Is it really only a week since I was here? Only a week since the year began? Only a week since I shared with you how excited I am about Dear Isobel being picked up by a publisher? Only a week since I commented, in true Britishness, on how the weather was unseasonably bright and sunny?
I am certain that we have jammed at least a month into these seven days, and I’ll drag out my news by starting with banalities about the weather. It snowed!! Yesterday!! (We don’t often get snow in Ireland, so that’s pretty exciting.) It’s mostly gone now, although there are still some patches in the shadier spots of my garden. The sky is blue and I’ve fed the birds. There. We’ve covered the weather. Now I can move on to the really exciting thing that happened during the last seven days.
I think I need a drum roll. Here’s a picture, please take a moment to imagine the sound of excitement, anticipation, and suspense:
In the very short space of the seven days since I mentioned my publishing deal, I have signed another one! (Two actually, but who’s counting?)
Remember how fast I said everything had already happened? It just got faster. I now have contracts signed for three novels. (And a short story, but who’s counting?)
The first book is, as mentioned last week, Dear Isobel. Dear Isobel is a stand alone novel; an unconventional romance and tale of overcoming and moving on. The books the new contract is for are something quite different. Let me tell you about how they came about. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:
Once upon a time I had an idea for a short story. I wrote the first draft of that story in my car, whilst I was waiting outside my daughter’s ballet class. It wasn’t comfortable, and it probably wasn’t even warm, but the story was there in my head and I got it down onto paper.
I was studying the final part of my degree at the same time – but before you jump to the conclusion that I was procrastinating, avoiding studying, or suchlike, I shoud mention that the degree module was the Open University’s Advanced Writing Module. Writing stories WAS homework. Phew, I’m off the hook. Not skiving.
The short story grew. (Sometimes they do that.) It turned into an idea for my final assignment. The final assignment of that course is to either write the opening of a novel (approx 5,000 words), or to write something else. (Don’t ask me what the something else was; I didn’t do the something else, so I’ve forgotten. A lovely recipe for a lovely chocolate cake, maybe? Probably not.)
Probably not. Anyway. I should stop thinking about chocolate cake and pay attention. This story was kind of opposite to chocolate cake actually – it was based around a weight-watching group. And became a murder mystery. I wrote the first four or so chapters for the course, submitted it, blah blah blah, and put it aside and forgot about it.
Except I didn’t quite forget. Not long after the course ended, my tutor invited me to read the opening chapter at a Culture Night event, which was flattering and very encouraging. Of course, I agreed to go, but it nearly didn’t work out … Culture night was at the end of a storm-filled week in October which had left my village with no electricity for FOUR days. My house is old and cold and the only heating is fired from a solid fuel stove or open fire. I was surpirsed too to learn that despite the stove being fuelled by the wood from our own garden, it also needs electricity to run. So no heating then. For FOUR days. And no hot water. Or light. Or cooking. I layered up my thermals, didn’t bath, huddled by the living room’s open fire, smelled horrible and became tired, bad tempered and ready to act out a murder-not-mystery on the Electricity company. Luckily, a friend smelled me (from two miles away) and invited me to shower at her house. She fed me hot soup and buttered toast, and lent me a hair dryer. The luxury. The warmth. And then I went to Dublin, read the first chapter of my mystery, bought some other people’s books, listened to some other people reading, came home and by the time we got home the lights were on and everything looked bright again.
So then it seemed like a a good idea to finish the story. That took me another few months – a year maybe – I can’t remember, but as with Isobel, I pushed myself to properly complete it in NANO (National Novel Writing month) in 2018. To be fair, most of the first draft was planned out by then, it was just the writing of the chapters I had to get on with. Once I’d finished it, I sent it off to beta readers, tweaked it and tidied it to their recommendations, and called it Finished.
I was offered a deal for it last summer, but circumstances caused me to turn that offer down. I’m pleased for that now. The publisher who has signed Isobel liked this book too. (I like this publisher more each week! What will she offer me next week…?) And now, A Diet of Death – my cosy mystery; my first Jess O’Malley mystery – is making its publishing debut next year, with its sequel already part-written and due for release in 2023. So sometimes, I’ve realised, it’s a Very Good Idea to finish things. And sometimes, even if the lights go out and everything feels cold and dark, good things can be found just down the road in someone else’s shower, warm soup and a bookshop. I think that’s a well-known proverb.
Meanwhile, Dear Isobel is already with an editor. Which is a bit exciting and a bit embarrassing. My speedy and enthusiatic publisher changed the game plan slightly, and instead of me editing again first, the editor is editing first. Which is good, as it saves me a lot of work, but is bad, because now whenever I have to look for a quote, or reference something from my not-quite-as-well-edited-as-it-shoud-have-been version (remember last week’s confession about that?) I find a hideous and embarrassing typo. I had two Chapter 31s, for goodness sake. How could I have submitted a novel with two Chapter 31s? I am now on tenterhooks while I wait for the editor to shout at me and tell me I’m a disgrace to writers everywhere. Luckily, I can distract her at that point by immediately throwing A Diet of Death at her to work on.
So, amongst all that excitement (snow, chocolate cake – no sorry, not chocolate cake; imagination overdrive – book deals, editing, marketing, and my day job) I am currently working on a short story to link into the cosy mystery series and introduce one or more of the characters. A teaser; an introduction; an appetiser. I can’t wait to tell you more about the characters in Ballyfortnum. And for you to meet Jess.