Fantasy Authors – Overcome Writer’s Block Using Magic!

Ok, not just fantasy authors, this applies to all genres, and, ok,  not real magic … or is it?

Authors, Start Your Word Processors

I have read numerous times that you should write even if you are not feeling inspired because, well, to put it politely, you can always edit rubbish, but you can’t edit nothing (‘rubbish’ here serving as a more refined alternative to the original word, which, whilst eloquently making the point, was possibly not suitable for everyone’s ears!)

But What About the Magic?

“Start writing” you say? That’s not magic! I’m sure he said something about magic – that’s what made me want to read this article in the first place.

Well, it is ‘a kind of’ magic and it all happens when you let go and just write.

Go with the Flow State

Like all good magic, according to the rules, it shouldn’t work, but magic is a loose cannon and has no time for playing by the rules and so it works anyway.

I can’t count the number of times I have sat down at my keyboard, regardless of whether I have an idea in mind or not, and after a few minutes, something starts to happen: characters show aspects to their personalities that I didn’t know they had, they go ‘off script’ and start having unauthorised conversations, scenes start to develop on the page without seeking official clearance from the author, and environments assemble themselves seemingly out of nothing.

Recently, Tamsyn, one of the main characters in Lyskerrys, appeared in a scene dressed in an outfit that I didn’t even know she owned, and I thought I had made her up – if that’s not magic, then I don’t know what is!

All these things inevitably lead your writing off somewhere unexpected. I think that what happens is that we start serving as our own inspiration. We are all familiar overhearing a conversation, or turning a corner and seeing something new and ‘blam!’ – inspiration strikes. Connections are made and stories and plot lines develop all triggered by those events. Also, I think the act of writing distracts the part of our mind that gets in the way of stuff, allowing the ideas to flow.

Ease that Pressure – Get Out of the Zone

Another approach that works for me is dropping my characters into a new situation and letting them get on with things. I find it helps to put them somewhere that doesn’t fit in with the plan of the novel, this removes any pressure for it to fit in with what is ‘supposed’ to happen. Once they are outside of the novel you really can write anything you want, different style, perspective, anything. You will surprise yourself with what you come up with.

As an example, today I sent Liam (the main character in Lyskerrys) and Tamsyn off to the pub. Not only did I discover a new character serving the drinks there, but I also developed Liam and Tamsyn’s relationship. Oh, and I wrote over two thousand words in one writing session – there MUST be something usable in there.

If you can’t think of anything else, then write about them doing the dishes, at least that way if you don’t get any quality writing done you won’t have a huge pile of washing up waiting for you at the end of the day (I’m not sure that last bit actually works, but it’s got to be worth a try!).

Magic for Authors – a Summary

Next time you are stuck for inspiration, sit down at your keyboard, start to write and and let the magic happen.  It doesn’t have to be something you think you will use,  write about anything. Seriously, give it a try, I think you’ll be surprised – I don’t claim to have invented these ideas, but they almost always work for me.

Now, get out of here and start writing!

Oh and don’t forget to comment below and let me know how you get on.

Mount Edgcumbe Christmas Fayre

On the weekend of the 9th and 10th of December we were fortunate enough to be offered a pitch at the Mount Edgcumbe Christmas Fayre selling and signing copies of The Solstice Blade. Mount Edgcumbe is a beautiful stately home built in about 1520 located on the Rame peninsular, overlooking Plymouth Sound. The event was extremely well organised and well attended.

On day one we were positioned outside in a gazebo, close to the Sealed Knot English Civil War re-enactment group, where I was able to meet with a Polish mercenary, who despite having an expression fierce enough to qualify in a future installment of The Solstice Blade, was willing to pose for a photograph!

On the second day, the winds were very high, and the organisers kindly moved us into the main house – what a treat it was to have a prime location inside in the warm after a day spent getting up close and personal with a December Saturday in South East Cornwall!

We were installed next to a 16th century Flemish tapestry and a travelling chest of similar vintage. Apparently tapestries served the purpose of providing insulation and draught proofing as well as functioning as a status symbol.

Just through the door to the left in the photograph was a large hall where the Mount Edgcumbe Christmas tree was situated, with a staircase up to a gallery, and from lunchtime onward we were treated to  Christmas carols sung on the staircase by various local choirs.

I would definitely recommend Mount Edgcumbe for a visit if you are ever in South East Cornwall, you might even get to meet this guy if you look closely enough!

I certainly plan to return for a proper look around when I don’t have to man the stall!

