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After a long silence while I’ve been scribbling but not publishing, I’m at last doing something constructive for readers of this blog. I’ve made a wide range of my kindle books free over the coming UK Bank Holiday weekend, 4-7 May. Perhaps an opportunity to fill in some gaps in your collection!

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Looking from Tre’r Ceiri (‘Giants’ Town’) on Yr Eifl (‘The Rivals’) south into Lleyn. Julie comes up here during her travels in Watchers 5. Photo by Helen Lerewth.

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With apologies to fans of Mirabelle: although the next ‘Just Woman’ story is in the planning stage, I’m still writing that Watchers story that I posted here last autumn. It’s progressed since my last post on the subject, but Julie isn’t out of the woods yet, in any sense of the words. The story has reached early autumn, but in real life (the ‘here-and-now’ as Julie and her friends would say) we’re in the depths of snow. So here is a photo of sunnier times in ‘Rivals’ country, to remind us all that summer does exist — somewhere, in our dreams, even if not outside the window.

 

SeriesOld Year: in 2017 Amazon launched my ‘Just Woman’ books as a ‘6 Book Series’, which was very nice of them because I didn’t ask them to do it (see the picture above!). The Amazon UK link is here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-Woman-6-Book/dp/B0747QVC9G/ and the Amazon US link is here: https://www.amazon.com/Just-Woman-6-Book/dp/B0747QVC9G/

This is certainly the collection which has attracted the most favourable comment during 2017, although it was Wattpad rather than Amazon Kindle which brought the most beneficial contact. Sales: there have been a few, which is delightful as I’ve done virtually no advertising. There has also been one, 5-star, review on Amazon.

I still have to produce a proper cover for the final (to date) volume in the ‘Just Woman’ series, which might improve sales for it.

During October a reader using Amazon.de bought the entire ‘Star’ series: I hope they enjoyed reading it. I haven’t forgotten that I’ve promised to go back and correct the typos. There were too many typos in the ‘Star’ files, partly because the cataracts in my eyes made it difficult for me to spot the detail of text on the e-page.  Now that one eye has been operated on and I can see clearly through that one at least, I’ve been reading through the files spotting silly mistakes.  While I’m on Christmas leave from work this week, one of my jobs is to tidy up and re-upload the files.

New Year: I’m still considering whether to publish ‘The Just Woman’ stories on Kobo as well as Kindle. As the Kindle Direct Publishing platform requires Kindle to have sole distribution rights, this would mean abandoning Kindle Direct Publishing — and the paperback version of The Flat at Doughty Court. On the other hand, it would reach a wider range of potential readers.

Mirabelle’s next adventure is still at the planning stage. I’ve been thinking about which of the standard ‘Edgar Wallace-style’ plotlines should be brought in, and what to add to make the story work for my circle of readers. At present there will be a visitor from South Africa, and either Mirabelle or Lucy Baines will buy a new hat.

In The Star, Adelheide and Jan are struggling on in Reolt. Jan still hates being viceroy, but at the moment there seems no alternative. I’ll put finger to keyboard again when there is something more positive to report.

I’m currently working on a ‘Watchers’ story, which won’t be finished for a while. Unusually for the ‘Watchers’ it doesn’t have a strong plot but is more like The Star, meandering through daily events pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Yes, it’s self-indulgent, in fact its primary purpose is personal relaxation rather than publication. It’s throwing up various questions relating to myth and legend which are interesting to look into and which may turn into other stories in the future.

But the immediate priority is to tidy up typos and book covers and fill a small plot hole I’ve spotted in The Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy. Oops.

In the course of reading around my current ‘Watchers’ story (see the previous post) I came across the book The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed by Cenydd Morus (Kenneth Morris), which was first published in 1914 and is freely available online . It’s a pastiche of Welsh myths, based on the Mabinogion but developing the stories from the point of view of the princes of Dyfed to make a more complete narrative. My own particular interest in it is in Morus’s take on the character of Gwydion fab Don, but it’s also a convincing attempt to create a fuller network of Welsh myths than that provided by the Mabinogion. Morus clearly knew the material well and had spent a lot of time getting to know the characters about whom he wrote.

