Week 29 | Guest post: Get a friend who is familiar with your novel to speak about it

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 29

This week, I (somewhat nervously) hand the reins over to my writing partner, S.E. Berrow, who is both one of my closest friends and greatest WIP critics.


I’ve known K.F. Goodacre for nigh on 12 years now and for the vast majority of those she was writing almost exclusively about queer psychopathic vampires swanning around in 17th century Russia. So when she told me she was going to have a bash at writing a children’s novel, you can imagine I was… skeptical.

Upon reading The Elder Throne for the first time however, not only was I pleasantly surprised —  I was absolutely blown away!

The Elder Throne is about 11-year-old Anna Squires who discovers her absentee dad was actually a faerie Prince of the Seelie Court. This not only means Anna is half-fae, but also potential heir to the Seelie throne. Travelling to Ireland with her Grandfather Abe, Anna seeks to learn more about her heritage and prove herself worthy of the throne. Perhaps she’ll also stop a few dastardly Unseelie plots along the way…

I can’t believe my writing partner has written something so layered and relevant as this book. I’m so jealous of her talent and can’t wait for her to finish her edits and start querying! The plot is just the right amount of mysterious, the prose witty and wonderful, and the characters are not only beautifully developed but effortlessly diverse. My favourites are Knightshade Valerian — the surly, but kindly Commander of the Seelie army — and the sharp-tongued changeling, Priya, who shows Anna around the Seelie Court. I can’t wait for people to fall in love with these characters with me, because I have Things To Say and much to gush over.

Anna Squires has something called Amniotic Band Syndrome, or ABS, meaning that she was born without her left hand. Although she does not have Amniotic Band Syndrome herself, I know K.F. Goodacre has poured her own experiences with Incontinentia Pigmenti (IP) into Anna’s characterisation. It’s refreshing to see a well-developed and informed disabled character at the forefront of a children’s novel.

I also love the overall message of the book which is that you don’t need to be magical to be extraordinary, and what constitutes as ‘ordinary’ anyway can mean a lot of different things.

If you love “portal” fantasies like The Chronicles of Narnia, Percy Jackson and Harry Potter then you’ll find lots to love in The Elder Throne. I personally couldn’t ask for more from a children’s book.


Well, that wasn’t too bad at all! I think I might be blushing. Here’s hoping that, one day, an agent or a publishing house will agree with her…

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As I mentioned before, S.E. Berrow is a fellow writer. She pens historical fantasy novels with swashbuckling soul and just a pinch of torture. Disclaimer: Her stories will grab you by the heartstrings and mercilessly yank at them until you’re a bleeding mess of a human being.

Her current work is The Mayor, which you can read about here >> 

Week 28 | Tell us about… sports in your book

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 28

What a perfect time for a sports post! By sheer happenstance, this week’s question coincides with England facing down Croatia for a place in the 2018 World Cup Final, so what better time to embrace the topic? (**whispers** It’s coming home…) [Update: It did not, in fact, come home.]

The Seelie Court, like any society, has its own sports and entertainment, uniquely tailored to the abilities of its Fae inhabitants. The games range from the small, day-to-day sports, played by Fae children: catch; various races – on foot, by wing; to the seasonal: ice skating, snow battles etc., which are enjoyed by the community.

There is also a renowned tri-annual competition called the Solstice Games – featuring something called the Gauntlet – that I will be focusing on today.


WHAT ARE THE SOLSTICE GAMES?


The Solstice Games is a sporting event that occurs every three years in the Seelie Court, and is countered (in times of peace) by the Winter Solstice Games in the UnSeelie Court. It is essentially a giant competition that features a myriad of sports such as:

  • Archery (no magic allowed; Air Mages will be disqualified if caught cheating)
  • Foot Racing (categories according to number of legs of participants: one-legged; two-legged; three-legged… up to eight-legged racing)
  • Swimming (in a lake filled with obstacles set up by Naiads and Sirens)
  • Aero-acrobatics (categories include: solo performance; couples performance and group performance)
  • Sword-fighting (Three blood-touches for a win; last Fae standing; no magic allowed)
  • Elemental duelling (Categories are Water, Fire, Earth and Air. Any spells or curses are permissable as long as they only use one element. No physical touching.).
  • Cross-elemental duelling (For faeries who have mastered more than one element to duelling standard. No physical touching).
  • The Gauntlet (more on this later)

