Updating, and a recommendation

Slowly but surely, the words accumulate – and I remember how it feels to be a writer. Big smiles all around!

In other news, last night I finally caught up with one of my dearest friends in the world and got to show her one of my favourite ballet documentaries. Before a horrible injury she was a dancer, and still loves the art.

Born to be Wild is a fabulous doco featuring 4 principle male dancers from the American Ballet Theatre: Jose Manuel Carreno, Angela Corella, Vladimir Malakhov and Ethan Stiefel. 4 very different dancers, with intriguingly different backgrounds, but all equally and mind-blowingly talented.

If you love dance, if you love watching the guys do more than prop up the ballerinas in various poses, this is the ballet documentary for you. It’s available online from Amazon, but if you’re not in the US you’ll need a multi zone dvd player to watch it.

Because I keep showing this dvd to various friends, I’ve seen it multiple times — and I never get tired of it. These guys are super fabulous, super free of tedious ego shite, and a visceral pleasure to watch.

Enjoy!

Life imitates art imitates life

Last week I finally got around to doing a big chore, that I’d been putting off — namely, clearing out all the tv shows stacked up on my dvd recorder. Of course, the only reason I got off my arse and did it is because I had almost no space left. But hey. At least I did it. *g*

60 hours of history docos and whatnot later, and this afternoon (after finishing another chapter, woo hoo!) I finished labelling the recordings I couldn’t label at the time. And so I discovered one I recorded about Sir Flinders Petrie: The Man Who Discovered Egypt. Basically, Petrie invented modern archeology. It was his pupil, Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb. Everything we take for granted about modern scientific method in the field is because Petrie set it up that way. He was extraordinary. Also stunningly eccentric. No spoilers, just … wait till you find out what happened when he died!

The reason I recorded this doco isn’t because I’m a huge Egypt buff. Oddly enough, for all my fascination with various ancient civilisations, I’m not. But I did know his name thanks to the wonderful Amelia Peabody books, written by the late, great Elizabeth Peters. (The first book is The Crocodile on the Sandbank. It’s the most wonderful historical mystery series set in Egypt, starting around the late 1800s. It’s history and mystery and romance and humour rolled into one glorious procession of books. I can’t recommend them highly enough.) Anyhow, Petrie figures as a character in many of the Peabody books and today I finally got around to watching this doco about his life.

It’s fabulous. And it’s also extremely amusing, because now I can see where Peters, herself an archeologist, used a lot of stuff about Petrie and his wife as inspiration for the Peabody books.

So there you go. Read the books, and watch the doco about Petrie if you can track it down. Fabulous, fascinating stuff! And the next time I’m in London, I’ll be making a stop at the Petrie Museum! And going back to the British Museum to pay closer attention to the Roman mummies Petrie found. The portraits attached to the outside of the mummy casings – used instead of mummy masks – are breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like them. The best of those are in the Cairo museum, so … yeah. Hopefully they’re being kept safe. But there are some in London. Wheee!

Yes, there has indeed been a long and deafening silence

Because honestly, the whole ongoing spinal drama has knocked me sideways. Nearly 7 months of constant screaming blowtorch pain, and multiple weekly medical appointments, and handfuls of drugs, and mostly poor sleep, and freaking out over all the work not getting done …

It’s been a challenge. But hooray! I am now released from multiple weekly physio appointments, the drug regimen is winding down, the pain is all but gone, there is still chiro and massage but they are manageable and I have a functioning brain again. Which means I can think straight to write and move well enough to go back to the beginning, again, with the fitness program.

In the meantime, though, as I get myself organised for life as I used to live it, enjoy this great interview with Australian spec fic author Thoraiya Dyer, who’s just made her first novel sale.

Read about it here!

Guest Post: Lucy Hounsom

Starborn cover   It’s now my great pleasure to introduce Lucy Hounsom and her debut fantasy novel, Starborn. This is the first in a new trilogy.

