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Two guest appearances…

I should have shared these a while ago but for some reason my laptop didn’t like the way I was trying to load them. Huge thanks are due to Jackie for spreading the word about my books!

First, she interviewed me re my Skilled Investigators series.
https://www.jackiekeswick.co.uk/author-chat-jay-mountney/

Then she invited me to return to talk about my fae saga Living Fae.
https://www.jackiekeswick.co.uk/growing-up-fae-jay-mountney/

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Female characters

There was a meme going round that asked for your favourite female characters in books and films and perhaps in your own work. I thought I’d expand that to talk about female characters in general.

I always loved the Shakespeare female characters who stepped out of the ‘normal’ roles for their time, either by their work (Portia as a lawyer) or by cross-dressing (Viola in Twelfth Night). I was less invested in the ones like Miranda in The Tempest who seemed to conform to all the stereotypes of daughter, girlfriend, etc. As a child, I wallowed in Tales from Shakespeare and was taken to the theatre well before I could really get to grips with the scripts of the plays. I think Viola, in particular, had quite a strong effect on me.

I was presented, at the same time, with the opportunity to read my way through all the Anne of Avonlea books by LM Montgomery, and loved Anne, with her fiery temper and ambitions. I never really put myself in her place; my best friend was a redhead and I think I envisaged Anne as her, with myself in some kind of supporting role. Again, a strong influence. The same people who lent me the Anne books introduced me to Little Women but that was never one of my favourites.

Later, at boarding school, the Brontë sisters were rather shoved down our throats, since Charlotte attended the same school. I disliked Jane Eyre, and thought the heroine allowed herself to be manipulated by events and by other people. I did not find a man who kept his mad wife in the attic a particularly romantic proposition, either. As for the characters in Wuthering Heights, I simply found them tiresome.

I really love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and my favourite characters are Granny Weatherwax and the werewolf Angua. Both seem to epitomise independent women with sensible attitudes to almost everything. The Discworld novels are ‘comfort’ reading for me (along with other series that don’t have especially memorable female protagonists). I also love Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances and like best the ones where the heroine is compelled to use cross-dressing to survive. This harks back to my feelings for Viola, I suppose, and is odd, because I have never felt even vaguely inclined to masquerade as the opposite gender in my real life.

I have always enjoyed cop buddy TV series and particularly liked the female detectives in NYPD Blue and in Cagney and Lacey. Recently, I enjoyed Kono’s role in Hawaii 5.O. My favourite shows at the moment are Spiral (French cop show Engrenages) with the lead detective Laure, and The Bridge, with the Swedish detective Saga, who appeals to me on another level because of my interest in autism.

I adored The West Wing and liked CJ, Alison Janney’s role, best of all the characters. I was also fascinated by Donna.

My own female characters are a mixed bunch.

The heroine of my elf detective series, Genef, is quite dear to my heart. She sprang to life when I wanted a story that combined some of my favourite themes and tropes: fantasy, crime, strong female lead, mm romance, and dragons (which are a sub-genre of fantasy, yes). Genef’s mother and sister play little part in the stories but the twins Jinna and Janna, with their own secret language, and Loriela, a young girl, confined to a wheelchair, who is Genef’s brother’s pupil, are all prominent in some sections, as is Princess Briana, a friend to Genef and a licensed pirate.

My fae saga, Living Fae, has two males as the major characters but Harlequin’s sister Moth was actually the trigger for the whole series. She came into being in answer to a child’s letters to the fairies at the bottom of the garden, letters I was asked to answer. Moth generated an entire series about her family (as well as giving her name to my friends-locked social media) and whilst she is not one of the main ‘players’ I feel a great deal of affection for her. Her sisters, Columbine and Peasblossom, have larger roles and are both, I hope, interesting characters. The same goes for their mother, Flame; although I dislike her intensely, I love writing her.

There. That’s over twenty female characters introduced as having affected me in one way or another. Obviously there are others, in the books and shows mentioned above and in my own writing. None of my own are, I hope, any kind of Mary Sue. I have never wanted to be a detective. (If anything, I identify with Fel, Genef’s teacher brother.) Nor are any of them without flaws. Even Genef doesn’t find a solution to everything and has to rely on her brother, her mentor and her dragon in most cases.

I do enjoy reading, viewing and writing strong female characters, and it is interesting to look back at those that have perhaps influenced me over the course of my life.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2018 in personal, writing

 

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Portugal: the October fires and an update on my life.

