Released this weekend: The Spinner's Game

The Spring Equinox has arrived so that can only mean one thing – the release of Crispina Kemp’s epic fantasy series, The Spinner’s Game.

You may remember Crispina did a couple of guests posts on Word Shamble earlier this year (you can find those posts here and here), well now her wonderful five book series is available to buy through Kindle for the ebook versions and Amazon for the physical books. Skitter across to her author page now.

Here’s a taste of what you’ll find in these wonderfully imaginative and immersive novels…

Kerrid, a fraudulent seer born of a fisher-hunter clan, holds two beliefs. That in her psychic abilities and exuded light she is unique, and as Voice of the Lady she’s exempt from an arranged marriage. Both convictions are shattered when nine boats arrive from the east carrying the ancient Chief Uissinir who wants her for his wife, and five of his sons who emit similar lights and share tricks like her own. Forced to make an unwise judgement, a trail of death follows.

Questions plague her. Why does she dream of babies dying? Why does a voice in her head taunt her: Suffer the loss, suffer the pain? And what is she that no matter how lethal the wound, she does not die?

Guest post: Author Crispina Kemp

Crispina Kemp has many talents. As well as an accomplished writer, prehistorian and photographer, she can now add self-published author to her resume, having just made her five book fantasy series – The Spinner’s Game – available for pre-order on Kindle.

Today, in the first in a series of posts, she tells of the series’ journey from initial draft to it’s published form.

To whet your appetite, I’ve included a summary of the first book, The Spinner’s Child.

Kerrid, a fraudulent seer born of a fisher-hunter clan, holds two beliefs. That in her psychic abilities and exuded light she is unique, and as Voice of the Lady she’s exempt from an arranged marriage. Both convictions are shattered when nine boats arrive from the east carrying the ancient Chief Uissinir who wants her for his wife, and five of his sons who emit similar lights and share tricks like her own. Forced to make an unwise judgement, a trail of death follows.

Questions plague her. Why does she dream of babies dying? Why does a voice in her head taunt her: Suffer the loss, suffer the pain? And what is she that no matter how lethal the wound, she does not die?

***

From First Draft to Amazon Kindle: How did I do it?

My first answer is… not quickly. But then, what began as the first draft of In the Beginning with 150,000 words ended as the five books of The Spinner’s Game with 550,000 words. But how was it done?

Determination and persistence, self-discipline and self-belief… bolstered by the invaluable support of fellow-bloggers, particularly those who, over the past seven years have become my firm friends. 

The most significant move was on 25th November 2017 when I announced my intention to publish Feast Fables (the evolved and swollen form of In the Beginning) as an e-book (See post). In the same way, participants of NaNoWriMo, in stating their plans to their cabin-mates, are more inclined to strive. I now had gone public; I had to keep to my word. Thus, began the monthly updates. 

From In the Beginning to the Feast Fables trilogy to The Spinner’s Game’s Five Books

For three years, starting December 2012, I posted weekly instalments of the Feast Fables trilogy on my Feast Fables site. Meanwhile, reading Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal, and John Yorke’s Into the Woods (A Five Act Journey into Story) had called into question my use of the three-act structure. When I applied the five-act structure to (what was still called) Feast Fables, lo! It all fell into place.

Although internally everything else hit the mark, the restructure, from three- to five-acts, required me to look again at the opening chapters and the endings. Once happy with that, the five books went out for critique and to my fantastic team of beta-readers. 

What’s in a Name?

In the Beginning had morphed to Feast Fables, and in the restructuring process Feast Fables became Asaric Tales (because protagonist Kerrid and her companions call themselves Asars, from asa, to burn). Now Asaric Tales became The Spinner’s Game, a name suggested by my critique-partner Lauren and two of my betas. It fits. It’s right. And it opens up the potential for many a play on words. Love it!

The Vital Role of the Critique-partner and Beta-readers

Writers when writing, have their focus on the story, and the crafting of it. Their attention is far less on the reader – except to ask does each chapter and scene begin with a hook, does each end with a tension unresolved? To put the book out to beta-readers can deliver a bit of a shock: how others see your precious baby! 

