Welcome…

Featured

Welcome to the Talkative Writer. This is where I share news about my books and the writing life, my research travels, the books I’m reading – or have read and loved – and likewise the dramas to be found via tv and film.

It’s where I chat books and writing life and stuff with other writers and the readers who love story as much as we do. It’s also where I share various thoughts and experiences about the novel-writing process. Here is where you’ll find photo essays, written essays, podcasts and video entries.

Everyone’s welcome. All I ask is that discussions are kept civil. We can robustly disagree about things without descending into chaos.

So … thanks for stopping by. I hope you have fun.

Podcast #6: Character part 2

Here is the next podcast on the craft of writing … in which I continue to talk about the elements of creating characters in fiction. It’s in 2 parts because I had a brain fade moment and left out an important element. Sorry about that!

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

 

 

City of Stars guest post, and other stuff

So I was very kindly asked to do a guest post for the great blog City of Stars. Shortly thereafter my stupid liver decided to knock me for six, and then a couple of lumbar discs slipped … so it’s been fun, fun, fun at Casa Karen. Not. And sigh. And moan. And grumble.

However, I’m on the mend and back on my feet and now playing crazy catch-up. To that end, here’s the link to that guest post!

 

Photo essay: Gargoyles

One of the great delights of Europe is the ubiquitous gargoyle. So much character, so much creativity. To me they’re the artisan’s finger given to the sometimes repressive conformity of the established church over what could and could not be portrayed in art. Almost pagan in their nature, I love the juxtaposition of that old belief literally grafted onto the great churches and cathedrals.

Enjoy!

Continue reading

Photo essay: Daily Life

Another of the tantalising aspects of visiting wonderful museums in search of medieval inspiration is that so often only moments of those ancient lives have been preserved. A cup here, a coffer there, some jewellery, some glass. Little pieces of the jigsaw puzzle only, and never enough. But the pieces we do have are magnificent, and it is a miracle that so many have survived the centuries. Here are some for your perusal …

Continue reading

Photo essay: Guedelon

Ah, Guedelon. What an extraordinary, visionary project. For more detailed info, you can visit the official website. Briefly, though, here’s an overview.

I first learned of Guedelon while watching research dvds. It’s the recreation of a medieval castle and village, built from scratch using only medieval tools and techniques. Most of the people involved are volunteers, and they come to work on the site from all around the world. Guedelon is located in the middle of nowhere, in beautiful French countryside roughly half way between Paris and Nevers. There’s no public transport, you must get there by car or with a coaching group. There were plenty of both when I visited. It started in the late ’90s, and the plan is to finish the entire project by 2023. I hope I can get back there to see it completed. I can only imagine it will be fantastic.

One thing that really amazed me was how fast the exterior of the building was weathering. It didn’t look brand new at all. Of course on the inside, protected from the elements and still under construction, the difference is quite marked.

Here is a selection of the photos I took …

Continue reading

Old dogs, new tricks

I’ll try to keep these fitness posts to one a week or so, but something significant happened this morning.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m what you might call an all-or-nothing type. Feast or famine. Pedal-to-the-metal or sitting in the garage. In other words, the finding of moderation and balance continues to be an ongoing challenge.

But I think, at long last, I might be on the right track …

Continue reading

Photo essay: Wood carving

So there’s me, wandering innocently through the Victoria and Albert, one of my favourite places in the world, when I round a corner and see … this. At which point I stopped and goggled, speechless, for some time. It’s a handcarved, three-dimensional depiction of the crucifixion updated to medieval times, sort of. You can spot other era stuff. For obvious reasons the piece is displayed inside a glass case (which explains the irritating bright spots) and stands about 4 foot high. The medium is pear wood. The result, for me, is utterly breathtaking. I took a whole bunch of photos, but here are a few. Plus one ring-in, with an explanation …

Continue reading

Photo essay: Military matters

There wasn’t quite so much armour-gazing on this trip. Previously I’ve collected some great photos from the Tower of London, the Royal Armoury at Leeds and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, all of which house some wonderful armour and attendant equipment. But there were some amazing pieces in the Wallace Collection, in London, notably the horse armour, as well as the Yorkshire Museum. Here are some of the astonishing pieces I saw … some captioned, some not, but all telling a fabulous story!

