New historical fiction: pre-order before 1st December

 New book: Impact

bannerimpact

Post-war, the fall-out. Book 3 of the trilogy: IMPACT. Pre-order this new book at promo price of 0.99   https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N759C1Q

If you enjoyed reading about Billy’s trials with his cousin, the manipulative Kenneth in Intrusion and Infiltration, you’ll want to know what happens to these boys in adolescence. The new book is set in 1945, London.                    

1937-1940. In Book One, INTRUSION, five-year-old Billy Wilson is introduced to his frail, artistic and manipulative cousin, Kenneth. Against the background of impending war, Kenneth begins his invasion into Billy’s life and the rivalry begins.

1940-1945. Book Two, INFILTRATION, finds the two boys evacuated to the country. Billy finds nurture in his foster home that has been missing with his own parents, but a family tragedy enables Kenneth to invade Billy’s life wherever he is.

1945-1951. Book Three, IMPACT.  In July, with the VE Day celebrations fading in memory, Bill is torn from the foster home he loves to return home. Reluctantly he faces a dirty and destroyed London in company with Uncle Ted, who is home from the war safe, but so odd and uncommunicative. Bill must share his Wandsworth home with manipulative cousin, Kenneth. The adolescent boys’ rivalry intensifies as Kenneth intrudes further, insinuating himself into relationships, toying with his friendships and betraying his secrets. A drama is inevitable. Can Bill deal with the dreadful fall-out?

1936_austin_seven
Uncle Ted drives the family home in an Austin Eight.

 

demobhero
Bill’s father and uncle have no hero’s return like this.

IMPACT should appeal to all those who have made a fatal mistake and must live with the consequences.

Which of the trilogy’s characters can this be true of?

Herbert Wilson, who fails to recognise his son’s valiant and well-intentioned nature?

Marcia Wilson, always rather a chilly mother, who neglects to support her son’s talents?

Doreen Wilson, a warmer aunt, but whose romance with a G.I. enrages her son, Kenneth, who blames Bill for introducing the couple?

Mr Durban, owner of Bill’s secret icon, the Cossack sabre, for failing to keep Bill’s sanctuary safe?

Kenneth, for trespassing far too far into Bill’s psychological territory?

Uncle Ted, for refusing to communicate what happened to him on the Western front?

Or is Bill himself responsible for the drama that unravels?

The new book in this trilogy is 105k long, and so in the e-book version it is divided into two. But don’t worry, Part 2 of Impact will be available on two days after Part 1. Out December 1st

Those who prefer a paperback (like me) will not have to wait for their copy of the complete story.

GOOD READING AND PLEASE DO REVIEW ON AMAZON AND GOODREADS. Thank you.

Continue Reading

True to character: writing craft

malecharacter

Then presidential election campaign: didn’t it provide a rich source of characters and plot for any writer?

Somehow, Simon Schama didn’t actually include that in this talk.

humpty-dumptyOne key to involving readers with your characters: make them bold, multi-faceted, unconventional and unpredictable. But this doesn’t mean falling short on remaining characters.

The Girl on a Train captivated me because the gradual reveal of the main character’s personality and back story. The plot had me gripped because of her difficulties and situation. I would not have cared if her character had not been fully developed. She was. She had strengths as well as weaknesses, and she could be unpredictable so that the book was a good page-turner. My involvement continued until more than three quarters of the way through the plot when – I have to beware of a spoiler here – another character behaved in a way that was not credible. From personal experience as a psychologist, I know that is not how a person in that situation would behave. That character had not been so carefully designed and developed. My enjoyment of the novel was reduced from then on.

However, should Paula Hawkins write a novel with the same main character, I would want to read it. This is the power a writer has for attracting readers.

If you’re a new writer, there’s a useful article here from Writers’ Digest on character building.

It has taken me a very long time to complete my trilogy about a boyhood rivalry begun in 1937. It culminates in an act extraordinary enough to make a strong, unpredictable ending (I trust). However, that ending has to satisfy readers that is believable in the context of the characters’ growing story. A trilogy can do this laying of stones on a path more easily than a single novel. Development of plot and personality is being built up over time. Less prominent characters (I don’t say less important, for I believe every character should be important) have an effect on the main ones. Wittingly or not, they are change agents. It’s a plus if it’s the reader realises that the characters they are identifying with have been altered by the personalities and their actions or others, rather than the writer pointing it out.

