The initiative today was to visit my local Waterstones to see whether they’d entertain the idea of helping me publicise my novel. This was Owen’s suggestion and he was right on the money. The “boss” wasn’t in but I was assured that she was very supportive and she’d be delighted to talk to me about selling and promoting a self-published book.
“Look,” said the shop assistant. She pointed to a slender, well dressed woman hovering by a table and a small pile of books. “Why don’t you speak to Rose? She’s promoting her book today and she’s published her own book.”
So I went and spoke to Rose Edmunds who was very helpful and advised me to take a look at the Book Guild and explained how regional Waterstones branches were gradually getting to the point of inviting her along, instead of grudingly allowing her to invite herself. Naturally I couldn’t come away without buying a copy of her book ‘Never Say Sorry’. I look forward to getting my teeth into this when I’ve got through the current stack.
So I’m quite encouraged. I had no idea whether this approach would bear fruit but it looks quite promising after all! Maybe Diana has it right; the bookshops have to find some way (any way) to keep and edge and encourage the footfall.
A Spanish version of the book seems inevitable since the story is set in Mexico. Spanish is the third most spoken language in the world and according to Wikipedia, Spanish has something like 400M native speakers. Hopefully I can persuade Michelle or Angel to translate the first scene for this blog!
On a different tack, here’s an extraordinary fact about the Mexica that I came across while researching the book. According to Frey Diego Duran’s ‘Book of the Gods and Rites and the Ancient Calendar’,
“The bride and the groom’s mantle’s are tied together after consenting to the marriage. They are then led to her house where she must walk around the hearth seven times. The happy couple are then left alone to consumate their marriage and proof of virginity is desirable.” It goes on to talk about the banquets in both her house and his house and then, this is the amazing bit…”A marriage contract is drawn up and possessions are listed in case of divorce. The document was held by the parents.” So the Aztec people had prenuptial agreements long before the so-called civilised world did! Underestimate ancient civilisations if you want to run the risk of looking ill-informed.
I remember a friend telling me long, long ago that we’re just an amalgam of our parents and all the people we’ve ever met. The point was made when we were talking about how popular phrases and mannerisms get picked up and used again and again.
The same must be true of authors and the things they write. I’m not going to try and argue that there are no original ideas because there clearly are. I’m also going to have to be careful to avoid overreaching or giving the impression that I believe my work is in the same league as my own favourite writers. I’m re-reading ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ by Ray Bradbury right now and catch myself laughing aloud at some trick he’s pulled with the English language or shaking my head in disbelief at a sentence he’s built from words that no one else would think could work together. I cannot replicate this, nor have I tried. I will say that many books have influenced me – some more than others – so it occurred to me to put a list down here and explain their influence on me.
‘The Malacia Tapestry’ by Brian Aldiss – There are few books I have read that have transported me away to another time and place so completely. The sights, sounds and smells of a never-never land are brought to life. Perhaps the only book to rival this one is ‘Gormenghast’ by Mervyn Peake. If I can make even a few of my readers believe they’re experiencing Tenochtitlan in the heyday of the Mexica empire, then that alone will give me joy.
‘The Blade Itself’ by Joe Abercrombie – Here, I’m definitely overreaching. Joe’s skill is bringing characters to life in all their smelly, wrinkled unpleasantness and making you love or loathe them with a handful of choice words. The story encompassed by this book and its sequels in the soon-to-be double trilogy is huge, but the real triumph are the protagonists; Glokta, Logan Ninefingers, The Dogman and the rest. I salute you Joe and hope to reach your level one day!
‘The Iliad’ by Homer – Whoa there! Don’t switch off. I’ll readily admit that this book isn’t the easiest to read, but one of the marvels of this timeless classic is the way in which it deals with the battle scenes. Far from glorifying death, ‘The Iliad’ clearly mourns each loss, making the ancestry and family of victim known so magnifying the loss. Death in war is an especially terrible thing and Homer reminds us of its utter finality. “Dark death came up to meet him.” Another extraordinary thing about this book is the treatment of Achilles and his impact on the war. He is a demigod and on the battlefield, he’s the closest thing the Greeks have to a tactical nuclear warhead. It’s a ripping good yarn with awesome characters!
All good fantasy and historical fiction books start with a map or six!
The valley of Mexico showing Lake Texcoco and surroundings c1455 AD
On Sunday the 1st of July, the first scene of the New Fire will appear on this site. Before then, I’ll be posting a map that appears at the start of the book. Jean has already complained that the book needs a streetmap of Tenochtitlan. I don’t think it is necessary and it runs the risk of forcing me into (additional) conflict with one or more scholars of Mesoamerican history. No, I’m content with the mental maps that readers will assemble from the descriptions.
Today marks the start of the PR campaign to raise interest in my novel entitled “New Fire”. It’s a historical fiction set in 1455AD in the reign of Moctezuma I. It’s an extraordinary period in history that is not well covered. The people and the culture are fascinating too, something that has a lot of mystique, partly due to the lack of records from around that time. Thanks to Cortez and his men, all the indigenous archives were destroyed so we have very little reliable information on how the Mexica (as they named themselves) lived.
The novel itself deals with the lives of a couple of young warriors caught up in the political turmoil that takes place over the course of a handful of days around a ceremony referred to as the ‘Binding of the Years’, an event that occurred every 52 years as the Mesoamerican calendar. A New Fire had to be lit in a complex religious ceremony to appease the gods and ensure continuation of the world as they knew it.
I’ll be posting more information here soon and some extracts from the book too. I look forward to hearing from you.