Monthly Archives: December 2013

Adventures in Writing…latest novel done and dusted!

Well, it was something I’d planned to do. Finish ‘King of the Norse’ before Christmas. And guess what, I’ve done it! Am I elated? You bet!

This is the first year I’ve managed to do this. Usually a current project is put aside for the Holiday and I find myself feeling stressed and a little guilty. I should be writing, not wolfing down copious amounts of food and alcohol. But not this year. I feel relaxed and well pleased with myself.

Of course, there is still much to do. I have to embark on the re-writes almost as soon as the last piece of turkey has been washed down with a glass of champagne, but the first draft is done.

A labour of love, ‘King of the Norse’ turned out to be. ‘Varangian’, the first in my series of historical thrillers featuring the legendary Harald Hardrada, is receiving some good reviews. It could do with some more. Please get in touch if you would like to take a look at this book, and write some words on Amazon – or Barnes and Noble, or even Smashwords. Email me with you address or email and I’ll send you a paperback, or e-book for whatever platform you have. sg.yates@yahoo.co.uk.

The cover for my historical novel 'Varangian'.

The cover for my historical novel ‘Varangian’.

Of course, it doesn’t end there. I’m already about 30,000 words into the next volume. I’ve also plotted out a contemporary thriller, which I will concentrate on in the New Year. These are so much easier to do, of course. Works of pure imagination. I have written four such thrillers, all of which are available from the various Amazon sites. People seem to like them and ,especially on Kindle, they are offered at extremely good prices.

STUART G YATES COLLECTION

Historical thrillers, however, require a lot of research, but I love it. I am amassing a sizeable library on Byzantine and medieval Viking history to help me and all very fascinating it is too.

I’m not sure how many volumes poor old Hardrada will need. Originally I’d planned on three, but now I’m thinking a minimum of five. There is so much to tell about this fascinating man, and the many twists and turns of his story mean the sub-plots and back-story take up an awful lot of the narrative. I’d like to think of them as being fast-paced, despite all of that detail. The lesser characters are just as fascinating. Zoe, the sex-mad empress, George Maniakes, the driven general and Nikolias the pious yet very lethal captain of the Royal Bodyguard. How their stories pan out allows me to embroider Hardrada’s with plenty of juicy scenes and unexpected happenings.

Well, that’s me sorted for the next few months. It only remains for me to say, have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. May 2014 bring you all that you have ever wanted, and more!

 

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Adventures in Writing…Inspiration of practise?

Only yesterday I did the second of a series of presentations to the Year 7 and Year 8 students at my school about how and why I write. I was pleased to see some older ones joining in, as the 10 novels I have written as GLENN STUART are aimed at 12-16 year olds.

With the talk finished, the floor opened up for questions. Questions which really stretched me.

One student asked what I found the most useful tool for writing – inspiration or practise. This is close to my heart, as I do feel strongly that the story should come first, then the labour. It is a labour, however, which improves the more you do it. So, a mix of the two.

I told them how I came to write ‘Cold Hell in Darley Dene’, the story my mum had told me about an experience in the War; next, ‘The Well of Constant Despair’, how on Alderney I’d stumbled upon a very beautiful and tranquil place, hidden from everyone. A little brook meandered through it, and I wondered…what if…

Trilogy of terror

I am always doing this. My imagination tends to simply EXPLODE. I was on holiday recently, staying in a house that had a locked door to some hidden basement rooms. Soon I had conjured up an entire story based upon a young couple visiting the village, being stared at by the old men  who wondered why the couple showed such an unhealthy interest in the hidden rooms.

My next novel. Perhaps.

Or, it could be something else.

big covercover

As soon as I finish a book, I start another. With hardly any break at all. As I write this new work, I am also editing the previous one. So, it is a constant conveyor belt of creativity.

Well, I’m thinking…as it is so close to Christmas, why not offer up a small taster from Varangian, my novel of Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, invader of England and full-time good egg? I’m giving here Chapter 24, in the hope that you will be wooed into reading more. And, perhaps even writing a review? I’m willing, you see, to give FREE copies of Varangian, either e-books or paperbacks, in return fro a review. So, lift your glass, don your specs, and get in touch. sg.yates@yahoo.co.uk. And thanks. And now, here is the extract…enjoy!

 

Andreas slept in the tiny hut, wrapped in furs. He had woken once or twice and each time the girl had tended to him, feeding him hot soup or washing his brow. The young Byzantine fluctuated between burning fever and extreme shivering.

       Each time Hardrada poked his head through the door to catch a glimpse, the girl ushered him out again. He had seen the deathly pallor on the young man’s skin and didn’t like what he saw. It was the mask of death, a thing encountered many times on the faces of wounded men after battle. As they lay in the dank earth, the cuts from axe blows or sword thrusts, the way the wounds sucked and oozed, as if they themselves were living things. The way the flesh turned to pale stone, then became a sickly wax. He had seen it and he did not know of any man who had lived after that cast came over their flesh.

Save one.

Himself.

He sensed the girl at his shoulder and he turned. She was drying her hands on an old cloth. “He is very sick,” she said, not looking into the Viking’s eyes. “If you hadn’t helped him he would already be dead.”

“He was cold, I warmed him. That is all.”

“Well, without you he would be in their Christian heaven right now.” She tossed the cloth away. “I’m going to make us something to eat.”

“Why?”

She frowned, then a slight, bemused smile. “Because we are hungry! We need to—”

“I meant, why did you help us? You tell me I kept Andreas alive but without you, both of us would be dead. And yet you screamed when you first saw us? What was that, a call to the others? Fear? What?”

She shook her head, offered no answer as her eyes seemed to glaze over. “Is that his name, Andreas? That’s really quite beautiful, don’t you think?”

It was Hardrada’s turn to frown, “Oh, yes, like an angel’s.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” she gave a little skip, then clapped her hands together. For a moment she looked like a little girl and Hardrada had to laugh, his biting sarcasm lost on her. A curious mix of innocent young girl, naive in her dealings with others, yet supremely confident in her environment. She eked out some sort of life amongst the woods, far from prying eyes and she thrived on it.

 “I have to ask you,” he said. “You mentioned a war band and that you are one of them …” He swept his hand over the small encampment with its leather-sided tent, the pots and pans strewn here and there, an animal skin pegged out to dry. “This is their camp too?”

She bit her lip, looked back to the tent for a moment, then shook her head. “They sometimes pass this way, but not often.”

He didn’t understand that. A woman, as beautiful as she, living out here in the wilds, left all alone. Who were these men that they did not come and visit her? And who was she that was able to keep them away? Warriors, men skilled in death, why would they choose to leave her alone? There was something not quite right in any of this.

“I married a Roman,” she said, by way of explanation, possibly sensing his unasked questions. “He left me riches, a fine house, servants. I gave it all away to live my life here, as my mother had.”

“Your mother? I don’t understand.”

“Why should you?” She shrugged then stooped down to pick up a pot. He watched her as she went to fetch an animal skin filled with water. She poured most of it into the pot and settled it down on the makeshift brazier above the flames of the camp-fire. She threw in some herbs. “My mother was a soothsayer.”

A tiny chill ran down his spine. “A sorceress?”

She gave a small laugh, gathered up some vegetables and began to slice them into crude chunks, plopping each one into the water. “That is what the war band believe. Who am I to tell them otherwise? Such knowledge keeps me safe from them.”

“Because they believe you to be one also, a sorceress?” Hardrada blew out his cheeks. “We must give thanks for their stupidity. Or blindness.”

“They are not stupid, and certainly not blind. Simply mistaken. My mother was renowned for her knowledge of herbal lore. Everyone came to her when they were ill or had some malady that they could not shift. Then one day, a young soldier was brought to her, dying from his wounds. No matter how hard she tried, she could not save him. He died, right there.” She pointed to a small clearing of bare earth a few steps away. “Hence my scream. Memories, all of them painful. Nothing ever grows there, not since his life blood seeped out and soaked into the soil.”

“Men die all the time from their wounds. I should know, I’ve seen it often enough.”

She shook her head. “No, this was like no other death. He was a nobleman’s son, high-ranking, and they don’t die like that. Alone, in the cold, damp earth. So they killed her. My mother. His companions ran her through with their swords. I watched them, tried to stop them. But what could I do, a mere girl against such brutes. The commander, he was the cruellest of all. He seemed to enjoy my suffering.” Her slicing of the vegetables became much more violent, the heavy knife in her hand chopping through the various ingredients for the soup, like they were the skulls of the men who had killed her mother. “It was only after she lay there, dead on the ground, that it happened.”

Hardrada held his breath. Something about her, the way she had changed, made her seem  capable of violence. Looking back to the dreadful deed, her eyes narrowed and glazed over, it was almost as if she had returned to that moment. Her voice was hard, controlled, but with an edge to it that had not been there before. It made his heart freeze. “What happened?” he managed.

“The soldier, the boy. He sat up, completely healed.”

It took him a moment to react. He heard the words but not the meaning behind them. The way she spoke, her face, all made him feel very uneasy. “What do you mean? You said he was dead.”

“So he was. My mother placed the herbs into his wounds, said the words, laid her hands upon his body, then he died. At least, I thought he had died. Everyone else too. But he hadn’t. He sat up, blinked a few times and grinned.” She looked at the Viking with eyes filled with tears. “Now, you understand why they don’t come?” Her  eyes, now as black as coals, bore into him. “My mother had brought him back from the dead.”

