Tuesday, 10 January 2017


Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. That's Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.

The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist. 

Windsinger: Post 10

Windsinger (2003) is the result of watching a wildlife documentary. I can't remember if it was one of David Attenborough's, but I do recall it featured ducks. Yes, ducks. Wild ducks. A wild duck of one species was courting a duck of a different species. They were genetically compatible (being ducks) but there was a problem. The male launched into his courting ritual but the female had no idea what he intended. It wasn't her courting ritual.

In another documentary, also about birds, another inter-species courtship got a bit further along, but this couple didn't succeed in raising chicks. Again, they were genetically compatible. The problem this time was that the female came from a species where egg-sitting and chick rearing is shared. The male came from a species where the female does all the egg-sitting and chick rearing. The hen did her shift and moseyed off to get a snack, expecting the proud expectant father to do his shift. He didn't. He had no idea he was expected to.

While pondering the sadness and inevitability of cultural incompatibility, I recalled reading something long ago in which a young woman accepted a pair of gloves from a young man, not realising this meant that in the eyes of his culture, she'd just accepted a proposal of marriage.

These three prompts came together and gave me the idea of a science fiction plot in which two basically good and moral people fell into a cultural misunderstanding because of cultural misconception and a lack of shared language. 

Artemis, who dresses like a Greek maiden and who belongs to an order of Amazon Mercies encounters Kestrel, whom she sees as a noble warrior. Despite her appearance, Artemis uses high-tech gear while carrying out her calling. Kestrel, getting about in a loincloth and feathered cloak, is also not what he appears; he's a businessman from a sophisticated society whose young men and women undertake a "wild moon" initiation, during which they dress and live as their remote ancestors did. When Artemis's communicator breaks down and Kestrel is attacked by monsters, the scene is set for a misunderstanding of royal proportions which leads to a trial by combat that could leave one or both of them dead. And there's a third, and utterly innocent life at stake...

This tale, along with a comedy secondary romance, was a great deal of fun to write, and is told is somewhat riper prose than I usually write. It is not be any stretch suitable for children, so when it was accepted for publication by an e-company I chose a pen name; Lark Westerly. As with Tiffany Mandrake (see Flax the Feral Fairy, Post 6), I know Lark pretty well. She swans about in velvet and has her head in the clouds.

The story of Windsinger has one of those peculiar side stories that seem to hang about my books. I discovered, a good while after it was published, that there are two other books of that name out there in cyberspace. Not only that but -- wait for it -- one of them has a main character named Kestrel!

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