Friday, 20 March 2015

SFFSat 21/3/2015 Korax Crisis

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.

Today's snippet is again from Korax Crisis, a novel set in a traditional fantasy world, about one hundred and fifty years after an industrial revolution. So we have steam trains (but with elementals in the firebox), growing levels of mass production and industrialisation, but also a range of typical fantasy tropes. In this snippet, one of the characters is waiting for a train.



Maidencircle Station was always hung with the tapestry of transit, an endlessly swirling and changing pattern of figures interlocking in a weave of swift motion and ever-present tumult, the noise rising into the high steel rafters that held up the glass roof over the six tracks. At no stage would the stationhall be at peace – there were always peoples of myriad types, shapes and sizes seeking a thousand destinations. Challenden always thought of Maidencircle as the enchanted gateway that led to the rest of the world.
He sat in the teashop overlooking the concourse, watching the people. Nowhere else in the city really reflected how cosmopolitan Torbridge had become. Afoot in the hall he could see skin hues ranging from pale pink through to dark brown, pale green to deep blue, soft grey to brick red. The costumes they wore varied almost as greatly. Islanders in loose kaftans of red and yellow, Sekhaanese in white, and others in whatever colours took their fancy. On platform five, a ramp had been lowered from the wide stable-doors of one of the wagons, and a family of centaurs were clip-clopping daintly aboard. Probably heading for the community at Arleth, he surmised. From the collection of packages in their voluminous saddlebags, they had probably been in Torbridge for the sales.
 
With a crunch that cut through the endless commotion, a dark blue engine, wreathed in smoke, backed against a rake of coaches. A uniformed man leapt down to conjoin them in unholy matrimony. Challenden sighed, recognising that his train was soon going to depart, and downed his last mouthful of tea.

As always, comments welcomed!

Friday, 13 March 2015

SFFSat 14/3/2015 - Korax Crisis

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 


Before I post my snippet for the week, though, I have to express my sadness at the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett. He was one of the best writers of fantasy of our time. I was privileged to spend an hour in a pub in Brighton with him in 1987, at the World SF Convention, and I have read his books with considerable pleasure over the years.

My hope is that Death will have greeted him with some comment along the lines of "I'M YOUR GREATEST FAN."


Turning to SFFSat, my snippet this week is again from Korax Crisis, a novel I wrote over ten years ago and with which I was never happy. It had some good scenes, though. In this snippet, a group of foreign soldiers have taken over the town of Melmin, hunting for the missing Korax of the title.
Beris, a local engineer, is endeavouring to be a one-woman resistance force.

 
Two soldiers were making their way towards Nerik’s workshop, evidently planning to bang on his door. As usual, there was a pile of empty sea-shells towering untidily outside his doorway. The cream, three-quarter circle shells were each four feet across, the original occupants ripped out of their homes and cooked, while their tentacles were turned into the gripper-ropes that Nerik sold across half the Marches. Climbers and people with difficult cargoes swore by the sucker-ribbed hawsers that clung to whatever they were wrapped around. Nerik sold the empty nautilus shells in batches, loading a truck or two with them every few months. Until then, he left them as a menace to anyone who happened to brush into them. Beris grinned evilly. She had snagged a discarded short length of gripper-rope, and hooked one end, very cautiously, into the stack. As the soldiers approached, she hauled suddenly.

With a deeply satisfying series of crashes, the seven-foot high stack tumbled sideways, slamming down onto the luckless soldiers as they passed. Beris knew from helping shift the shells that they were heavy and brittle, and that when a shell cracked it tended to disintegrate into a host of viciously sharp shards. These were no exception to the rule, and she grinned more as the soldiers cried out in alarm and then in pain as the shells crashed around and over them like exploding wheels, rolling and crumpling dramatically. She hastily scrambled backwards, away from the scene of her escapade. She did not think either of her victims would be killed by her assault, but they would not make any more trouble for a while – or so she hoped.

She slid back into the alleyway beside the workshop, and looked around, wondering what she could try next.

