Category Archives: Find an Agent

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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In The Spotlight, Guest Blog by Writer Lauren Scharhag

I have a special guest in the spotlight for you this week folks… please give a big warm welcome to Lauren Scharhag who kindly had me as a guest on her blog at the end of last year and she agreed to come over to mine! Thanks Lauren!

 

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Lauren Scharhag is a writer of fiction and poetry.  Her titles include such works as Under Julia, The Winter Prince, and West Side Girl & Other Poems. Her work has appeared in The SNReview, The Rockhurst ReviewInfectus, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. She is the recipient of the Gerard Manley Hopkins Award for poetry and a fellowship from Rockhurst University for fiction. A lifetime resident of Kansas City, MO, she currently lives in the Waldo area with her husband and three cats.

Lauren Scharhag

 

Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story published.

I wouldn’t say I’ve always ‘wanted’ to be a writer.  It was something I’ve always been.  For me, it’s more like a vocation, a calling.  My whole life, I’ve always loved reading.  From a young age, I kept journals.  I wrote stories and poems.  When I was thirteen, I started writing for the Kansas City Star’s teen section.  That same year, I wrote my first novel (which was very awful and will never see the light of day).  I completed my second novel by the time I was seventeen (only marginally less awful).  I studied literature in high school and college.  In 2005, I wrote a script for a small independent production company here in town.  But I don’t feel like I really hit my stride till just a few years ago, where I can actually look back on some of the stuff I’ve done and feel something other than embarrassment.

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

I did get an agent with my second novel.  In my experience, it didn’t work out.  They shopped my work around for two years to the publishing houses and nothing ever came of it.  Since then, whenever I’ve tried to submit novels, I always try agents first, then publishers.  Again, that has never worked out for me.

I tried submitting my third novel, Under Julia, a few years ago.  I had eight different agents and publishing houses extremely interested, but ultimately they found the work too dark, too controversial.  They said, “Send us your next work.”  Like it’s just so easy to whip something out!

At that point, I decided I was done with submitting.  I have somewhere around 600 rejection letters, both in a filing cabinet and in a folder on my email account.  I mean, how much rejection is enough?  I decided it was time to get back to my roots—why had I ever started writing in the first place?

Because I can’t not do it.  I can’t tell you how much happier and more productive I was when I remembered I wasn’t writing to please the publishing industry, but myself.  Then, whaddaya know?  A publishing house in the UK found me on Twitter and asked me to submit some work.  I sent them a vampire novella.  They liked it and asked if I would consider turning it into a novel or even a series.  I’ve since signed a contract with Kensington Gore for a horror trilogy.  So I guess my advice is, you have to find what works for you.  We all have to forge our own paths.

I don’t believe agents or even publishing houses are the only path to success anymore.  Do they make things easier?  I’m sure they do.  But I believe it’s possible for a determined author to self-publish, self-market and ultimately become successful without them.  And you gotta ask yourself, who are you doing this for?

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off? Has that changed since you became a ‘successful author’?

Sure, I’ve always hung with other writers.  In high school, three of my best friends were literary.  We’d read and critique each other’s work.  For many years, I belonged to an online community called Sharepoetry and became very close to a lot of the people there.

Currently, I co-author a scifi/fantasy series with my friend, Coyote Kishpaugh.  He’s now my main go-to for professional advice and feedback.  My husband is not a writer, but he’s a very insightful reader—he’s usually the one who gets to read the first draft of something.  I’m sure those two guys will continue to be my main critics for years to come.

Over the past year, I have also become very active in the local literary scene.  Kansas City has a lot of groups and organizations that are very helpful and supportive, like the Writers Place and the Uptown Arts Bar.  I have always felt that connecting with other writers not only improves your work, but provides a constant source of inspiration.

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book had been accepted?

In order: my husband, my co-author, my mom, then Facebookland.

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

I haven’t come to that stage yet.  I’ll have to let you know.

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

For me, it’s kind of different for each book, especially as I write across multiple genres.  I tend to do all my research on the front end, and come up with a broad outline that still leaves plenty of room for improvisation.  I really love it when the characters hijack the story and do things that surprise me.

Whatever I’m working on, I like to immerse myself in that topic or genre.  I watch movies and documentaries related to it, I read books on the subject.  I want to dream about it when I go to sleep.  Right now, since I’m working on a horror trilogy, I always light a candle for atmosphere.  I’m writing it longhand in a notebook.  I also have an hourglass that I use to keep track of time.  After an hour, I like to get up and move around.  That’s something I always do—I always need to pace when I write.  My husband calls it my “stomping time.”

When my co-author and I are working, we have a set schedule—every Friday night, almost without exception.  We’ve been doing that for eight years now.  He usually gets here about five, then we write until dawn, pausing only occasionally for snacks.  We record our sessions so we don’t miss anything.

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

I’ve always been a passionate reader, as I mentioned, so plenty of books and authors would be on my list: Watership Down, Lolita, The Dark Tower series, The Road; anything by Charles Bukowski, T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath.  I’m also a big TV and movie geek, so a lot of visual media has influenced me as well.  Tarantino films, The Dark Crystal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, The Twilight Zone, cartoons—these are some of my go-tos for inspiration.  Writers have to think of big pictures and grand schemes, but we have to be concerned with the details, too.  I think that we have to be interested in everything.  Anything that involves language involves us.

Music is another big source of inspiration.  I like all genres—rock, rap, country, classical, you name it.

I usually listen to music before I write to get into a particular mood, but when I start writing, I either turn it down very low or turn it off.  I also soundtrack my stories.

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

I write because I must.  In the movie, Frida, when Frida goes to ask Diego Rivera if he thinks she can be a painter, he says, “If you are a painter, you will paint.  You’ll paint until you die.  Okay?”  That’s how I feel about writing.

As for what I want my stories to do—I’m very interested in people.  I want readers to connect with the characters—I want them to see themselves and people they know.  I want to introduce them to people they’d never associate with in real life.  For me, writing is the chance to be a thousand people.  I want to give the reader that same experience.

I’m also a worshipper of language, so I want the prose to be beautiful and lyrical, yet clear and authentic.

How much marketing have you had to do, even with a big publisher? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

I’m not with a big publisher, so I expect I will have to do at least as much as I am now—playing the social media game, blogging, seeking out reviews and interviews, that sort of thing.  On my own, I’ve done a few literary festivals.  I’m hoping working with a publisher will mean expanding into doing more events—book signings, conventions, all that good stuff.  I’m getting more comfortable with self-promotion, as long as the focus is on the work and not me.

Tell us about the latest published book …

The first book hasn’t been published yet.  I signed the contract based on the short story, which I can tell you about.  The story was inspired by a vampire walking tour I took in the French Quarter in New Orleans.  It takes place in 1909.  A young schoolteacher gets a job at a Catholic girls’ boarding school only to find out that her students are not what they seem.  The short story was called, “Our Miss Engel.”  The series is going to be called The Amaranth Trilogy.

The publisher and I are discussing a contract for The Order of the Four Sons series, which I co-author with Coyote.  O4S is about two ancient organizations, the Order of the Four Sons (of course), and Starry Wisdom, who have been battling for centuries for possession of a powerful artifact known as the Staff of Solomon.  Whoever has possession of the staff can rip open the very fabric of existence.  We’ve written and self-published Books I-III.  The fourth and final book is about a year away from completion.