Continue reading

Slow but sure progress, sort of

And Monday dawns. Week 3 of my quest to shed the flab and regain the fit. I have dropped a few pounds, according to the scales, my tight jeans are a bit looser and I can see the shadowy hint of arm, thigh and shoulder muscles sliding beneath the blob. But it seems there can’t ever be a step forward without at least half a step back, so …

Continue reading

Photo essay: Jewellery

It might seem funny, given that I’m not a particularly blingy person in daily life (not counting my growing collection of seriously cool ear-rings, which I added to with gusto while on the recent trip!) but when it comes to jewellery in museums I am hopelessly entranced.

I think perhaps it’s a romantic fascination: I am endlessly intrigued by the fact that throughout history, without exception, people have found ways to adorn themselves. As I look at the pieces in the museum, and the photos, I find myself dreaming and wondering about the artisans who made each piece, and the women – and men – who wore them. Who were they? What happened to them as they wore these pieces? What happened ot the amazing artisans who created them? And how can I give them a sinister, fantastical twist?

I acquired a fabulous book from the British Museum – ’7,000 Years of Jewellery’ – which catalogues their collection. It’s magnificent. And so, I think, are the pieces featured in the photos below, from such diverse collections as the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of the Middle Ages, both in Paris . Enjoy! Covet! And if you find yourself drooling a little … believe me, you aren’t alone!

Continue reading

The amazing KJ Bishop

So while I was in Canberra, for the workshop at Conflux, I crossed paths with award-winning Australian fantasy author KJ Bishop. To my wonder, she was at the convention less as a writer and more as an artist – because  KJ, now resident in Thailand, has got involved in sculpture. And you know what? If she wasn’t such a lovely person I’d have to hate her because she is amazingly, stonkingly good. Indeed, she was selling her pieces at Worldcon in London but somehow I managed to miss her exhibit entirely. What’s more, she almost entirely sold out! However I made up for that oversight  in Canberra and snatched up one of the three fabulous brass birds she created in a Venetian Carnival Mask theme. See?

 

bird2

 

Isn’t he just the most gorgeous creature? You can tell, even with my less than fabulous studio photograph! I tell you, I’d have bought all three birds if I’d had the money!

Anyhow, KJ has a website, which you’ll find here, and she’s building up her gallery and will soon be going on to Etsy to sell her stupendous work online. I think I’m going to become a regular customer …

 

Guest Post: Lara Morgan

Welcome to the Talkative Writer’s guest post with Australian speculative fiction writer Lara Morgan.

lara morgan 1Lara Morgan lives and writes in Geraldton, Western Australia. She writes fantasy for adults and YA. Her fantasy series The Twins of Saranthium is set in a world of deserts and jungle with twins Shaan and Tallis pitted against ancient resurrected gods and serpents in a struggle to save the people and lands of Saranthium from those who would enslave it.

Book two, Betrayal, is available now in ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other ebook outlets. To learn more about her, visit her website.

Now here is Lara in her own words …

Betrayal is the second book in my epic fantasy trilogy, The Twins of Saranthium and it was also the second book I ever wrote. I was one of those lucky writers who had the first book I wrote (Awakening, book one in the series) published – but before you start turning green and looking with despair at your pile of rejected novels, there’s more to this story.

Continue reading

The fitness thang

So, this is a bit different. Well – for me, it’s a bit different. Being an introverted writer and what you’d call pretty bloody private, talking about personal stuff is a Very Big Deal and for the most part I just don’t. But then I thought about some of the blogs I like to read, and how brave and sharing those bloggers are, so I thought … okay. I’ll give it a go.

But to spare those of you who aren’t interested in one writer’s journey back to physical fitness, I shall now go behind the cut!

