A Dance of Smiles and Falsehoods. #SampleSunday #HistNov

Here’s the opening of the sequel to A Love Most Dangerous.

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Chapter 1 What is Love?
7 December 1539

‘For goodness sake stop that awful noise.’

Sissy looked up at me in alarm. ‘I was only humming, Alice. It was a little song.’

‘Well it’s a very irritating little song.’

She bit her lip. ‘Sorry. It’s just I don’t notice when I’m doing my needlework.’

I shook my head in exasperation and turned back to my book. I could not find the right word. The verse was almost finished and I was pleased with it. But I needed a word to describe how the maid felt when she first saw her lover. No word was right. Some sounded too ridiculous, the ravings of a love-sick child. Others sounded too cold, too austere to describe a real true love. I wanted the woman to be a woman not an ice-maiden. And I did not want her to spout words like some scholar who had read of love in dusty volumes but never experienced it.

I put down my pen. Was the difficulty because I had never truly felt love in my own heart? I felt myself frown as I thought back on these last two years. Oh, I had known plenty much of love-making. Despite his age and injury the King was boisterous and demanding when he felt in the mood for pleasure. But how much had I known of love?

The King sometimes told me that he loved me. But this was in rare moments, the times when he let his guard down. Perhaps it was when he was hot with lust and intent on wooing me, or perhaps because he was distracted by some passing thought and forgot he must ever play the King. Or perhaps because we had just made love and for a moment he was a little more besotted with me.

But had I loved him? That was the question. Had I loved any man?

Unbidden the image of Art Scrump came to my mind. I dismissed it at once. It was best not to go there. Best not to uncover that nest of baby birds and hissing vipers.

I thought back to the King. Had I loved him ever? Did I love him now?

It seemed a silly question as I asked it, a foolish notion altogether. Of course I did not love him. I was his mistress, his bed-fellow; that was all. And he was my protector, my shield. My master in every way. Pay-master, bed-master, lord and master. Could a servant truly love her master? Could a hound? Yes, a hound could. But a kitten? Now there was a different matter entirely.

‘How’s the poem going, Alice?’ Sissy asked shyly.

‘Not very well.’

‘Ah, I’m sorry. You write such lovely songs.’

‘They’re not songs, Sissy. They’re poems. How many times do I have to tell you?’

She bit her lip, her face contrite. ‘I’m sorry, Alice. It’s just hard for me to understand.

When you read them they sound a bit like songs.’

‘But they’re not songs.’

‘Why not though? I bet Mary could set them to music. Then they’d sound much better.’

I opened my mouth to remonstrate but thought better of it. Sissy would never understand the difference between poetry and songs. To be very honest I wasn’t sure I could explain it either. I would have to ask Sir Thomas Wyatt.

‘Where is Mary?’ I asked.

‘She’s with Susan in the sitting room. They thought you’d best be left in peace to get on with your songs.’

‘Poems, Sissy, poems.’

‘Yes, Alice.’ She put down her needle-work. ‘Shall I get them? Shall I tell them you’ve finished?’

She looked out of the window. ‘Oh look. It must be nearly time for dinner. How this day has flown.’

I glanced out of the window. The sky was a murky, mud-grey colour. I hated this time of year.

The lovely colours of autumn had flown away and the dull dank days of November had settled on the world with all their sullen misery. It had been a particularly dreary November this year. Brooding, heavy clouds blanketed the sky without even the relief of rain. On a few days the wind had whipped up and blown the sky clear. But within hours the clouds had crept back; darker, more determined. It lowered my spirits.

‘When will Christmas come?’ I wondered aloud.

‘Not long now,’ Sissy cried. ‘It’s Advent Sunday tomorrow.’

‘So it is.’ My heart sank. This meant it would be an exceptionally long sermon tomorrow, even more so as the priest would want to impress the Archbishop who was coming to the Palace. At least he was courteous company.

Sissy got up and stood over me. She had that quiet determined look which she had developed of late. ‘It is dinner time, Alice,’ she said. ‘They’ll be waiting to serve.’