Blog: http://www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurenscharhag

Twitter: @laurenscharhag

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Next, I finish Book I of the horror series and get it out the door.  I’m hoping to have it done by fall.

Coyote and I are working hard on Book IV.  As I mentioned, I think we’re still about a year away from having it done.

In ten years’ time—I haven’t the faintest idea.  There’s a saying, “Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.”  I’ve learned not to plan too far ahead.  I can tell you that I have a lot of stories and poems in me, and I just hope that I have enough time to get some of them out.

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

I just found out recently I have a second spleen.  It really doesn’t mean anything except it confuses doctors whenever they have to do an abdominal scan.

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

Christophe and Leopold from Where Flap the Tatters of the King (O4S: Book III).  Basically, they’re everything I admire in people: brilliant, kind, witty, resourceful, generous.  They’re lifelong best friends, the sort of friends I’d want to have—loyal and courageous.  Also, they can use magic.

Finally: can we post an extract of your latest published book?

From The Order of the Four Sons series, I will share an excerpt from the latest book, Where Flap the Tatters of the King. 

 

When they sat out again, it was still snowing heavily.  They were exhausted and running low on stores.  They had no choice but to take a detour.

The town was much larger and more crowded than the previous.  The basic design and sensibilities were quite similar, though: row houses, shoppe fronts, a pretty little square.

At the inn, they dismounted, and, as usual, JD took the horses around back.

“How are we paying for this?” Bill whispered.  “I thought we spent all our money on the horses.”

“Not to worry,” Clayton replied.  “It’s all under control.”

Murphy opened the inn door with a bow.  “Ladies.”  As they passed him, he gave a contented sigh.  “Blond, brunette and a redhead.  Like flavors of ice cream.”  All three turned and gave him the exact same look simultaneously, and he grinned.  “I must’ve done something right in a past life.  I can’t imagine what it might’ve been . . .”

“Thank you, Mr. Murphy.  That will do,” Clayton said with good-natured tolerance.

This inn, like the one before, had a tavern.  It was quite packed.  And loud.  Several card games were in progress as they entered the room.  A young woman bustled in and out among the tables, serving drinks and the occasional plate of food.  The air was thick with the scent of cigars.  Overhead, the rafters were lost in a haze of smoke.  Beneath their feet, the stone floor was sticky with spilled drinks and littered with ashes and butts.  There were two more women in the tavern.  One was at the bar, the other sitting in a man’s lap, her arms around his neck.  Both women wore surprisingly plain dresses, very short in front, the hem stopping well above the knees, putting their fine stockings and garters on display.  The stockings were quite eye-catching, in fact—one pair striped red and white, the other woman’s black with rainbow-colored sequins.

The roar of conversation lessened only slightly when the team gathered in the entryway.

The proprietor, a surly-looking man perched on a stool behind the counter, said, “Your pardon, my lord, but this is a modest establishment.  I am sure you are accustomed to far better.”

Clayton glanced around.  “Have you rooms to let?”

“We have.”

“Then I’m sure they’ll suit us just fine.  We’ve been on the road for some time.  Two rooms for the night, please.”  Glancing at Bill and Emily, Clayton quickly amended, “Better make that three.”

Emily smiled gratefully, and beside her, Bill was in no way displeased, but his eyebrows shot up at the extravagance.

The man bowed.  “As my lord wishes.”

As Clayton signed the book and collected their keys, JD came in from stabling the horses.  There was a second, more pronounced lull in conversation, and some men even turned to take in the Carcosan.

JD scanned the room and quickly zeroed in on the poker tables.  One table in particular, the fellas there were taking their cards real serious.  Real serious.  And that meant serious stakes.  He glanced over at the kid.  She had been standing behind Clayton, looking out over the bar area.  When JD came in, she turned to him expectantly.

The slightest of nods passed between them.  JD approached Clayton.  “Game goin’ on.”

Clayton handed him the small pouch with their remaining funds with the attitude of a man who never had to count such things.  “You may indulge yourself.”

JD took the bag with a nod and a “My lord,” and while Clayton finished arranging some supper and a table, threaded his way to the high-stakes table.

Alyssa, having shed her coat and gloves, wandered over to some chairs by the fire, where a gentleman gladly gave up his seat so she could warm herself.

JD tipped his hat to the card players.  “Evenin’.”

They did not return the greeting, but eyed him guardedly.

“I wonder if you fellas might wanna deal me in?”

One of the men tapped ash from his cigar.  “Do they play Blind Prophet in Carcosa?” he inquired.

“Can’t say as they do,” the Colonel said genially.  “But I reckon I can keep up.”

The men looked amused.  “Very well,” one said.  “If you have stakes, you are welcome to join us.”

JD tossed the bag of coins on the table and took a seat facing the kid.  Her chair was turned so that he could see her profile.  She did not look at him.

They dealt him eight cards.

 

* * * * *

 

Murphy, Clayton and Emily sat down at a table while Bill and Kate took the luggage upstairs.  The barmaid brought them a pot of tea, then went back to the kitchen to fetch plates of food.  As Murphy took a sip, the woman with the spangled tights approached.  “Pardon me, monsieur.  Would you care for company?”

Clearing his throat, Murphy set down his cup.  “Thanks, but I’m good.”

“You don’t have to say no on my account,” Emily said sweetly.

“Gosh, Em,” Murphy rubbed the back of his neck.  “I appreciate that.  But no.”

“Are you sure?” the woman raised her eyes to Clayton’s.  “The nights are so terribly cold.”

Clayton shook his head.  “Thank you, mademoiselle.  But we’ve had a very difficult journey.  We require sleep more than company.”

“Well, if my lord should find himself in need of my services, you have but to ring.  Monsieur Danaeus knows where to find me,” she nodded to the innkeep.  And with that, she sauntered off.  They saw that her skirt was longer in the back, the dark silk falling like water around her derriere.

Murphy gave Emily a look.  She shrugged.  “Just trying to help.”

“Uh-huh.”  Murphy turned his attention to the poker game a few tables away.  It seemed JD had lost the first few hands.  That was to be expected.  New place, new game.  But on the fourth hand, Alyssa touched her ear, and JD immediately raised.  And won.  Next hand, he folded.  Then she traced a line down her throat, and JD won again.  But not before he’d bluffed the rest of the players into going all in.

“Oh,” Murphy remarked.  “They have a—oh, nice.  Very nice.  Can she do lottery numbers, too?”

Clayton stirred his tea.  “Sure.”

Both Murphy’s and Emily’s heads turned sharply at that.  “Really?”

“Of course.  She’s an Oracle.”

“But I mean—really really?”

“Where do you think the Order gets a great deal of its funding?  Oracles usually aren’t engaged for this type of activity.  Alyssa just does it because she likes to.  She and the Colonel have been quite the team for many years now.  But the Order has a whole division of psychics who are completely non-combative.  Their entire role is to, very carefully so it’s not traceable, gather funds for the Order.  Lotteries, casinos, always small jackpots, of course.  The stock market—”

Murphy looked over at Alyssa with a newfound respect.  “Y’know, I take back some of the things I said about you people.  You’re all right.”

