New Year, New Website: introducing herstorywriting.com!

Sometimes life obliges us to do something we hadn’t planned or particularly wanted to do; then it works out so well we’re really glad we did it – in fact we wish we’d done it ages ago!

Such was the case for me with my brand-new WordPress website, herstorywriting.com. I didn’t want a new website. I was happy enough with the simple, info-rich, advert-free old sites helencox-herstorywriting.co.uk and lay-of-angor.co.uk, even though, (as work-hungry web designers never tired of spamming to tell me), they looked stale and outdated. They’d been wonderfully easy for a complete novice to set up on what would become ‘Classic’ WebEden, and easy to maintain despite a few annoying glitches with the software which I learnt to work round. But they needed the recently-obsolete Flash Player to run; so in autumn 2020, like it or not, I had to review my options and get a new site built before Flash expired at the end of December.

One might think that a quick, simple option would be to import the content to the new WebEden platform. However, for reasons I don’t understand, this facility wasn’t made available to users. I couldn’t even add a New site to the account I’d held there for 10 years, but had to create another separate account (something which generated a flurry of complaint on the company’s Facebook page from other Classic users in my position). Well, OK… I wasn’t happy, but decided to give it a go for the sake of continuity/to save the time and bother of searching for a new provider.

The first issue I ran into was one I subsequently found to be a common one with build-your-own website providers: a bewilderingly huge catalogue of themes to choose from, but all very ‘samey’ and none especially appealing. On Classic WebEden, it had been easy to flick between them and compare. Not so on New. I eventually selected a design I thought I could work with, couldn’t make head or tail of the software, (totally different to/less intuitive than Classic); then when I decided I didn’t like the look of it after all, I couldn’t escape from the damn thing. I searched vainly for a command to go back, collapse, close, replace, exit etc etc, growing crosser and crosser until in the end I hit ctrl-alt-del. Talk about user-unfriendly! I thought it was an extremely poor advert for the company, and atop all the other frustrations and technical problems I’d experienced, made me unwilling to persevere with the impenetrable software.

The next most obvious solution was to build the new site here, where I have my blog and reasonable proficiency with the software. WordPress sensibly maintains a much smaller stable of themes with a bit more individuality and imagination to them, and I easily spotted a couple I liked; but what if there was something even better out there? After an hour or so searching on-line, I concluded there wasn’t; at least, nothing eye-smackingly wonderful enough to compensate for missing the convenience of having my main internet presence all under one roof, so to speak.

So back I came to WordPress, tinkered about on one template, decided it didn’t work, and lo! was able to import what I’d done into a design I liked better. Easy-peasy. Keeping my domains? That was harder. WordPress doesn’t support .co.uk domains, so I couldn’t transfer them as I’d hoped; I’d have retain WebEden as supplier, and map the site instead. But I could no longer log in to do so through Classic, because Flash Player no longer works – and then found I couldn’t log in through New, either! I tried every permutation of likely passwords, searched my diary in vain for the new log-in details, eventually admitted defeat and hit ‘forgotten password’ – and the re-set link failed to come through. (Twelve hours later, I’m still waiting).

That really was the final straw. The desire to keep my domains because all my publications sold or in stock carry the old .co.uk website addresses was outweighed by a sudden, overwhelming desire to ditch WebEden and all the hassle that goes with it. So I promptly launched the basic framework of the new site on WordPress as herstorywriting.com, trusting that everyone who wants to will find me when I’ve updated all the search engines and references. I must admit, I’m chuffed to bits with the fresh new look, revamped text and new images, and looking forward to building it up with all sorts of features, including slide-shows of my Sandal Castle, Battle of Wakefield and Battle of Towton tours. (One of these days I’ll get round to building a new lay-of-angor.com site on here as well). So do take a peek – I hope you’ll enjoy it and keep coming back to see my new blog posts and other developments!

Fantasy Writing: The Lay of Angor Trilogy

As a newcomer to the magnificent Game of Thrones, I was wryly amused to discover how many of its motifs and themes crop up in my own opus, Lay of Angor: messenger ravens, cold northern and warm southern kingdoms, graphic sex, torture and battle violence, consensual brother-sister incest, jolly prostitutes, same-sex romps, creatures not too far removed from living species and plotlines drawn directly from real-world history. I was a bit dismayed too, lest I be thought derivative, because this is purely accidental; the Lay is mine own, begun long before I’d ever heard of George R.R. Martin – but I suppose it’s inevitable that in the realm of fantasy writing, imaginations will sometimes collide.

And that’s where the similarities end. My world of Urth, a planet not unlike our own, is a smaller, cosier place than Westeros and the story revolves around one principal heroine and hero (Elinor, Princess of Gondarlan, and her suitor Jehan Sol-Lios, Elect of the Republic of Angor). It’s a tongue-in-cheek homage to the ‘high fantasy’ style I’ve always loved; a coming-of-age story in which Elinor finds herself (and finds out what a prissy, spoiled idiot she’s been all her life!), leavened with a thread of farcical humour; and unlike Game of Thrones, it’s now finished!

Yes, after more than 12 years of endeavour, false starts and re-writes, the trilogy is at last complete and all three volumes available in electronic and paperback form. It’s been a very strange and occasionally rough ride; friends from back in the manic ‘virgin author’ days will probably remember my glazed expression and abstracted presence as I split between Urth and the here-and-now, the former often more insistently real to me than the latter as the story constantly played out behind my eyes and the characters nattered in my ears. I could see and hear it all so clearly that I felt like an inept secretary trying to minute a meeting and simultaneously describe the surroundings while the participants wandered through the rooms of a palace – a most curious sensation, and sometimes deeply frustrating as it took hours and pages to capture on keyboard scenes and conversations which flashed through my mind in a matter of seconds. (I wouldn’t be surprised if this is quite a common experience for authors).

But gosh, it was fun – and it became even greater fun as the story progressed, all the characters were introduced and plot threads laid down, and I simply had to develop them. Gondarlan, the first book, took by far the longest to write and required the most revision; if it hadn’t been radically cut it would have ended up the length of War and Peace and I doubt if I’d ever have finished! But Breath of Gaia rolled along much faster, and Wolfsbane came out at breakneck speed as I sensed the end in sight, together with the chance to finally write some climactic scenes I’d envisaged almost from the start of the project.

Now it’s done, I’d like to thank everyone who read and commented on the work in progress, and put up with me while I was so consumed by it (especially my long-suffering husband); and I hope other people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you happen to be in the North Yorkshire area on Saturday 2nd August, you could drop in at The Crooked Billet on the B1217 Wakefield Road between Garforth and Towton from noon – 5 pm; I’m launching Wolfsbane at the Towton Battlefield Society Yorkshire Day event, and you can snag copies of the full trilogy, signed by my fiction alter ego Rae Andrew, for a mere £9.99 (saving over £13 on the RRP). Otherwise, you can get the same deal (plus P+P) from YPD-books.com by quoting ‘Trilogy Offer’ – or pick them up at £2.99 apiece on Amazon Kindle or e-pub from Kobo books. Happy reading!