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Plymouth, Devon, United Kingdom
West Country author, winner of Piatkus Entice award for historical fiction 2012.

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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Very Short Story: Time-Lapse

For the first time in what feels like forever, I have written a short story which I will be taking along to my first meeting with a writing group I am hoping to join. We were given a theme of "shadows" and a word count limit of 500 which, for me, felt pretty much impossible. But having pared down an old short of mine from 3,500 to 2,000 last night, to fit in with an online showcase site, I felt like giving this a shot today. 
What I would like to know, either in comments here or on my Facebook page once I post this link, is if it works. It's to be read aloud, and I was going for tension and atmosphere over storyline really.
Any thoughts appreciated, it's been a long time!

I want to apologise, but although the words form, there is no use in uttering them. Steven’s eyes are fixed on mine, devoid of expression – the opportunity for contrition, however false, has passed. Beyond him, stretching across the wooden floor, I can see the spiky silhouettes of bare tree-branches; the fast-moving clouds outside make it feel as if I'm in a time-lapse movie, where the shadows tell lies and the passage of time is not what it seems. This minute has lasted hours.
 I look straight into Steven’s eyes; he doesn’t blink.

Blackmail’s an ugly word, but embezzlement’s even uglier, and I wouldn’t have asked the earth anyway; a modest couple of thousand would have got me out of the hole I’m in, and would have been a small price for him to pay. I’d just needed the notebook with the numbers – easy pickings for someone with a spare key.
 But timing is everything. Hearing his own key in the lock, I’d frozen with one hand in the desk drawer, my mind crawling over a hundred reasons why I was there, none of them believable. Then, with relief, I’d noticed his mobile phone on the coffee table. He’d be two minutes at most, then he’d be gone again – I was under the sofa before the thought was complete.
But he’d been playing bigger fish on his line than me, after all, and he wasn’t alone. I’d heard raised voices, and pleading words falling from Steven’s lips until they were cut short by a dull thump. He’d crashed to the floor, face-down, his eyes wide and empty and just inches from my own. No excuses needed. I’d shoved my fist in my mouth and choked back a scream, and waited with a fast-hammering heart for the gunman to crouch down, to check he’d done his job, and to see me, terrified and doubtless white-faced, staring back at him. But he was confident, and merely nudged the limp form with a grubby boot.

I lie here now, my own breath coming damply back at me from the floor, and the only sound is the muted beep of Steven’s phone sending a message. Confirmation of the job done, or lure for unsuspecting victim? There is no way of knowing.
The gunman sits down to wait.
The tree-shadows creep across the floor for real now, reaching the gunman’s feet and painting his boots with jagged black lines. Strangely detached, maybe simply numb with shock, I watch them with cold fascination; every inch they move brings us all closer to death, and I have never been so aware of my life leaching away. My limbs ache, my throat is tightened against the dust .. and then I hear footsteps outside the door.
The first fierce surge of relief gives way to gut-clenching panic. Whoever comes through that door will see the gunman, then Steven, and then they will see me. Friend or foe, one of us dies within the minute.

 The shadows move.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Rookie Mistakes. Embarrassing and Avoidable.

Okay, so this post is going to be extremely embarrassing, but it’s got to be done. As you may or may not be aware (depending on whether you’re familiar with me and my work, or have just dropped in out of the Netosphere) I recently leapt onto the self-publishing magic carpet, and published The Dust of Ancients in paperback and e-book formats.

People seem to like it. Which is a HUGE relief. 4 and 5* reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and steadily climbing the Authonomy chart. Hooray!

BUT - Here’s the embarrassing bit, and the bit I hope you’ll forgive:
  • I got the proof copy.
  • I carefully read the proof copy.
  • I cried. (Not really, but I groaned quite a lot.)
  • I went in and made numerous amendments.
  • I uploaded again.
  • I launched the book.
  • I received wonderful feedback (thank you!)
  • I also received wonderful feedback (thank you!) with the rider that there were numerous typographical errors (thank you.) Nothing major, just little things; missing full stops, and backward-facing speech marks, that nevertheless pulled the reader out of the story.
  • I cried some more. (Not really, but I was puzzled.)
  • I checked the uploaded file.
  • I cried for real 

Yes, of course I had, in fact, re-uploaded the uncorrected proof, for which I cannot express enough mortification, or sincere apology. I have now uploaded the correct copy.

Unfortunately I’m unable to offer any kind of refund, but to try and make up in some way for this stupid, avoidable, rookie mistake, I will be offering the sequel, The Lightning and the Blade, at a discounted price when it’s released this summer, to anyone who e-mails me to say they bought, or were given, a copy of The Dust of Ancients between September 2013 and January 2014.

Please send your e-mail to info@lynhermill.co.uk with your receipt (if you have one) or the name/contact details of the gift-giver if not, and let me know whether it was the e-book or paperback version.

I will now go and bang my head against a wall for ten minutes.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chasing Cars

Made it back safely from the Festival of Romance in Bedford, where I thrust my beyond-awesome rack cards for The Dust of Ancients upon various persons, met some lovely writers and readers, and ate far too much bacon. Hooray.

Friday night's reading went okay, I think. I was absolutely boiling in my costume, and it was a huge relief to climb out of it and cool down with several glasses of wine. What do you mean, water's better? Don't be silly.

Saturday morning saw us setting up the tables at the Romance Fair (book fair, really) and I did sell a couple of books, but since the prize of my game - which a lot of people played - was a paperback copy, it was fairly obvious people were waiting to see if they'd won! I didn't mind at all, I have just 4 books left now, to distribute down here for reviews, and loads of people took my flyers and rack cards, and The Dust of Ancients got a lot of interest. Cocktails on the way back to the hotel (which was fantastic, incidentally, and the main culprit of my bacon-mainlining weekend) finished that part of the day nicely.

