What SEVENTH SON Is Not

SeventhSon_CVR_XSMLThe other day someone asked me, once again: “Did you write Seventh Son?” Well, yes, yes I did. However, that’s actually not what they’re asking. They don’t want to know if I wrote a fantasy novel called Seventh Son; it’s something else they have in mind. And so, to answer that question, let me enlighten you about what my SEVENTH SON is NOT.

My novel is not the source text for the movie Seventh Son that is coming out next week (well, in North America it is; the release date is February 6th). The film has been several years in the making,  and stars Ben Barnes (heartthrob!) in the lead role. The source book (or, as they put it, “inspiration”) for that movie is actually not even called Seventh Son, but The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch (original UK title: The Spook’s Apprentice), and it’s written by Joseph Delaney.

Another book my Seventh Son is not is the 1987 novel of that title by the great Orson Scott Card. His book is the first in his series The Tales of Alvin Maker (which he still hasn’t finished, as far as I know).

Hmm, now that I look it up, it appears there’s another work called Seventh Son I was unaware of – a 1926 silent film from Germany. I’ll  have to check that out; maybe Youtube has it.

So, just for the record: none of these stories are mine. And I’m not ripping off any of their ideas, either. In fact, I had written the text and decided on the title of my book before the forthcoming movie was even filmed; and didn’t read the Card book until several years later. Really, what all these stories, mine included, have in common is the old folklore trope that the seventh son of a seventh son has special powers – magical ones, generally. And that’s about all that’s similar, other than the title.

My book is a light romantic fantasy (well, yes, they’re all fantasy stories) about a young woman named Catriona, who looks into a turquoise pottery bowl and suddenly finds herself whisked off to a magical medieval village called Ruph in which the – you guessed it – seventh son of the seventh son has just gone missing, and she has to figure out not only how she ended up where she is and how to get out of that predicament, but what’s been happening in this town. I call it a Cosy Fantasy – you know, like a Cosy Mystery, but in a fantasy environment.

Card’s and Delaney’s stories are much more classical fantasy. Delaney’s would probably classify as Sword and Sorcery – well, definitely the sorcery bit (there’s a very nasty witch); while Card’s is the alternative-history variety – a different 19th-century USA with magic. The stories are darker than anything I would ever write; actually, they get darker yet as the series progress – I gave up on Delaney with the second book, and on Card with about the third volume. They’re well-written books, but I don’t enjoy reading that sort of thing, let alone writing it.

However, “dark” is a matter of definition. Both Delaney’s and Card’s “Seventh Son” stories are also Young Adult novels, at least these first books in the series are, in that the protagonist, the seventh son of the seventh son, is a young boy – twelve years old in the case of Delaney’s Tom Ward, even younger in the case of Card’s Alvin Maker. So what I call “dark” here is really very mild, by fantasy standards – it probably wouldn’t even warrant the term for most readers (yeah, well, I’m super-sensitive. So sue me).

And that’s another thing my book is not: a YA novel. My Catriona is not a teenager, she’s twenty-eight; and the Seventh Son in question is not a twelve-year-old, but right around Cat’s age, too. But that’s not to say that YA readers wouldn’t enjoy the story; in fact, I have it on good authority (i.e. word of mouth/keyboard) that several of them already did.

Incidentally, the movie that’s coming out is not a YA, either. The screen version of Tom Ward is most emphatically not twelve years old – in fact, Ben Barnes is over thirty. I have a feeling the movie might not have a whole lot to do with Delaney’s book. But whether it’s dark or not, I’ll have to go see that film; gotta check out the competition, dontcha know. But more importantly, while I’m a big fan of BB’s, there’s another young actor in that movie I can’t wait to see on the big screen: Lilah Fitzgerald, who plays Tom’s little sister Cate – I’ve met her in real life, although she probably doesn’t remember it (she was quite small then). Her mother is a friend of mine.

When I first heard that a movie with the title Seventh Son was coming out, I seriously considered changing the title of my book (I was going to go back to Septimissimus, which was its working title). But then I thought, No. I picked it first. Actually, Orson Scott Card picked it first, and they didn’t ask his permission about the movie title, as far as I know. Titles aren’t copyrighted, you can use whatever you want. And the basic idea we’ve all named our stories for is something none of us can claim credit for – the originator of that trope is lost in the mists of folklore.

So there you have it: Life, the Universe, and What My Seventh Son Is Not.