The barmaid came back with dishes and a steaming chicken pie.  They all breathed the scent of pastry and giblets appreciatively.  Murphy looked around.  They were out of the cold and all looking forward to warm beds tonight.  Emily was unshackled.  Bill was sleeping—well, presumably, he would not be sleeping tonight, but in a good way.  Kate and JD were on speaking terms again.  Even Al was as close to being happy as she allowed herself to get—she was playing with the Colonel.  And everybody was back to being friends.  And look—pot pie.  Chicken pot pie.  Life was pretty fucking good.  And look, here comes Kate and Bill now.  Just in time for pie.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Alyssa rise swiftly from her chair by the fire.

A man at one of the tables whistled at Kate.  “Hello there, berry girl.  Do you taste like strawberries?”

Kate paused, frowning, then resumed walking.  Several other men laughed.

The catcaller seized her arm.  “Don’t you turn your back on me when I got good money–”

She barely had time to get out a “Hey!” when the unmistakable sound of a pair of hammers being pulled back on their revolvers brought the whole place to a stop.

The Colonel had stood.  One gun was pointed upwards, ready to come down if anyone so much as breathed wrong.  The other was pointed at the offender’s heart.  His eyes blazed with terrifying intensity.  “You get your goddamn hands offa her.  Right now.”

Murphy threw down his fork.  “God dammit.”

Alyssa had materialized at Clayton’s side, her hand on his shoulder.  “Get our bags,” he said calmly as she pulled him to his feet.

Bill and Emily raced up the stairs.

Meanwhile, the man had released Kate and raised his hands.  His face had gone dead white.

Kate stared at JD.  “What the fuck are you doing?”

His voice was low and eerily calm.  “Don’t you worry about a thing, darlin’.  I got this.  You just go on outside now.”

Behind Kate, Bill and Emily came running back down.  They didn’t even pause, but made for the door.  On the way, Bill grabbed Kate and dragged her along.

“But—” Kate began.

“C’mon!

And the three of them were out the door.

Alyssa had already gotten Clayton and Murphy safely outside.  Returning, she busily circled the poker table, sweeping handfuls of silver into a coin purse.  One of the men’s hands rested on some of the money.  She tapped it.  With a small grunt of surprise, he raised his hand and she swept the remaining pile into her purse.

JD kept the room covered as she finished.  Then the two of them backed towards the door together, Alyssa grabbing the registry book from the counter as they went, tucking it under her arm for safekeeping.

Finally, they too, were out in the cold.  The others had brought the horses around.

The Colonel and Alyssa joined them, and the seven of them rode back out, into the darkness and snow.

 

* * * * *

 

Once they had reached a safe distance, they stopped to set up camp.

Murphy got furiously down off his horse.  “We were in there all of twenty minutes!  I timed us!”  He threw his arms out.  “And now here we are!  Are you people allergic to happiness?  Is that what’s going on here?  There was pot pie!  And now there will be no pot pie for anybody!  None!  No one gets pie!

 © Lauren Scharhag 2015 Can not be reproduced without permission from the author or publisher

 

More about this series:

The Order of the Four Sons is a sprawling, fast-paced, epic adventure that encompasses multiple worlds and ensemble cast of characters.  Two ancient organizations, the Order of the Four Sons of Horus and Starry Wisdom, have been battling for centuries for possession of a powerful artifact known as the Staff of Solomon.  Whoever has possession of the staff can rip open the very fabric of existence.

Book I

The series’ heroes are introduced: Colonel JD Garnett, novice mage Kate West, Detective Ryan Murphy, scholar Doug Grigori, and field techs Bill Welsh and Cecil Morgan.  The team is dispatched to investigate the disappearance of one of their own in a small town.  There, they uncover a lot more than they bargained for—a segment of the Staff of Solomon, and the evil forces that are converging to claim it.

Book I is permanently free through Smashwords and other e-book retailers.  

 

Book II

Carcosa follows the team – JD, Murphy, Doug and Kate – as they pursue Countess Elizabeth Bathory across the face of a sinister desert planet filled with untold dangers.  O4S Director Clayton Grabowski and the Oracle find themselves mired in the political intrigues of the Order’s leadership, while back on Earth, Bill forges an uneasy alliance with a government agent.  As they race to recover the Staff of Solomon, they uncover truths they had never expected about their enemies—and themselves.

 

Book III

Where Flap the Tatters of the King sees the surviving members of the Order – Kate, JD, Murphy, Bill, Clayton and Alyssa – reunited in a world known as Corbenic.  With the Corbenese king held hostage by Starry Wisdom, the land has been plunged into endless winter.  At all costs, the Order must liberate Corbenic and restore the king.  As the team sets out, they find themselves once again braving the elements, on their way to Corbenic’s capital city.  There, they will be plunged into a dark and seductive world, a world of alchemists and geomancers, nobles and courtesans.  Unrest has spread throughout the empire, stirring talk of rebellion.  And beneath all the gilt and glamor, evil sleeps.

 

Book IV

Going Forth By Day –the fourth and final book of the series is due tentatively in 2015.  Be sure to check out the authors’ blogs for news and sneak peeks.

Buy some of Lauren's books in the UK! LINK

Buy some of Lauren’s books in the UK! LINK

 

Wow what a fabulous and insightful blog post and I really appreciate your generosity in sharing this with us. I certainly hope it will inspire and encourage you all to look out for these! I know I will be!

Thanks for being in the spotlight and we hope to have you back at some point with more! 

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In The Spotlight: Guest Post Charlie Flowers

We have not had a guest for a while, so it gives me great pleasure to welcome to the spotlight an author who’s local to me and who I met online; he was recently interviewed by Tony Fisher on BBC Radio Essex about his latest novel and I think some of you might be interested in his work and his journey. Please welcome to the stage… Charlie Flowers.

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Charlie Flowers Author Pic

Charlie Flowers, Author of the Rizwan Sabir Thrillers

 

Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story published.

Hi everyone! I’ve always *written*, as I used to be a frontman for two bands, and I wrote most of the lyrics. But I could never seem to write vast screeds of words. So imagine my surprise in April 2012 when I found myself writing the first Riz book. It poured out of me and I had it finished in about four months.

 

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

Nope, all done on my lonesome. The few agents I contacted weren’t interested, although one of the people who represents Lee Child told me that personally, she loved the first book but she couldn’t pitch it to publishers as it was “too real” in its depiction of modern British Asians. Apparently they all still want that Far Pavilions stuff…

 

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off? Has that changed since you became a ‘successful author’?

I have a small “constant readers circle”, each of whom has a specific task — one for grammar, one for continuity, one for the French, one for the Urdu…

 

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book had been accepted?

 My Facebook group. Sign of the times!

 

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

The editor(s) are everything, as of course, they can see the things you can’t. Also, some of my readers know my two main characters very well, and will pull me up on things. Would he/she say that? And so on.

 

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

I write for an hour a night, normally around 11pm. Loud music helps. During the day, I’m often writing the first drafts out by hand, into notebooks.

