Archive for the ‘The Star’ Category

Brother Jan dropped in for a chat.
‘Miss you.’
‘Miss you.’
‘What are you doing at the moment?’ I asked. ‘Still viceroy-ing?’
He nodded. ‘Probably forever.’ He paused. ‘At least — until this body wears out.’ He sighed heavily. ‘There’s no peace for the efficient.’
‘I know,’ I said. ‘Any fool can wield a sword, but hardly anyone can run a government department efficiently.’
He nodded. ‘I always thought that fame and glory went to the warrior. Now I find — what everyone needs is managers who can manage.’ (Another pause.) ‘Apparently I’m good at it.’
‘What a waste of a glorious knight!’ I said, smiling in sympathy.
He almost managed a Jan-ish mischievous grin. ‘The only sword I’m allowed to wield now is the ceremonial one. And that’s blunt — so even when I’d love to slice the Sved envoy in two, I can’t.’
‘You could bewitch him,’ I suggested.
This time he managed the grin. ‘His horse tripped and he fell off.’
‘So what is going on in Our Lady’s Land?’ I asked.
He sighed. ‘No doubt Adelheide will fill you in soon. Let’s not talk about it. What are you writing now?’
I showed him the current Just Woman story, and he shrugged: ‘Light-weight stuff. Not worthy of your pen, Helen.’
‘I needed something light-weight after the Retrogradus.’
‘It was pretty grim, wasn’t it?’ He sighed. ‘Too late, now.’
‘You got Karlot back.’
‘Yes — eventually.’ He shook his head as if to shake the thought away. ‘I’m still recovering. How’s the day job?’
‘Pretty grim. As you say — the glory and honour goes one way, but what everyone actually wants is managers who can manage. So I get the managing when my real skills are in wielding a pen.’
‘When you’ve finished with young Mirabelle’s current adventure,’ said Jan, ‘you must come back to us. We miss you and Adelheide wants you to see how well Jurgis is growing. And we’ve got plenty to report on the Rus and our other neighbours.’
‘I promise,’ I said. ‘Meanwhile: sing us a song, Jan. Something to hum when I’m far away.’
So he sang me a song, but it was too sad to write it down here. Poor Jan. He does hate being viceroy.
‘Even if you can’t get yourself out of the managing,’ I said, ‘you could see what you can do for me.’
He gave me a very Jan-ish look. ‘You be careful! You’ll end up as a “viceroy” too!’
Please, no …


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I don’t know. I write in different genres. I write whatever story comes to mind.
It’s a story. Does it have to have a genre?

(Yes, because otherwise potential readers won’t know whether they will like it.)

Can’t they read the free extract?

(No, they want you to guide them by putting it in a genre. Then they’ll download the extract.)

Errr … But my stories don’t really fit into genres. I wrote a detective story about auditors in outer space; and a story about Saladin and the library at Cairo dressed up as a young adults’ short story; and a dark fantasy about human relationships with the divine dressed up as gay romance.

(That’s crazy. No wonder you don’t sell many books. You confuse your would-be readers. They never know what they’re getting next.)

I can, however, give my stories away  …

(It’s a good thing that most writers aren’t like that. Most readers want to know what they’re getting.)

They’re getting crazy stories because most of the writing I do is very, very serious stuff and I need some light relief to save me from going mad.

(So your genre is ‘crazy stuff’?)

Pretty much.

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retrogradus-2Out of 2000, in fact — yes, I wrote it sixteen years ago. Then it languished in various A4 lever arch files for many years while I puzzled over what to do with it, because the criss-crossing plot lines were a mess. Eventually, as readers of this blog know, Adelheide got on to it and she’s transformed it into something like a narrative, although there are still three plots and she admits to having ditched two others. However, I still have the ones she rejected. I’ve even got another A4 lever arch file to keep them tidy.

Now the final book of A Sword, A Star, A Flame … has at last been uploaded to Kindle and is available on Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WVCTM9V ) and Amazon.co.uk (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06WVCTM9V) and all other Amazons available to you, at the minimum permitted price. The Retrogradus has the distinction of being the only book in the series which might be suitable for a more general readership: there is virtually no sex in it.

That said, to work out what’s going on it is probably necessary to read the other stories in the series first.

This book brings us to the end of the story of the Most Holy and Chivalric Order of Our Lady of the Star. As Jan claims that he, Berthol and Karlot cannot die (they are demons, after all — unless they are angels) there may feasibly be further stories, but this is as far as Adelheide’s, Oglive’s and Karlot’s chronicles go.

Should I have a sense of achievement? I don’t — I feel sad to leave them. Having travelled with them for so long, it’s hard to say goodbye.

So this can’t be the end! There has to be more!

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I’ve checked through the text of Retrogradus again. I’ve tidied some inconsistencies and tried to get Adelheide to conclude it cleanly (she hasn’t quite, but it’s better than it was). I’ve uploaded the file to the Kindle publishing page and it’s processing. Just a final check to make on the previewer and it’s ready to launch.

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New, moody cover

Adelheide has been busy: here is a new cover for the Retrogradus (Book 7 of The Star series). But perhaps it’s a bit dull? The first version looked more colourful, but perhaps was less true to the story. So, should the author try to tempt readers with something bright and cheerful, or a moody cover that is nearer to the spirit of the story?


Previous, more cheerful cover

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When is ‘The End’ of a story? After all, real life does not have hard-and-fast endings. In real life, as fast as one plot twist is tidied off, another one arises. So how is it possible to finish the narrative of a story?

I generally think that when I can’t bring a story to a tidy ending it is time to put it to one side and do something else for a while. But some stories are long-term non-enders: the Retrogradus, for example (Book 7 of The Star series).

In short, the Retrogradus has been unfinished since 2000, and although in the last few months Adelheide has done a good job of tidying it up, it still hasn’t got a tidy finish. Odd ends keep leaping up and needing to be tidied away. And as soon as one end is tidied, another leaps out.

Perhaps I should just cut it off there — or there — and start the next story with the odd ends?

Or shove the loose ends into an appendix?

Or what? Ideas, anyone?

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It’s thirteen years since the House of the Most Holy and Chivalric Order of the Star was burned to the ground in the Great Sack of Reolt. Lady Oglive narrowly escaped the conflagration, but now wishes she could retrace her steps and prevent the disaster. The Prince of Death’s Castle is only too happy to suggest a means of doing this: her friend Adelheide just has to read out one of the books she has spent the last few months copying. At first the book tells the familiar story of Oglive’s childhood in the House, but suddenly the story changes and runs down unfamiliar pathways …
The ‘stepping back’ or ‘retrogradus’ focusses on Oglive, her friends Brothers Jan, Berthol and Karlot and their colleagues in the House, but then widens to draw in Adelheide and her unborn child, Oglive’s cousin Baas, and people whom none of them have ever met: the long-dead Princess Raisa and the mysterious warrior Arval. As new love affairs develop and old relationships are broken Oglive and Adelheide heartily wish that they had never started the Retrogradus, but it’s too late! Whether or not they can bring the story to a successful conclusion, one thing is certain: their circle of friendship will never be the same again.


‘Will it do?’ asks Adelheide. ‘I think it’s much better than the first one.’

‘It’s not bad,’ I say grudgingly. ‘Amazon says we have 2779 characters left.’

Adelheide snorts. ‘Stuff that! No one will ever read a long blurb. You need to keep it short and sweet.’

I’m not sure I would apply the word ‘sweet’ to the stories of The Star, but I agree short is best. As someone wrote, if you can’t summarise the story in a paragraph then you clearly don’t know what it’s about.

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