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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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history

Who Do You Think You Are

Page 4, in which the falconer tells the falcon a bit about his parents, his roots, and his destiny.  He is old money, like the royals – a lot of responsibility is going to be coming his way soon.

Toto Tales: What we’re doing and why it’s different

In another of my Edinburgh Festival guest posts, Mara from Toto Tales explains why they got involved with the fringe and why adults and children alike will be drawn to their colourful brand of theatre.

Performing in the Fringe is an experience not be missed.  The panic stations, the chaos, the utter joy, the thrill of audiences coming to see your work, and of course the anticipation of reviews…

This year Toto Tales is collaborating for the first time with iTheatre, a Singapore based childrens theatre company.  It’s an exciting time for us all, as there is so much newness to this experience.

Our show Under the Baobab Tree (‘A Must See’ in The Stage yesterday, WOOHOOO!!) is an exciting blend of puppetry, ridiculously interactive storytelling and plenty of music and dancing to keep anyone happy.

Continue reading “Toto Tales: What we’re doing and why it’s different”

Inky Fingers Minifest (Thar be Monsters)

I have received the following missive on the subject of the very first performance at the Inky Fingers Mini Festival.  It sounds entertaining, and I for one will be heading along to find out more.

HELLO.

On Monday the 8th of August at half past of the twelve, in the downstairs boudoir of The Forest Cafe, in Edinburgh, comma, myself and Mr James Anderson (Apprentice Tailor) shall be performing unto you a historical presentation regarding – I just saw a chicken, go me – a historical presentation regarding an unexplored nugget in the Edinburghian Fish’n’Chip Emporium that is Time.

‘The Life and Times of an Edinburgh Monster’ is a title that, in hindsight, gives away quite a lot.

Continue reading “Inky Fingers Minifest (Thar be Monsters)”

Which One Will You Choose..?

It’s the third day of questions courtesy of Elaine from the Dreams and Whispers Blog, and she asks something I’ve never really thought about before… to choose which of my children I love the most!

Today’s question is about the characters in your books. For me as a reader, I find that interesting characters can really make a book brilliant. With you being on your fifth book now, you must have invented and thought about a fair few people, so which of them stand out the most – which two have been your favourite and least favourite so far?

I agree with you that characterisation can make or break a book.  Good characters stay with you and you want to find out more about them – this is presumably why so many authors write in series.  Whereas bad ones can make it difficult to carry on reading (although I’m pretty tenacious – it’s rare that I don’t drag my way kicking and screaming to the end of a book).

So far my favourite character is probably Caligula, if I can legitimately claim him as a character!  I enjoyed trying to get into his mind and second guessing why he did the crazy things that he was meant to have done – that’s the revisionist historian in me trying to come out, I think.  The sources on Caligula are fantastically biased but it makes for interesting reading.

I have a lot of affection for Victor McGlynn as well – he was the main character in the Western and I gave him quite a rough time of it with a pretty sad back story and a not amazing here and now, but he coped with dignity!  I am also really looking forward to writing the main characters in my kids’ book in July, because I’ve been developing them in my head for about two years.

There aren’t any characters I haven’t enjoyed writing at all, but I suppose my least favourite is Jennifer, the protagonist of the last book.  This is partly because I swithered an awful lot over how to write her – this has been the most difficult book so far.

I was trying to write her as a stroppy teenager but I think I may have gone a bit overboard with her lack of empathy and self involvement, so I’ll have to sort that out when I go back to edit it!  Think I should make her a bit more likeable!  Although having said that, Stephanie Meyer didn’t bother making Bella likeable and she did alright.  Maybe I’ll just leave it….

The Social Network

Yesterday I dedicated a not inconsiderable amount of time to attempting to get the 12 Books in 12 Months Facebook page more ‘likes’ – 100 by 10pm, as a matter of fact.  I failed.

However, some nice people did help out, and I think you should check out their work to help me say thanks.

Props to my lovely retweeters:

– Kirsty Wilkinson is an Edinburgh-based genealogist.  She runs her own business called My Ain Folk, and if you are looking to find out about your family tree, she can almost certainly help.  Her blog, The Professional Descendant, covers all kinds of information about genealogy and family history, and of course you can also follow her on twitter.

– Emma Livingstone is studying for an MA in publishing at the University of the Arts in London.  She blogs about publishing, arts, music and culture here, and you can also follow her on twitter.  And if you’re good, maybe one day she’ll help you get your book published…

– Sam Kurd is a writer and philosopher who reviews sci-fi and fantasy games, books and telly for places like Den of Geek, Sci-Fi Heaven and  Cirque Des Geeks.  He has also recently started work on a film script.  Follow him on the twitter too.

And thanks to the people who helped me get from 85 to a more respectable 97 – Rab, Ian, Rachel, Juliet (aka The Crafty Green Poet), Bob, Alastair (overlord of STV Local North Edinburgh and Greener Leith), Emily (Jewellery Designer), Caro, Ellen (St Andrews Uni DoSDA contender 2011/12) and Cougar.  If any of you want any links publicizing, let me know!

I appreciate that Facebook is deeply annoying in a lot of respects, but social networking feels like a pretty crucial part of getting this project into the public domain and that makes it a necessary evil.  So please keep liking the 12 Books page and spreading the word through the power of stalkerfeed!  Books 4-12 will thank you!

