Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Getting to Know … T.E. Taylor

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
I’ve never really been particularly comfortable with pigeonholing novels into genres, but Zeus of Ithome is undoubtedly a historical novel – it weaves the lives of fictional (and some real) characters around events that actually took place.  It certainly won’t be my last historical novel, but I don’t see myself as writing only historical fiction – indeed, the one I’m writing now (see below) is quite different, and rather difficult to classify.   

What made you choose that genre?
Well, it really chose me!  I knew a little about the ancient Messenians, and had never given them very much thought, but when I learned more about their long struggle to retain their identity and regain their freedom through centuries of domination by Sparta, it struck me that their story was just crying out to be told.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies, but I would say on average about a year.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I like to set aside days for writing and on those days I aim to produce a minimum of 1000 words of reasonable quality text that fits within the rough plan I have for the book (I always work to a plan, though it may change in the writing).  I usually manage more than that, though I am not one of those people who can produce thousands of words in a day.  As for how many writing days I get in a week, that depends upon what else I have to do at the same time.  Not as many as I would like, at the moment!  As well as fiction, I write poetry and academic non-fiction, and teach part time at Leeds University, so I have to divide up my time. 

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
There is no single source – sometimes they just pop into my head, but in the case of Zeus of Ithome, the idea came to me after reading a history book – ironically, a book about the Spartans (very much the bad guys in this book). 

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first (unpublished) novel in about 1986, when I was 26.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to play music – guitar and a bit of piano.  I have been in bands in the past, though these days I mostly play solo acoustic guitar (and some electric) at open mic nights and the like.  I have fourteen guitars!  I also like hill walking, when I get the chance, and, of course, general relaxing with my family.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The historical events that take place at the end of Zeus of Ithome came as a surprise to me when I first read about them – but perhaps I shouldn’t reveal them, for the sake of readers who would rather not know in advance. 

How many books have you written?
I have had two books published so far, and have also written two other novels, as yet unpublished, though I may revisit them at some point. 

Which is your favourite and why?
I think Zeus of Ithome is my favourite, because it was a joy to write, from start to finish: it seemed almost to write itself, and the end result lived up to what I wanted to achieve.  The others were more of a struggle – though it was very satisfying when my first published book, Knowing What is Good for You (an academic book about the philosophy of well-being), came out. 

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Honestly, I wanted to be a writer – or possibly a musician.  Looking back, perhaps I shouldn’t have let myself get side-tracked by the conventional career path everyone expected me to take.  But better late than never!

What are you working on now?
It’s a novel about an ageing (fictional) Latin American dictator.  It follows the progress of an attempted coup by one of his subordinates, interspersed with reminiscences from his estranged wife about how he came to power and gradually turned from an idealist into a despot.  


Tim ‘T.E.’ Taylor was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1960 and now lives in Meltham, near Huddersfield, with his wife Rosa and daughter Helen.

He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford, and some years later did a PhD in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London. He spent a number of years in the civil service, where he did a wide range of jobs, before leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing. He now divides his time between creative writing, academic research (he has published a book, Knowing What is Good for You, on the philosophy of well-being), and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.

As well as fiction, Tim writes poetry, which he often performs on local radio and at open mic nights (where he also plays the guitar).  He is chairperson of Holmfirth Writers’ Group and a member of Colne Valley Writers’ Group.  He also likes walking up hills.

Twitter address is @timetaylor1

Published books:
Zeus of Ithome: Crooked Cat 2013
Knowing What is Good for You: A theory of Prudential Value and Well-being: Palgrave Macmillan 2012

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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Evolving a series…

Today we have a fabulous guest post from Nancy Jardine on the problems and joys of writing a series. Over to you, Nancy ...
Not everyone ‘sees’ a whole series at the outset of writing the first book. I don’t know about the people reading this post but my progress towards series writing was a very slow and almost accidental one.

When I eventually had my signed and sealed contract for The Beltane Choice in my hands all I could think about was “At last! My labour of love is going to be published.” It had taken a number of years to get to that point- two rejected submissions to romance-only publishers and many redrafts along the way. I had no real intentions of writing a series of Celtic Roman Britain novels at that time: my task was done in that I had my story set in the era I loved to teach about. I was ‘happy dancing’.

Only much later did I entertain the concept of doing a follow-on novel. While going through the long processes of getting The Beltane Choice published, I wrote two contemporary sensual romances. The first of these, my debut novel Monogamy Twist, hit the e book and print shelves in August 2011. A reader/ reviewer of it asked when the sequel was coming out and I had no answer. I couldn’t even imagine how I would do a sequel to that one, but the idea of extending another book of mine tucked itself into the back of my brain. As I was going through the last edits for The Beltane Choice, I could see how it would be possible to move on into another Celtic adventure.

