Fiction Flashes

Another month gone by in a flash!

I’ve been quite quiet on social media and blogging through June because I have been absolutely up to my eyeballs with stuff – more over stuff I wasn’t expecting to have to do.

If you’ve read previous blogs, you will have seen that I said I had a contract for my steam punk novel – well I had a verbal contract but we all know that they aren’t worth the paper they’re not printed on, right?  Well, finally I got the real contract through.  While there was nothing actually wrong with the contract – the publisher had been fair and clear in all the clauses, but there was a tie in factor I was a long way short of being comfortable with, and a get out clause that was unnecessarily punitive.  When I saw everything set out in black and white I saw that actually it wasn’t the contract for me.

So after a sleepless night, because I didn’t want to let the publisher down (she’s a lovely lady and I’d be happy to contribute more short stories to their anthologies), I knew I had to do something I never thought I would – I refused a publishing contract. This was even weirder and riskier than when I broke with my agent.  I hated doing it – really did – but my gut was telling me that it was the right way to go and sometimes you just have to listen to the gut.

The result of which is that I am now going to self-publish Shades of Aether.  <<Bites nails to the quick with nerves>>  Luckily all the hard work was already done, structural and line edits, only the proofreading to go.

So June has been a whirlwind of finding a proofreader – thankfully Jefferson Franklin Editing made room for me – by bumping another job I had booked with them.  Then there’s the cover to think about – luckily another friend of my is a publisher (very different genre so she wouldn’t publish a steampunk book) and she gave me recommendation of a cover design company she uses.  Got in touch with them – explained what had happened and why I needed a quick turn around – and they said – we’re on holiday for two weeks so not sure, what’s your design brief?  Luckily I had one, we exchanged a few emails and they’ve stepped up to the plate with an agreement to get me draft design by end of July which should just about give me time to get it all set up for a decent print run in time to take copies to The Asylum – the Lincoln steampunk convention – not medical institution!

So – phew!

Then there’s my debut crime novel to think about – more on that later


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Bus Contracts

You may have worked out by reading this blog that I have been trying to get a novel published for some time and you’ll see from my previous blogs that it’s finally happened for me.  Bloodhound Books have agreed to publish my Locked series starring Charlie Bell, ex-cop, convicted murderer, absent father – and he’s the good guy.  The final edit has now been returned, so it’ll all going through.  Book 2 – Locked In – is next under my eye for editing.  And book 3 – Locked Down – is finally plotted but I’m struggling to find time to write that (more on that next blog).  Book 4 – Locked Out – isn’t even under contract and that’s virtually writing itself in my head at least, I just hope I can remember it all when I get to that point.

Just to spice things up a bit, I have also been offered another contract – this time for a short story – an erotic short story!  It’s not my regular genre, but it was fun to write, and it got picked for publication, so I can’t complain.  Oddly it has also sparked a bit of a flame.  A friend of mine pointed out last weekend that another erotica publisher has put out an open call for submissions, closing date was yesterday, so I had 3 days to come up with something.  In the end I wrote three shorts until I go the one I wanted.  And yes I got it in.  (As did the characters!)

The sweetener at the moment is that I have also been really, really lucky with another book.  I sent out my Steampunk novel, Shades of Aether, to one publisher – yes just one – and they picked it up!

In all honesty, I really should add that I have had stuff published by this company (Xchyler Publishing) before (Steel & Bone), and had a tentative discussion about the book some months ago, so it wasn’t exactly going in cold.  Still it was fabulous to get a really enthusiastic response within three days of submitting the full manuscript.   This is also the first of a series, so as I write those, hopefully they too will sell. I’m really loving Shades, it is, basically, another crime novel, but unlike my contemporary crime, which tends towards the dark and gritty) this one has more elements of high adventure and higher society and it is a lot lighter hearted, there are some actual funnies going in.  Of course, I’ve still got work to do, editing of the manuscript etc, nothing is polished first go, but it puts a big old smile on my face to know that someone liked it enough to accept.  If you’re on Twitter you can find me at @ShadesOfAether, I put the steampunk stuff there.

May held a ton of other things I want to share, but they will have to be in the next blog, because this is the point I want to get to in this post:

Publishing contracts are apparently like busses; nothing happens for ages, then you get three in close succession. 