Underlying everything in my enjoyment of a novel is the strength of characterisation. I wonder if it’s the same for you?

arelativeinvasion_optforbookmark
A RELATIVE INVASION 

 

WWII, two boys, a fateful rivalry

                       INTRUSION    INFILTRATION    IMPACT (Dec.1st)

 

Continue Reading

Creating edgy short stories.

I have written a few edgy short stories, and I enjoy reading them. As an example, Hilary Mantel’s story of Margaret Thatcher’s fictional death

It’s the suggestion of outrageous possibility that can make a story  or an image edgy.

madrehitler

If the first person form is used as a literary device, the narrator of an edgy story is often unreliable, but his or her fantasies around true events don’t make a fantasy for the reader. There can be a self-deception that the reader can assess.What is ‘edgy’ is the uncertainty around what is real, especially if that threatens safety, physical or attitudinal.

Where stories are written in the third person,  the main character does not have to be likable.  It is edgier if s/he’s unlikable yet the reader constructs a sneaky liking for him/her. This makes the reader uneasy. (What sort of person must I be if I feel sympathy for this jerk?)

images-2The reader does have to be drawn to the main character in some way – horror or outrage can achieve this – what will he do next? But uncertainty and confusion work best.

 

 

The author can shock the reader by reversing all expectations, or make the protagonist cross over some unacceptable line. He may kill but must he debase? He may cheat, but the person who has just saved him, or his own mother?

Edginess needn’t involve extreme sexuality or aggression.  An action close to home can cause the uneasiest feelings, or an everyday event suddenly appearing to have a different significance. It doesn’t have to involve crime or erotica. It can suggest something subtly sinister. It can be socially provocative. It can even be shockingly funny.

Assumptions we make when we read a story when reversed, can highlight our own prejudices.  Edginess can produce unease and give rise to questions over morality, practice, managing relationships. A story is satisfying when it is thought-provoking and lingers in the mind after the last page.

I hope I’ve achieved this in my Crime ShortsA Boy with PotentialNot Her FaultHomed banner_new

Continue Reading

Historical trilogy


bannerinfil_opt

If you like to read historical fiction, especially set in WWII:-

INFILTRATION is the second in the trilogy, A Relative Invasion. It begins in the blitz, September 1940 where Billy, my sturdy, well-meaning main character, is arriving at his new billet in the country, delivered by horse and cart.

When Book One ended, Billy, had just been evacuated for the second time – but this time sinister Cousin Kenneth, is evacuated too. To Billy’s dismay, he finds that Kenneth will be billeted with Aunty right near to Billy’s mother and baby sister, while Billy will be some miles off. As Book Two starts, Billy is mustering all his bravery to enter another unknown home, but this time, not to poverty.

Adaptations, anxieties and adventures lie ahead. Infiltration is a story of boy rivals evacuated to the country. More than that, it explores the resilience of children sent away for a large proportion of their childhood, often five full years. Some of them were miserable the whole time, others bonded more with their foster parents than with their own . . .

entrainedEvac

 

My two boy characters must grow towards their teens developing their different talents, and, crucially, their fateful rivalry in an environment very different to the one they were born into, while their mothers also struggle to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances where they are distinctly not at home.

I’m happy to report that Book One,  INTRUSION, has just been awarded a B.R.A.G medallionbrag-med-gold

INFILTRATION is 5* on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Both books available in paperback and on ebook platforms

Intrusion: https://books2read.com/u/mZMDy3

Infiltration: https://books2read.com/u/bpnDEm

Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo  etc

Continue Reading

Re-writing a short story

MouseThe_End

                    Each time I finish a short story . . .

I get a tremendous sense of self completion. It’s transitory: I will be rewriting my short story soon. Although the satisfying sense has gone by my first edit, this ‘completion’ sense doesn’t occur at all when finishing a novel. The process of beta-reading, editing, proof-reading that lies ahead is so lengthy that it’s more like beginning an uphill journey than reaching the top. 

Recently I was asked about my process of writing my Crime Shorts, so I thought beginner writers might be interested in my answer. It begins with a voice or a sentence followed soon by the speaker. The situation that causes the sentence follows, and the story stems from that.

Once an idea comes I can become too involved in one aspect to pay due attention to other important elements that go towards making a good story. In the case of Homed, I was totally immersed in developing the voice of a none too reliable narrator. (These characters appeal to me.)

Homed_book_cover_v2

Deep into my narrator’s account, at about 2,000 words I realised that I had too many characters. Even without assigning them names, they would crowd my story. I doubt if a story of under 5000 words can work with more than three characters. 

I sat back and re-thought the story. Where was my character at the beginning? How many places and situations could he refer to? As with characters, not too many, otherwise the reader would become confused. How could I best lead up to the climax? Had I laid down a hint near the beginning so that the end had validity? Had I described sufficient of the scenes for them to be visualised?

After these considerations, I rewrote the story. Bearing the number of characters and locations in mind, each had to be written as seen through the eyes of the narrator. Moreover, he had to credibly remember each one. 

I hope I succeeded, but if I haven’t, you can let me know. In the case of my first Crime Short, readers suggested I continued his story and made it a novel. Perhaps I will come back to that story again if its feral narrator refuses to let me go.

Crimetrioopt

            If you’ve like this post, please do share it.

Continue Reading

Re-structuring a novel

ARIall3_opt
Trilogy, A Relative Invasion

This post is about the time when I was re-structuring a novel, the first of my historical trilogy.

Many writers will have experienced coming back and back to a novel knowing there’s a problem but not quite identifying it. Weeks go by without success, then suddenly a solution unexpectedly clicks into place. In this particular case, I didn’t even know I was looking for a solution. I only knew I was seeking some net for the structure. After several rewritings and countless reworking, I was still dissatisfied. However, it’s no bad thing to recognise that something is not quite right and to persevere with re-structuring a novel.

A few agents rejected this book because it is written in the child’s voice. I could have changed this, but after considering alternatives, I remained committed to it. It is very difficult to capture the thinking of a child as he grows from the age of five years to adulthood.

8._boys_knit_ed_feature
Novel re-structuring of boy’s time. Knitting socks for soldiers

You need to get the internal language and the mental focus right at each stage; through early then middle childhood, teenage to young adulthood, especially when you’ve chosen the close third person for telling the story. You must stay in the child’s mindset with the child’s focus. It took me a long time to ‘hear’ Billy’s voice aright. Readers of Books 1 (Intrusion) and 2 (Infiltration) have commented very favourably about it, so I feel justified in my decision.

images4-2
chapped knees in winter

Billy is a teenager in Book 3, Impact, my work-in-progress. Post-war London left little to optimism so the voice has lost much unworldliness. However,  some innocence still remains, like the short trousers, until the age of fourteen or more.

I recognise that some readers wonder who the target reader is. Is it a child’s book because the protagonist is a child? The pace suggests otherwise and there’s mileage in reading of adult behaviour seen through the child’s eyes. Can a book be for adults when the chapters show the experience of a child? Does his world matter enough? Does his viewpoint count?

My approach to the trilogy uses a child’s mind that is open to possible questions, awaits answers. Therefore, I stuck with the child as a protagonist, one who shows the reader a world from his perspective. How powerful the child’s pov can be! But the reader is adult, s/he can form different opinions and add more sophisticated understanding to the child’s fragmentary view.

However, I felt the work needed some re-structuring. Coming up to finishing Book 1 I felt there was some basic lever or pin-hole missing.  I needed a device for letting the reader look down from adulthood in a systematic form, as well as up from childhood, throughout the plotline.

One day, for no apparent reason, in walking from one room to another, the device suddenly came to me. I could head each chapter with a news headline for the date of each chapter. This would put ‘adult concerns’ in the mind of the reader as s/he read about the child’s.

Unknown1
Need for re-structuring! The typical post-war playground

Now I am on the third book in the trilogy. Looking around his old environment, Billy is in no doubt about what has happened. WWII is over, but for the author, the headlines and the timeline are far more difficult to compile. Am I committed to the re-structuring I did earlier? I am working urgently to finish Impact but may be gone some time . . .

If you have liked this post, please share.

Continue Reading

Genre? Striking a new note.

 

genrewritinggenres

What genre?

Writers are always advised to be clear about their book’s genre and to concentrate upon a target group for it. Fantasy stories, for readers of fantasies, sci fi for sci fi readers, and so on. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to please an audience of one genre with your book in a totally different one? That would be a real achievement. I suspect that multiply-awarded Wolf Hall has not managed this. However, it can happen.