 

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

My friends inspire me, as that is where I drew inspiration for the characters from. Author-wise, I’d say Fleming, Deighton, and most of all, Ralph Peters’ classic novel Red Army, which is basically a retelling of War and Peace but set in 1990!

 

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

 Because I hate it and I love it and I have to! I aim to make my books, and characters, live on in the reader.

 

How much marketing have you had to do? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

Very comfortable — nowadays you have to be. You’ve got to be willing to doorstep, sell yourself, and tweet those tweets.

 

Tell us about the latest published book…

My latest book is Murder Most Rural, a classic cosy crime novel set in East Anglia.

And you can get it at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Murder-Rural-Rizwan-Sabir-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00RQNVTJU/

Here’s the Facebook fan page for the series:

https://www.facebook.com/TheRizwanSabirMysteries?ref=bookmarks

Here’s the Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/rizthrillers

 

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. 

Next up this year are FOUR new books, hopefully —  a historical SAS thriller called The Siege; two spinoffs from the Riz series, one of which is a cookbook and the other a Young Adult novella about the childhood of Riz’s wife; and finally, a sixth Riz thriller!

Where do I see myself in ten years’ time?

Writing Riz 25 I’d imagine!

 

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

 Self-publish to begin with, and never, ever, ever give in.

 

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

I can ride a camel.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

They’re actually loosely based on my friends, so…

 

 Finally: can we post an extract of your latest published book? 

 

Extract from Murder Most Rural…

My boss had once described my other half as “Essex Girl, from Mars”. He was mostly right, I’d give him that. Our families were from Mirpur in Pakistan. Our mothers had lived on the same village street back in the old country. And they’d married us off.

Holly ‘Bang-Bang’ Kirpachi was a short, birdlike girl, with raven hair and non-committal hazel eyes. Her arms were adorned with several tattoos, and there was a gaudy golden ring in her nose. Every now and then she’d pop some bubblegum or her face would light up with a cheeky grin. Very little phased Bang-Bang. She was always happily singing to herself. And with good reason.

Bang-Bang was twenty-one. She’d shot her first man when she was fourteen, and she’d probably killed more than forty people in her career as faction leader of the Blackeyes, and then section leader in our Army unit.

I say “probably” because in our line of work, you stopped counting after the first few. All in all, she was a better person to have on your side than against it.

Something else that should be known about Bang-Bang. When it came to things mechanical or electric she was a sorceress. Her hacking skills were at an insane level and had saved my, and the country’s, collective bacon on several occasions. She’d been the star of her school’s science department, and had a bursary lined up at BAe Systems, before she’d just jacked it all in and got into burlesque.

In short, stuff WORKED for her. The downside was that you couldn’t leave her near equipment without her tinkering with it.

Shredded paper fell like confetti. I looked down at her. ‘Continuous improvement, I see?’

‘Always! Got the briefing then?’

I nodded.

‘We going anywhere nice?’

‘Yep. Essex.’

She jumped in the air and clapped her hands. And then stopped. ‘Oh no. Not that place your cousins live.’

I looked at her. ‘Yes that place our cousins live. What’s the problem?’

She looked up at me. ‘You know. I go that far north of the A414, I get a nosebleed.’

I resigned myself to griping and banter. Darkest Essex, here we came.

 

© Charlie Flowers RIZ 5 MURDER MOST RURAL. Published with permission of the author and can not be reproduced without his permission.

 

Thankyou for having me Debz!

Charlie

You are most welcome Charlie and I wish you the very best with this, I saw it climbing the charts and from the radio interview folks you don’t have to read all the others to read this one… but you might as well?

Charlie Pics

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Here to Help

I have had a request for a subject which I plan to post about later this week. If anyone else has a request for something to do with the nuts and bolts of writing, about publishing, how the process works for example, even about my own writing, then please feel free to make a suggestion. I tend to get up and write whatever is in my mind and sometimes it’s more than other days! So please do get in touch.

I also wondered, since we have not done it for a while, if anyone has a small 500-word piece they would like critiqued here on-line for Fiction Clinic, if so we can do it at the end of next week. Please email me writer@debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk

And also not had someone In The Spotlight for a while so if you have a novel/short story collection you want to plug and tell us about your writer’s journey particularly, then please do get in touch. I can’t feature them all if I get too many but I can certainly choose!

I also wondered if anyone out there wanted to post a Book Review of something you have read recently really that had an impact on you. I saw the shortlist for the Costa Prize was announced yesterday and I hope to start ticking off some of those books. LIST

Also here are the novel ones:

2014 Costa Novel Award shortlist

Neel Mukherjee for The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)

Monique Roffey for House of Ashes (Simon and Schuster)

Ali Smith for How to be both (Hamish Hamilton)

Colm Tóibín for Nora Webster (Viking)

2014 Costa First Novel Award shortlist

Carys Bray for A Song for Issy Bradley (Hutchinson)

Mary Costello for Academy Street (Canongate)

Emma Healey for Elizabeth is Missing (Viking)

Simon Wroe for Chop Chop (Viking)

Any appeal? Perhaps someone out there wants to take one of these and read then review it? It would be interesting to see what is deemed good enough to make this prestigious list? Any takers? Let me know which book you want to read and perhaps we can each take a different one? I did this with the Commonwealth Book Prize when they had it and I loved reading them all and I also chose the same winner!

I do like this blog to be a place where we can not only have me waffling about my own work, but to cover a lot of subjects that will be helpful to both readers and writers.

One day I have told myself I’d like to make it onto one of these lists. That is my goal and now I have said it out loud it has to be. Right?

And one final thing before I go and write the last three or four chapters of Isle of Pelicans (well rewrite and perhaps not all of them today!) — I have decided, in honour of my novel’s first birthday to offer a super low special rate on novel critiques this side of Christmas only. If you have something you want me to copy-edit, write a detailed editorial report, the same type of thing I do for Cornerstone — and throw in a synopsis review and help with your query letter, do it now! 100,000 words usually £300 is only £225! The offer is only for work sent now and will be limited to the first few received.

Here is the LINK.

Please do post your suggestions here in response to my questions and make this blog work for us all!

Have a great day everyone!

Do what you love

 

 

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Being Well Known Enough…

As a newly published debut novelist (albeit after several publishing successes with short stories), published by a respectable, but never the less small press, and even those published by the bigger presses, we all have to get our work and our name our there and that means a lot of doing it yourself. The sad fact is, even authors with agents and big publishers are often confined to the mid lists. They might have a good following and write full-time, but being a household name is something more elusive.

Talking to a successful novelist friend last night who is writing full-time and doing very well with his self-published crime series (he did have an agent for a while) a lot of his success is measured a lot in how much time he can give over to marketing. In fact he now pays for someone to do that for him. So how much of getting known comes from how much time and money can be invested in getting your name out there? And how much is purely based on the quality of the books?

I would like to be able to say how talent speaks for itself, and if you write well it doesn’t matter, but you can’t find fans if they don’t know you exist — right? He is a good writer by the way, but his background in marketing and business also helps!

I don’t write for fame or money but I do write for success, measured in how many people read and appreciate my work. I, like all writers, still have much to learn, but have also learned so much on this journey so far. While I don’t seek fame I do hope my work is recognised and awarded even and for that I will strive to always write the best I am capable of. And to do what I love doing every day is indeed an honour for which I am profoundly grateful — every single day. TRULY.

