Well, it’s exciting to me, at least
Firstly a rather belated announcement that The Reluctant Berserker is now out in ebook format from all reputable sellers of electronic wares.
Any excuse to post the cover is a good excuse
Secondly, I can now announce that I have just signed a contract with Riptide Publishing on three new contemporary m/m romances. Two volumes of which are with them already and the third I’m writing at the moment.
If you remember, a long time ago I asked what people would like to see out of a choice of story ideas. Unanimously everyone thought that a romance between a re-enactor and a morris dancer was what they wanted. So I wrote Blue Eyed Stranger, which is exactly that.
Then I decided I quite liked having my own fictional town to play with. As I am just coming out of a mid-life crisis myself, I thought “lets do a m/m romance with some slightly older gentlemen, who are also trying to figure out what to do with themselves now the first half of their lives is over.” And that became Trowchester Blues.
And then I decided “well… if I’m talking about things that are relevant to myself, lets talk about asexuality. You really don’t see many asexual characters around.” So the story I’m writing at the moment is a love story between a gay man and a homo-romantic asexual man. It’s currently about a third of the way through, and also features murder and pottery, because… Because. The temporary title of this one is Blue Steel Chain.
You see what I did there with the Blue thing? I’m so proud of myself
This is the first time I’ve ever done a series, and I’m having such fun reintroducing characters and settings. I don’t know why I didn’t do it before.
I note that I still can’t leave history entirely out of it, contemporary or not. We have a re-enactor in Blue Eyed Stranger, the owner of an antiquarian bookshop in Trowchester Blues, and an archaeologist in Blue Steel Chain. And Trowchester itself of course has Roman walls, Saxon churches and a Bronze age hill fort. But hey, authors are allowed their themes, right?
Trowchester Blues is due out first, on the 15th of December 2014. Then the others follow in April and July of 2015. I foresee 2014 being pretty busy!
hie thee over to Smashwords, where I’m giving away the anthology for nothing at all, as part of some kind of promotional thing. Popular wisdom says this is a good thing for me too, but I’m reserving judgement on that. It is, however certainly good for anyone who wants a copy of my short stories for free.
Click here and use the code RW100 at the checkout to get the money off.
It’s got the tie-in stories from False Colors, Captain’s Surrender and The Wages of Sin all in one place
I’m delighted to say that people seem to be enjoying The Reluctant Berserker so far. I have two five star (or five sweet-pea) pre-release reviews to crow about
First, here’s a guest post I did on Sinfully Sexy Books:
in which I talk about my reenactment society, and why I wanted to write about a society at peace rather than at war. That’s accompanied with a long and thoughtful review, considering the book from several directions and concluding with “Once again and beautifully written book from Alex; rich in detail, emotion and intricacy of plot. A must read for all historical fans of M/M.”
Hee! Thanks so much, Mark
Secondly but not secondarily, Feliz Reviews an ARC of The Reluctant Berserker by Alex Beecroft on Mrs Condit and Friends and awards it a bouquet of sweet peas and a ‘recommended read’ status. Feliz says:
“This book had me biting my nails with tension during action and fighting scenes, it had me smile in fondness at tender moments, curse characters and cheer others on, it had me laughing with joy at the sheer beauty of its language, and I closed it with a wistfully happy smile. All I ever wish for in my reading, and I can’t commend it highly enough.”
Which I think really can’t be bettered Thank you so much, Feliz!
And speaking of ARCs of The Reluctant Berserker, HJ, you won the draw on the “Boys in our Books” giveaway. Please let me know your email address so I can send you your prize
Just a quick note to say that I am being interviewed over here on the amazing On Top Down Under site today. In which I am refusing to pull my punches about gender and confessing that I have started writing fanfiction of my own stories. Come over and comment to (potentially) win a book, or just to point and laugh
Although I’ve done a number of historicals now – enough to say I am a ‘historical novelist’ – I still feel that not all historical eras are equal. People have said to me ‘the Tudors are very popular. I’d like to see you do something set in Tudor times.’ I nod politely, because there’s no predicting where my muse might take me next. But inside, I’m still going ‘ew, the Tudors. They’re all torture and paranoia and witch burnings.’ I can’t really imagine wanting to write in an era where my nation’s best battleship sunk because someone forgot to put the plug in.