Waiting on me, I thought. Even after a year I could not quite reconcile myself to the fact that I was mistress of Greenwich Castle.

‘Come along then,’ I said. ‘Let’s join the others.’

A Love Most Dangerous is available on Kindle, Kindle apps, in paperback and in audio. Click on the thumb-nail on the far right column to find out more. index

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May we Live in Peaceful Times

I was walking by the sea this morning when I saw a crowd of people all looking towards the square near where I live. It’s Menton’s Fete de Citron on Sunday and I assumed that this was some theatre company or dance band giving an early show.

Not a bit of it. A large van had crashed into a motor-bike, there was debris everywhere and the object of the crowd’s attention was an unconscious man who was being strapped into a stretcher.

I cut up alongside and headed home. On my way I saw two old ladies racing to see what was happening. One of them was going so fast I thought she might slip and fall, or even suffer a heart attack. Her friend was some yards in front of her. I guess they were after a ring-side seat.

It made me think of a curse which goes: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Because although it’s marvellous to read about interesting and exciting times or watch them in the cinema, it’s often the opposite of marvellous for those who have to live through them.

I guess this is one of the reasons I write historical fiction. I am not physically brave and if I lived in medieval times I would be the first to flee a battle and join a monastery, or even a nunnery if that was all there was in the vicinity. Yet I can place my characters in the utmost jeopardy, as callous as a pirate captain making his prisoners walk the plank. If pirate captains ever did such a thing outside the fevered imagination of my fellow, stay-at-home, authors.

Not that I write gratuitous violence. And I avoid giving detailed, gruesome accounts of battles where you wonder how anybody is left standing let alone alive. One of my mild-mannered friends loves such scenes, the bloodier the better, applauding every abattoir of death and blood. 800px-Bayeux_Tapestry_4

I do write about desperate, dangerous situations but I remember the dictum of Alfred Hitchcock and often draw a discreet veil over the details. It’s much more interesting to consider the effect such trauma has on people, or doesn’t.

At the moment, I’m going to tone down the opening scene of my novel about Alfred the Great. It needs to be grim to understand the motivations of characters later in the novel. Yet, now I’m re-reading it, I realise that the people at the scene would have intervened to stop the cruelty at an earlier stage than I’ve allowed them to.

‘Get real, master,’ they seem to say to me. ‘Walk in our shoes a little more carefully.’

May we all live in more peaceful times. And let’s hope the man in the accident gets better soon.

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Blog as memoir

In an idle moment I looked back at some of my earlier blogs on this site. I was surprised to discover that I started it in 2011, when we still lived in England. It’s strange to read about the things we did then and there.

One post talks about how I get my inspiration from the lovely town of Menton and how my wife and I were hoping to have ‘a senior gap year there.’  Menton old town and port

We didn’t take the senior gap year – we emigrated here. It’s not been without its up and downs but all in all it was an excellent move. And now I can get inspired by the town and sea every day. Here’s hoping that I don’t get too accustomed to it.

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The Final Publishing Process.

Previously:

I get discovered by Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing
I sign up
I discover that editing is not as painful as I thought

Before I started on the editing process I had a phone conference with two managers from Amazon Publishing: Thom Kephar, the Marketing Manager and Gabriella Van den Heuvel, the Author Relations Manager. They were full of ideas and energy and great to talk with. They outlined the process of getting published and a brief overview of how my book would be marketed. I had cause to call on Gabe a lot over the next few days to help clarify all the questions running through my mind.

At the same time I found out that ‘A Love Most Dangerous’ would be released in an audio version and also that it would be translated into German. All this was happening very fast indeed.

I won’t go into the details of the marketing campaign apart from to say that it makes use of some pretty exciting concepts and technologies.

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And then, it all began to fit together. The new cover was done, the final copy was sent off and the book became available for reviewers.

A couple of weeks ago I received complimentary copies of the paperback and the audio edition. Here I am, taking a look. I seem to be a little bit pleased by seeing the final versions:

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My wife and I spent several days listening to the marvellous story-telling of Heather Wilds. She was terrific, reading with great verve, sympathy and invention. If you like to hear a book read in a wonderful way I recommend you check out her work.