You can read more about Mount Edgcumbe on their official website here:

As always, if you are reading this on GoodReads and are unable to see the images, please visit The Solstice Blade’s blog post here.

Nadelik Lowen! Happy Christmas!

Travelling home through Liskeard last night, I realised that now the Christmas decorations are up the town looks almost exactly as it did in my imagination when I wrote The Solstice Blade.

Incidentally, if you are reading this on GoodReads and cannot see the images,  please head over to www.thesolsticeblade.co.uk/posts My blog is hosted on a WordPress site, and the images (which are central to this post) may show as [image error] on GoodReads.

Liskerard Town Christmas tree viewed from The Parade on Barras Street looking towards Greenbank Road
Liskerard Town Christmas Tree

“The rain continued as they made their way through the town, blurring and streaking the Christmas lights that were strung across the roads and wound around the town’s Christmas tree that stood by the fountain.”

When this photograph was taken the rain was a drizzle rather than the heavy rain that features in the story.  Strung across Greenbank Road in the centre of the picture are the words Nadelik Lowen, which as you probably inferred from the title of this post, means Happy Christmas in the Cornish language. (When first erected this year it did read “Lowen Nedelik”, which although a literal word-for-word translation actually reads as “Christmas Happy,” fortunately this was soon spotted and rectified!)

Did you notice that there are no light bulbs at the bottom of the tree? Read Chapter 1 – Rain to find out why! (don’t forget that “Rain” is included in the free preview and can be found here )

Looking from Barras Street down Pike Street towards the Guildhall clock tower.
Looking from Barras Street down Pike Street towards the Guildhall clock tower.

At the base of the Guildhall clock tower is the small arcade of shops where Travis first thought he heard footsteps following them.

The Guildhall Clock Tower at the foot of Pike Street. The clock face is illuminated in red and green at Christmas
The Guildhall Clock Tower at the foot of Pike Street

“No one else would be stupid enough to be out in this weather,” said Liam. “You’re hearing things, there’s no one there. Come on, let’s just get finished and get home, I’m fed up with this.”

View along Fore Street from the bottom of Pike Street at the base of the Guildhall clock tower.
View along Fore Street from the bottom of Pike Street at the base of the Guildhall clock tower.

“Above them the sky was aflame. The wavering curtains of coloured light of a spectacular aurora rippled across the narrow band of sky between the two opposing rows of shops.”

Looking up Pondbridge Hill from the junction with Fore Street.
Looking up Pondbridge Hill from the junction with Fore Street.

“Above their heads the aurora still shimmered and rippled across the sky like a wind-blown flag.”

I hope that you have enjoyed this short tour of Liskeard by night following the route taken by Liam, Evan and Travis in the opening chapter.

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowyth Da!

“Your South East Cornwall” Magazine Article 

An article about the The Solstice Blade has been published in the October-November edition of “Your South East Cornwall” magazine. The article is reproduced below:

Liskeard has been at the centre of rather more otherworldly activity than usual recently, at least in “The Solstice Blade”, the fantasy adventure novel set in the town by local author Robert Beck.
When Travis, Evan and Liam are tricked into invoking an ancient magic ritual, a chain of events is set in motion that allows an alternate reality called the Otherworld to begin to bleed through in to modern day Liskeard. If the brothers cannot reverse the effects of the spell before the winter solstice, their lives, and those of everyone else, will never be the same again.


Robert first began writing about the local area when his sons were very young, writing short stories which would mysteriously be delivered onto their doorstep and then lead them off on real world adventures around the Liskeard and Looe area. These early stories generally involved a crew of invisible pirates headed by Black Jake, a fashion and heavy-metal music obsessed captain, whose attempts to disrupt Christmas were constantly thwarted by an undercover elf named Bob.

As his family grew older the stories grew with them. The most elaborate adventure culminating in the launching of sky-rockets to re-seed the airwaves with the scents of Christmas so that Santa’s reindeer were able to navigate around the world again after Black Jake’s latest fiendish attempt to destroy Christmas. 

When Robert’s sons reached early adulthood the idea for The Solstice Blade was born. The novel developed, drawing in influences from ancient mythology, local folklore, and intertwining them with Robert’s own imagination. Soon it was realised that with a little more work the story could be developed into a full novel.

With the publication of The Solstice Blade in December 2016 the opportunity for some more creativity presented itself, and three copies of the novel were hidden in and around Liskeard. At the moment of the winter solstice, clues with differing levels of difficulty were published on The Solstice Blade’s Facebook page. Followers of the page were very creative, keeping us updated on their progress with photographs and even comments in the form of short stories which were added to as they made progress towards their prize. 

A sequel to The Solstice Blade, provisionally entitled Lyskerrys is now well underway. Keep an eye on the blog on The Solstice Blade’s website or the Facebook page for updates.

With summer coming to an end and the winter solstice once again approaching, the levels of background magic in the town will undoubtedly start to rise once more. Keep your eyes open, this is Liskeard – who knows what might happen!

Writing a Scene from a Different Perspective

Whilst I was busy procrastinating instead of doing something more productive a few weeks ago, I came across an interesting article in my Facebook feed about re-writing. I follow the Kindle Direct Publishing page (which allows me to convince myself that reading Facebook is helping my writing, although in this case it actually was) and they had shared an article originally available on the Arvon website that I believe was written by Melanie McGrath. The article was about how walking around a scene and re-writing it from a different perspective can give you a deeper understanding of what is going on. I was intrigued by this idea; it wasn’t something I had tried before … but then there was this meme with an otter holding a tiny electric guitar, and well, you know how that ends!

Fast-forward a week or two and I found myself struggling with a chapter in my new novel “Lyskerrys” in which the protagonist travels into the past to a location he already is familiar with from the present. The location, as it is in the past, is very different from he first encountered it, (wait, should that be when he would encounter it? Damn you time-travel! Anyway, you get the idea.)

This scene really deserves to be described in a lot of detail to show just how different it is, but no matter how I tried to do this it always read as just a long list. The way I was struggling with this scene made me think back to the article, and I thought I would try re-writing it from another perspective. What a revelation! It was the perfect solution, just considering another viewpoint immediately made me think of the young children in the chapter who were playing in the chamber in which the scene is set. Writing from their perspective and describing the room as seen through their eyes as they chased each other through the chamber enabled me to describe each point I wanted to as they encountered it without it ever feeling like a list. The scene closes as they race out of the room past the protagonist who is just entering, which was the perfect transition to back to his viewpoint.

I’m not sure if this is exactly what the author of the article had in mind, but it certainly helped me and I would recommend that you give it a try if you are struggling with a scene.

Read Melanie McGrath’s original article here.

 

Return to the World of The Solstice Blade.

One of the questions I have heard most often since publishing The Solstice Blade has been “Is there going to be a sequel?” This is something I love being asked, because it sounds like people enjoyed The Solstice Blade enough to want to read more. (Caveat: for the purposes of this article, I am going to blithely overlook the fact that a good number of the people who asked the question did so at the point of purchasing the first book. Well, perhaps not overlook it so much as interpret it as: “If I enjoy this, will there be more to follow?”)

Anyway, the answer to that question is “Yes”.

Since March of 2017 I have been writing a novel with a working title of Lyskerrys, which is a sequel in the sense that it takes place in the same locations, and with at least one of the same protagonists. I estimate the initial draft to be approximately two thirds complete, but it will require extensive editing and reviewing.

A number of people I have spoken to were interested in writing their own novels, and I therefore intend to try and make a concerted effort to post regularly on the development of this new book, both to keep interested parties, well, …interested, but also in the hope that it might provide some inspiration to anyone thinking of writing themselves.

With that in mind, please fasten your seatbelts and remember to keep your arms and legs safely inside this reality as we begin our journey to Lyskerrys!

Welcome to Lyskerrys!

Lyskerrys is the working title for the new novel and, as many of you will know, is the Cornish name for Liskeard (and is, by happy coincidence, much more evocative of an alternate reality). A lot of the names of people and places in both The Solstice Blade and Lyskerrys derive from, or are at least on nodding terms down the pub with, Cornish words. For example, at the time of writing, a number of the characters have names that are spelled with a ‘y’ in places where modern English might use an ‘i’: Tamsyn and Vyvyan are two instances of this.

We also learn that the inhabitants of the Otherword refer to our world as Tiranaral. This is a contraction of ‘Tir an Aral’, which based on my several years of learning the Cornish language (and tempered by the fact that I have not studied it for a good number of years since) should be the Cornish for Otherworld  – literally: The Other Land. (disclaimer – I do need to get this checked by someone with more recent and probably more accurate knowledge of the language before publication! – although I do like the sound of it so it may stay.)