Incidentally, speaking of BB – a little side-track-advertising here: there’s a Ben Bauer in Cat and Mouse, the sequel to Seventh Son.  You know, just sayin’ – book release is in just five days! You can pre-order the ebook right now!

Is It A Book Review?

Wow. So here’s one of the biggest compliments I’ve received on my writing yet. Especially because it’s coming from Desi, who, in spite of the self-deprecating style in which she talks about her writing, is one of the best writers I know – I stand in awe of this woman, people. Of her academic work (she knew how to use “ontological” in a sentence years before I did, and can cite Foucault without batting an eyelash. ‘Stuffy academic bylines’, my foot!), her sheer bloody determination (check out her latest fiction project – it’s on her blog, in bits and pieces), and her incredible gift for Showing rather than Telling in her fiction (again, read her latest project – it’s called NP on her blog). To think that I had something to do with getting her back into the writing groove makes me feel incredibly proud. Yes, she’s a real-live writer, too, and it has been an incredible privilege to get to beta-read her work. (But just as an aside, it’s true, I do not have Viva Puffs and coffee for breakfast. We won’t talk about the snacks of ham-and-creamcheese rollups and the gallons of tea that get consumed during the course of my writing, though.)

[Addendum: 25/02/2015 – Desi took her blog offline temporarily, so I can’t link to it any more. But here’s her post the way it was on her website:)

Is It A Book Review?
Posted on January 25, 2015 by Desi Valentine under Writing 

I have friends who are writers. Like, real-live, actual writers whose publishing credits include real-live novels instead of stuffy academic by-lines and who do not have Viva Puffs and coffee for breakfast while caressing the covers of their brand-new notebooks. They tolerate me, these friends of mine. I would like to think that, when we see each other face to face, they will tell me if I have coffee breath or bits of chocolate showing at the corners of my mouth. Also, they send me their books to beta-read or soft-edit in advance of having a professional editor give it the ol’ fine tooth comb treatment.

I’m not sure there is a higher compliment.

And this is how I know these friends of mine are real-live writers. They take their work seriously enough to have it beta-read, and edited, and edited again before sending it out into the big wild world with professional cover design, registered ISBN, and probably a tear or two for the little bird all grown up. Unlike me, who (as you may have noticed) publicly slams out emotive quasi-gibberish before slipping down to the dungeon with a variety of chocolate products, a French press, a grinder, and a locally roasted case of black-and-tan coffee beans… and maybe a garden hose like that kid in the attic in Dirk Gently: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul…. I wonder if I could sell my husband on that.

Anyway, having talented, tolerant friends like these means that I get to read their books. And though I generally don’t do book reviews, and actually never give Goodreads ratings for books by friends for reasons having to do with ethics and the bizarre propensity for Goodreads’ users to rate books they haven’t actually read, I invite you to check out my friends’ work:

Angelika Offenwanger and I met in university, and she was instrumental in getting me writing again. I’d taken a two decade-long sabbatical after a bad experience with an unethical publishing house, and through chatting with her I sort of found my way home. She writes light fantasy that could also be called cozy mystery, and she’s really good at it. Her fun, fast, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny Seventh Son can be found at Amazon, SmashWords, Kobo and Scribd. The cover reveal for her new book, Cat and Mouse, was posted to her blog last week.

Angie West and I met through the We Blog blogging community. She was the first author to seek my opinion on her work, and the first to really open my eyes to the editorial freedom indie publishing makes possible. We lost touch while I was drowning in school and she was focused on a fast-growing list of new projects, but I have long regretted not mentioning her work to more people. She writes darker, more graphic, but still hilarious fantasy, horror and romantic mystery novels of which I’ve enjoyed Incubus, Shadow Cave, and The Fifth Hour.

There are a few other folks in my circle with novels-in-progress and new releases coming up. I’ll tell you about them once I’ve finished hammering out the draft of my WIP and emerged, pale-faced and trembling-limbed, from my chocolate-sticky and coffee-stale writing corner dungeon. In the mean time, do check out Angie’s books, and do get your hands on Seventh Son. I’m not a good enough friend to recommend them if I didn’t think they were worth reading.

Which means I shouldn’t expect them to tell me about the chocolate on my face, right?

Thanks for reading, everybody. I hope you’re having a great Sunday!

D.

Formatting and Stick Shifts

I’ve been spending the last couple of days formatting the new book (yes, you’ll hear about the details really soon, I promise!). And I’m exhausted.