This is slightly hypocritical of me, because I like the Anglo-Saxons a lot, and they are not without brutality either. Plus, their technological level is much lower. But they nevertheless seem more civilised to me – a thoughtful, religious, melancholy people with less tendency towards burning women alive. Maybe I’m reading too much from the example of King Alfred and the Venerable Bede – both the sort of humane intellects I wouldn’t mind meeting in real life.
I love the 18th Century, and I love the Saxons in the ninth century before they began to suffer too badly from Viking invasion. Part of this is the clothes. I can’t take Henry VIII seriously in his padded bloomers, but when we’ve moved on to tricorn hats and white silk stockings of the Age of sail, or the cloaks and the gorgeous jewellery of the Anglo-Saxons, well, then you’re talking. Aesthetically, they were good times.
But it’s more than that. I prefer civilization to savagery – I like to write in a world in which I would not find it unbearable to live – and both eras are periods in which it’s possible to exist and be respected as something other than a warrior.
The 18th Century is a time of great exploration and excitement. The world was opening up before Western Man, and new things are being thought of every day. The boundaries of their compassion are expanding, and for the first time people are beginning to think about freedom and equality and the rights of man. An awful lot of what we take for granted nowadays was first being thought of in the 18th Century and it’s fascinating to watch it blowing their minds.
By contrast, the 9th Century is a time of peaceful nostalgia. They were looking back at a semi-legendary great age of heroes and contenting themselves with the fact that they were not so glorious. In a way, it’s a feeling that we modern people can empathise with – the idea that life used to be lead in bolder colours and now we are living in a faded age. On the other hand, it was also a time when England was largely at peace. The Saxon social structure was cooperative and personal, surprisingly egalitarian, and people had time to concern themselves with the big questions like the meaning of life and the nature of morality that tend to get pushed aside when you’re at war. They were a thoughtful people.
I read a lot of 18th Century journals as part of my research, and I find no difficulty in liking these people. They are urbane and amused, confident and surprisingly open minded. They have none of the self-righteous imperialism and prudery of the 19th Century, and while you’d have to cover the ears of the sensitive, because of their vulgarity, I wouldn’t feel a qualm about inviting them around for dinner. The tendency to fight a duel at the drop of a hat would be worrisome, I suppose, and they do drink and quarrel a lot, but they’re never quite what you expect. I think Jane Austen, who was that little bit later, would be shockingly disapproving of them. But in a fight between Lady Mary Wortley-Montague, lady of letters, who travelled the world, wrote letters from Turkey, and invented an early form of smallpox inocculation, and Jane Austen, my bets are on Lady Mary. She, at least, had attended the Empress of Austria when the fine ladies of Austria exhibited their honed pistol marksmanship. I think she’d be the one to walk away from that duel.
In the same way, I feel safe with the Anglo-Saxons. King Alfred with his anxiety attacks, who invented the horn lantern and the navy, and taught himself to read, and subsequently wrote fanfiction and meta about The Consolations of Philosophy by Boethius while setting up schools so that every noble child could be taught to read – he’s the kind of hero I can admire. Caedmon is the first person who ever wrote religious literature in the English language (before that, you had to use Latin.) Alfric is still revered today, among those who know enough Old English to have an opinion, for the superb elegance of his writing. Bede gave us the BC/AD dating system we still use today. The Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf is the person who converted me to Christianity. His words were so powerful that they reached out to me from a thousand years in the past and changed my life.