But even when you don’t seek fame as such, for your books but not you, maybe, it still involves a lot of self-promotion and contacting bookshops to arrange signings etc. In fact one of the large bookshop chains would not have me in one of their bigger flagship stores because I am not well known enough. I did so want to say a rude thing to that. Like weren’t all the successful authors once unknown? I guess I know which stores to decline when I am well known enough to draw a crowd. Flippancy aside, they have their reasons, they might just learn how to express themselves with a little more tact if they want an ongoing relationship with those they turned down who might just be the next BIG THING.

Luckily many stores have said yes and I will be signing, even if as the debut unknown I have to hand out bookmarks and smile a lot to get noticed. But I love it! I do. I love everything about this writerly life of mine. And while I wish I could afford to pay someone to market me more and get While No One Was Watching to a larger audience, I also have to focus on the writing and believe in that.

While it might be naive to hope if you write well you will get noticed anyway, there will always be a little naivety, like there has always been — that I will win big awards for my novels, that movies will be made … the same touch of naivety that got me this far — so I think I will hold onto it.

Dreamers Never Disappear. So don’t you.

Believe 2

 

 

 

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In The Spotlight Guest Post R J Ellory [Spotlight On Crime Series]

I have a very special guest in the spotlight this morning — a very special guest. R J Ellory is the author of many books, perhaps shot into the public eye when A Quiet Belief In Angels made the Richard and Judy list. I love his writing style, writing sometimes on the darker side — crime/psychological thrillers — just my bag. Well worth looking at his extensive list — not that he needs me to sing his praises, the books speak for themselves.

I met Roger (in the virtual sense) through a writing friend and we have stayed in contact. He signed his novel Bad Signs to me and I loved it. So I asked, even though I know he is SO busy, if he would share some of his journey with fellow writers (and readers.) As Roger will tell you himself, it has been a long journey and he is testament to the fight, if you want it enough and you’re prepared to work at it, you can get there. So without further ado I would like to welcome to the spotlight, author R J Ellory (pause for RAUCOUS applause) …

 

Spotlight

 

Welcome R J Ellory

 

RJ Ellory Image

“I started writing my first book, and over the next six years I wrote a total of twenty-three novels.  Once I started I couldn’t stop…”

 

Introduce yourself: Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book published.

 

Okay…well, my name is RJ (Roger Jon) Ellory, and I was first published here in the UK in 2003.  That was the end of a fifteen year-long ‘battle’ to find a publisher.  The first published book was the twenty-third I wrote, and the gap between when I first put pen to paper and first secured a publishing contract was fifteen years, taking into account that I wrote nothing for eight of those years due to accumulated ‘disappointments’ and mental exhaustion!  Of course, my own experiences are unique, and I am sure that there are great many more published authors out there who secured publication with their first or second novel, but this was just my journey and this was what it took for me.

 

Did that journey involve an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

 

I tried to work through an agent, and secured the services of three or four, but nothing came of it.  I think they just didn’t have the persistence that I had, and they each gave up after two or three attempts to find me a publisher.  I ultimately secured a contract with a publisher (Orion UK) directly, and my editor advised me to get an agent, recommended three or four, and even then – knowing that I already had a publishing contract with one of the most prestigious publishing companies in the UK – only one agent contacted me and met with me.  That agent is still my agent twelve books later.

 

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group?

 

No, I never belonged to a writing group.  I never had anyone read my work before I sent it off.  My wife used to read my work, and she was never anything but convinced that I would one day be published.

 

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book/story had been accepted?

 

My wife, of course.  She said, ‘About bloody time!’

 

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

 

Working with a good editor is the same as learning any new subject.  I have studied music, graphic design, photography, all sorts of things, and working with an editor starts with the same premise.  There is a great deal of difference between writing a novel and writing a novel for public consumption.  Your editor, usually, is the first person to read your novel as an ‘audience’.  He will see holes that you didn’t see.  He will see plot weaknesses that remain unknown to you, even when you have dragged your way through two rewrites.  There is an old expression: A wise man is a man who knows he knows nothing.  I approach my working relationship with my editor on this footing, that he does know better, that he can teach me a great deal from his own experience, that he is working towards making the book as good as it can be, and I am very fortunate to have one of the finest editors working in the UK book industry.  There is no book I have written that is not better as a result of his working on it.  He advises, we discuss, I then amend, rewrite and/or edit as applicable.  After working on twelve books together, we have a system that could not be better.  Not that I have any criticism of self-publishing, but that basic and fundamental relationship between writer and editor is missing, and I do not see how a book could be as good as it could be without that external and objective critique and input, especially from someone who is vastly experienced and knows exactly what they are doing.

 

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

For years I wrote longhand, almost three million words, but now I use a computer.  Sometimes when I’m away from home I’ll write longhand, and then transcribe when I return.  I tend to write a whole book, furiously ploughing through it, and then I go back through from start to finish and handle all the snags, anomalies, mistakes, cut back on the over-writing as best I can.  It’s kind of organic in a way, like it’s something that takes on certain character aspects of its own.  It’s like living with a bunch of people for a few weeks, and you watch them grow, watch them take control of certain elements of the story, and then when you’re done it’s like losing something.  Capote once said that finishing a story was like taking a child out into the yard and shooting them.  Perhaps a little melodramatic, but I know what he means!  When a book is finished it kind of leaves a hole in you, and then you have to start another one right away!  I am disciplined.  I start early in the day.  I try and produce three or four thousand words a day, and work on the basis of getting a first draft done in about twelve weeks.  Sometimes it takes longer, sometimes shorter.  For me a book always begins with the emotion I want to evoke in the reader.  That’s the most important thing for me.  How does a book make you feel, and does that memory stay with you?  So that’s my first consideration: the emotional effect I am trying to create.  The second thing is the location.  Location is vital for me as the location informs and influences the language, the dialect, the characters – everything.  I choose to start a book in Louisiana or New York or Washington simply because that ‘canvas’ is the best for to paint the particular picture I want to paint.  I buy a new notebook, a good quality one, because I know I’m going to be carrying it around for two or three months, and in the notebook I will write down ideas I have as I go.  Little bits of dialogue, things like that.  Sometimes I have a title, sometimes not.  I used to feel very strongly about having a good title before I started, but now – because at least half the books I’ve published have ended up with a different title – I am not so obsessive about it!  And as far as little idiosyncratic routines and superstitions are concerned, I don’t know that I actually have any that relate to starting a book.  I do have a routine when I finish a book.  I make a really good Manhattan, and then I take my family out to dinner!

 

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

 

Other writers inspire me.  I spend my time finding books by writers that make me feel like a clumsy and awkward writer.  I love film, too.  Music, of course.  Artists in all areas inspire me, especially those who have had to really work hard at creating recognition for something special or unusual.  I am inspired by the achievements of people in all fields, to be honest.  The basic truth that kept me going for yeas despite many hundreds of rejection letters was a quote from Benjamin Disraeli: Success is entirely dependent upon constancy of purpose.  I also love the following words from Eleanor Roosevelt: It is never too late to become what you might have been.

