An Author on Vacation

I just came across something I retweeted a year ago from Novelicious (@noveliciouss), who shares lovely pictures and photos with inspirational messages, often about the writing process. She is well worth the follow. Her quote this time was:

Blog Photo vacation tweet

The reason it struck me now is because I am sort of on vacation. I am visiting my 94-year-young dad in England and I am also about three-quarters through a first draft of a new medieval fantasy novel.

Similar to when at home, I rise early to write, exploit the time my dad snoozes in his chair, and then continue after he goes to sleep at night. I have other plans for my downtime: work out, read three novels I bought for the trip (and one non-fiction), write a few blog posts for my much-neglected blog, prepare to solicit a few agents for the Kingfisher series, and read up on buying a house and related financial topics for which I have books and articles queued.

The only thing on this list that I have done is to work out in the morning before writing. Otherwise (and I guess this blog post as well), I feel compelled to write and write and write. When I go out with my dad, I spend the time thinking of the next chapter (or the last) and wondering if he would notice if I whip out my laptop and disappear.

What @noveliciouss wrote about writers on vacation is so true, but I am not complaining. I fantasize that I would like downtime: to lie by a pool, walk along the beach, or pursue a number of hobbies that I will one day get deep into (when I retire, I think) – fly fishing, archery, birdwatching, yoga ­– but I never do.

I am a writer. I write.

On a recent road trip, I wrote about what happens when I have to get an idea down on paper (or computer) It is so true.  Where is the next rest stop?

Last scene from Kf3 driving from Portland 1

I have three novels from the Kingfisher series ready (and looking for an agent). I promised myself I would write only one and see what traction this new genre held. But the beginning of the second book beckoned. I had this idea. I could feel the characters calling me. And after Book 2 was written, well then the tale simply demanded closure and I had the climax formulating in my mind as I weaved all still-living main characters into one place. So what’s a poor author to do? Finish the series and then look for an agent.

I did exactly that, except I didn’t. While reading to my writers group, someone mentioned an elderly character that she especially loved and, well I blame the character not my fellow writer, because she (the character) gave me this idea and…

So here I am, 90k into a new book, a new but, connected, series, and I am on vacation, and…okay, @noveliciouss, you’re right, as you knew perfectly well, all along.

Good Writing,

Alon Shalev / elfwriter

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all published by Tourmaline Books.

More at http://www.alon-shalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Galbrieth cover.5th.anniversary

Advertisements

Knights of the Golden Arches

Research is important for the authenticity of a novel, right? But with six epic fantasy novels published and having written about half a million words in 3.75 manuscripts of a medieval fantasy series, it was a bit embarrassing to get so blatantly caught out.

While my Kingfisher series (looking for an agent, btw) is based on a fantasy land, it looks, feels and sounds like England. Born into a craftsman family in London (at the north end of the Underground’s Northern Line – does that give me “The North Remembers” bragging rights? – I figure I’m allowed. I can wield the olde language better than a lance, and read out loud to my writers group in the olde tongue (or at least the olde accent).

There I was reading about my characters digging into a feast of lamb stew and potatoes, when someone piped up that potatoes didn’t exist in England or indeed Europe until after the discovery of the new world. I protested. “What about Ireland?” I mumbled . I should have known better, arguing with a historian who writes excellent gold rush novels and has us salivating every time his heroes stop to eat.Lovington_Church_and_Chips_-_geograph.org.uk_-_710665

Now, having written for most of the six-hour flight to Toronto and hearing my connection is delayed, I thought to burn some time doing actual research. So here it is:

The peasants ate cabbage, beans, eggs, oats and brown bread. Occasionally, there was cheese, bacon and chickens. If you lived near water, fish would feature prominently, whether freshwater or sea. The fish could be dried, salted or smoked, which enabled them to be kept for the winter or for trips.

 They might have milk from sheep and goats, but cows were not popular because the milk went off quickly. Herbs, roots, nuts, and edible flowers garnished the plate.

suckling-pig-feast-average-medieval-diet

Actually, not the plate. They didn’t use them. Many carried their own bowls and spoons, and often used a loaf of bread with the middle torn out – a trencher. Nor did they use cutlery or artificial sweeteners. Honey was plentiful and used to sweeten and to make medicinal herbal concoctions drinkable.

The wealthy apparently did not eat their greens, having more access to livestock and the bounties of hunting – pheasants and deer, for example. Interestingly, they used spices heavily to create thick, rich sauces. They also refined flour making white bread a delicacy.

download

Ale and beer were available to all, but wine was only for the upper classes, as it was imported from Italy, Spain, and France

There are actually a plethora of websites that give far more detail, including this excellent oneBut the most entertaining by far was this 2-minute video from Mama Natural. Well worth it!

Oh well. Guess I will have to scrap my sequel – Knights of the Golden Arches! – They were going to take over the world through real estate acquisition, cut down the ancient forests for grazing, pay their serfs  minimum wage, and destroy their enemies by encouraging them to become obese and have high cholesterol.

download-1

Admit it, you were hooked!

Good Writing,

Elfwriter!

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls Of Galbrieth (ebook currently at 99c) and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books and available in KU. Sign up for more information about Alon Shalev at his author website.

Galbrieth cover.5th.anniversary