Sense of Smell

While thinking about my writing, I’ve noticed something odd.  I give my lead female characters a scent.  Don’t do it so much with the men, but the women have it whether they be published or not.

I do know that our sense of smell is one of the strongest for memory recall.  So putting smell into a scene can’t hurt.

Ariadne Teddington, the heroine of Locked Up, Locked In and Locked Down, carries the scent of fresh apples.  It’s mostly her shampoo and it smells a lot better than the claustrophobic, testosterone-packed corridors of the prison where she works.

Amethyst Forrester from my Of Aether steampunk series, bears the aroma of lavender.  In her defence, we are talking about a Victorian lady so she uses what she can.  Yes, I know that there were plenty of perfumeries around in the Victorian era, but she grew up without a lot of money, and a number of lavender bushes in the back garden.  Oh, must remember to have her plant more in the new house.

Jessica MacDonald appears in a few short stories I’ve written, she’s a pathologist who smells of warm vanilla.  I’m guessing that no one wants to smell of dead bodies.

Then I thought about the heroine of my next set of books.  I know her, but won’t reveal to much of her yet.  But when thinking of her, I spent ages trying to remember what she smells of.  Couldn’t do it.  So I went to my files and had a quick check.  She doesn’t smell of anything particularly and after checking I know why.  It’s not because she’s stinky and doesn’t wash, and it’s not mentioned anywhere either, but I know her and I know why.  She doesn’t have a signature scent because she mostly uses unscented products but even breaks that rule occasionally because the products she does buy are whatever is on offer at the time.

Off the top of my head, the only published character who I know has a distinctive smell is Janet Evanovich’s Ranger.  Love Ranger in the books.  He uses Bvlgari, can’t recall exactly what one, other than it was in dark green packaging.

So what about you?  Do your characters have a scent that distinguishes them?

 

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The Journey To Publication

When I was asked to write some blogs to promote Locked Up, I couldn’t think what to say, so I sent a couple of ideas to the publicist and asked if there was anything else she thought I could cover.  One of the ideas that came back was The Journey To Publication.

Now I have deliberately capitalised that, because that’s what it sounds like to me.  It’s like an epic line, like “I Am Spartacus!”  Like it should be said by that deep throated bloke who does all the film trailers; read the next bit in his voice to see what I mean.

It was a time of worry.  It was a time of nerves.  Would there be acceptance or rejection?  A book or an empty shelf?  It was – The Journey To Publication.

Do you hear it now?

Yeah, okay, I am being taking it to extremis, and should dial down the sarcasm seeing as the idea has turned into this blog. Yet the fact remains that it’s one of those things that we’ve all already read about, and probably written about. It felt a little old hat and not something I can bring anything new too. And even as I sit typing this up, I’m still not sure I’m saying anything that hasn’t been said a thousand times before.  Except maybe that speech above – am oddly proud of exercising my humour on that – you know what they say about little things pleasing little minds.

What you won’t have heard before is the actual story in Locked Up, that’s far more original, you really should go read that, that’s very engaging.

So here it is, my Journey To Publication.  I’ve always written, been receiving rejections since I was a teenager.  Largely gave up on myself as a writer because there were more immediate struggles – university, marriage, kids, life – but I never stopped writing.

Finally, the time came when I was ready to properly put myself and my writing out there again.  I’d been doing so kind of half-heartedly the whole time, and have the requisite drawer full of rejection slips to prove it, but at last I was ready to really go for it.

Guess what happened…

Nothing.

Just more rejection.

I finished Locked Up and thought, you know, this is really good, this should sell.  So I went to Winchester Writers Festival, meet with some agents.  Four of them.  Had all four ask to see the full manuscript.

Woo-hoo!  Right?

Right.  Yes – I got my agent.

He told me I’d have to be patient because getting published takes a long time.  And I was patient. For two years.  Not a dickie bird.  Not a hint, nor a whisper, not a whiff of interest.  Got some rather nice rejections, but they were still rejections and that’s never nice.  At the time the industry was going through some major changes, culling commissioning editors left right and centre, it’s still changing and that is likely to last a while.  The agent said that I probably wouldn’t get any luck until those commissioning agents were replaced.  The issue for me was that there was no guarantee that they would be replaced and I didn’t want to wait until I was in my fifties to get published.

It was time to take back control.

So I did.

I wrote to my agent, thanked him for his hard work and we politely parted company.  I sent my manuscript to Bloodhound Books and got a yes please in a few days.  Thank God I was sitting down when I read that email!  And I had to re-read a couple of times it to make sure it was saying what it was saying rather than just what I wanted it to say.  The point was, within a week of being told that nothing was likely to happen for ages – I had a publishing deal.

