An Appeal to Goodreads Reviewers

Hello everyone, and particularly the kind readers who have reviewed me on Goodreads. I want to invite you to read and honestly review the ARC of Lucia’s War when it comes out in April. Alas, the rules of Goodreads expressly forbid me from asking you there, even though you have already read White Feathers. So I am doing so here instead!

This offer is open to everyone who has reviewed White Feathers on Goodreads, regardless of rating. If you would be interested in reviewing the ARC of Lucia’s War, which is in the White Feathers universe but standalone, please drop me a line at contact AT susan lanigan DOT com and I will be delighted to add you to the ARC list. Thank you 🙂

The Story Behind “Unfortunate Stars”

 

Four days ago, just as the coronavirus restrictions really began to kick in, I published a long short story, “Unfortunate Stars”, on Amazon. It is about 10,000 words, or half an hour’s reading and is set in 1938 and 1915 – a story of the war just gone, and the war yet to come. I wanted to see how it would get on. The results have been pleasantly surprising. OK so it’s on free promotion but still, 130 downloads isn’t bad.

This story is special to me. Publishing it is not about earning any money; had I my way it would be forever free, but Amazon don’t let you do that alas. However it will always be free to those who subscribe to my mailing list at the link above, so if the promotion is over and you fancy reading it for free, by all means give it a click. To find out why it means a lot to me, please read the afterword in the story 🙂

The background to Unfortunate Stars was that it was a précis of a much longer novel. This novel, about an ethnic German Bohemian WWI veteran who, in spite of his long marriage, falls unsuitably in love just as the next war threatens and his own country is overrun, was a beautiful mistake. A glorious mistake that I spent over three years pursuing before finally giving up. There were too many strands, too many conflicting stories, and I lacked the grand, overarching artistry to bring them together. Much of the fictional Philipp Stern’s story, in particular, is omitted here: his acrimonious divorce and his borderline unhealthy obsession with Lou Andreas-Salomé for a start. Friedrich’s background, in turn, is inspired from meeting and being transformed by someone who came from the region, a culture I had not known much about before.

But there was one scene in the abandoned book I had a soft spot for – one of the intersections with the White Feathers universe where Friedrich recalls his battlefield encounter with an already very traumatised Christopher in 1915. It’s pure geekery, high-church style fanfic on my own stuff (is that allowed? I say it’s allowed.) It was about enemies turned comrades, about finding a common language, about how everything must be done ‘zusammen – together’, as Friedrich says. About male love and friendship. I wanted to do something with that scene. And I felt it filled in that gap in the middle of White Feathers quite well – so I made it into a short story 🙃

There’s even a song for that scene – there are other songs too but the Spotify soundtrack is too long at present:

https://open.spotify.com/track/7uMSyq6oN898WlUTR3SXE2?si=5KSJmjB8QeOUgoV8KnuNSw

Download “Unfortunate Stars” from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B085RF4J34

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Unfortunate-Stars-Confession-Susan-Lanigan-ebook/dp/B085RF4J34/

Or subscribe to the mailing list!

Five Days Later

Five days ago, I published She Wrote It, But…., which would turn out to be a liberating decree nisi for a long-time separation.

My intention had been to follow it up with the positive version, “She Wrote It, And…” But I was deterred by the pleasant truth that it would take way too long and I’m trying to write a book here 🙂 The positive version belongs in the Acknowledgements to Lucia’s War and that is where it will go. I will strive to leave no-one out. Margaret Madden does get a shout out though. She saw the soul in my book, and saved mine. Thank you 🙂

I don’t regret or walk back a word of my blogpost, but since I hit “post” a revolution has been going on in my head. After anger, I’ve reached a point of deep calm. It was well past time to disinfect this whole thing with sunlight, and now it’s over. Continue reading “Five Days Later”

She Wrote It, But…the Irish Literary Fiction Edition

Note: this is an exercise based on Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing. I adapted it for my own use.

Yesterday, at a time of great mental duress, I took a biro and notebook and started writing; soon I covered two pages. It was a deeply therapeutic exercise. I post the annotated notes from my scribbles below in the hope that it will be of use to some besides me!

(Readers will be reassured to know there will be a positive version of this post, “She Wrote It, And…” which will be posted up shortly after this one.)

She wrote it, but she isn’t well-connected among people like us, people who matter – who’s heard of her?

She wrote it, but she’s an awkward loudmouth with notions and no tact.

She wrote it, but one of us was meant to write the World War I novel, not her, and we would have done so with more skill and subtlety.

She wrote it, but she’s an Irish Catholic woman. That’s triply the wrong demographic to write about WWI; we’re Irish and we say so. Continue reading “She Wrote It, But…the Irish Literary Fiction Edition”

Free Short Story: Unfortunate Stars

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Unfortunate Stars follows war veteran Friedrich as he reminisces about a battlefield encounter twenty-three years earlier that changed his life. Click on the image to subscribe and get a free copy.

