THE WITCH’S BOY
Are the sins of the fathers really visited upon the sons? And is there no way of breaking that cycle? Is evil doomed always to repeat itself, ruining everything good through its tainted seed?
These are not the questions young Oswy is asking himself when he is sold to the witch-Lord Sulien FitzGuimar. He’s too busy wondering ‘why me?!’ They are, however, the questions which plague Sulien himself. Locked in a struggle for freedom, sanity, the very survival of his soul, Sulien must daily battle not only angels and demons, but the core of evil in his own heart.
When the King’s sorcerer stages a coup, dragging ancient magic, the elves, and the royal court into his Empire-building plans, the woman he has set his sights on as a bride – timid, aspiring nun, Adela – sets out to find someone to oppose him. It’s just unfortunate that the only candidates are cowardly Oswy, Adela herself and Sulien – who, deep in his heart, just wants to surrender and join him.
When the hope of redemption is balanced against the lure of revenge, which will prove stronger, flawed good or perfect evil?
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So, today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/ and to mark the day lots of people around the web are taking part in the (blog) Hop against Homophobia and Transphobia.
I was amused in a slightly sad and bitter way to find that the instructions that came with participation in this event refer to it as the Hop against Homophobia, and in the ‘what to include’ section offers the advice to ‘give your message on homophobia’ and ‘do whatever else you feel like: link to sites you’re familiar with that focus on fighting homophobia’. Look at that URL again if you don’t believe me.
I’m all for blogging against homophobia, but it’s a sad reflection of society’s priorities that even the ‘how to’ section of the ‘hop against homophobia and transphobia’ forgets to mention the possibility that you might want to blog about transphobia instead.
As the mother of a transgender child, I’m very aware of how the world is stacked against him. It was OK when he was pre-puberty and everyone assumed he was a boy anyway, but puberty heralded bullying and withdrawal and endlessly having to think up reasons why he couldn’t go swimming without a wetsuit, why he couldn’t do PE at school (where he would be forced to use the girls’ changing rooms,) why he couldn’t go into toilets when he was outside the house, leading to him giving up drinking altogether, etc.
They’re all little things, I know. Little things attended with massive existential anxiety. Little things attended with society’s constant incomprehension that there’s even a problem – its attempts to push the blame on him for being difficult. I’m not even mentioning the statistics on self-harm and suicide among transgendered children, although as a mother I live in fear for him. And I’m not even mentioning my continuing fear that he will be targeted for transphobic violence or even murdered, as happens to so many transgender people.
But I am thinking, damn, it’s hard when the very movement that’s apparently set up to raise awareness of this decides he doesn’t exist, or that his problems are not worth talking about.
So, rather than get all angry, I’ll use this opportunity to big up the Tavistock and Portland Clinic, who are doing something constructive:
and the NHS which has so far been more understanding and more helpful – and more willing to believe him – than I had ever been led to believe.
In accordance with the blog-hop instructions I’ll be offering a book to a random commenter, so check back in a few days to see if your name came up and if you need to tell me where to send it.
Also, since this is a sensitive subject that can easily devolve into arguments in which real-life people get hurt, I will be strictly monitoring and controlling the comments. In contrast to my usual behaviour on my blog, I’m not interested in an intellectual debate about this. I have done the debate already and I’ve come down on the side of believing my son.
LOL! It looks like we planned this as a swap, but actually it just turned out this way. Charlie’s one of the first people I ever got to know in this genre, and still one of the nicest. It was a great experience, coming in as a new author to have a posse of people to hang out with and keep each other encouraged. Much has changed since the days when Charlie, Erastes, Lee Rowan and I set up The Macaronis and were mostly of one mind about historical fiction, but the friendship doesn’t wane.
Anyway, enough of that, and on to the interview
What upcoming project of your own are you most excited about?
You’re going to see a theme for my answers, in that you’ll ask me for one example, and I’ll give you three. Or more. Maybe I’m generous or maybe I’m just too loquacious. I was the same in exams, always wrote too much.
