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Showing posts from August, 2010

August Reading

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Just in time for the August bank holiday, the Muse is back for our monthly reading post. Since we are on a bit of a horse theme at the moment, the first book I’d like to bring to your attention is a fabulous historical horse story that should appeal to those who liked “I am the Great Horse”. I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade – Diane Lee Wilson This book is set on Mongolian steppe at the height of Kubilai Khan’s great empire. Oyuna, crippled as a baby when a horse crushes her foot, nevertheless has a great love for horses and finds freedom riding on their backs. But her lameness is seen as bad luck, and when her mother is killed by lightning Oyuna and her family are declared unclean by the shaman. She vows to bring good luck back to her clan by winning the long race at the annual Karakorum Festival. But first she must find herself a fast horse – and the old, lame white mare Bayan who “speaks” to her at the horse fair clearly will not do. But Oyuna can tell the mare is miserable so s

Great Horse 4 – Beginning a book

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Where does a story begin? At the beginning, you might say. But the true beginning of a story is harder to find than you might think, all stories being connected with other stories, right back to the beginning of time. Also, the true beginning of your story might be rather boring, in which case this would not be a very good place to start your book - you don’t want your readers to give up before they get to the interesting parts! So maybe a better question to ask would be: “What’s the first interesting bit?” The most obvious beginning for any character is when they are born. If this book were purely about Bucephalas, I could have started it when he was a foal. Anna Sewell's Black Beauty begins with the horse remembering his early life as a foal in his mother’s paddock. It might have made quite a good story. How did the young colt get his name? Who looked after him? Was he difficult or easy to break in? Who rode him in his first battles? How did he become such a valuable war horse?

Poetic Interlude - by Safiyah Afghan

Before the Great Horse totally takes over this blog, the Muse is going to nudge him aside with his glittery horn to make space for this poem sent in by a young writer inspired by the book… MY STALLION © Safiyah Afghan My stallion would be black. Jet Black. A stallion of war. Fearless. He would run like the wind. And fly. He could do anything. Invincible. That’s what my stallion would be. Naturally, both Bucephalas and the Muse approve of this poem! It might be short, but we hope you’ll agree it says a lot in a small space (unlike Katherine’s book, which says a lot in a small forest!) What sort of writing suits you? Do you prefer writing novels or poems? Young writers are always welcome to share their work on this blog – click HERE for details The Great Horse series continues next post.

Great Horse 3: Getting into the horse’s (rather big) head.

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Often at the start of a book, my main character is a bit sketchy. I try not to worry too much about this when I’m using a third person viewpoint, as I know some of the quirkier character traits will only occur to me as the story takes shape and it’ll be fairly easy to go back and write them in later. But here I felt I needed to do a bit of fleshing out before I started, because the temptation for a 40-something ex-grammar school girl writing in the “I” viewpoint is that it will come out sounding like a 40-something ex-grammar school girl. Not only did I want my viewpoint character to sound male and strong – Bucephalas being both a stallion and a war horse – but I also wanted to make him sound like a horse rather than a human. It’s true some animal stories (especially for a younger readership) deliberately humanise their characters, and this can work brilliantly. But with the epic story of Alexander this was not the effect I wanted. On the other hand, writing a totally authentic horse

Great Horse 2 - Choosing a viewpoint.

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In my last post, you’ll see I knew early on this story would be told by Alexander’s horse, to the extent that I was able to scribble it down as part of my original idea. This is actually quite unusual for me. Quite often the idea for a story will come without any characters, in which case I have to invent a few before I can decide which of them I’ll use as a viewpoint. Or the idea might come with a strong character, but until I start developing the story I can’t be absolutely sure that character will make the best viewpoint. Muse reminder: For anyone confused by viewpoints, this is simply the character whose eyes you see through when you are reading the story. Quite often a viewpoint character is written in the third person (“he” or “she”), but they can also be written in the first person (“I”) like Bucephalas in this book, or even the second person (“you”). Tara K Harper has written a useful guide to viewpoints HERE It might sound obvious, but the viewpoint character needs to be pr

Great Horse 1 – “Where do you get your ideas from?”

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This is a question every author gets asked eventually. But it’s never an easy one to answer. We don’t just sit down one day in front of a blank page or computer screen, pluck an idea out of the air and start writing… at least it never works like that for me! I don’t lack ideas for stories. They come to me all the time, at the rate of three or four a day if my mind is not too busy working on something else. They spring out of everything. Books I’m reading, newspaper articles, magazines, radio and TV, billboards in town, overheard conversations, peculiar things I see while out shopping or travelling, occasionally a dream. I write them all down – just a sentence or two – in a hardback notebook. It’s a bit messy. That’s a picture of it above. (The pieces of newspaper sticking out the sides are newspaper clippings that caught my eye but I haven’t got around to scribbling in the book yet.) At this stage my ideas are just seeds awaiting the right conditions to grow into stories, and I don’t

I am the Great Horse - a secret history in (quite a few) blog posts!

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Before any book gets published, even before the first word is written, a lot of unseen muse-work goes on behind the scenes. This highly secretive part of an author’s life might explain the recent popularity of literature festivals… authors talking about the inspiration behind their books can be just as entertaining as the books themselves, though this depends on the author of course. Since Katherine didn’t get a chance to do many talks about “I am the Great Horse” and she is more entertaining on the page than on the stage, the Muse is going to prod her into doing a series of posts on this blog so she can give you an idea of how this book came to be written. The process is similar for all books, though the details may be different, so even if you hate horses and have never heard of Alexander the Great we hope you’ll find this series interesting. Over the next few months, you’ll be able to follow the book’s progress from the initial inspiration, through the research and writing process