Continue reading

Favourite Fridge Magnet

So, I bought some fridge magnets while I was away. They’re a quick, smile worthy reminder of where I’ve been, the things I’ve seen and done on my travels. Some are directly writing-related, like the Tudor portraits or the Viking ship or the picture of Guedelon. Others are entirely frivolous — and of all the frivolous I’ve collected, this one is my current favourite.

If you have to ask why, then I’m afraid I can’t help you. *g*

 

bestmagnet

 

Off to Conflux, and a link

So I’m sorta kinda back on track after returning from the fabulous trip. Naturally my back fell apart the day after I got home, and naturally the jet lag kicked my arse black and blue, but now that I’m sleeping again and my stupid spine is being held together by awesome Rocktape I can take a deep breath and announce …. I’m baaaack! Just in time to head down to Canberra for a day to give a writing workshop at the annual Conflux convention. Very sorry I can’t stay longer but after such a chunk of time away so recently it’s just not doable. Maybe next year!

Yesterday I signed copies of The Falcon Throne at some of Sydney’s wonderful bookshops: The Constant Reader, Better Read Than Dead, Dymocks in George Street, Kinokuniya and Galaxy. So if you’d like a signed copy, please go visit one of these terrific stores. It was fabulous to see them all so busy — the age of real books is not yet over! May it never be over! My thanks to Andrew from the Sydney Hachette office, who squired me on the tour, and to the  lovely booksellers who are always so supportive.

Lastly, here’s a link to a new interview with the amazing Glenda Larke. She’s unique among fantasy authors. Go check it out!

Best tee shirt evah!!!!!

So, jet lag still sucks. But I’m getting there! Slowly …

In other news, I’m sorting through the trip photos for a series of visual essays on stuff I saw and that I hope you’ll find as wonderful as I do. So stay tuned on that.

To whet your appetite, however, here’s a photo of an amazing tee shirt I found in Oxford. There’s a permanent covered market in that wonderful city, and in that market a tee shirt shop that I could have easily half emptied. Luckily sanity prevailed – I bought 2 shirts as gifts and 1 for me.

This has to be the best historical in joke ever, I swear. I’m going to let it stand without comment, because I know you guys are pretty historically literate  … but if you’d like an explanation let me know in comments and I shall oblige!

 

bestteeshirtevah

Home again and — zzzzz ….

I’m back. It’s lovely to be home. Now all I need to do is conquer the jetlag, which is of course compounded by retroactive knackerdom due to the high level energy output of the trip! And of course the various germs accumulated on the trip home, since an airplane is nothing more than a self-contained petri dish of ick.

In other words … sleeeeep! Sleeeeep! And many many herbal drugs.

Going by past experience, I should be back to relative normal by Monday. I have resizing and sorting of photos to do, and then there’ll be a series of photo essays on the trip.

Work on Tarnished Crown bk 2 will resume on Monday too, with much excitement.

Reviews are coming in for The Falcon Throne and I’m both thrilled and relieved to report they’re largely positive. Phew! Will share some asap.

Now I must hie myself off to the chiropractor because naturally my back is playing up now.

Arrivederci, London!

And so my amazing European globetrotting adventure gently draws to a close. I fly home tomorrow night, rested and rejuvenated and ready to leap back into work. Everything I’ve seen and done while I’ve been travelling truly has nourished the storyteller in me. Many many notes have been jotted down, often in the middle of a meal! And scenes continue to take shape and come alive in my imagination. It’s very exciting and I’m so looking forward to diving back into the next book once I’m home again.

I’ll also be posting a series of photo essays on things I’ve seen and what they mean to me, as a writer. I’m really looking forward to that, too.

What won’t I miss? Well, let’s put it this way. What do London – and England in general – have that Sydney doesn’t?

More fabulous theatre than you can poke a stick at? Yes, but that’s not it.

A stupendously effective public transport system? Yes, but that’s not it either.

Easy and financially manageable access to the wonders of Europe? Yes, but no, no, that’s still not it.

