Brothers or sisters on WIP Wednesday

d78ec673dec2a74d62d4bed3f8dd7badAll of a character’s intimate interactions can help to display or develop character, and in some ways no one knows you better or can more easily push your buttons than your brothers and sisters (or cousins or other close relations that you grew up with.

In this week’s WIP Wednesday, I’m looking for an excerpt that shows your related characters in a scene where we learn something about them because of what they think or how they behave.

They had talked it over at length while still staying with Charlotte, and in the carriage on the way from Essex. At inordinate length.

Charity could not, would not stay in Selby’s cottage. She would go somewhere she was not known, and introduce herself as a widow, using another name. Mrs Smith, she said, for who was to find one Mrs Smith among thousands?

But how she and the children were to live was a problem. Prue would help, of course. She could double the allowance she was paying for Antonia’s care, would triple it if Charity would allow. Tolliver’s work paid well enough, and she had a little set aside.

Charity wanted to borrow Prue’s nest egg. She had some idea of setting up a milliner’s shop. Not in London, but somewhere that was cheaper to live and safer for the children. “Even you said I make beautiful hats, Prue,” she argued.

True enough, but running a business required more than an eye for fashion and an artistic touch with a needle. Prue didn’t want to see her savings disappear and leave Charity and the girls in a worse case than before.

“We need somewhere for you and the children while we think about how best to make your plan work,” she told Charity. “I know a lady who supports women in trouble such as yours. She may have a place.” Or she may never wish to speak to Prue again, in which case they would have to think of something else.

One thing Charity was determined on; Prue was not to ask Selby to support his daughters until they were somewhere he could not find them. “It is not as if he is going to give us any money, anyway, Prue. He barely gave us a thing when I thought I was his wife. Just a few pounds now and again when he visited. He paid the servants directly and is several quarters in arrears, Prue. Oh dear. Should I not pay them before I let them go?” Another problem for her to worry at until Prue was ready to leap screaming from the carriage with her hands over her ears.


You cannot always choose both

choicesMy usual answer when I’m asked to make a choice between two good things is ‘yes’. Would you like chocolate cake or banana muffins? Yes. Would you prefer to have a bath or watch tv? Yes. Do you want to dance or have a glass of wine? Yes.

And this last two years, since I’ve started writing fiction for publication, I’ve been piling on the ‘boths’. I figure I have four lives, any one of which could be full time: writing fiction, a full-time day job, family and friends (including some fairly demanding responsibilities as an arms-length care giver), and then a whole mix of community activities I’m involved in.

It is interesting, sometimes thrilling, and mostly a lot of fun. But there’s no room for anything else. With a couple of health and family crises simmering since November, somethings had to give. I’m two months behind the frequently revised date for my draft of Embracing Prudence. And my marketing activity is way, way down, as shown by my book sales figures.

Thinking about priorities

I had a wake-up call, recently. I read a published book by a writer I admire, and it sounded to me like a first draft. Lots of long sequences of backstory, telling rather than showing, some odd sequencing stuff. And I think I know why.

Publish a book every three months, received wisdom says, and then live in the marketplace telling people about it. The pressure is on to rush to get stuff to the publisher or (in the case of us independent publishers) to get it on the bookshelf. And the time isn’t there to make it as close to perfect as we can.

I am not playing that game. I want every book to be better than the last. Because I don’t like doing the same thing over and over, I may not always please the same readers, but I need to know that at least I’m improving my grasp of the craft of writing.

Here are my priorities, more or less in order.

  1. to deepen my relationship with God
  2. to look after my family
  3. to stay healthy
  4. to give my employer my best attention and commitment during working hours until the mortgage is paid and I can retire and write fiction as my full-time job
  5. to write books I am happy to put my name on
  6. to share those books with readers.

So writing comes ahead of marketing

When the squeeze is on, as it has been over the past four months, in future I’m choosing writing over marketing. Maybe this means that I’ll have another two years of adequate but not spectacular sales. (My author rank at Amazon generally sits somewhere in the 20,000–25,000 bracket. To put that in perspective, I’m not millionth, but each step from here is tightly fought, and I won’t be anywhere near making even a modest living till I’m up around 10,000th.)

In two years, when the mortgage is paid, I might be able to spend more time thinking about how to get my print books into libraries and book shops, and which review sites and other gate keepers might be persuaded to take a look. Meanwhile, I’m in the writing cave. I’ll pop out to play with my friends. Yes, and to do a bit of marketing, too, when I have time. But my priority is going to be the books.

What’s next from Jude Knight?

I’ve recently been project manager for the Belles on the Combined 2015 Editions of the Teatime Tattler, published last week. Click on the title to find out about it, and to get your copy while it is still free.

While you’re there, check out our previous box set, Mistletoe, Marriage and Mayhem. We’re removing it from publication on 31 March, so get it now for only 99c, all proceeds to the Malala Fund. After 1 April, we’ll each publish our own novella. I’m targeting 8 May with my Gingerbread Bride, which is about Rick Redepenning and his courtship of Mary, seven years before the events in my novel Farewell to Kindness.