The Winter Solstice Games features similar but seasonal sports, thanks to the UnSeelie Court’s unpleasant weather, such as:

  • Skate Racing (on ice of questionable thickness)
  • Ice Polo (riding bareback on yetis)
  • Avalanche-baiting (climbing an unstable mountain of snow; quickest finish that doesn’t result in injury or death wins)
  • Group Avalanche-baiting (keep your entire team alive and conscious at the finish line, or be disqualified)
  • Navigation (group task, maximum of four per group; participants are left in an abandoned area of the UnSeelie Court without weapons or a map, and must navigate all team members safely back to the UnSeelie barracks before their ration of food runs out).
  • Mixed-arts fighting (the aim is to incapacitate your opponent by any means necessary – physically or magically)
  • Changeling Hunting (group competition. In groups of 20, one is named Commander, one is named Changeling. The rest are Warriors. The aim is to steal the other team’s ‘Changeling’ before they steal yours).

WHO CAN PLAY?


There are no professional sportsfae.

They simply don’t exist. No one in the Seelie Court earns a living by playing sport; it is something done purely for the joy of the game and a faery’s personal achievement.

As such, anyone who wants to play a certain sport, or take part in a competition, is eligible to showcase their talents – as long as they have passed their W.In.G.S. (Ward of International Guard of Seelie) exams. An exception is made for UnSeelie children (who do not take these exams, being from a different Court) but typically the rule for them is that no child under the age of 14 may take part.

This also means that no real (Seelie) Changeling can take part in the Games, no matter how old they are, because they are not allowed to take their W.In.G.S. exams.

Although every faery of age is eligible to take part in the Solstice Games, there is a pattern to the background of the actual participants.


THE NINE CIRCLES OF SEELIE


The societal structure of the Seelie Court – which echoes throughout the entire Seelie kingdom – is summed up with the Nine Circles. These are professional departments that help with the running of the Seelie civilisation:

  • Grower (Agriculture)
  • Warrior (Military Defence)
  • Royal (Government)
  • Law (Criminal Justice)
  • Healing (Medicine)
  • Knowledge (Education)
  • Craft (Industry)
  • Binding (Religious observances, Business and Marital Law)
  • Culture (History; Current Events)

Every Circle takes part in the Games in some respect. Culture organises and maintains the tradition of the Games and participants are welcome from all Circles, including Craft, who build the obstacles faced by contestants (including those of the Gauntlet). However, the most common participants of the Games come from the Warrior Circle.

Not only are the Seelie Warriors better placed to face the challenges of the Games, but there is an unspoken tradition – some might call it a superstition – among them. During the entire record of Seelie history, there has not been a Seelie Commander who was not crowned winner of the Gauntlet at least once. It is not a requirement of the post, but it is understandably believed that if a Warrior wants to be promoted to Commander one day, they must compete in and win the Gauntlet.


THE GAUNTLET


The Gauntlet is a monstrous moving obstacle course that spans the multiple outer fields of the Seelie Court. To get through it successfully, a contestant must demonstrate weapons’ skill, agility, speed, strategic thought, strength and determination on a level that not many Warriors are capable of.

Some of the obstacles found in the Gauntlet are:

  • Giant rolling boulders (get crushed, be disqualified)
  • Lakes of tar (get stuck, be disqualified)
  • Storm clouds with motion activated lightning strikes (get struck, be disqualified)
  • Mountain climbing walls that are impossible to get over on your own (requiring temporary teamwork during a competitive individual race)
  • Walls of arrows (gets shot, be disqualified)
  • Surprise ditches
  • Fire hoops
  • Flash floods
  • Gale force winds

Basically, imagine Tough Mudderhad a medieval grandfather who was the type to just tell you to “walk it off” if you’d broken your leg. That’s the Gauntlet.


THE WINNERS


Previous winners of the Gauntlet that you’ll meet inThe Elder Throne are:

Notable participants of the Gauntlet who did not win in their year of competing are:

Both were favoured contenders to win the Gauntlet until Cathal failed to notice a boulder rolling towards him and leapt belatedly to one side – accidentally knocking Blossom and himself into one of the tar pits. This simple mistake set off a chain of events that resulted in a serious amount of war crimes, a marriage, a half-blooded faery child and a vendetta that might be the death of them. Or, one of them, at least…

Week 27 | Your favourite location in your novel

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 27My favourite location in the Seelie Court (I’ll save my favourite UnSeelie location for if and when we ever make it over the border…) is the Circle of Knowledge.