In my case, I soon learned that I’d taken the oft-given advice to “start late and end early” to the extreme. Many of the rewrites were because of this. And with each additional rewrite, the wordcount swelled.

Then there were the several occasions when I thought I had clarified a situation, a decision, a character’s action. But apparently not. More words, more rewrites. As I remember, only once was I told a scene was exposition-heavy. 

Yes, betas and critiquers are crucial in helping to perfect the told story.

And the rest of the story, as they say, is history; every step of the way recorded on my monthly updates. 

The Spinner Enters Amazon’s Web

The process wasn’t glitch-free. It took two days – full days – to upload the five e-books and five paperbacks with their covers, and to check them, and amend and upload again. And then to wait for the books to go live. 

The e-books – The Spinner’s Child, Lake of Dreams, The Pole That Threads, Lady of First Making, and The Spinner’s Sin – are available on Pre-Order. But Pre-Order isn’t available on paperbacks; those become available shortly after the publication date of Saturday 21st March. The easiest way to access is through my Author’s Page on Amazon.com. From there, a click on a book will take you to whatever your usual version of Amazon. Alternatively, crispinakemp.com/books has all the book descriptions and the Amazon links.

As a gift for those who Pre-Order, I’m offering a full-sized, full-colour map of Lake of Skulls (see image below). Just send me proof of pre-order (a screenshot would be ideal) via my Contact Me page and a copy will wing its way to you.

My Valentine’s Recommendation : A romance with a dark heart

Image : Pixabay

Valentine’s Day is around the corner – well, around the corner and long the corridor a bit, but definitely within spitting distance – and that being the case, I’ll be absent from Word Shamble for a few days.

Now, I know many of you are cynical about the event, trussing a 3rd century Roman saint to selling chocolates and jewellery and overpriced flowers, pressurising lovers into expensive purchases to prove the depth of something as ephemeral as love.

You have a right to feel cynical. The heart shaped balloons and cutesy ‘wuv woo’ bears and cards, the way manufacturers package seemingly unrelated items in red just to sell them to men desperate to get themselves out of trouble … It’s capitalism run riot and it ain’t pretty.

May I suggest an alternative to this unpleasantness?

Those who’ve followed this blog a while will already know my attachment to certain books – every reader has them, those tomes that burrow into your psyche, often at a young age, and squat in your brains like benevolent worms, raising their heads and twitching their tales every now and then to make their presence felt.

For me, Precious Bane by Mary Webb is one such book.

Set in the Shropshire of the early nineteenth century, it focuses on Prue Sarn, cursed with a ‘precious bane’ (a hare lip) that seems to rule her out of marriage, out of happiness, that shapes her life, her personality and her destiny.

Yes, it’s terrifically romantic and melodramatic – there are love spinnings and sin eaters and wise men. There’s a fair amount of yearning, of chaste glances between Prue and the gentle, magnificently named weaver Kester Woodseaves.

There’s darkness too. Unfathomable lakes, moody landscapes, curses, folk magic, pain, humiliation, betrayal, death – lots of death.

But aside from the fabulous prose, here’s a wonderful thing about the book. Prue is not Disney Cinderella beautiful. She is outshone by her best friend, seen as ugly and shunned. But she is brave and loyal and decent and all of that makes her shine through as a character, means that she’s no wishy-washy heroine who gets a fit of the vapours when spoken to unkindly. She works the fields – she drives a sodding plough, for heaven’s sake – and even though she suffers greatly, she is nothing like a victim.

So, here’s my recommendation.

Leave the chocolates, leave the flowers (okay, buy the flowers – I am a florist after all!), leave the teddy bears (no, really LEAVE the bears) and buy a copy of Precious Bane instead.

It’s one of the few truly romantic novels I’ve ever read.

And if you doubt the quality of Webb’s writing because you’ve never heard of her, take a look here to see why The Guardian newspaper’s Eloise Millar thinks she’s better than Thomas Hardy.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. See you on the other side.