The definite thing I’m most excited about is the next Cambridge Fellows book, Lessons for Suspicious minds, which should be out around September. It goes back to 1909, so Jonty’s parents will be swooping in on Mrs. Stewart’s broomstick!
The indefinite things are even more exciting, but they’re all “don’t know yets”. I have a story long listed for a mainstream anthology, another entered in a competition and a story submitted to an agent.
Who is your favorite fictional character created by someone other than yourself?
Going to have to give more than one.
Aragorn, of course, because he’s handsome and tough and noble and heroic and just…cor.
Laurie Odell, because he’s beautifully depicted, wonderfully authentic and just a bit tragic.
Miss Marple, because she’s so well observed. In terms of wheedling out sensitive information, MI5 would be better off employing old ladies than young studs.
What are you enjoying reading at the moment?
My bargain basement treasures. I picked up six volumes of illustrated yearbooks from 1911 through to 1916, full of news and pictures and wonderful stuff. The fact that they came to £3 in total gobsmacked me. Clearly this is an era I read and write about (most of my books are set in the early years of the twentieth century) so not only will they be great for research, they’ll hopefully provide a plot bunny or two.
I always say you can’t beat contemporary sources for both research and inspiration purposes. You get a feel for the cadence of the language, for one thing.
Tell us about the books you have out
Blimey. There are so many of them, from short stories through to series – where to start? I’ve written about Weresloths, cross dressers, Regency curates, Paralympic swimmers and, of course, Cambridge dons who like to do sleuthing on the side. My most recent book takes me back to what seems to be my comfort zone, WWI. Promises Made Under Fire is about what happens when just about everything you knew (or thought you knew) about your best friend turns out to be a lie.
There are more stories, of course; the easiest way to find a list of/links to all my stories is down the left hand side of my blog!
What type of music, if any, do you listen to while you write?
Any and everything, so long as it requires no concentration. Sometimes I listen to sport (football is especially useful as it’s pretty bland) or audio books/radio drama, but they tend to be a touch distracting. I’m listening to Stylo by Gorillaz at present, but that could as easily be the Beach Boys or Luciano Pavarotti.
Do you think you have specific themes you continue to return to? If so what are they?
I have certain eras, definitely. Writing 1900 to 1920 feels like coming home, maybe because I’ve always read and enjoyed so many stories from around that time (Jerome K Jerome, Conan Doyle, etc). As for themes, I guess that one I tend to return to is a pair of manly men, if that makes sense. My heroes are rarely in the outwardly effeminate end of the spectrum (except for Francis from “All That Jazz”) and usually like sport and showing their affection by insulting each other.
I suspect a faith element usually plays a part in my plots, although maybe that’s my own spirituality coming out?
What one thing are you the most proud of in your life?
I should probably say producing (with the help of the long-suffering Mr. Cochrane) my three beautiful daughters, but if I’m allowed to be entirely self centred and shallow I’d say
a) my double first from Cambridge
b) having fed Red Rum a Polo mint
c) the fan e-mails I get from gay men
Do you characterize by observation or introspection?
Alex, I don’t even understand that question. I am the world’s worst at analysing my writing (or plotting a story or anything else which is remotely sensible). What did Adrian Plass say? Something like “Writing is easy, you just sit at a typewriter and open a vein.” I just sit down and see what appears on the screen. (Do not try this at home, folks!)
Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?
How long have we got? I read all sorts of stuff, fiction and non-fiction. Among my favourites are:
Jerome K Jerome, for his humour. Jonty and Orlando are heavily influenced by the three men in their boat.
Patrick O’Brian for use of language, breadth of vision and fantastic characterisation.
Mary Renault for being able to say more in one line than most writers can in a whole page.
Have you seen those ‘author’s cave’ photos that show the office/study/corner of the table where famous writers work? What does yours look like?
The Cochranes had a bit of a move round last year, swopping three rooms about, so our study is a converted bedroom. It’s east facing so gets lots of morning sun, is light, airy and has a view over both gardens and fields and the M27. (I’m a London girl, I don’t mind watching a bit of traffic.)
There’s a desk in here, a bookcase, a couple of comfy chairs, a filing cabinet and a Bose system, for that all important music and sport. I “Cox and Box” in here with Mr Cochrane, who is very tidy, which is just as well. It could be awful if one of us was a neat freak and the other wasn’t!
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org (maybe to sign up for my newsletter?) or catch me on Facebook, twitter, goodreads, my website or my blog. All over the place like a rash, really. I tend to blog about anything that takes my fancy, so I can promise that it isn’t all “Buy my book”. I have author guests every month, which is smashing fun (they always have such interesting answers) and I may just mention rugby occasionally. Sometimes. Once or twice a year.
So, my dry spell continues, as you can tell from the state of the blog. But I can at least manage to rouse myself and say “Look! I’ve been interviewed by Charlie Cochrane, the star and inventor of sweet m/m, the author of the well beloved Cambridge Fellows series.”
Charlie always thinks of really good questions, so if you ever wanted to know which imaginary fellow of mine to take along on a potentially perilous date, you can find the answer here: http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com/268181.html
As for me, I am finally writing again – working on Blue Eyed Stranger – but I haven’t yet got enough tension in my spring to manage blogging as well. It will come, eventually. In the mean time, thank you ever so much to Charlie for having me
I don’t really have a lot to say about this. It was well made and entertaining, but it was nothing we haven’t seen before, and I think the attraction is wearing thin.
I was uncomfortable with the Mandarin as a villain right up until the point where it was revealed that he wasn’t actually the problem, after which I was a bit mollified but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. Is it OK to demonise someone if you then go “Haha! It was just a bluff.” Does it reflect badly on the film makers or does it just reflect badly on the film’s villain and thus make him more villainous?
I have to say that the Iron Man films have a remarkable run of creating villains who I don’t feel tempted to sympathize with whatsoever – villains who it’s really easy to both believe in and despise. This is an under-rated talent, IMO. After all, my resistance to heroes is so high that I generally end up cheering on the villains. I even rather liked Red Skull from Captain America. But while I think Ben Kingsley was the best thing in Iron Man 3, I’ve never been tempted to root for an Iron Man villain. Whether this is because Iron Man’s villains are so small-minded, so petty, and so clearly already possessed of everything that any rational person should learn to be content with, or because Tony Stark himself is drawn as a human enough hero to care about, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s both.
Still on the subject of the Mandarin, though, LOL, bless! Ben Kingsley can out charm Tony Stark any day.
Pepper in the suit was a disappointment, but Pepper with amazing fire powers was a pleasant surprise. Rhodey was awesome and I would probably watch a film in which Rhodey and Pepper teamed up to fight crime, with Jarvis as backup. Tony himself, meh. I’ve had enough of him for now. (Which made me quite approving of the ‘Tony hangs up his electromagnet and quits the superhero gig’ ending. Good for him. It was probably about time.)
You may have noticed a sudden and dramatic reduction of my blogging over the last week. The truth is I’m having a sudden and dramatic reduction in everything. I think this is connected to DH going back to work, although Youngest being ill and me still being sleep deprived after May Day are also factors that are not helping.
I’m between novels at the moment and can’t think of a new idea I want to write. I would like to think it’s just my brain telling me that OK, I’ve worked pretty hard at creating output since September last year and I need a holiday to recharge. But naturally my brain is also telling me that this is it. I will never get up again. If I don’t push myself to do something now, I will never write again. I’ve run out of things to write about. I am a damp rag twisted to the point where no water is left to be squeezed out, and now there’s nothing left but to lie around being limp and parched for ever more.
Don’t you just hate the artistic temperament sometimes?
Anyway. I am telling myself that it’s fine. I can have the rest of today and the weekend off, and we (my brain and I) will start work again on Monday. Despite the fact that I told myself the same thing last Friday, I’m trying to believe it this time.
Does this happen to any of you? Most people I talk to seem to have more ideas than they have time to work on them. Is it really only me who has to wait for the next one to come along?
On May Day morning, about 4.30am, the stalwart members of Coton Morris Men and the Ely and Littleport Riot rolled out of bed, put their bells on and journeyed to Ely Cathedral. There they performed the ancient dances of their folk, starting in the icy darkness before dawn, to encourage the sun in its journey into the sky.
Thus, though their hardy musician suffered a painful numbing of her fingers such that the music became a great labour unto her sore hands, still they capered on until with a great burst of golden light, behold
The sun arose upon Ely cathedral, and also upon all those other places in the world, such as Harrogate, and Ipswich and Shingay-cum-Wendy. Then, seeing that the regular rotation of the earth and the celestial bodies had been preserved, the dancers cried the ritual words, “blimey, I’m cold. How about breakfast?” And there was great rejoicing.
and I don’t think I’m particularly naughty at all. Stolid, I would have said. Mind you, I get round that by redefining the things I want to do as being perfectly innocuous and normal, so perhaps others might disagree.
In case I’m not being very clear, here I am on the Nine Naughty Novelists blog http://ninenaughtynovelists.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/guest-blogger-alex-beecroft-some.html
talking about the un-PC nature of erotic fantasy, and whether we should really worry too much about Fifty Shades of Grey.
I apologise for there being no Write On post yesterday, but Sunday and Monday were taken up by my regular monthly migraine, so I gave myself a break. Normal service will be resumed next week, I hope.
In the mean time I offer what I was reading as a recommendation and apology. Even if you’ve never watched Stargate Universe (into which I’m getting sucked more and more with each episode), if you like explorations of human consciousness… in space, with explosions and aliens and mind melds and stoic but heartbreaking slash, you’re sure to like this one. It’s epic
Force over Distance by Cleanwhiteroom
But I like to play a thief! (Or sometimes a Paladin.) Cleric is the most boring option out there
I Am A: Lawful Good Human Cleric (6th Level)
Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.
Clerics act as intermediaries between the earthly and the divine (or infernal) worlds. A good cleric helps those in need, while an evil cleric seeks to spread his patron’s vision of evil across the world. All clerics can heal wounds and bring people back from the brink of death, and powerful clerics can even raise the dead. Likewise, all clerics have authority over undead creatures, and they can turn away or even destroy these creatures. Clerics are trained in the use of simple weapons, and can use all forms of armor and shields without penalty, since armor does not interfere with the casting of divine spells. In addition to his normal complement of spells, every cleric chooses to focus on two of his deity’s domains. These domains grants the cleric special powers, and give him access to spells that he might otherwise never learn. A cleric’s Wisdom score should be high, since this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.
Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)
My daughter went to the midnight screening in London, and my son went to see it immediately after his drama exam at the matinee today. Daughter says “just as good as Iron Man 2″, and son says “it was OK, but we missed the first ten minutes and I never figured out what was going on.” If it was possible to be jealous of your own children, I would be, but fortunately it isn’t, so I will just see it some time this weekend and be careful to arrive early.
Morris dance practice season is almost over, to be succeeded on May 1st by Morris dance-out season. We (where ‘we’ = both the Coton Morris Men and the Ely and Littleport Riot) will be dancing the sun up outside Ely Cathedral on Wednesday morning. So if you want to come along at 5.20am, to watch us set in motion the machinery that keeps the sun rising all year long, you’d be very welcome.
DH and I are trying to learn the melodeon, on a very old single-row instrument loaned to us by one of the other musicians. The main problem seems to be figuring out where the notes are, which DH has solved with a tuning app on his phone. If it was mine, I’d label the buttons, but it isn’t, so I can’t. We are just about able to pick out “Bluebells of Scotland” on it, which feels like a major achievement.
I’ve been looking at practice chanters for the Uilleann pipes on ebay, which you seem to be able to get for £25, though an actual playable set of pipes isn’t available for less than about £200. But everyone says they take at least 7 years to learn, and I don’t think I have that sort of persistence. I should probably just stick to the whistle.