For those of you around the world who are still in lockdown, it must be be pretty frustrating. Allow me to provide you with a small window of escape, even if it is only for for a few brief moments.
Last month I released a short story set in a late bronze age / early iron age fantasy world about a wanderer who adopts a boy as his own child. The Wanderer pledges to himself to take care of the child in a harsh and merciless reality. The link to this short story set in the universe of my “Galesinger Series” is:
This month I have been working on a short story about a young woman who rises to a high level of prominence among her people, but not after years of trial, travel and tribulation. ‘The Reaches’ where Alaìnne’s (pronounced Aw-linn) stories take place is based on an iron age Gaelic setting (with more fantasy and supernatural elements to the “Galesinger” universe) and are available from the link below:
Please go ahead and escape from the world as we know it for a short while by clicking on either of the above links and choosing your download in either .epub or .pdf format. Also, comments should be enabled if you would like to share your thoughts on my stories.
Oh wow! I think that I am going to spend all year working on these two novellas! I intend to release them in 2021 as polished, proper and as true to the time period as I can possibly do so, yet without neglecting to put forward compelling – if contrasting – narratives.
“Janus Pater” should be the first novella, or so I am inclined to believe at present. I intend to show the readers the Boudicca Rebellion through the eyes of a Roman centurion returning to service. Gaius Veturius Drusus will haveto come to terms with his situation and not let his frailties shine through if he is to see himself and those under his care through such a trying conflict! Janus was – to the Romans – the two-faced god of time, transitions and duality. Pater is Latin for father.
The second novella will (most likely) be titled, “The Autumn Road” and it will follow the experiences and personal growth of Isolde, a young British woman who is taken as a slave by a Roman centurion after the fall of the Iceni capital town. Most often, people forget that civilians have always had to pay the terrible toll of warfare. Bear in mind that this was very much so before two millennia.
My updated reading list is as follows:
Dobson, B. (1955) The primipilares of the Roman army, Durham theses, Durham University. Available at Durham E-Theses Online: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/8434/
Evans, M.M (2004) The Defeat of Boudica’s Rebellion, Osprey Publishing, Oxford
Coello, Terence Arnold (1995). Unit sizes in the Late Roman army. PhD thesis The Open University.
D’amato & Summer (2009) Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier, Volume 1, Pen and Sword Books Ltd.
Chivers-Wilson KA. Sexual assault and posttraumatic stress disorder: a review of the biological, psychological and sociological factors and treatments. Mcgill J Med. 2006;9(2):111‐118.
This is only the beginning though, as one must be fully aware of who one’s characters are and how their experiences shape them in order to portray them with the correct character depth. A reader should also be prepared not to judge my characters as one would judge people in a modern situation. I feel that the world of our ancestors was so vastly different from our own and I am attempting to portray this!
I do not believe that there is a viable way for me – as one who does not work in the fields of archaeology or classical civilizations full-time – to constructive a narrative worthy of the historical fiction genre without a substantial amount of research.
Here is my reading last up until now (no it is NOT in any academic format):
The Roman Invasion of Britain: Archaeology versus History, Birgitta Hoffman
Legions of Rome, Stephen Dando-Collins
Re-Kindling History, Boudica – Queen of the Iceni, David Carl Schafers
Roman Centurions 31 BC – AD 500, Raffaele D’Amato
Roman Army Units of the Western Provinces (1), 31 BC – AD 195, Raffaele D’Amato
Roman Britain, Henry Freeman
Lectures and Fragments, Gaius Musonius Rufus
Complete Tactitus Anthology (Agricola), Gaius Cornelius Tacitus
The Annals (Various parts pertaining to my setting), Gaius Cornelius Tacitus
De Bello Gallico, Gaius Julius Caesar
Legio XX, Valeria Victrix, Stephen James Malone
A Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (I need to see more of the ‘1st person present’ style)
I, Claudius, Robert Greaves (‘1st person past’ is also relevant as is the setting)
Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Lynn Truss)
Needless to say that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The trick though, is to immerse readers into an entirely different world to the one they know without making it seem like a boring history lesson!
