About Me

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

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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 na├»ve,” 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: