Weather Forecasting

Writing fiction set in the present is always difficult if the weather is important to aspects of the plot.
If characters do something weather related, on a specific day, it will be easy for any reader to say “That was wrong! It wasn’t hot and sunny that day it was cold and miserable.” Or a day is specified that has a particularly spectacular weather event – say, a storm – but no character mentions it.
It’s far easier to write about weather inWeatherfluenced events in the past. In The Last Dance the early months of 1947 can be described as ‘horribly cold’ with confidence – because they were. In Walking Alone much of the action takes place in the context of the long hot summer we knew we had, and the climax occurs when that drought was broken. In Runaways the ‘Great Storm (NOT a ‘hurricane’) that so affected the Sevenoaks area on the night 15 – 16 October 1987 is critical to the plot.
When I started writing (the soon to be published) A Second Strand, getting on for two years ago, I set the story in the future so I had to make my own weather forecast.
Well, that future is now the present.
I wrote that Alex, the only suspect in the murder enquiry who has disappeared seemingly without trace, spent the period from 7th to 15th July 2016 making his way from the Isle of Wight to Dartmouth in Devon. I had to have the weather reasonable for him as he was sleeping rough for much of the time and arrived ‘tanned’ but unfortunately the actual weather was not quite as I had ordered.
This coming Sunday, the 24th, he is driven by Rachel, the woman who befriended him in Dartmouth, to Wingham in Kent and I have it raining – which of course it will be doing!
I had to have bad driving weather so it ties Rachel and Alex’s timeline (as they drive across Southern England) in with Skye and Fergal’s who, as they begin to track him down, are driving from the Isle of Wight to Devon at the same time. Both encounter heavy rain.
Two years ago I said it would rain on Sunday 24th July 2016 and it will.
Met Office – beat that!

Blurb

Blurb GMA Second Strand is in the editing process and there is nothing I can (or should) be doing to that manuscript at this stage. I have written, and sent off to the publisher, my Author’s questionnaire along with photographs for the cover and for the Press Release, the E-Book press release and Advanced Information sheet which I am reliably informed are all in process of being worked on. So what can I be doing?
I am loathe to start on the next book (though ideas are knocking around in my head) as I don’t want to have got into it when my time and attention should be on the production and marketing and promotion of A Second Strand. I have made that mistake in the past when I spent too much time thinking about A Set of Lies when I should have concentrated what time I had in 2012 on Highly Unsuitable Girl so I must do something related to A Second Strand.
Ah! The Blurb……
‘Blurb’ in this context is the wording that adorns the back cover of the physical book to draw a potential buyer into parting with their money. It is also the brief description written by photographs of the cover on websites and on-line bookshops.
As I spend a couple of hours every other week helping out in the Dartmouth Community Bookshop (Higher Street, Dartmouth, Devon and well worth support) I look at the covers and the blurbs of their wonderful selection of books wondering what entices readers to open, peruse and buy books. Obviously I want people to read and enjoy my efforts but fundamentally it is the initial purchase that really matters!
Blurb is important and so I have been exploring the internet for advice, some more useful than others.
One piece of advice is to answer these questions: Who is the hero? What does he/she want? Who is stopping him/her getting it and what’s at stake if he/she fails?
That’s all well and good but I’m not sure it would all fit on the jacket of a paperback.
I don’t really have one hero. There is Alex, but there are also Skye and Fergal. I wouldn’t call Gordon a hero and certainly neither Anne nor Teri qualify.
What does ‘the hero’ want? Alex wants to find out who he is and prove his innocence of a possible murder charge. Skye and Fergal want to find Alex – or do they? Teri wants to find Alex – or does she? Anne wants to find Alex to save her career while no one is quite sure what Gordon wants.
Who is stopping them all achieving their goals? Well they all seem to be stopping themselves from achieving what they want by allowing themselves to be diverted.
What’s at stake if they fail? The wrong person being accused of a murder? A failed business venture? A broken relationship? The truth not being discovered and understood?
I think the best advice was that Blurb should be short and to the point so I’m not sure I can get that all in.
Other snippets of guidance include:
Blurb shouldn’t lie it should blow the author’s trumpet if there is one to blow – and I am a prize winning author! (David St John Thomas Prize for Fiction 2007). Blurb should not be too long, it should not give the end away, it should not summarise the entire plot, it should mention no more than two characters and should ask no more than two questions. Finally, it should contain no typos, no lies.
So I am currently spending time writing, re-writing, honing, checking on advice on how to write blurb, re-re-writing, re-honing the words which I hope, along with the cover photo (which I really like) will persuade hundreds, if not thousands of readers to buy A Second Strand.