When I open books set in the Dark Ages and I see they’re all about fighting and brutality and war, I am sad, because it perpetuates the notion that the only thing that matters in a man is how well he can kill people.
I wanted to write a book to honour the other people who made this culture what it was. The scholars, the leeches/doctors, the musicians/historians, the women, the nuns and monks – the culture the warriors existed to protect. And that, as it turned out, became The Reluctant Berserker, which is due to be released on the 25th of this month. Woohoo!
I really hope I’ve managed to get across some of what I love about the culture. But you’ll have to be the judge of that
Manhood is about more than who’s on top.
Wulfstan, a noble and fearsome Saxon warrior, has spent most of his life hiding the fact that he would love to be cherished by someone stronger than himself. Not some slight, beautiful nobody of a harper who pushes him up against a wall and kisses him.
In the aftermath, Wulfstan isn’t sure what he regrets most—that he only punched the churl in the face, or that he really wanted to give in.
Leofgar is determined to prove he’s as much of a man as any Saxon. But now he’s got a bigger problem than a bloody nose. The lord who’s given him shelter from the killing cold is eyeing him like a wolf eyes a wounded hare.
When Wulfstan accidentally kills a friend who is about to blurt his secret, he flees in panic and meets Leofgar, who is on the run from his lord’s lust. Together, pursued by a mother’s curse, they battle guilt, outlaws, and the powers of the underworld, armed only with music…and love that must overcome murderous shame to survive.
Contains accurate depictions of Vikings, Dark Ages magic, kickass musicians, trope subversions and men who don’t know their place.
As a writer of m/m romance I’m always a bit taken aback and amused when I see blog posts about “how to write male characters,” as though it was something you had to approach in the same way as you’d approach “how to write Regency street-urchins” or “how to write convincing aliens.”
I always read the blog posts with enormous interest, but in my limited experience, they’ve mostly consisted of a rundown of cliches about what men are like (apparently they all watch sports, prefer beer to wine and don’t wash their socks,) that vaguely offend me in the same way that stereotypes about women offend me.
In my lifetime’s experience of men, no two of them have been alike. Most of them have liked beer, but that could be because I like beer and it tends to be something all my friends have in common, the women too. Even so, I know some male wine snobs, and some men who are sports-hating domestic gods, and can whip up a fine meal in the time it takes them to wash and iron their socks.
So what do I do, to create convincing male characters? Well, I look at the one human being about whom I have inside information – the one person who, to a certain extent at least, I understand in depth. That is, of course, me. Then I gift my character with a selection of traits that I either have, or can imagine having. I put the character in situations that I have never had to face, under pressures that I have never had to face, and I imagine how I would react, if I was them in their circumstances.
Of course, those circumstances involve being male, and that means that society shapes the way their traits manifest in a different way from the way I experience things. John Cavendish from False Colors has my temper, for example, and in writing him I do need to take into account the fact that society treats men’s anger and women’s anger differently. In men it’s expected, even respected, in women it’s unexpected, and is treated with suspicion, as irrational and hysterical. So, (in general) a male character can afford to express his anger outwardly, whereas a female one can’t, if she hopes to be taken seriously. Conversely, (in general) no matter how upset he is, a modern male character can’t break down in tears and expect not to be mocked, whereas a female character can.
It’s much easier to figure out what society expects from each gender and how that determines the way a common human trait plays out, than it is to write male characters as though they were not quite as fully human as the writer.
The big news in the village is that we have decided to resurrect the local morris side. DH and I went to the very first meeting of interested parties last night and discovered that of the 20 people who said they were coming, 14 had begged off because it was Burns Night.
However, six is enough to start with. One of the people there used to dance with the old side, so was able to give us some information on what their kit used to be like. Black skirts and tops, green and yellow ribbons? Sounds boring, and four of us were men of a certain age, who felt a little odd about the idea of dancing in skirts.
