Introducing Scrivener for Novel Writers by Jacey Bedford

I love Scrivener with a deep love. Karen Traviss recommended it when I got my first three book deal back in 2013, and I thought I’d give it a try – after all there was a thirty day free trial and – hell – it’s cheap enough to take a chance on.

ScrivenerOn opening it up you’ll find three columns. The wide middle column is your actual word processor. The left hand (narrower) column is the binder where you can see each chapter and scene, plus research notes, character notes (or anything else you need for quick reference). The right hand column is the ‘inspector’ column which you can either have visible or hidden. Here you can have your scene by scene synopsis on the virtual 5 x 3 index card and/or you can enter General Meta-data and (below it) notes.

Untitled-6I pasted my novel into the word processor to give it a try, and proceeded to split it down into scenes. This was Empire of Dust (DAW, 2014). I’ve written every subsequent novel in Scrivener and wouldn’t be without it, now. I’d say you need to allow a couple of days to explore it and get to know its features before it starts to feel like an old friend.

Examining the full manuscript of Empire on a scene by scene basis – and being able to see all the scenes laid out in the binder (left hand column) was a revelation. Empire is a multiple viewpoint novel – each VP in tight third person. So in Scrivener I allocated colours to VP characters (in the general Meta-Data box) and could instantly see where I’d clumped too much from one individual too close together, or had too long a gap between a particular VP character’s scenes.

Editing to move scenes around in the narrative is easy – just drag and drop in the binder. And you don’t break things if you get it wrong because it’s easy to reverse any decision. There’s also a cork board which enables you to view your scenes as individual record cards (and move them at will). It’s great for plotting as well as editing.

You can split your screen if you want to edit two scenes side by side.

Scrivener 2

The other brilliant feature of Scrivener is that by selecting specific scenes you can view all of one person’s VP scenes as a continuous narrative, so you can see whether the story is logical from one character’s point of view. I have one secondary character whose VP is important, but limited, and I realised that I’d not given him a very good character arc because some of the things that drove his segment of the plot were happening off the page. Adding in very short scenes that were pivotal for him gave him a complete arc and added less than 1000 words to the total word count.

Similarly I had chosen to limit the viewpoint scenes from my three antagonists. (Sigh… yes a story with three villains… I know… but I think it works and only one of them is pure eeeevil.) When I viewed each of their arcs as a continuous narrative, I could see there were gaps that shouldn’t be there. I was trying to be mysterious, but I’d actually reduced the tension because my readers didn’t know there was a great plot bunny emerging from its bunny-hole unbeknownst to my main protagonists.

So I was able to swap scenes around, try them out, and return them to their original place or try them somewhere else. I’d never have been able to keep track of all that if I’d been cutting and pasting via a straightforward word processor.

Is Scrivener easy? Yes and no. The word processor section – the middle column – is pretty much like any other word processor you are likely to have used, but you need to make time to understand Scrivener’s other two columns. The binder column (left hand side) is my favourite resource. I write in scenes at the first draft stage (breaking it up into chapters later) so each named scene is listed in the binder, but you can also keep your character sketches and research notes there, too (including illustrations and photos). I’ve used it for my trilogies. When I start the second or third book, I simply duplicate the previous book into a new Scrivener file in a new folder, rename it as the new book, and remove the text from the previous book. It leaves me with the characters, locations and essential research in a binder ready for writing the next instalment.

HewsonScrivener’s own helpfiles are pretty good, but they cover a wealth of features (say, for academic writing) that, as a fiction author, you probably won’t need. My recommendation is that to get to grips with Scrivener for authors you need to read David Hewson’s book, “Writing a Novel with Scrivener,” available from the megacorp named after a South American river for a mere £4.48. It shows you the features you’re most likely to need in detail while ignoring the features less useful for fiction writing.

You can get a Scrivener free trial which I thought was for a month but turned out to be thirty days of use – and they didn’t need to be consecutive days, either, which is very generous and gives you plenty of time to see if you really like it.


jacey-novacon-2012-300pxsquJacey Bedford is the secretary of Milford and editor of this blog, to which she sometimes contributes. Her own blog is at She writes science fiction and fantasy novels (mostly) with a few short stories. She’s British, but is published by DAW in the USA. Her science fiction trilogy – the Psi-Tech trilogy – is now complete (Empire of Dust, Crossways and Nimbus) and two books are available in the Rowankind historical fantasy trilogy (Winterwood and Silverwolf) with the third (Rowankind) due in November 2018. Find out more at Jacey’s own website. You can also follow her on Facebook an she tweets @jaceybedford

Posted in fantasy, Milford, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Write the first line last? by Sue Thomason

1984Openings are important. You have to put something on Page One that ensures the reader will stay with you onto Page Two and beyond, right? This is the Tweet Age. Boredom sets in quickly. So you need a killer first line: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Which, up until the last word, is the unremarkable opening of a mainstream mimetic novel. And that last word, “thirteen”, does three pieces of work. It tells us we’re not in Kansas (or indeed England) any more, it tells us that the setting is one step beyond the known and familiar (for the clocks striking twelve would not be a remarkable thing), and it tells us that All Will End Badly – unlucky thirteen, and all that. So as killer first lines go, this one is nuclear.

But there are alternatives. Such as: start quiet. “There was a wall. It did not look important.” Midway through the first paragraph, the wall degenerates into “an idea of boundary”. And the paragraph finishes “For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.” So we know that this is a novel of ideas, and that the primary idea is separation, maybe implying the possibility of rejoining.

And here we get to one of the principal problems of The Opening: to write an effective opening, you have to know what it’s opening into. So perhaps it’s worth taking Colin Greenland’s advice: “Never promise what you’re not going to deliver. When you’ve found out what it is you’re actually delivering, go right back and start entering, from as early as possible, those tiny, sneaky little promises to deliver it.”

Red marsSo if your trilogy starts “Mars was empty before we came.” you know the trilogy starts with us coming to Mars, and will go on to show us the consequences of our act. And this unremarkable sentence is another triple-duty over-achiever, because it not only tells us what the story’s going to be about (Mars), it’s also part of a speech (or speech template) given by a major character, so it’s doing character-building for him and laying out one major philosophical strand of the book’s underpinnings, and also, by using the inclusive “we”, it’s building an instant community of Mars enthusiasts that we, the readers, are part of. We did that. We went to Mars. In our heads (so maybe there’s no need to go there irl?). This first line tells us that the story has already happened, so it’s almost a last line, too. The end of empty Mars, the end of the silence before the story.

And then there are the books that ease you in so gently that it’s hard to know where the beginning of the story is. How about a book whose first sentence states, in a dry, academic, “factual” prose style, “The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California.”? This is followed by the title page, and then by a poem (on an unnumbered page I later deduce is Page One), then there’s another quasi-academic piece on the “Archaeology of the Future”, and then a story kind of narrative starts on page 7. And yes, the Northern Californians of this book will have given poems and stories and academic discourse equal weight, and will have seen them as the same kind of thing, parts of a whole.

Or what about a book that starts with a dictionary entry, then the contents page, then a Note to the Reader written in the didactic imperative (“know that the scene in which this book is set is not Earth”), and containing a 3-page, 7 000-year chronology which finishes at the point where the story starts. Which tells you, before you have met them, that the people who live here are nit-pickingly accurate, that they will define their terms, and that they are scholars speaking a language that’s good for talking about science and philosophy, but less good for sloppy stuff like emotions.

So what I need, as a reader, is not a killer first line. What I need, fairly soon but not necessarily immediately after starting to read, is something that engages me. I need a fascinating place to explore, or an interesting problem to solve, or to meet someone I want to spend more mental time with and get to know better, or to be drawn into a situation that I need to know the outcome of. I need a marshmallow now, not 2 marshmallows on page 77. And I need to trust you, that you know where you’re going, that you’ll take me somewhere interesting. So maybe write the first line last?

