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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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Minor Character Shift

When writing Locked Up, Charlie developed pretty quickly, and soon after I had Teddington too.  But it’s a rare book indeed that survives on just two characters.  Even when you only actually see two, others tend to get referenced.

And since my book is set in an overcrowded prison, I needed lots of characters and I had to know who each of them were.  Some I knew better than others, and some became friends faster than I was expecting.

When I started writing the whole book was to be carried by Charlie; that he would do all the leg work, find out everything.  But the reality of any real investigation is that it is a team effort and Charlie really wasn’t at liberty to go far.

Of course, Teddington was the obvious choice to assist, but even she was limited by her knowledge  (or rather lack of) investigative practices.

Besides, there was Piper.  DCI Piper was always going to be in the book, because procedural checks told me that the police would look into a murder inside a prison.  Originally that was all he was going to do.  Turn up and allow a whitewash.

Then I wrote his opening scene.

Without me really thinking about it, Charlie knew Piper, knew him well. Worked with him.  Admired him. And I knew Charlie.  Charlie wouldn’t admire a bent or even a lazy cop.  He just wouldn’t.  His instincts are good enough he wouldn’t be easily fooled either.

That changed who Piper had to be.  Then I started really thinking about who he was, what he would be like, how he could help.

Suddenly Piper stepped out of the shadows.

And when Piper stepped out, Carlisle stepped out too.  DS Carlisle was a bit of a surprise to me.   Hadn’t expected him to be much more than a couple of “Yes, Sir”s,  but he turned into way, way more.  In fact, it’s Carlisle that keeps surprising me.  I am currently writing book three and Carlisle has taken a path I never expected from a character originally intended to be a nothing more than a procedural prop.

Then there were the other characters; the prisoners and the prison officers.  There had to be enough of them for the population to be realistic, but not so many it confused the reader.   Have to admit I kind of misjudged this one and in the final edit I slashed ten characters out of existence.

Have to also say that there is one minor character in “Locked Up” that I have known for a very long time.  Jack Perkins.  Perkins is a grade A (insert insult of choice – they all work).  He’s  a misogynistic wife beater, a bully of the worse kind.  I know Jack because I know his wife. I wrote two and a half books about her.  They didn’t stand up to scrutiny so you’ll never meet his wife but I’ll always know her and Jack, being the “man” he is, with a back story of jail time, fit perfectly into “Locked Up”, so I used him, it’s what he’d do to any woman he had under his control.  He’s still a minor character, and that is all he’s worth, but I know him very well.

I know many of the other inmates, may be not quite so well, but better than the readers will ever know them. I know what they are in for, their crime, and I know what they are in for, their fate.  The readers won’t necessarily see all that because there are a lot of things that I didn’t put on the page – there is nothing worse than trawling through superfluous information that doesn’t matter.  I also know that I can afford to forget these people now because they aren’t likely to crop up again; unless like Jack they are the piece that fits the puzzle, in which case, knowing the weird way my memory works, I’ll remember them, and if I don’t, they’ll knock on my skull and make me remember them.

Characters really are people, the good ones are real people, and like people, characters can surprise you.  As a writer, I think that makes for better, more interesting characters, which makes for more interesting books, but you, the reader, will be the true judge of that.

While most of the intended to be minor characters stayed that way, Piper and Carlisle did not. That pair have more surprises in store and if you read the Locked series, they may surprise you too.

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Stories from the Fringe

As unaccustomed as I am to public speaking…

Yes well, I am unused to it, but I’m getting there.  I need to.  While writing is a solitary activity, writers survive by the words of others.  The words of reviews, and more importantly, word of mouth sells our books, and that is what we all need.

So when there is an opportunity to promote a book by doing a reading, then a writer has to take that chance.

The truth of the matter is – I don’t like public speaking.  Getting up in front of a crowd is one of the most frightening things I do.  But I did a read in London a few months ago and today I’ve been in Swansea to do another.

This weekend is the Swansea Fringe and there are many and varied activities going on.  So when Cthulhu Cymraeg 2: Off the Page event came up, of course, I had to agree to do a reading, after all, one of my short stories is in the anthology “Cthulhu Cymraeg 2.”

I arrived early (a bad habit of mine), meet Mark Howard Jones, the editor of the volume and other writers and was given slot three to read.

Picking a middle section of the story, “Confluence of Graves”, I read of how the main characters had found tunnels under an abandoned house, and the terrible things that they started to find there.

It wasn’t the world’s largest audience, but I didn’t dare look up from the page in case they looked bored.  I was still near the start when I was put off by the arrival of a woman at the top of the stairs to the room we were using.  I paused and invited her in, but she was just there to take photos.  Now that is another thing I am not comfortable with.  So there I was already uncomfortable reading to an audience, made more uncomfortable by the photographer doing what she’s supposed to do.  Thank God I’d had the sense to put on green base to counter the blushing!

I got through the reading and was applauded (there’s a strange experience), but after, one lady from the audience came up and told me that after the reading she couldn’t wait to read my story and find out what happened.  Now that’s praise!  It may not sound like much to other people, but it matters to me.  I write because I write, I am truly driven to write.  Now I could easily just keep my writing to myself, but I don’t, I want to share it, to show what I really am.  So to have a reader say how much they enjoyed my work means so much to me that I don’t know how to properly explain it.

Then came the other weird experience – being asked to sign books.  That’s never happened before, but I must have signed about ten today, and to add to the piquancy of this experience, I’d cheekily taken copies of two of my other books – “Locked Up” and “Shades of Aether”.  I sold copies of each!

DSCN2085Not a bad days work at all.