Yesterday, I received a gift from Lake Union Publishing to mark publication day. It was a blank leather notebook, very like the notebook Alice Petherton was given for her poems. It was the perfect gift.

And today, ‘A Love Most Dangerous’ is republished in the new edition.

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The Joy of Editing

Previously: (can’t you see I’m a fan of The West Wing and House of Cards)

I get an email from Lake Union Publishing saying they want to publish my novel
I have long and fruitful negotiations with Senior Editor, Jodie Warshaw
I get cold feet
I am happy as Larry and sign the contract

I still kept pinching myself. I looked again and again at the authors already published on Lake Amazon. I was the 100th in the list. My head swelled. I could be found laughing at odd times of the day. Laughing oddly, in fact.

One of the things that was so attractive about being taking up by a publishing house was the opportunity for my work to be edited. Most of my previous novels had benefited from my friends’ comments at Andrew Puckett’s writing group in Taunton but I was now hundreds of miles from England and missing their input. My wife took over the mantle and proved an excellent editor, both in looking at the overall nature of the book and the fine detail.

I gave her ‘A Love Most Dangerous’ to edit in December of 2013 and she made some preliminary comments. Then, on New Year’s Eve she got extremely ill and had to go to hospital. I spent the next two months visiting her at hospital, doing constant laundry, furiously writing a novel about Alfred the Great and editing and polishing ‘A Love Most Dangerous’. I had no idea when she would come home and without the help of friends I would have drowned.

It was the same with my writing. I got marvellous feedback from people who had studied on a Coursera course with me. Their help was invaluable and I am very pleased to acknowledge them in the book.

And then, at the beginning of March I heard the news that my wife would come home within the week. I was thrilled and decided that I would publish the new novel in time for her homecoming. I guess this is why there were the errors which some reviews kindly pointed out. Whoops.

So the thought of getting professional editing was wonderful.

The first stage was the developmental edit. I had a phone conversation with Jodie Warshaw and the editor Marianna Baer who is herself an author of Young Adult fiction. A schedule was agreed and I waited on tenter-hooks for Marianna’s comments.

Jodie had said that there was not major work to do on the book and Marianna and I had tight deadlines to complete our work. Jodie was right, there was not a huge amount. But, wow, did it take effort.

Because I lived in a very small apartment I thought I had best go to the public library to do my side of the process. But then a new friend, Mandy Hager, stepped in with a wonderful offer. images.Mandy

 

Mandy is an extremely gifted author and was this year’s Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton. She was going off on a research trip in the weeks I was scheduled for the developmental edit.

 

 

So she offered me the use of the Katherine Mansfield Writing Room. It was a little room with only a desk, a coach, an Oxford Dictionary and a Roget’s Thesaurus. And a very useful little electric fan. it was a haven of peace and I worked eight hours a day in the boiling heat of August. i don’t think I would have been able to complete the task if I had not been loaned the room. And it was lovely to think that I was working in a place that Mansfield herself would have known.images.KatherineMansfield

All in all I spent two weeks working at Marianna’s suggestions. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. Marianna’s suggestions were great. But it had been made clear to me that I would have the final say in accepting her advice or rejecting it. So began an intense period of collaboration with not a word said between the two of us, in fact only the Atlantic Ocean between us.

I took on some of her suggestions instantly. Why hadn’t I noticed this, thought of that, realised such a thing, I would berate myself. Other suggestions I agonised over. Should I change this scene? Was Marianna not clear about what I intended? Was she clearer than me? Slowly, slowly, I worked through the text.

The only real disagreement concerned one difference between British and American usage. My characters occasionally clicked their fingers. Marianna wanted to snap them. No way, I snapped back. Snapping fingers is a sign of contempt or, alternatively, what East End gangsters do to their rivals. My characters click their fingers when they have a sudden thought or realisation. They do not, will not snap. So there.

Apart from this I’m certain that Marianna’s ideas improved and polished the novel wonderfully. And I learned a lot from the process.