Openings quoted:

  1. George Orwell, 1984
  2. Ursula le Guin, THE DISPOSSESSED
  3. Kim Stanley Robinson, RED MARS
  4. Ursula le Guin, ALWAYS COMING HOME
  5. Neal Stephenson: ANATHEM


Sue ThomasonSue Thomason
I currently live in rural North Yorkshire, near the sea, with an ex-GP and up to 5 cats. Varied involvement with written SF has included a handful of published short stories, reviewing for both VECTOR and FOUNDATION, co-editing an anthology of locally-based SF/F stories, and being Chair of Milford.  I write fiction mostly for my own entertainment and to find out what happens (often this surprises me). My other interests include outdoor pursuits, gardening, classical/early/folk music, and collecting interesting or unusual paper clips.


Posted in writing | 1 Comment

Research for Genre Fiction: by Sandra Unerman

If you write fantasy or science fiction, what kind of research do you need to do and why?

I write historical fantasy, where the story is set in the cracks between what we know of the past. Some of my themes concern the differences between life then and now. At a pragmatic level, the more historical details I can get right, the more thoroughly readers are likely to enter into my story. People who write fantasy set in alternative versions of the past or the present (as in urban fantasy) likewise will use research to explore core themes and to build up the plausibility of their settings. Science Fiction authors want their science to be accurate for similar reasons, except for the devices they’ve invented for the purposes of the story. They also need plausibility for the rest of the setting and for that, they will draw on research into the past or the present, for everything from the organisation of society to practical details about the material used to make clothes.

Different writers have different research methods, as became clear in a panel I moderated at FantasyCon this year. My novel, Spellhaven (Mirror World Publishing, 2017) is set partly on an island city ruled by magicians and partly in England before and after the First World War. Most of the historical detail did not come from a specific programme of research but from books I’d read out of general interest. In fact, the story grew out of a fascination with aspects of life in Europe, before the War changed so much. I’d been reading about Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe, about Henry Irving, Bernard Shaw and the history of the theatre more generally. I wanted somehow to evoke the energy and excitement of those times, which is why my island city is full of unseen and powerful spirits, who must be entertained by all kinds of live shows.

Spellhaven postcard

Other writers on the FantasyCon Panel recommended working from primary sources, especially diaries and letters. Such sources can give a deeper insight into the mindset of the people who wrote them, as well as supplying the kind of quirky detail historians seldom mention. Some researchers attend historical re-enactments, to find out, for example, just how hot and uncomfortable medieval armour can be.

Then there’s the internet. Wikipedia is a good starting point for information on specific facts, though worth checking with other sources. The internet is also a portal, these days, to all sorts of online material. My next novel, Ghosts and Exiles, due out in 2018, is set in London in the 1930s. For that, I did some browsing in the Times Archive online, which I was able to access free through my local public library membership. I didn’t pick out any specific details but the newspaper reports helped me with the general atmosphere of the period. Online research doesn’t comes naturally to me, however, and tends to be a limited add-on. For immersion in any subject, I turn to books, in hard copy for preference. Other people, especially those who have grown up with the internet, may work differently and rely more on online resources.

The main impression I took away from the FantasyCon Panel, from audience contributions as well as the other Panel members, was that people enjoyed research for its own sake, not just as a chore for what they could get out of it. Deciding when to stop may be more difficult as a result but writers have to fight that battle all the time, in order to produce any kind of end result.


sandra-unermanSandra Unerman is a retired Government lawyer, who lives in London. She has attended Milford several times and has an MA in Creative Writing (SF and Fantasy) from Middlesex University. Her novel, Spellhaven was published this year by Mirror World and her most recent short stories are in Aurora Wolf online for September and the anthology Fall into Fantasy, Cloaked Press, 2017. She is a member of Clockhouse London Writers.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NaNoWriMo and the Published Writer

A bunch of published writers undertook NaNoWriMo in November 2017. In some cases they were starting a project from scratch, in other cases pacing alongside NaNo to add 50k words to an ongoing project. Some completed 50k words in November, some didn’t – for various good reasons. Here are snippets from ongoing comments throughout the month of November.

NaNoWriMo used to be aimed at the beginning novelist. By writing less than 1700 words a day it’s possible to have fifty thousand words in the bag in one month. For someone who’s never managed to complete a novel, that’s an amazing achievement. For those who have finished novels (and had them published) then pacing their writing alongside NaNoWriMo gives an incentive to get words down on paper, or pixels on a screen.

1st November 2017
Jacey Bedford: I’ve done NaNo several times since 2008 (before I sold my first novel) but since I got my publishing deals (first one in 2013) I’ve used NaNo to my advantage, spurring me on to add words words words to my work in progress.

1st November 2017
Liz Williams: I’m pacing alongside as far as possible. I don’t want to sign up officially as I’m waiting to hear if a writing assignment is coming down the pike and if it does, this will need to take priority over the novel. I’m about halfway through with the latter and would like to use November as an excuse to get the bulk of it done.

1st November 2017
Dolly Garland: Honestly, I had no plans to do NaNoWriMo earlier this year. Until September, I hadn’t thought about it After all, my life is so crazy busy right now that even considering it was silly. But then in September I went to Milford Writers Conference and got this huge injection of writing mojo. That was a really good thing because I really needed that injection. After that, writing momentum has been going in full force, and I am really keen to make some solid progress on my novel. So enter NaNoWriMo.

At first I thought I would just do it without joining in officially. I figured I will do about 30,000 words and even that will be solid progress. But one thing led to another, and I ended up officially signing up to NaNo, and so of course now I have to try to do the whole 50,000.

The madness has begun.

I know I have some very busy days coming up when I will be lucky if I manage to do 500 words a day, so I wanted to get off to a really good start. On the first day, I’ve managed to 5485 words, which was way better than I was expecting. So the first day of NaNoWriMo2017 has been a success. And hopefully, I will hit that 50,000 mark.

3rd November
Jim Anderson: The Beast (my new nickname for the novel idea) had been hanging around for far far too long, as most people who know me will know. Too many people have seen bits and pieces, some now rewritten so many times as to be unrecognizable. And so I’m NaNo-ing this year to push through the weight of time and procrastination and make some serious progress. And dare we hope against hope for a zeroeth draft by December?

3rd November
Jacey Bedford: I got off to a great start on Wednesday, but I didn’t write much yesterday because life (in the shape of my day job) got in the way. I work from home, which is both a blessing and a curse. I love a job you can do in your jammys, but people do tend to call me out of hours. Because of that my hours tend to be 24/7. Compartmentalising the day job and my writing is the hard part. So I got up early this morning and managed a couple of hours at the keyboard before the phone started ringing. Ah… that’s better.

3rd November
Nancy Jane Moore: I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, but I am doing NaNoReWriMo. That is, I’m going to use the month of November to revise the novel I wrote a rough first draft of earlier this year (much of it during the Clarion West Write-a-Thon). My goal will be to devote a minimum of an hour per day on revisions. It will be interesting to see if this is an effective way to revise and rewrite.

6th November
Jacey Bedford: Good job I got ahead because my expected visitor arrived today, coinciding with an urgent day-job thing, so I managed barely a hundred words, but I’m still at over 15,000 words, so ahead of the curve. And I know that next week I have to attend a council meeting that will probably last for two days. No I’m not on the council, I’m protesting against plans to designate part of our village for quarrying. NIMBY? You betcha.

14th November
Jacey Bedford: I got back on track last weekend and managed to top 20,000 by Sunday evening, now it’s almost the halfway point and I’ve just topped 28,000 words. Are they good words? I don’t know. Time (and revision) will tell. With any luck I’m on track to do 60,000 words by the end of the month. Then the hard part is keeping it up. I need to keep going at an average of 2,000 words a day through December, too, to finish the first draft of Rowankind by the New Year. I want to have time to do a structural edit before I turn it in to my editor at the end of February. I need to do WriLitDeiDe, Write Like the Devil in December.

15th November
Suyi Davies Okungbowa Had to drop out. Exam date got moved backward, and suddenly I was struggling to study and write at the same time–one had to go. Will make amends sometime in Jan-March 2018, though.

15th November
Kari Sperring: I’m just over half way.

17th November
Steph Bianchini Only at 20,596, but next week I’m commuting more than 25 hours overall… I expect a huge jump in my word count.

24th November
Liz Williams: I’ve done 2 short stories this month, which is about as much as I could have accomplished. They’re stories for subscribers, but they have a destination. I’ve been going through runs of writing short fiction (May and September this year) so I’ve done 23 so far, and am planning another couple before the end of the year. It’s working out at about 2 per month.

25th November
Dolly Garland: My first half of the month was writing one novel – which I did 22849 words on. Second half of the month so far has been editing another novel, and brainstorming the novel I wrote words on in the first half, cause I gotta find some answers.

26th November
Jacey Bedford: I just passed the 45,000 mark with five days to go. I’m racing for the finish, but knowing that I’ll have to keep going. It’s like getting to the end of the Grand National and then having to go round again! When I look at my wordcounts, I’ve had some terrific days and some really slow days, but at least I’ve written something every day – even if it was only 60 words (7th November) or 179 words (23rd November). Some days I’ve done 4,000 plus words and I’ve had a lot of steady 2,000 – 2,500 days, which makes up for the ten days when I’ve not reached 1000.

30th November
Jacey Bedford: I verified my NaNo word count at something just over 51,000 a couple of hours before NaNo closed, and then kept writing, so at close of play on 30th November, I has 53,056 words.

3rd December
Jim Anderson: And it all started so well.  I’d set myself a reasonable goal, given other things going on, of 30 000 words for the month, so 1000 a day, and I was keeping up with that until the middle of the month. At that point, work got complicated in a way that absorbed not only time and energy but head space as well. (Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you the whole sad tale.) But I did get just under 15 000 words written, and as things calm down, I’ll get back to grips with the Beast. Overall, I found the experience to be interesting and stimulating and I’ll definitely give it a go again.

3rd December
Jacey Bedford: There’s a new ‘goal tracker’ feature on the NaNo website (under the drop down list on ‘My NaNoWriMo’ on your dashboard if you want to give it a go) so I’ve entered a new goal of 120,000 words by 10th January which should see my first draft of Rowankind finished. As of midnight on 2nd December I had 57,145 words. Can’t stop just because NaNo is over for another year. I reckon if I can do 2,000 words a day (and plan to take 5 days off at Christmas because we have family coming to stay) that I should just about hit that mark. It gives me 5,000 words leeway for those off days that we all have, but some days I’ll do more than 2000 words. Yesterday I did 2246 words, and today (Sunday) I’m planning on at least 3000.

Posted in writing | Leave a comment

On Loving Speculative Fiction in Nigeria by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Before the start of each workday, I do at least thirty minutes of reading. I do this either on my commute (when I don’t drive), or in the car at the car park (when I do drive), or at my desk an hour before office hours kick in. The first two are usually uneventful, being that only a few people tap on your shoulder in a bus or rap on your car window to ask, “Bros, what’re you reading there?”

The third, however, is a real problem.

Whispers UndergroundSo, I’m at my desk at work the other morning, gobbling up Ben Aaronovitch’s Whispers Underground, when my desk mate, Ele, comes in, takes one look at my book, and says:

“Eish. You still read this kid stuff?”

Reasons why she’s classified my reading choices as kid stuff:

  1. It’s about a wizard who’s also a policeman
  2. It involves ghosts, paranormal beings and stuff, so, too flighty for an adult.

Living in a heavily traditional African country like my Nigeria, you really can’t catch a break with your SFF, can yer? Can’t read your SF, write your SF, love your SF in peace. You get a neverending assault of side eyes, frowns, shaking heads. You can’t be a serious reader, surely, and not a serious person either. Can’t be a serious writer, surely, if you write about such things. I mean, lots of Nigerians have no water, no good roads, no electricity, no proper healthcare, no security, no jobs and you’re over here reading and writing about wizard police? Aren’t you supposed to do something, I dunno, “more productive” with your time? Any books worthy of reading should range from motivational to self-help to academic. If you’re gonna read some fiction, you might as well read something serious like lit and stuff because you’re a grown-ass man with bills and responsibilities dammit, quit reading that childish shit!


