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The Wizardry Of Words

“You don’t need princes to save you.

I don’t have a lot of patience for stories in which women are rescued by men.”

– Neil Gaiman

Many, many years ago (well, at least twenty), my consort presented me with this box of tissues. Why? Well after seeing the movie Romancing the Stone, which opens with the romance author heroine (Kathleen Turner) finishing her latest novel, bursting into tears and finding nothing with which to mop them up, my consort thought it a brilliant way to encourage me to finish my work in progress.

Okay, it took another fifteen years (yes, fifteen!), and sentimental me couldn’t bear to use the tissues—besides, I didn’t burst into tears when I finished writing my first (published) novel, just heaved a deep sigh of relief. So there the box of tissues sit, on one of my bookshelves, and there they’ll stay, despite the box looking a little the worst for wear. Also, someone has drawn an anaemic looking octopus on the top. But however disreputable the box gets, it serves as a gentle reminder to keep on writing stories, and that I have a consort who, as well as capturing geckos and performing other useful tasks, is a source of encouragement through all my writing endeavours.

The Heart Has Its Reasons and Stories of Life, Stories of Love (the latter a collection of short stories in ebook form) have been out in the universe for over four and a half years, and they’ve now been joined by The Wizard’s Conscript. This latest book is not aimed at adults, like its predecessors, but is for Middle Grades, ages ten and up. To differentiate between book categories, the children’s books are written by my alter ego, B.K. Houldsworth. The writing of book 2 in the series, under the overarching banner All the Corners of the World, is well under way. (See my website for special prices for the two earlier books, as well as how to order The Wizard’s Conscript.)

The more I write, the harder it gets. It’s not supposed to, but now that the writing is for ages ten and up, I find there’s a little self censorship required. Like some of you, I have a potty mouth, and I have to now be very careful regarding the words I use. Also, I often use words that are unnecessarily complicated instead of employing simpler English. It’s a bad habit, but I love words. So chronic is my disorder, the lovely editor of The Wizard’s Conscript suggested a glossary be included in it—not just for made up words for objects in the book’s particular world, and also for real medieval materials and weapons—but also definitions for some of the more complicated words I’d used.

Words and their origins are fascinating. I’m addicted to the half hour podcasts of word whiz Susie Dent and name dropper Gyles Brandreth. If you love words, I highly recommend their Something Rhymes with Purple, in which origins and meanings of words are explored. Sounds boring—I promise you it isn’t!

The Wizard’s Conscript takes readers to an imaginary parallel Europe in an imaginary medieval era, with magic, mayhem, and many strange creatures (and humans). It’s for entertainment. There’s no deep meaning, apart from a theme persistent in nearly all my writing—basically that women are doing it for themselves. Caeri, the heroine, is not content to be a typical princess. She wants adventure and she wants the freedom to be different. When that freedom is offered, because there are a few strings attached, she’s at first reluctant, but duty calls, and it’s not long before she’s off on an exciting quest. I sought to turn the usual fairy tale scenario on its head, and have a female character come to the aid of a male (a king, no less!) in great peril.

I hope Caeri’s adventures satisfy not just girls roughly within the 10-14 age group, but boys as well. This style of book might be considered a little old-fashioned by some, but the premise certainly isn’t, that is, females shouldn’t sit around waiting to be rescued (well, apart from where geckos are concerned), but should be involved. This, Caeri certainly is. In the process, she changes others’ opinions on what girls can accomplish, and she matures in character.

Now I’m writing the second in the All the Corners of the World series. As most writers will tell you, writing any book can be in turns satisfying and frustrating, but sequels can be particularly problematic. I have the three main characters in place. If you’ve read The Wizard’s Conscript, I’m sure you can guess who they are (Caeri is offstage practising magic and diplomacy—at least, I like to think she is!) and at the moment the trio are not in a good place. I don’t want to have them suffer too much (they really are gorgeous oddballs), so hopefully their misery won’t be prolonged, but then again the reader’s interest needs to be maintained. Sometimes writers have to walk a fine line. Writing can be hard!

If you want to try your hand at fiction writing, I recommend finding a writers’ association, whether it’s one for your particular genre, or perhaps a local organisation that encompasses all sorts of writing. As a sometime romance author, I’ve found membership of the Romance Writers of Australia invaluable. They offer not just competitions, but annual conferences and, at the local level, connections with critique partners and groups There are also many books and magazines on the subject of writing. One that I recommend, and most writers do for that matter, is Stephen King’s On Writing. Lots of humour and some candid advice. Plus, check your local library. They often offer presentations by authors, plus useful writing classes.

All the best with it.

B.K. Houldsworth


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