#SPFBO 2018 : Guest Post – Phil Williams, Under Ordshaw

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As you may be aware I’m taking part, as one of the judges, in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, details here.  I’ve invited all the authors from my selected books to pay a visit to my blog and today I’m very pleased to welcome Phil Williams, the author of Under Ordshaw.  Phil agreed to write a guest post about how the story came about involving a visit to New York, a few jaunts, getting lost, a labyrinthine hostel and possibly discovering a Minotaur under the city – well, just read the piece already.

The Origins of “Under Ordshaw”

Under Ordshaw takes readers to a UK city with more than a few dark secrets. It’s a city that’s at once familiar and unusual, and the core of a series intended to span dozens of books. It’s the result of years spent writing and rewriting interlinked stories, with a great deal of imagining what if…

It’s also the result of my own attempts to explore our world, and quite specifically the time we considered the possibility of a minotaur under New York.

Under Ordshaw has seen four major iterations – once as a novel, twice as a screenplay and finally the version you see today. Originally called Penguins and Seahorses, it had a plot inspired by my reading that penguins and seahorses are rare in nature as the male helps raise their offspring. The latest version has evolved from a simpler concept of an ordinary father facing the unnatural to protect his family, but the collision of ordinary and unnatural remains.

Recognising that collision was where the story really began.

At some point in life, I adopted a hobby of urban exploring. I placed myself in random places within cities and saw where it took me. What better way to come up with random and absurd stories than to visit places you don’t belong? I got a real taste at university, pottering around the graveyards and estates of Nottingham. I’ve fed it in every city I’ve been.

In the spirit of this mindset, in the Summer of 2006, myself, my brother and my closest friend took a holiday to New York City. We planned nothing, assuming that wandering the Five Boroughs with a travel card would take care of itself.

The holiday panned out in untypical ways, with highlights including narrowly avoiding a major crime scene in Queens and getting lost in the middle of Staten Island. As such explorative jaunts into the unknown stirred our collective imaginations, we happened upon the minotaur.

Theseus and the MinotaurWe were staying in a labyrinthine hostel with a kitchen in the basement. Down there, we heard great groans from the mechanics of the buildings. And we asked what if… In particular, what if the next time we heard that noise, someone ran past screaming, “Minotaur!”

In this city that had proved strange and threatening in our ignorance, such a thing seemed possible.

Over the fortnight that we viewed New York through the eyes of outsiders who knew anything was possible, the running joke revealed the minotaur’s lore and the characters that fought or defended it. There was the violent-minded homeless man, perpetually bent on a final showdown with his arch-nemesis: “Rattigan, we finish this now!” (His foe, naturally, the master of the ferocious rodents we’d encountered.) There was the sage Mantis, keeper of secrets. And there was the discovery of scratchitti – urban vandalism, or a way to communicate with the underworld?

This stimulation sowed the seeds that would become Under Ordshaw, after a decade of refining. Similar experiences in different cities added flesh to the tale; the minotaur and the underground fused in my mind, for instance, after watching weary people riding the Prague Metro.

The characters emerged from other moments of inspiration. Darren Barton belongs to the concept of penguins and seahorses; Rufaizu his carefree opposite. Cano Casaria was a necessarily creepy foil in my screenplay Brutal Tower (inspired by research into housing estates, which will live again in Ordshaw Book 5). The criminals of Ordshaw first found life in a school play.

Mid-2016, it clicked in my mind that a shared universe made it possible to connect the many disparate ideas of my contemporary fantasy work that I had never published. Ordshaw was the perfect place to realise it.

When I revisited these stories, and started drawing them together, Pax Kuranes emerged as the character necessary to endure this experience. An outsider to the madness she was about to encounter and, in many ways, an outsider within the city itself. Someone comfortably normal, but drawn to the stranger side of life, open to exploring alleyways at night.

And from this union came Under Ordshaw. A novel that lays the foundations for a lot of work to come, but a story that serves the sentiments of three ill-advised youths who holidayed in New York, intent on seeing it through a different lens.

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Thank you Phil for writing this fantastic piece, I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did – apart from the fact that I love discovering the inspiration behind the book – I think what really gave me a smile with this was the ‘what if’ – it’s a favourite phrase of my daughter and I suppose it’s a demonstration of curiosity and imagination at play together.

FYI : Phil can be found at:

www.phil-williams.co.uk  Goodreads page

The link for the book is:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CXYSZVN/

 

 

 

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My 9th book: Final Stage: #SPFBO 16

FullSizeRender-10November 1st saw the start of the second stage of the SPFBO – the Self Published Fantasy Blog off organised by Mark Lawrence.  All the details can be found here.

Today I’m highlighting the final book that I will be reading for the SPFBO.  All the books have been drawn randomly and the books I’ve read so far are as follows:

  1. Shadow Soul by Caitlyn Davis, review here.
  2. Paternus by Dyrk Ashton (review here).
  3. The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French.
  4. Larcourt K A Krantz ( Fire Born, Blood Blessed #1) My review is here.
  5. Ráth Bládhma (Fionn mac Cumhaill #1) by Brian O’Sullivan, review here.
  6. The Music Box Girl by K.A. Stewart.  Review here.
  7. The Path of Flames by Phil Tucker.  Review here.
  8. The Moonlight War by SKS Perry – review to follow.

My final book is :

 

Assassin’s Charge (Echoes of Imara) by Claire Frank

assassinsA cold-hearted assassin. A boy with a price on his head.

Rhisia Sen is one of the Empire’s highest paid assassins. Living a life of luxury, she chooses her contracts carefully, working to amass enough wealth so she can leave her bloody trade. She is offered a new contract on the outskirts of civilization, and almost refuses—until she sees the purse. It could be the last job she ever has to take.

But when she reaches the destination, she discovers her mark is a child.

The contract, and her reputation, demand she kill the boy—if she can banish his innocent face from her mind. But another assassin has been sent to kill her, and a notorious bounty hunter is on her trail. She doesn’t know why the boy is a target, or why her former employer wants her dead. Saving the child could be her only chance at survival.

Guest post: Henry L. Herz

Today, I’m really pleased to welcome Henry L Herz to my blog.  I’ve had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a number of Henry’s book’s in the past.  Beyond the Pale is a collection of short fantasy stories from acclaimed authors, including  Saladin Ahmed and Peter S Beagle.  On top of this Henry also creates some amazing books for children and although I don’t usually review children’s books on my blog I have been pleased to make an exception for the wonderful Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes and When you Give an Imp a Penny.  These are beautifully illustrated books, full of imagination and thoroughly enchanting.  Henry’s latest book, Mabel and the Queen of Dreams is a beautiful confection (review to follow).  Below is a guest post provided by Henry in which he looks at the nature of fairy tales and the role they play in our literature.

Fairy Tales and Fairies and Fae (Oh, My)

Fairy tales are commonly defined as children’s short stories featuring fantasy creatures and magical enchantments. Wikipedia artfully states, “The characters and motifs of fairy tales are simple and archetypal: princesses and goose-girls; youngest sons and gallant princes; ogres, giants, dragons, and trolls; wicked stepmothers and false heroes; fairy godmothers and other magical helpers, often talking horses, or foxes, or birds; glass mountains; and prohibitions and breaking of prohibitions.” The fairy tale is such a ubiquitous literary form, that it even has more than one classification system*.

Thomas Keightley indicated that the word ‘fairy’ derived from the Old French faerie, denoting enchantment. Fae is not related to the Germanic fey, or fated to die. Some authors don’t distinguish between Fae and fairies. Other authors define Fae as any inhabitants of Faërie, be they large or small, good or evil. For them, Fae is the broader term encompassing not only fairies, but elves, dwarves, ogres, imps, and all other fantasy creatures. They consider fairies to be Fae who are diminutive and often ethereal, magic-wielding, and/or winged.

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Fairy Islands from Elves and Fairies by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, 1916

Fairies of either flavor have been flitting about literature for centuries. Consider Morgan le Fay in Le Morte d’Arthur, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Oberon and Titania in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tinker Bell in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Holly Short in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, all the way up to Bloom in Doreen Cronin’s eponymously titled picture book and Mabel and the Queen of Dreams (inspired by Queen Mab in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet).

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C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others established fantasy as the subgenre of speculative fiction that employs magical elements set in an alternative world. Tolkien wrote in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” that fairy tales are distinct from traveller’s tales (e.g., Gulliver’s Travels), science fiction, beast tales (e.g., Aesop’s Fables), and dream stories (e.g., Alice in Wonderland). He felt that fairies themselves were not an integral part of the definition of fairy tales. Rather, fairy tales were stories about the adventures of men and fantastic creatures in Faërie, a marvel-filled magical otherworld. By that definition, The Lord of the Rings is a fairy tale.

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By John Bauer from The Boy and the Trolls, 1915

Urban fantasy** is a subgenre of fantasy set in an urban setting, typically in contemporary times. This setting violates Tolkien’s definition of a fairy tale, since the story takes place in the “real” world, rather than in Faërie. Thus, Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, though featuring a fairy, is an urban fantasy rather than a fairy tale, or as Tolkien preferred, Märchen (wonder tale).

