Category Archives: 1322
My Scrivener file for The Raven’s Wing is enormous. I’ve done so much research, spending a big gobbet of time making sure I get as many details right about 1322 as I can. One of the best things about research is the learning process itself, and this quest for accuracy is a lovely bunch of fun. How much do you know about the 14th century? No, nor did I until I began to write this book, but it’s an intriguing period. Did you know they didn’t have orange carrots yet?
I’ll pop a lot of the fascinating things that I’ve discovered into Author’s Notes at the back of the book, as usual, and you’ll perhaps be interested to learn that as with Fog, there will be a Raven’s Wing Special Edition. Think of this as the extended DVD version – the four-disc Lord Of The Rings type extended edition. It’ll be in hardback for a start, and will contain a lot more historical background information than the paperback.
There will also be “Deleted scenes” – chapters not in the paperback that cover events that happen ‘behind the scenes’ of the main plotline. There may also be a few versions of events written from a different character’s point of view.
Add to this the added graphics, medieval art, character sketches by Kit Cooper, maps, my drawings of locations – and perhaps, just perhaps, I’ll tell a backstory that cries out to be told; that of Moss, the one-eyed fire-dancer who hints at a secretive, violent past. FYI Moss is named for my author friend Sophie Moss. whom I’m pretty sure doesn’t have a shady past.
I only wish I could include a CD of all the songs that are scattered through the book (my hero is a minstrel after all), performed by me and Blondie, my uke. Perhaps I’ll post a series of YouTube videos. The book’ll be a few more months coming, but it’ll totally be worth it. It’s going to be FUN.
So, I get back from the gym and I’m ready to start writing. The problem is that I can’t think of a sub-plot to delay my protagonist by a day underground while parallel plotlines 11B (Moss) and 11C (raven/reeve) reach plotpoint GAMMA. Were I less of a stickler for continuity I could just write the strands and sod whether they match temporally, but no. I’m a stickler for stuff like that, me. I stickle.
Or, you know, why can’t I ever just write a novel-length story that just goes in a straight line? Warren Peace had two parallel plots, chuntering on together in alternate chapters. In Fog I kind of folded Finn’s tale of mystery, weirdness and showers back on itself and plaited the strands (that was fun!). In The Raven’s Wing there are, let me see, at least four things going on at once in different places, all important to the tale.
Herein, though, lies the beauty of Scrivener. First of all it makes stickling easy by allowing me to look at parallel timelines by judicious use of keywords. In addition, I can actually leave John festering underground not caring what he’s doing while I write future chapters, secure in the knowledge I can come back to him at that moment later when a light bulb hits me about what he might actually be doing there.
Looks like I’m writing after all. Well played, Scriv.
Character sketch from The Raven’s Wing, coming this summer. Drawn for me by the talented @TheRogueHeart.
After spending far too long being distracted by short fiction in all its forms, I have today finally re-immersed myself in my medieval saga of blood, of magic, and of music, The Raven’s Wing. A happy three hours this avvy reacquainted me with the intricacies of the plot and characters, aided in no small part by the remarkable writing software, Scrivener. Tucked away in the rather large research section was this little gem, which may or may not make it into the final story. I thought you might like it, though.
The holy breast milk of the Virgin Mary was an extremely popular relic in the middle ages. An entire church was built outside Bethlehem on a rock which had miraculously turned white after coming into contact with the Virgin’s milk as she breastfed Christ. Another legend says that St Bernard was praying before a statue of the Madonna when milk sprayed from its breast into his mouth. Many vials of “breast milk” began to appear all over Europe. The French theologian John Calvin said:
“Had the virgin been a cow her whole life she could never have produced such a quantity.”
I do enjoy researching the middle ages for ‘The Raven’s Wing’. It turns up delights like the Urine Wheel, used by medieval uromancers to analyse the look, smell & taste (yes, you heard) of a patient’s piss in order to ascertain their health and, in some cases, predict their future. You can bet that this will make an appearance in the book.
And then I discover that we can now buy Urine Wheel earrings. What a place of wonder is this modern world.
I’ve had a lot of trouble over the last few days with the plot of The Raven’s Wing. I suppose it’s a symptom of my penchant for elaborate plotting structures (see ‘Fog’), but this stumbling block was a right thorny bastard. I shall explain, avoiding spoilers.