Before the end of June, I plan to publish Embracing Prudence. That’s pretty tight, since I’m only halfway through the beta edit, so it may slip (once more), but no later than July.

I’ve made a good start on A Raging Madness. I’m 12,000 words in, and I have the rough plan for the rest mapped out. I expect to publish before the end of the year, possibly as early as September.

I have a 1 May deadline for the novella for the next Bluestocking Belles holiday box set, which has a house party theme. All our novellas have their lives affected in one way or another by the festivities at Hollystone Hall. The venue has its own Facebook page, where we’re posting character sketches and scenery on our way to publication on 1 November. My contribution is titled The Bluestocking and the Barbarian.

And Mariana Gabrielle and I are cowriting a novel that ambushed us when we were thinking about something else. We haven’t set a publication date for Never Kiss a Toad, but watch this space.


Celebrations on WIP Wednesday

Rowlandson1809CropIn honour of the first birthday of the Bluestocking Belles, I’m looking for celebrations today. birthdays, Christmas, Harvest Festivals, weddings… anything you wish, really. As always, please post an extract in the comments, and don’t forget to share on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m stretching the envelope here. Embracing Prudence is not full of celebrations—quite the contrary. But I have a bit of a description of a rather dissolute masquerade party that might fit the bill. David wasn’t there, but many of the suspects in the murder he is investigating were.

“Ah, now that is interesting. At some point during the evening, they were all at the same masquerade as Talbot. I found a witness who was there the whole evening, and she recognised Talbot, Selby, Annesley, Barnstable, and Tiverton, and also Aldridge and Elfingham.”

“As paying customers, I take it,” Prue suggested, clearly guessing the profession of the witness.

“It was a big event, apparently, with most of the rakehells of London in attendance, and a number of its more racy ladies.”

“Not the Carrington Masquerade?” Prue asked.

“Yes. Lady Carrington was the hostess, though it was at Richport’s.”

The Duke of Richport was not yet thirty, but had acquired a reputation for debauchery well beyond his years. Given his rank, all would be forgiven him if he ever ventured into polite society. He quite openly declared that if he was going to go to hell, he expected more entertaining surroundings than the ballrooms and parlours of the Beau Monde, and warmer devils than the ladies of the ton.



My hero disports himself in a brothel

house of sinTime for another excerpt? Here’s the hero of my current work in progress, Encouraging Prudence. David is visiting a brothel in the course of his investigation.

He arrived at the Admiralty steps just as Captain Talbot passed the guard on the front door.

“Sir,” he said, putting on his persona of eager disciple, “I cannot thank you enough.”

Talbot smiled, expansively. “Ready for a night on the town, young Walker, eh?”

Their first stop was, predictably, a brothel – an expensive brothel, by the youth of the workers and the quality of the fittings, but with the same sickening smells of cheap perfume, sex, sweat, and despair as the others his work had taken him into. He allowed himself to be introduced to Fanny, a statuesque redhead who was considerably older than she was made up to appear, and followed her to one of the rooms.

He looked longingly at the bed. He was beginning to feel the loss of a night’s sleep.

“Don’t bother,” he told the prostitute, as she began to unbutton her blouse. “When were the sheets last changed?”

“Maybe three days.” She looked uncertainly at the bed and back at him. “How do you want me then?”

David explained. “What I’d like you to do is sit in the chair over there, and wake me in half an hour. Before we leave this room, I’ll give you double what I gave your mistress. And when we get back out there, you’ll pretend to everyone, especially my friend, that we’ve coupled.”

The prostitute frowned. “You’ll pay me. Just to sleep in the bed.”

“On the bed, but yes. Miss Fanny… or is it Miss Frances… you’re very desirable, but I’m very, very tired, and I’d rather nobody knew…”

She nodded. “It’s Dorothea, really. But Old Hatchet-Face, her as owns the place, she said that weren’t a good name for a whore.”

“Do you have a way to tell the hour, Miss Dorothea?” He’d removed his coat, but he laid it on the bed and stretched out beside it. No point in putting temptation in the woman’s way. He’d wake in an instant if she approached the bed to check his pockets.

She nodded. “I can hear the clock tower down the street. Chimes the quarters, it does. It’ll be just on the half I wake you.”

“Good. Thank you.” His nose wrinkled, but he’d slept in places more rank. Willing his body to relax, he closed his eyes, and Mist was suddenly there stretched out beside him. No. He was here to sleep, not to fantasise about the only woman he desired.

“Mister? Mister Walker?” He woke to the woman’s whisper. “It’s been half an hour.”

Yes. He could hear the half still chiming. Half an hour was not enough, but it took the edge off his weariness. He’d cope.

In the main sitting area, Dorothea poured him a glass of wine, and perched on the arm of his chair, leaning against him while he waited for Talbot. Her silence money safely in the pocket she had tied to her waist under her skirt, she had obviously decided to throw herself fully into her part.