One problem with romance novels, though, is that there is the expectation of man meets woman/ they have issues to deal with/ they live happily ever after. That is the nub of a romantic novel, the HEA. The Beltane Choice is what I would call a combo romantic historical adventure. Having strong romantic elements, it already had its lovely happy ending, so doing another story about the same two main characters- Lorcan and Nara - was not going to be a great idea. However, one of the themes of The Beltane Choice is that Nara has a son, Bethan, who is predicted to become a great Celtic leader. The obvious choice for story number two is Bethan. I imagine my readers might think this too, but I confess that I’ve never actually asked any of them, yet.

I launched into planning Bethan’s story. Five thousand words in it wasn’t going to work for me. Bethan was born in AD 72. He would be a mature man by somewhere around AD 90. That, in itself, wasn’t too much of a problem but there was such a lot had happened in Britannia between AD 71 and AD 90. If I accelerated Bethan’s growth process, I would be skimming out too many fantastic historically based opportunities. What would you do, I wonder? Continue with Bethan’s story as number 2 and then dot back and forward on the timeline to fit other stories in?

I’m a bit too ‘anal’ to miss out on adding some of the exciting Roman Empire’s campaign advances of that time, and too focused on getting dates correct. I’m sure some of you might give the advice that you don’t need to mention dates and that it’s not necessary to pen in actual realistic durations in novels. I’m afraid that I can’t manage to do that since I like to include factual detail when I can – albeit a fictionalised interpretation of those facts. To me dates in history are fixed and always will be!

Something had to happen to another character in between those years till Bethan matured. I was now writing three novels. Yay! I thought- I’ve got a trilogy.

I delved around to see who might be a good candidate for the middle novel. Brennus, the brother of Lorcan of Garrigill in The Beltane Choice, in some ways gets a raw deal- a shame since he’s such a likeable, trustworthy, highly principled Celtic warrior. I liked the idea of giving this lovely lad his own tale.

There was just one little problem. I had sort of killed him off on the battlefields of Whorl where my northern Brigantes fight the forces of the Roman Empire. Yet I knew I could use that ‘sort of’ to my advantage. Set in AD 71, news was spread purely by word of mouth. Perhaps Brennus did not die? What if…?

Can you see what was happening?

The second book in my Celtic Fervour series was started in September of 2012, a few weeks after the launch of The Beltane Choice. I spent the next couple of months mainly researching the Roman occupation of Brigantia and into what is now Scotland, since I was going to make the advance of Rome move ever northwards with Brennus. By February 2013, I was finding it difficult to complete Brennus’ story. It had mushroomed beyond the reasonable 80 – 90 K word count. By April, I was well into writing a sequel to my sequel yet it was still the one novel at 140 K words.

Major dilemma.

What would you have done?

A new character, Ineda, was having her own story told alongside Brennus’ tale. Since this is another romantic historical adventure -  although there is less of the romance and more of the historical in it – I took stock and did a bit of slash and burn. Well, maybe more of the cut with a sharp knife and trim the edges. There was very little that I wanted to remove from my story so it became two novels – each intended to be a stand-alone novel.

Therefore, what I now have in my Celtic Fervour series is 1) The Beltane Choice. This is followed by two closely linked books which have a closely linked title; 2) After Whorl: Bran Reborn (being published 16th December 2013) and 3) After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks (being published sometime in Spring 2014).

Having already completed After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks I now have the ideas for another novel which will take on a minor character from book 3 thus eventually making my series a total of five novels – one of those Bethan’s story when he really is a man!  I now need to do a bit more writing - *winks and smiles*.

I wonder if there are other authors reading this post who have had similar dilemmas to those that I faced.  I’d love to know how you have resolved your situation.

My thanks, Lorraine, for inviting me to share my dilemma with you today!

After Whorl: Bran Reborn is available for pre-order in paperback from Amazon UK (http://www.amazon.co.uk/After-Whorl-Reborn-Nancy-Jardine/dp/1909841323/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_t_1_CEPA)

Facebook Launch Party **Giveaways**
For a chance to enter the draw for a ‘triquetra’ necklace and other prizes join Nancy’s Facebook Launch party https://www.facebook.com/events/520880144659724/  and look for details of how to win the prizes on offer.

Blog launch Tour **Special Prize**
A special Blog Tour ‘friend’ will WIN a mystery gift for the most commented visits to blogs during the launch tour for After Whorl: Bran Reborn. (i.e. most comments between 9th Dec and 18th Dec wins the prize)  To be sure you don’t miss any blog posts check Nancy’s Blog regularly between the 9th Dec and the 17th Dec. http://nancyjardine.blogspot.com

Nancy Jardine lives in the fantastic ‘castle country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband. She spends her week making creative excuses for her neglected large garden; doesn’t manage as much writing as she always plans to do since she’s on Facebook too often, but she does have a thoroughly great time playing with her toddler granddaughter when she’s just supposed to be ‘just’ childminding her twice a week.

A lover of all things historical it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel. She has been published by The Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat Publishing.
You’ll find Nancy at the following places: Amazon UK author page    Amazon US author page   Blog    Website   Facebook  Goodreads   About Me   LinkedIn   Twitter @nansjar  Google+  

Ravaged by war

…AD 71. After the battle at Whorl, Brennus of Garrigill is irrevocably changed. 

Returning to Marske, Ineda finds her grandmother dead, though Brennus is not. Snared by a Roman patrol, they are marched to Witton where he is forced to labour for the Roman IX Legion. 

Embracing his new identity as Bran, Brennus vows to avert Roman occupation of northernmost Brigantia. Ineda becomes his doughty spying accomplice, though sometimes she’s too impetuous. Trading with the Romans lends excellent opportunities for information gathering. Over time, Bran’s feelings for Ineda mar with his loyalty to Ineda’s father. 

When she disappears, and cannot be found, Bran enters direct service with Venutius, King of the Brigantes.

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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Novel Competition - shortlist announced

Shortlist for Novel Opening and Synopsis Category

I am delighted to say the short list is now up on the website. To find out which entries have made it through to the final round of judging, click here.

Congratulations and good luck to those who have made it this far. 

Our two quarterly categories, flash fiction and humour verse, are open for entries, but the novel opening chapter and synopsis competition is closed until next year.

For more information on everything to do with all three competitions, please visit the website: Flash 500 Home Page.

Hints from the Judges 

No.2 – The Opening Paragraphs or Stanzas

Having attracted the interest of the judge/reader with a really good title (see Hints No.1) it is important to build on this interest in the opening of any submitted work.

Before committing anything to writing, it is essential to establish the structure of the piece: know what you want to say and how you will achieve it.

The opening, whilst it should always be thought provoking, leaving the reader wanting to discover more, should not reveal too much. As with the title, you don’t want the opening to be so explicit that the reader knows exactly what is coming. Also, avoid introducing too many ideas and/or characters, which can give a judge mental indigestion!

Except in the case of certain types of humour verse, it is also better to steer clear of over the top ideas or situations.

The opening needs to be well thought through and subtle in its appeal. Every word must count; this is particularly important for poetry and flash fiction where line/word counts are tight.

Above all, do not try to cram too much in.

Will you be at the Online Party?

To celebrate the release of the third in my crime thriller series written as Frances di Plino, Call it Pretending, my publisher has arranged an online party on 18th December. More details can be found here.

There will be a special draw (free entry) on launch day to win a paperback copy of Call It Pretending. All you have to do to enter is sign up for the free newsletter by following this link: Frances di Plino Newsletter

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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Triskele Trail

(Or what other self-publishing guides won’t tell you)

Author collective Triskele Books published their independent publishing story this month, entitled The Triskele Trail.

As they say: “It’s not a How-To book. It’s How-We-Did-It”.

Here the authors share their Ten Top Things (two each) about the book, the collective and being part of a team.

1. Collaboration. A Top Thing about being part of the collectiive and a Top Thing about the book. Having a pool of well-informed connections prepared to contribute has made the content richer and more varied. (Catriona Troth)

2. Putting the book together reminded me of how much we’ve actually learnt, and how much we’d forgotten. It acts as a handy checklist for all those little things I’ve been meaning to get round to. (JD Smith)

3. Mistakes. We’ve made a few. We’re open about our foul-ups in the hope that others avoid traps such as losing a website, forgetting about VAT, omitting to Reply All and outing your secret source in the acknowledgements. (JJ Marsh)

4. It’s a template. When I come to publish the third in my series, I’ll be using The Triskele Trail as a reference. Because as soon as your book is out there, you forget so many details about the publishing process. Now we have all our information in one place, for others and ourselves. (Liza Perrat)

5. For me, the Top Thing about The Triskele Trail is how excited I get when I read it. Until we wrote it all down, I don’t think we realised how much expertise and experience we’d gathered. It fills me with enthusiasm and convinces me I’ve made the right decision by going indie. (Gillian Hamer)
6. The advantage of the collective, which directly affects the Trail, is that we each have different kinds of knowledge. It’s impossible to master finances, marketing, design, social media, hold down a day job AND write good books. Two heads are better than one, but five is totally brilliant! (JD Smith)