Then it was the awards dinner. I didn't win the category, but looking at the list of those I was up against, I knew right away I didn't have a hope, which made it easier. These were literary giants, in relation to li'l ol' debut novelist me. I was convinced enough that, when they began reading out the names (and although I got a lovely big cheer, thanks to all who contributed to that!) I didn't even feel that queasy sensation when hope gets a good grip of your insides and starts to tangle them up like an over-excited slinky. It wasn't going to happen, and so I was able to relax and enjoy the awards without having the worry in the back of my mind that I might trip and fall on my arse on my way to the front of the room.

My biggest and most genuine congratulations to those who did win, and especially to Christine King, who won the Piatkus Entice prize that Maid of Oaklands Manor won last year. She seems a lovely lady, and her fella's very funny and didn't seem at all fazed at being thrown into a room filled with sparkly dresses and mad shoes. 

Moving swiftly onward to the following morning (Sunday) we discover the reason for the title of this entry. It wasn't snowing, so we can forget that. There were no patrols, that I'm aware of, on the premises. So I think we must take it at its most literal. Yes, there was actually a moment when I was running through the streets of Bedford chasing a rapidly disappearing car. 

Backing up slightly then: I'd arranged to hand over the MS of my new novel (Lady of No Man's Land) to Caroline Kirkpatrick, the editor representing Piatkus Entice at the conference. I'd printed out chapters 1-4, detailed synopsis and basic synopsis, etc, and put it all into a nice little black folder, then promptly left it on the back seat of the car taking me to the Corn Exchange.
 As the car drove away I realised what I'd done, and yelled, waved, and, when it didn't stop, ran after it. As I watched it zip around a corner and out of sight, a bus came up behind me, and the driver saw I was tearing my hair out, gave chase, and eventually flagged the car down. Driving back past me a few minutes after my wonderful friend (and travel-blogger) ScarletJones had  brought my folder back to me, the driver beeped and waved, and I nearly fell over trying to convey my relief. The wedding is in two weeks. (I'm kidding, don't send cards.)

The conference was amazing. I was able to put in place a contingency plan in case Piatkus decide not to go with my series - at least it'll be someone else to query with it, as apparently it won't matter in the slightest that the series began with one publisher but might have to move to another. Thanks to Kate Allen (Kate Nash) for organising the event, and I highly recommend a visit next year if you're in the area. There's a pub that does awesome cocktails. Did I mention that?

So that was it, then,  my first foray into the world of literary conferences/festivals. I'm absolutely shattered, but I loved it. All I have to do now is wait to see if someone will buy my series, as a series. Oh, and write the next one. Yeah, I knew there was something I was supposed to be doing ....

As always, thanks for reading, and if you hate Captchas, please feel free to comment on the Facebook Post instead :) 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Endings and Beginnings, Readings and Dressing Up

Well now. Having just typed "The End" on my latest WIP, I decided it was time to come and have a little ramble through what's new and/or interesting in the TelNix world. 

Lady of No Man's Land is the second in a trilogy which began with Maid of Oaklands Manor and will conclude with Daughter of Dark River Farm. It follows Evie, the daughter of the house, who joins the Red Cross as an ambulance driver and goes off to Belgium shortly after the outbreak of World War One. 

The timing of this book is rather bloody perfect actually, quite by accident. When I wrote Oaklands (under its many previous titles) I'd always planned to do a "companion" novella to accompany it, following the exploits of some of the other characters during the middle section of the novel - the years 1913-1916. Naturally I'd decided to make this quite war-centric, without realising that Oaklands was going to be picked up and published during this summer just gone, or that I would be writing the "novella" as a full-length piece that I would be hoping to pitch to the same publisher just as commemorations for the centenary would be starting to kick off. I hope they like it, but even if they don't you can bet it'll be out there somehow.

So there we have it. I began Lady of No Man's Land on Sunday 17th February, and finished today; just over 8 months later. This might seem like quite a long time for a first draft, but in my defence, yer honour, I've still got my day-job. And it's taken one HELL of a lot of researching! (not my day-job, obvs)

However, I've not been idle: during this time I have edited, formatted and self-published in paperback and e-book the first in the Lynher Mill Chronicles, The Dust of Ancients, which seems to be being well-received, it's certainly selling quite well considering I'm doing it alone with no publisher backing. I've completed a first draft of book 2, The Lightning and the Blade, and begun book 3, The Western War.
I've also built a new website ... two new websites, in fact: re-built my old one at www.terri-nixon.co.uk and made a new one for my self-published work at www.lynhermill.co.uk  

The other bit of exciting news, is that Maid of Oaklands Manor has been shortlisted in the "Best Historical Read" category of reader awards at the Festival of Romance 2013. I'd planned to attend this year anyway, and am down to do a reading (in costume!) at the Art and Romance evening on Friday. I don't want to wear that awful outfit I wore to my book launch party, but if it comes down to it, I might have to.

One last thing - I've put together a collection of some of my old horror stories, and published them on Kindle under T Nixon. It will be free from tomorrow until November 1st, my little Hallowe'en gift to anyone who likes a good, blood-curdling bit of vileness with their morning toast.

So. That's me up to date. There's supposed to be a big storm coming tonight; so far all we have is a bit of rain, but it's meant to hot up a bit later and into tomorrow morning. I'm off to pour the remaining dribbles of last Christmas's Baileys, and watch Downton Abbey. Provided the power stays on. 

Pip Pip!


As always please feel free to comment here, if the robot-thing will let you, or on the Facebook post.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Writing Around Corners.

Here’s the challenge: a novel where one of the key plotlines is the rape and subsequent pregnancy of a naïve young volunteer ambulance-driver in Belgium, 1917. Necessity dictates this pregnancy must not still be an issue by the end of the book.