Lyskerrys is set a few years after the events depicted in The Solstice Blade, and by this time the original protagonists would be in their early twenties. Having first hand experience of being in my early twenties (albeit sometime ago – in or around my early twenties 😉 ), and still retaining some dim memories of that time, I feel eminently qualified to write from the perspective of a young adult! (If anyone ever wants to read a book written from the perspective of a nearly fifty four year old who doesn’t want to accept his age – I’m your man 😉 )

Lyskerrys is a still a fantasy novel, and still crosses backwards and forwards between our world and a parallel reality, but it is also intended to be a darker novel than The Solstice Blade. Despite this, it should still be accessible to readers of all ages, other than the very young due to some infrequent use of “language” commensurate with the age of the protagonists – sometimes you just have to keep it real (or so I’m told!)

Anyway, that’s the end of this first post on the matter. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope I am able to maintain its momentum!  Stay tuned, stay safe, and read the free preview chapter linked below if you want to get an early taste of Lyskerrys 🙂

Read a Free Sample Chapter from Lyskerrys

If this post has piqued your interest, you can read the current draft of the prologue here:

I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts, although be advised that based on my experiences with The Solstice Blade, the text is likely to change, possibly out of all recognition before publication.

Further Information

If you enjoyed this post,  don’t forget that you can enter your email address and subscribe to this blog to be notified of new updates.

If you have not already read The Solstice Blade, you can find the book on Amazon here.

Or read more some more independent reviews on GoodReads here.

The Solstice Blade at Great Trethew Vintage Rally

Headlight and front grille of an MG TF vintage sports car

The Solstice Blade has been abroad in darkest South East Cornwall, the location of the novel, over the bank holiday weekend with a stall at the Great Trethew Vintage Rally.

Great Trethew lies between Liskeard and the fishing town of Looe and the rally was held for the first time this year after the Morval rally ended in 2016 after many years. The organsiers of Great Trethew have certainly done a great job, it was a fantastic location and very well organised and executed.

The Solstice Blade stall was located in the craft marquee, close to the main event arena, and therefore in a perfect position to attract new readers in the intervals between events.

Robert standing at The Solstice Blade stall.
The Solstice Blade Stall featuring a local author!

It was an absolute pleasure to meet some of the people who had bought the The Solstice Blade at previous shows, and to hear what they thought of the book. It was also an opportunity to meet lots of new readers and other people with a wealth of local knowledge, some of which will no doubt find its way into the next book.

I have always had a soft spot for the lines of a vintage British sports car and we were spoiled for choice with MGs, Triumphs and Jaguars amongst others at the show.

Headlight and front grille of an MG TF vintage sports car
Arty shot of the front of an MG TF (I think!)
The front headlight and grille of a Triumph TR3A
The front headlight and grille of a Triumph TR3A (this one I do know!)

The standout event for me was definitely the tractor pulling which, for the uninitiated (count me in that number until this year), involves various tractors trying to drag a flat bottomed weighted sledge along a field. As the tractor progresses along the course the weight is shifted towards the front of the sled making it more and more difficult to pull (as far as I could tell!) resulting in some serious “tractor wheelies”.  By far the coolest tractor in my novice opinion was The Atlantic Storm, which looks like a dragster and apparently is powered by an ex Russian tank engine! I am almost certain that this tractor would perform a lot less well if it were not for the flame graphics on the mudguards! They certainly worked for me!

The Atlantic Storm generating clouds of dust
The Atlantic Storm –  a Tank Engine Powered Tractor!

If you find yourself in South East Cornwall during late August, The Great Trethew Vintage Rally is well worth a visit.

More information about the Great Trethew Rally can be found here.

Recent Reviews on Amazon

 

Very happy to have received another couple of four and five star reviews on Amazon.

I am extremely grateful to those of you who have taken the time to write a review, which as well as providing valuable feedback also helps to improve The Solstice Blade’s ranking in the Amazon charts.

Amazon Customer awarded four stars and said:
“I read this book twice, not because I didn’t quite understand the storyline first time but because it was in all honesty, an excellent read. Although aimed at the young adult readership, Solstice Blade has a quality and writing style which very easily crosses over to an adult market. I liked it very much and look forward to Roberts next outing as an author”

Mr G. M. Watson awarded five stars and said:
“I really enjoyed reading this book. Easy to read with great detail which made me feel immersed in fairy land. I personally felt it could of been longer but this is my only criticism as I really enjoyed the content.”

See all of the The Solstice Blade’s reviews at Amazon here

The Holyer an Gof Awards Evening in Truro

The Solstice Blade was nominated for the Holyer an Gof awards and we were invited to attend the awards ceremony at Waterstone’s bookshop in Truro, Cornwall on Tuesday 11th July 2017.

A very enjoyable evening began with a short drinks reception held upstairs at the bookshop before the announcements and presentation got underway. It was a curiously exciting  experience to be sitting around chatting and drinking wine in a bookshop after it had closed to the public!

All of the nominated books were on display on a dedicated bookshelf within the shop for purchase during the evening and will remain on sale there for a couple of weeks.

The Holyer an Gof award nominees on display at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.
The Holyer an Gof award nominees on display at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.
The Holyer an Gof award nominees on display at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.
The Holyer an Gof award nominees on display at Waterstones bookshop in Truro.

The special guest master of ceremonies for the awards was Edward Rowe, better known in Cornwall as the comedian “Kernow King”,  and it was a special treat to have the opportunity to have a few words with him briefly after the ceremony.

Robert Beck with "Kernow King" Edward Rowe.
Robert Beck with “Kernow King” Edward Rowe.

During the announcements themselves, on a category by category basis, the nominations were individually introduced, with a summary of each entry. The young adults category was combined with the children’s section, with all of the nominations in young adults being described as “outstanding”.

Then, the winners of each category were announced and presented with their certificates. Although The Solstice Blade did not win the combined Children and YA section, it was a very pleasant surprise to be called up and presented with a certificate from the Grand Bard (Bardh Meur) of the Cornish Gorsedh, Merv Davey.

Robert Beck is presented with his certificate for The Solstice Blade by the Grand Bard - Merv Davey.
Robert Beck is presented with his certificate for The Solstice Blade by the Grand Bard – Merv Davey.

Further information about Gorsedh Kernow can be found here.

Further information about Holyer an Gof can be found here.

Carnglaze Caverns

Statue of a fairy located in the woodlands at Carnglaze Caverns.

On the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of July 2017, The Solstice Blade was at Carnglaze Caverns near Liskeard in Cornwall for their Crystal and Crafts Show.

Carnglaze Caverns is a disused slate mine located in the Loveny Valley on the way to the village of St. Neot, and is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Once at Carnglaze, the entrance to the cavern itself is to be found along a short footpath, tucked away around a bend. It is always a delight to round the corner and encounter the lights and sounds of activity emanating from the entrance cut into the hillside.

The entrance to the slate cavern.
The entrance to the slate cavern.

Early on the Saturday morning, before the show opened to the public, there was time for a walk in the woodland surrounding the caverns, which is populated with many enchanting statues of mythological creatures.

A statue in the woodlands surrounding Carnglaze Caverns.
Statue in the woodlands surrounding Carnglaze Caverns.
Statue of a fairy located in the woodlands at Carnglaze Caverns.
Statue located in the woodlands at Carnglaze Caverns.

The Solstice Blade stall was set up underground in the upper part of the cavern system known as The Rum Store, which is often used as a concert venue. The temperature in the caves remains constant throughout the year, and whilst this was probably a comfortable temperature for the slate miners to perform their physical work in, it can feel rather chilly when one is sitting down manning a stall! I certainly felt rather overdressed as I wandered out squinting into the soaring temperatures of a July weekend wrapped up in a jumper, coat and scarf!

The solstice blade books and posters on the stall
The Solstice Blade stall in the Rum Store at Carnglaze Caverns.

It was very enjoyable to meet people who were interested in reading The Solstice Blade and even one or two who were reading it at the time. Several people were curious about  my experiences of self-publishing, and I hope I was able to offer them some useful information and hopefully inspire them to give it a go themselves. In addition to the public attending the event, many of the other stall holders and even the organiser of the event picked up a copy and I look forward to hearing their thoughts and comments about the story.

Close up of The Solstice Blade book with fairy lights and candle.
Close up of a copy of The Solstice Blade on the stall.
A view from the entrance of the Rum Store towards the stage, showing stalls set up for the show.
View from the entrance of the Rum Store towards the stage, showing stalls set up for the show.

The otherworldly ambience of Carnglaze Caverns perfectly complemented the atmosphere that I tried to create in The Solstice Blade, and I hope to return again in the winter for their “Alternative Christmas Present Show.” Which, in early December, is getting perilously close to the winter solstice!

If you are planning a visit to Carnglaze, you can find more information about site and directions on their website here.

The Solstice Blade will be on the road again on Saturday the 8th of July 2017 at the Liskeard Show. I’d love it if you were to pop over and say “hello”.