Next was the copy edit. I got the amended copy back and began to work my way through it. The copy-editor was called Janet Robbins. She was eagle-eyed, immensely knowledgeable and jaw-droppingly thorough. She noticed typos and repetitions which I would never have seen in tens of years. She suggested improvements in style where there was confusion. She even researched the oldest version of a poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt. In fact, there was a lot of disagreement about this and I found three versions. In trying to find the definitive version I found an authority on Sir Thomas Wyatt, Dr Colin Burrows, of All-Saints College, Oxford. I emailed him and I asked his advice. He replied within the hour to suggest the best reading.

Most of Janet’s suggestions and amendments were so obvious that I agreed them with a tap of the mouse. Others were more difficult. I fretted over punctuation marks, little words, conversation tags and word order. I once spent forty five minutes trying to decide whether to have a comma or a semi-colon. I changed my decision a dozen times. My mind was in a whirl. Sometimes I hated the process, but more often than not I got completely engrossed. And at last I was finished.

By this time I felt I had a clear idea about the redoubtable and erudite Janet Robbins. I imagined her to be in her fifties or sixties, surrounded by dictionaries, encyclopaedias and dusty tomes concerning English punctuation and grammar. I thought she would live on the outskirts of some old colonial town and be a stalwart of the library. She would probably dress in tweed and have half-moon glasses. But when I looked her up on the internet I was astonished to see how mistaken I was. She may have been erudite but she was very much not as I imagined her. Here was yet another lovely young person with immense skills and talent. It was beginning to make me feel ancient.

I got one last chance to read the manuscript and check it for any final mistakes. By this time I would cheerfully have fled to a desert island. And then, it was over.

If you’ve already bought the book you’ll find that it is now a much more polished piece. So, go on, please tell your friends about it.

During this time, by the way, a cover designer was working on a new cover for the book. And I also found out that it was going to be more than just an e-book and a paperback.

Next up:

Behind the scenes at Lake Union Publishing
The marketing plan
The end process

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Lake Union Publishing

Previously:

I Discover Alice Petherton
I am Discovered by Lake Union Publishing

My hand hovered over the spam box. I’d already had an offer from ‘A Keen Raeder’ who said she could ‘tranlate the novel’ to our mutual advantage.

This email said: Interest in A Love Most Dangerous.

Another scam, I thought. But just before I dropped it into spam, I paused. I looked at the email again. There were no spelling mistakes or wayward punctuation. I read it more carefully.

It began:

Dear Mr. Lake,

My name is Jodi Warshaw, and I’m a Sr. Acquisitions Editor here at Amazon Publishing. I wanted to drop you a note to tell you how taken I am with A LOVE MOST DANGEROUS. It’ beautifully written with a deftly woven plot. I was particularly impressed with how you portrayed Alice’s complex, conflicted relationship with the king. And to top it off, it’s a real page-turner!

I would love to talk to you about possibly forming a partnership and republishing the book under our Lake Union imprint, which is the home to our historical fiction and commercial literary fiction.

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I sat back and read the rest of the email. Three times. Then I got to work.

I’d never heard of Lake Union Publishing. I did an internet search and realised it was one of Amazon’s own publishing imprints. I bit my lip. This must be a dream.

I did a search for Jodi Warshaw. She existed, she was real and I was able to confirm that she was who she said she was. Not only that but she talked enthusiastically about my book, and had clearly read it. And she was not pushy, far from it. I called my wife over to read the email. We were too stunned to speak.

I sent Jodie an email and we arranged to speak by phone. Seattle is 9 hours behind French time and I had a complicated time figuring out the movements of the sun, testing my geography and arithmetic skills to their limit. But we finally agreed a time, had to reschedule but talked on the 8 July. It was the first time that I learned that there is a comparatively small window of time when the clocks allowed us to speak.

It was a wonderful conversation. I was delighted at Jodi’s enthusiasm, her knowledge, at the way she had thought things through. Most of all I was delighted by the respectful way in which she spoke to me. Until now my dealings with publishers had shown precious little of it. A new author such as me seemed definitely to be at the bottom of the food-chain and publishers and agents appeared to think that the most important part of their role was to make quite clear that I was aware of this.