There were vital questions to be answered. Were we going to be a Border or Cotswold morris, or Molly, or even longsword side? With the village fete coming up in June, we wanted something fairly simple we could learn quickly – which ruled out Cotswold. Some of us didn’t feel right with the idea of dancing Molly dances at any other time of the year but the traditional plough Monday events – which ruled out Molly. Some of us felt that longsword was really boring to watch. And two of us already danced Border, so could teach everyone some of the dances we knew.
Hence the new side will be a Border side. That made choosing the kit a bit easier. Traditional Border kit involves black trousers and boots (which already echoes the black of the old kit, so bonus!) and a big jacket with strips of cloth sewn on it to make it look ragged. It also usually involves blackened faces and some kind of flamboyant hat.
Widders Border Morris side. Photo by http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Andy_Dingley
We thought the big jackets would be far too warm for the summer, so we’d go for tattered waistcoats in the green and gold of the past side’s colours. We were so-so about hats. Hats remain to be decided upon. We were all unhappy about the face paint, but we were also all a bit unhappy about being completely untraditional and having bare faces. So I said “well, how about masks?” and everyone loved that idea so much they even named the side after it.
So, if you see a new side around in black trews, black shirts, green and yellow ragged waistcoats and elaborate masks, I invite you to give a wave to Sutton Masque. And also maybe to think about joining because we desperately need musicians
I will post a picture of the new kit once it has been made, but if you happen to see an amazing (relatively cheap) mask on your internet travels, I would really appreciate a link!
Great day at Whittlesea Straw Bear festival yesterday. Lots of dancing, lots of whistle playing, got a free chocolate from the Not Just Cafe when I went to buy an ‘Oh God, I’m two coffees short of waking up’ coffee, and the Sue Ryder charity shop was having a stock clearout, so I got a new winter coat for a pound.
Spot me here briefly at around 4.00, in a lime green wrap and red hat, playing for Ely and Littleport Riot, the red capped ladies with the red hankies (bathed in the blood of our enemies.)
DH is taking tomorrow off work so he can dance all day with Mepal Molly in the traditional celebration of Plough Monday, so for us normal life still doesn’t really resume until Tuesday.
I should make some resolutions, shouldn’t I? How about these -
Get back to my target weight.
(While I was ill, my digestive system went freaky, so I could gain or lose half a stone in a week without any changes of diet. I had absolutely no control over it, and after a couple of months of angsting about it I abandoned attempts to establish control as futile. Now that I am no longer anemic, due to the wonders of intravenously administered iron, it’s time to get back into the driving seat there.)
Walk or dance every week day
(I haven’t been able to get off the sofa for 6 months. I badly need to get reasonably fit again.)
Practice my whistle playing every week day
It’s amazing how fast you can lose all the tunes you know if you don’t practice them, and I have a massive book of morris tunes to learn and memorise. That’s not going to happen without some dedication.
Write at least 250,000 words of new fiction this year. Preferably 300,000.
(I wrote 260,000 words last year. Now that I’m no longer ill, I can surely add another 40,000.)
This one has sub-goals and a certain amount of vagueness attached, because you never know exactly how the muse will strike:
Finish editing Blue Eyed Stranger and Trowchester Blues before April.
Write third book in Trowchester series.
Find a publisher for The Glass Floor or publish it myself.
Write a new Fantasy.
Write that murder-mystery I’ve always wanted to try.
Edit and polish all these new things!
Try some short stories?
That’s it for new year’s resolutions. They’re more a case of setting goals which I know I can achieve. I will also not be too upset if I only walk or whistle 3 times a week – as long as I don’t end up not doing it at all.
People say that you don’t achieve your resolutions, but my feeling is that in that case you just set them too high. It’s useful to give yourself something to do that you know you can do. But even if you don’t fully achieve them, if you’ve tried to, you’ve probably achieved a lot more than you would have done had you not decided to aim for anything at all.