I thought it was probably time I updated readers here and on Facebook about the October fires in Portugal and our personal disaster.
Anyone who follows me on Dreamwidth or LiveJournal need not read the LiveJournal material – skip to the text below the link.
Rather than writing everything all over again I’m giving a link to my posts on LiveJournal. I left those unlocked so that people who don’t use social media could visit them. I locked the similar ones on DW because that’s where I chat with most of my close online friends and I didn’t want them to feel suddenly in the ‘public’ eye. There are three long posts, all uploaded on the same date.

https://moth2fic.livejournal.com/2017/11/17/

Since then, we’ve had the full insurance pay-out plus some compensation for the fruit trees, though that’s on hold until they see which (if any) have survived, in the spring. We are still bringing things home, or at least my husband is. There’s a limit to how much weight he can get in the van on each trip. He is taking stuff out for people there and acting as a one way courier is helping to pay for the travel, which, of course, insurance doesn’t cover!
I don’t go with him because he stays in an apartment which belongs to a friend who is in America. The apartment has bottled gas and running water but no light, and no adequate heating. Certainly no hot water unless he boils a kettle. However, for him, it’s a cheap and convenient option.

It’s been five months now, and I have been in a state of shock, and was unable, at first, to write. All thoughts led back to the disaster, which skewed everything and made normal writing impossible. It also impacted on my social interactions with people both online and offline. I was unable to stop talking about it and felt I should retreat rather than impose my emotions on others. Recently, things have improved and I have been able to start writing again. I have fewer nightmares and my sleep patterns are settling. Someone pointed out that because everything is still in a state of flux I have no real closure, so the disaster has remained and remains very current for me.

Our UK house is in chaos with boxes everywhere – our own, and deliveries for my husband’s next trip. We had, of course, replaced our furniture and now have to decide what to keep, what to move around, and what to dispose of. The boxes, as well as containing books and china, tend to have a liberal sprinkling of rat dirt, wasps nests and ash. Not pleasant! And most of the time I’m on my own. Not easy!

Needless to say, it’s more difficult than that for many of our friends in Portugal (a mixture of Portuguese, English, Dutch and Belgian). Internet and phone contact is still erratic and I can only guarantee contacting my husband on the days he goes into town to see the council or the estate agent. Some of our friends are rebuilding. Some are looking elsewhere. Some are trying to keep their businesses going while the area gets back on its feet. So I’m living through all that vicariously as well as through our own problems.

There are ‘trivial’ problems, too. We have had to employ someone to remove trees that are still standing from our land, though we are not allowed to remove olives. The electricity was, of course, cut off, and we are not being charged, but the electricity board refuses to believe that there are still live wires which are in fact making part of the ruin live. We need electricity, to filter the pool which was undamaged but filled with ash. We are thinking of solar panels. The banks – in Portugal and UK – are making a fuss about moving our insurance money from one country to another and we have to prove we are not money laundering. With no phone service everything needs a trip into town. The road to town and the longer road to the border were badly damaged and repaired too quickly so are now miles and miles of potholes.

I have just read a novel set in Portugal (and have reviewed it here, separately from my monthly reviews) that made me feel a lot of emotion connected with the countryside there. But as well as triggering some distress it made me acknowledge that it is still a lovely country and its people are worthy of admiration, not least for the way they have coped with the tragedy of last October.

The photograph at the head of this is the view from what was our house. Now, we have a view and a ruin for sale.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2018 in personal, travel

 

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Films in my head

I was recently doing one of those memes for my personal (friends-locked) blog – one of those lists of questions that attempts to explore aspects of your life that you weren’t keeping secret but had never thought to share with anyone.

In the course of it, I mentioned that my fictional characters arrive in my head and talk to me.

It would appear, from the reactions of my friends list (a lot of whom are writers) that there are two kinds of people. One sort give a relieved sigh and say something like ‘yes, me too’ or ‘thank goodness it’s not just me’ and the other sort are fascinated but bewildered.

I thought I’d go into more detail here to see what other have to say.
Whenever I write, my characters spring fully formed into my head, just as if they were people I’d met and talked to. But like those people, it takes time to get to know them and I have to question them to get details. I also ‘overhear’ them talking to each other and sometimes they are quite critical of the way their story is progressing. I usually let them take over. Obviously there are limits. If I’m writing a detective story I have to start with some idea of what the crime was, how it was committed and how the investigation proceeded. I don’t always know who the villain was.

