Publication day panics and the story of my story

Murder Served Cold.

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I can’t believe Publication Day (October 19th) is just a little over a month away.  I’ll be absolutely honest and admit that the thought has me almost frozen with terror. They say having a book published is a bit like having a baby and I  am at that stage where I seem to be focussing on the negatives.  All the pain without the gain.

What if no one reads it?  Or, what if everyone I know reads it and hates it?  What if they’re too embarrassed to say they hate it? (I have some very kind friends)

And what if people think they recognise themselves in some of the characters and are offended?  This is my other really big fear.  All the characters in the story are pure products of my (some would say twisted) imagination but of course they are inspired by the people I meet.

In fact, Murder Served Cold (link here to pre-order) would never have come into being at all if it wasn’t for an overheard conversation in my local pub.  I was busy writing short stories at the time but realised that the idea that came from this overheard conversation had the makings of a much longer crime story.

DishSC In fact, it became a short, 2 part serial of just 8,000 words which was snapped up by the then Fiction Editor of Woman’s Weekly, Gaynor Davies, a lovely, totally professional editor who was a joy to work with and to whom I owe so much. (And still miss very much indeed)

How this 8000 word serial became an 80,000 word novel is the subject of another post.  But a word of warning:  if you remember reading “A Dish Served Cold” in Woman’s Weekly back in 2008, then I’m very sorry but you probably already know the identity of the murderer.  On the other hand, if you do remember the story that clearly from ten years ago, then I’m very flattered!  (And there have been lots of exciting plot developments in the meantime, I promise.)

The Blurb

Writing this was sooooo hard!!!!! (as Kat, my main character would say because she’s a bit of a drama queen).  The 80,000 words of the novel skipped off my laptop (well, more or less) but a 150 word blurb?  That was something else and I am extremely grateful to my publishers, Crooked Cat Books, for their experienced guidance on this. Blurb

So here, at last, is the blurb that graces the book’s back cover.

A quiet English village where nothing ever happens.   Until…..

After her boyfriend runs out on her with the contents of their joint bank account, Kat Latcham has no choice but to return to the tiny Somerset village of Much Winchmoor where she grew up.  A place, she reckons, that is not so much sleepy as comatose and she longs for something to happen to lessen the boredom of living with her parents.

But when she and her childhood friend, Will Manning, discover a body and Will’s father, John, is arrested for the murder, Kat suddenly realises that she should have heeded the saying “Be careful what you wish for”.

Much Winchmoor is a hotbed of gossip and everyone is convinced John Manning is guilty.  Only Kat and Will believe he’s innocent.  When there’s a second murder Kat is sure she knows the identity of the murderer – and set out to prove it.  But in doing so she almost becomes the murderer’s third victim.

Readers of Sue Grafton might enjoy the Much Winchmoor series of cosy murder mysteries spiked with humour and sprinkled with romance.

Talking of Which….

One of the ways authors who are far more experienced than me deal with the worry of how a book will be received is to get on with the next one.  And that’s exactly what I have been doing.

Like Murder Served Cold, the second in the Much Winchmoor series started life as a serial for Woman’s Weekly. This time it was a three part serial, entitled Rough Justice and featured the same characters.  You can imagine, I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I approached Gaynor with the idea for the next in the series and she said yes.

Sadly, she didn’t have the same enthusiasm for the third in the series (she felt there had been ‘rather too many murders’ in the magazine recently) and the idea stalled.  But Kat, Will and all the other characters in Much Winchmoor (at least, the ones who hadn’t been murdered or sent to jail) wouldn’t go away and kept nagging me to tell their stories.

Which is exactly what I am doing.

September prompts

for advice on how best to use these, see my post Writers’ Prompts.  A limitless supply of story inspiration

1. Getting caught in the act.

2. ‘Accidents will happen in the best regulated families’. Charles Dickens (David Copperfield)

3.Lady in red (song title)

4. A day that starts badly and gets progressively worse.

5. A sprat to catch a mackerel. (Proverb)

6. The UK’s first public lending library opened on this day in 1852 in Manchester.

7. Harvest festival.

8. ‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone (WH Auden)

9. Standing up to a bully

10. A pair of buzzards drawing lazy circles in the sky

11. Hiding the wrong object.

12. The pen is mightier than the sword (proverb)

13. These are the things I saved.

14. ‘A sadder and a wiser man/he rose the following morn. (ST Coleridge)

15. Write about a small rebellion

16. Your mother’s cooking

17. And then there were none.

18. Getting what you want.

19. Until the twelfth of never (song)

20. Dubious intentions

21.My mother said I never should…

22. Lighting a candle

23. A woman of substance (book title)

24. Getting on the wrong bus/train

25. A still tongue makes a wise head (proverb)

26. When the children are asleep, we’ll sit and dream..(Carousel, Rogers and Hammerstein)

27. Nothing to lose

28. A girl of her time (book title)

29. The old lost road through the wood

30. ‘Love is not love/which alters when it alteration finds (Shakespeare)

Dog walks, hurdles and a murder mystery.

I’m later than I meant to be getting down to work because today’s dog walk took even longer than usual.  Several of the fields around our village have been cut and baled and our Dalmatian Duke insisted on stopping to wee on every one of them!  (It was a big field and there are a lot more bales out of shot, all duly marked by Duke).

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The first hurdle – and how I fell at it.

I started writing this blog after reading “The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors” by Anne R. Allen  ( Anne’s blog) which is crammed full of useful advice for newbie bloggers such as myself.

Unfortunately I’ve  fallen at the first hurdle because one of Anne’s pearls of wisdom is  about being consistent.  Blog regularly, she advises.  