Regardless of subgenre, I hope readers will find in my story what Tolkien posited for Märchen generally. “Far more powerful and poignant is the effect [of joy] in a serious tale of Faërie. In such stories, when the sudden turn comes, we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart’s desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.”

*Two major fairy tale classification systems are Aarne-Thompson and Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale.

**Some notable urban fantasy includes the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, Modern Faerie Tales series by Holly Black, Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine, Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris, The Hollows series by Kim Harrison, The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, Feral series by Cynthia Leitich Smith, The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, Marla Mason series by Tim Pratt, Simon Canderous series by Anton Stout, and Borderlands series by Terri Windling.

Guest post by Michelle Hauck, author of Grudging

Posted On 23 November 2015

Filed under Book Reviews
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Today I’d like to welcome Michelle to my blog.  Michelle’s latest book, Grudging, has just been released and is filled with witchcraft.  Michelle was kind enough to write me a guest post all about witches and how they fit into her latest novel.

‘Thanks for having me on your blog, Lynn!’

Thanks for agreeing to be my guest 😀

‘It seems proper around this time of year to look at witches in history, literature, and entertainment as I use them myself in my latest book. Witches go back centuries with mentions in the Bible. I think everyone knows from Exodus, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” In a harking back to the three fates of Greek mythology, Shakespeare used witches in Macbeth as prophets and sinister figures.

Salem had their own real-life run in with “witches” being burned at the stake in Puritan times. For all of history, witches have been women to cast blame upon for unexplained things like the failure of crops, or men who couldn’t stay faithful. Not to get too much into gender discrimination, but the word wizard just doesn’t have the same negative connotation behind it. It was easier to pin problems on the old woman, living alone, without family, than to seek a real explanation in a world without modern science.

But that’s not so much the case anymore in fiction, though the theme of witches shows no sign of slowing down. Sure there are still evil witches in testosterone-filled movies such as the very recent The Last Witch Hunter. But there’s so much variety to witches nowadays. You have the sinister, along with the benign, the romantic, the sexy, and even witches who are neither good nor bad, but somewhere in between.

JK Rowling and Hermoine did a lot to reinvent the idea of witches, giving us a heroic witch. They could be smart, fun, and brave. Hermoine does her fair share of saving other people and is no typical damsel in distress.

I was always partial to Terry Brooks’ Ilse Witch, where a bad witch with powerful magic turns good. One of my favorite witch movies is Hocus Pocus for some family Halloween fun. We even have the comical witch as in Sabrina: The Teenage Witch and Broomhilda from Bugs Bunny.

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For most of my life, the image from the picture above was my idea of witches. They were ugly, wore pointy hats, rode brooms and did hexes and curses. We all know they keep black cats as part of their familiar bargain with the devil, and warts are how Satan marked them to distinguish them from righteous people. They carry wands and brew stinky potions in their cauldrons.

That’s why when I wrote Grudging and made witches the needed allies for a city under siege from an overwhelming army, I wanted the witches to be different. Oh, the witches in my story live apart in a swamp, but that’s the only typical witch characteristic. My character, Claire, has a cauldron, but she only uses it to brew soap. Instead of black cats, they rear goats. She doesn’t cast hexes or curses. She can’t wither any crops, though she may make the reader fall in love with her.

In Grudging, the people of the city call them witches, those living nearer to the swamps call them more accurately sirena. And Claire calls herself a Woman of the Song. They have voice magic that lets them bewitch and bewilder any man—rumor is unclear whether it works on other women—foolish enough to attack them. All Claire wants is for her mother to relent and let her practice her Song on someone/thing who can hear her.

She’ll get her chance when the city men appear on the scene, bringing their prejudices of witches as a cross between cannibals and temptresses. Can two traditional enemies become friends or just more casualties?

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Grudging

A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power.  And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.

Release Date: November 17, 2015; Harper Voyager Impulse

Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

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A little about Michelle:

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. She is a co-host of the yearly query contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, New Agent, PitchSlam, and Sun versus Snow. Her Birth of Saints Series from Harper Voyager starts with GRUDGING on November 17, 2015. Her epic fantasy, KINDAR’S CURE, was published by Divertir Publishing.

Twitter: @Michelle4Laughs

Blog: Michelle4Laughs: It’s in the Details

Facebook: Michelle Hauck, Author

Tumblr: Michelle4Laughs

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Thanks again Michelle for writing this guest post.

Whilst we’re thinking about witches – one of my favourites is Tiffany Aching created by Terry Pratchett – which witch is your favourite??