Hooray!!

(And for once that isn’t sarcasm)

Rejection got replaced with acceptance.  The shelf will stop being empty.

The worry and the nerves however, they are very much still here.  Yes, I’m getting published, Locked Up came out on September 7th. But now I have to find readers, I have to find all you lovely people out there, strangers I have never met, and persuade you too read my book.  I have to hope you’re like it – actually I hope you’ll love it, rave about it to a load of other readers who’ll also love it – and that makes me nervous.  If it helps, I do have some great recommendations from other crime writers:

 

Caro Ramsay, author of the Anderson and Costello series, says:

“Tense and claustrophobic, with a spine chilling denouement!”

 

Katherine John, author of “By Any Name”, recently made into a stunning Amazon Prime video, says this:

“A brilliant new and authentic voice in crime fiction – GB Williams knows how to tell a story and tell it well.”

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Steampunk Firsts

Some say Steampunk started with KW Jeter in 1979 with Morlock Nights.  But did it?

Now I’ve read Jeter, Morlock Nights and Infernal Devices.  They are readable, but as often with books that are considered the first in their genres, not the very best.  I’d give them 3 out 5, which isn’t the recommendation it should be.

When I was at a convention in October, I was introduced to Pavane by Keith Roberts. This was first published in 1966, it was a teenager before Morlock Nights hit the scene.  And it is definitely steampunk.

But is that even the first?

I think there’s an argument that it’s not.

Back on 1st January 1818, Frankenstein was published.  Mary Shelley wrote about a man who used technology to control life.  This is often quoted as the first science fiction book, but was it also the first steampunk book? Okay, this isn’t Victoriana, but Steampunk is a broad church.  Frankenstein could be classed as Powderpunk, if only because of the setting.

So what of the elements of steampunk?

  1. A story set within a world using a real or imagined version of the technology of the 19th century

Well Frankenstein is set in a real world, and the technology used to bring the ‘monster’ to life is not a hundred percent different from a mix of modern technology, think limb transplant, defibrillator, iron lung.  You’d need all these to sustain a body, bring it back to life.

  1. Victorian-era class and economic structures

Well, it’s Georgian class and economic structures, but what else would the Victorian-era class and economic structures be built on.

  1. Implicit or explicit social critique

Oh definitely.  The way Shelley portrays the role of women in society is actually quite shocking to this modern reader.  Then there is the way that society condemns the monster on nothing more than his looks

  1. An adventure-oriented plotline

Well, what more adventure do you want than an outcast running from the society that shuns him through no fault of his own.  There’s running and hiding and travel to inhospitable regions. That sounds like an adventure to me.

  1. An emphasis on the empowerment of individuals in the face of industrial standardization and the advance of modern bureaucratic government

If the monster is anything, he’s an individual and he does find his way to empowerment in the end.  Though even I have to admit that this is possibly the one Frankenstein doesn’t fit.

This is a definitive statement, just a personal opinion, feel free to disagree.  If you’ve never read the books I’ve mentioned, they are all worthy of a try.  But so is Shades of Aether, and that’s a good introduction to the genre too.

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Gift Idea for the Writer in Your Life

JFE Gift Vouchers xmas 2017 (1)As a writer, I know how expensive it is to get a novel properly edited.  I also know that there is no shortcut to the hard work that has to go into producing a publishable document.  So when I was contacted by Jefferson Franklin Editing (JFE) and told they were now offering Gift Vouchers, I knew it was a fabulous idea.

So for anyone stuck for something to a buy a writer, this might just prove to be an inspiration.  Here’s what JFE told to me.

Anyone interested should email admin@jefferson-franklin.co.uk to discuss what they need. JFE are currently updating their website for the purchase of gift vouchers, however, this is not yet up and running yet. So they send a pay-pal invoice or provide bank details for a direct payment; the purchaser would provide them with details of where the voucher is to be sent and they will mail it according to the buyer’s instructions.

Gift vouchers purchased prior to midnight, Christmas Eve will receive a 10% bump in face value in appreciation of the support for Jefferson Franklin as well as for the benefit of the recipient.

So, anyone interested, email me at admin@jefferson-franklin.co.uk and I will dialogue directly with them for more details.

I was lucky enough to be given one of these and it’s helping with payment for my next edit (book 3 of the Locked Series – Locked Down).

Of course, if you’re just looking for a stocking filler, I can point you in the direction of a few good books, just click here….