***

The day had already turned cold by the time Hardrada stood on the opposite side of the ford. The girl had given him a packed satchel bag, some concoction of herbs which she said would heal any wound, and a map. He had studied it before his departure and it seemed clear enough. A path through the treacherous mountains would cut down his travel time to the northern border by at least a day. With good weather he should make the camp of the Varangians this time tomorrow. Andreas, still not fit to travel, would stay behind and Hardrada could pick him up on the return. At first he had been reluctant but images of Zoe and his two friends’ death at the hands of the detestable Orphano, loomed large in his mind, and he acquiesced.

He saw her watching him from a little way off. He raised his hand and took the first step into the icy water. He sucked in his breath sharply, the water stabbed like knives into his flesh, colder than he remembered. It must be snowing up in the mountains, a thought that did not improve his mood, but he gritted his teeth and made his way across the river to the opposite bank, the water rarely reaching above his knees.

He turned again as he stepped up onto the bank. The girl had gone, disappearing amongst the trees like a ghost. He shivered but not from the cold and pulled the fur around his shoulders. All that talk of sorcery and raising the dead, it didn’t sit well with him. Never a superstitious man, Hardrada had nevertheless met witches in his own country. Usually old and misshapen, he had dismissed their arts as the stuff of nonsense although he was always wary of them, never asked them questions or sought out their help in any way. Perhaps there was something in what they did; he simply did not want to think about it.

Along the river edge, he came across his sword and scabbard where he had left them. Without a pause, he buckled the belt around his waist, hefted the blade in his hand. It was good to have it back; it reassured him, made him feel safe. Then, he turned and scrambled over the bank and into the broken ground and sparse tree line that had been their camp. The ashes from the fire were grey, cold and dead. The pot with the peas was also there, most of the peas now gone. Someone had been here, cooked by this fire, made themselves comfortable.

Sure enough, as he investigated further, he came across the unmistakable signs of habitation. The slight impression in the earth, footprints, and over by the trees, defecation.

A horse whinnied.

Whoever had made themselves at home in this place was no thief. The horses were tethered in a little glade and once again, he saw the remains of oats on the ground. The visitor had fed the animals, cared for them. Not the actions of someone selfish and unconcerned. A friend? But who? Hardrada chewed at his lip, his suspicions growing. He saddled up his horse, attached the saddlebags and blanket, tied the reins of the other to his own, then lifted himself onto his horse’s back. Andreas’s mount snorted loudly and Hardrada led it out of the glade and set his course on the pathway that ran alongside the river.

He glanced over to where the girl had her own encampment but he could see no signs of either her or her tent. It was as if the whole lot had been swallowed up by the forest over there. If he did not already know it existed, no evidence remained now. No wonder she could eke out her life undisturbed. Perhaps it had nothing to do with sorcery after all. She was simply unknown to anyone. That must be the logical explanation.

Surely.

 

for details of where to buy my books, visit my website for all the links: www.stuartgyates.com 

 

 

 

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My last post caused a considerable amount of debate, which is great. I didn’t set out to be controversial, just stated some personal observations about promoting.

Talking of which, to lighten the mood, I thought I’d share some thoughts about promotional videos for my YA novels that I played around with some years back.

The first I did myself for ‘The Accursed Dawn’.

The cover of The Accursed Dawn, the first in the trilogy of terror by Glenn Stuart.

The cover of The Accursed Dawn, the first in the trilogy of terror by Glenn Stuart.

I had such great fun making this, using some students – and a teacher – from my school to help out. It was slammed by my publisher who just didn’t get it at all, said it was too blurred and dark. Well, it used to be on Youtube, but it is no longer. Don’t know why, perhaps they thought it was too scary? Anyway, it received 43 views. A pity 43 people didn’t buy the book (I’m joking – stop taking me so seriously!).

This next one was produced professionally by another publisher of mine, for my paranormal thriller ‘Sallowed Blood’, which I still believe to be one of the best horror novels I’ve written. Please be patient, it is Youtube and so takes a little while to load:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0B0lrsQFPg

I think it is effective, really quite creepy with great music! Choosing the correct music really does help. I purchased the music-clip for my movie, spent about 50 dollars I seem to recall, but now it’s mine! You need to be careful with music and photographs, making sure you have the correct copyright. I’ve purchased a number of such ‘stock’ photos, but it is so easy to spend, spend ,spend in all this promoting malarkey. Take it easy, and don’t spend more than you have to. The bottom line is to enjoy what you do, have fun with the process. I filmed myself reading from ‘Don Luis’ a few years back and that was such good fun.

Not sure if I’d do any of this now, as it makes no difference whatsoever. That’s not me being cynical or pessimistic before anyone sounds off about that! It’s a simple truth. It doesn’t work. However, it is such great fun to download pics, come up with ideas, play around with it. Being creative.

Last time I talked about the simple joy and need of writing. I feel very strongly that if you come into the writing business thinking you are going to make money, you will find nothing but disappointment and failure. Then, you will stop writing. You must write because you want to, because it is ingrained into your psyche, your very lifeblood. I write because there is simply nothing else I want to do. It is who I am. I am a maker of stories, a creator of worlds; I populate the universe with characters of my own imagination. And I love it. Sure, if I make some money, I would be very happy. Who wouldn’t be? But it is not my raison d’être for putting pen to paper every morning. It is simply me.

Enjoy the little video, enjoy my books, but most of all, enjoy writing for writing’s sake!

And talking of enjoying, if anyone would like to review my book ‘Varangian’ I would gladly send you a free paperback edition, or an e-book for any platform. Please let me know by contacting me by email: sg.yates@yahoo.co.uk

Many thanks, and keep reading!

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Adventures in writing…why I can’t promote.

As with most mornings I’ve been checking my emails. A few listings from job agencies – yes, I’m desperate to get another job – and one or two announcements from Amazon trying to get me to part with the little money I have (sorry guys, but I’ve just about done with shopping online for this year!), but amongst it all are one or two mails informing me some people are following this blog. That’s so great, it really is. But, when I go to their blogs and see them being so successful, with so many admirers, with links to books published and a trillion and one reviews, all so positive, I feel so depressed. How do they do it? Why are they so successful, and I’m not?

I can’t market.

That’s the bottom line. Self-promotion is alien to me. I can’t. It’s the same when I’m in a social gathering; I’d rather sit quietly and not speak, listening to others ranting on with their opinions about life, all of them the great philosophers of the modern world. That’s not for me. I’ll keep my opinions to myself for the most part. I’ll only be shot down in flames any way. So, no. I can’t do it. I write my books, I get them published, I post them on the social sites, put in the occasional ad in the local press, do an interview, appear on radio, go to book signings in bookshops…but I hate it. I’m not comfortable with it, and I don’t know what I’m doing. The idea of standing up and saying, ‘Hey, my book is so great, you’ll love it. Just buy it, read it, and you’ll see,’ is impossible for me. I should be more positive, of course I should. Confidant. Yes. Everybody loves confident people. I can’t. I’m none of those things. I let my words speak. They are all I have. But I guess I’d better try harder…so, here goes:

The cover for my historical novel 'Varangian'.

The cover for my historical novel ‘Varangian’ which is receiving some wonderful reviews, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Yes, of course I’ll continue to post pictures of my books on here, and on Facebook, but nobody takes a blind bit of notice. I did a talk the other day in my school library. About thirty kids turned up (I’m repeating it next week for another thirty!) and as I went into the library a colleague stopped me and asked me what was going on. I said, ‘I’m doing a talk about my books.’ He looked at me, pulled a face. ‘Your books? You mean, books you’ve ordered for the library?” Now, given I have been at this school for 7 years, and have been writing for much longer, isn’t it simply amazing he doesn’t know I have published 16 books? So I simply shrugged, ‘No, books I have written,’ I said. And his reply? ‘Oh.’ Then he walked away with not even a flicker of interest.

Says it all really.

I’m depressed by it. I don’t know what to do. Yes, I could sign up for all sorts of wonderful agencies. Pay the money, listen to the crap. Sign up for one of those ‘boot camps’ ( God, I SO HATE that phrase. Boot camp? What the hell have boots got to do with writing?). As soon as I see those words, I scroll on by. You know what I really want to do?  I want to grab hold of my old Olivetti, run away and live in a cave somewhere and simply write. Maybe I should do a George Orwell and find a Jura of my own. But seriously, I have a simple choice. I can either join the merry throng and take on board the pontifications of the noble and the just as they tell me with so much arrogance what I really need to do (because they know it all, of course) or I can continue being me.

I think I’ve already made the choice.

I’m not a sheep. And with that acceptance I also have to accept that my approach is going to take a long, long time. But that’s ok, because in the meantime I can continue to write stories, stories which entertain me and which I love to write. One day people will begin to pick them up in bigger numbers. Until that day comes, writing is what spurs me on, not any polishing or marching of boots in a camp!

Visit my website for links to my books. I write as Glenn Stuart for Young Adults, and as Stuart G Yates for adult thrillers, both contemporary and historical.

www.glennstuart.co.uk

www.stuartgyates.com

A personal PS on this sad day…Nelson Mandela inspired a generation with his love and capacity to forgive. May his memory inspire us all to seek tolerance and understanding and over-turn the hard and the un-caring thoughts and actions of so many. Our world is losing its way; let us try to bring it back on course through his example. Rest easy, the world will never forget you.

 

 

 

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