There’s this Thing, see? And the plot of The Raven’s Wing required this Thing to do a thing, only the Thing is miles away from the thing that it needs to do at the time the thing needs doing. Thinking hard with my mighty author brain failed for days to offer up a solution.
Oh certainly, I could devise a clunky deus ex machina to transport the Thing to the thing, but then I’d have to construct a second tower of implausibility to return the Thing to its rightful place and BANG the elegance is gone.
I briefly considered cutting the Thing in two, and having Thing One do the thing, while Thing Two continued on its merry way along the original plotline, but then the mere existence of Thing One would completely undermine the structure of the whole book.
“Stop fretting about it, bumface,” said Alex (I clumsily paraphrase her delicate sentence structure here). “Hie thee to thy noisome nest and forget it. The solution often rises unbidden into the dreamlike mind.”
I was doubtful. Normally my dreamlike mind features only such subjects as clouds, floods and bottoms. However, not for the first time, the head of the nail felt the forceful blow of Alex’s perspicacity. As she had foretold, the very next morning, while I was still half asleep and thinking about naked ladies, a cartoon light bulb pinged into existence above my head. Blimey. What if the thing didn’t happen at all? I could just leave the Thing where it was to carry on performing its Thingly duties.
Oh, but then if the thing that I had thought should happen did not happen, well, then what? Then… WHOA. Sweet sexy Jesus on a chocolate bike, that’s good. Having the thing not happen actually gives birth to a far bigger and much more emotionally engaging second half. It could shake you by the throat.
So thanks, Alex – you’ve help lift The Raven’s Wing out of Quite Good and into Bloody Nora That’s a Bit Brilliant. Now I just have to make the writing as good as the plot.
I spent three or four hours today on The Raven’s Wing without writing a word. First there was the actual plotting – ensuring the flow of the whole piece actually works in terms of time and location. I found a couple of holes there that needed plugging. Then there’s consistency -making sure all the characters behave truly to their nature. Motivation – checking that every character, even the minor ones, have a reason for doing the things they do. Timeflow – ensuring that characters travelling different paths all pass through the same amount of time as each other before meeting up again. I even tracked a few meaningful objects through the story outline to make sure they travel through time and space correctly, and that it all holds together. Hurray for Scrivener, which makes all of this easy.
Sometimes writing doesn’t involve writing, if you see what I mean.
I have once more started moving on the latest novel, The Raven’s Wing, aka 1322. Finally. I began writing it last year, but was tempted away (as you probably noticed) by the delicious allure of anthologies and short stories. Releasing ‘Blood on the Ground’ as a collection has acted as a way marker on that road, however, and I am now eager to step back 700 years and once again sink myself into the mire, mayhem and magic of the 14th century. I have 40k words already written, which at a rough guess is about a quarter of the number that I will need to fully tell the story in my head. I’ll wager that you’ve stopped reading this paragraph now, so it’s probably safe to mention that I’m writing in my jimjams, eating salty porridge with dried cherries. A little word painting of the author at work for you there.
I have also had a sudden revelation, after looking at ‘Warren Peace’, about how to improve the start of ‘Fog‘ to make it more attractive to those who make quick decisions, such as agents and publishers. I shall therefore be doing a small rewrite of that over the next few weeks, prior to sending it out to a few more agents. And no, I won’t be changing that ending.
I have not forsaken the short form altogether, as I am working up a three thousand word tale for submission to a paying magazine. When I get around to submitting that, I shall ask you once again to cross everything of which you possess a pair.
I made a promise (or maybe a threat) a short while ago to give the rather splendid author Sophie Moss a part in 1322 (or The Raven’s Wing, or whatever I end up calling it). Here’s a snippet from her opening scene.
“Oh don’t,” John said.
“Don’t what?” asked Moss, sucking her fingers clean.
“Don’t… don’t do that. It’s very distracting.”
“Cuh! Men.” Moss shook her head and lifted the bowl up to her face. She ran her tongue around the rim then began to lick the bowl clean. She lapped eagerly at the smooth surface of the shallow bowl.
“So, what were you going to ask me earlier?” she said, licking her lips as she looked up at John. “A warning, though. If this involves any suggestion that I might in the slightest way be interested in the plucked quail that flaps between your legs, you can save your breath. Your pathetic dangly bits are a matter for your hand only. Or perhaps one of those cheap whores over there.”
You don’t mess with the Moss…