To Do List

Me and the World Wide WebI looked at my website (www.carolynmccrae.com if you’re not already on it) this morning, for the first time in over a month. Not good.
My tweets have been more about the oak tree and hops growing on my balcony than my writing.
It’s more than six weeks since I published a blog and a lot longer than that since I updated the text with news about my books.
I really must get down to it.
I’ve so much to change…
And I really have no excuse. Except…
A Second Strand has taken up a lot of time and I can’t concentrate on anything until that is done.
I’m now a third of the way through the third ‘final’ read-through before it heads off to the editor. I’m spending far too long agonizing over whether a particular sentence conveys the meaning I want it to someone reading the book for the first (not the umpteenth) time.
Are there any plot holes? Is every character in the right place at the right time? Does any character know something before they are seen actually finding it out? Do conversations flow – or does someone answer their own question?
But, no. No more read-throughs. This is the last one.
If it’s not right now it never will be.
So on Tuesday the manuscript (well the Word document) will be winging its way to Troubador.
And then I can get on with doing all the other things connected with getting a book out into the wide, wide world (www):
Writing my Author Information document. Well editing it really, it’s only a year since the last one (for A Set of Lies)
Thinking what should be in the Press release.
Focusing on ideas for the cover image and blurb
Working out how to contact all those nice people who bought and read and let me know they enjoyed Her Parents’ Daughter (A Second Strand is another murder in Yarmouth) – and, of course, all my other titles.
Working out how to change my Facebook pages
And. Most importantly. Updating my website…….

 

A Job in Retail

Dartmouth Community BookshopToday I have done something I have never done before.
In my time I have had various jobs and a long career in self-employment.
I have folded sheets in a laundry (three summers), been a ‘lady wot does’ (a few weeks), packed boxes of biscuits in a chocolate factory (two summers), worked as an accounts clerk in a paper mill (one summer), taught in both the public and the private sector (three and two years respectively), operated a Wang machine for a firm of Chartered Surveyors (eighteen months), worked in customer support for a word-processing manufacturer (two years), run the word-processing department of an insurance broker in the City of London (eighteen months), run a word-processing bureau (three years) and, for the past thirty-three years, run my own office based business but today, for the first time in my umpteen years, I have been involved in selling something directly to members of the public.
I really can’t count the one hour I was paid to stand behind the bar in a pub on Christmas Eve because it snowed and, since there was not one customer, we ‘bar-staff’ were all sent home early. Nor can I count the few occasions on which I helped out in a picture gallery as I can’t honestly remember ever selling anything.
Today, after writing books for more than ten years (can that be called a job?) and spending quite a few hours in various bookshops around the country doing signings, selling books it is true, but never actually taking the money, I have spent two hours working in a bookshop.
Today, for the first time, I talked to customers (and browsers), scanned bar codes, inserted cards into the hand held card reading device thingy and operated a till.
Thank you, Dartmouth Community Bookshop, for giving me the opportunity to learn something new, thank you Andrea and Hilary for showing me something of the ropes and, most of all, thank you customers for being patient and understanding!
I really am looking forward to the next time.

 