Let’s take music as an example. I’ve never liked jazz, despite the fact that my eldest is a musician playing both classical and jazz. It irritates me, the extemporisation on a theme. Simple soul, I want the theme, please. But then one day the Hot Sardines came on the radio and converted me. For those non-jazz lovers, this is a band that has put on wild live shows all around New York City – and now much further in the world.

I was chatting to a young teenager who had only ever read Harry Potter for his leisure reading and was forced to read ’The Scarlet Pimpernel ‘ as curriculum work. Reluctantly, and after much grumbling, he ‘worked through’ the book and came out a convert to historical fiction. ‘I really reckoned the French Revolution and the scheming. Cool. I’m into it now.’ Mightn’t he have been easier to motivate if the cover hadn’t been the one shown below right?

The fact that this series had a very wide appeal is demonstrated by the very different covers, presumably targeting contrasting reader groups. Here are just a few. On a bookshop table, each would likely attract very different shoppers. Scarlpimp Scarlpimp2 Scarlpimp3 136116

It makes you think, if you’re a writer yourself, doesn’t it? It is pretty easy to change a cover and re-upload your title, or to have several covers showing for sale. A number of long-standing successful novels have two or more different covers.

Here’s one of John Wyndham’s, again likely to appeal to different audiences:

Midwich-2 Midwich-11midwich

Of course you need a title that doesn’t confine you; ‘Lolita’ or ‘War and Peace’, for instance.

Otherwise, one advantage of being an Indie author is that you have control over your own covers. Almost worth avoiding mainstream publishing for that fact alone?

Continue Reading

Character-writing: resources

Writing characters? E.M. Forster admitted that “We all like to pretend we don’t use real people, but one does actually. I used some of my family …”

Perhaps you can’t or won’t do that. As a writer, you will need different resources for bringing your characters to life.

images-6
Character invisible on the stage

You may have access to a group or category of people who encapsulate the characteristics you want for your character. But perhaps the stage is empty . . .

You want to give your character a convincing appearance and a convincing voice. It’s good if  you can summon up a face and voice that is still in your head. But suppose that isn’t the case and you need to create one? You won’t want the fruit of someone else’s vision — i.e. you don’t want to copy a character from a film or tv script.

Feeling stuck? Try these resources:

  1. Documentary films. The British Film Institute site is not just for buying films you’ve missed seeing. Let’s say your character is a steelworker in 1948. You can see a 1948 close-up of steel production to get the manufacturing process vivid and exactly right, take in the working clothes worn at that time (including a man in a suit working with heavy machinery) and hear the tones and terminology of the narrator.

  2. Oral History interviews  are a wonderful source of actual opinions and attitudes. You can hear audio clips of contemporary voices such as those being compiled by the BBC’s Listening Project, or past voices in archives such as those at East Midlands Oral History Archive, or in the US via the G. Robert Vincent Voice Library – a collection from 1888 of voices from all walks of life.   http://vvl.lib.msu.edu.

  3. Online discussions. Say you have never been in your character’s situation.  Find a blog on that subject, then wheel down to the comments: real people reacting to the situation. For instance, unemployment or being cheated by a friend. You’ll not have to guess how it feels. The comments following an advice column, even review sites include personal accounts with the tiny details that will make your paragraphs sing.

    horse-1333937_960_720
    Pixabay

    Always better to get it from the horse’s mouth.

 

 

Continue Reading

Promoting literary fiction on-line

Bookbub promotion: a wise investment?

image001

Jane Davis recently ran a Bookbub promotion. Jane is a successful indie author and member of ALLi whose first novel, Half-truths and White Lies won the Daily Mail First Novel Award in 2008. She has written six further novels, each of them in the genre of literary fiction. They have earned her a loyal fan base, especially after An Unknown Woman was named Self-Published Book of the Year 2016 by Writing Magazine and the DSJT Charitable Trust. But like all authors, she has to market and promote her books.

It is well known that Bookbub is the most effective of all promotion sites. Thousands of downloads follow the one day of a Bookbub listing, but getting a book listed is notoriously difficult. And expensive. It costs hundreds to donate a book – even free – to a potential thousands of readers. No wonder that millions of authors turn to other promotion websites. There are myriad on-line writer advice sites recommending that authors do this, with a consequent rise in websites providing promotions. Not surprisingly, with multiple sites promoting the full gamut of genres, the result is lower effectiveness and fewer sales.

