Manifold Press has just let me know that Scent of Lilies will be temporarily unavailable via Amazon and elsewhere today (12th July) and for the next few days. Watch this space to find out when it will reappear!
One of the pleasures of being published by Manifold Press is meeting the team and other authors – and being introduced to exciting new LGBT+ titles to read. One of those authors, Elin Gregory, has been kind enough to invite me to do a Q & A about Scent of Lilies (among other things) on her blog:
I’m really looking forward to talking about anime and manga on two panels at Ytterbium (Eastercon 2019) this weekend! The panel topics are really intriguing and I can’t wait to hear what titles other panellists are going to suggest and discuss:
Fantasy and Folklore in Anime (Friday April 19th) 04:30 PM to 05:30 PM (1 hour)
Anime creators mine Japanese culture for source material, re-imagining the myths and legends for entertainment.
‘Takahashi Rumiko’s Inuyasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale ran as both manga and anime, focusing on the title character Inuyasha, a half dog demon, and Kagome the reincarnation of shrine maiden, Kikyo. Together they search for the fragments of the shattered Shikon Jewel, attempting to destroying it for good. Animal characters from folklore are regular features of anime: In the series Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto uses the kitsune (fox spirit) and a jinchuriki, a human that has had a tailed beast sealed inside them. Yu Yu Hakusho created by Yoshihiro Togashi, was inspired by Buddhist mythology, the character Death from Soul Eater by Atsushi Okubo uses the shinigami. Shinigami are the death gods in Japanese mythology. They are described as being demons, fallen angels or even death itself. In Buddhism, a shinigami is a demon that possessed humans, causing humans to want to commit suicide.
‘It is all too easy for western audiences to miss the resonances of these tales and the deep story (shared bible) that a local audience would bring to their readings. There is also the problem that learning the stories is not the same as understanding the structures and literary aesthetics that this use of folklore brings to the genre.’
Beyond Studio Ghibli (Sunday April 21st) 10:15 AM to 11:15 AM (1 hour)
“Recommended If You Like…” style panel, providing recommendations to help you explore anime beyond Studio Ghibli. Our panel will also discuss different types of anime and how to find things to watch.
Gabriel wants to be an artist. His father wants grandsons. His teacher wants refuge. And the ghost of a young woman who drowned for love of one of his ancestors wants revenge. When events spiral out of control, Gabriel heads to Constantinople but his past is not far behind.
Damian isn’t sure what he wants. He doesn’t want his father’s business, whatever his stepbrother thinks. He doesn’t want his betrothed even though she may still want him. But he does want beauty, and he may find that in the yet to be consecrated church of Saint Thekla, a personal project of the Emperor’s. But is it in the painting he will find beauty, or the painter?
But why did I decide to set this story in Byzantium in the eleventh century? Read more in this short article.
And now – the cover reveal and more details! I’m so excited that Manifold Press will be releasing this novel which is set in 11th century Byzantium in the ember years of the empire. Scent of Lilies was partly inspired by my love of East European folk music, the writings of Anna Komnena, and seeing the wonderful Byzantine frescoes in the Chapelle des Moines in Berzé-la-Ville, Burgundy.
It’s unusual for me to be able to research a fantasy novel in the city where I live. Bath is famously the place where some of Jane Austen’s novels were set, and appears in many other novels, literary and genre.
In Winterbloom, the fourth book in my Shaman series, due to be published by Kristell Ink on 28th February, people from the Shaman-world, Mir, visit Earth – and Bath, specifically. Without giving too much away, we learn that Earth and Mir are two of three worlds that together form the Triquetra. Mir has the most magic and Earth has the least.
What links these worlds is the Greenwood, a cosmic forest that exists outside of time and space. I had become intrigued by the idea that contemporary Britain retained the names of forests that no longer exist. When I read about the remnants of primeval forest at Bialowieza in Eastern Poland, the idea took shape. (I was also influenced by Swamp Thing, the DC Comic book series, since the eponymous character has the power to enter any place where there is plant material.)
The Greenwood brings my characters to Bath in the year 1920. And there’s a nod to the myth of Persephone, whose exile in the underworld for six months was believed to cause the onset of winter. The Goddess of Spring (or her avatar) has been carried off to wintry Bath and imprisoned in one of the houses in the Circus.
When I research my novels, it’s rare that I get to visit the cities or countries where they are set. Though some sites in the Shaman world have real world equivalents, it isn’t easy to travel there to check the precise details.
