Tuesday, March 29, 2011

As part of the Write Hope project, I'm auctioning off a signed copy of THE CIRCLE CAST. If you want to help Japan relief, and get my book, please bid on it!


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Friday, March 25, 2011

Two Three nice reviews from LibraryThing:

"A spellbinding tale of the formative years of Morgan le Fay... beautifully written." - LizLupton

"tightly-plotted page-turner" - Panopticon2

"This was a superb read! Being a huge fan of the Arthurian myths, its always a treat when someone decides to write on a forgotten corner of that story. Morgan's back-story is treated quite well, with excellent depth and understanding. There are many underlying currents within the story as well, especially that of the push/pull start of Christianity within the wilds of Ireland. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys the Arthurian myths!" -- TommyElf

"A woman. Not a witch. Not a fairy. This story is about a woman, in a very harsh and unforgiving man's world. I liked it. I loved it and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a little fantasy, even if you know nothing about Arthur and his Round Table. Actually I would recommend it to anyone who was looking for a good read! It's truly a keeper!" -- Crystal Waldrum



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Friday, March 18, 2011

If you're in Montreal on the 4th, swing on by Réservoir for another Soirée Schmooze; we'll be upstairs.


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Friday, March 11, 2011

You know, I don't think I've really gone into detail about my interpretation of the story of King Arthur, Morgan le Fay, Lancelot and Guinevere. It's a little involved, so bear with me.

I've always thought there were some missing pieces to the King Arthur story.

Let's start with Arthur's kids. He doesn't have any. Not legitimate ones, at least. Guinevere never gives him any kids.

Now, I have lots of friends who don't have kids. But they also don't have kingdoms. In medieval times, for a king not to have an heir was terrifying. It was practically a guarantee of civil war. Uther Pendragon, for example, had no heir -- because Merlin takes Arthur away. After Uther dies, Britain collapses into anarchy.

And think what Henry VIII was willing to do in order to get a male heir. A devout Catholic (he earned his title Defender of the Faith) who loved his queen, he nonetheless divorced her and made England Protestant, all so he could marry Anne Boleyn, in the hopes of getting a son. You know the rest of the story: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

And yet Britain's legendary king has no legitimate heir by Guinevere and nobody says anything about it. Nobody urges Arthur to divorce her. No mention of prayers for the Queen to bear a son. They search for the Holy Grail for its own sake, not in the hopes that the Queen's barrenness will be lifted and the kingdom blessed with an heir.


The best reason I can think of, is that everyone is terribly embarrassed about it. I think they don't mention it because they know exactly why the king doesn't have an heir, and to talk about it would be to humiliate the King.

I think the King is either not sleeping with Guinevere, or he can't consummate their marriage.

And yet he clearly adores her. So what's up?

The way it makes sense to me, Arthur can't do it with Guinevere because he does not love her as a woman. He loves her as an ideal. She is his Queen, but she is not truly his wife. He adores her, the way millions of Catholics adore the Virgin Mary.

And that is why her affair with Lancelot goes on so long. Arthur has to know she's got the hots for Lance. And it's got to be obvious to everyone that Lance has the hots for her. But he can't blame them. After all, he's not being a proper husband to his wife.

That's why it's not till after years of what had to be an open secret that Gawain and his buddies nab Lancelot in flagrante delicto and the King is forced to deal with it.

So who does Arthur have the hots for?

Well, who does he actually have a child by? Morgan le Fay. She bears him a son, Mordred.

Now we get into the time in which Arthur lived. According to Geoffrey Ashe's DISCOVER OF KING ARTHUR and other books, the historical Arthur would have flourished around 500 AD. (That's why my novel is set then.) Britain is still Celtic, with a thin overlay of Roman civilization. Britain is partly Christian, but even Rome has only been officially Christian since 313 AD, so it's likely that many, many families still worship the old Celtic religion, and even more families worship Christ and the Celtic gods, just to be safe. (If you consider that there are still a few Zoroastrians in Persia, 1400 years after the Muslim conquest... old gods die hard.)

The people around Arthur would have had two ways of looking at him having a romance with his half-sister.

The Christians would have been appalled. Arthur is not only an adulterer, he's an incestuous adulterer? The thought is too hideous. They would have considered Mordred the bastard progeny of incest. No wonder they couldn't consider him an heir.

However, the followers of Lugos and Bellona Morigenos (known in Ireland as the Morrígan) would have not seen the problem. Marriages between brother and sister weren't unheard of, especially among the ruling class. (If you think that's odd, consider the Egyptian pharoahs, who almost always married their sister. Cleopatra married her brother before she married Caesar.)

The Celts also weren't quite so formal about marriage. If you were living with a woman, she was your woman.

So to the Celts, Mordred was the obvious heir to the throne. And thank Lugos there finally was one!

And Mordred would have felt entirely righteous when he came to court and demanded to be treated like the King's son that he was, and the heir that he ought to be. And Morgan le Fay would have felt entirely within her rights to support her son's demands.

Another King than Arthur would have simply ditched Guinevere as a barren failure and welcomed Mordred.

But Arthur is an idealist. And a purist. He has a vision of Camelot as a place of laws and honor and modesty and dignity and all those other good Christian ideals. He looks at the pagan Celtic world and sees bloody vendettas enshrined as glorious epic legend. He can see that Britain needs a single god in order to survive the barbarian Saxon onslaught.

And so he rejects Morgan, and Mordred. And calamity ensues.