 

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

 

I was always creatively minded, right from an early age.  My primary interests were in the field of art, photography, music, such things as this.  Not until I was twenty-two did I consider the possibility of writing.  I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine about a book he was reading, and he was so enthusiastic!  I thought ‘It would be great to create that kind of an effect’.  That evening – back in November of 1987 – I started writing my first book, and over the next six years I wrote a total of twenty-three novels.  Once I started I couldn’t stop, and now I think it just took me those first twenty-two years of my life to really discover what I wanted to do.  Now it seems like such a natural part of me and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  As for what I am trying to achieve as a writer, for me the most important thing about any novel is the emotion it evokes.  The reason for writing about the subjects I do is simply that such subjects give me the greatest opportunity to write about real people and how they deal with real situations.  There is nothing in life more interesting than people, and one of the most interesting aspects of people is their ability to overcome difficulty and survive.  I think I write ‘human dramas’, and in those dramas I feel I have sufficient canvas to paint the whole spectrum of human emotions, and this is what captures my attention.  I once heard that non-fiction possesses, as its primary purpose, the conveying of information, whereas fiction possessed the primary purpose of evoking an emotion in the reader.  I love writers that make me feel something – an emotion, whatever it might be – but I want to feel something as I read the book.  There are millions of great books out there, all of them written very well, but they are mechanical in their plotting and style.  Three weeks after reading them you might not recall anything about them.  The books that really get me are the ones I remember months later.  I might not recall the names of the characters or the intricacies of the plot, but I remember how it made me feel.  For me, that’s all important.  The emotional connection.  Those are the books I love to read, and those are the books I am trying to write.

 

How much marketing have you had to do, even with a big publisher? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

 

I did over one hundred and fifty library events in the first year of being published, all of them without charge.  I set up Facebook pages, Twitter pages, a website, whatever else I felt would help get my name out there.  I went to festivals, book-signings, seminars, and did anything and everything I was asked to do.  I think publishing has changed so very dramatically over the last twenty years, and the nature of how books are read (or not, as the case may be), has meant that we have had to adapt quite markedly.  It is an audio-visual age, and reading as a leisure activity seems to have declined so very much over the last decade or so.  While everyone is running around scratching their heads and trying to figure out why book sales have deteriorated so much in the UK, we seem to be ignoring the fundamental fact that literacy levels have collapsed, educational standards are at a record low, and reading for pleasure is rapidly disappearing.  It has been suggested that e-books and other digital formats have contributed to this decline, but that makes no sense as the shortfall in book sales is not being compensated for by downloads.  Also, changing the way in which books are being read does not make a non-reader into a reader.  Readers are readers, and they will read regardless of the format.  If the combined might, influence and financial power of the key publishing companies in this country devoted their energies and resources to a huge literacy and reading campaign, then they would secure their own future, both organizationally and financially.  However, it may be too late to reverse the dwindling spiral.  I hope not, for losing the book as a mainstay of entertainment, pleasure and education would be a huge tragedy.  Even though it may not sound so, I am an optimist at heart and I hope we can revive the book in the country.  We still publish more books per capita than any country in the world, and I think we carry a responsibility to maintain what we have created with our language.

 

Tell us about the latest published work …

 

The latest book (released on May 22 this year) is called Carnival of Shadows.  The blurb is as follows:

 

Kansas, 1959. A travelling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man’s body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michal Travis is sent to investigate. Led by the elusive Edgar Doyle, the carnival folk range from the enigmatic to the bizarre, but none of them will give Travis a straight answer to his questions. With each new turn of the investigation, Doyle and his companions challenge Travis’s once unshakeable faith in solid facts and hard evidence. As the consequences of what has happened become ever more disturbing, Travis struggles to open his mind to a truth that defies comprehension. Will he be able to convince himself that things are not what they seem? Or will he finally reconcile himself to a new reality – one that threatens to undermine everything in which he has ever placed his trust? In his powerful, atmospheric new thriller, bestselling author R.J. Ellory introduces the weird and wonderful world of the Carnival Diablo and reveals the dark secrets that lurk at its heart.

 

 

On facebook I can be found under both Roger Jon Ellory and R J Ellory

On twitter, it’s just @rjellory

My website is www.rjellory.com

 

The book can be obtained anywhere on-line and in bookstores.

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

 

The work I progress is a slow-burn mystery set in West Texas in the early 1970s, but there are two stories that run parallel.  The backstory, for want of a better term, is in the same town but twenty or thirty years earlier.  Very little violence, very little bad language, and the crimes perpetrated are deception, falsity, greed and jealousy.  Currently there is no title, but I am close to competing the book and we shall see what transpires!  As for where I will be in ten years’ time, I am sure that there will be another ten novels published, but I am also branching out into music, and I don’t doubt that I will have a good few albums and a few national and international tours under my belt.  That’s what I hope, for music is something I very much want to pursue as vigorously as writing.

 

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

 

Very simply the tenet from Disraeli above, and also something else that I feel is very valid, in that the worst book you could write is the one you think others might enjoy, whereas the best book you could write is the one that you feel you yourself would enjoy.  There is no formula for a good book.  You cannot predict what will be successful.  If you try to jump on a bandwagon and catch the current genres of interest, you will inevitably finish your book right about the time that the interest has waned and the public are following another thread.  True commercial success has come about as a result of writers creating their own genres and sub-genres, but writing for commercial reasons is always the very worst reason to write.  I think it was Hemingway that said, ‘Compared to writing novels, horse-racing and poker are good solid business ventures’.

 

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

 

I am a guitarist and vocalist in a band called Zero Navigator.  We have just completed our first album, produced by Martin Smith of ELO, and featuring percussion by Hossam Ramzy, he of Page & Plant, Peter Gabriel, Shakira fame.  We are currently filming a video for the first single, and will be on tour soon.  I think this is a good example of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, ‘It’s never too late to become what you might have been’!  Our website is at http://www.zeronavigator.com

 

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

 

I think that’s a really tough question!  There are characters who I see I would like to know, those I’d like to find out more about, those I feel sympathetic or paternal towards, those I feel could teach me a few useful lessons about life.  Actually, I think it would be interesting to raise the issue of autobiographical writing here.  How much of an author’s work is autobiographical?  I think we absorb so much from life – some of it good, some of it bad.  We take in events and circumstances, we deal with them (or not), we recover, we carry on, we try our best with everything we do.  Sometimes we get it right, other times we get it wrong.  That is life, and that is living.  As with any field of the arts – whether it be painting, sculpture, choreography, musical composition – the creator must draw on personal experience and personal perception in everything he or she creates.  I think that what we paint and what we write and what we sing are merely extensions of ourselves, and that extension grows from personal experience.  I think there are very few writers who write their own lives into novels, but I think there are a great deal who write their perceptions and conclusions and feelings about their own lives and the lives of others into the characters they create.  From that standpoint, every character I have ever created must have some small aspect of me within them…and that, in itself, could be quite a scary proposition!

 

Thank you so much Roger for being so honest and generous in your answers. You truly are testament to the journey and that if you have the talent and the belief you can make it. I am thrilled to have you in the spotlight on my blog and I am sure your story will inspire the readers of this blog. Thank you so much.