Not so the folk at Lake Union Publishing. I was wildly excited when I came off the phone. I danced across the room. Fred Astaire would have been nonplussed. (I’ve always seen myself as more of a Gene Kelly type to be honest.) I kept repeating what we had discussed, in my mind, and to my wife – who’d been in the room when I spoke so probably had a pretty good idea what was discussed.

‘She’s going to send me a contract,’ I babbled. ‘She’s going to send me a contract to look at.’ Which she did, the very next day.

I read the document early next morning. I had seen a couple of publishing contracts before and they had been written in arcane language. They emphasised that the author was even lower in the food chain than they had hitherto believed (plankton level) and were replete with mealy-mouthed provisos and slightly ominous threats. I would need considerably more courage – or more accurately fool-hardiness – to sign these.

The Lake Union contract on the other hand was written in plain English. Sure there were things I did not understand, technical terms but they were not written by the firm of Marley and his ghost.

And then I saw it. I read the clause again and again. I was devastated.

It looked as though I would have to sign away all my rights and freedoms as an Indie writer. I would never be free to publish what I liked, when I liked, how I liked. I would be a slave to Lake Union Publishing to my grave and far beyond it.

I am Spartacus, I thought 220px-Spartacus_-_1960_-_poster

But not the noble Spartacus at the moving finale of the film. I would be the Spartacus at the beginning, forced to slave in a quarry, punished for biting the Roman guard’s Achilles tendon and being rescued by Peter Ustinov.

Then I read the contract again and realised that I was mistaken. The whips and bonds I thought I had seen were merely a requirement to give Lake Union publishing the first opportunity to consider my next novel for publication. Phew!

I spent a few days getting clear on dozens of questions to needed to ask. Jodie spent a great deal of time in patiently taking me through them all. I felt I was being dealt with in a marvellously professional and supportive manner. And I knew that my book was going to benefit from a comprehensive range of editing, something which I was keen to happen. Equally excited, the novel would be published as an e-book, as an audio tape and as a paper-back (which would please my Dad.)

Happy as Larry, I signed the contract and sent it back.

I am not Spartacus. I am not a slave. I’m going to be published by Lake Union Publishing. I am not, to be honest, an Indie author, any more. I am a hybrid.

Lovely.

The new edition will be published on 27 January, less than a week. There is a Goodreads Giveaway of 20 books in the USA  books running 12/30-1/27 at https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/enter_choose_address/121047-a-love-most-dangerous

Next:

The Joy of Editing.

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I DISCOVER ALICE PETHERTON

Previously on this blog:

My life-long attempts to become a better writer.
Rejection and more rejection.
I win a competition.
Still more rejection.
The dark cloud of my accident and my discovery of a silver lining.
E-books and self-publishing.
I’m a writer – at last.

Early in April 2013 I sat at the computer wondering what to write. I had just finished the first draft of ‘Blood of Ironside’ and put it away for a rest before I started on the second draft. I thought I might write a short story. I put my fingers on the keyboard and wrote this:

To be a servant at the court of King Henry is to live with your heart in your mouth. This is so whether you are young or old, male or female. I am young and I am female. So the danger to me is considerable. The danger is the more acute because I am pretty and the Queen is in the last month of her confinement.

I sat back bemused. Who was talking? I knew when the period was, more or less. But I was writing from the point of view of a girl. I had never done this before.
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And then I wrote:

Henry has divorced one wife and executed the second. But that is far from the whole story. A string of shattered hearts lies strewn across the land like pearls from a necklace broken in rage. Aye, it’s true that complicit fathers, brothers, uncles and even husbands have got rich by leading their women like heifers to the courtly market. It is the women who give the most and suffer the most grievously.
Unless of course, they are clever.

It does not do to be too clever. Anne Boleyn taught us this. For make no mistake, King Henry is more clever than any man in the kingdom now that Thomas Wolsey is dead. And he is as subtle and wily as even the most cunning of women. Anne’s head rolling from the block is testimony to that.

The trick is to show your cleverness to just such a degree that Henry is intrigued by it but not threatened. The second trick is to intimate that your cleverness is at his disposal even more than your own. And the third trick? Ah, the third trick is to be willing to bed the great beast of appetites and to know when to do it.

My name is Alice Petherton and I am seventeen years of age. I came to court as a simple servant but I caught the eye of Anne Boleyn when she was newly crowned. I was good at singing, could dance like an elf and made her laugh and think. She took me as one of her maids of honour and my slow approach to the furnace began.

Alice’s voice took hold of me. For the next year, apart from an interlude when I revised Blood of Ironside, I have lived with Alice Petherton. My wife is very tolerant.
I did not know much about the Tudor period, since hearing too much from a History teacher who was obsessed by Henry VIII. So I had to research as I wrote. I usually do some research as I write but I had to do far more as I went along for this novel.

I learned about maids of honour, about food, feasts and fasts, about births, christenings and funerals. And that was just the start.

I had to learn about:

Royal Palaces and their layout and furniture, palace servants, the old and new nobility, courtiers and their intrigues, religious changes, Tudor clothing, musical instruments and how they sounded, the Royal Menagerie and the animals housed there, modes of transport, roads and the upholstery of a coach, popular dances and how to dance them, Tudor names and modes of address, Tudor poetry and poets, the streets and alleys of London, crime and punishment, Tudor pastimes, Tudor gardens and flowers, a Tudor farm and farming, attitudes to women and children, diplomacy and marriage negotiations and the physical and mental health of the King.

It’s been quite a journey.

I published A Love Most Dangerous on 6 March 2014 and I watched in astonishment as my sales increased. Within weeks it was selling more copies in a day than all my other books sold in a month.

Could things get any better?

Yes, they could.

On 4th July I got an unknown email which I almost dumped in the spam box. But I changed my mind, and took a look. It was from a Senior Editor at Lake Union Publishing in Seattle.

Next up:

Lake Union want to publish A Love Most Dangerous.
I scream in delight.
I wonder, should I accept or stay as an Indie?
I decide to become a hybrid.
The inside story of working with Lake Union Publishing. Part 1……

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I become an Indie Writer

Previously on this blog:

At the age of 11 I discover I want to be a writer. I continue to write throughout my teenage years. img035.jpg.faceofthepoet

I postponed a career as a writer in order to live a full and varied life as an astronaut, pirate or teacher while looking like a poser.

I write lots of words and get lots of rejections. I help support the Post Office.

I win first prize in a competition to write a story based on the Wind in the Willows and it is published.

Winning the Kenneth Grahame Society competition proved a false dawn.

Again I submitted to agents and publishers, again I got standard, photo-copied rejections.

Then three or four things happened. I looked on the web-sites of all the organisations who had rejected me. I was astonished to see that most of the letters had come from kids, barely in their 20’s who had all gone to a handful of private schools and were called Lucy, or Julian or Samantha or Luke. I realised that I was never going to make much of an impression on them.

The second thing was that a man on a ferry from France had an e-reader and let me look at it. Soon after I saw a tiny article in the magazine Writers News about a writer who had decided to self-publish on Amazon. To my regret I don’t know who she was but I owe her a lot. She talked about e-readers.

The third thing was that I had a terrible accident. I fell off a one inch high path (honestly), broke my ankle, dislocated my elbow and shattered my arm. It was the worst possible type of accident I could have suffered. My mother had dislocated both elbows when I was a toddler and seeing the agony she experienced whenever her elbows went out left me with a huge phobia about broken bones and dislocated elbows. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I almost gave up writing but bought Dragon Dictate and ploughed on until I found I could type faster with one hand than I could dictate.

Almost as bad was the fact that when I was at home, with my arm in plaster and my foot in a moon-boot, I had to execute a complicated manoeuvre to turn over the pages of a book. If I dropped it I was sunk for I couldn’t reach it. So when my wife was at work I had to wait until my 87 year old neighbour came over to make me a cup of tea and sandwich and pick up my book.