7. Trust is the foundation stone of Triskele Books. We have found five minds who will tell each other the unpalatable truth. That makes us all raise our game because we don’t want to let the others down. We’re honest about every aspect of what we do – otherwise Triskele couldn’t function. (Catriona Troth)

8. Compromise is one of the Top Things about working as a collective. Not on quality, never. Quality of writing is one of Triskele's USPs. But if one of us is outvoted on an option, we accept that and all of us put our backs into making it work. Good job there’s five of us, so we always reach a decision. (Gillian Hamer)

9. Another Top Thing about the unusual make-up of Triskele Books is that two of us live outside the UK. This means we take a broader focus across Europe, assessing other markets and disseminating information on what works in other countries. Many guides tend to have a narrow focus on either the UK or US. (Liza Perrat)

10. Variety, as Kat mentioned, is essential. We write in different genres: literary fiction, crime, and historical fiction. Through my Triskele colleagues, I’ve discovered great writers I might not have otherwise picked off the shelves, such as Liza’s recommendation, Karen Maitland. The other great thing about the collective is that whenever we meet, we all bring different kinds of wine. Now that is truly a Top Thing. (JJ Marsh)

Critique Service for Writers

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and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition

The long list is now up for the Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis Competition. Check to see if your entry made it through the first round of judging by clicking here.

The Flash 500 competitions continue to go from strength to strength, with more entries coming in than ever before for the two quarterly categories of Flash Fiction and Humour Verse. This year we introduced the Novel Opening Chapter & Synopsis category and we are delighted to say that the response was so good we will definitely be running it again next year. So, if you were too late to enter this year, or you entered, but your novel isn't on the long list, don't despair, polish that prose and enter next year's competition.

Congratulations to all those who made it to the long list - good luck with the next stage of judging.

Critique Service for Writers

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Getting to know ... Catriona Troth

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
I guess you would call them contemporary fiction.

What made you choose that genre?
I am not sure I chose exactly – I wrote the stories that demanded to be written.

How long does it take you to write a book?
A long time.  An embarrassingly long time.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I’m not the good at scheduling.  Once I have walked the dog in the morning, I would be quite happy to sit down and bury myself in work until it is time to cook dinner.  But real life rarely seems to let me get away with that.  So I work in snatched corners of time - all very well when I am writing non-fiction or when I’m editing; not so great for being creative.  I used to do my best creative work on my commuter train – 45 minutes of uninterrupted bliss each way!

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I am often inspired by real events from recent history – I plant my characters on the fringes of those situations and let them ride the storm.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen, or so my mother says.  I can remember trying to write something in the style of Cynthia Harnett when I was about 14.  But my first (bad) full length novel was a pretentious tome I wrote in my twenties.  I looked back at it recently and there were one or two decent ideas in it – but a lot of it made me want to give myself a good slap.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Walk the dog (as noted above).  Read (voraciously).  Avoid doing housework. I also really like research.  Probably too much, if I’m honest: it turns into a displacement activity.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Through writing, and with the help of the Internet, I have connected and made real friendships with other writers from all round the globe.  The connections I’ve made have led to work for the literary magazine Words with Jam and authors’ collective Triskele Books.  They’ve changed my life.

How many books have you written?
Two that I’d admit to in public.

Which is your favourite and why?
Ghost Town, my full length novel published on November 16th this year, is what Joni Rodgers calls ‘a soul project’.  I’d had an idea for a story and was casting about for setting, and remembered a time when I was working in a homeless shelter in Coventry. I knew there had been tensions between the Asian and skinhead communities, but as I began to research the background, I unearthed things I had had no idea about at the time.  It turned into a story I simply had to tell, and I worked and reworked it until I finally hammered it into a shape I was happy with.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A writer, no question.  I’m living my dream.

What are you working on now?
I have a couple ideas kicking around but the non-fiction work has rather taken over for the moment.

Catriona Troth was born in Scotland and grew up in Canada before coming back to the UK. She has now lived in the Chilterns longer than she has ever lived in anywhere, a fact that still comes as a surprise. After more than twenty years spent writing technical reports at work and fiction on the commuter train, Catriona made the shift into freelance writing. She now writes a regular column for Words with Jam literary magazine, researches and writes articles for Quakers in the World and tweets as @L1bCat. She is very proud to be the latest member of the Triskele Books author collective.

She is the author of two books both of which explore themes of identity and childhood memory: Gift ofthe Raven, a novella set against a backcloth of Canada from the suburbs of Montreal to the forests of the Haida Gwaii; and Ghost Town, set in Coventry, during the Two Tone era.
Twitter: @L1bCat
Words with Jam: www.wordswithjam.co.uk

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