The voices and images in my head are quite clear. I know, if I think about it, that they have to be aspects of my subconscious, but at the moment of hearing and seeing them, they seem quite real, like actual friends. I am never tempted to blur fiction and reality and know perfectly well that they are ‘just’ characters, but they are often loud, and very assertive. They tell me all kinds of things that don’t necessarily pertain to the current story, and often have strong political opinions. I remember reading advice from Diana Wynne Jones that a writer should interrogate their characters to find out all kinds of things about them, such as their favourite socks, to build up a mental picture that would make the character in the story more three dimensional. Well, there are all kinds of things I can and do ask them, but as for the socks, I just need to look.

I can see them in motion, too, and when they tell me how a specific scene plays out, I can watch it like a film rolling in my mind’s eye. I also retain detailed images of all kinds of places I have visited and can play with these mentally to provide settings for my stories.

I was very surprised as I grew up to learn that not everyone has that kind of visual imagination and that some people, including very imaginative creators in all spheres, think largely in words, not pictures.

I think I would get quite distressed if my internal films disappeared. This is, incidentally, also the way I think about everything, from a planned shopping trip or meal to a conversation I need to have with e.g. family or friends or, at one time, lesson plans for teaching.

All this results in something I have mentioned previously. My stories are planned in my head, and the ‘notes’ are in my head ready to be referred to so any writing is a kind of copy-typing though of course I edit too. For example, I won’t let my characters use too much repetition, or tell each other things they should already know. I also encourage my betas to tell me when things that are obvious to my characters (and to me) need clarification for my readers.
When I have finished a book, the characters take a back seat, but they don’t disappear (apart, of course, for the ones like the murder victims). They allow the characters for the next work I am embarking on to take centre stage. Usually. There are one or two who feel they should comment on everything I do which is interesting but can be distracting.

Getting to know my characters is part of the pleasure of writing. It can feel as though I have a lot of friends. Well, I do have a lot of friends, but most of them have their own schedules and can’t always be contacted at times of my choosing. My fictional friends can.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2018 in personal, writing

 

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Something to remember

I should have posted this yesterday but real life has been overwhelming this last week. It’s a ficlet I wrote a couple of years ago for a picture prompt but I’ve chosen to go with a view of artificial poppies rather than the original.

Something to remember.

Hamish had worshipped Donald since they were bairns at the local school together. He had never said anything, of course. His friends found it hard enough to express their feelings for lasses. There was no way of articulating his desire for another boy. He had talked to Jock when Jock had started courting Mary, but had got nowhere in his search for words and phrases.

 

Och,” Jock said, “she’s canny enough and she kens I’m not averse. But I wouldnae tell her so out loud. Doesnae do to turn their heads, ye see?” Hamish saw. He’d have loved to have turned Donald’s head, especially in his direction, but there didn’t seem to be a way.

 

They joined the regiment together after Highers. It was that or the fishing boats or university and neither felt cut out for the sea of fish or the sea of knowledge. So they went through basic training and felt proud of their uniform and the history they were taught to see as their own.

 

The wreath-laying ceremony was such an honour. The minister wrote from home to stress how proud the village would be if their boys were to appear on the small screen. Each of them secretly hoped to be the one to carry the wreath of poppies and lay it on the memorial. Hamish could hardly contain his excitement when he was chosen.

 

The wind whipped around their faces and he was glad he’d had the forethought to borrow a hat pin from his gran. He never thought of his kilt, even when he stepped up in front of them all and stood respectfully after he’d laid the wreath. The gust of spiteful air whisked the heavy folds sideways and up. He hoped his face as he turned to walk back to the line was not displaying his embarrassment. He must on no account show anything, give any sign that he knew there had been anything wrong. He must not give a signal that would allow the crowds to laugh or give the journalists a chance to bay at his heels. He knew his sergeant wouldn’t blame him for the display, but he might well blame him if he wasn’t dignified about it.

 

And yet, he thought, as they stood singing about Christian soldiers or those in peril on the sea or whatever… And yet, it could have been worse. He could have been wearing underpants and that would have been something his fellow soldiers would never have allowed him to live down. Sometimes he put a pair on when the cold got too much for him, but on this day of pride he hadn’t dared. He was glad.

 

Donald approached him later, crossing the training square. No-one had said anything and he’d begun to hope there’d be no comments – and no pictures in the papers. But Donald fell into step beside him and grinned and he knew. Donald was not going to let it pass. He shuddered inwardly. All his dreams and shy admiration and now he was a figure of fun to his idol. But Donald was speaking.

 

Ye’ve a fine pair o’ cheeks there, Hamish. I always thought ye might have. And I’ve always wanted to know if I was right. The wind was my friend today, wasnae it?”

 

It wasnae mine!”