I have finally managed to finish up work on a short story that will be available to subscribers to my mailing list. I’ve worked hard on this and honestly cannot wait to share. All you have to do is sign up with your email address!

It is called Unfortunate Stars after a line from a poem by Goethe. It’s a story set during World War 1 and the “Peace in our time” agreement in the Sudetenland in 1938. The story is part of the White Feathers universe, and contains a character readers will recognise, and perhaps have missed 🙂 but it isn’t necessary to have read the book to follow it.

There is an option often taken to add content warnings, but first I would like to add some content encouragements. It’s about 10,000 words long. All the main characters are male, which is a new journey for me; I hope I do it justice. It contains m/m romance, a battle, male friendship, enemies-to-bromance (is that a thing? It is now), lots of Latin, a bit of swearing (but only when talking about Nazis) and a few brief, non-gratuitous references to the Holocaust.

Most importantly, it’s about how we can still unite across languages and borders, even at war, even in these divisive times. I really hope you enjoy it, and leave a review on Goodreads should you be so moved.

Click here to subscribe for your free story

Lucia’s War – Dramatis Personae

These people have been populating my head for the past while, so I want to share them with you – I’m looking forward to readers getting to know them better next year, if they don’t recognise them already, that is! For the gentlemen in Lucia’s life, I also have visuals 🙂

Lucia Percival, by the time this novel begins, is an accomplished opera singer, a dramatic soprano with considerable coloratura range, whose talent and ambition are hampered only by attitudes towards her race. But in the late Forties, on the eve of her last performance, she has no intention of going onstage, and she has a story to tell. Thirty years earlier, as a poor, ambitious young Jamaican girl seeking her fortune as a musician in London during the First World War, her life took a wrong turning and has never recovered its course. Her brother Reginald is also overseas, on active service, and bitter about his prospects, to an extent which alarms Lucia.

Her friend Eva is her Irish housemate – and, being white if not of high class, a useful ally, helping Lucia meet people, manage a life in a hostile city, and get herself together again. But can she be relied upon while struggling with demons of her own and cranky a lot of the time? Eva’s friend Sybil, an aristocrat living a dangerous life, is intelligent but has little time for Lucia.

Edgar, a fellow Jamaican, was supposed to study at the Bar, but ended up in a munitions factory then became a private investigator. Lucia seeks him out for certain details.

William Butler Yeats is a rather annoying Irishman in his mid-fifties, whom Lucia encounters at a séance in Euston Square and has to work hard to shake off. Writes poems too.

Arthur, a charismatic and seemingly easygoing African-American composer, is drawn to Lucia and they share an intellectual and emotional bond as musicians. But while he understands her in a way few else can, Lucia is uncertain if she can confide her secrets in him.

Here is a visual of Arthur as I see him, represented by the tenor Lawrence Brownlee:

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Image from lawrencebrownlee.com – who is a lovely singer and well worth checking out

Robin, on the other hand, Scottish doctor and “ginger midget”, who forges a different bond with Lucia during the thick of battle, is blunt, forthright and “Lord Mayors” (swears) far too much – not to mention challenges Lucia to a game of chess with fiery results! But when it comes to his family, he is not quite so courageous, with disastrous results…

Here is a visual of Robin as I see him, represented by the actor Scott Grimes:

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courtesy of imdb.com – and Robin’s the kind of guy who would *totally* have the top button open!

Lilian, meanwhile, is an old woman scarred by the war, and its rules on how she is expected to behave in the face of great loss. Damaged and lost, rejected by society, she falls into Lucia’s life and the fellow feeling between the two women, as well as the secrets Lilian uncovers, galvanises Lucia in spite of herself.

And of course there is the most important character, the centre of Lucia’s life, whom I will refrain from discussing at this juncture, but who absolutely informs her decisions, her life and her regrets…

So, that’s it!

A Legend and an Inspiration: Jessye Norman, Dramatic Soprano

I learned today, with sadness, of the opera singer Jessye Norman’s passing at the age of 74. She was a vocalist who had the power to move mountains, and a deeply serious musician. Her loss is mourned all over the world.

During my research for Lucia’s War I have listened to many singers,  but it’s safe to say the book is deeply influenced by Ms Norman’s sublime work, and Lucia’s later character by the aura she carries. There is an imperial streak to a dramatic soprano, and Jessye Norman always had it in her bearing. Strauss’s deceptively easy Last Songs, heard in my mind as rendered by Ms Norman, feature near the beginning of the book (don’t worry, it’s not an anachronism!)

But if any of her wonderful repertoire stands out for me, it must be her rendition of Iseult’s ecstatic, despairing Liebestod at the end of Tristan und Isolde (which resonates in the fictional universe as the story of an Irish princess who cannot live without her lover) which Lucia, with her temperament, could not but someday sing when at the zenith of her God-given talent.

Thank you for the music, Jessye Norman. The world is a little meaner for your departure. If you can, take part of a morning to have a listen to her works. She was wonderful.