Have a great day everyone!

 

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In The Spotlight Guest Author Kit Habianic

I have great pleasure in introducing fellow Parthian debut novelist to the spotlight today to tell us about her publishing journey and her debut novel set against the back drop of the miner’s strike. This is the first of two novels out for the 30th anniversary of this moment in history that I will be showcasng here.

Welcome Kit Habianic

Welcome Kit Habianic

 

KT Brighton2013

 

 

So big round of applause and over to you Kit …

 

Hello, I’m Kit and I’m a writer.

I still feel a fraud saying those words, even though my debut novel Until Our Blood is Dry is published this spring by Parthian Books, and despite having had short stories published and working as a journalist.

Until Our Blood is Dry is the story of two South Wales families torn apart by the 1984–1985 miners’ strike. The Western Mail has chosen the book as its Morning Serial, running short extracts every day in its Arts section, which is unbelievably exciting.

The book was out on April 1. I’m still pinching myself.

The novel took seven years to write. Looking back, I sent it out to agents far too early. The notion of writing a whole book is daunting and it’s all too easy to get carried away with the sheer excitement of having finished something. Anything.

But then one of the early drafts made the shortlist of the Transworld/Daily Mail debut novel competition. Several agents wanted to see the book after that but didn’t pick it up.

There were a few near misses, not least the agent who accidentally copied me into the emailed in-house report on the full manuscript. To see plain unvarnished feedback turned out to be the best thing to happen. I got to see, warts and all, the book’s strengths and weaknesses. That led to discussions that lasted nearly a year, me redrafting the book, the agency considering it.

In the end, the agent loved the book but said she had no idea how to sell a story about the miners’ strike to the publishing industry. That persuaded me to approach small presses, which is how the lovely people at Parthian Books signed me up.

So advice, no. Except to say that it’s a tough market and maybe agents aren’t the only route.

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off? Has that changed since you became a ‘successful author’?

I have a circle of trusted writers, without whom nothing would have seen light of day – or rather, several circles. There’s the real-world writing group that meets monthly in London.

There are individual writers who critique my writing and whose work I read in return.

There are also online writing colonies; I started posting work on a site called youwriteon.com, which is Arts Council funded. Through YWO, I met like-minded writers who get together in closed online colonies the Book Shed and the Writers Asylum.

Finding a support network is critical for any writer at any stage – but choose your friends wisely and be prepared to give at least as much as you get.

I had a bad experience with one professional critique outfit whose feedback offered little constructive direction and left me feeling that the book I wanted to write was completely beyond my powers. At that point, I stopped writing anything for more than a year and it’s only support and encouragement from my writing friends and mentors that got me back in the saddle at all.

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book/story had been accepted?

With the short stories, anyone who’d listen. With the book, only my partner. I didn’t quite believe it, after all those years of standard and more detailed rejections. Even today, I don’t quite believe it. It’s still not quite real.

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

The suggestions Parthian made were mostly tweaks and I agreed with pretty much everything. A lot of the material that the editor wanted excised had been bolted on in response to other critiques that wanted certain points fleshed out. Shedding the exposition was like stepping out with a glossy new haircut.

The big change was that three opening chapters were deleted. The novel originally opened with an accident below ground and I was very attached to that chapter and to several scenes in that early section. But the pacing never quite worked and the scenes had to go.

Losing those chapters was my decision, and I’m still sad not to have made the pit scene, in particular, work for the book.

Tell us something about your writing day, routine.

At the moment, there is no routine. My ambition is to claw back time to work on a second novel. The outline is there, the characters and location and the main plot arc are in place. What’s lacking is scenes. And time to think about, plan and write those scenes.

What or who inspires you most? Any particular people, authors, books?

Inspiration can be a book or a song or a news story or a thing that happened to a friend of a friend or an emotion that can’t safely be parked in real life.

You never know where a story will strike. You just need the freedom to go with it, wherever it comes from and wherever it leads. The miners’ strike was the defining event of my teens, and for South Wales and other mining areas is like a sore that never quite healed.

The novel I wish I could write is Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. It’s a stripped-down, sparkling gem of a book.

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

It’s a kind of compulsion. A way of making sense of things. An urge to create other worlds and step into other people’s skins and travel to other landscapes and tell stories and play with words. Even during times I’ve stopped writing, the need to write remains, like an itch that must be scratched

How much marketing have you had to do, even with a traditional publisher? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

I’m not a natural promoter, but very few books sell themselves. And with a small press, it’s all hands to the pumps; the publisher, editor, marketing team and writer work together to push the book.

Parthian has great connections in Wales. The publishing team negotiated with national newspaper the Western Mail to run the novel in bite-sized chunks as its Morning Serial for a year.

Writing buddies with blogs are hugely helpful (thank you Debz for this invite!) and Parthian has persuaded independent booksellers in Wales to choose Until Our Blood is Dry as their book of the month for May, which is wonderful news.

Meanwhile, I’m available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and book readings.

Tell us aboutyour novel

Until Our Blood is Dry is a story about two families, the Joneses and the Pritchards who live in a fictional South Wales mining village that is torn apart by the 1984–1985 miners’ strike.

The three main characters, Gwyn Pritchard the overman, his schoolgirl daughter Helen and her miner lover Scrapper Jones, are forced during the dispute to choose sides. The decisions they make come to tear their lives, and those of their families and the wider community, apart.

The novel is about loyalty and identity and about what happens to people’s lives when battle lines are drawn.

Some readers have described the book as a work of historical fiction, which seems strange way to look at a book about events that stir strong passions to this day.

Exactly thirty years have passed since the year-long strike began but the wounds have not yet healed.

You can order Until Our Blood is Dry from Parthian’s website. You can tweet me @kithabianic. I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on the book, and especially about any memories people have of their own experiences during the miners’ strike. You can also contact me about these issues and about writing in general via my author page on Good Reads.

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations. Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

I would love to say there’s a game plan, but there isn’t. Not in writing and not in real life. Not for the next two years, let alone the next ten. Although I have the germ of an idea for a second book, progress has been seriously slow. And time seems really short, lately. Let’s hope it’s all a lovely surprise.

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

Read, write, rewrite, persevere. And repeat. Read, write, rewrite, persevere. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat some more.

Tell us something random about you for the pure hell of it

I’m terrified of daddylonglegses. And moths.

Which of your characters would you most like to be friends with and why?

Going round to Iwan and Angela for a Welsh-Italian Sunday dinner would be a hoot. There’d be a lot of arguing and shouting and setting the world to rights, great food and all the valpollicella you could drink.

Finally: can we post an extract of your latest published book?

Until Our Blood is Dry is divided into five books; winter 1984, spring 1984, summer 1984, autumn 1984 and winter 1985. Below is the opening chapter of the final book, catches up with the striking miners in January 1985.