As always, comments welcomed!

Friday, 6 March 2015

SFFSat 7/3/15 Korax Crisis

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. I couldn't post last week - real life intervened - but this week I'm back. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here.

Today's snippet isn't from Sorrel. This is from Korax Crisis, a novel I worked on over ten years ago and which didn't work out. I'm wondering about having another go and seeing what I can do with it. In this snippet, a railway engineer, Beris, is waylaid on her way to work.



    A lace from her left boot endeavoured to trip Beris as she got close to the engineyard’s buckled railings. As usual, inanimate objects had a cruel desire to inflict grievous bodily harm upon her.
    By the time the bootlace had been persuaded to do its job properly, she had company - three soldiers, in smart uniforms.
    “Where are you off to?” demanded the one with the most braid on the dark blue shoulders as she got to her feet slowly..
    “None of your business” she retorted instantly. “What are you doing here?”
    The mouthy one glared at her. “Answer the question, girl.”
    'Girl' - Beris drew herself to her full five foot six, and glared at him. No one called her a girl any more - especially not a jumped-up soldier.
    “I work here, boy. What gives you the right to ponce around in your pretty uniforms stopping honest citizens working?”
    One of the others grabbed her arm. “Don’t get lippy” he snarled.
    He was on the ground before he realised it was her solid fist that had punched his lights out. 

   As always, comments welcomed!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

When is a Sopwith Triplane not a Sopwith Triplane?

 
I'm off to Huntingdon Library in a couple of weeks – they are holding a morning for self-published local authors to talk about their books. Having done a certain amount of such events already, I am well aware that some props to hold up and show off add immeasurably to a speech. The obvious prop for my novels is a triplane of the sort that Sorrel flies.

Now, the one on the cover of Sorrel Snowbound (and also on the cover of Sorrel in Scarlet, just visible crashed into the trees) is actually a Sopwith Triplane. 




I already have a small 1/72nd Revell Triplane, but I have just discovered – and purchased – a 1/48th scale plastic kit of a Sopwith Triplane, by a company called Eduard.


I am therefore hard at work building the kit, so it is ready for the event on 21st March.
 I have to admit I am not the world's best kit modeller. I enjoy building model aeroplanes, but the results aren't always wonderful. My hands lack sufficient dexterity. The paint gets into the wrong places, and small pieces can be difficult to position correctly. And rigging the triplane accurately will be a nightmare. On the other hand, I can do enough that at a casual glance the finished model should look reasonably good.

However, I anticipate the finished model will not please any experts. They will study the airframe, snort, and tell me that I'm lacking half the necessary rigging wires, the ailerons are too thick, and the angle of the wings isn't right. They'll probably also tell me that no Sopwith Triplane in history had the garish bright yellow colour scheme I'm painting it in.

Which is when I can gleefully point out that it isn't a Sopwith Triplane. This is a Belkani Triplane, built in Sendaal and flown during the rebellion against the dragons. Of course the rigging is different – that's how Belkani triplanes are rigged. And the colour scheme is absolutely accurate for Sorrel's tripe. And the ailerons in Sorrel's world are precisely that thick.

My own fantasy world, my fantasy triplane! The best excuse in the universe for poor modelling!

Friday, 27 February 2015

SFFSat 28/2/2015 Sorrel in Silver

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. I couldn't post last week - real life intervened - but this week I'm back. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 

 This is another snippet from Sorrel in Silver. Sorrel is trying to get to her aeroplane, to make her escape from her current difficulties...



I swam cautiously towards the Cygnet; my objective was stealth, not speed. The four graalur on the jetty weren't expecting anyone to approach the aeroplane from the water, so I reached my bird without any problems.
   I stretched up from the water and my fingers slid under the edge of the hatch. It was unlatched! For once, luck was on my side. I teased it open slowly, pulling back on it until it was opened fully. I could only hope the graalur hadn't noticed the door move.
   I lifted the bomb and slid it neatly into the cockpit. It rolled and I heard it clonk against something inside. I froze, hanging in the water, waiting to hear if the graalur responded. Some bored guards chat amongst themselves; these four were clearly too stupid to think of things to talk about. After a minute of waiting, though, they hadn't come to investigate the sound, so they were also too stupid to notice indications of trouble.
Always assuming they weren't trying to lull me into a false sense of security.