Thanks then to Mark for including me in the anthology, thanks for Swansea Fringe for offering us all a spot, thanks to Gamers Emporium for hosting the event, and thanks to those wonderful people who turned up and listened, and a special thanks to those who dug deep and bought a copy of a book, any book.

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3 in 4

3 in 4Life is what happens when you are making other plans. That’s why my blogging is getting a bit sporadic at the moment. Thankfully it is also a sign of some good things happening too.

In my previous blogs I have told you about various publishing deals I have been fortunate enough to get this year. So for those who don’t know I have sold a short erotica story, a contemporary crime novel and I’m self-publishing a steampunk novel. These are exciting times.

Specifically, this is an exciting month. All three novels are coming out within the next 4 weeks!

This wasn’t my plan it just happened, but I have to admit that this is also silly season first conventions and coming up I have The Asylum (25th August) and Bloody Scotland (8th September). Both are weekend deals, one in Lincoln and one in Stirling, so long distances and overnight stays involved.

3d render whiteSo my plan was for “Shades of Aether” to be ready for Asylum, which is why I have a Facebook banner saying out on the 25th August.

 

And when I spoke with Bloodhound Books about publishing “Locked Up” in September I did ask if it could be ready in time for Bloody Scotland and those lovely people agreed – thank you, Betsy!

Sinful Pleasures book

With the erotica it is going into an anthology – “Sinful Pleasures” – being published by Sinful Press, I have absolutely no say in it at all. So its publishing date of 20th August is what I was given and grateful for it I am too. I really am; thank you, Lisa, for including me.

 

So that’s three very different books coming out in close proximity.  And I want to actively help market them all. After all, that is part of the author’s job.

So I am blogging, Facebooking and Tweeting.   Why does only Twitter get a verb?

Anyway – mindless wondering over – It does occur to me that with such different genres I might be sending out mixed messages, but the real message is “Hey I’m a professional writer, come read my good stuff.”

And that’s the truth, I write in different genres because like all human beings I have facets, different sides to me, diverse interests.

So over the next few weeks, you will see different sides of me, a mix of steampunk, crime, and eroticism.  Admission – I am typing this up in the car as we head for Bristol – obviously I’m not driving, but I forgot to punctuate that last sentence which gave me steampunk crime eroticism. Now that oddly is a good round up of “Shades of Aether”, though there’s not exactly any eroticism in there, there are explorations of forbidden loves.

Now here is another admission – I am much better at being a writer than I am a publisher. So, the plan was put “Shades of Aether” on CreateSpace, order some copies for me then bung it up on Amazon to release on the 25th. Turns out that by getting to a state that I can order copies the site automatically lists the book on Amazon, so unwittingly, I actually released the book last night.

Publishing is definitely a steep learning curve! And thanks to Lisa and Will for being so helpful when I have ‘questions from the stupid’ about how to self-publish. And yes those questions will be shared in a later blog in the hope others can learn from my mistakes. But that’s for another month, August and September are for the 3 in 4.

Oh and if you are wondering about the cover for “Locked Up” – that I will reveal on Monday the 14th August.

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Ten Minutes of Terror

No I didn’t go on a zombie run or do a locked room breakout.   I went to meet a bunch of authors and hear them read sections from their novels.  All were from Bloodhound Books, and one of them was me.

Meeting authors doesn’t sound that terrifying does it?  Well, in fact, it’s not.  Even we crime fiction authors are actually a very nice bunch.  In fact, it was a great night.  All but 10 minutes of it were great.  But there were those ten minutes.  Ten minutes, when I had to stand up in front of 60 plus people and read out my own work – TERRIFYING!!!

Here’s the thing, I am afraid of people.  It’s not quite the same as I’m afraid of spiders – I don’t squeal and shout “kill it!” when I see another human, sometimes want to, but generally, I don’t.  Yet the fact remains – I am afraid.

I’m afraid I’m going to mess up.  Make a fool of myself.  I fear being laughed at, heckled, verbally attacked, physically attacked. I write crime so I spend a great deal of my time thinking about just how horrendous people are to each other.  That’s what I fear.

I should add that this is related to my ever-present depression.  Because of the depression, I have spent most of my life trying not to leave a mark.  Hide in the shadows, don’t make a sound.  For those who actually know me, and are thinking – what?  She’s not like that – Actually I am.  I learned years ago that that behaviour gets me nothing and actually hurts me, so I try to overcome it. Probably over compensate a fair amount. People assume I’m standoffish, well, they don’t assume it, they’re right – I am standoffish – until I get to know someone, then I can relax and be me.

But this is a confidence trick, inside I am still a scared little girl.

I also want to make clear that this is not just a vague nervousness, its real heart attack terror time. I worry about going into the office every day because of the number of people there so imagine how I feel when faced with a bunch of strangers. Anyone could be in that bunch – including the real-life serial killer let alone the ones in my imagination. Which means I was literally quaking in my Doc Martins, my heart was hammering like I had run a mile (like I  could run a whole mile!)

So I guess you’re wondering why I’m writing this post – well it’s not that I want to mention that

LOCKED UP on will be released on 7th SEPTEMBER,

or anything.  Well okay, it is, but it’s more than that.  The author’s job doesn’t stop at writing a book, we also have to promote ourselves and our work, and shrinking Violets do not do that well. Which means I have got to face this fear and overcome it.

Next question – how?

Well, exposure therapy.   Basically, I’m looking for open mike events to attend. I am going to go face my fear where it is ‘safe’ to do so.  It won’t be easy or fun, but I have to do it and the more I do it, the more I can trick the audience that I have confidence, and then who knows, maybe one day I might even convince myself.

 

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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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