Anyway, this happy bunny has to hop off now.  Speak soon.

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Yes is Not the Only Answer

If you’re asking someone “Will you do [whatever]?” it is a closed question.  That means it can be answered with a “Yes” or a “No.”  Two options. Not one. Two.

“No” is as valid and acceptable an answer as “Yes.”

When I’m asked for something, I like to say “Yes,” most people do. But there are times when you have to say “No” for various reasons.  So, why am I writing this?  Well, for two reasons – annoyance and acceptance.

Anyone who does freelance work will tell you that you can get some right odd clients who make you gnash your teeth and want to scream. The nice thing about being freelance, is that sometimes (a very few times) you are in a position to make the decision that something just isn’t worth the money. Well, there was this particular person, who wasn’t at that point even a client (and will ever remain that way) and I was already getting annoyed with The Person over the tone and demands of their emails.  Totally unnecessary demands and restrictions to be honest.  And the sample I’d already done hadn’t exactly enthralled me with The Persons talent.  So I told The Person that unfortunately, I didn’t think I was the editor for them and gave them two recommendations of other editors who might better suit their needs. (After checking with these editors that they would be prepared to deal with The Person.)

Guess what happened next – Yep – insults and aspersions on my professionalism.  I shrugged this off as The Person not being important enough to worry about.  More ego than ability.  But that way lay the Trolls.

A while ago I had a colleague ask for something, but I was up to my ears and had to say no so that I could meet other deadlines.  No insults this time.  Not to me anyway.  But in a more recent session with my line-manager I got it in the neck for not being helpful and had to go through exactly what had happened and my reason for saying no even though to me it was a minor incident that barely even registered.  When I explained my line-manager understood, and even though I was not in the wrong, the black mark is still on my record, not the complainer’s. She Who Cries First won that situation.  She Who Cries First, I’ve noticed over the years and various jobs always does – even when the tears are crocodile.

The point is that people always seem to presume that the answer will be “Yes.”  But “Yes” is not the only answer.

You may be wondering where the acceptance comes from.  Well, it’s this.

I recently asked another author to read my manuscript – which has been accepted for publication – and IF (stressed the IF in the approach) The Author liked it, could The Author give me a positive quote to go with the book.  Now there are a couple of things I should mention about The Author – who will go unnamed because it was an exchange between me and The Author and that’s all – I do not know this person personally, just by reputation, and the fact that we have various social media connections.  I very much admire The Author’s work. I prefaced my approach with an acknowledgment that I was being cheeky just in asking.

Unfortunately, I didn’t do my research or I would have known up front what the answer would be.  And clearly given the topic of this blog you know what the answer was too – it was “No.”

To be honest, not only was I being cheeky in making the approach – I didn’t actually expect any response let alone a positive one, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.  If you don’t ask you don’t get, right?

The response was surprisingly quick and very polite.  Clearly, it was also negative.  Look, as far as I’m concerned the fact that I got a response at all is a testament to The Author’s good nature, and that it was so pleasantly constructed a negative just shows how considerate The Author actually is, too.

Did I rant at The Author?  Did I ask how dare The Author refuse? No, of course, I didn’t.  I can’t imagine why I would, or why anyone else would, either, but I know they would.  All I did was send back a quick note to say thank you for responding and wish The Author a good evening.

So what am I saying with the blog?  Well, three things actually:

  • If you have to ask, do your homework before you do.
  • If you do ask and get a “No”, accept it politely.
  • If you have to be the one saying “No”, do it carefully (and keep copies just in case you’re dealing with a disguised Troll).

I’d also like to say “Sorry for bothering you” to The Author, but don’t expect The Author to read this so that might be pointless – still, it doesn’t hurt to try.



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Write Away

Last time I blogged I may have mentioned being a happy bunny because I got a three book deal.  Well, now I can actually give a few more details.

I’ve agreed to publish Locked Up, Locked In and Locked Down with Bloodhound Books, I know this is going to happen because I (a) have a contract and (b) I’m actually on their website!

Locked Up should be printed in Autumn this year, and I can’t wait.  Locked In is written and will follow in due course.

Locked Down, is the third in the series.  This hasn’t been written yet.  I have a bit of a story to tell about this book.  I planned it a year ago, but when I spoke to my agent I had this idea and an idea for another thriller, something quite different.  The advice was that without selling the first two of Locked, I was best starting the other book.  I did, I’m over 70k words in.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing it and I will go back and finish it because it’s a great book, but right now I have a contract for Locked Down and that’s the one I have to concentrate on.

So I started writing Locked Down on April 11th and I’m 20k in so far. The book isn’t going the way that I thought it would.  Which isn’t a bad thing, this version is much more interesting than the first draft I started.  That’s the thing I had started Locked Down, but I wasn’t that keen on it.  So when I got the contract.  I started again.  Didn’t like that version either.

So I threw the plot in the bin and just started writing.  The book doesn’t start quite where I thought it would start.  It doesn’t even start with the person I thought it would.  Now it has started it’s flowing nicely.  Have a moment earlier on this weekend when I realised I’d written to a crux moment when a clue needed to be revealed.  The problem was – I had no idea what the clue was going to me.

That meant I put the writing aside.

Then I went to the Llandeilo LitFest listened to a panel of female crime writers, and then some very dark poetry. It was an interesting day, and well worth the journey.

A day away from the laptop and writing and I came back with a clear idea of what had to happen next and have been writing it since.

I guess that’s all I have to say. Sometimes you have to ditch what doesn’t work, start over, and even take time away from writing in order to actually be able to write.  Worked for me.

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How to drop your Agent


Okay, well this is a blog I never expected to write.  And somewhat different from the tone of the last one.  For many, many years I have been desperately trying to get an agent, and in 2015 – I got one.

Whoops of glee did, in fact, abound.  I even blogged about.  I was so happy.  I knew not to expect miracles, but I figured I’d get a publishing deal in a year or two.

Only I didn’t.  And when I asked my agent about it, he was saying that a lot of the big boys were cutting their commissioning editors, especially in crime, and that until they appointed new editors, it was unlikely that they would take on any newbie writers.  Not good news for a newbie writer.

And yet, I know so many authors who are getting published, admittedly by the smaller press, but they are getting published.  The small press are guys my agent wouldn’t touch because the margin just isn’t there to make it worth his while.  Well, sitting around forever and earning nothing isn’t worth my while either.

I have a load of friends who are full-time writers, and a few of them were giving me the same advice all the time – Ditch the agent and self-publish.  I knew they were right, sort of.  But it still took me six weeks from admitting that to actually doing the deed.  Saying goodbye to an agent after so many years of trying to get one was without a doubt the scariest thing I have ever done. (And I’ve jumped out of a plane.  And had two kids.)

So I sent an email, acknowledging what my agent had done for me, but also recognising how the industry is and admitting the fact that I don’t want to be in my 50s before I get a book published.

Yes, I have self-published, Last Cut Casebook (LCC) is still out there.  And that’s one example of why self-publishing is not great for me.  I don’t have the know-how that is needed for marketing – nor the contacts.  I wish I did.  That’s why LCC, good as it is – and it is – I have the 5 star reviews to prove it – has only sold in single figures.

I didn’t just send an email and forget about my agent though.  I followed the email with a call, and spoke to my agent.  It was actually a lovely, reaffirming conversation, reality accepted and no blame laid on either side, because frankly, there isn’t any.  We’d have both sold the book if we could have.

And that’s really the point of this blog.  If you are going to ditch your agent, accept that as much as you want the book sold – so does he/she!  Agents only make their money by selling their clients books.  So if saying goodbye, recognise the professionalism of your agent, appreciate any work he or she has done.  And be honest.  Being honest is something I went on about when giving advice on how to get an agent, well it’s just as important for ending that relationship.  And don’t forget – read your contract and be clear on what you need to do from a legal standpoint – chances are there is a contract end period.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, once the relationship with my agent was – sadly – over, I sent off my manuscript to a publisher.  Within 8 days I had a publishing contract.  Not just for one book – but three!

A three book deal!

I can hardly believe it.  Such a happy bunny.  All I have to do now, is write book three.  Which I’m off to do.  Ta-ta for now.

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An Incontinent Dog

I really should be writing.  It’s a simple as that.  I even want to be writing, but when I open up my current WIP or either of the other two I have reason to be writing, all I see is a blank sheet and no words.  Well I see the words I’ve already written, but nothing new springs to mind.

So I was about to close down, and give up for the day, when I saw Document1 was still open.  This document.  Not having any trouble writing this document.  But that may be because of the nature of this document.

This is my blog.  I can write whatever I want to write here.  I don’t have to make sure that it makes sense as it follows on the heels of the last blog.  It doesn’t have to relate to anything in the next blog either.  It’s its own little world of words – a standalone.  This way I am free and can just type a stream of consciousness scribbling thing, and let sentences kind of get away from me like this one did. I do go back and edit – most of the time – but sometimes I let the creative weirdness stay in.

The truth is that the last six months have been well, pretty naff actually.  I have struggled with stress and depression.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a good life, there is a great deal that I have to be grateful about in my life.  But getting depression isn’t one of them.  Depression can dump all over you like an incontinent dog with diarrhoea, and sometimes there is just nothing you can do to stop it.  Which is where I am now.

I’m trying to get past it, really I am, but this mental block on the writing is just starting to wind me up.  I’m not sure if being able to write this is helping or making matters worse since it’s such a stark contrast to where I was a few minutes ago.  I want to write the next scene of my WIP.  Even kind of know what it is, but I sit down to try and can’t, been like that a few days now.  I suspect that somewhere in the back of my mind I know there’s a problem with what I’m going to write.  That probably means that I’m going to have to wait until that “somewhere” figures out what is going on and jumps up to tell conscious me what the problem is.

This mid-book funk is unusual for me and I don’t like it.  I want it and the depression to go away.  Hand in hand into the sunset.  Yep, that would do.  A romantic break together.

I suspect what I really need is a restful break from the day job, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon either.  Well, except that I’m going to Crimefest is 46 days, that’s always something I look forward to.  Anyway, sorry it’s a bit of a blue afternoon, hope to have something more cheery to write next blog.

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Editing is Hard

“Editing is hard.”

One of my editing clients said this to me the other day – yes even after I’m done tearing apart their manuscripts clients do still speak to me.

My internal voice said “No sh** Sherlock,” but externally I smiled and nodded and agreed.  But it made me realised that this is news to some people.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that writing is easy, that you just scribble a few lines and that’s it, you can self-publish and everything will be great, best seller, right.  Wrong.

You can write a novel in 30 days (see NaNoWriMo), I’ve done it.  Normally I can write a novel in two months – well that is 60 days of work, not always every day for sixty days on a trot because I have a life and two jobs.  But if I had sixty days on full-time writing, I could do it in 60 days, hell full time I would write it in 30 days.  But it wouldn’t by any means be publication ready.

That’s where editing comes in.

Writing is the quick part, editing takes forever, and sometimes it feels like it’ll never end.

Let me give you the example of my last completed novel, Shades of Aether.  This is my first steampunk novel, and I wrote it in about 60 (non-consecutive) evenings.  Then I reread it – the first self-edit.  With that, I picked up any obvious inconsistencies, made any changes I thought necessary, in this case, I upped the level of steampunk in the text. Then I booked it in for an edit.  My editor couldn’t do it immediately, so I have time for another read through to find a few more typos, tweaks, and corrections.  Then it went off to my editor.

Let me underline that – it went off to an editor. At no point did I think that could ever get a book complete for publication on my own.

So it went off to edit, that’s another four weeks gone – though I think in this case it was five weeks.  Then it came back with loads of questions that I hadn’t even thought about, so I had to do some major edits after that to ensure that I answered all those questions for the reader.  Having the facts in my head are no use if I can’t get them onto the page.

So that was another couple of months of rethinking and rewriting, editing and tweaking. And it wasn’t easy.  Some of the questions and queries that had been raised really stretched me, forced me to re-imagine my ending completely.

Then – guess what – more editing.  Yes, I sent it off for another professional edit, because to a certain extent I had a new book.  That one is due back to me any day now, but even then, I’ll still have to edit it, then reread it.  So there’s another couple of months gone by.

Once that is done, then there is the last stage – proofreading.  More time, more money, because proofreading, like editing, cannot really be done by the writer.

Writing the full novel is only the beginning.  Once it’s done all the hard work really starts, that is editing.  So don’t underestimate how much time and effort editing takes, but it’s well worth it.  Editing is the only way that you will ever get a publication ready book.


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