Given that we are all under some form of lock-down or curfew and most of us are doing our part in the fight against COVID-19 by staying on the couch, I have decided to help others to alleviate the uncomfortable mix of boredom, apprehension, and uncertainty by providing some much needed escapism.
My intention is to upload one short story a month to this website for people to download FOR FREE. Now, I am not going to upload anything straight off the bat as soon as I finish a third draft. Instead, I intend to upload a manuscript which can range between 2000 to 10000 words, which has been edited and proofread by a paid professional, and I may even invest in a graphic or two per story.
Each story will fall into one of the series which I currently write in. This includes some prequel stories to “The Solati Series” as well as “The Galesinger Series.” I am a little bit apprehensive when it come to producing content relating to my historical fiction series because I may still send out the manuscript of my first novel to a publisher and we all know how they look at previously published content or a submission which relates to such. At least the fantasy readers will be well entertained!
The formats of these short stories will be in .pdf, .mobi, and .epub so please make sure to keep tabs on the “Publications” section at the end of every month.
The first draft of my fantasy sequel has been placed on hold. I am unsure as to what has come over me but I have had an insatiable urge to read and cover history. My goal for my next work is to open the series of my “Memoirs of the Veturii” series with a novel set in Roman Britain.
My aims in this project are to produce works between novella and novel length which are unique unto themselves. So, like any genre, Roman HF has its tropes to avoid:
Sword and Sandal ‘boy novels’ – I do not wish to gloss over historical facts and write pointless and repetitive action scenes full of gore and dialogue littered with modern colloquialisms. Instead, even though the first novel takes place in the Boudicca uprising, I wish to portray the protagonist, Gaius Veturius Drusus as a believable and relatable human being.
It’s not 100% relatable – One must bear in mind that my characters are a mix of Stoics, Roman Pagans and British Pagans among others. Their rituals are alien, different and perhaps something more akin to fantasy novels; HOWEVER these were real people and I find the ancients and their ways of life quite fascinating.
Info dumping – Still, despite the copious amounts of history books which I am delving through on a nightly basis, it is important to avoid TMI / History information dumps. It just has to somehow be part of the story. So, in my quest to avoid the stereotypical image of thousands of Legionaries (no auxilia) armed to the teeth and equipped with flashy segmented armour as they hack through hordes of barbarians without sweating or getting covered in blood, I have to show mid- 1st century Romans, getting together in their mail suits and doing their thing… BUT WITHOUT IT BEING ANOTHER SWORD AND SANDALS AFFAIR.
Women!? – This is a hard one to work on in a war novel as Romans were not very PC by modern standards. In contrast, they were very patriarchal, therefore in a novel about Roman soldiers, most of the characters would be men. The sequel (which I think is probably more original than this first work) shows the aftermath of the Boudicca Rebellion through the eyes of an Iceni woman taken as a slave. So, for this particular work, there are female characters but the male characters take the lead. In later works, I intend to diversify the characters in terms of gender and culture within the narrative in order to show a wider variety of different perspectives from the ancient world.
Characters – Too many people, too many names. Some characters go by more than one name (their praenomen by their wives, nomen by their superiors and cognomen by their mates) and I have to figure out how and why to simplify the elegance that is Roman nomenclature. Bringing in lots of characters can help set the scene for future books, but one should not overdo it.
Historical Characters – It is best to avoid these because a) it is overdone with people speculating on how famous historical figures behaved and b) it is more my goal to show readers a world through the eyes of the regular folk and not exclusively through the perspectives of the rich and famous.
Historical events and Plot Structure – Yes, I know that there are all sorts of ways and plot structures to follow like every other novel HOWEVER, the beauty of HF is that I want it to be Historical FICTION and not FANTASY. I will not be changing the timeline of the Boudicca rebellion in the hopes of creating a richer plot, instead my characters will have to fit in with the tragedies as they unfolded within the grander historical context.
Language – My protagonist, Gaius Veturius Drusus is an educated son of the Veturii (plebeian branch) whose father owned property in the Aventine Hill and in Ostia. He may not have gotten as far as being able to afford to educate his sons in Rhetoric, yet Gaius studied from age 6 with a Literatus and from age 11 with a Grammaticus named Demetrius. Gaius speaks Latin quite elegantly and is well versed in Greek, having studied works in both languages in his youth and still being a scholar of the Stoic philosophy of life. Gaius, being married to Brigid, a woman of the Dobunni tribe, at the time of the story (by right of connubium) and having served most of his adult life in Britannia is fluent in the Dobunni Dialectic of Brythonic. Sorry then to any swords and sandals fans who expect more modern and colloquial jargon from my MC. NOTE: Swearing in Latin (rusticitas) will be evident in the book as the Romans had it down to an art form. I do not believe that I can truly show people the full picture of Roman culture by excluding their magnificent array of creative profanities.
**For example: The dreaded F- you in English was more of a jibe with Romans, yet to say to another man ‘pedicabo ego vos’ (lit. bugger you) is tantamount to fighting words. Gaius will swear on occasion, yet he often succeeds in maintaining his composure under duress. Other characters will be less conservative when using the more colourful elements of Latin vernacular (as accurately translated as possible of course)
Lastly, I need to touch upon the tense. After reading Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale” I felt that the best way to portray trauma and anxiety is actually through the first person perspective. I believe that this will help create a certain empathy with the narrator – thus allowing readers to see him as more than just a generic Roman soldier in a novel. I choose to write in the present tense because I want to expose my readers to the G. Veturius Drusus – Centurio Primus Ordinus et Pilus Prior, Cohortes Evocatus, Vexilatium Veteranorum, Legio XX, Valeria Victrix, Anno 813 Ad Urbe Conditum – as accurately as possible without losing them in the lingo, jargon or lost culture that was Roman Britain.
If you have a friend who is an author, ask them how important reviews are to them. You will find – if they wish to be successful authors – that they welcome feedback and the criticism just as much as they welcome the ranks and ratings.
I am no different. I received a 3/4 star rating recently from The Online Book Club and the feedback was incredibly helpful. In addition to this, it is rather fun to see that someone else who I have never met in my life enjoyed my story:
As a fantasy reader who has always been captivated by world building, I was taken by The Redemption of Anaìr immediately. From the beginning, readers are launched into Anaìr’s world—both the physical setting and the inner world that torments Anaìr—as Findlay vividly describes Anaìr losing himself to his art. Findlay then takes his audience on a trip through an entirely new land with distinct cultural and religious customs, social hierarchies and expectations, and racial tension. We even get a look into how Solati customs clash with those of the invading forces, the Orvinarr, including their views on gender equality and Solatus’s female warriors. Findlay knows every inch of this land as well as, if not better than, our own, and his ability to create such a fantastic world down to the last detail seems to be his greatest, though not his only, strength here.
Developing alongside this setting and its intricate societies are well-rounded characters, particularly Anaìr. Anaìr is complicated right from the beginning, a talented artist but also a reluctantly cunning warrior, someone looked down upon for his past behavior but revered for his work on the battlefield and, while not everyone will admit it, his artwork. Everyone around him is just as layered, even if the author couldn’t go into their backstories and personalities in as much detail, from worldly warriors to the enigmatic Matriarch. Most importantly, the invaders are not completely one-dimensional, depicted as the more morally corrupt side of the conflict and in league with something evil but not without their human traits. Considering it can be so easy to draw antagonists as completely evil, it’s a relief to see both the heroes and the villains through gray-colored glasses.
It is a relief to see that readers around the world are getting the message which I am trying to portray and is incredibly important to me.
It has been an interesting foray into
self-publishing as of late and the adventure is only beginning! The time has
finally arrived for me to release my first self-published (and self-formatted)
novel in print format.
“The Redemption of Anaìr” is now
available as a print novel through amazon for only $6.99 along with the e-book
which is priced at $0.99. Both versions are on sale until the end of 2019.
In addition to this, I have also compiled a mailing list for whoever is interested in following my progress as a writer and reading the various stories which I hope to release in both the Historical Fiction and Fantasy genres.
Those who wish to be removed from this mailing
list need only to reply to it and tell me to remove them. One can also follow
updates by subscribing to the blog on the website http://alexfindlayauthor.com