Run by Madam Sage Begonia, it is in essence a huge library built into the underside of the Hill of Tara. It contains volumes on every subject you could imagine, from Fae and human history (told from a Fae perspective) to the inner workings of Faerie science, including magical botany and the ingredients for numerous, specific healing potions.

For being mostly underground, it is lit extraordinarily well, with some natural light filtering through small windows at the top of the library and magically reflected light coming through a large, stained glass skylight. The skylight mimics the natural light outside, so that the library is suitably lit for most of the day.

Not being much of a reader, it is Anna’s third favourite place in the Court, but it acts as a second home to Spindle, who works in the Circle of Knowledge as an alcolyte researcher and loves every minute of it.

As Madam Begonia tells her students, “These archives hold the entire written history of our kind, reaching back centuries before Queen Tara the Great was ever born. I have heard Madam Rostok describe the Grower Circle as the heart of the Seelie Kingdom, and the Warrior Circle its hands. The Circle of Knowledge, then, is its brain.”

This is very true. Members of the Court, no matter which of the nine Circles they ‘belong’ to, will find themselves in the Circle of Knowledge several times in a month. Warriors research battle strategies, Crafters look up ways to make better tools, Growers revise the best crops to grow and what plants to cultivate for certain uses, and Healers teach themselves better ways to treat ailments.

Under Madam Begonia’s loving hand, all are welcome in the Circle of Knowledge. There is just the one golden rule. Never, ever damage a book, or your next stop will be in the Circle of Healing.

Week 26 | Your protagonist was born a different sex. Does your story change?

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

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No, not at all.

I did think about this quite a bit, trying to work out if there were any decisions Anna makes or reactions she has that would be influenced by her gender. I came to the conclusion that she would act exactly the same if she were a boy instead of a girl. Anna’s actions are influenced by who she is as a person, and her personality was largely formed by her closeness with her mother, her paternal grandfather, and her best friend Tom. None of these relationships would change if she were a boy, therefore it stands to reason that Anna herself – and thus her story – would also remain the same.

However, although the story / plot itself would not change, there may be a few micro-changes to the way people react to her.

For instance:

  • Tom’s mother – Maria Scott treats Anna like a fragile doll. This may be less so if Anna were a boy, simply because of Maria’s traditional mindset.
  • Priya Dhawan – Priya might not be so ready to be friends with Male!Anna, just because of how much she sees herself reflected in this new girl thrown into the world of the Fae. They would, of course, still become best friends, but there may be some initial hesitation.
  • Burr Larkspur – Burr might be a bit more aggressive in his attitude to Male!Anna, but probably not by much.
  • Leander Goodfellow – Less likely to be so fawning; more likely to pursue a friendship between his son Gourd and Male!Anna. Definitely would be more traumatised when Male!Anna shoots him down; history repeating itself.
  • Janus Atropa – Janus might actually be nicer to the son of her ex-fiance but it wouldn’t be genuine congeniality. And all her actions would remain the same too, with the same results…

Week 25 | Illustrations of three of your characters

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 25

I have waited so long to be able to share the illustrations of my main three characters with you. This is mainly because I kept getting distracted and commissioning side or minor characters instead. My go-to illustrator is BrettArts because I feel he perfectly captures what I’m aiming for. So, with the greatest pride and pleasure, I would like to share with you… Priya Dhawan, Spindle Larkspur and Anna Squires. Continue reading

Week 24 | A minor character is now your protagonist. How do they fare?

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 24

Not very well.

The story that centres around Anna is a story that only she can navigate because of who she is and where she is at certain times. She alone overheard a piece of vital information that is key to discovering the mystery she solves, so if I were to stay true to the plot, then any minor character would be clueless about what’s happening until it happens.

However, if a minor character were to have exactly the same knowledge that Anna has… hmmm… Continue reading

Week 23 | Top 5 quotes from your book

Part of the Acres of Ink 52 Week Writing Challenge >>

Week 23

I didn’t really write The Elder Throne with “quotables” in mind, so I had to ask a few of my beta readers for any stand-out snippets. I’ve presented them without much context (and out of order) so I can avoid major spoilers. Enjoy!


Continue reading