Archive for the ‘Fantasy fiction’ Category

I’ve got some time off work at the moment, so I had a little book-shopping-binge (my favourite kind of binge) and have been catching up on some much-needed reading.

TheAlchemistOfSouls-197x300In the fiction corner we have the first book of Anne Lyle’s Night’s Masque series, The Alchemist of Souls.  Historical fantasy with grit and wit, set in a fantasy version of Elizabethan England, what’s not to like?  The touches of humour (this isn’t a Terry Pratchett, all-out comedy fantasy, just to clarify!) and the period are definitely putting me in mind of Black Adder the Second, which is a compliment in my books, since I was raised on Black Adder and it’s still one of my favourite TV shows of all time.  At the same time, Lyle has created something intriguing and unique and it’s got me looking forward to my reading sessions to find out what happens next!  If you’re not sure, you can even get a sample of the first three chapters on Anne Lyle’s website.  What’ve you got to lose?!

OK, if you need any more persuasion, I am seriously crushing on her dark, dashing and dangerous main character, Mal.  A definite ding dong.  Go read it already.

The rest has been non-fiction, which is unusual to me, as usually the weighting of my reading pile is towards novels, but I suppose I’m on research mode.

45 master characters

No prizes for predicting there would be some writing books in my list.  I’ve been dipping into 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn-Schmidt over the past day or so.  I’m very interested in archetypes, which is what she’s based her ‘master characters’ on, so I’ve been interested in this book for a while.  There’s some good stuff in here, but as always I’d warn against wholesale acceptance of anyone’s advice (mine included!), be it on writing or anything else.  I’d like to speak about this one in more depth, so that’s for another post.  (Also, I’d like to wait until I’ve read it all, before I really comment on it.)


20 master plots

I’ve been pondering plot, as A Thief & A Gentlewoman follows quite a complex one and that makes me worry whether the structure works.  For now, I think it’s best to wait until I’ve written it to really see whether my plans were off the mark or not, but that hasn’t stopped me reading up on the subject.  The Writer’s Journey is a well-known book on the subject, which I’ve had on my shelves for a while now, waiting to be read.  Vogler also draws on archetype, using stories ranging back to myth and legend to the present to help formulate his theories.  I’ve just started this one, so further thoughts to come on another day.  Similarly, 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them is another book I’ve been dipping into, but haven’t yet finished.  More when I do!

colour on clothI’ve got it into my head that I want to try dyeing fabric.  (I blame my friend Karen who was foolish enough to let me touch some amazing sandwashed silk satin she had bought and dyed.  Seriously, I was sat there stroking this stuff for at least half and hour – it feels like peach-skin, but softer and silkier and lovelier and just … swoon!  It’s cheaper and easier to get hold of in its loomstate (undyed) form, so, hence the need for dye.)  Anyway, being a bibliophile (like you hadn’t realised), I needed a book, so I ‘invested’ (ahem) in Ruth Isset’s Colour on Cloth, which is full of pretty colour and instructions on how to use it to make fabric and/or paper even more fabulous.  There are some amazing techniques you can try, which I didn’t even have any idea of, so I’m itching to have a go at this.  Some bits are a bit complicated-sounding, but I’ve been using the internet alongside this book, which has helped me find some simplified and adjusted ways of doing things.

My mind was blown by Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques.  It’s a real eye-opener to not only how to use couture methods, but also the real (massive) difference between couture clothing and ready-to-wear.  There are things in this book that I really had no idea were even things.  And I’m so wowed by it that I can’t even put it any more elegantly!

I have a new appreciation for the kind of work that goes into a garment like this.  Alexander McQueen, 2008, haute couture.

I have a new appreciation for the kind of work that goes into a garment like this. Alexander McQueen, 2008, haute couture.

Shaeffer’s book is a classic for stitchers going beyond the basics and my next book is a classic for those whose stitching strays into corset construction territory.  Corsets: Historic Patterns and Techniques contains patterns and colour photos, together with notes, for 24 corsets (and stays*) from the 1750s to WWI.  This is a great way of getting a range of patterns (though they would need enlarging and checking against your measurements, so this isn’t a task for the beginner) for corsetry and generally having a good old bit of costume perving at some stunning garments.  The Black Corset with Blue Flossing from 1890 on page 74 is utterly stunning.  I’m feeling a real need to make this pattern.  Bad photo below:

Flossing, cording, boning, oh my!

Flossing and cording and boning, oh my!

I’ve recently finished a City & Guilds qualification in corsetry, so this book is definitely going to be put to good use.

And that’s about it for my recent reading endeavours.  For now, I think I’m due some dinner and another installment of The Alchemist of Souls.

* The term ‘corset’ for an undergarment only really began to be used widely in English in the 19th century, before this they were called ‘stays’ (mostly through the 17th and 18th centuries) or ‘bodies’ or ‘a pair of bodies’ (with various spellings, mainly in the 16th century).  The latter being where the word ‘bodice’ comes from.


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OK, I think I might have found a new-to-me author to read: just check out this awesomely to-the-point post by Elizabeth Bear on women in fantasy fiction.  Couldn’t have put it better myself!

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A de-motivational poster, but it could be a motivation for your character.

I love a good bit of synchronicity …  I’ve been reading Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy recently, having already read and loved The Liveship Traders.  One of the things I love most about her work is how damn real the characters are.  They make the wrong, slightly illogical choices because of their emotions; they hurt others because of their own flaws; they don’t have an easy time because they know what they want, but they don’t always know what they need.  Robin Hobb doesn’t let them off easily.

So I’ve been thinking about character flaws, when what should appear on my blog feed, but a short’n’sweet article by Rachelle Garner on Why Your Novel Characters Need Real Flaws.

As writers, we love our characters, even the villains, but especially the heroes.  Which means it’s hard, sometimes, to give them a hard time or to let them hurt each other.  In particular, it’s difficult to find that balance between the likeability of the character and the realism of giving them actual flaws that have a negative effect on those around them – their friends, families, lovers …

Rachelle briefly discusses the difference between the real flaw and the cosmetic flaw … but fear not if you suddenly realise your characters have cosmetic flaws, because often the cosmetic flaw is but a watered down, victimless version of the real flaw and all we need to do is look at the darker side of their perfectionism or insecurity and how it makes victims of others.

Check out her article, and I’d love to know if you have any other tips or articles!

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Who’s been to The Night Circus?

I spotted this pretty book during one of my forays into a book shop just before Yule.  I stopped in my tracks, stared and then had a look at the blurb.  But it’s a bad idea to buy things for yourself in the run up to Yule, so I had to walk on by.  After a incredibly unsubtle hint to my gentleman, it magically appeared in my Yule stocking!

Has anyone else chanced upon this book?  I’ve already finished reading it and I’m still thinking about what I think about it, if that makes sense!

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Aflutter Over A Book

I’m all aflutter at the release of what looks to be a rather exciting debut novel from the witty and most learned Gail Carriger:


Who could possibly resist a novel whose byline is “A novel of vampires, werewolves, and parasols”?  Really?

Do go and check out her blog for Interesting Reading and a very fun Victorian paper doll of her protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti!  The book comes out on 1 October and I think I’ll be breaking my current ban on buying books and sending this one straight to the top of my pile.  And, dear reader, I think you should follow suit.

Soulless promises to be a steam-punk, historical urban fantasy with romance and lush gowns.  I, for one, am in.

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I think, think, I’m finished putting all my MA files and things together.  I’ve got a killer headache, but I think it’s all done.  I just need to get a folder and print it all.  I’m in shock!

Anyway, I know this isn’t an interesting post to look at, but because I’m sad like that, I’ve made a cover for the CD containing the electronic copy, so maybe that will entertain your eyes for a little while:

A Thief & A Gentlewoman - CD CoverRight, I do believe it’s sewing and film-watching time.  No rest for the wicked!

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In the course of my writing I have stumbled across a newspaper article from the Arianople Argus and thought it might be of interest:

Madam G―’s Gossip Guide*

All of Society is aflutter after Sunneday’s Gallows Gathering which saw the Fashion Set out in force.  In attendance were Mrs Med―, Th― Pasha, Mr Pel―, Ma― Pasha and divers others all in splendid attire.

I am reliably informed that nothing untoward occurred at the event, however perhaps that is because the whole assembly was most diverted by the presence of Fe― Pasha in his annual return to the city.  Still this eligible gentleman is without attachment and I know of several women of distinction who wish to put their own daughters forward for the role!  The young lady will have to be prepared for a life lived in partial exile, however, as the latest intelligence has it that the palace is showing no signs of easing up on the Pasha’s punishment.  Of course, that would be an easy price to pay for the quality of the prize on offer!

Such gentlewomen will be disappointed (or perhaps relieved), then, to note that Fe― Pasha has expressed interest in no particular lady.  Perhaps he is still pining for the ‘one that got away’…

My spies do inform me, however, that he made the acquaintance of the young Miss M―.  This gentlewoman from foreign climes came to the City of Cities but one month ago and has quite set the town afire with her unusual beauty and charming modesty – she insists on being called ‘Miss’, when I hear that she is entitled to a far grander title owing to her status in the West, from whence she came.

At the Gathering she looked quite well indeed in a gown of periwinkle blue taffeta with, so I am told, three whole yards of Felham lace!  Clearly this lady was out to impress and yet she managed to do so with her characteristic art – avoiding the excesses that mar true distinction in a Lady of Fashion.

I do hear, however, that her dignity was somewhat ruffled during a conversation with Fe― Pasha and others, about what I cannot say, but it did seem to pique the Pasha’s interest, even if for only a short while.  Perhaps he is not pining so much as we might think…

Of course, I cannot speculate on such things, but if ever a gentlewoman were to capture the heart of a certain gentleman, then one could do worse than place bets on the latest toast of the town.

*The title is indeed a nod to Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century and The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century – I love their pages!

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