Plenty of potential for harrowing scenes of emotional turmoil and physical distress. Great! My problem, however, is that my agent and I are pitching this within the romance market, since it’s a sequel to Maid of Oaklands Manor, and so the challenge is not so much writing the storyline convincingly and well, as writing it convincingly and well, but without mentioning sex, rape, pregnant or miscarriage! I have not been told specifically to steer clear of these words, but have been given guidelines that suggest certain things are not likely to be well-received within this genre, and specifically with the publisher I have in mind.

I just want to make it clear: this is not a whinge! I have chosen this path, and I’m enjoying it. I’m particularly enjoying this novel as there is plenty of action, romance and drama in it already, which is how I’m able to write these scenes without feeling the need to be more explicit. The girl in question is not my first-person narrator, so I am able to stay within the head, and consequently use the carefully chosen words, of someone who was not present at the time. The perpetrator of the rape is not the ‘leading man,’ nor anyone he knows well, (although his identity is important and has far-reaching consequences) This will hopefully mean that, with our hero unsullied by any hint of foul play, we can continue to root for him and our heroine, while seeking justice for our poor driver.

I know there are plenty of romance novels with ‘orrible stuff in them, and this one is no different, but the ‘orrible stuff in this book is confined to the results of trench warfare and not a reflection on (or of) any of the sympathetic characters. And, since this is a sequel, anyone picking it up has a right to expect a similar style.

Note: I am not saying anyone picking up a book by the same author should necessarily expect the same; if they can read a book, they can read a blurb, and should make their choice based on that. But a sequel needs to keep within the parameters already established, and in the case of this three-parter, it’s simple: action; romance; history-without-the-history-lesson; characters whose heads are fun/interesting to be in. That’s what I’m aiming for, and what I hope people are finding.

As always, comments below welcomed, or you can leave a note on the Facebook post.

Maid of Oaklands Manor: available now from Amazon. £2.99 ($4.63)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Invisible Research

So. The book is out, getting some great reviews, (hooray!) and people are asking questions about the research aspect of writing an historical novel. I thought I'd do a little post about it, because, in answering those questions and watching people's eyes widen, it's becoming more and more evident that a high percentage of the research I've carried out will never be noticed.

 We all know that information dumps are ghastly; they cause eyes to glaze over at best, and at worst they make the reader grit his or her teeth because they feel they're being lectured to instead of entertained, but research is a necessary part of writing, whether it's historical or not. I'm currently writing a Mythic Fiction series, (contemporary) and that has required checking song titles against the date of the flashback for a 1980s school disco scene; the clothes the girls would have worn; who was 'hot' in the media and might be emulated; who was considered geeky (and not in a good way.) I have also spent time looking up a certain type of small power boat: the construction materials; the layout beneath the deck; the removability of furniture; the engine capacity and so on. Tidal and geographical information has also been checked, as has the effect of lightning strike on the human form and on stone, and various other things that will, hopefully, weave through the story without even being noticed. Including how to make crack cocaine in a spoon, and what it smells like ... let's hope my computer is never taken away by the police and searched!

For Maid of Oaklands Manor the research has had to be even more intensive. Since the opening chapters are set in the spring of 1912 it's only polite to at least mention the Titanic, which required a certain amount of fact-checking so it didn't feel re-hashed; I also had to look into the politics of the time in order to be able to drop bits into conversation and then move quickly away; naturally there was the more obvious clothing, etiquette and speech to check; and a certain amount of war knowledge was necessary, covering both the second Boer and First World Wars. (For Lady of No Man's Land this research has intensified, and become far more focused on trench warfare and the field hospitals in France and Belgium.)

However, as the title of this post suggests, it's the invisible research, that only I know about, that allows me to look at the finished manuscript and feel I've done everything I can. Things like the weather during a given time of the year: I can write confidently about an outdoor fight on New Year's Eve, in a drizzly rainfall, knowing no-one is going to turn around say, "wait, there was heavy snowfall in Cheshire that year!" If I say the area had endured a wet and windy summer in 1912, you can bet that's the truth and not just a convenient reason to have fewer picnics and outdoor parties than usual!

 I checked the dates of birth of all my main characters and confirmed their significant birthdays fell on the days of the week I've said they did; I ensured there was a rail service on a certain day of the year, to and from particular destinations; likewise with a steam packet travelling to Germany. Flowers are another important detail, no matter how brief the mention - you can bet someone out there is an expert and will soon have something to say if you have the wrong flower blooming at the wrong time of the year in the wrong conditions, or any combination of the above. 

For all the people who will read a book and simply accept what the writer says, there's still that small number who will happen to know if it's correct and on whom the smallest mistakes will grate. This post is in no way a grumble about that, in fact it's a shout out of respect to those people; everyone deserves to be immersed in the story they choose to read and, as writers, it's our job to keep them there and not have them pulled rudely out by inaccuracies. Which is why we try our very best to ensure the details are as close to correct as we can possibly get them. There might well be slips, but if we do everything we can to secure the big facts in place with the little pins of invisible research, we're going to write with more confidence and lessen that chance, and hopefully increase the enjoyment of whoever picks up our work to read.

If you enjoyed this post please leave a comment below or on the Facebook link.

Maid of Oaklands Manor is out now in e-book. Published by Piatkus Entice (little, brown book group) and available from Amazon and iBooks at £2.99.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Contracts, Conferences and Confidence

As the publication date for Maid of Oaklands Manor approaches I'm finding more and more people asking me about how much money I'm going to make. Now, I really want to make this absolutely, perfectly clear; this book is not going to make me rich! It's not going to get me enough to buy a house, or a car, or probably even enough to pay off my Visa (which isn't that big a bill!) If I'm lucky I'll have a little bit of extra pin money around Christmas. Unless Julian Fellowes decides to adapt it for ITV, of course ;)

I also want to state once more that, hand on heart and may my trousers fall down in public if I'm telling a lie here: I KEEP FORGETTING ABOUT THE MONEY! True story. This book has been my tribute to my grandmother, and I'm beyond thrilled that I've been able to immortalise her name in its (digital) pages, along with one of my favourite stories of hers from when she was in service. But I honestly mean it when I say that being published by an imprint of a major publishing house has been the biggest part of this. It's been such an exciting and enlightening time, I've learned so much (I feel as if I'm a candidate on The Apprentice here, and can hear Lord Sugar in my head saying: "throughout this process!") and whatever comes next is going to be just as exciting, I'm sure. 