As always, comments appreciated.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Re-reading Andre Norton

Every now and then, I get the urge to read something from when I was much, much younger. I suspect some of the books I loved then and still think of gladly would be painful to re-read – I have fond memories of Hugh Walters' Chris Godfrey novels, with a team of young men exploring the Solar System planet by planet, but I have no doubt I would find them juvenile and clumsy now. But some authors still bear re-reading, and high in that list is Andre Norton.

Ms Norton wrote a very large number of books. I read a significant proportion of them when I was at junior school and into my teens. A good range of her books grace my shelves now, and every so often I indulge in another few. A recent acquisition was Dark Companion, an omnibus containing Dark Piper and Dread Companion. I can't help thinking Dread Piper might have been a more interesting title!

  
I'm sure I only read Dark Piper once – I found it quite disturbing when I was, at a rough guess, about 8 or 9. It tells of a colony world where a group of children are led into some caves by the Hamelin-esque Dark Piper of the title. His purpose is wise – he has guessed that there is about to be a bitter conflict between the colonists and the crews of a trio of displaced spacers. He's right – everybody else is slain by bombs and a plague virus. The novel disturbed me as a child – a book where all adults die, including parents and loved ones, was strong stuff. Re-reading it now, it holds together well.

 
Dread Companion was a later book. When I started reading it recently, I really wasn't sure if I had read it as a child. I didn't remember it – but as I read further, images came back to me. The heroine is the tutor of two brattish children – but one, the girl, has an invisible companion, who leads the heroine and the girl's brother into an alternate world, one that has a strong air of the fey. Eating food there turns the little boy into a faun-like beast, and the girl has witch powers. The heroine struggles to retain her humanity and get them all back home. Reading it now, it is a complex, layered novel, and one I've thoroughly enjoyed.


Next on my list is Star Gate. I know with absolute confidence I read this as a child, but so far, as I've been reading it, I haven't remembered it. As I've got further through, though, there are odd details that ring bells. I can't say much more about it - I'm not far enough through to comment intelligently.

So why have Andre Norton's books resonated with me all my life? I suspect, more than anything, it is because her heroes are always outsiders. Loners who don't fit in, who think too much and who don't know where they belong or what they are striving for. I've no doubt that I'm mildly aspergers – many, if not all of Norton's heroes feel as though they, too, are on that spectrum, even though when she was writing most of her novels the term was yet to be coined. I could identify with her heroes far more than with many of the brave characters in other books. Her heroes felt like me.

Friday, 20 February 2015

SFFSat 21/2/2015 Sorrel in Silver

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. I couldn't post last week - real life intervened - but this week I'm back. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 

 This is another snippet from Sorrel in Silver. Sorrel is in the city of the lloruk, following Juustehr, one of the reptilian lloruk mages. She opens a door and stops dead...



The chamber beyond was full of snakes. At least a dozen. Two gigantic ones, six feet long or more, with diamond patterns of orange and blue scales, were sprawled across the outcroppings of stones that dotted the room. Five smaller green serpents lay under the illumination of a bright lamp shining down onto a wide, smooth stone slab. More writhed away across the striated stone floor; those were small ones, only a foot long, in a variety of patterns. Juustehr walked through the chamber with a total lack of concern for the snakes. I stared at them. One of the big ones, its head only a couple of feet from the lift doors, turned its eyes to me and held my gaze. I didn't dare move.
Juustehr turned and looked back at me. He was almost at the far door out of the room. 'Sorrel? Don't waste time admiring that python; she's lazy, always delighted to be ogled.'

 As always, comments appreciated.