But who was Cenydd Morus (or Kenneth Morris)? Apparently he wrote a few other stories, died in 1937 and is now virtually forgotten. In 2017 Literature Wales was appealing for information: see their post at http://www.tynewydd.wales/blog/6479/#_ednref1 Does anyone have any further information? Have any readers of this blog read Morus’s work and have any opinions on it?

DSCF6030In case any of you might think that I haven’t produced anything over the last few months: since my last Kindle book was published I’ve published a book and written several articles, but they are all my professional writing and not at home on this blog. But while I summon up energy to get back to Mirabelle’s next adventure, you might be interested in the work in progress. It’s a Julie Smythe ‘Watchers’ story and so quite different from Mirabelle, but it’s set in beautiful countryside (see the picture) and perhaps it may help to while away a few winter’s hours. It’s based around the fourth story in the collection of medieval Welsh tales known as ‘The Mabinogion’, which are set in the area where my family happened to spend our summer holiday this year. Here it is: Watchers 5 so far

Moving on from Psychohistorical Crisis, what other sequels are there to Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ Series and its galaxy? I’ve mentioned in an earlier post the enjoyable collection Foundation’s Friends. There’s the Caliban series by Roger McBride Allen, set in the galaxy of The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire: I enjoyed the glimpse of the more human side of the Spacers, and the first of the series was an original and exciting story — but in my opinion as a reader the remaining two stories of the series lacked the verve of the first. Mirage and its sequels, by Mark W. Tiedmann, set in the same galaxy but more Caves of Steel than Robots and Empire, formed a reasonable light read but lacked that ‘unput-downable’ quality of Asimov. I couldn’t get on with the ‘Second Foundation Trilogy’ series (based around Hari Seldon, Dors, and the galaxy of Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation). I’m sure there were more spin-offs, whose titles now elude my ageing memory.

The trick of a third-party sequel is to introduce new ideas while keeping the essentials of the original work. But what are the essentials? Not simply good ideas, for all the sequels and spin-offs I’ve listed above start from a good idea. Psychohistorical Crisis manages to put its own slant on Asimov’s galaxy and produce an intellectually satisfying adventure while also encouraging the reader to think about Asimov’s original concepts and how they might have worked out in practice. As Asimov’s psychohistory is a branch of mathematics, it needs a mathematician to develop the idea — Kingsbury is a professor of Mathematics — but not every professional mathematician can write novels, so it’s unsurprising that there have been so few attempts to develop Asimov’s concept further.

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I’ve just finished reading Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis (2001). It’s a compelling read, which kept my interest over the week of evenings it took me to read it; the characters and situations were well described and I enjoyed what Kingsbury did with the ‘Foundation’ galaxy. This is not quite the galaxy of Asimov’s Foundation: locations have different names; in this alternative future Foundation the Earth is still inhabitable, is inhabited by humans, and is known to be the original home of humanity — or, at least, of a form of humanity. There are robots, which have personalities but never take over the story. The places and physical appearance are much more richly described than in the original Foundation series, and in addition there are various in-jokes lurking in the prose. The central ‘original idea’ in this narrative is that all humans have a ‘personal familiar’ or ‘fam’, which is effectively a brain-extension, holding additional memory and analytical ability — the modern mobile phone currently performs the same function. Although as yet(?) no one’s brain is permanently wired to their mobile phone in the same way as a ‘fam’, it’s probably coming …

Psychohistorical Crisis is based in the galaxy of the original three Foundation volumes, not the two continuations that Asimov wrote later. Effectively it continues the events of Second Foundation, but thousands of years later. There is no Gaia-planet and there are no Solarians; yet humans have gene-engineered themselves so that they are very different from the original Earth homo-sapiens, so that the reader wonders what these ‘humans’ of the future galaxy actually look like.

I particularly enjoyed Kingsbury’s characters’ use of astrology as a means of teaching the complex mathematics required for psychohistory. Whatever you might think of its claims to be scientific, astrology requires an excellent grasp of trigonometry for starters, the ability to number-crunch, and then maths, maths, and maths.

So, now I’ve finished Psychohistorical Crisis, I must emerge from that galaxy and try to find another one to relax in. Has anyone else written a Foundation continuation on these lines?