The birth of Empty Boxes

Ten BobCurrently I feel a tad over-whelmed with projects and the last thing I wanted was to start another before the ones under way are a little further down the line.
After my recent completion of the fourth draft A Second Strand is currently being read through by my most honest critic (husband Colin) so I can do nothing with that until he’s finished. But I must begin to think about the cover illustration, the blurb, the press release, the marketing plan and timescale. Writing the book in the first place is, in some ways, the easiest part. Certainly it is the most enjoyable. I write because I like writing, and I have stories to tell, not because I want to be a salesperson.
Then there is the Tenth Anniversary edition of The IniFiverquities Trilogy. This was completed last Autumn but has not been looked at while I have been concentrating on moving house, the “day job” and A Second Strand. I really want to get that out into the world with the best chance possible of reaching a wide audience but because it is so long (currently over 350,000 words) it will probably have to be an e-book only – no one would be able to hold the physical book. Decisions have to be made (is it a project worth pursuing? If it is what will the cover be? The blurb? The marketing plan, etc. etc….) It, too, is unfinished business.
And then, sitting having a quiet Easter Sunday drink in the Dartmouth Arms (Dartmouth, Devon not the one in West London) I was talking about my mother’s charm bracelet (no, me neither) and I mentioned the fact that she had raided the charm that had contained a tightly folded five pound note and the one containing an equally tightly folded ten shilling note and I had no idea why. The seeds of the next book were planted and now, when I have nothing else to think about, the plot is beginning to form.
So after A Second Strand and Iniquities will come Empty Boxes.
And maybe by this coming Autumn I will be back to the part of being a writer that is fun – the putting together of a plot, the creation of the characters …. the writing. 

 

Being the right size

Old LorryCars are first on my list of things that are not the right size – they are just getting and wider and wider. A 1970 Ford Mustang was 59” wide, a Mark 1 Ford Capri was 64.8”, a 1963 Morris Minor 1000 was 61” and a 1968 Austin A35 was only 55” wide. Even a 2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom was only 78.3”. Yet since that time cars in everyday use are getting wider and wider. A Range Rover Vogue is 87.4” (without mirrors – and what car has no mirrors?) which is 4 inches wider than a current Ford Transit van and about the same as lorries of the 1950s and 60s.
It’s such a shame that many traffic lanes, car park spaces and most garages in urban areas were designed to accommodate Morris Minors and A35s.
Doorways are second on my list of things that are the wrong size. Having just moved into a house constructed sometime in the 1820s I feel that in those days a) they didn’t have much furniture and b) those pieces they had were considerably smaller than today’s. Even a comfortable armchair of the 1980s would be 71 cm wide, yet many in 2016 are over 100 cm and doorways have got no wider….
And then there’s people – they seem to be getting taller and wider by the generation – but don’t get me onto that.
Talking of size, if not width, I have been wondering about how long a book should be. According to www.huffingtonpost.com the average word count of a Top 10 bestseller is 121,395. My recent (2014) book, Her Parents’ Daughter, came in at only 109,800 words which is the length of a Top 25 bestseller but I was happy to sell 300 copies….. According to Huffington’s graph the shorter the book the fewer copies are sold with Top 1000 sellers averaging only 73,408 words. So I will make sure A Second Strand is as long as it possibly can be and I now hold out great hopes for Iniquities as it is currently 365,367 words! But then it is three books (the three books of the Iniquities Trilogy – The Last Dance, Walking Alone and Runaways) and amazingly that averages at almost exactly 121,395 words per volume.
Top Ten Bestsellers List here we come!

Getting back to it….

EditingAfter a break of over a month I am getting back into A Second Strand this week.
I finished the second run through in the first week in January and handed the manuscript (well, the printed sheets in a black ring binder) over to a friend, Darren Mann. Darren having read, and allegedly enjoyed, Her Parents’ Daughter, volunteered to read and comment on the draft of its sequel. This he did in very good time, handing it back to me little more than a week later. Ideally I would then have got on with attacking Draft Three except that at that time my husband, cat and I were in the throes of packing up our home and moving. By the end of the HPD Covermonth we were ensconced in our new home in Dartmouth and I was ready to return to A Second Strand.
But then the day job demanded attention. In the twelve years since I started writing seriously there have been many, many times when I have wished I could be the sort of commercially successful author who could concentrate fully on her books. Or, barring that elusive success, perhaps I could have been ‘financially independent’. But I am neither so I have had to earn a living. To date my books do not earn enough to pay the bar bills let alone allow me to retire to become a ‘full time author’. So for another two weeks the black file remained on my desk unopened.
This week, however, I am going to open the 286-page long Word document and the Excel spreadsheet which details who is doing what, when and where, and I will sort out the issues Darren raised.
For me this, the third edit, is the most important. It is now that back stories are added, where characters’ characters are developed more fully and where anomalies are resolved. I’m looking forward to it.