It’s not the formatting itself that’s so tedious and tiring – once you know what you’re doing with that, it’s relatively painless. But that’s the key issue here: once you know what you’re doing. See, I did all the formatting for Seventh Son on my dearly lamented little white Macbook. And it had a copy of Word for Mac 2004 on it, which I knew my way around in. But after the Mac packed it in, I had to move everything over to PC, which included buying a copy of MS Word 2013 (that being the only version of Word currently available). Sigh. I do still have Open Office on the PC, but I’m not terribly familiar with that either – although it’s better than the new Word which seems like a completely different piece of software than what I was used to.

The whole experience has been rather like having your trusty little automatic car die on you, and having as your only option for replacement a stick shift, which you don’t know how to drive. And you need to get to that appointment in town right now, with lots of traffic lights and stops that give you the opportunity to stall that car – GRRRK Ka-klonk.

But what it comes down to is that you just need to keep trying it. After you’ve restarted the car about five times, you’ll learn to keep your foot on the clutch; and after you’ve changed your book’s interior file about four times and re-uploaded it to CreateSpace, you learn where to click in order to deal with those widows and orphans (solitary last lines of print that land on the next page all by themselves). And even if it feels like you haven’t got much accomplished in the day, you really have – you’ve learned something new.

So I think I can call it quits for tonight, and reward myself with another few episodes of Once Upon a Time – yes, we finally got Netflix, so I’m actually able to watch the series from its beginning. I’ll tell you what I think of it some other time.

canada geeseAnd by way of illustration, here’s a flock of Canada Geese, doing their, you know, Canada-gooseish thing. I’m sure it’s significant to this topic somehow.

Life, the Universe, Formatting and Stick Shifts. The book will get there eventually!

Blank Brain and Winter Birds

birds (1) I’ve got a serious case of blank brain right now. I just haven’t come up with anything wise, witty or weird to say on here – or at least haven’t been able to remember it long enough to put on screen (I had one or two really great blog posts plotted out – at 3:00 AM when I was lying awake with insomnia. Alas, they have vanished into the abyss of post-insomnia early morning sleep). So that’s why there’s been a bit of a dearth of postings here lately.

Of course, what’s in the forefront of my otherwise blank mind right now is my stories. The sequel to Seventh Son is actively in the works, and coming really soon! It’s largely a winter story, and was much easier to write at this time of year than Book #3, which is set around Summer Solstice. Maybe I should take a quick trip Down Under, and just live in summer for a while to keep that story moving forward. Any New Zealanders want to send me a plane ticket and put me up for a few weeks?

birds (3)Speaking of winter, I’ve been watching the birds bickering over seeds on my balcony bird feeder. And I got to wondering: how can they even survive the winter? At the beginning of December for several days in a row we had a cold snap where it was -15° C (in °F, that’s, umm, really really cold). How can those tiny little bodies make it through those temperatures without turning into little frozen lumps? But from what I could tell, they weren’t particularly bothered; they just puffed up their feathers a bit more than normal and became birdie puffballs instead of birdcicles. And then there were the ducks on the lake: the water was forming a rime of ice, and the ducks were still merrily paddling around in the unfrozen bits. That’s crazy – hasn’t anybody told them that warm-blooded creatures should have their feet freeze off in ice water?

Maybe it’s because they don’t know that that they can survive it. That was the theory I heard a little boy proclaim once, when I wasn’t all that big myself, about how birds can survive sitting on power lines. He was wondering aloud why they didn’t get killed by the electric power surge, and then he came to the conclusion that maybe it was because they didn’t know that by rights they should. From my superior vantage point of the ripe old age of seven or eight I was feeling vastly amused at his infantile theories (although I didn’t have anything better to offer, I figured that probably wasn’t it). But now I’m starting to wonder if he didn’t have something after all. How do birds survive the winter? It’s quite a miracle. And yes, I know there are wise explanations which are only a click of a Google button away – but really, when you think about it, it’s just simply astounding. Quite wonder-full, in fact.

Life, the Universe, Blank Brains and Winter Birds. Wishing you (and the birds) a good move into the New Year!

winter sunset
Midwinter Sunset

Famous Last Words

Winner-2014-Twitter-ProfileI just rolled across the NaNoWriMo finish line. That’s right, I did make it after all. And I must say, I was quite pleased with the words that kicked me across that line: “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!” (one of my characters is really happy with having won a draw). And there it is, 50,002 words. I just think they’re great words to have passed the NaNo goal posts with. So eloquent, so erudite, so evocative… The writer’s craft at its finest.