Falling in love for the over forties: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

 

Falling in love is the best, isn’t it?

The anticipation when the object of your desires draws near. The raised heartbeat, the sweating palms, the desire to spend all day, every day in your loved ones company, denying all others. You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, all you can think about is them and the next time you’ll be reunited. And when that moment finally comes, when the two of you are alone, slipping between the sheets, your fingers clumsy, hungry to run over those silken pages, to open that glossy cover, to let your eyes feast on what’s inside …

I’ve loved many authors over many reading years – Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, later Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters and Neil Gaiman

Yes, I’m a fickle soul, but what can I say? The heart wants what it wants.

Recently, I’ve begun a new affair with David Mitchell’s Booker longlisted The Bone Clocks. I’d like to describe to you what it’s about, but I’m only halfway through and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure myself.

There’s a teenage runaway and a predatory, swindling Cambridge undergraduate, a conflict-addicted roving reporter covering the war in Iraq and a supernatural fight between good and evil – I think.

Social commentary, love lost, fantastical horror, life and death and a family wedding – all things that keep the reader engaged.

But it’s Mitchell’s writing that’s drawn me in. Rounded characters, genuine shocks and terrifying threat – both those otherworldly and all to familiar from the evening news – make us care and sympathise for his protagonists, even those who are in the wrong, even as they’re performing the most heinous acts.

To say I’d love to be able to write with his skill and intelligence, handle a range of settings and styles and manage to hold the lot together without it falling into a mess, is an understatement.

Have I found another author to love, another to add to the list and me so damned cynical and middle aged? Perhaps I’ll only know once the last page has turned.

Like love, I don’t know where this story will lead me in the end, but for now I’m just enjoying the ride.

 


Have you recently discovered a new author to love? Did you think you’d never love again, but found a book that sent your heart a-beating as if you were a teenager in the first throes of bookish passion?

Link : What the late Ursula K le Guin thought of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks.

 

 

 

Why buying bargain books is better than putting pic n mix in your pants – probably

Modern high street bookshop

Image: Pixabay

I’m a BAD shopper.

I don’t mean in the urban slang sense, of course. A white, middle aged English woman using urban slang is about as pleasant a sight as you’d expect it to be, innit, and I suspect could cause serious trauma, blu-blu-blood.

A helpline would have to be set up and one of those messages broadcast – the ones you see after TV programmes about gangs or granny rustling:

If you’ve been affected by anything you’ve seen tonight …

I also don’t go around filling my pants with pic n mix or exposing myself in sporting goods departments or putting waders on the lingerie mannequins, or going to the cosmetics counter to ask the ladies if it’s part of their job description to wear every product they sell all at the same time …

I don’t do any of these things. Sometimes I feel like doing some of them – I’ll leave you to guess which.

I’m a bad shopper because I don’t really enjoy it. I don’t browse happily through one ladies wear department to the next, joyfully throwing on every pair of foil slacks, squirrel fur onesie and sequinned jumpsuit on the rails.

The way my shopping outings usually go is as follows:

(1) Root through the plastic storage box that passes for my clothes drawer.

(2) Think ‘Ooh, I really don’t have enough cardigans / jumpers for the chilly English climate.’

(3) Think ‘Ah, yes, that’s because they had holes in them / I did the gardening in them / wore them until they resembled the pelt of something dead, buried and disinterred. Then I threw them away.’

(4) Think ‘I really must get around to buying some more.’

(5) Realise it is in fact April and therefore the shops will only be selling bikinis, flip flops and sarongs for the next three months.

(6) Shrug, go make a cup of tea, eat a Hobnob and resign myself to wearing the same ragged, mouse den knitwear until the New Year sales.*

There is one thing (apart from tea and biscuits) that I am good at buying and that’s books.

Despite my self-imposed Amazon ban (Thou shalt not purchase papery beloveds from the jaws of the sulphur-scented online Behemoth – on pain of being very disappointed and giving yourself a good telling off) I still can’t resist a bargain.

You must’ve seen the offers when you go into book shops or supermarkets. Those naughty, tempting stickers on the paperbacks, the ones that say

Buy one get one half price.

To a bookish type, these stickers are as tempting as a Costa Chai Latte to a sugar addict and I can find myself prowling a table for fifteen minutes or more, one book in hand, desperately trying to find a second so I can only spend half the cover price on it.

It has meant I’ve bought books I was only half interested in, so it’s a good thing I only paid half of what they’re worth. Of course the sensible thing would be to stick with the book I really want and save myself a small amount of money and from having a book on my To Be Read list that I’m not bothered about reading.

Over the weekend, I found myself in this position. The morning had been a bit dispiriting, so to cheer myself, I headed not for the nearest stiletto shop but into WHSmith in the hope of papery nirvana.

What did I find, but a whole shelf of Buy one get on half price paperbacks – joy.

And better than that, I spotted two books I really want to read – Kate Atkinson’s A God In Ruins and Costa Book of the Year winner, The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. Excited as a puppy with two tails, I bounded to the counter and handed the cashier my one and a half paperbacks’ worth of cash.

Once home, I had the pleasure of adding my purchases to the TBR Everest next to my bed, only to spot a familiar looking spine already in the stack …

A flickering memory assaulted my brain …

Standing in the supermarket, holding a lovely, crisp paperback, desperately looking for another to buy to fulfill the Buy one get one half price offer … Spotting A God in Ruins and skipping happily to the checkout with it!

Yes, I have in fact, bought Kate Atkinson’s book twice, both times on a half price deal. This means several things.

(1) Kate Atkinson’s publisher has done big deals with several major book retailers.

(2) I have now reached the age where I really am not to be trusted to buy books without supervision.

(3) I have a spanking new copy of A God in Ruins in dire need of a good home. 

Any takers?

***

Do you find yourself drawn to these naughty offers, or do you resist and always pay full price for your literary fix? Do let me know.

*At which time, I will forget I need knitwear again until the sales are over. Then, in April, I’ll root through the plastic storage box that passes for my clothes drawer …

 

 

Thursday: Send a skeleton to school day

skull-823048_1920

Image: Pixabay

I sent a skeleton off to school on Thursday.

A skeleton dressed in a rather dapper broad brimmed hat and a sharp black jacket. He was no slouch when it came to all things sartorial, let me tell you.

What, you may ask, was I doing with a skelton in my house? Furthermore, what was I doing making this wrathe a chicken sandwich, ensuring he had two quid for the bus, his French homework and his P.E. kit? Was I becoming just a little too familiar with the dead for comfort? Had I finally given myself over to the arts of the necromancer?

And what the hell is a skeleton doing playing rugby?
Surely they don’t have the guts (I thank you.)

The truth is, the delightfully excited, dessicated bag of bones that shovelled a bowl of cereal before he sprinted for the door, was my son. And before you begin to worry he’s met with some dreadful accident or he’s a figment of my dark imaginings, don’t worry, he’s alive and well.

But Thursday, you see, dear friends, was World Book Day, a fun excuse (if one were needed) for kids across the UK to leave their school uniform on their bedroom floor (the only place to keep a uniform, of course) and dress as their favourite fictional character. 

Over the years, I have witnessed a lot of animals – bears of the Pooh variety, cats in hats, gold loving dragons – a ton of boy wizards with wonky, eyeliner scars on their foreheads and an awful lots of superheroes and fairy princesses.

Call me old fashioned, by I prefer the purer book characters, those less associated with high budget block buster movies and more with their papery origins – the more obscure the better. One of my son’s friends dresses as Death from the Discworld books, which I rather love.

The lazier kids can dress as Greg Heffley from Diary of a Wimpy Kid – and therefore go in their own clothes.

If World Book Day had been a ‘thing’ when I was at school, I would’ve gone as Laura Chant from the Changeover by Margaret Mahy – or Will Stanton from Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising books.

And who was my son, you may ask?

Skulduggery Pleasant, of course.

***

How is World Book Day celebrated where you live?