The gamut of problems this sort of short-sightedness proffers is endless. I can’t even start with how it makes the pleasure that such fiction offers more of a luxury than it should be. It also means folks like these cause the worldwide calls for diversity to be counterproductive. I mean, if you won’t read books by fellow Africans/Nigerians about fellow Africans/Nigerians who can fly or go to space, why should the rest of the world?

aaron-burden-236415Then, the biggest problem for me is that, Ele’s statement implies that we should reserve imagination for kids alone. Think about what that means for our future. I mean, Apple didn’t get where they did by reading Shakespeare and Biology alone, did they? Wole Talabi, in his essay, “Why Africa Needs to Create More Science Fiction.” explained how a poll showed that speculative fiction provides inspiration for a very high number of Africans to go into STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) careers, which ultimately form a large part of the backbone of a stable and emergent future.

A quote by Octavia Butler in an essay by Percy Zvomuya on OkayAfrica aptly captures my thoughts about these matters by asking the right questions:

“What good is science fiction’s thinking about the present, the future, and the past? What good is its tendency to warn, to consider alternative ways of thinking and doing? What good is its examination of the possible effects of science and technology, or social organization and political direction? At its best, science fiction stimulates imagination and creativity. It gets reader and writer off the beaten track, off the narrow footpath of what everyone is saying, doing, thinking-whoever ‘everyone’ happens to be this year. And what good is all this to Black people?”

Maybe if more Nigerians/Africans rephrased that last question to What good is speculative fiction to us all?, it becomes easier to look beyond the conservationist guardrails and engage in the kind of divergent thinking that leads to open minds and the realization that, maybe just like self-help and biology, speculative fiction also raises important questions and proffers answers to the multitude of problems facing Nigerians, Africans and the world today.

“Yes, I still read this stuff,” I reply to Ele, reclining into my chair. “Because the world stinks and maybe I need to de-contextualise for it to make any sense, okay? Because maybe we need to look beyond the expected for understanding, ideas, solutions. Because maybe it’s the way we keep sane while keeping hope alive.”

She studies me a long minute. “Duuude,” she says finally, running her hand along her braids. “That was sooo intense.” She walks away, muttering: “Way too intense”


Suyi smallSuyi Davies Okungbowa is a storyteller who writes freelance from Lagos, Nigeria. His (mostly speculative) fiction has been published or is forthcoming in Fireside, Podcastle, The Dark, Mothership ZetaOmenana; and the anthologies Lights Out: Resurrection and A World of Horror; amidst other places. His nonfiction has appeared in Lightspeed and Klorofyl. He is a charter member of the African Speculative Fiction Society and an Associate Editor at Podcastle. Suyi also works in brand marketing, visual design and audio narration. He lives online on Facebook, tweets at @IAmSuyiDavies, blogs at and chatters at his monthly jabberwock, After Five Writing Shenanigans.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heroic Factasy by Ben Jeapes

I don’t read much heroic fantasy, for various reasons. A good one is that it all comes in such fat multi-volume series that I simply don’t have the time. But a deeper, slightly more sneaking one is that, well, it’s all a bit silly, isn’t it? It’s not real. Science fiction is generally set in present-day or future societies that could happen. Fantasy is based on past societies that didn’t happen, or can’t happen, so there.

Blade ItselfThis isn’t entirely fair but it’s always there. Good heroic fantasy gets around it by being good. I recently read Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and enjoyed it a lot: for the characters, the world-building, the humour and the sheer enjoyment of the writing. But still I get this nagging feeling that tells me I should be reading something else, and it isn’t at all helped by reading something like Jan Guillou‘s Templar Trilogy.

Guillou himself is an interesting character – an investigative journalist and spy writer who did time in jail for revealing that the land of cuddly Volvo-driving Abba fans has a secret intelligence agency that can match the CIA dirty trick for dirty trick. That’s life on the front line of the Cold War. His character of Arn Magnusson is a local Swedish folk hero because Guillou cleverly takes Arn’s fictitious life and wraps it into real history in the form of the birth of the modern kingdom of Sweden. For instance, with a bit of handwaving the fictitious Arn becomes the grandfather of the very real Birger Jarl, whose grave I have seen and once sort of wrote a poem about. All the locations are visitable, and most of them are within a few miles of my inlaws. One of life’s innocent pleasures is to watch Bonusbarn’s face when he asks with resignation why we’re looking at yet another church and we say “This is where Arn …”

I was introduced to Arn’s adventures by my future wife several years ago, but it’s taken till now to finish them because at first only the first two books were translated into English. After that the publisher pulled the plug … until recently. Different publisher, different translator, still the third book. Finally I know how it ends! Though given that Sweden exists, I had a shrewd suspicion.

Road to JerusalemIn the first book, The Road to Jerusalem, Arn is born into minor Swedish nobility and for various reasons spends most of his childhood raised by monks, including an ex-Templar who teaches him various extracurricular non-monkly fighting skills. This is handy because at the end of the book Arn inadvertently sleeps (consecutively) with two sisters (hey, it could happen to any innocent young lad from the monastery), one of whom is his true love and one of whom is a scheming minx. For this sin he must do 20 years penance as a crusader in the Holy Land.

This brings us to the second book, The Templar Knight, which switches between his story and the story of the second crusade, and his beloved Cecilia doing her own 20 years penance in a convent back home. From her perspective we see the birth pangs of the new Swedish nation, while Arn’s purity of heart, nobility and Christian virtue earn him the respect of Christians and Muslims alike, and make him one of the few crusaders, and very few Templars, to make it out of the Holy Land alive after the disastrous Battle of Tiberias. And finally – finally! – in Birth of the Kingdom Arn returns home determined to use his military skills and considerable wealth to bring peace to his homeland and forge it into a new nation, the kingdom of the Sveas, or Svea Rige, as you might call it.

If you read heroic fantasy for the world-building then medieval Sweden is described in enough detail to suit your every need, with no feeling of anything being contrived just to get a little extra buzz or laugh. (Plucking just one example from the air, like Arn and Cecilia’s wedding night being unable to commence until the archbishop has made it up the stairs to bless them in bed.) If you read it for the military clashing and banging then Arn has it in spades, and the version of Christianity practised by the Swedes – a mixture of literalism, ritual, pragmatism and Marian veneration, all with residual pagan overtones – presses all the right buttons for anyone expecting arcane religions and magic. It’s exactly the same as reading heroic fantasy, except that it isn’t and it’s a guilt-free trip.

Note: nothing herein in any way precludes me trying to write heroic fantasy if I ever decide that’s the direction my career should take.


bjeapes01Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of 7 novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer. His first Milford was at Margate in 1991, which shows (a) how far Milford has come in the past 26 years and (b) qualifies him as a Great Old One, in Milford terms at least.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Every Writer Should Join ALCS by David Gullen

ALCS, the UK Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, collects secondary royalties on behalf of writers for work published in the UK, and campaigns and lobbies on writers’ rights at national and international levels. The society is now in its 40th year and to date has paid £450 million to its 90,000 members.

ALCS logoThese royalties come from photocopying & scanning by business, education and other organisations, overseas library lending, retransmission, and several other sources. There’s more detailed information on their website.

Not every writer knows the ALCS exists. Everyone should be, and everyone should join. Lifetime membership costs only £36.00 GBP, deductible from your first royalty payment. In fact if you are a member of the Society of Authors or one of a few other organisations, membership is free.

I wasn’t sure of membership is open to all nationalities so I contacted the ALCS and they confirm that is the case – anyone can join.

So why should you join? Well, why shouldn’t you? If you have had any magazine articles, short stories, novels, scripts, etc published, you may well be owed money and the ALCS will collect it for you .

I’m by no means a widely-published writer but my payments are worth having – my last payment was just under £150.00. Honestly, I have no idea where this comes from and am very grateful to the ALCS for their collection efforts! So far, year by year, this has slowly grown. More successful writers payments are quite substantial.

Once you’ve joined all you need to do is register existing work and add new publications as they come along. Then, once a year, you can look forwards to some  extra income from your hard work.

Which reminds me, I need to update my publications.

gullen-dkg1-2012David Gullen
David was born in South Africa and baptised by King Neptune at the equator. His short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including New Scientist’s ARC, Albedo 1, and the Sensorama anthology from Eibonvale. He is a winner of the Aeon Award and been shortlisted for the James White Award. His novel, Shopocalypse, was published by Clarion (2013). He was also one of the judges for the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award. David lives in Surrey, England, with the fantasy writer Gaie Sebold and too many tree ferns.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment