“Turns & Chances” and the twists that brought everything together…

As of next week, I’m delighted to say that you will have the opportunity to read my novella “Turns & Chances” as an ebook, available for all formats and through Amazon, B&N and Kobo. Like A Few Further Tales of Einarinn, this will be published by Wizard’s Tower Press and as before, I am indebted to Antimatter ePress for turning the original text into such a high quality electronic version. So to whet your appetite, here’s the cover for you to admire, with Edward Miller’s splendid artwork.

Turns & Chances - cover art by Edward Miller

People often ask authors where they get their ideas. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I explain that getting the ideas isn’t the problem. Writers find them everywhere. They turn up even when you’re not looking for them; plot hooks, what-if questions, intriguing characters, an atmospheric place, an unnerving thought. There are times, especially when you’re in the throes of writing an entirely different book, when you virtually have to beat off such distractions with a stick.

Besides, one idea is not enough. Any one of those things I’ve just mentioned can be the start of a new story but only if the other essential elements are readily to hand. A place needs characters to people it. Characters need a plot to prompt action and reaction. Both plot and people must be solidly rooted in and naturally arising from the places that have made them. It’s a complex alchemy.

So every writer I know has inert story elements hanging around in the back of their mind or in some notebook or a file on their hard drive, waiting for the catalyst which will turn them into story-telling gold. The country of Lescar was just one such idea for me. When I was writing the Tales of Einarinn, I had mercenary characters like Halice, Sorgrad and Gren. To give them that necessary depth of background, I sketched in this divided and fractious realm, Lescar, plagued by intermittent warfare thanks to six rival dukes all seeking the High King’s crown. So mercenaries had somewhere to learn their skills and earn their money and as far as the Tales was concerned, that’s all I or anyone else needed to know.

Only I couldn’t help thinking about Lescar, while I was writing about the Aldabreshin Archipelago. What was life really like for the ordinary people stuck there; the ones who weren’t rival nobles or mercenaries? It must be pretty grim… Was there a story in that…? No, not according to my husband, always an invaluable sounding board for ideas, and as necessarily blunt as only a writer’s beloved must be. His precise words were ‘It’ll be a boring story about peasants covered in mud.’

He was right. I couldn’t do anything more with this idea until I had those other elements which would make it more than a story boring peasants covered in mud. So I set it aside. Then, some while later, I found myself wondering what those peasants might do, if some of them decided they were as mad as hell and not about to take being covered in mud any longer? What could they actually do, to protect their own people and look after their own interests? After all, they would still be subject to these warring dukes who have these murderous mercenaries to call on to crush dissent? Perhaps they could find some way to take advantage of their overlords and those hirelings dismissing them as just peasants covered in mud…?

Now I had the start of a story but another thing a writer soon learns is that stories come in different lengths. Some ideas are short story ideas. Some are novel-length. I knew this was more than a short story but equally clearly, it wasn’t a novel. So what could I do with it? In 2004 PS Publishing kindly provided the answer, by inviting me to write a novella for them. Turns & Chances was the result, published in both hardcover and paperback with Edward Miller’s fantastic cover art, which he’s generously given us permission to use for the ebook as well.

Though of course, that wasn’t the end of the story. PS Publishing invite other authors to write introductions to their novellas and so Chaz Brenchley offered his insights into this story. As so often, a fresh pair of eyes showed me things which I would never otherwise have seen about my own work. That final and essential ingredient is what turned Turns & Chances into the source of The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution. Chaz has also been kind enough to allow us to include his Introduction in the ebook, so you’ll be able to discover that final twist for yourself.

Author: Juliet

Juliet E McKenna is a British fantasy author living in the Cotswolds, UK. Loving history, myth and other worlds since she first learned to read, she has written fifteen epic fantasy novels so far. Her debut, The Thief’s Gamble, began The Tales of Einarinn in 1999, followed by The Aldabreshin Compass sequence, The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, and The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy. The Green Man’s Heir was her first modern fantasy inspired by British folklore in 2018, and The Green Man’s Quarry in 2023 is the sixth title in this ongoing series. Her 2023 novel The Cleaving is a female-centred retelling of the story of King Arthur, while her shorter stories include forays into dark fantasy, steampunk and science fiction. She promotes SF&Fantasy by reviewing, by blogging on book trade issues, attending conventions and teaching creative writing. She has served as a judge for major genre awards. As J M Alvey, she has written historical murder mysteries set in ancient Greece.

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