LucyHounsomLucy works for Waterstones Booksellers in London, and has a BA in English & Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing under Andrew Motion in 2010. She lives in Devon.
Here’s Lucy in her own words …
“Both the characters and the central idea that drives Starborn have been around for a long time. I wrote the first chapter over ten years ago as a naïve seventeen year old and then set the story aside when I went to university. But it bubbled away beneath the surface, never leaving me alone, until I knew that I had to write it even if it never got published. That’s the thing about stories – they beg to be told, to be shared and this one is a culmination of everything I’ve ever loved about fantasy. Books by authors like Tolkien, Robin Hobb, Patricia McKillip Ursula Le Guin and countless others made being an awkward teenager bearable, and at the same time convinced me that I wanted to write too. The idea that people could enjoy my stories in the same way is part of why I write. To create a world so immersive that it’s able to sweep you away for a time – that’s my goal. And fantasy is a wonderful cloth to weave; its threads are rich and steeped in history. It’s able to express archetypes in a way quite unlike any other literary genre. To me, writing and fantasy are seamlessly interwoven and in all honesty I’m not sure I could write anything else. So what do I love about this genre? The worldbuilding for starters – I love exploring worlds so like and unlike our own. In those worlds, the impossible becomes the possible, lands are populated with strange peoples and creatures, and there’s an overriding sense of the epic – the struggle that so defines our race. I love the characters we meet in fantasy, the heroes, the antiheroes, the villains, the rogues, the innocents. When we read a story, we automatically become the protagonist; we suffer through their trials, we’re with them when they fall in love, we look out of their eyes at the unfolding of events. When it comes to character, traditionally fantasy has drawn rather distinct lines between ‘good’ and ‘evil’; the hero is often Campbellian, the villain his recognisable opposite. While movements like grimdark have turned that tradition on its head, I set out with a different aim, which was to tell a story that explored heroism as a concept instead of a given trait. I started with the phrase, ‘one man’s heroism is another man’s tyranny’ and thought about the subjectivity that statement embodies. It suggests heroism is defined by context and individual perspective, instead of objective characteristics. The crux of Starborn – as Kyndra, my protagonist, comes to discover – hinges on the actions of one man, whose crowning achievement makes him a saviour in some eyes and a monster in others. It’s up to the reader to decide which he is, or even whether it matters to the histories. This discussion provides the background context for Kyndra herself. I wanted to move away from the established rendering of the Garion[1]-type hero as a hard-working, honest sort, instead drawing Kyndra as she would more likely be, living in a small community: sheltered, idealistic, stubborn. We are shaped by our childhood and our childhood environment and our earliest experiences colour everything we do. Kyndra has an unbelievably long journey ahead of her, which changes her more than she could ever imagine, so I wanted her to retain the roots of her thinking, to see the world – rightly or wrongly – through the eyes of someone who has grown up in an isolated community at peace. The very concept of war is alien to her, as are the attitudes that foster it, and she struggles to understand the divisions responsible for fragmenting a society. When you want to explore a particular subject, I think it’s important to have a recognisable base as reference, so there’s a lot you’ll find familiar about Starborn. It’s a rite of passage novel where the protagonist is living an ordinary life in a small corner of the world, but is inevitably swept up in wider events. Kyndra learns what it means to take control of those events instead of letting them steer her course and she comes face to face with the idea of destiny and what it might require of her. Of course Starborn is also full of magic, mysterious citadels, buried truths and unresolved conflicts – all the elements that make epic fantasy such fun to read and write. I love this genre for its possibilities, its powerful nostalgia for bygone eras. I love its various characters and settings, from dragons to sorcerers to epic battles. Fantasy allows us to ask poignant questions about society while sweeping us off on an epic journey with people in whom we can see ourselves. I’ve just finished the first draft of Book Two, where Kyndra and her companions encounter a host of new challenges. I always envisioned the series as a trilogy, so that the characters I’ve come to love have room to grow and time in which to tell their stories, and I can’t wait to share them with you.” [1] The hero of The (excellent ) Belgariad by David Eddings
Starborn is available now in-store and online. If you enjoy fantasy adventure with a strong female central character, some mystery and some romance, give it a read!

The Falcon Throne paperback: Giveaway!

Well, the paperback edition of The Falcon Throne, book 1 in The Tarnished Crown series, is due to hit bookshelves in the real world and in cyberspace very soon. So I’d like to celebrate by offering 3 copies as giveaway prizes. All you need to do is send me an email via the Contact button on this website, and you’ll go into the draw. Good luck!

EDIT TO ADD: THE COMP IS NOW CLOSED, I’M SORRY. WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED SHORTLY. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO WANTED TO WIN A COPY.

Music for the soul: Witness

Witness is one of my favourite films. For me, it’s a perfect little gem. It also showcases just how great an actor Harrison Ford is. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role as John Book. So deserved. After that he delivered an even more extraordinary performance in Mosquito Coast. And then, I don’t know what happened. Maybe he decided he’d rather star in the big bucks blockbusters than the performance perfect films that didn’t reach such a wide audience. But if you’ve not seen either of those films, I think you must. He really is terrific.

Probably the most iconic (or second most iconic!) scene in Witness is the barn building sequence. When you watch it (again) pay special attention to Ford. He is a professional carpenter as well as an actor, and you can tell from the way he handles the hammer and stuff. You can’t fake genuine expertise.

The music for Witness was composed by Maurice Jarre, and he used a synthesiser to create the sharply modern soundscape as a contrast to the out of time Amish community. The barn raising sequence music is pretty famous, and with good reason. Following the template of Pachelbel’s Canon, it builds and builds to its crescendo. Wonderful.

What I didn’t realise for a long time, until I stumbled across a movie soundtrack cd of Ford’s movies, is there is an orchestral arrangement of the barn building theme. It is one of my absolute favourite pieces of music, soundtrack or otherwise. So achingly beautiful. Only John William’s music touches me as profoundly.

Have a listen and tell me if you feel the same way.

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 …