Showing posts from September, 2010

Great Horse 9 – Editing, the author’s view

The Muse apologises to those readers looking forward to our guest editor’s post. Editors are VERY busy people, and as in all freelance lives schedules sometimes have to be changed, so Helen's post will now appear next week. In the meantime, I’ve prodded Katherine with my glittery horn, and she is going to tell you about how it feels to be edited first… The editing process is where your book stops being your book and starts to become your publisher’s book, and I believe learning to work effectively with an editor is the single most important thing that separates a hobby writer from a professional writer. It’s possible (if you’re very lucky and very talented) to get paid for work that has not been edited, but I don't think it's possible to have a long-term professional career without an editor. My first ever experience of being edited was with a magazine called Visionary Tongue run by a team of professional writers, when fantasy author Storm Constantine worked on a short

September Reading - Scottish legends

The Muse has spent this month with his horn deep in some fabulous stories set in the 16th century Scottish faery lands. First is a unique illustrated story / CD guaranteed to delight all ages, based on the legend of the Kelpie water horses that live in the mysterious depths of the lochs… Mister Stourworm and the Kelpie’s Gift – Stuart Paterson with music by Savourna Stevenson This delightful package consists of a CD with story, music and songs accompanied by an illustrated booklet, which create a lovely atmosphere when heard and read together. The first part of the CD tells the story of brave young Conran, who volunteers to do battle with an evil monster called Mister Stourworm, that is terrorising Scotland and devouring whole towns. It seems a suicidal mission. But as he lies sleeping by the loch, a fairy brings him a magic bridle that will help him tame the wild water-horse that lives in the loch. Riding the kelpie, she says, he’ll have a chance against the worm. After a terrifyi

Great Horse 8 – Endings

Endings are like beginnings – not as easy as you might think, because no creation ever really ends. If you’ve created a world that seems real, and populated it with characters your readers cares about, then your world and those characters will live on beyond the end of the book in the reader’s imagination, and may even (as the number of unplanned sequels on the shelves prove) give rise to whole new books. So how do you decide where to end a book? In the same way you might be tempted to start a book with the birth of your main character, the most obvious ending is when your main character dies – but, of course, this rarely makes a satisfying ending! Who wants to spend time reading about a character they care about and will hopefully fall in love with, only to discover that character dies on the last page? ( Muse: not me !) Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but in general the best endings occur well before this happens. How much before? Well, I think this depends on the ge

A cat story by Ayesha Afghan

Alexander the Great had a horse called Bucephalas and a dog called Perita, but the history books do not tell us if he had a cat. So the Muse is delighted to bring you this story written by a young fan for cat lovers everywhere: Hokey Cokey © Ayesha Afghan One day a little girl was walking past an old oak tree, And heard a cat meowing, as if to say, “Please rescue me”. Looking around, she found some ladders beside a garden shed, Climbing up, “Don’t worry cat, I’m on my way,” she said. She knew that when she got down, she would be a dirty muck, There was a crash, the ladders fell, “Oh no, now we’re both stuck!” She sat next to the cat; she let out an anxious groan. She put her hands in her pockets and realized she had her phone. She called the fire brigade, and told them to quickly come. She sat on the branch, “Well this isn’t much fun.” It soon became exciting with flashing lights and running men, There were hundreds and thousands, ok maybe just ten. The fire engine’s

Great Horse 7 – the plot thickens

There is a theory that plots for historical novels are easy. Want to write a historical novel about Alexander the Great? Just grab any book about Alexander, and you’ve got the plot more or less ready made. All you have to do is research his battles and dramatise them... well, sort of. It’s true found this book easier to write than my fictional fantasies. For one thing, Alexander’s world was already quite detailed, so all I had to do was read up on the history. Most of my characters also already existed in fairly rounded form, thanks to the many dedicated historians of the period. The basic plot was, therefore, simple enough: After his father is assassinated, Prince Alexander sets out to finish the war with Persia, gets a taste for battle, thinks he’s the son of Zeus and goes on to conquer the rest of the world. Easy enough (at least on paper!) Again, sort of. Having the historical events set in stone certainly made plotting this book easier than plotting an entirely fictional story. As

Art by Alzrith

Alzrith has dedicated one of her fabulous drawings to me! It’s called CREATURES, and I’m posting it here, since we seem to be having a week of artwork on this blog. © Alzrith The Muse bows his glittery horn in awe! Visit Alzrith’s website for more examples of this talented young artist’s work.

Great Horse 6 – Characters

Characters make stories worth reading. A book can have the most exciting plot in the world, but if the reader doesn’t care about your characters then there’s not much point worrying about its plot, because chances are nobody will read as far as the end anyway. Many readers (especially younger ones) seem to prefer their characters to be larger than life – feisty heroines, handsome heroes with bravery to match, or evil villains guaranteed never to perform a single kind act so everybody can cheer when the hero defeats them. But real people are not like that – at least, most of them aren’t. This makes writing about real people especially tricky. Historical characters Well known historical figures such as Alexander the Great might be larger than life, but they seldom fit neatly into your typical hero or villain category, and don’t usually make a very sympathetic character for readers to identify with. More or less everyone agrees Alexander counts as a hero of sorts, but he also did some que

Driftwood Horses

We Muses often draw inspiration from other forms of art – poems, songs, paintings, and sculpture. So visiting Open Studios, when local artists open their studio doors to the public, always makes my horn glitter! There are so many talented artists living in this area I haven’t room to mention them all. But here’s one that fits with our current horse theme… fabulous life-sized sculptures created out of driftwood by Heather Jansch . If you’re near Newton Abbot this month, you have a rare opportunity to see these horses galloping around Heather’s garden – and there’s a unicorn hiding in a corner of her studio, too!

Great Horse 5 – Research

Of course I had to do some research. All historical novels require a good amount of research if they are to feel authentic, and my knowledge of Alexander the Great when I started this book was sketchy to say the least. The things I knew about him could be counted on a horse’s hooves: 1. He rode a large black stallion called Bucephalas, a horse nobody else could handle except for one groom. 2. He defeated the Persians and built an empire stretching from Macedonia to India. 3. He had a best friend called Hephaestion and married an Afghan princess called Roxanne. 3. He died in Babylon, aged 33, leaving no heir. The bits between were a hazy mixture of battles, plots and politics. The historical characters were simply exotic names to me or as yet unknown. And I’d never travelled to any of the countries Alexander conquered. So I needed to research the story on two levels: historical and geographical. Fortunately, there is a mass of historical information available about Alexander th