Lady of No Man's Land will hopefully be finished and pitched to coincide with the centenary marking the start of the First World War, and it's such a great feeling to know it was actually conceived a good 3 years ago, when I was thinking about writing a WW1 novella as a companion to (what was then) Saturday's Child. I don't feel as if any band-wagon-hopping has occurred, because of that. I really hope Piatkus Entice, or one of the other Little, Brown imprints thinks it's worth picking up the other books in this series, and that they offer me a contract for both of them, but I'm going to be writing them anyway.


You know I said I'm not going to get rich off this book? Well that's true. But I can't shake the feeling that, despite the fact that it's considered too niche to pitch to a large, traditional publisher, I have something rather special with The Lynher Mill Chronicles. I really feel SO strongly about that, that I don't even care about not pitching it, and will self-publish The Dust of Ancients this autumn . I have decided to create Lynher Mill Publishing as a business, and to self-publish anything that can't find a traditional home, while writing whatever else is required of me as an author of Historical/Romance. I intend to pep up and finish Penhaligon's Attic once I'm done with the three-book series (Maid, Lady, Daughter - that's not the name of the series, I need to find one even if it's just for my own use.) and then, hopefully, to move on to contemporary "romaction," which is what I call the fast-paced romance thriller, such as Fire and Fury. I'd like to write more of those and I know I could write those faster than I can write historical!

The Kate Nash Literary Agency Day. London, June 15th 2013.

I accepted the invitation to this rather wonderful occasion, thinking; "oh my god I'm going to feel such the outsider. I hope I don't make a total teapot out of myself." I was convinced I'd have nothing to offer, that I would sit in the corner and rock, chanting "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy," until someone very kind escorted me off the premises.
After getting a coach at silly o'clock, and paying over the odds for a taxi so I wouldn't have to fight the tube, I got there after a couple of people and before some others, so right away I didn't feel I'd messed up there. And I couldn't have been in nicer company. Everyone was absolutely wonderful, and although nervousness made me babble quite a lot, and a lot of it was, undoubtedly, complete rubbish, no-one made me feel as if I should go to my corner and just belt up. I don't want to make this blog post even more ridiculously long, so I won't go into the details of the day, I just wanted to illustrate here, in the spirit of the way I'm starting to feel, that I actually believed I belonged there - in part thanks to the loveliness of my fellow clients, but also, and yes, I'm going to say it: because BLOODY HELL I HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS!  

The theme that's emerging from this post even as I write it, is that I have discovered a confidence in my own work I could never draw on before. I can come out and say: "this is good!" and believe it, instead of muttering, "I hope it's not too awful." 

I like that. 

As always, please feel free to comment either here or on the Facebook link/s when I've posted. 
Thank you for reading!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Judging a Book by its Cover

We all do it, to some degree or another, I think. I've put books back on the shelf without reading the blurb, simply because the picture on the front has made me wince, or given me what might have been the wrong impression of the work inside the cover. (I'll never know, of course, but that's the point of this post.) 

For those who've followed my progress with "the-book-formerly-known-as-Saturday's-Child," Now Maid of Oaklands Manor, you will be familiar with the way I have worried about the cover and what it might look like; to refresh your memory I have mentioned it in this post. I told myself it was silly to worry, and that it would all be absolutely fine. I should point out that Piatkus Entice have been nothing but wonderful throughout this exciting but scary process, and have listened to my concerns, and responded quickly and professionally, but with a very personal touch. This post in no way intends to suggest otherwise, but I'm keeping this record of the ups and downs of writing and publication, and this was (temporarily) one of the downs. 

The other week they sent me the cover. Oh dear. What it immediately said to me was: "1930: cheerful farm girl Sally meets a handsome, widowed landowner and becomes nanny to his children. What happens next is both hilarious and touching!"
 All of which is fine, and I might very well buy a book with that blurb, but this book is about a tiny, dark-haired slip of a girl who, in 1912, arrives at the house where her mother used to be in service to take up a similar position in the scullery. She doesn't have a nice time of it, frankly, and before long she ends up in Holloway women's prison, before spending the second half of the book entangled with diamond thieves, blackmailers and spies. 
Bearing all that in mind, this is the cover that was suggested:

Along with this picture was a note that invited my thoughts, so after about half hour of swallowing tears (yes, tears, how silly is that?!) of disappointment and frustration, I replied to the e-mail with this: 

Thank you for sending me the cover for the book. I understand I have no say in the design, and I'm not well versed in what sells well, but I must confess I'm disappointed. Lizzy is mentioned several times to be slender and with a lot of thick, dark hair, and this girl is round-faced, cheerful and blonde, and clearly not a maid. I have also  described the driveway that leads right up to the front door quite distinctly, and there are no steps

After signing off with an apology for replying with such a negative note, I hit 'send' and then sat back feeling quite sick, wondering what I'd done, and how they would respond to a newbie like myself questioning their judgement. 

I needn't have worried. Within minutes they responded and invited me to find some Google images of a suitable girl, and an idea of the kind of entrance to the house I was thinking of, so that they could find the right image in their stock. I was delighted to do so, and when I sent the images I also mentioned that I would be happy with the back view of a girl, holding a suitcase, and facing the house. I have never liked photographs of the characters on the covers of books, but was prepared to accept whatever they sent back, because I felt I had pushed my luck a little too far, and, frankly, anything was better that than chirpy blonde! 