From Morgan's side, the story is equally fraught. She loves Arthur as a lover, and as a brother. (I suspect she falls in love with him before she knows he's her brother. But once you've fallen in love, it's hard to put it away.) But she hates him as the offspring of her mother's rape and her father's murder. And she hates him as the man who denies their son his birthright. Which explains why she is both the woman who destroys him at the battle of Camlann, and one of the three Queens who comes to take him, mortally wounded, to Avalon, to be healed.

(Perhaps if he is the King Who Sleeps, she sleeps by his side?)

Okay, a caveat. I'm describing the legend as it is in my head. It has coalesced there out of historical research, and movies, and modern novels of King Arthur like The Once and Future King. There isn't an Official King Arthur Legend™. It's a coherent version of the story. But of course Marion Zimmer Bradley is entitled to her, very different, version.

The closest "original" canonical version is Malory's Morte d'Arthur. Of course that makes Arthur into a medieval Christian king, because Malory is writing in the Middle Ages about king from legendary times. In Malory, if I remember correctly, Arthur has three half-sisters. Morgause is the one who has the bastard by Arthur. Morgan le Fay is the sorceress. But I think we can all agree that one sister makes for a better story, can't we?

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Today, I'm interviewed on YA Fresh. I talk about the mystery at the heart of the King Arthur legend, my writing routine, my first sale and other fun stuff. And I'm giving away a signed copy of the book. Check it out!



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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Denise Jaden, author of the highly acclaimed YA novel LOSING FAITH and the forthcoming APPETITE FOR BEAUTY, interviewed me on her blog! She asks me about my characters, my day job (which is screenwriting), my path to publication, my number one bit of writing advice, and what I wrote when I was a teen. Check it out!



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Monday, March 7, 2011

Okay, I have made an Epub version of THE CIRCLE CAST, suitable for iPads. And a MOBI version, suitable for Kindles.

That took some doing. Calibre, the very fine free software that converts your document into an Epub, translates your input into XHTML. So the easiest way to control the formatting of your ebook is to turn your document into HTML, fuss with the HTML, and then convert from HTML into the ebook of your choice.

So I recoded the RTF document I got from the graphic designer into HTML using Word, cleaned up Word's horribly messy HTML, and then massage the HTML using TextWrangler.

I'd really like to figure out how to get the original fonts to appear. The book's beautiful title treatment is CCNearMythFables font, not a font most people will have on their computer. (I had to pay $50 for it.) Can Epub embed a font? Some say yes, Virginia, there is a way that you can embed a font into something called an LRF file, using the CSS @font-face element. But I don't know how to do that.

I also don't know how to center something vertically on a page, e.g. the dedication? And it may not actually be possible. The MOBI and EPUB formats don't include everything you can do in Word or PDF. Word and PDF are meant to format for a specific size document. EPUB and MOBI are meant to be "reflowable" for different sized tablets and readers.

But I've got an Epub. It is professional-looking and readable on my iPhone. And I've got a MOBI, that looks nice on my antique Kindle.

Is this is the wave of the future? We'll see. There were a couple of reviewers who wanted a digital review copy. It would be great if you could get your ARCs out digitally -- hella cheaper and faster. More often I see reviewers specifically saying, No, please, no digital review copies. So into the mail it goes.

I suspect the formats will get more robust and the software will get cleverer. For now, it's a cranky bit of work.

Theoretically I ought to be able to sell the Kindle edition, or actually my publisher ought to be able, if he sets up an Amazon Kindle publisher account. (That, at least, is trivial to do.) I think the MOBI I made looks legitimate, but I'm not 100% sure I've done all the formatting I'm capable of. So I'm holding back. Darn fonts.



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Thursday, March 3, 2011

I was looking around Amazon for free content for my Kindle, and ran across an e-Book that neatly answered a nagging question I had: how do you turn a book into a Kindle eBook?

Conveniently, Amazon will send you a free copy of their book Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing, provided of course that you have a Kindle to send it to.

It turns out pretty much all you need is an HTML file of your book, and about fifteen minute. The KDP software turns an HTML file into a Kindle book for you. (If you have a Microsoft Word doc, then you can have MS Word turn it into HTML.)

Interestingly, both the iPad and Kindle conversion software dislike PDFs. I tried to turn a PDF of The Circle Cast into an iBook using a powerful free program called Calibre. Calibre messed up my table of contents and chapter headings pretty badly. Now I'm trying to get a Word doc to work from. PDF is a format made to specify exactly how the book will appear on your chosen size of page. iBooks and eBooks are meant to appear readably on a variety of different sized screens. Hence Amazon's decision to base KDP on HTML, which is also meant to scale well on different screens.

Ironically, it will be a bit harder for me to get a Kindle edition out because I have to coordinate with my publisher. The downside of having conventional publishers is that they are, well, conventional. Henry Holt is still promising to Kindle-fy my two screenwriting books, Crafty Screenwriting and Crafty TV Writing. Tradewind hopes to bring someone in to Kindle-fy The Circle Cast. But I can't just, y'know, go and do it.

Once you have a properly formatted eBook for Kindle, as far as I can tell from the book, it is ridiculously easy to set up an account to sell it.

Of course you'll still have trouble marketing it. Most of the book review blogs and, I imagine, almost all traditional reviewers, refuse to look at self-published or Print on Demand books. There is a strong presumption of suckitude if you haven't been able to find a legit publisher.

But if you have a document that a limited number of people will desperately want to read, Kindle (or iBooks) is a great, practically free way to get the information out there.

Now where's my iPad 2?



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