And most importantly –

If you were to dress as a fictional character, who would you be?

 

Which top ten films were based on books?

theatre-marquee-568237_1280

Image: Pixabay

 

My son wants to go to the cinema this weekend with his pals.

He’s got to the age where he’s happy to pay to sit in a cold auditorium, his shoes sticking to the soft-drink-soaked carpet as he struggles to concentrate on a loosely-plotted, CGI laden, convoluted storyline over the sound of cola slurping, sweet-wrapper rustling and ringtones.

After years of sitting through countless animated features of widely varying quality, I’m quite happy for him to go to the cinema without me.

We did see the new Star Wars movie as a family the other week, the first few minutes of which were accompanied by periodic cussing from a drunk the staff had seen fit to allow in.

The man’s outburts were unsettling for several reasons: his language, which was bluer than the sky over the sun-soaked beaches of Malibu: the violence of execution, which was threatening and sporadic, meaning we’d have a few moments of unnerving, distracting peace waiting for the next explosion of filth (which, if it isn’t a thrash rock band name, should be): and finally, the fact that apart from the light from the screen, it was darker than a sewer in a power cut in there and the man was sitting close behind us.

So rather than wondering where Luke Skywalker had got to and why Chewbacca had aged better than Han Solo, I was left wondering if (a) the lunatic in the darkness was capable of physical violence as powerful as his verbal violence and if so (b) whether he had smuggled in a knife /machete / meat cleaver or any other such weaponry and was prone to the occasional blood-soaked rampage.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away

M***ER F***ER

is probably not the opening JJ Abrams had in mind.

Fortunately, after ten minutes or so of this, someone overcame their natural English reserve, and got up to complain that disurbingly screamed obscenities and beloved family sci-fi francises don’t mix and the gentleman in question was removed.*

Anyway.

There’s nothing as landmark-y being screened at the moment, but if the lad is off to soak up some multi-plex block buster nonsense, the other half and I were hoping to watch a film too – favourite being Leonardo DiCaprio being mauled by a bear and left for dead in The Revenant. Personally, I feel he deserves no less for Titanic – I have a long memory, people.

After seeing the book of the Leo vehicle in the supermarket today, and knowing that the boys will likely be watching Goosebumps, I wondered how many of the current top ten movie offerings at my local cinemas are based on books.

The answer was:

The Big Short : based on a non-fiction account of the econimic crisis by Michael Lewis.

The Revenant : Michael Punke’s  fictonalised account of a frontiersman’s fight for survival.

Thirteen Hours : Mitchell Zuckoff’s non-fiction account of the Battle of Benghazi.

Goosebumps : based on the kids’ horror fiction series by R.L.Stine

Room : based on the prize winning novel by Emme Donoghue.

The 5th Wave : based on the YA sci-fi novel by Rick Yancey.

6/10 – that’s a big chunk.

Now, this is the first time I’ve done this, so it could be that in a fortnight, they’ll be no book-inspired offerings. But I doubt it, for I’m sure we’ve all noticed the feed-through.

The Hunger Games, the Harry Potters, the Lord of the Rings movies – innumerable D.C and Marvel offerings – all have started out as paper and ended up celluloid, or code, or whatever format it is filmmakers use these days.

What can we aspiring authors learn from this?

Well, that filmmakers and movie studios don’t like to risk their bucks and reputations on untried ideas and would rather writers and publishers did it first. And that if you write a book that’s at least semi-successful you’re quite likely to get a film deal out of it.

I also wonder to what extent authors now write with cinema in mind.

Maybe they don’t do it consciously. But now we’ve had several generations who have grown up with TV and cinema filling some of the imaginative voids in their heads, is it possible NOT to imagine the framing of a scene, the score, the special effects?

Come on, writers. What do you think? 

***

*The person who got up and complained wasn’t me, of course. It’s possible I would have sat there for 2 hours 15 minutes, tutting loudly as the man’s screaming grew more frenzied, only grumbling to a staff member after said loony had laid about me with his blade of choice.