What remained of Bicker’s Mill still stood, the wooden pillar like a lighthouse in an ocean of reeds and sedge.
Mist was developing as we approached the whitewashed boards, not so much rolling in across the marshes, but rising upwards as if expelled from the ground.
Dor had waded close behind me all the way from the road, grumbling about the wet and the cold and the wisdom of being at the ‘Tween Place’ at twilight. She mumbled, the words becoming formless, an incantation against my foolishness.
‘Hush now,’ I said, taking her hand, and the warmth of me quietened her a little. ‘You know why we’re here.’
The sun settled low, the clouds ink and fire, the low mist a stubborn grey. I lit a smoky fire to warm our hands, to ward off the tremors.
As night crept in, Dor stared across the marsh. ‘There,’ she said.
Crispina’s talk of Boggarts and Trolls led me to comment about the nature of these between places and the belief that the margins between dry land and water were also margins between this world and others.
Perhaps also part of the reason bog body sacrifices such as Tollund Man (below) were made in Europe through pre-history.
Crispina Kemp is a blogger, photographer, prehistorian and writer who has just released her fantasy series – The Spinner’s Game – for pre-order on Amazon Kindle (see links below).
Following on from my previous post where Crispina related the books’ evolution from initial ideas and blog posts to finished novels, she joins me this week to discuss mythical inspirations and future projects.
LL: Hi Crispina, thanks for dropping by.
You’ve described The Spinner’s Game as a story told across five books, as opposed to a five-book series. But what did you take as inspiration?
CC: The inspiration hides in an earlier book.
I had written a story set in the Neolithic period in southwest Britain with an antagonist named the Head of Kerrid. Keen as I am on Celtic mythology, I took the name Kerrid from the Welsh goddess Cerridwen. But I realised this antagonist needed a backstory. Why was she called the Head of…? Why was she so against my protagonist? And what were her mysterious powers? It was at this point I slid that particular story onto the backburner and focused instead on Kerrid.
LL: So Kerrid began life as a goddess?
CC: I chuckle to myself. And answer yes.
LL: A story told across five books suggests a high word count. Was that as you planned it?
CC: No, definitely not. I didn’t even want a trilogy.
For years I’d used the local library for reading fiction and know there’s nothing so annoying as to become lost in a book, only to discover it’s book six in a sixteen-book story (e.g. Wheel of Time) and there’s a three month wait for the others.
Besides, what traditional publisher invests in a trilogy from an unknown author?
On first completion, the book weighed in at 150,000 words. But even that is too high for a debut book. How to trim it? I paid for a critique. With my next version, I doubled the wordcount. Oops. And with every subsequent edit the wordcount grew. Though with the final brutal tidy-up and edit I deleted out 200,000 words! Oh yay! The wordcount across the five books is now 550,000 words, which averages at 110,000 words per book.
LL: If the story is told across the five books,must a reader read every one?
CC: I’d recommend it, but it’s not essential.
Kerrid takes the five books to complete her quest, but each book offers a complete story. I’ve been careful not to leave the reader dangling, yet with sufficient incentive to read the next book.
LL: Why ‘The Spinner’, where did that come from?
CC: I love word-play and have an affinity with textiles.
I liked that The Spinner might be a spider spinning its web or she might be the person who spins the thread from the fleece. If the latter, that spinner spins a yarn… i.e. a tale. If the former, that spider spins a web to entangle, delay, hold captive, and ultimately to devour. I liked that the Spinner might be both creator and destroyer. And as with yarn and thread, the word ‘web’ is loaded with imagery.
LL: How long has it taken to write The Spinner’s Game?
CC: From the very first draft? That was back in 2006. But I’ve not worked on it continuously.
When I arrived at a wordcount of 500,000 (in 2009) I knew no publisher would take it so I set it aside… until 2012 when I created two blogs, one as a regular blog, the other to carry the story that has now become The Spinner’s Game, posted in weekly instalments. It took three years to complete! Meanwhile, I worked on other stories.
I thought the blog’s potential for ‘world-wide’ exposure might satisfy me. It did not. In November 2017 I announced my intention to publish the story on Kindle. The story now took on its five-book structure. And since then it’s been beta read and critiqued and pulled apart and rearranged and revised, and edited, edited, edited. Until here we are. It has been a long journey.
LL: And what are your plans for the future? Any more books in the pipeline?
CC: My critique partner is critiquing my next book as we speak.
Written in 2012, it combines two novella-length historical fantasies I’d written earlier with one of a contemporary setting to create a fantastical time-slip story. As with The Spinner’s Game, I posted it on my blog in instalments. Now that’s to receive the full KDP treatment. And after that… yes, I do have more planned.
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 the books is through Crispina’s 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, Crispina is offering a full-sized, full-colour fantasy map of Lake of Skulls (see image below) as a high resolution (2048 x 1536 px) pdf. Just send proof of pre-order (a screenshot would be ideal) via her Contact Me page and a copy will wing its way to you.
I’m away from my laptop this week, so I’ve scheduled this snippet. I’ll catch up with comments next weekend.Have a great week, all.
The dining room door was slightly ajar. That would be his mother, Elizabeth – she liked him to listen to the chatter, gauge the tone of the evening before his big entrance. The voices were hushed, barely raised above a whisper. One male voice – a bass drone – his mother’s choppy alto, then a twitter of sopranos he guessed were the spinster sisters, the unsuspecting guests of honour.
Beyond the door was Elizabeth’s world of candlelight and earnest conversation, the shy chink of wine glasses. Behind him was the entrance hall with its expanse of cracked floor tiles, the doors with their mottled brass plaques – billiard room, library, study – empty titles for unused spaces.
What his mother and the spinsters and the bass voiced man didn’t realise was that darkness was as full of colour and noise as daylight. If only they’d pay attention.
Somewhere upstairs a door thumped open and shut, caught in the draught from an open window. Goose bumps roughened his arms to shark skin. The dead were gathering around him, brushing against him, waiting for him to speak for them.
The grandfather clock struck, eight chimes that echoed in his chest.
It was time.
Bit of practice writing around characters from the current WIP.
Matt is a sixteen-year-old psychic, he and his mother Elizabeth make money from wealthy, bereaved clients. And Matt usually calls his mother by her first name.
It was spring, the oak leaf buds still sticky brown, tightly furled, the branches a clearly visible fan.
‘Easier to climb,’ muttered Shiv.
Min perched above him on the lowest branch, her feathered head cocked to one side, as if wondering why he didn’t just fly up as she had.
‘Alright,’ he called. ‘Don’t stare. This ain’t gonna be pretty.’
The first section was the worst, as he searched for footholds and handholds, found some too narrow, the perfect ones always too high. The ascent was slow, Min darting above, waiting, darting, Shiv feeling his way below her.
Finally he reached the platform of twigs and pulled himself up. Panting and grazed he slumped down on the edge of the nest.
No eggs lay there, only tiny shoes, hats, woollen gloves, a toy car. Moss and lichen furred some, others were clean. New.
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.
I’m on the roof, the constellation of street lights and advertising signs gradually losing its brilliance to the sunrise. The sky is every shade of bruise, the volume turning up on the traffic, down on birdsong.
“What do you say?”
He’s been silent so long, I almost forgot he’s sitting beside me. But he’s always known when to whisper, when to roar.
My throat is dry and I wonder if we’ve been here mere hours or whether he made the world turn slower, just for me.
“All of it?” I say.
I can smell him, the sun and the city heat peeling scent from his body, sending it into the world.
“All of it,” he says.
I reach for what I’m about to give up, but feel nothing. Who knows what it is to have a soul until it’s lost.
With my last breath I say, “I’ll take it.”
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we’re in Xinhua, China. See here to join in.
Dates were important, number sequences – on hoardings, in newspapers, on television – their sum, whether they were prime or perfect.
Natural phenomenon were noted, too. Snow that fell earlier than usual. The late migration of geese.
He’d collate the information he gathered, created charts of beautiful complexity with the findings, their arcs and swirls beyond my understanding, the notation written in an alphabet of his own invention
Those charts are all that remain of him now. Wonderfully unfathomable just as he was, they hang on my walls, the secret code to an alien universe.
Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the picture and scribble a little tale to share with the group. See here to join in.