Oh, but to be clear, those words just brought me to the finish of NaNo – the story isn’t done yet. You see, the draw that the character in question won only means he gets a chance at entering another contest, so I still have to write that, and the outcome of it is what determines everything – well, maybe not everything, in a manner of speaking, but… Okay, I’ll shut up. The story isn’t even finished, and if I told you what it was all about, I’d be letting all sorts of cats out of the bag (small-c cats, not big-C as in Catriona – but yes, she is an important part of this story, too. I’m not giving anything away if I tell you that. And if you don’t know who Catriona is, read Seventh Son, you’ll find out).

Besides, this story is still quite a muddle, but that’s the nature of NaNo novels. When you’re pounding out 50k words in four weeks, and without the proper clear outlining a novelist ought to have engaged in beforehand (which I’ve never yet done, but have good intentions for), the story you end up can be a little, umm, bumpy. To the tune of “Why the heck is this person doing that? That makes no sense. Ah, whatever, gotta keep writing to make my word count…” And then you go in afterwards and smooth out all the bumps. Or sometimes take a pickaxe to them and dig them out of the pavement altogether (I’ve just been writing lots about streets with cobblestones. Pardon me if my road works imagery is a little skewed in the medieval-ish direction rather than the modern asphalt one).

I’m learning all sorts of things about how the novelling process works, and this bumps-smoothing-or-pickaxing is one of those things. But that actually comes later, quite a bit later. For now, I’m going to celebrate my NaNo win, first of all with a glass of wine, and then by going to the last write-in of our local NaNo bunch tomorrow to keep on writing until I actually finish the story.  Because the whole point of this exercise, for me, isn’t to just write 50,000 words – else I could have just repeated “Yes!” another 49,995 times – but to get a story. And one I like, at that. That’s what I’m doing when I’m writing tales of librarians and cats and magical blue-glazed pottery bowls – I’m telling myself a story, which is something I’ve done in my head for as long as I can think (I kid you not. I remember doing it when I was perhaps three or so, every night in bed in order to put myself to sleep. I believe back then the storylines involved chimpanzees who had lots of really cool toys to play with). And if out of that, the storytelling-for-myself, comes a book that others enjoy too, that’s a big bonus.

Life, the Universe, and Famous Last Words. I finished NaNoWriMo – yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!

News From the Writing Trenches

Apologies for the infrequency of my postings lately. I’ve been hard at work on the third instalment of the Septimus Series. (Wait, you say – what about the second one? Fear not, stalwart reader, Cat and Mouse has been written quite some time ago, and is with my intrepid editor at this very moment. It should be available for your reading pleasure within a couple of months – I’ll let you know when!)

Steve beta-readingSo, meanwhile, here’s a picture for you of Steve beta-reading yet another one of my stories. He’s not the greatest beta reader, because his comments usually just go along the lines of “There’s not enough bears in here,” or “That bear is not believably written.” However, expert opinion on even just one specialty subject is not unwelcome, either. You can be sure that with his feedback, I’ll at least get the bears in my stories right.

However, speaking of beta readers, I could use a few more. So if you’re up for reading a novel or two and giving me honest feedback on it, give me a shout in the comments or send me a mail to amo@amovitam.ca. That’s especially if you’re an appreciator of fairy tales and/or gentle fantasy (by which I mean that it’s not the epic sword-and-sorcery kind – there’s no swords, and the sorcery is quite mild-mannered; as for eps, well, they generally don’t find enough scope for their epping in my worlds).

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to Catriona – they just hit a cliff hanger which must be resolved in the next chapter.

Life, the Universe, and the Writer’s Life. See you on the other side of the full stop.

NaNoWriMo

Participant-2014-Square-ButtonOf course I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year – what did you think? It’s mandatory for me. This’ll be my fourth year; in fact, the NaNo 2011 is what became Seventh Son. So I have to keep doing it, right?

Oh, in case you’re wondering what on earth this NaNoWriMo thing is: it’s a form of insanity. A yearly reoccurrence of a particular fit of insanity, in fact. Thousands of people from all over the world sign up to write a novel in one month. That’s right: a Novel. In One Month. To be precise, in the thirty days of November. And it’s got to be 50,000 words long.