Ah yes, I thought.  I can do this. So  I set up a schedule (I’m very good at setting up schedules.  Keeping to them, however, is another matter) and decided I would blog fortnightly.  I then entered the fortnightly publication days in my diary.

I chose to post fortnightly (a) so that I wouldn’t clog up your inboxes and (b) it would give me some breathing space to get on with my life… and, of course, the day job.

But that is where the problems started.  Life , the day job and the local farmer’s hay making (see above) got in the way which is why, according to my schedule, I am now two  postings behind.  So, if you’ve been waiting impatiently for the Daily Prompts from May 16th onwards, please accept my sincere and grovelling apologies.  

To make up for it, I’ll put the Daily Prompts from May 16th – June 15th  at the end of this post.  And if you’re new to this blog and wondering what on earth I’m going on about, check out the post (Writers’ Prompts.  A limitless supply of story inspiration) on how to use the prompts.  

I’ve written a pantomime.  Oh yes I have!

In my post of 25th March The Path Less Travelled and why it (sometimes) pays to take it I described the fun I was having writing our village pantomime.  This year, we’re doing The Fladdams Family – the Panto, which is based, very loosely indeed, on the TV programme The Addams Family.

I have finished it.  Almost on schedule.  And if you’ve ever wondered what goes on during the creative process of writing a pantomime, take a look at a (totally unedited) page of my notepad which  sits beside me when I’m writing.  It’s either a snapshot of the creative mind at work – or the ravings of a madwoman.  You decide.

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A new serial.

Yay! I have a new serial coming out at the end of the month.  My eight part murder mystery entitled All The Birds of the Air starts in the People’s Friend on June 23rd.  

This serial is the result of an approach by People’s Friend’s Fiction Editor, Shirley Blair, asking  if I’d be interested in writing a crime serial for them.  Now I’d love to let you go on thinking this is an everyday occurrence for me and that editors are regularly contacting me in this way.  I wish!

Usually it happens the other way around.  I get an idea for a story, write it and then spend the rest of my time and energy trying to persuade an editor to buy it.  So after I said yes to Shirley I found myself in the unusual situation of looking for something to write about.

This was where my ideas box came in handy.  It’s an old document box, crammed with tattered files and dog eared notepads, most of which make as much sense as the one in the picture above.

But then I found a notebook from a creative writing class I took at my local Further Education Centre many years ago.  I enjoyed the class very much except for those times when the tutor would set us a challenge to write something really clever which we then had to read out to the rest of the class.

I was, and still am, absolutely rubbish at that sort of thing.  My brain freezes and I  sit there doodling while the rest of the class scribbles away furiously.  That particular day, the brain freeze was obviously a full on glacier because this is what I wrote:

Who killed Jock Dobbin?

That was it.  Apart from a weird drawing of what I think was supposed to be a cat and a reminder to myself that my son had cookery in the morning and not to forget the sultanas. (He’s all grown up and sensible now and buys his own sultanas.)

But the line intrigued me and I started thinking about a man called Jock Dobbin who dies suddenly.  His death is put down to natural causes until a series of anonymous notes begin to appear around the village.  These notes are all based on the rhyme “Who killed Cock Robin?” and that, of course, gave me the title as well. Then I started thinking: “What would you do if a total stranger left you everything in his will?”

All the Birds of the Air was such fun to write and there will, I hope, be a sequel.  But that depends on whether the readers of People’s Friend enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Fingers crossed.

Daily Prompts

Today’s writers don’t have to hunt around in dusty old boxes for inspiration. At least, not the ones who follow this blog.  So here, better late than never, are the Daily Prompts, as promised for May 16th – June 15th.  And I promise I’ll be back before June 15th with the prompts for the rest of the month.  I’ve already put it in my schedule.

16. Write about being bullied.

17. When you fear the worst and the worst happens, there comes that moment when you realise there is nothing left to fear. 

18. My brother/sister had this really annoying habit….

19. Write about what you didn’t do.

20. Opening line.  Where were you last night?

21. Dark behind it rose the forest (The Song of Hiawatha.  HW Longfellow)

22. Once, when nobody was looking…

23. The end of the day.

24. You are in a hotel room.  Alone.

25. Actions speak louder than words. (Proverb)

26. Buried treasure.

27. Write about a time you felt abandoned.

28. Something you bought mail order.

29. You’re taking an exam you are totally under prepared for.

30. You walk into a bar and a sudden silence falls.  But no one will meet your eye.

31. Slipping in and out of the shadows.

JUNE

1. Married in the month of June/Life will be one long honeymoon.* (see below)

2. It was the family wedding from hell.

3. Write about an anniversary.

4. ‘I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”. (Eric Morecambe)

5. Write about a balcony.

6. If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you’d do?

7. The first time I saw my baby brother/sister I felt….

8. Write about being the last person to be picked for a team.

9. “Last night I dreamt I went back to Manderley…”  (Or Myrtle Avenue, or wherever)

10. He walks into a room and there is complete silence.  All heads turn in his direction.  Then he smiles and walks up to her.  “Hi, I’ve been looking for you….”  (Feel free to change he/she etc)

11. I love you because (Do you remember the old Jim Reeves song?)

12. Ann Frank was born this day in 1929.  Write about keeping a diary.

13. “It wasn’t my fault, Mum, honest.  It just….”

14. “There are two ways of spreading light. To be the candle or the mirror that receives it.” (Edith Wharton)

15. A funny thing happened to me on the way to…..

  • Footnote:  I got married in June and, on the off chance that my husband reads this, yes, it has been one long honeymoon! (Most of the time, anyway)