Despite Jane’s existing success, it took several attempts before Bookbub accepted Funeral for an Owl for promotion. Often book promotions are for genre fiction. Would Bookbub work well for literary fiction? This was Jane’s question. Her partial answer she generously shared with fellow ALLi members: the results of her Bookbub promotion: costs and benefits.  (One of the advantages of membership of ALLi is the access to this inside information.)

JaneDavis       Jane’s results are particularly useful because:

  • many website posts that quote results are averaging outcomes from several genres among which literary fiction may well be the least represented.
  • Those ‘sold a million after promotion’ success stories often relate to self-help books (often about self-publishing!);
  • FREE e-books are now expected, encouraging myriads of downloads that are never read. Jane’s data inlcuded the number of reviews that followed: i.e. proof that the book had been read.

Once or twice I have looked up the ratings for books cited by promoters as examples of phenomenal sales after exposure on their site. Once the sales day is over, the rating has slumped to very low.  This does not seem to be so severe a case with Bookbub, probably because the audience is already targeted to its preferred genre. For instance, two weeks or more after the promo on Amazon.co.uk Funeral for an Owl’s best rating was as follows:

Yes, it would be nice to be at number 1, but it is sales that matter and these are by no means all that Amazon use to decide on ranking. One of Jane’s goals was to increase the number of people on her mailing-list, people who would be interested in buying her books. This goal was achieved as result of the Bookbub promotion.

It seems to me that literary fiction is the last to benefit from on-line promotions. This may be because its readers are those most likely to prefer a physical book and most likely to keep it, re-read it, lend it, pass it on. Jane has her books in print too . . .

Jane Davis lives in Carshalton, Surrey and is the author of six novels. The Bookseller featured her in their ‘One to Watch’ section.

You can find her at:

 Website: www.jane-davis.co.uk

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage   Paperback-iphone-FB-AD

Twitter: https://twitter.com/janedavisauthor

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/janeeleanordavi/boards/

 Or get an eBook of her novel, I Stopped Time, by signing up to her mailing list at www.jane-davis.co.uk/newsletter

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Writer blogs and their lifetime

FdeTroyLectureMoliere

Some few years ago I began my first writer blog:

http://fictionalcharacterswriting.blogspot.com. But I didn’t want to show myself– I let my characters do the talking. Sadly, the characters didn’t live up to the image of Moliére’s group above.  It was more like this on the left. womensclub

I had just published my collection of satirical short stories and I wanted a writer blog that would speak about them, but one that would stop short of marketing. In that respect I fully succeeded; I talked about all the characters, it was humorous, and it didn’t market. I doubt if I sold one copy of the book as result of that site.

But I did have fun and, it seems, this writer blog appealed to the Ukrainians who followed every post(!) The characters became real, including one with a fish phobia, another who could only operate from a chaise longue, and one who was worried about her husband lurking near, ready to snatch her back from her recent liaison. The characters took over the blog completely, writing the dialogue including blistering criticism of me, their author. They started a literary criticism group, discussing each others’ tales. That was extremely unedifying and more than a tad bitchy. Altogether, this wasn’t an author blog, it was a characters’ blog. There was even an intruder, Russell, a character from one of my as-yet incomplete novels.  It’s always good to have an outside perspective on things, isn’t it?

I have just written the final post on this blog. It’s had nearly 23,000 visitors but it’s run its course. The book, Me-Time Tales,  is in its second and expanded edition with new stories, additional characters. Kindle_Cover_opt I need to spend time writing on this blog, and on the author website (http://RosalindMinett.com) that, very belatedly, I am preparing.

I have said Goodbye today to my quirky blog giving this representation of one of mymattress characters. She was moaning that I hadn’t included the new characters from the 2nd edition so, as a swan song, I mentioned her and two others (rather miserable characters).

Now to the serious business of writing. The site you are on is straightforward if far less creative than fictionalcharacterswriting. I learned a lot while blogging on there. But I am not recommending such a time-consuming exercise to new writers or any writers, unless as an alternative to doing Codewords or Adult Colouring.

How far should we write for our own pleasure? One successful marketer, MaAnna Stephenson, has recently stated that before even writing a book she would carry out her marketing exercise: appetite for such a book, pitch, response, audience and so on.

Oh dear. We writers know what we should do but we just carry on writing the stuff in our heads. Our silly heads?

catsbeard_9105

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading