Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Trending Shorter Manuscripts

Painting by Brian Kershisnik
One of the most exciting things anyone can say to an author is, 'We would like to publish your book,' which is often followed by the most heart-sinking one, 'We want you to cut the manuscript by 10-20%'.  Once that reality sets in, all an author can do is grit your teeth and make every scene in the novel count.

Currently I am making drastic cuts to three manuscripts to meet editorial requirements, thus agonising over my carefully composed prose, believing it's bound to make the story thinner or make the characters two-dimensional. However, as a wise editor once told me - readers won't be aware of anything you have deleted.

Bookbuyers once regarded anything under a 500 page paperback meant they weren't getting their money's worth. The onset of digital print has meant this attitude has changed and publishers are running with the 'short is good' trend and want manuscripts of around the 70k - 90k mark.

There is also the increasing demand for novellas for those who want something short and sweet [or spicy] they can consume during a plane or train journey. A panacea to their stressful lives without having to wrestle with long and complicated plots. The ideal is a 40k romantic novel e-book priced at 99p which can be downloaded onto a smartphone or e-reader and read in the doctor's waiting room or queue at the bank.

I took a London Tube ride last week, my first for months, and around 90% of passengers were glued to i-pads or reading on their smartphones.  Not e-mails either, they were reading books. I got a few odd stares as I peered over shoulders to discover what they were looking at, but a pleasant smile counteracted that in most cases. Either that or it was 'humour the madwoman who smiles on the tube' The i-pod culture appears to have dwindled to one or two of the younger passengers.

Short, however does not necessarily mean 'easier' for the author. Historical fiction requires eras which may be unfamiliar to the reader, thus the 'hit-the-ground-running' style doesn't work when a reader cannot visualise the culture within the first few lines. Writing longer is more natural for me, though I now subscribe to the need to keep a manuscript to a commercial, fighting weight.

I shall have to keep the 'short is good' premise in mind with my next wip, on the basis it's harder to cut a story that to expand one.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

New Release - The Rebel's Daughter

Later this summer, my first novel is about to undergo a
transformation into a new release by Books We Love
The first book in the Woulfes of Loxsbeare Series, entitled,

The Rebel's Daughter 

Helena Woulfe, the daughter of a wealthy Exeter nobleman leads a privileged life. 
However, as King Charles II's reign comes to an end, so does her innocence.

Rebellion sweeps the West Country and when her family is caught in its grip, 

she finds herself on the road searching for her missing Rebel father and brother 
after the Duke of Monmouth’s bloody defeat in battle at Sedgemoor.
Helena and her younger brother Henry, seek refuge with a kind family who take them in.

  King James II wants revenge on those who opposed him and their lives are 
further torn apart when soldiers ransack her home. 
The family estate is confiscated by the crown and given to their bitterest enemy.  
Feeling bereft and abandoned, they go to London. Helena hopes the city will overlook 

their past and she can make a new life for herself, and perhaps find love. 
Only, there are others lurking, willing to do harm to a traitor's daughter.

Before she can find happiness with Guy, the man who offers her the security and 
respectability she seeks, she learns her family’s allegiances can snatch away her 
safety at any time.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Kate Nash Literary Agency Day 2014

Yesterday I was invited to the second of what is becoming the annual meeting of my agent, the Nate Nash Literary Agency. New clients and stalwarts all met up in a grown up conference room, complete with projector, screen just like being at work again, to discus the past year and what our aims and hopes are for the future as serious writers.

Kate and Sarah gave us an excellent run down of the publishing world today, what is selling and what the publishers are looking for, plus some good advice about how to organise our finances which sounded rather too sensible, but to which I need to listen more closely.

After a chatty buffet lunch it was back to the conference room, where the conversation degenerated into a passing round the chocolate Hob Nobs, a moan fest about being misunderstood by the publishing world at large, the woes of being terminally broke and regarded as weird by our families.

In all a really great day where I got the chance to catch up with old friends and meet some exciting new ones. I only wish we could do it more often. As I always say, us writers must stick together as no one else understands us.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Meet My Main Character

This post is part of a blog tour started by Debra Brown, and passed to me by Deborah Swift

Elizabeth Murray Countess Dysart 1626-1698

What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or an historic person?

Elizabeth Murray was born in 1628, the daughter of William Murray, 1st Earl Dysart and Catherine Bruce.  Her father was brought up with Charles I, reputedly his ‘whipping boy’, the child who accepted punishment for the prince’s transgressions.

Being from a family of staunch Royalists, Elizabeth, her mother and three sisters paid for their loyalty with confiscation of their income, fines, restrictions and having Parliamentarian soldiers billeted on them while their father remained in the exiled court at Oxford with King Charles I.

When and where is the story set?

Between 1642 and 1653, the years of the English Civil Wars, mostly at Ham House, the Murray’s family home on the Thames at Richmond, but also at the exiled Royal Court at Oxford and the home of Elizabeth’s first husband, Helmingham.

What should we know about your character?

That Elizabeth was educated as well as any boy in Stuart England, as her father’s heir she was made conscious that the fate of hers and her sister’s inheritance lay in her hands. When she was only in her teens, Elizabeth was conscious of the fact that the only way she could secure the Murray’s future was to make an advantageous marriage.

What is the main conflict she must face?

William Murray was arrested for spying in early 1646, so the Murray women had to endure the uncertainty of his imprisonment and trial. He was acquitted, with help from their Scottish Covenanter friends. However further fears existed in that his continued imprisonment in the Tower of Londdon during a plague city during a hot summer would undo all their efforts.  This was also not the only time William was hauled before the Lords and the army for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, until finally he was forbidden to be in the king's service altogether and fled to Paris to hide in the court of Queen Henrietta Maria.

Catherine Murray was a strong, persistent woman and appealed to the authorities to have him released.  William, however then went straight to Newcastle where King Charles I was at the time where he continued as a spy and envoy, and not back to his family.

What is the personal goal of this character?

Elizabeth knew the best way to keep the Murray's home, lands and therefore income out of the hands of the Parliamentarians, was for her future husband  to be wealthy, from a respectable family and non-political to take the spotlight off the Murrays and protect them.

Catherine Murray finally managed to secure an engagement for Elizabeth with Sir Lionel Tollemache, who had inherited a title and vast wealth, was single and only nineteen. Perfect - until Lionel was sent to the North to be held as a hostage against the King's good behaviour in their
negitiations with the Scots.

He wasn't held more than a few days, but Elizabeth must have been frantic until he was released, thinking all their carefully laid plans had been for nothing..

Where is this book available?

Royalist Rebel is available from Pen and Sword Books in e-book and paperback

I have passed this on to three excellent authors who write historical novels set in very different eras.

Lisa Yarde – writes about the last rule of the Moors in Medieval Spain 
Alison Stuart - whose latest release is a novel of English Civil Wars
Katherine Pym – writes about the ordinary lives of people in 17th Century London

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Perfect Game by Stephen Paul - Review

With my voracious appetite for murder mysteries as I gather research for my historical cozy mysteries, I came across this rather unusual novel which combines mystery, suspense and some supernatural elements on a very modern mystery.

Book Blurb

In a dark Manhattan alley, a young woman suddenly collapses from a brain hemorrhage. The statistics say it’s rare to have happened to someone so young and healthy, yet all signs point to natural causes. But when Kyle Vine, the man she was supposed to meet that night, learns she wasn’t the only victim, he knows there’s something more going on and soon discovers a mysterious link to the sudden success of a journeyman pitcher for the New York Yankees. 
As the lethal brain bleeds continue to strike, Kyle and the woman’s eccentric uncle work together to unravel a mystery unlike any the world has ever seen in order to stop a ruthless killer from striking again. 

Stephen Paul’s debut supernatural suspense thriller, The Perfect Game, is a fast-paced gripping ride that will continue to keep readers on the edge of their seats while trying to figure out who’s behind the deadly episodes, how they’re doing it and, perhaps most shocking of all, why.


I thought I had a good idea of what I was getting when I began reading this book –  and brought with me a certain suspension of belief – however I was wrong. The main character, Kyle, a psychologist who got it tragically wrong with a client and is thus under investigation, who has been divorced by his wealthy wife and now lives in a three story walk-up - isn’t nearly as self-pitying or damaged as one would expect.

Kyle is flawed, yes, but he has a positive, non-mercenary attitude to life, so when a chance to flirt with a pretty student goes terribly wrong and she ends up in a coma, he doesn’t just thank his luck for having dodged a bullet – but is genuinely ashamed at having encouraged her. His guilt draws him into finding out how she was injured, despite that his involvement could be discovered.

Kyle’s relationship with his daughter Bree is lovely, so as a reader I didn’t want him to be caught out or blamed when the coma victim’s Uncle Liam decides there is a dangerous killer targeting young people with a weapon that is impossible to detect, or prove, and he needs Kyle to help him.

For a debut novel this is excellently structured, with engaging characterisation and a plot where the sense of menace and various twists and turns as the story moves into the supernatural are expertly portrayed. The clues are there but never do they slap you in the face. Despite the off-the-wall premise, I found myself believing in how the antagonist was killing his victims without too much of the ‘as if that could happen’ element this might have given.

I was even left at the end wondering if, at some stage of our evolution, the human mind may just evolve to this level, engendered by the theories Kyle and Liam throw out – for instance that people know on some higher level when they are being stared at – Creepy!

I will admit that I skipped through the descriptions of the Yankees games - but can honestly say I’m looking forward to Stephen Paul’s next novel.

I received an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review

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