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When the Chips are Thrown

A couple of weeks ago I spotted the following image on Twitter

chips in Aber

Now at first read, I didn’t believe it, this had to be a joke, right?  Who’s really that bothered by chips being through?  But then I was looking for the image for a blog, and I couldn’t remember the details, so I put in something like “Arrest throwing chips”.  That was when disbelief really set in.

I started seeing some really unpleasant things, domestic attacks, racist attacks, burns and general stupidity.

Chips thrown at someone on a bus, general stupidity, might sound like a twisted sense of humour; but when it’s part of racist hate attack, it’s serious and unpleasant and shouldn’t be tolerated in any society.

Then there was the passenger who was murdered on a bus because they tried to stop the murderer throwing chips.

Then you get the awful cases where, it’s not just the chips, but the chip fat that thrown.  Work place confrontations, domestic arguments.  Some of it really terrible, and I won’t share pictures of that.

So why am I writing about this in a writers blog?  Because this started with what seemed to be a funny story, very quickly became something truly horrific and that always makes for a good story.

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A Lucky Woman

I am White – luck of birth

I am English – luck of birth

I am able-bodied – luck of birth

I had a Comprehensive Education – luck of birth, country, and hard work

I have a degree – luck of hard work

I am in full time in employment – luck of hard work

I am married – luck and work

I have published novels – luck of hard work

I have contracts for publishing more novels – luck of hard work

I am known as a good baker – luck of hard work (and a few baker’s secrets)

I have a comfortable home – luck of hard work

 

I have two wonderful, intelligent, capable, talented children who I hope will one day be able to say the above too.

I also have depression, that’s the luck of birth too.  I look in the mirror and I don’t like the woman I see, that’s depression and mental conditioning that is hard to overcome, and I fight that battle every day.  The downsides of the condition are terrible, but the upside is that when I’m up, I am up, and I can see how lucky I am to have all the luck I have in my life, the things, the achievements and the people, which was why I started making this list.  Also, so I remember this list.

Sometimes I will act, and be, an insensitive, selfish, privileged jerk who doesn’t understand the difficulties that others go through every day of their lives, on account of I am lucky to be privileged and I don’t always see that. I’ve never been rich or beautiful or famous, probably never will be, but I’ve never been brutally attacked, I’ve never been shouted at in the street for having the ‘wrong’ colour skin, I’ve never been barred from doing anything because I have a visible physical disability.  So forgive me if I don’t instantly get it, not being a jerk is another daily battle I don’t always win.  I try to do better, and because the people around me make it worthwhile.  So if you see me “not getting it”, give me a mental slap and an explanation, because I am working on it.

Because I’ve been lucky.

And because as I heard quoted today “The harder I work, the luckier I become.”

 

(and to all my writing/editing pals – I know sentences shouldn’t start with conjunctions, but tough – it’s common usage init)

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Seven In One

Yesterday was the first time I ever attended a convention as a trader, and it was quite an experience.

This was BristolCon ninth year, and another writer friend of mine, Will MacMillian Jones, had suggested it would be a good place to promote my steampunk stuff.  Well, I’m always up for that kind of thing, especially something that it’s a million miles away from home.

So I contacted the organisers and booked half a table, got to the venue and set up – which took all of ten minutes.  Well, it was never going to take long, I only have one steampunk book written!

Of course, I didn’t want to look like a complete newbie, as well as Shades of Aether, I took copies of two other books to sell; Locked Up, my contemporary crime novel; and Cthulhu Cymreag 2, the anthology I have a story in.  I wasn’t entirely sure that these were appropriate, but one should never miss an opportunity.

Turns out having additional books was a great idea, table would have looked bare without, especially when it turned out that the person how had the other half of the table dropped out at the last minute, and I got to spread across the whole table.

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So I was there, copies of three different books to sell, all I had to do was wait was customers.

Sounds easy, but it never is.  Engaging with people is actually rather difficult.  It was easy to engage with other traders, with them we are all in the same boat, stuck together for however long the day lasts.  Potential customers, however are much harder to catch, especially when you have three books to glance at their covers and your sandwiched between the Oxfam Book Shop with tonnes of second hand books and Grimbold Books, with their many and varied new titles, their cute mascots, and their award – all very impressive.

Still, I engaged enough to sell, though I was a little surprised to find that at a Sci-Fi convention the first thing to sell was Locked Up. By the end of the day I’d sold two Locked Up, two Cthulhu Cymreag and three Shades of Aether. Seven books in one day is not much, but it’s good for what I had to sell.  It also means that I sold enough to cover the cost of the table, which is what you need to do at these things because it’s really about exposure.  I made some good contacts and booked another table for next year, I might even be on a panel or two.

So I will be at the 10th Anniversary BristolCon next year, and hopefully, I’ll have more titles to sell.

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