‘Chivalry’ is the first story of his I have read and liked it a lot. Aside from his choice to play with the definition of chivalry, I also liked the setting, that of the aftermath of battle. I don’t think it is covered enough, which is a shame as the ashes of war give rise to some of the most history and alternate history tales I have read.
Just wanted to update you all that I am currently working on putting together a new collection of my short stories. The title will be Through a Distant Mirror Darkly and it will collect all my short fiction set in a Medieval setting. Here’s the blurb and cover:
Not all is as it seems in this collection of dark tales from the Middle Ages.
Mark Lord, the author of By the Sword’s Edge and Hell has its Demons, weaves five Medieval short stories to excite, scare and enthral you. From the vicious struggle of the Hundred Years War, to legends of werewolves and rumours of necromancers and ghosts, to the bitter conflict of a castle under siege, the action and adventure never stop. These five fast-paced short stories will keep you on the edge of your seat and turning every page until you reach the end. In “Stand and Fight” Richard Hope must overcome treachery to defend the castle of Montmal from the French. Jake, an English archer in “Chivalry” must choose between his comrades and the path of honour. In “Bird Talk” a young priest discovers the woman he loves may also be a necromancer. Frederick II, the “Stupor Mundi”, the wonder of the world, is haunted by the ghost of his dead chancellor. And in “Bisclavret” a French noblewoman discovers there is more under the skin of her English husband than she could imagine.
I have instituted a new cover style for my self-published short stories with Bird Talk and Bisclavret being the first examples. The main purposes was to make the author name (sounds horribly egotistical!) more prominent and also of a consistent style. My decision to do this was influenced by Dean Wesley Smith’s post about how self-published authors shoot themselves in the foot by not acting like a proper publisher – one example he gave was by not having a consistent author brand on covers, so this is a change I decided to make.
Hope you like the results!
And for reference here are the old covers – similar style as each other, but to my mind not as effective:
I’m now about half way through Jake and the Knight Who wasn’t there – so the detailed synopsis method seems to be working quite well at the moment. I feel I am pretty much sticking to the story as I envisioned it, with some deviations and deepenings of character and setting of course, but the basic plot is hanging together well. I think by having a detailed plan to refer to, even with a short story, it enables you to make sure you build the character and the setting in the right way, so that the reader believes the resolution of the story. So in my planning of this story, I have made sure to make a note of how Jake should react to certain things, or where he should reflect on something and what he thinks as well, as later on he’s going to act in a certain way that the reader will have to take on trust.
In the past I think I’ve perhaps not let my characters reflect too much – perhaps I have tried to show in actions and dialogue a bit too much and only build character in this way, but this time I’m taking a bit more time to build up the importance of the narrative voice, but still balancing that with action and dialogue to keep the story exciting and to build conflict.
Hopefully will have a first draft done before Christmas!
My short story seems to be going fairly well at the moment. I’m working on it by going through iterations of more and more detailed outlines. Basically I started with a general outline of what the story was about, then went away to think about the characters and setting – giving things names and brief descriptions etc. I then wrote a more detailed outline of what would happen in what order during the story.
Having finished that process, which only took an hour or two I am now going back to fill in details about what POV is used in different sections, where there will be more detailed description of something, or a character’s reflections on something and a brief summary of what those are. I am nearly at the end of that process, which took about another hour and a half. I reckon another hour will finish this detailed outline or synopsis, and then I can actually write the story out properly by fleshing out the the outline, putting meat on the bones.
The great think thing is that I already have a good idea of the mood of the story now having thought through what happens in the story, so I am really just going to be deepening that when I write out the whole story.
So far, fingers crossed, this has been a fairly efficient way to write a short story. The main thing it has prevented is too many tangents and digressions that change the plan and course of the story, and reduce the tightness of theme and narrative you need for a short piece.
Working on my current short story “Jake and the Knight Who Wasn’t There” I came across the issue of how one of my characters would learn about magic. The story is set in alternative version of the 14th century, so I can hardly have a Hogwarts or Unseen University equivalent. I suppose I could make my world much more alternative and include this, but really I want magic to be something that’s fairly secretive and under the radar.
How I Fudged It
In the case of my short-story I decided that the character would know how to perform certain magic because they had been visited by the ghost of a loved one.
From Books or Old Wives Tales?
But in other cases where would the knowledge come from? Well those who dabbled in trying to do magic were often clerics, monks, friars, priests. So this meant they had more access to books. They would probably search for books such as those by Albertus Magnus or those said to be written by Solomon. Alternatively there was what might describe as folk magic, or what would become seen as witchcraft, practised by uneducated men and women. This might have fed into newer books on magic perhaps, although they tend to look to antiquity as their source.
A Medieval Magical Underground?
But how were new methods tried out? Were medieval magicians just basing their practices on books, or did they have other sources. Was there an underground network of communication between different practitioners of the dark arts? I suspect we will never know, but it’s fun to speculate.