More history, culture and exciting adventures to be had on a daily basis than anyone could think possible? Yes, they certainly do, but still that’s not it.

Give up? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s stairs! Stairs! Oh my giddy aunt, there are so many STAIRS. I’ve been here almost a month and I swear on my great aunt’s grave I now have buns of steel. Or at least bronze. Or they would be bronze if I ever did any sunbathing. Bottom line (ha ha, that was a pun, did you notice?) you cannot escape stairs in England. In the museums, in the hotels, in the tube stations! Oy vey, the tube stations! I’d forgotten the stairs in the tube stations. I’d forgotten the stairs full stop.

The only good thing is that this month away has handily laid the foundations for the new get fit regime I’ll be starting when I get home. Stay tuned for that! I have walked many many kilometres on this trip and I have climbed more stairs than any human being should have to. Which is good because I need to get back into shape again, pronto.

But if you’re coming over for a visit? Just remember what I say. Beware the stairs! And make sure you have good trainers for the climbing.

The joy of finding a new author

So, you know how it is. You’re all readers. You get it. That delightful thrill, that frisson of sheer pleasure, when you stumble across a new author whose books hit that sweet reading spot. It happened to me in York, in the lovely Waterstones store in Coney Street. Glenda Larke and I were there signing our stock for them and I, of course, couldn’t leave without a quick squizz at the shelves. Crime, this time. I love crime and mystery as much as spec fic. Grabbed a title and author I didn’t recognise, opened to the first page, and found this:

Between the parishes of Shetfold and Marslake in Somerset existed an area of no man’s land and a lot of ill feeling.

Boom! Sold. The book is The Assassin’s Prayer, by Ariana Franklin. It’s historical mystery, set in the time of Henry II. As it happens, this is the fourth book in the series. As a rule I don’t like reading series out of order but I was enchanted by that first line and needing something new, so I bought it. I’m so glad I did. I now have the first three books as well, and am halfway through book one, Mistress of the Art of Death.

The series’ protagonist is one Adelia Aguilar, a woman doctor trained in the enlightened medical school of Salerno. Think of her as the medieval world’s answer to Kay Scarpetta. Adelia solves murders forensically while fighting the extreme misogyny and superstition of the medieval church. She’s a wonderful hero: brave and ethical and witty and stubborn.

If you like murder mysteries, especially the historical kind, I can’t recommend these books highly enough. The research is impeccable and seamlessly woven into the narrative. It’s world-building of the highest order – aspiring novelists take note!

So there you have it. Two thumbs up for this amazing crime series. Go forth and read! And let me know what you think.

Book day for The Falcon Throne

Well, with much excitement and some trepidation (because there’s always a smidgin of trepidation, you know) I can shout from the roof tops that today is the official UK and US release day of The Falcon Throne.

Many many people are owed thanks for the publication of this book. They’re all mentioned in the acknowledgements, but let me thank again in particular: my lovely agent Ethan Ellenberg; my wonderful publisher, Orbit, and Tim Holman; my superhumanly patient and supportive editor Anna Gregson; the entire Orbit production and sales/marketing team; Anne Clarke in the Orbit US office and her team; the exquisitely persnickety Abigail Nathan of Bothersome Words, copy editor par excellence; my delightfully honest beta readers Mary, Elaine, Pete, Glenda and Mark; and most of all the readers who make it all possible.

Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

If you buy the book, thank you. If you like it, I’d truly appreciate knowing that. And if you do, if you could spread the word, that would also be hugely appreciated too. These are strange days for writers and publishers. Word of mouth can do so much to keep our quirky business alive.

A SPECIAL REMINDER FOR USA READERS: since the conflict between my publisher and Amazon US remains unresolved, and all Orbit authors are being penalised as a result, no good will come of you ordering The Falcon Throne through Amazon.com. Please avail yourself of the many other options as outlined on the Where to Buy page of this blog.

Farewell York, and a reminder

Ah, York. What a truly astonishing city. Town. Whatever the technical term is. Place! I love it here, more than I can say, and will carry away some special memories. Possibly one of the most beautiful must be the glorious sound of Evensong sung in York Minster. By coincidence we arrived at the cathedral while the Evensong service was being conducted. Amazing acoustics and the piercing purity of those unearthly voices … shiver down the spine time. And of course, the minster, which is a fabulous building. If you get the chance to visit York, take it. A unique experience, with so much incredible history. And so my time here ends, after an enjoyable time at the British Fantasy Convention and a memorable second visit to magical York. Now it’s back to London and many day trips to cool places. Stay tuned for that!

Finally, can I please remind the winners of the giveaway for The Falcon Throne that not everyone has come back to me with their postal information. I need it by Monday September 15, or getting the signed books to you becomes infinitely more difficult. So chop chop!

British Fantasy Con

Is in full swing, and what a whirlwind! I’ve had the enormous pleasure of sharing a leisurely breakfast with Kate Elliott, moderating a panel with guests of honour Charlaine Harris and Toby Whithouse, and sharing a panel with Joanne Harris (no relation) the author of Chocolat. I’ve chatted with the fabulous Paul Cornell and now have his book London Falling beside me to read.

The con isn’t huge (certainly not by Loncon standards!) but full of interesting people. As well as listening to Charlaine Harris on the panel, I sat in on her Guest of Honour Q&A. She’s a real inspiration, a woman who stuck to her guns and trusted her instincts when nobody thought her first Sookie Stackhouse novel would sell. Of course it did and the rest is HBO history! She’s smart and funny and very down to earth.

Of course I’m biased when it comes to Kate Elliott, because she’s a friend. But I knew her work before I ever knew her and I really do believe she’s one of the best writers we have in the genre. A truly unique voice. If you haven’t read her work, you should check it out.

And now my dinner’s here, so yum! Time to eat!

Book-signing at Forbidden Planet, London

Here’s exciting news! I’ll be signing The Falcon Throne (and any other books bearing my name) at London’s premier science fiction bookshop Forbidden Planet while I’m in town. The details are as follows:

Forbidden Planet

179 Shaftesbury Ave, London

Saturday September 13th, between noon and 1 pm.

If you’re in London town, I hope you can make it.

Angers, and a reminder …

So Anger is fantabulous. If you’re in France, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Wonderful medieval section of town, castle, cathedral, great food, great shopping, apparently great wine (but I don’t drink, so I wouldn’t know!). Much excellent research material has been gleaned. Also, photos. There are so going to be some photo essays when I get back …

Also, a reminder for you to enter the giveaway comp for The Falcon Throne. Deadline is September 1st and I’ll be announcing the winners asap after that date. I’ll be in  London and based at a hotel, so it shouldn’t be too long a wait!

Guedelon!

So, one of the reasons I wanted to research in France was so I could visit the amazing Guedelon — where they’re building a medieval castle from scratch, using only medieval tools, techniques and materials. The project started in 1998 and they anticipate the castle being finished in 2023. I’d love to come back for that.

It’s an amazing experience and I look forward to putting up some photos when I get home. Mind you, it’s not the most straightforward place to get to! We hired a car in Nevers and drove there. Cue the white knuckles — they drive on the wrong *g* side of the road in France and the sat nav was in French to boot and neither of us is fluent! But we made it. On the way back we detoured via St-Fargeau to see the amazing castle in that small town. The castle has a 1000 year history, but had been let deteriorate. Not all of it is open, but what we did see was amazing in a bizarre kind of way … plus there was something truly ick, but I’m not saying what because it is so going to feature in Tarnished Crown book 2! In due course I will post photos, when it comes time to talk about the book.  Less icky was the truly stupendous tartlette citron we enjoyed after our hours of tramping through the woods and half built castle, and then the chateau.

Tomorrow we sally forth to Angers, where there is another astonishing castle to explore. And then we head back to the UK, and part ways. But I catch up with Glenda Larke again then – so stay tuned for more whacky research adventures!