But then, I remembered the article about Kindles and the man on the ferry and decided to buy a Kindle. I tried to order them but they were out of stock so I got a Sony e-reader instead.

Finally, in April 2011, all these things came together in my brain. Ping. I decided to self-publish my books. I certainly had time because following my accident I was unable to give as much effort to my business as I had. I set to with more enthusiasm than was seemly in a man of my years.

This was the steepest learning curve I’ve ever experienced. I had to learn to format, to design my own cover, to upload books, to write blurbs and publicity. Then I got a blog, then another one, discovered that Twitter was more than just gobbledy-gook and took the plunge into Facebook.

It was an experience beyond words. I wasn’t selling many books but I was getting good reviews and finally fulfilling my second, life-long ambition.

Next up: I discover Alice Petherton.

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Rejection to Jubilation. From an Indie to a Hybrid.

2014 has been an incredible roller-coaster of a year. I thought it would be useful for me to share my experiences, not only because I’m incredibly vain, but because of what I’ve learned from what’s happened.

The first big news, of course, is that in March I published ‘A Love Most Dangerous’ which sold more copies than any of my other books by an astonishing margin. The second big news is that Lake Union Publishing asked to republish it. LakeUnionPublishingImage._CB343774130_SY600_

 

The new edition will come out on 27 January but is available for pre-order. And it’s an e-book, a paper-back and on audio.

So this is what I’m going to write about over the next four weeks.

But first, I’m going to back-track a little to recount how and why I became a self-published writer, an Indie.

I’ve written since the age of eleven and have had two main ambitions in life. One was to be a teacher (which I did). The second was to be a writer.

I studied English and History at the University of East Anglia which, at the time, was the only UK University which an interest in creative writing. Malcolm Bradbury was one of my tutors and I very nearly enrolled for his flagship MA in Creative Writing. But I decided that I wanted to see more of life first, and besides, I had my other ambition to fulfil. So I went to be a teacher instead. I’ve half regretted this decision ever since. But only half.

I still kept on writing. I wrote a novella, short stories and plays but gave up poetry at the same time as acne. I won a short story competition and had the thrill of hearing it on radio. This was a children’s story and I wrote a dozen more. I used to read them to my class, pretending that a friend had written them. I could see by their reactions, what worked and what didn’t. It was the best form of critique imaginable.

And I accumulated lots and lots of rejections. In 1992 I conceived the idea of combining my two loves of writing and history and wrote my first historical novel about an Elizabethan spy. There were lots of rejections of this including several from an agent who told me that the historical novel was as dead as the dodo. But then, one day, the publisher Robert Hale said they wanted to see the whole book.

Yikes, I hadn’t quite finished it. I burnt the midnight oil and sent off the completed manuscript. And I heard nothing. For six weeks. Then the manuscript came back, dog-eared, coffee-stained and very well-thumbed. They turned the manuscript down because, although they loved the writing, they thought the plot was weak and needed improving.

So, of course, you’d expect me to settle down and get to work to improve it. Did I heck! I didn’t know how to do so and started another novel instead. And then another.

I continued to submit my writing (and what an interesting word submit is when you come to think of it. Talk about ideas of win and lose, power and the absence of it.)

Increasingly, as the years wore on, my work was rejected without even a cursory glance. How I yearned for the consideration which the dog-ears proved Robert Hale had given to my work.

In 2008, the Kenneth Grahame Society organised a short-story competition to encourage writers to create sequels to Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel, The Wind in the Willows. I loved the book and set to work to write a story. I was thrilled to find that my story, ‘Mr Toad’s Wedding’, made it to the final long-list of 20 stories. And then, on the morning that Barak Obama became President of the USA, I heard that I had won the completion and my story would be published along with other winning entries. Willows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEXT UP – I BECOME AN INDIE WRITER.

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16 Thoughts for Authors/Publishing for 2015- aka Winners Don’t Quit!

16 Thoughts for Authors/Publishing for 2015- aka Winners Don’t Quit!.

There’s a lot of sound advice here from the ever good value, Bob Mayer.

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