Revisionism and Excerpts

As I suspected a few posts back, Roman historians like Suetonius were pretty biased against Caligula, and had a tendency to write down the most outrageous rumours without assessing their validity in any way.  So whilst what I have written so far is stuff a bit like:

Had to have a consul executed today.  He forgot to announce my birthday in the public records.  Seriously.  A child of five could have remembered to do that.

Now I’m wondering whether he was actually as bad as all that.  The gaps in historical evidence make it hard to judge, but it seems pretty clear that it was in the interests of all the sources that survive from the time (Suetonius, Dio, Claudius, Seneca) to make Caligula out to be an evil nutjob.  So, the question is really whether to go with them and write him in a sort of cartoony, madder than a box of snakes type of way, or to take on board the revisionist work available and write him with a bit of empathy. 

My answer to this is to try both.

Perhaps I should use Incitatus [the horse he was meant to have made a consul, according to Suetonius] to upset senate a bit more.  That’s always fun – I still get a kick out of the time I made them run alongside my litter for ten miles in the blazing sun.  Served them right – all that time feasting and sitting indoors and conspiring to kill me makes them pasty and unfit.  They should try going to battle, see what that does for them.

I think I will commission a legion of men to carve Incitatus a stable of marble.  And he will have a collar blazing with precious jewels, and a manger of ivory.  I’ll have the grooms mix flakes of gold into his food, too.  He will live in as lavish and decadent a manner as the gods themselves.  Senate will be furious!  But frankly that horse is twice as clever as all of them put together.  Self important, plotting dunderheads that they are.  They’ll soon learn that they can’t have any effect on me.

Caligula’s Adiatrepsia

As January’s book is Caligula’s Blog, today I have mostly been reading a book about Caligula by a Roman historian called Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.  It’s essentially a massive list of the crazy stuff he did, which is very handy from my point of view because each item can be a blog entry (or several).

I haven’t finished it yet, but some of the highlights have included:

– Caligula having a gold statue made of himself.  Every day some lucky slave got to dress it up in clothes identical to whatever the man himself had thrown on that morning.

– Inviting the moon to go to bed with him every time it was full.  Well, I assume he was after the goddess of the moon rather than the lump of rock, although he pretty much seemed to do anything and anyone that stayed still long enough…  I will look into that.

– On meeting handsome men with good hair, he had the backs of their heads shaved to make them look daft.  He wanted to be the sexiest, you see.  Perhaps making other men look bad would detract from the fact he was a terrifying, all-powerful sex pest.

– He apparently described his maternal grandmother as “Ulysses in a dress.”  He didn’t like her very much.

– He referred to signing execution lists as “clearing his accounts.”  As you may have gathered, he was a sensitive soul.

– He liked to get members of Senate to run alongside his litter for several miles at a time.  A bit like having a performing animal, I suppose.

– Lots more things, but I’m not going to list them all.  They’ll be in the blog…

I don’t know much about Suetonius himself yet, so won’t be 100% sure how reliable he is as a source till I’ve done some more research on him.  I do know that the man had some lovely turns of phrase and that several subsequent biographies of the Caesars were based on his works.  Also, he was mates with Pliny The Younger, which is interesting in the sort of way that makes you say, “oh really?” because you’ve vaguely heard of him.

Which is nice.

Publicity

At the present time I am sitting in bed (I live in the coldest flat known to man, as is the wont of recent graduates with no disposable income, dependents or things to burn) and attempting to publicise this here project in the book loving world of the internet.  Creating and adding people on the twitter account led to me surfing through 8 million billion book bloggers, which took a large chunk out of my day but was hopefully worth it from a networking standpoint.  Facebook, on the other hand, has been making me want to throw things.  Hard.  At other, softer, living things.

My problem is one-fold.

WHAT THE BLOODY HELL HAS HAPPENED TO GROUPS?!

Time was, back in 2005, you made a group, invited thirty or forty people you knew in real life to join it, that was you.   Then it got a bit more widespread, and I made and joined a ridiculous number of joke pages just for fun.  Who wouldn’t want to echo the sentiment “Disney Gave Me Unrealistic Expectations About Love”, or admit to being one of those, “People Who Don’t Sleep Enough Because They Stay Up Late For No Reason”, or become an officer of “Tom Baker – The Ultimate Man“.  People joined these groups, made a couple of jokes, added a picture or two, then left or stayed at their leisure.

Even as late as about 24 hours ago groups seemed comparatively straightforward.  You could have separate tabs across the top for sections with ‘information’, ‘wall’, etc.  Now, you’ve just got one page for everything.  It’s a sprawling mass of stuff, with no way of highlighting the salient points – ie what 12 Books in 12 Months is and how people can participate.

To add insult to injury, when you attempt to invite people it adds them automatically without asking their permission.  I’d be annoyed if I was just randomly put in a group without my say-so, and I suspect it means people are less likely to look at it because it’s not something they’ve been asked or invited to do.  This upsets me, as 12 books in 12 months is one of the best terrible ideas I’ve ever had, and I want people to take a minute to look at it.

My question now is, should I make a ‘page’ instead? Then people can just ‘like’ it and be on their merry way… but are there other publicity benefits?

Meanwhile, in the world of Caligula research, I’ve just found a TV show made by the History Channel called ‘Ancients Behaving Badly‘, whose first episode is about the man himself.  And I’ve ordered a second hand copy of I, Claudius by Robert Graves online for a bargainous £2.70 so that I may keep it forever and perhaps even read it.

What a productive day.

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