5 Things Morris Dancing Taught Me About Writing

5things2

In honour of the launch of Blue Eyed Stranger, a novel that will teach you the secrets about the mysterious world of morris dancing you never thought you needed to know, I present – Morris, the life guide :)

  1. If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth doing.

Just as nobody dons their baldrics and bellpads and capers in the street for strangers to sneer at because they think they’ll gain great glory or wealth from it, so you probably won’t gain great glory or riches from writing. You dance because it’s fun, you write because it’s fun, and any other health, social or financial benefits are secondary. Do it anyway, because you love to, and when it gets hard and you’re tempted to grumble, remember that nobody is making you do this, you’re doing it because it’s what you want.

  1. If you’re not having fun, people can tell.

I won’t name any names, but there are some morris dancing sides I’ve seen where the moves are perfect, the dances are done with enormous attention to detail, getting all the tricky footwork right. Excellent hankywork, good looking uniforms, perfect teamwork etc. And yet it’s so damn dull to watch. You stand there and you watch these people take it all terribly seriously, with frowns of concentration and a font of judgement for anyone who does it a smidgen less traditionally, and you can’t help but think how ridiculous it all is.

You can get away with a bit more poe-facedness as a writer, but it will eventually come through – the fact that you think very highly of yourself, and nobody is allowed to simply enjoy your books. And then, well, I guess you’ll get the poe-faced followers you deserve. If that’s your goal, go for it, but it sounds like an awful grind.

  1. If you are having fun, people can tell.

One of the first things we tell the new dancers is “If you forget what you’re supposed to do next, just lift your head, put on a big smile, and get back to place when you can. As long as you look like you’re having a great time, most people won’t notice the mistakes, and if they do, they’ll share a laugh with you and enjoy those too.” I think that applies to writing too. If you’re having so much fun with the exploding zombies and the big misunderstandings and the triple adultery and the cavalry charges, people aren’t going to notice the occasional plot hole or clunky sentence. If they’re being breathlessly swept away by your enthusiasm and big smile, they’ll forgive all sorts of technical faults.

  1. If your audience aren’t having fun, don’t even bother.

Like morris dancing, writing is a spectator sport. You may dance out because it entertains you, but if it doesn’t entertain your audience too you come away feeling dispirited, let down, and despondent, because what’s the point? Plus, you’ll soon find that even the semi-interested, curious onlookers you had at the start begin to drift away. However much you have a message to get across, or a mission to pursue in your writing, if it doesn’t entertain the reader they won’t stick around for anything else. Bear your readers in mind, and if you’re fairly sure they won’t enjoy that hundred page digression detailing the history of tin mining beginning in the stone age, maybe take it out of the story and put it in an appendix.

  1. You are your own master.

Morris and its accompanying music are folk arts. That means that anyone can do them. With a half hour’s practice every day, I learned to play the pennywhistle well enough for people to dance to, well enough to attend sessions with other musicians, well enough for a new art to have entered and enriched my life. Just the same way, if you put in an hour’s writing practice every day, you will soon get good enough at that to entertain yourself. Then you’ll progress to being able to entertain others, and before long you’ll find yourself making art.

At that point, you can get yourself a publisher, or you can choose to publish yourself, learning all the skills an indie publisher needs to know. But the truth is that you are the producer of the content, you are the provider, the artist, the entertainer, and if you don’t like the way you’re being treated, you get to take that content elsewhere. Unwelcome morris dancers go to drink at another pub. Unwelcome writers get to make their own cover art and market their own ebooks, but neither of us need approval or permission, we will do what is in our hearts to do, and if everyone is having fun in the process, everyone benefits.

BlueEyedStranger_200x133


Interview in Arts Illustrated

Thanks so much to Charles at Arts Illustrated for inviting me over to do a spot :)

http://www.artsillustrated.com/alex-beecroft-writer/

8. What do you like about your work?
I like the fact that it’s about the things I’m interested in. So few books are. The combination of an asexual, queer positive gaze with Christianity is an unfortunately rare one, and when I want to see that coupled with a decent amount of explosions and dragons, I mostly have to do it myself.


Help, I’m alive!

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?


Christianity and Paganism in The Reluctant Berserker.

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.

ReluctantBerserker-The300

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.


Blue Eyed Stranger gets a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly

“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 :)


Trowchester Blues Release Day

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:

February 9, 2015 Book Reviews and More by Kathy
February 9, 2015 The Blogger Girls
February 9, 2015 On Top Down Under Book Reviews
February 9, 2015 Smut Book Club
So really I’ll just be sitting down and holding an ice pack to my aching head.

Trowchester Blues Book Tour

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:

Stops for this tour:

February 9, 2015 Book Reviews and More by Kathy
February 9, 2015 The Blogger Girls
February 9, 2015 On Top Down Under Book Reviews
February 9, 2015 Smut Book Club
February 10, 2015 Boys In Our Books
February 10, 2015 Prism Book Alliance
February 10, 2015 Love Bytes
February 10, 2015 Cup O’ Porn
February 10, 2015 Sinfully Sexy Books
February 11, 2015 My Fiction Nook
February 11, 2015 The Novel Approach
February 11, 2015 Smoocher’s Voice
February 12, 2015 TTC Books and More
February 12, 2015 Nautical Star Books
February 13, 2015 Crystal’s Many Reviewers
February 13, 2015 MM Good Book Reviews
February 13, 2015 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
 There’s a banner too!
TBtourbanner
Also!
50percentoff

4.5 stars for Trowchester Blues from Boys in Our Books

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 :)

http://boysinourbooks.com/2015/02/04/pre-release-review-trowchester-blues-by-alex-beecroft/

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!


Gorgeous new review for Trowchester Blues

Thank you so much to Kazza at On Top Down Under :)

http://ontopdownunderbookreviews.com/trowchester-blues-trowchester-blues-alex-beecroft/

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 :)


RT gives The Reluctant Berserker four stars

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 12.09.09 PM

“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.

 


←Older