Once again, my fears were groundless. This is what I received back after a day or two spent biting my already shredded nails:

So this, ladies and gentlepongs, is the cover of my very first published novel! Piatkus listened, responded, and this is a cover I can really be proud of which is vital, I think, for a first novel. I've loved all the covers for the collections in which my short stories have appeared, but this ... well, this is all mine!

In other news, I was featured in Writers' Forum this month, after an interview with Sally Quilford , and the PR people at work were alerted to it because I mentioned Plymouth University! It was a lovely piece, and so exciting to buy a copy at WH Smiths - I got so distracted in the queue this random guy behind me had to nudge me to move forward. I wanted to brandish the magazine in his face and squeak "that's me, that is!" but he didn't look the type to appreciate it, so I just shuffled forward and kept my grin (and my squeaks) to myself.

Still working on Lady of No Man's Land, and simultaneously noting plot points for Daughter of Dark River Farm (book 3 in the series). All very exciting, and keeping me busy!

Thank you for reading, as always please feel free to comment either here, or on the Facebook link when I post it. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Things are moving on a-pace ...

So, another few months have passed since my last blog post and I thought it was time I updated. 

Where to begin, though? My last entry was filled with excitement about the fact that Saturday's Child had won me a publishing contract with Piatkus Entice, and that post was made a day or two after the announcement. Since then things have, as the subject says, moved on a-pace! The book has now been re-named Maid of Oaklands Manor, and after a brief battle with my common sense I have taken the view that the publishers know so much better than I do what is likely to sell and what isn't. It will be published on 4th July 2013.

 The editor who worked with me on the book, knocking off the rough edges, pointing out where I'd repeated words etc, also persuaded me to bring out the romantic part of the story, for which I'm extremely grateful.
I think the problem with me doing that initially was that this was never intended to be a historical romance. Readers of my earlier posts (and I know there are some, because although the comments don't show here, I've had responses on Facebook!) will know this story was inspired by my grandmother's life in service. And although, in the end, the tale went off in a wildly different direction, I still feel as though it's hers and that's why I have kept her name for one of the secondary characters, and one of the incidents in the book that was a true story. Lizzy's attraction to Jack came out of nowhere. She was supposed to be in love with Will the butcher's apprentice but when Jack came along it was hard to ignore the spark between them. I did try though, because I thought the story was one of injustice and adventure. However Caroline Kirkpatrick (editor with Little, Brown) tugged and coaxed until everything came tumbling out and Lizzy and Jack's story became far more intense and, ultimately, much more rewarding. 

So, after some amendments, and an additional 13,000 words, the MS went to copy-edit, and then some further edits were necessary to clarify a couple of points of inheritance and family tree (it was all so obvious to me but I neglected to take into account the fact that the reader is not inside my head!). The book is now with the type-setter, and I should have the proofs back in a week or so for one last proof-read. I'm not sure when I can expect to see the cover art, and had been very nervous about it until I saw some of the other covers for historical romances. This is not a bodice-ripper so I would hope there will be no scantily-clad girls or open-shirted men, and I'm hoping the cover will accurately represent the story within. I'm learning to trust the industry more, so am feeling less as if I've handed over total control of my 'baby' to a fiction-factory, and more as if the publishers are applying their expertise to something they believe in strongly enough to take the time and effort they've shown so far.


On the back of that deal with Piatkus, I have signed a contract with the Kate Nash Literary Agency and we are talking (although very loosely at the moment) about my next book, Lady of No Man's Land. This is a sequel in that it presumes knowledge of characters and key events, but the story is Creswell heiress Evie's. It follows her time as an ambulance driver on the Western Front, and explores what happens when her sense of right and wrong, previously so clear, is put to the test after her friend is viciously attacked by an army officer she had been trying to help. The girl's brother goes after justice but things get out of hand and he is forced to desert. 
The third book in the series, Daughter of Dark River Farm brings the action back to England, and we will get re-acquainted with some of the characters we thought we'd heard the last of. I'm prepared to be surprised by some of them.

I am still working on The Lynher Mill Chronicles too, and will begin a full edit of The Lightning and the Blade soon, now that I've let it sit awhile. This should help me see the direction I need to go in for The Western War, although I've got a rough outline in my head already. 

Th-th-th-th-th-th-that's all, folks!

Please feel free to comment here, or on Facebook when I post the link.

Thanks for reading!

Tel. x

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I won!

Well here I sit on a gloriously sunny Sunday morning in November, and the view from my sitting room window is that of a beautiful autumn-dressed tree standing against a sky of pure blue. Lovely.

The view from my head, however, is as exciting as hell, frankly. 

Saturday's Child (previously titled A Tainted Legacy, see this post for rantings about how Downton Abbey is copying me!) has won the Piatkus Entice award for Historical Fiction 2012! The prize is a publishing contract with the Ebook-first imprint of Little Brown, and by all accounts that will happen next summer. 

To say I'm thrilled and delighted is an understatement, of course, and at the moment there are no words to adequately describe how it does feel. I can yell and jump around (and I have done) I can post status updates and smile as every word appears on the screen in front of me (and I have done) I can make new blog posts trying to explain how amazing it feels to have won this prize (and I am doing). But it will never be enough. It's potentially life-changing, I have no doubt of that. 

I feel validated and vindicated, hopeful and happy, inspired and invincible. Now I can move on, knowing I'm not banging my head against a brick wall, that I do have something I can work on and with, and that people want to read. If I never publish anything ever again (and I hope to goodness THAT'S not the case!) at least I can say that Saturday's Child, and my Grandma Mary, will be immortalised together. 

So watch this space, my friends, for further news!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"What kind of writer do you want to be?"

I had an interesting and very exciting phone call a few days ago while at work. My mobile buzzed with an 'unknown' number and I picked up, expecting more PPI rubbish, and we were cut-off as soon as I confirmed my name. The woman sounded very well-spoken and polite and, thinking it might have actually been something important about #son I pushed re-dial as I walked out of the office but it was engaged, and  I realised they were calling me back.

I accepted the call and nearly tripped over my own feet when the voice introduced herself as Teresa Chris from the literary agency of the same name.
Now, a brief (very brief!) background note here: I had kept coming back to that name in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, mostly because my name is Teresa and I was married to a man named Chris for 15 years!

Anyway, I digress. (channelling Ronnie Corbett, sorry.) Ms Chris has had the query package for Saturday's Child for a couple of months and was ringing to ask if I'd found representation yet. No, says I. Good, says she. She went on to ask a few questions, and said she had kept coming back to my MS - possibly in the same way I kept coming back to her listing in WAY -  and was starting to get a feeling about it. (I'm sure she used the word 'tingle' but I'm not 100% now; I wasn't particularly focused at the time!) She also asked about Penhaligon's Attic as I'd mentioned it in my covering letter as the project I was currently working on, and said she liked the sound of that one too as her heart is in Cornwall.

The point of this post though, is that she asked me an interesting question and I'm almost positive I came across like a simpering idiot in my reply. After ascertaining that my previous book (The Dust of Ancients) would not be suitable for her because it's fantasy, she asked me: "What kind of writer do you want to be?" And gave her reasoning, perfectly valid from a business point of view, that she couldn't put a lot of time and effort into developing my career if she thought I might suddenly decide I wanted to be a fantasy writer.

So, I told her I considered both Saturday's Child and Penhaligon's Attic to be women's fiction, and that The Dust of Ancients was something I'd written a long time ago (true) and was considering for self-publication (also true, although I have hopes for it). I stressed that I had settled well into women's fiction and would be happy to concentrate on that.
What I should have said, I think, is: "I want to be a writer who writes."  Okay, I'd very much like to be a writer who also sells, but I can't bear the thought of not letting my creativity have its head, at least sometimes. I could write women's fiction 'til I'm blue in the face, and I hope it would be readable and enjoyable, and competently written - possibly even sellable. But if I want to write an urban fantasy I don't want to feel as if I should be wearing a grubby overcoat, and only showing it to people in alleyways after dark.

So if Ms Chris shows any further interest in developing my career with me I will be extremely happy, and I will work hard for her and with her, and do everything in my power to build a solid working relationship that's mutually beneficial.
BUT - if she doesn't (because I don't know if I mentioned in my covering letter that Penhaligon's Attic is a ghost story!) and I get the feeling it's because she doesn't think I can stick to one kind of writing, well that's taught me merely to keep my mouth shut about other projects, not to stop working on them.

To sum up: she has asked for the full MS of Saturday's Child, and whatever I can give her of Penhaligon's Attic. She now has these and has asked for an exclusive for a couple of weeks while she mulls it over.
I can hope for the best, and I can easily take the worst and continue with my current projects: The Lynher Mill Chronicles and Penhaligon's Attic, and I can also dig out my very first novel (which I never mention but actually isn't too bad!) and get that one ready for pitching too. That's a straightforward, contemporary thriller; no ghosts, no Cornish spriggans, just a woman and her son and some bad guys. Oh, and one very very GOOD guy of course ;)

Thank you for reading, please feel free to comment, either here or under the link on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Couple of interesting things have cropped up since I've re-discovered The Lynher Mill Chronicles. First thing  is this, that I put on Facebook a month or so ago: 

 So ... I wrote The Dust of Ancients in 2006. I'm currently going through it with a view to letting it see the light of day via self-publishing, and now I keep seeing this character I'd created as Robert Carlyle's Rumpelstiltskin - who I really, inexplicably strongly, took to in Once Upon A Time. Now I'm at the end of the MS and he's turned around and called someone "Dearie." 2006, I said. Somewhat freaked.

Next is the rather spooky choice of name for my lead male: his surname is Lucas, always has been, from the word 'go'. Well, given that his life is all tangled up with elemental Cornish spirits, and they're forever messing about with the weather, (lots of storms) turns out the Cornish word for 'lightning' is 'luhas.' 
Eh? Eh??? Yes, quite. 

Third thing; the trilogy heavily features a broken bronze dagger and a decorated jar, takes place on Bodmin Moor near Minions, and one of the character has a hiding place in a barrow near the village. 
The other day I was looking for a likely place on the moor to base this hidey-hole and looked up Rillaton Barrow, which I've heard of, walked past several times and vaguely had an idea had some historical importance -- apparently it was found to contain a skeleton (not surprising, for a burial mound!) but also a decorated jar and, yep, a bronze dagger. 

Now, I've just had a knock-back from the one agent I've queried since the re-vamp, but all that's telling me is that she was wrong for this book/series. (The first book can stand alone as a complete novel in its own right, essential for a first-time author, but the second and third are closely linked and will depend upon each other to complete the story.) 

I recently made a Facebook status update that claims I have never been more excited by something I'm writing, and that's the truth. When I wrote The Dust of Ancients six years ago I had such a strong belief in it, yet I allowed myself to be convinced by a measly 4 agents, (yes, 4!) that it wouldn't work. I'm so much tougher-skinned now, and the more I work on this story the stronger my belief grows. I am prepared to take knock after knock until the right agent, the one who can see the potential and is brave enough to take the risk, picks it up off the slush pile. No rush.

It's made so much harder by the fact that so many of them won't even consider fantasy. I'll bet those agents look at things like Game of Thrones and wonder if they should maybe remove that stipulation from their Writers' and Artists' Yearbook entries. Well, they should. I'm not saying The Lynher Mill Chronicles can ever hold a candle to George R R Martin, but it's proof that people DO want to read of alternative existences; whether totally separate or merging/blending with our own everyday lives. Reading is escape, and whether you escape to another country and follow someone's adventures there, or whether you just take a sideways step into what might be right beside you and just out of your line of vision, it's just as valid.

I took a break from LMC to write Saturday's Child, and I loved it. I enjoyed it, the voice came naturally and I felt a connection to my Grandmother through it. When I also found enjoyment in beginning Penhaligon's Attic thought I'd settled, but the minute I dug this out and began to read it again I felt myself relaxing into it, like my own familiar bed after a few nights in a luxury hotel. 

I still believe in this story, and I am not going to rest until I have seen it in print - whether it be with an agent and traditional publisher, or whether I go self-published. I will do it. All I ask for is the continued support of my friends and family, and of my fellow writers, whose work I have always supported in return.
Like I said; no rush.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Oh fickle, fickle me ...

Well then. I've now gone through The Dust of Ancients, after letting it languish in a drawer (metaphorically speaking) for a few years. I'm bound to report that I'm actually quite excited about how crap it isn't, and how I'd done far more towards the sequels than I'd realised. 

Having been so 'into' Penhaligon's Attic recently I wondered if I was now just bored and looking for another project, so I asked my trusty pendulum (pictured below.) I found it - or rather, I think it found me - in a little shop somewhere in middle America, when Tonya and I were searching for something else. No other pendulum since has reacted so strongly for me, and when it reads my deeper wishes and reports back that my subconscious would like to re-visit Bodmin Moor, the spriggans and the rather glorious Richard Lucas, who am I to argue?

So. Penhaligon's Attic is going to be taking a little bit of a breather (the story is more or less sorted and the characters could do with a little bit of time to have a think about how they're going to wow me.) I'm back in the fictional village of Lynher Mill for a while, and ... yeah, I'm excited about it. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Quick Word Or Two. ('zoom' and 'whoosh')

Before I started writing Saturday's Child I wrote another novel - in fact Saturday's Child was number 3 - that I eventually called The Dust of Ancients. I always knew it was going to be very hard to place, being a somewhat blurred-genre piece. However, I enjoyed writing it very much, and I do believe it's a decent piece of work. I even got halfway through the second in the planned trilogy (The Lynher Mill Chronicles) before I felt Saturday's Child beginning to push her way through to the front of my mind, knocking harder and harder 'til I put Lynher Mill to one side and started paying attention. 
So, as a lot of people are doing these days I've been letting my thoughts turn to possibly self-publishing. 

Watch this space, my friends, when I've done a little tightening work on it I'm going to be asking if any of the arty-types among you might be able to come up with a cover. 

I'm actually quite excited about this now. What's to lose, right?

In other news, I've updated my website with the first chapters of both Saturday's Child and Penhaligon's Attic. Outlines and more chapters to follow; please subscribe to this blog to be kept up to date. 

Monday, September 03, 2012

Personal -- a question.

How are you supposed to feel when you hear your abuser is terminally ill?

This man was physically violent, an emotional bully, a drunk and a paedophile. He spent most of my childhood either administering a riding crop on bare skin, or behaving in ways I’m not prepared to mention here. I’m not saying there weren’t good times, but they were always overshadowed by wondering how long they would last, and how we were going to pay for them later.

This man tried to mow down my mother and me on a country road in the middle of the night: we had to climb the hedge to escape his car.

This man made me walk about 5 miles down those same country roads with him (also in the middle of the night) and the whole way he was telling me how he was going to kill himself at the other end, that there was a gun in his workshop. Made sure I knew he would probably shoot me first, without actually saying the words (kept reminding me how an old friend of his had killed his wife and himself several years before.) He laughed at me when we got there and the gun wasn’t loaded. Ha ha.

There are other things, too numerous, personal (and hideous) to mention, so, without going into any deeper details I’m wondering now, how I’m supposed to feel when I hear he doesn’t have long to live?

Part of me is viciously glad; part of me feels cheated that he’s going to get away with it, that the rest of my family are still in touch and presumably caring and supportive of him. Natural enough, given that he’s my younger brother’s father, but I feel guilty for that little stab of relief that I won’t have to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder or being afraid to attend family events in case he’s there too.

I know I’m not expected to express regret for his illness, after all I didn’t get so much as a get well card when I was diagnosed with cancer and going through chemotherapy, but I always thought I’d soften a bit towards him if I heard something bad had happened.

I haven’t. Is that wrong?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Not Such A Jewel After All

So the call came. Finally.

After almost a year of re-working and re-editing, and a renewed submissions drive for Saturday’s Child over the space of the past few weeks, I was contacted last night by a literary agent who said those magic words: “we like your work, we think it deserves to be published and we’d like to represent you.”

Time to dance around the living room? Time to drag that dusty bottle of Asti out of the wine rack and put it in the fridge? Time to call friends and family and let them know I’m finally on my way and they can stop yawning now? Well, no. Because the call was from Darin Jewell of Inspira Group.

When they contacted me within a few days saying they would like to represent me, and would read the full and get back to me in a couple of weeks, I was quite unmanageably excited. Then I did my research and found this, on the Inspira Group website:

An accomplished business development and operations professional, Darin Jewell was CEO of the biographical Internet portal Real-Lives.com before co-founding The Inspira Group. Before that he was lead marketing and PR consultant to the Chairman of a major international trading group.

Born in the USA, Darin settled in the UK in the early 1990s. He has a Master's Degree in Management and Philosophy, and undertook his doctoral research at Queens' College, Cambridge before teaching Philosophy and Religion as a Senior Fellow at Harvard University

So right away the alarm bells started ringing: there is nothing in that bio to suggest an appreciation of, or interest in fiction. I then looked further and found the P&E entry around the same time as the Absolute Write water cooler discussion - my enthusiasm started nosediving around about then. All reports said this company charges an up-front fee, and years of research into the query/submission process has told me no reputable agency does that.

Still, I thought I’d wait and see, because, you know, they might have changed. But last night (August bank holiday 2012) I had a call from Mr Jewell. He enthused about my book, we agreed on the genre, he said the word count was ideal, and that I was a talented writer who deserved to be published … blah blah, ego duly fed. Then he asked me how long I’d been trying to get this book published, and what I was working on now.

However, because I’m unknown I’m a huge risk, (accepted) and the printing/packaging of the book will cost over £300 (not my problem.) Would I be prepared to put up that kind of money to help with the initial submissions to commissioning editors? Because, after all, I’d been trying to get published for so long now.

When I began to question this he said he could tell I was “not naïve,” but that hardly any agents will take on a new author. He named one agency (Sheil Land) but said they were the only ones he could think of who might give a new author a shot. When I said they had my initial submission at the moment, and that 2 others were currently considering the full MS as well, he back-pedalled like a good’un and said that he’d just decided he didn’t want to represent me after all, because my next book is too different from this one -- ie; it has a ghost in it. I was clearly someone who couldn’t possibly write more than one book in the same genre (not his words, but the gist) and so no commissioning editor would look twice at my work no matter how deserving of publication it is.

So – the Asti stays in the wine rack, my living room remains un-danced around and my family and friends are probably still yawning (although not to my face, they’re too nice). But I was able to put the phone down last night knowing full well I’d made the right decision, as disappointing as it was.

I might never get an agent for this book; I might never get one for the next, or the ones I’ve written previously, but I have a little bit of pride left, at least.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Moving on, and hopefully up ...

Well, the saga of Saturday's Child continues; 3 bites being chewed at the moment: an offer of publication with independent publishers BeWrite; offer of representation subject to checking the full MS from Inspira; request for a full from LBA. (Luigi Bonomi Associates in London)

Two of those are responses in less than a week, to a fresh batch of queries I sent out earlier this month - a renewed effort to get good representation for this book. LBA's initial query was by post, and they replied within a few days of receipt, asking for the remainder to be sent -- also by post. 

BeWrite aren't an agency,  Inspira, so the grapevine tells me, are more than likely to ask me for an up-front fee. That's not going to happen, so, at the moment my biggest hope is with LBA, and I've just printed out 328 pages ready to post. It's sitting there on my coffee table, wedged into a blue plastic folder held closed by one of those red elastic bands the posties drop all over the roads. Not very neat, but at least the pages aren't loose, and with our lovely English summer doing its usual party-piece, if the package gets wet at least the MS is protected!

I plan on submitting still more over the next few days, then I can forget it for a while and use my free time next week to get stuck into Penhaligon's Attic. 
My new copy of WAY is waiting for me at the sorting office (maybe I can pick up some more elastic bands off the road, when I go to collect it!) so in the meantime it's this list to keep me busy.

Good times, good times. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Success At Last!

Well, how's this for a reason to update: Saturday's Child has been accepted by BeWrite books, the publishers of most of my short stories over the past 12 years. How excited am I then?! My first published novel! All the more special to me because of the links to Grandma Mary and the memories I've managed to get into the plot -- not as many as I'd have liked, but there are some. I've always had the notion in the back of my mind that there will be a novella covering the time Lizzy is in Holloway, when we find out how Mary, Evie, Will and Jack fared on the outside.

We're hoping for a summer release, in print and e-book, and I'm going to have to turn into marketing bore extraordinaire from here on in! I'll need to get my website working and focus on SC on the main page, and get links to all the places it can be bought on there ... exciting times!

This news has also given me the boost I need to get my teeth further into Penhaligon's Attic, so in between any changes that need making to SC I'm going to be bashing on with that one. Oh, and remembering to blog progress!

Some of the girls at work are giving me ideas with regard to getting the Uni and local papers to help with publicity ... it's going to be all systems go.

Oh, and one more thing:


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rollercoaster City

Well it's been a while, and I thought I should probably do an update.

First and foremost the book has had a second-half re-write, and a name-change (and, apparently, a hyphen-overload ... oops, did it again).

It is now called Saturday's Child, from the popular rhyme. Seems to fit quite well and there aren't a million other things with that name. The hook runs as follows:

1912. A chance meeting between scullery maid Lizzy Parker and heiress Evie Creswell leads to more than an enduring friendship and a new job for Lizzy; it draws her into a world of privilege and intrigue, and delivers her into the loving arms of a killer.

So there we have it; and the query must have hit the spot because around a week after sending it out to pretty much the only agents I could find who accept e-mail submissions, I had a bite: Diane Banks e-mailed me to say she'd enjoyed what she'd read so far, and invited me to send the full MS. After flapping about and muttering "ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod," for a while I got a grip, prepared the e-mail and sent it.

Of course I knew the chances were good that it'd be knocked back, and I was right, it was. But Diane was perfectly polite about it and while she didn't offer any feedback (disappointing and now feel slightly adrift) she did have the good manners to let me know right away instead of keeping me hanging on for months and making me ask. I had the rejection in two days.

MAN that hurt! Hurt loads worse than having a query rejected, because I could always tell myself before that they hadn't bothered to even read it, yada yada yada-all-agents-are-mean! But Diane read it and she said she "didn't feel strongly enough in the end, to take it further in what is an incredibly competitive fiction market."

Ho hum. Never mind. It's out there working, still; sitting with 4 more agents and entered for two breakthrough/debut novel competitions. And when those run out I'll start in on the printed submissions - I can't quite believe there are still agents out there who don't accept e-mails, not in in this day and age. But - there are, and one of them might just be the one who connects with Lizzy Parker and wants to help me tell her story.