used to be a friend but he let Corwynal down badly and he has no intention of making things easy for Lot. Continue reading