Indie-WednesdayAlong my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to include self-published, indie, and small press works in my reading schedule.  But it is difficult to know where to start: So many new authors and books to examine to find the perfect fit for my tastes.  And to help others with this same problem, I’ve decided to turn my Indie Wednesday feature into a day where writers can introduce themselves and their work to everyone.

With this in mind, I’m turn over the blog to Glen Craney, author of the The Spider and the Stone.


The Dark Art of Conjuring Historical Dialogue


John Fowles lamented that getting the Victorian language right in The French Lieutenant’s Woman was the most difficult technical problem he’d confronted in his writing.

Successful dialogue in historical fiction depends on navigating the treacherous channel between sounding contrived and coming off too modern and anachronistic. This is easier prescribed than accomplished.

the spider and the stoneDiane Gabaldon of Outlander fame is the lady laird of archaic speech. Of all the historical novelists I’ve studied, she inches closest to the precipice of inaccessible dialect without losing her footing. Few are so blessed with an ear for precision or an acumen in Gaelic and Scots English. Even fewer of us have merited a companion book with glossaries and guides to Gaelic pronunciations.

In The Spider and the Stone, my novel about the Black Douglas of 14th-century Scotland, I gave up pretensions of approximating Gabaldon’s flair for the brogue and peculiarities of medieval Scottish speech. Instead, I applied what I call my mimetic toolbox to conjure authentic-sounding yet accessible dialogue.

Before commencing a new novel, I immerse myself in the vocabulary, rhythms of speech, peculiar syntax, and sounds of the era. Diaries and primary sources are helpful. Keeping a notebook of phrases, terms, and curses is invaluable. To gain mastery of the Scot accents in her Outlander series, Gabaldon listened to Scottish folk songs performed in live recordings. She said she also learned a lot from overhearing the conversations of audience members during the lulls between sets.

Likewise, while writing The Fire and the Light, my novel about the Cathars of 13th-century Occitania, I listened to contemporary renderings of authentic ballads and servientes once sung by the medieval troubadours. I also read English translations of troubadour verse. Something in the timbre of the lute and viol from that period gave me a better sensibility for Occitan speech—or at least what modern ears might perceive this vanishing language sounded like.

Gabaldon recommends reading other novels set during your era. But be warned: this can be problematic if you don’t have a firm grip on your own style. Writers should be on guard against abdicating their natural voice and allowing another’s imprint to seep into and overpower their subconscious.

One last consideration: If confront the thorny issues of foreign dialect and speech patterns, consider avoiding the first-person point of view. The more distant you dial back the POV, the less the reader will be aware of the variances between modern and antiquarian idioms.


Glen Craney
Twitter: @glencraney

The Spider and the Stone: A Novel of Scotland’s Black Douglas

Logline:  As the 14th century dawns, the brutal King Edward Longshanks of England schemes to steal Scotland. But a frail, dark-skinned boy named James Douglas, inspired by a headstrong lass from Fife, defies three Plantagenet kings and champions the cause of his wavering friend, Robert the Bruce, to lead the armies to the bloody field of Bannockburn. A thrilling historical saga of star-crossed love and heroic sacrifice set during the Scottish Wars of Independence.

spider and the stone 2


Chaucer Award First-Place Category Historical Fiction
Foreword Magazine Book-of-the-Year Award Finalist
indieBRAG Medallion Winner
BTS Readers Choice Award Honorable Mention

Buy links:


glen craneyAuthor bio: Glen Craney holds graduate degrees from Indiana University School of Law and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He practiced trial law before joining the Washington, D.C. press corps to cover national politics and the Iran-contra trial for Congressional Quarterly magazine. The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences awarded him the Nicholl Fellowship prize for best About the Author new screenwriting, and he is a three-time finalist for Foreword Reviews Book-of-the-Year Award. His debut historical novel, The Fire and the Light, was honored as Best New Fiction by the National Indie Excellence Awards. His books have taken readers to Occitania during the Albigensian Crusade, to the Scotland of Robert Bruce, to Portugal during the Age of Discovery, to the trenches of France during World War I, and to the American Hoovervilles of the Great Depression.

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  1. Thanks for sharing! This story sounds delightfully intriguing (I fell in love with Scotland when I visited some 30 years ago…) and I find equally interesting the passage where “authentic-sounding yet accessible dialogue” is mentioned. Added to my list! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. savageddt says:

    What makes a book “Indie”?


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