Talbot arrived some minutes later, buttoning his pants. His companion was smiling admiringly up at him, but David caught the contemptuous grimace she passed to her companions behind Talbot’s back.

“That’s the ticket,” Talbot said to David, grinning at the way Dorothea was draped over him. “Can’t get enough of you here, can they? They should pay us for servicing them, eh? Hah! That’s a good one. They should pay us, eh?” And he slapped the bottom of his companion with expansive glee.

“You want another round, Walker? Or what about an exotic dance, eh? I know a place where the girls…” he gestured expansively, shaping improbable globes in the air.

“That sounds very exciting, Sir,” David said, back to being suitably grateful. “Is it a place we could get something to eat, Sir? All that exercise…”

“Good lad. Worked up an appetite, eh? Oh, to be young again. Come on, then, lad. The night is young, eh? We’ll stop at a coffee house and then go on to Sultan’s Palace.”

David saluted Dorothea with a kiss on the cheek and received a warm smile in return. “Best half hour I ever spent in this place,” she told him loudly, “and that’s the truth.”


Candle’s Christmas Chair

bath chair#2In Farewell to Kindness, Lord and Lady Avery are at the assembly where Alex comes a cropper in his Bath chair. Lady Avery rushes up to inspect the pieces. It transpires that she was the chair’s designer.

How, I wondered, did Viscount Avery come to marry Minerva Bradshaw, Bath chair designer and daughter of a Bath carriage maker?

Candle’s Christmas Chair is the result. I have my plot outline, and one and a half character sketches. I should begin writing this weekend.

I plan it as a short story or novella. If I can stick to the plan, it’ll be out for Christmas (just). Five weeks? We’ll see.




Writing this post is a form of procrastibaking – creating something that I hope will be useful to others, but that doesn’t take me further on the jobs I need to do.

On the novel, I’m up to page 266 (of 506) and scene 53 of the plot-line and character name review, and page 28 (about to start Chapter 3) of the rewrite. Chapter 3 needs to be completely rewritten, and I’m dithering over how to start.

I could also be doing character sketches for the novella I want to bring out before Christmas, Candle’s Christmas Chair. (Seven weeks away. Yikes!) I’m about halfway through getting to know Candle Avery, and I still have to learn about his mother and Minerva Bradshaw, the woman he encounters in a carriage manufactory, making Bath chairs.

And I should be thinking about the next two novels to make sure that nothing I do in Farewell to Kindness stuffs up the plotlines for Encouraging Prudence or A Raging Madness.

On the commercial writing side, I’m working from home today, and am due to start in a few minutes. I finally have the information I need to review five templates, write guidelines for using them, rewrite the relevant style guide, and create a one hour seminar to introduce them all. The seminar is to be delivered in less than four weeks. And I have a 70 page guide for another client to edit by Friday week.

Busy is good. At least that’s what I tell myself.

But I always dither at the start of a project. Intellectually, I know I’ll be fine once I get started. But every time, I circle around the project and find other things to do. I tidy my desk. I make phone calls. I send emails I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I fiddle with the back settings of the blog.

Work is good. Work puts food on the table and a smile on my face.

But for the moment, I’m procastibaking.


Pulling all the threads together

I’ve been through all 506 pages of the first draft, and I have a head (and a notebook) full of ideas.

image Now I’ve opened my plotline spreadsheet, and created two new tabs.

Here’s what I’m planning to do.

I’ll update the plotline spreadsheet (plots for the columns, scenes for the rows) from my notebook, and note when a plot starts, progresses, or is concluded.  Then I can see what gets resolved and what gets forgotten about. I’ve added a column to note things I need to do.

I’ve added a tab for characters. I’ll put all the names and titles in scene by scene, and check that they don’t change.

I’ve added a tab for a calendar, so I can plot the scenes against dates, sunrise and sunset times, and the phases of the moon.

I’ll let you know how it works out, but in theory, by the end of the day (6 or 7 hours from now), I should have a marked up draft that I can split to work on on the train.

UPDATE, Monday evening: The answer is that it is taking longer than I thought. I’m up to page 200, but I have the plot threads mapped for the first two-fifths of the draft (and have found some holes, which I’ve now noted on the draft, the character names recorded for two-fifths of the draft, and all of the scenes laid into the calendar – and I’ve found a whole extra day, which I’m going to have to account for, somehow.

By taking this analytical approach, I’m avoiding the temptation to drop back into creative mode. When I finish the analysis, I’ll have all the thinking done that I need to do, and I’ll be able to deal with the draft one page at a time, content that the logistics have been dealt with.

So it’s working.


Random thoughts about writing from Christina Dodd

Today, I’m editing. I want to be through this first continuity edit before tomorrow morning, when I have the day off from work and plan to do the think and plan part of the rewrite, restructure phase.

So for today’s post, I’m taking the easy route and also offering you a treat. Here, if you haven’t come across them by another route, are Christina Dodd’s thoughts about writing.

And here are some covers of Christina’s books, chosen at random and made into an image quilt for your viewing pleasure.

ImageQuilt 2014-02-11 at 12.45.15 PM