With Winterbloom, I found myself researching somewhere I knew, and finding it less simple than expected. A number of famous and less well-known Bath locations appear in the book, from the Botanical Gardens to the Circus itself, and even an underground tunnel in the cellars near the Roman Baths!
Bath has changed enormously since 1920, so I had to rely on old photographs from web-sites like Bath in Time; but I was able to visit some of the locations in the book. It is difficult to access many houses in the Circus, since most of them are private residences. But the house I chose, Number 13, happened to be a dentist’s surgery, so I was able to get permission to see inside and check what I had written. I had got things wrong!
Number 13, The Circus
As well as studying maps, I also found myself reading about the building of Bath and the symbols that appear on houses in the Circus. John Wood the Elder, who designed the Circus, was an early fan of the Druids, like William Stukeley, and he not only surveyed Stonehenge but included references to it in his architecture. The parapets at the Circus are crowned with acorns (the Druids were priests of the oak), the Metopes on the frieze at ground level are symbolic, and the dimensions of the Circus itself are supposed to echo those of Stonehenge.
John Wood seems to have been an intriguing character, and the historic theories about the use of Stonehenge, from John Aubrey onwards, are interesting in themselves, and not just to antiquarians.
The other thing I found was that trying to digest all this research and fit it into an imaginary context was not easy. I did much more research than I used, and I hope there aren’t too many digressions and info dumps!
Frieze showing Metopes
The other feature of the story was my use of historical and local figures. John Wood appears, together with the ghost of William Beckford. Visiting Beckford’s Tower on Lansdown and learning about its history was fascinating; I went on a guided tour led by the curator of the Building of Bath Museum, Amy Frost, who was knowledgeable and extremely helpful. The only thing that I couldn’t do was climb up to the “Belvidere” at the top of the tower, but I took many photos from outside.
Winterbloom is ultimately a fantasy novel, and the visitors from Mir only in Bath stay briefly. They don’t mix much with the inhabitants, and a handful of local people become involved in the story, including a young policeman and a schoolgirl. Though Bath in the story is not a magical place, but it does play host to magical characters, who cause consternation when they are noticed.
The old rubric says “write what you know” which can be difficult for a fantasy writer. But having to research a real place, and one you know well, creates real challenges; you learn that you knew less about the place than you realised, and also that somewhere like Bath, which is a popular tourist destination, still retains hidden corners for a writer to explore.
Jessica Rydill writes fantasy and collects Asian Ball Jointed Dolls, or BJD. Many are based on characters from her books. In her spare time she haunts National Trust properties and visits English parish churches in search of Green Men, Shelagh na Gigs and Misericords, and any traces of mediaeval art or sculpture.
Jessica’s novels inhabit a parallel world known as Mir, where shamans have considerable powers, and magic is a part of everyday life. Steam trains and Norman knights live in the same country, and Goddesses appear in person.
Kristell Ink Publishing, part of BFS Award-winning Grimbold Books, have reissued Jessica’s first two books, Children of the Shaman and The Glass Mountain. Malarat is in preparation and the fourth, never-before-published Winterbloom debuts on February 28th. All four books have cover art by artist Daniele Serra.
If you’ve enjoyed Jessica Rydill’s fantasy novels in the Shamansworld series, then look out for her return visit to the Guest Blog on 25th February when she tells us more about her new novel Winterbloom (launching on 28th February)!
Did you miss Jan Edwards’s fascinating post on the Guest Blog in which she discusses the pains – and pleasures – of research when writing fiction? Catch it here – and learn more about Jan’s latest Bunch Courtney Investigation novel which will be published in April!
In Her Defence : Bunch Courtney Investigation #2 takes place in the depths of the Sussex countryside during May of 1940. Rose ‘Bunch’ Courtney is once again a thorn in the side of Detective Chief Inspector William Wright in his duties with the Sussex Constabulary as they investigate a series of apparently random deaths.
Many writers will say that they know their main characters as well as any real person and I do have a huge affection for Rose ‘Bunch’ Courtney and Detective Chief Inspector William Wright. Knowing them as well as I do, one of the hardest things has been knowing how much of their background to retell in books one and two. You want new readers to be aware of how Bunch came to be involved in solving crimes but I am always aware of the risk of boring those who are already acquainted with her.
I will own up to being a bit of a research nerd, so tracking down background facts that may seem obvious at first glance is more pleasure than chore. I know that I spend far more time on it than I should and only ever use a tiny fraction of the facts that I dig up. Often half a sentence of background detail has taken me three hours to dig up and verify. The things that need to be checked can be quite basic but you just know people will pick up on if you get it wrong.
Take the humble cup of tea, for example, the staple of British life. I went to check that, in the time span between Winter Downs and In Her Defence, tea had indeed gone on ration at 2 ounces per head per week. In the process of that fact checking, I came across a snippet of tea-related fact that I had never heard of before. In 1942, with Britain under siege from the German war machine and Japan invading large sections of Asia, our government made the decision to buy up every available pound of tea from every country in the world (except for Japan, obviously). One estimate shows government purchases in 1942, in order of weight, to be bullets, tea, artillery shells, bombs and explosives. Now Bunch is currently still set in 1940 so it will be a while before she reaches ’42, but it’s a fabulous snippet to squirrel away for future use.
Research has also made me shelve a particular story line that involved ‘trekkers’. In 1940s Britain they were not fans of the TV show but the hordes of people who left major cities every evening to seek the relative safety of the countryside. A few slept in B&Bs, some went to friends or relations, but many more slept in cars and barns and woodlands, anywhere that they saw as safer than city shelters. And every morning they returned to put in their usual day’s work. The trekkers did not exist in huge numbers until the height of the bombings and as that did not occur with any ferocity until later in 1940, it was wrong for either book one or two. I had written some 30,000 words of the novel before I realised the timing was all wrong for other logistical reasons. It may be an idea I can resurrect for a future book, but for now it remains one of those Routemaster moments that will sit in the research pile, along with a dozen more that will need some rethinking. They may see light of day in a future Bunch Courtney investigation or they may simply remain an interesting fact.
Writing the “Bunch Courtney Investigations” has changed the way that I write. I have always been a seat-of-the-pants writer. I had an idea and ran with it. But writing golden age crime has made that far harder. Yes, there is the research to consider, but being ‘investigations’ has meant that there needs to be a trail for the reader to follow and to lay that trail I have had to (horror of horrors) be more organised in how I go about it. There is a need for keeping meticulous records of bit players and places that wander in and out, such as the local chemist, or the name of the village pub. There is also a need to be logical in how I plot the story line. There need to be clues and markers left along the way that allow a reader the chance to get to the conclusion at the same time that I do.
It has been a fun series to write and I am really hoping to be able to stay with Bunch right up until D-Day and maybe even beyond that if the readers call for it.
The series began with Winter Downs and continues with the release of In Her Defence on 4th April 2019. Book 3: All the Things You Were should be following later in the year.
Winter Downs is available from all of the usual sources (Amazon, Kindle, iTunes, Kobo etc). In Her Defence is available for pre-order here and will be available in all of the usual digital platforms, and paperback at all of the usual retailers outlets from 4th April 2019.
“Bunch Courtney’s hopes for a quiet market-day lunch with her sister are shattered when a Dutch refugee dies a horribly painful death before their eyes. A few days later Bunch receives a letter from her old friend Cecile saying that her father, Professor Benoir, has been murdered in an eerily similar fashion.
Two deaths by poisoning in a single week. Is this a coincidence? Bunch does not believe that any more than Chief Inspector William Wright.
Set against a backdrop of escalating war and the massed internments of 1940, the pair are drawn together in a race to prevent the murderer from striking again.”
ISBN : 978 0993000898 Penkhull Press
Paperback £9.99 ebook £2.95
Praise for Winter Downs: Bunch Courtney Investigation #1
“This winning book felt Hardy-esque in places, with a strong sense of well-researched history.”
Lisa Blower; Author and Arnold Bennett Book Prize judge
“A satisfying mystery, puzzling and unpredictable with – like the times – an edgy sense of urgency and danger.” John Bainbridge; The Gaslight Crime Page
“Brilliantly written characters and beautifully descriptive language.” Kerry Parsons; Chat About Books
Other books by Jan Edwards: Winter Downs: Bunch Courtney Investigation #1; Sussex Tales; Fables & Fabrications; Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties; Olive Hawthorne: Daemons of Devils End (book and script team for Dr Who DVD)
Jan was born in Sussex, currently living in North Staffordshire. In addition to being a writer she is also a Reiki Master Teacher and Meditational Healer. Jan is available for interviews and appearances.
If you’re a fan of Bunch Courtney, the resourceful protagonist of Jan Edwards’s award-winning Winter Downs: A Bunch Courtney Investigation, then you’ll be looking forward (as I am) to the release of the second novel in the series: In Her Defence which will be published by the Penkhull Press on April 4th 2019.
Please join us on Monday February 18th as I welcome Jan back to the Guest Blog to tell us more about the second novel in the series!