Sunday, 25 February 2018

Psychic Distance.

Dunvegan, Skye
I found a new writing term today. Psychic Distance. I discovered it in Emma Darwin's blog - This Itch of Writing.  I've been been re-writing Dark Pool into  VIKING SUMMER over the last couple of months, and since reading her blog I now know I've been playing around with psychic distance for one of my characters!

I got to 25 in my first edit and decided my heroine wasn't coming through clearly enough. Things happened to her, but there was no sign of how she felt about it all. Big mistake! (The original story was written  over twelve years ago when I hadn't been very long published!)

After thinking for a while I decided to concentrate on my heroine. After all, it was her story, and not Finlay of Alba's tale, though he was quite important. Making her my POV figure, using first person for her and third person for anyone else, would focus attention on her and get me closer to her. I sighed, because it meant a lot of work.  I was working on chapter 25 when I made this decision, and then had to go back to the beginning and re-draft each of her scenes, but it certainly got me thinking as if I were in her shoes. Her sometimes snippety voice started coming through and I liked that. (Perhaps I have a snippety voice too?) As Ms Darwin's blog says

"The closer-in we are to that character's consciousness, the more the scene and how it's narrated is coloured and shaped by that character's personality."
So the second draft concentrated on altering my heroines scenes. I also discovered something else I had to change. There was a dramatic incident, very important to the tale, and I had reported  it from two character perspectives and thus reduced the impact of said incident. 
I decided the incident should be with my heroine; I incorporated some of the description of the second character's discovery into her scene,  and omitted the rest. That made it much more her discovery and gave it more impact. Odd how these things leap out and demand to be changed. 
Technically then, I am on a third draft now and closing in rapidly on the magic words - the End.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson

Since I'm editing a book set in Dublin in 1035/6, I thought I should maybe offer some factual information for the reader who wants to know the history behind the book to be published soon as VIKING SUMMER.

Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson actually existed. He glories in having several spellings of his name depending which source you read; he can be Sihtric, Sitric and Sitrick in Irish texts; or Sigtryg and Sigtryggr in Scandinavian texts. There were two Sitrics before him in the family tree and one of his sons was also named Sitric, so reading histories of the time can be confusing. As the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin of the Uí Ímair dynasty, his dates are complicated too. He ruled - and these dates are the best I can glean from the different reports - AD 989–994, then again AD 995–1000; and restored once more in AD 1000 and abdicated 1036. Adding all that time together, he ruled for 46 years, which was no mean feat at the time.

He conducted a long series of raids into territories such as Meath, Wicklow, Ulster, and perhaps even the coast of Wales. He also came into conflict with rival Norse kings, especially in Cork and Waterford. 

He went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1028 and is associated with the foundation of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin and would have called himself a Christian, but that didn't stop him executing and blinding his enemies. 

His father was Olaf Cuaran, King of York and his mother the infamous Gormflaith ingen Murchada of Munster. They married in AD 972, and Sigtrygg was born around AD 974. He married Emer, daughter of Brian Boru, when he was 24 and forced her to watch the Battle of Clontarf with him from his fortress. It was the battle in which her father Boru died. They had 5 sons, who all died before Sigtrygg. He seems to have been related to almost every famous family of the time - his sister Gyda married Olaf Tryggvasson, who died in 1000. Their son was killed by Canute's son, Sveinn in 1033 in Norway. Sigtrygg's son Olaf married Slaine, daughter of Boru - though some reports have Slaine as Sigtrygg's wife. 

With English blood from his paternal grandmother, Eadgth, Alfred's grandaughter;  Irish blood from Murchadh, King of Leinster, his maternal grandfather, the mix was complete with his Norse bloodline reaching back to his great great grandfather Ivarr the Boneless. He abdicated in 1036, and died in 1042 

Marriages were repudiated seemingly at will, and Gormflaith, in spite of her famed beauty, was repudiated twice. Not only did Sigtrygg marry Boru's daughter, but Brian's third wife was none other than Gormflaith.  It is rumoured that Brian had four wives and thirty concubines and though Gormflaith gave him a son, it is doubtful that she was ever truly married to him.

Interesting scraps of information I found was that in the year 1000 AD, the temperature was 2-4 degrees higher than now. Population was so much less than now: in 1066 England had a population of 2-3 million, Ireland just under 1 million and Scotland and Wales a little over half a million. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


First edit done, second under way and I'm thinking about a cover. Here's a snippet from what I think will now be called VIKING SUMMER. The story begins on the west coast of Scotland in 1036 AD and Eilidh's brother Domnall has just been caught stealing cattle. Finlay, as the newly crowned King of Alba (read ALBA IS MINE) and his good friend Hareth, confront him. They are part of the story, but the main protagonist in this story is Eilidh and her adventures.

"Four days later I stood in the hearth-hall with anxiety churning my stomach as my brother's familiar figure strode towards me. Unshaven, muddy and with his pale brown curls like a nimbus around his sunburned face, he frowned as he noted Bundalloch men loitering around the hall when they should have been at work in the fields and barns. His gaze came to me, questioning; then he saw the strangers beside me. His stride slowed and his frown deepened.

My hands gripped together beneath my breastbone. The King of Alba stood silent at my side. His unexpected arrival had brought women running into the dairy to tell me of the huge Viking longship approaching the jetty. I had stared at the tall, attractive man stalking ashore as if he owned Bundalloch. When I saw the gold circlet of kingship at his brow, I realised he did indeed own it and knew we were in trouble.

His dark good looks, self-confidence and the size of his entourage initially unnerved me, but pride came to my rescue. My gown might be plain, my apron spattered with milk and my hair unadorned, but until Domnall married, I was the lady of Bundalloch and knew my duties. Hurrying forward, I greeted the king and stuttered a welcome. He had smiled, dispersed his men around Bundalloch, and walked into the hearth-hall without having received an invitation from me.

Beside me the King of Alba dropped into the thane of Bundalloch's chair and made himself comfortable. The storm cloud gathered on Domnall’s face as Leod and their companions filtered into place behind him. Then, collecting himself, he took a quick breath, bent his head and forced out a sentence of stilted politeness. “I trust my sister has offered food and drink, Your Grace?”
My nails dug into my palms. Of course I had. Did he think I was stupid?

“We heard you’ve been away on business,” the king said in a surprisingly deep voice. “To do with cattle, I think?”
Stiff as a pine, his fists clenched hard against his thighs, my brother said, “The beasts wander too far and must be brought back.”

A flood of sunlight lit the hall as the doors burst open to admit a vibrant young man with chestnut hair who strode across the rough earthen floor. “You've been raiding, Domnall,” he called out in a cheerful voice. “We've seen the beasts and watched you at work.” 

Friday, 9 February 2018

A lifetime of words

When I was a teenager I used to take a handwritten or hand-typed copy of pieces of literature that struck a chord with me. I did it as a child, too, but didn't keep those pieces. The teenage years are in a ring-binder and I found it at the back of a cupboard the other day. I had copied Kathleen Raine, Ted Hughes, Kalil Gibran, Seamus Heaney, e e cummings, Charles beatty and lots of others. Even a smidgen of Wordsworth, but probably not the one everyone knows -

For why? Because the good old rule
Sufficeth them; the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
and they should keep who can.

There are odd snippets like this one by someone called Tamburas:
Stand still, O Time.
I shall never know why,
You white wall, I love you
Like a woman I never saw before.
The blue of the sky reflects the Nile.

I love you, Men-nefru,
For in the magic of your streets
And in the orange-coloured moon
Of your night
Dwells the breath of the gods.

From poetry I ventured into prose and there are chunks from T H White, Rosemary Sutcliff, and an author I have noted down as M Savage. From there I deviated into all sorts of odd things - the breeding line of Nijinsky and Mill Reef, for example and scrapbooks on the JFK assassination, and Nureyev's defection to the west. Some of this collection stemmed from the fact that I worked in ICI where several daily papers and magazines were received and processed into the library - if I saw anything interesting I could snip it (once the item had ben processed) and read or copy it at my leisure. Reading through the pieces I kept still gives me pleasure today, but I'm mot sure that I still have those scrapbooks, but it is possible. Maybe I'll turn into a hoarder in later life!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Are e-books priced too high?

David Naggar, Amazon’s publishing chief, says a price of 99p sells more books.

Self-published authors  regularly sell  their work on Amazon for 99p  
Faced with two book by unknown authors which cost £9.99 and £2.99 respectively, which do you think most people would pick? 

Trad publishers find this "economically unwise"  because their business models are quite different. Indie authors sell at 99p via the Kindle platform and earn a royalty of between 35-70% of the retail price. Trad published authors earn 25% on e-books. 

Amazon has around 90% share of the ebook market in the UK according to the Publishers Association and according to them sales of trade ebooks fell by 17% in 2016 to £204 million.

One publisher (Alessandro Gallenzi) argues that nurturing authors requires a long term investment and cheap prices damage authors by devaluing and homogenising their work.
Matthew Lynn is the CEO of Endeavour Press and thinks that the market dictates the price, that e books are overpriced and £1.99 is a better price than 99p - though it does depend on genre.
"Digital and print books serve different audiences," he says..."cheaper ebooks are enhancing sales."

Evidently an Amazon spokes person has said that Naggar's comments had been intended to illustrate and example of KDP tactics to drive discovery for new authors. 

September 4, 2017 by Natasha Onwuemezi and Katherine Cowdrey