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.

Firsts and Lasts

In my first book, The Last Dance, Alicia Donaldson says that the last time a person does something is as significant as the first. But I have to argue that the first time you do anything is going to be more important for the simple reason that it is always possible to know when you are doing something for the first time but not necessarilyThe Last Dance Cover possible to recognise a ‘last time’ until it’s already in the past.
Usually a ‘first time’ can be anticipated. You know (admittedly not always exactly) when you are going to start at a new school or job, first exchange of bodily fluids with a new partner, move into your first home, get married, do a book-signing. The first time for all of these is important and is usually no surprise. You can plan for them – and worry.
Perhaps it’s an age thing but I have to admit to worrying about the less important ‘firsts’ to do with moving house for about the thirty-first time.
I put off for days driving up Crowther’s Hill in Dartmouth for the first time; I’ve had to master how and when to put the correct rubbish out for collection by South Hams District Council and tomorrow we must let The Lodger out. The poor cat has been stuck inside for more than two weeks and is getting stir crazy but I cannot help but dread that on that first ‘escape’ he will not find his way home.
Yes, many firsts are significant steps and are recognized as such.
But also, recently, I have done a lot of things for the last time; booking a return ferry from Yarmouth to Lymington, walking into The Wheatsheaf or The Kings Head to find our drinks already on the bar. But I didn’t worry about these things because I had done them before, they were familiar and anyway, were they necessarily the last times? Who can tell?
I know The Last Dance was my first published book but is A Set of Lies my ‘last’ or simply my ‘latest’?
Will A Second Strand (sequel to Her Parents’ Daughter) ever see the light of day?
Will there be others after that? Who can tell what the last will be?
So, Alicia, I have to disagree, first times are always more significant – and more difficult.

Goodbye Yarmouth

YarmouthGoodbye Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, it’s been nice knowing you.
This coming weekend I, along with my husband and our long-suffering cat, The Lodger, will be leaving the Isle of Wight for new adventures in Devon.
Almost exactly four years ago we decided we had to leave Shropshire and started looking for somewhere to live. We could have gone anywhere in the world really but we hit upon the Isle of Wight for reasons I can’t quite remember.
Now it is time to move on once more.
I have enjoyed being an Island Author and consequently my two most recent books (A Set of Lies and Her Parents’ Daughter) are firmly set on the island as is my next one A Second Strand so as I continue to market the old ones and set about selling the latest one the island will not be far from my thoughts.
My twitter tag @iowauthor (used more or less exclusively for tweets about The Archers) will not change neither will @Carolyn_McCrae (used for tweets about my books) but there are a number of amendments to be made to Twitter and Facebook profiles and to my website which will all take time and will, no doubt, make me wish we were staying.
Thank you Isle of Wight, and especially Yarmouth, for your inspiration, encouragement, friendship and hospitality for the past four years.
You will, no doubt, crop up in other books in the future as Fergal and Skye Shepherd continue their adventures.

Being (or not being) a Local Author

Local AuthorIs there any advantage to being known as a ‘local author’?
On the one hand the description implies that this is not a well-known author of national or international renown. There is something quaintly parochial, patronizing and possibly even pathetic about having to try to appeal to potential purchasers because you all happen to live in the same vicinity.
On the other hand, for whatever reason, it is certainly easier to get bookshops, newsagents, corner shops and pubs (thank you Holdings, The Wheatsheaf and The King’s Head in Yarmouth) to stock books and to give you the opportunity to do signings (thank you Waterstones and The County Press Shop in Newport) if you have some kind of local connection.
But what is the attraction of reading books by an author who is ‘local’? Is it to support someone you may pass in the street, or sit next to in a pub, or queue up with in the Post Office? Or is it perhaps because if the author is ‘local’ then the subject matter may well be locally relevant too? Or is it that the places referred to(and, heaven forefend, people) will recognizable?
When I was writing my first book, The Last Dance, I lived near Sandwich in East Kent. That area didn’t feature at all in the book, instead it was based in The Wirral, Cheshire, where I was born and lived for the first twenty or so years of my life. I lived in Shropshire when I was writing the second which, although also based in the Wirral ventured as far afield as Cambridgeshire. I was still living in Shropshire when the third book Runaways was published. Also based on The Wirral large sections were located in Kent and Mumbai. My fourth book, Highly Unsuitable Girl, was also written whilst I lived in (a different part of) Shropshire and failed to feature anything to do with that county.
It was only when I became ‘local’ to The Isle of Wight that my books became primarily based in the area in which I lived. Her Parents’ Daughter, written in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, is the story of a murder in Yarmouth (as is A Second Strand – also written in Yarmouth).
The difficult book was A Set of Lies. The early drafts of this were written when I lived near Ludlow, Shropshire and the main characters lived, and the main settings were located, there. I then moved to the Isle of Wight and it was suggested by various people that the book should be based on the island. So the fourth, fifth and sixth drafts effected that change.
Since I started writing books that have been published I have moved house five times, lived in five different counties and so even when I have been ‘local’ it has only ever been for a short time.
I have now been ‘local’ on The Isle of Wight for three and a half years. This is a record. Perhaps it’s getting near time to think about moving on again.

Bad Ideas

Bad IdeaThe words have flowed this past week and the story in the follow up to Her Parents’ Daughter has developed well. (At least I think so and if I don’t then it’s unlikely anyone else will).
I’ve given up worrying about the title – that will fall into place in good time – as most of the ones I’m coming up with are really not very good. Bad ideas like Tit for Tat and Tip for Tap have been floating around in my head.
The focus of my cast’s activities is currently in Dartmouth, Devon (not Dartmouth, Massachusetts, USA) which is a town I’ve been visiting quite often recently. But with only a small number of visits packed into a matter of weeks it is impossible to get a true feel for a town so I apologise in advance if I upset anyone in or connected to one of the nicest places I’ve spent any time in for some years.
The main progress this week is that I can now see what the denouement of the book is going to be and how it is going to come about and this is not quite as I saw it when I started out six weeks or so ago (was it only six weeks?).
No doubt when I read it through, and put in some of the back stories, it may change again – not all my ideas are good ones!
But then Steven Spielberg (no less) has been quoted as saying that all good ideas start as bad ideas – that’s why the creative process takes so long.
So there’s hope yet!

 

One step up two steps down

Down the upI’m currently going up the down escalator of life (or down the up?).
Because other things are getting in the way of the writing at the moment when I actually had some time to sit down at the laptop I realised I needed to re-read the whole 42,000 words to regain the threads. This re-read showed up some inconsistencies and repetitions which needed clarification and re-writing so, despite getting up at 3.15 one morning, incidentally completely confusing the cat,  I find myself no further forward in telling the story than I was last week.
Incidentally it became clear that the working title A Different Coast was not going to work so those hours I normally spend lying awake thinking what will be written the next day have, instead, been spent trying to think of the right title.
It is the sequel to Her Parents’ Daughter so I was thinking the title has to reflect that somehow but all those that sprung to mind (A Father’s Revenge and Three Fathers’ Sons etcetera) were either unwieldy or already taken.
At the moment I’m thinking of it as Tit for Tat but can you have “Tit” in the title of a book? I then tried Tip for Tap apparently the original saying and may go with that for the time being anyway.
Hopefully (in all senses of the word) progress will be made before my report to you next week.