Now why, do you ask, would anybody do this? Well, there are a number of reasons. And right off the bat, no, you don’t win anything; it’s not a contest with anyone but yourself. Well, okay, you can get “prizes” – such as a 50% discount coupon for world’s greatest writing software, Scrivener. Or a couple of free print copies of your book from CreateSpace (for a given value of “free” – you’re still paying for shipping & handling, which is considerably more expensive than the printing itself). But really, the only thing you “win” when you “win Nano” (yes, us Wrimos do talk in those terms) is that you’ve mastered a challenge. And you have a book, a whole novel, that you wrote all by yourself. That’s the biggest, most overwhelming reason to participate in this novemberly fit of mass insanity.

There are others: it’s FUN. Honestly, it is. No, I’m not one of those people who think fun consists of poking myself in the eye with a pointed stick; my idea of entertainment isn’t that warped. It really is fun to go on this website, and talk to all those other crazy Wrimos out there who think it’s a good idea to try to hammer out a full-length novel in just thirty days. Also, the NaNoWriMo people, or The Office of Letters and Light, are funny. The Nano Logo is a viking helmet – from all I can gather, just because. I mean, what’s not to like? (No, I don’t have a viking helmet for writing my books. Although I was kind of tempted to get one when we saw an exhibit on Vikings at the Royal BC Museum in the summer. They had real steel ones, only around $300… but they didn’t have the horns, which are apparently not authentic. For those, you’d have to get one of those kiddie plastic ones. Anyway – sorry, where were we?) So, yes, if you’re one of those people who’s “always wanted to write a book” (I wasn’t. But that’s another story for another day), this is the perfect time for it.

So, all that to say: of course I signed up for NaNoWriMo again! I can’t not. But – here’s the snag. It’s the third of November already, and I’ve written, uh, about 600 words. In case you’re wondering, writing 50,000 words in 30 days means you have to get down an average of 1667 words per day (every third day you can slack off, and only do 1666). So, as of right now, I’m about 4400 words behind on my word count. I’ve done other stuff – really, I did! I plotted. And I built characters – I trawled Google Images, and found the perfect pictures of red-headed children and gave them names, so now they look at me from the right side of the split window in Scrivener and inspire me to write about them. And then I looked at the news about the latest Canadian public scandal, and last week’s local violent crime, which probably wasn’t such a good idea as those things really depress me. I went on Facebook (yeah, well…). And I found a hack online to solve the extremely irritating issue of the keyboard layout on my new computer – the tiny left shift key was driving me crazy. It’s fixed now.

You see? I’ve done lots of stuff. Just not cranked out proper NaNoWriMo word count. And I was starting to feel stressed about it, because, well, it’s NaNo! Must Have Word Count! But then, actually – no, I don’t have to have word count. What I must have is fun. And I must do writing. But even choosing names for fictional red-headed toddlers is part of writing. I’m not going to rush through this in the name of NaNo badges, lovely though those are. I think this year, I’ll have “won” NaNo if I’ve written something I like. If I made progress on the latest story about Catriona (yes, there’s sequels). And above all, if I’ve enjoyed myself doing so. Because that’s really what NaNoWriMo is all about – the joy of writing. And if I make my 50k, so much the better; but if not, whatever.

Life, the Universe, and NaNoWriMo. If you sign up, do find me on the site and be my buddy – I’m amo1967.

It’s A Book!

SeventhSon_CVR_XSMLSo here it finally is, the big announcement you’ve all been waiting for: IT’S A BOOK! That’s right, this is the birthday of my first novel, the brain child whose arrival I’ve been promising. It’s been three years in the making, and now here it is in all its glory: Seventh Son. Two hundred pages of a story that started when I put fingers to keyboard in November of 2011, and typed out: “It was the blue pottery bowl that started it all…” Started what? Well, here, let me elaborate:

Cat was ordinary—until the day a blue bowl whirled her off to a magical medieval world…

Catriona, ex-librarian, dumped by her boyfriend, is just trying to restart her life when she looks into a blue pottery bowl in a museum, and suddenly finds herself whirled off to a magical medieval world. Who is the injured man flung across the forest path? How is Cat going to cope with that muddy baby watching him? And what do either of them have to do with the disappearance of the town’s most powerful figure, the seventh son of the seventh son? Something is not right in the forest of Ruph… It will take all of Cat’s ingenuity to solve this mystery, and in the process, she needs to find out what her own place in this new world is. Can she make her way back to twenty-first-century America – and what is more, will she want to?

Seventh Son is available on Amazon (.com, .ca, .de, and a number of other .somethings) for Kindle and in print; in most other Ebook formats on Smashwords; in epub on Kobo; and in print only on CreateSpace.

Life, the Universe, and My First Own Book! Do hop on over to the vendors, and get a copy. And then let me know what you think!