“Do or do not, there is no try,” is – excuse me George Lucas – bollocks. Everything that you achieve is achieved by trying and almost doing it, and then trying again and getting a little closer, and then trying again and doing it – fairly badly, and then trying again and doing it slightly less badly. Etc.
Edge up to your successes gently so that neither you nor they get startled and scared away.
who is guest posting here today in honour of the launch of her new Christmas short story Home for the Holidays. I gave her my standard third degree, and here are her answers
1. What was your first book and what was it about?
The first novel I completed I wrote as a teenager. It was about a group of street kids, and I’m afraid it wasn’t very good! *laughs* I never even tried to get it published. But after starting and abandoning about a dozen projects before that, completing the manuscript was a huge thing for me. That was the first time I knew I could do it – I could actually write novels! Woohoo!
2. What works in progress have you got on the go at the moment?
I’m currently working on a gay romantic comedy called “For Me, It’s You” and I can’t wait to finish writing it. I’m really quite fond of the main characters Sam and Gabe, a barista and a rock star. They’re complete opposites and yet a perfect match, and they make me smile a lot while I write them.
3. Who is your favorite fictional character created by someone other than yourself?
Oh, there are so many fictional characters I love, it’s hard to pick just one! I think it’s a tie between Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings and Anne Elliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I love them both for not giving up even when things seem hopeless.
4. Who is your own favorite character?
Ugh, another tough question! At the moment it might be Dean Monroe who is such a wild, untamable character – unlike any I ever created. But I also love Rizzo and James from Triangle. I’ve written those two boys for so many years they seem like old friends.
5. Tell us about the books you have out
My first German novel “Café der Nacht” (Café of the Night) just got published this November, which has me all kinds of excited. Before that, my co-author Romelle Engel and I self-published a novel about a gay love triangle, “Triangle – The Complete Series”. It’s a series we originally posted online, and by popular demand we finally put it out as an ebook and paperback. At the beginning of December I published a sequel called “Home For The Holidays – A Triangle Christmas Short Story” which, as the title suggests, is a Christmas story. I love this time of year!
6. If your book became a big Hollywood film, who would you cast to play your characters?
Wow, how awesome would that be? For Monroe I have two actors I would love to see in the role – either Stephen Dorff or Ken Duken. Both are terrific actors and I know they could bring the intensity and passion required to the role. For Maxim I can’t think of anyone being a better fit than Tom Schilling. He actually looks exactly like I always imagined Maxim.
7: How did you feel the day you held the copy of your first book in your hands?
Honestly, that was one of the happiest days of my life! After years of getting turned down, holding my printed book in my hands was a dream come true. It’s only been a month since it came out – I still can’t quite believe it!
8. What upcoming project of your own are you most excited about?
I’m really excited about “November Boys”, my next project after “For Me, It’s You”. It’s an unusual love story, and even though I’m still in the early panning stages I’m already in love with the characters. I can’t wait to actually start writing them!
9: Do you think you have specific themes you continue to return to? If so what are they?
I think a major theme in all my work is that when you found that special someone, you should never let them go. If you love someone, don’t hold back, be sure to let them know. Even if all odds are against you, love is always worth fighting for.
10: Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?
Jane Austen is my favourite author. I just love her work so much. As far as genres go, I do love a good love story, no matter if it’s het, gay, or anything else. I also really like urban fantasy.
11: Tell us more about who you are. Anything you want your readers to know? Information on where to find your books, any blogs you may have, or how a reader can learn more about you and writing?
Hi! I’m Susann. I write m/m and other LGBT novels, some light and charming, some with a slightly darker edge – but always with a happy ending. I publish books in English and German, am owned by a particularly crazy cat and live in Germany. I’m online a lot, and I love fandom. Come visit my website and say hi, I’d be delighted!
My official website & blog: http://www.susannjulieva.com
You can find my books on Amazon and Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/susannjulieva)
Thank you for interviewing me, Alex! It’s been a real pleasure.