 

Nonsense – ye’re the pride of the regiment. And I’m proud to call you my friend. I’d be proud to call you more than that, Hamish. If…” He stopped, blushing the red of the threads in his tartan and started to move away, every motion betraying anxiety and speed, a running away from what he’d said. But Hamish grabbed his arm and whirled him round.

 

Ye’ll no get away that easily, Donald,” he said softly, a steel determination underlying the words. “Ye can call me anything ye like, d’ye see?”

 

And Donald did see, and they walked back to the barracks together, knowing the future could be sweet.

   

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in ficlets, writing

 

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Growing Up Fae is published

My new book has gone ‘live’ on Amazon, Smashwords, and the Smashwords distribution service. I am really excited – and for the first time there were absolutely no formatting glitches!!

The narrator of the story, Harlequin, is a bisexual fairy in his early twenties who lives on Alderley Edge in Cheshire, UK. He tells the story of his childhood, his teens, and how he reached the Edge. He goes on to describe in detail his loves (and lusts) and the other people in his life. So to some extent the story turns into a family saga. The sex is explicit when it occurs so although this is a ‘fairy story’ it is not suitable for young readers. Also, the fae are not twee Victorian miniatures. They can, and do, pass as human and interact with the humans they meet.

There are at least two more volumes of material, all in need of organisation and editing. Now that we have this first volume as a kind of template the work should go faster. The further volumes are not exactly sequential.

One volume is Tales from Tara which tells what happens when first one and then another of the Edge fae go to Tara in Ireland, including not only their own experiences but those of the fae they meet there.

Another is Life on the Edge which follows Growing Up Fae but does not include the Irish stories.

There are numerous characters, locations, and magical elements and I have created a glossary to help the reader sort them out. Harlequin doesn’t always explain things exactly when you want him to, so in case of confusion, consult the page Living Fae which you can access at the top of my WordPress site. (jaymountney@wordpress.com). Once the other volumes are organised I will add a timeline.

This is the book I’ve been talking about for ages: the fae saga told in diary form that has been incredibly difficult to format. It has taken, literally, years.

I’ve had enormous amounts of help from friends along the way – people I met in an online writing group, who were generous with their time and advice. I’ve dedicated the book to them.

Meanwhile, I’ve had Harlequin living in my head for a long time. He feels quite real to me, and I hope he will to you, too. If fantasy plus sex is your scene, enjoy!

If anyone leaves a review and links me to it, I can make sure they get a free copy of the next volume. Or, if anyone wants a review copy, let me know, but a year or so ago I gave a freebie to someone who either never reviewed or never told me, so it would have to be someone with a genuine review site I’m familiar with. Reviews don’t have to be brilliant – all publicity is good, and what one reviewer doesn’t like might really appeal to other readers.

Buy Growing Up Fae at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/720139

or

(Beware on Amazon. When I asked the site to find Growing Up Fae by Jay Mountney it found it but asked: Did you mean: “growing up face by day mountney” so clearly Amazon can’t read!!)

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in publishing, writing

 

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New book due out soon

 

I have a new book coming out soon. Growing Up Fae is the first volume of a series, Living Fae, which follows the life and loves (and lusts) of a bisexual male fairy who can pass as human if he hides his wings. He and his extended family live on Alderley Edge in Cheshire, England. It’s a fantasy, a personal journey for the narrator, an m/m romance, and a family saga, told in journal form.

I started the story over ten years ago but it always seemed too complicated to sort it out for publication. Diary style. Cross-genre. Very (very) British. I certainly didn’t want to let unknown editors mangle either the format or the language. Nor, for that matter, did I want to give them the chance to reject it. Since then, I’ve started self publishing and have yielded to persuasion (and help) from friends. The first volume is finished. It’s back from the editor and proof reader, and the cover is done but needs resizing for the different platforms. (Some of my friends here beta read parts of it to death.) All it needs now is the front matter and a sensible table of contents. I wanted to get it out for Easter but life intervened.

I seem to be insanely busy: I am in the middle of volume 4 of my Skilled Investigators series; I have committed myself to a fandom big bang story (co-authored); I am posting chapters of a fandom work in progress on AO3; I have been writing non-fiction including stuff about autism, writing, a new AO3 collection, and about politics (national, international, and social media). And then there’s real life and a part time (unpaid) job. Yes, I know all this is totally my own fault. No complaints! I’m just explaining.

Also, every time I think about Living Fae I remember there are at least two more volumes to whip into shape (written but totally disorganised) so then I very deliberately stop thinking, which is horribly counterproductive. Posting about it might force me to get on with what will be at most a day’s work!

I really am on the very last lap and hope the book will go live later this month. Cross your fingers for me!

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in personal, publishing, writing

 

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