 

Extract of Until Our Blood is Dry

—1—

 

Scrapper pulled his donkey jacket closer. Overnight sleet had hardened into sheet ice. The street glittered glass. Even the air had an icy bite. He paused outside the bracchi. The cafe was shuttered and locked, a heap of bills and flyers piled inside the door. Iwan looked away, pretending not to see. Scrapper made a mental note to clear them away when he got back. Mist draped the hillsides. The High Street, once bustling on Saturdays, was silent, Betty’s Unisex Boutique boarded up, cracked plywood pasted with layers of posters. Victory to the Miners. Maggie Out. But Maggie was still in charge and ten months into the strike, victory was no closer than the moon.

He slipped and slid down the High Street, past hairdressers and butchers and funeral parlour. His plastic buckets glowed yellow in the gloom.

‘You should have stayed home,’ Iwan said. ‘You need to keep your nose clean these next few weeks.’

‘Give over, Dad. There’s no harm picking coal waste.’

The track up to the tip was six inches deep in half-frozen mud, the crown of the hill masked in swirling mist. Scrapper soon felt breathless; lately, his strength and stamina were quickly spent. The fog thinned, revealing a man slumped on the stile up ahead, dressed in so many layers he looked as wide as he was tall. As the man doubled over coughing, Scrapper recognised him at once. Sion Jenkins was a martyr to his chest.

He hurried over. ‘You alright?’

‘Came over all peculiar.’

Two empty buckets lay at Sion’s feet.

‘Aw, butty; should’ve called us. We’ll fetch your coal.’

Sion tried to protest, but his chest was having none of it. He collapsed in a spluttering, coughing heap.

‘Go home, Sion,’ Iwan said. ‘We’ll stop by when we’ve filled your pails.’

The old boy staggered back down the track. Scrapper picked up his buckets. As they climbed higher, weak sun dissolved the fog. A hefty figure was outlined against the sky, bare hands plunging into the snow, hurling coal at two outsized buckets, huge arms like pistons. Not one lump of coal fell short or too far.

‘Orright, Dai,’ Scrapper called.

Dai snapped upright, a hand flying to his chest. ‘You scared me outta my skin, Scrapper Jones.’ He bent down again, started picking coal even faster than before.

Scrapper filled Sion’s pails first. The coal was brittle with cold. Wind hissed in his ears. Soon, his gloves were sodden, a chill sunk deep into his bones. Gusts of wind shook the trees below, shaking off day-old snow. His fingers ached, but a beat in his head kept him going. Small Town Boy. It made him think of the funfair at Barry Island, the waltzer ride with Red. He’d felt free for the first time in months, that day. Now, they were cash-strapped and cold, a baby due and a court case to come.

He turned to Dai. ‘How are you and Debbie getting on at Dewi’s?’

‘She’s never there.’

‘You’ll have more time together, once the baby comes,’ Iwan said.

‘What babby?’ Dai started hurling coal with raw fury.

‘But—’

‘There’s no babby,’ Dai snapped.

Scrapper frowned at Iwan to lay off the questions. Dai would explain, if he wanted to. Best to leave it if he didn’t. A collier knew not to push his luck. It was the code they all lived by. Downright dangerous, below ground, to poke a man until he snapped.

The three of them laboured steadily, not speaking. The sky gathered darkness, clouds heavy with snow. Soon, Sion’s pails were full. Scrapper carried them down from the tip and tucked them in a clump of bracken, sheltered from the wind and the wet. He climbed back up, started to fill his own buckets. Below, in the trees, a magpie cawed, cross and insistent. The bird spooked him. One for sorrow. He grabbed a lump of coal, lobbed it towards the trees. The magpie cackled and fled on glossy wings.

He straightened his back, rolled his shoulders. ‘Strange how quick you get out of shape. Used to shovel on hands and knees for hours and not get knackered.’

Iwan pulled his tobacco pouch from the lining of his jacket pocket where he hid it from the pit searcher and from Angela. He twirled a sliver of a roll-up, passed the tin to Dai.

Dai took it with a thin smile. ‘Didn’t mean to bite your head off.’

‘Forgotten already, lad.’

For all Dai’s heft, Scrapper sensed something shrunken in him, the light gone from his eyes. So Debbie had done it, then. It took guts to make that choice, to go through with it; a damn sight more guts than he had.

Eerie purple light washed over the valley. Dad and Dai finished their roll-ups. They gathered up their buckets and set off down the slope. But as they clambered over the stile, Scrapper heard footsteps squelching through the mud.

Peter Plod was steaming up the track, his tubby colleague Johnny Boots panting along behind.

‘Fuck,’ Iwan pushed Scrapper behind him.

Penny-sized lumps of sleet began to spatter the hedgerows.

‘You know it’s against the law scavenging coal, boys,’ Peter Plod called. ‘You’re trespassing on National Coal Board property.’

Dai drew himself up to full height. ‘Local bobbies property of the National Coal Board and all, are they?’

‘I don’t like your tone, Dai Dobrosielski,’ Peter Plod said. ‘Step away from the buckets.’

Scrapper opened his mouth but Iwan got in first. ‘There’s families cold and hungry across this valley. You boys got nothing better to do than guard a coal tip?’

Johnny Boots stared at the ground, round face dripping embarrassment. ‘Orders is orders.’

‘Orders is orders?’ Dai echoed. ‘Reckon the guards said that at Auschwitz.’

Peter Plod moved closer, jabbed a finger on Dai’s chest. ‘Set down your buckets now or I’ll arrest all three of you and it won’t look good for Scrapper Jones when his case comes to court.’

‘Do it, Dai,’ Iwan murmured.

Dai set down his pails, slammed the policeman with the flat of his hand. ‘Orders is orders? Next you’ll be saying this got nothing to do with politics.’

The policeman reached for his radio. ‘Fancy a night in the cells, do you?’

There was no way Scrapper could let that happen.

He handed Johnny Boots his two pails. ‘That won’t be necessary.’

Peter Plod paused, radio in hand. He was itching to book all three of them. Sleet pelted Scrapper’s face as he handed over Iwan’s pails, yanked the last two pails from Dai’s clenched fists.

Peter Plod picked up a bucket, eyes still fixed on Dai, tipped the coal over the fence into the brambles.

All the pails emptied, he stacked them, tucked them under his arm. ‘I’ll keep hold of these, thanks, lads.’

He strode off down the track. Johnny Boots staggered after him.

Dai’s fists balled rage. ‘Why the fuck d’you back down?’

‘Gwyn Pritchard’s hauled me up in front of the beak.’

Scrapper explained what had happened at Christmas. Dai’s jaw worked as he listened, as though he was chewing over the information.

‘You’re looking at time in jail?’

‘Anything to line up three square meals a day, butt.’ His attempt at a joke rang sour.

Dai’s face darkened. ‘Bastards. Bleeding all of us dry.’

‘We still got Sion’s buckets,’ Iwan tried to lighten the mood.

Scrapper felt his exhaustion turn to glee. One of them would have a toasty warm house tonight, at least. He would see to it personally. Screw the pigs.

‘I’ll come back for them when night falls,’ he said.

© Kit Habianic, Parthian Books 2014. Reproduced with kind permission of the author. Can not be further reproduced without permission

 

 

A huge thanks for Kit for being my guest and I have this book on my wishlist to order very soon! It sounds great and the taster shows the quality of the writing. I hope some of my followers get their copies. I hear the launch event at the weekend went really well. I have a great feeling about this book …

 

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