OK, that’s maybe not the title I’d have gone for if I’d been going for informational value. I just have the song running through my head at the moment. “Help, I’m alive, my heart keeps beating like a hammer.’ Let me see if I can find it somewhere so you can have it running through your head too.
All of which is an enormous aside, because what I mean is ‘Help, I’ve finished the novel I was working on. What should I do next?’
I really want to write some heroines. This is a problem, given that everything I’ve ever published is m/m. If I write some heroine led books, where would I publish them? Who would read them? Why on earth would I be even contemplating starting again from scratch when I should really buckle down and concentrate on writing the books I know people want me to write?
Actually maybe the song is not that inappropriate after all. ‘I tremble. They’re going to eat me alive.’
Why do I do this to myself? Why can’t I settle on anything? Oh god, it’s far more appropriate than I thought, or else it’s my author’s mind turning everything into a metaphor, but look – I’m such a butterfly. I can’t stay on one flower very long.
I could try, though. What do you think? Have you got m/m books you badly want me to write? Any suggestions? Or should I go off and write another Lioness book which no one may ever read? And then that one with the squad of Faerie paranormal investigators? And then whatever comes next?
Speaking of which, I’m badly in need of someone to beta read Lioness of Cygnus 5 for me. It’s an all action sci-fi romp in which a hard-bitten female space captain and a cowardly techno-criminal are shipwrecked on a penal planet and have to work together to survive. Anyone fancy reading it and getting back to me with questions and suggestions for how it can be improved?
So, I know authors are not supposed to address negative reviews, but I’m going to do it anyway, in a circuitous way. I’ve no desire to hold up any individual review and nobble it, but I’ve had a couple of reviews from people who have had problems with my depiction of Christianity and Paganism in the Reluctant Berserker, and I would like to try to explain why I wrote it as I did.
The first thing I’d like to say is that I know a certain amount about the era of which we speak. I studied Anglo Saxon Art and Archaeology at university, and then I did a thesis on ‘The Cult of the Horse in Early Anglo-Saxon England’ which necessitated me combing all the available evidence about paganism in England in Saxon times.
I say this not to blow my own trumpet, but mainly to point out that there was both thought and knowledge behind my treatment of both subjects.
It’s fair to say that all the written evidence we have from early Saxon England comes to us filtered through the perspective of Christians. This was because it was Christians – monks, nuns, priests – who were literate at the time. All of the source material we have, on which to base a portrait of the world view of the Saxons was written down by Christians. Even Beowulf.
I know that the impression we get of Saxon society is overwhelmingly Christian, because I studied it looking for evidence of paganism. I wanted at the time to learn more about Woden, Tiw, Thunor, Frig and so on, because I wished to worship them – I was a nascent Asatru. But the result of combing the Anglo-Saxon sources for genuine information about the old gods was a deep immersion in Saxon Christianity and a conversion experience.
We need to remember that this is a pre-scientific society. Our modern society is shaped by a great many beliefs that did not exist in Saxon times. Evolution, progress, the ability of science and reason to understand the world, a profound lack of spirituality. Saxon England was very different. Their world was populated with spiritual presences, which were responsible for illness and fate and luck. They weren’t alone in their universe. In fact they were surrounded by invisible presences, from the earth spirits that might be called up to scorn your enemies to death, to the highest of the archangels. The very earth under their feet was alive and watching them.
The melancholy resignation to the will of God, the gnomic sayings, the superstitious use of Christianity as a kind of magic – making the sign of the cross over food one had dropped on the floor to make it safe to eat – all of it is pretty much directly taken from the source material.
Now you can say ‘but of course the source material is going to be heavily Christian if it was written by monks. That doesn’t mean the normal people were all saints’ and you’d be right about that. But… does that mean that I should reject the only available source material and just make something up? I don’t think that’s a better option.
The truth is that there’s even less evidence for what the pre-Christian beliefs of the Saxons might have been. There are some place names that include the elements Woden, Thunor, Tiw, Ing and Frigg, which suggests that some of the stories known about Odin, Thor, Tyr, Frey and Frigga might have been shared by the Anglo-Saxons. I’ve used that to justify having Leofgar make reference to some stories known from Norse myth.
Beyond that, there are some unexplained references to goddesses like Eostre and Nerthus in the writings of the (Christian) Venerable Bede. And there are some magical chants and formulae in the Leechbooks of the time (early medical texts) which I have used in forming the character and beliefs of Saewyn the healer.
So, really to wind this up before I get tedious – it may be too late there – the reason that The Reluctant Berserker is such a blatantly Christian and indeed Catholic book is that Saxon society and world view was a blatantly Christian and indeed Catholic one (though with some input from Celtic Christianity.)
And the reason why my healer is more in touch with paganism and yet uses her magical powers to curse her son’s killer is not because I’m saying that paganism is inherently evil. It’s because – by early Saxon mores – she has every right and indeed the duty to avenge her son’s death. She’s doing a thing which the early Saxons would have thought of as laudable. And I decided to allow her to do it in an authentic way, by setting up a spite stake against his murderer.
“Beecroft’s very English contemporary romance, a standalone linked with Trowchester Blues, is note perfect from start to finish.”
– Publisher’s Weekly
Wow! This is the kind of thing that makes me feel like I’m a real author
And I ought to be throwing a party, but you know me by now. I will actually be celebrating by changing the widget in my sidebar from ‘Coming Soon’ to ‘Out Now.’
I am, however, also to be found on all of these blogs talking about the book, and middle age, and how to steal a cathedral:
So really I’ll just be sitting down and holding an ice pack to my aching head.
Well, the new release is now officially available at Riptide and will go on sale everywhere else on Monday.
I’m sure you’re thinking my run up to the event here has been pretty sparse, and that’s true. But I’ve been busily writing blog posts for the tour. In proof of which I offer you this schedule:
Yay! Though I’m sorry to hear that the first chapters were so grim they almost put the reviewer off, I’m very glad to hear that she felt it was well worth pushing through to get to the rest of it
Overall, I thought this was a very enjoyable read, once I got past the grim beginning. Michael and Finn’s chemistry is very palpable, and as a reader, I was rooting for them to push beyond their mutual hang-ups and see how together they were the golden glue that fills in the broken cracks in each other’s lives and reveals something whole and beautiful.
I look forward to reading what’s next in Trowchester. It’s certainly off to a wonderful start.
In other news, I have finished the first draft of my unexpected space opera with m/f romance, now titled Lioness of Cygnus 5. That weighs in at 77,443 words, and I expect it to reach around 85,000 when I’ve finished edits. I know there are a lot of scenes that need to be added or fleshed out, and my editing tends to lengthen rather than shorten my first drafts anyway.
What next? Probably the next Trowchester book, I think. But first a day off!
Thank you so much to Kazza at On Top Down Under
Trowchester Blues is a gentle, kind book. The town of Trowchester is a lovely backdrop to the narrative of the story and the characters. This is my first contemporary read of Alex Beecroft’s, every other book of hers I’ve read has been historical. Some writers can’t mix it up so well. But no need to worry, Alex Beecroft is nothing if not a superb author, no matter the style or time. The writing is strong, heartfelt, sweet, funny, sombre, romantic, sensual and engaging.
Woohoo! Can’t be better
“Epic in its scope and intensity, this is a book full of very human emotions and deeply heartfelt journeys….”
How about that! Thank you RT!
However I do feel moved to mention that although they call it HOT here, I’m fairly sure it’s nothing of the sort. Epic scope and intensity, yes, heaps of steamy sex… not really. Regular readers will know me by now, but I don’t want any new people to expect scorching and then be disappointed.
It’s New Year’s Eve? So tomorrow you start on your diet, right? OK, that’s probably a bit presumptive. It’s New Year’s Eve, so tomorrow I start on my diet. Today, I get rid of all the party food in the house, and one of the ways I do this is through soup.
You need to understand that I learned to cook as a student, when my ingredients were ‘whatever is being thrown away at the market’ and water. Despite now being many decades older, I’ve never seen any need to learn to cook any other way. You probably also need to understand that I hate cooking, and only do it in preference to starving.
There’s a reason why my characters live off supernoodles and pizza, and the most complicated cookery they ever attempt is throwing some mixed herbs, olive oil and parmesan on top of spaghetti (Finn from Trowchester Blues.) They all enjoy their food, but they enjoy it best when it’s cooked by someone else.
Have I lowered your expectations enough? Probably not. You probably still won’t believe I had the cheek to offer this as a recipe. But I did! Behold and boggle:
New Year’s Eve soup
Fry a chopped onion in a massive pan.
Take all your savoury leftovers (which you have been storing in the freezer for just this occasion) and roughly chop them. Throw them in the pan with the onions and fry the whole lot.
Add two pints of water. If you have any left over gravy, fling that in too. Otherwise, add a stock cube. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for about an hour.
Blend to smoothness with a hand blender.
Add things to make it taste better. Eg, soy sauce or cumin or paprika if it needs more depth, left over cranberry jelly and Christmas pudding if it needs more sweetness. Etc – whatever you have on hand.
If it’s too thin, add a couple of handfuls of lentils.
If it’s too thick, add water.
Tell yourself thank God that’s over. Now I can get back to something interesting, and have your last glass of wine for the year while contemplating what you’re going to write next.
Happy New Year! May it be full of good dinners you didn’t have to cook for yourself
ZAM mentioned that I probably share this method of cookery with the Saxons, who famously dismissed the entire art of the chef by declaring “I can boil what I need to boil by myself.” So I’m going to use that tenuous hook to tie this post in to The Reluctant Berserker, in which cookery also fails to play a prominent part in everyone’s lives.
I am made up to have got a review in such an august publication And even more so one that concludes:
“A multi-ethnic, diversely gendered cast of characters inhabits this homey universe… Finn’s belief that “if the heart
is going to err… It’s surely always best to err on the side of love” underlies an entertaining, emotionally satisfying mix of intrigue, mourning, adventure, comedy, and romance.”
So I think they liked it