In The Plotting Shed

In The Plotting Shed
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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Another beta reader's verdict of Daffodils

Here's some of the content I received from my most ruthless, spares me nothing, beta reader.  She's just finished her first read through and, as you will see, couldn't stop long enough to make more specific comments because she was too enthralled!  I am thrilled...

"I've read the book right through now and it is, for me, so much more enjoyable to read than the TV (The Twisted Vine).  It feels like you've constructed it so well, and each part is well thought through, with some truly inspired descriptive writing.  It's much meatier and I like that.   Some of the descriptions of the battle scenes  in France are done with such perception and insight, it's excellent!  I really felt the complete horror of it all, along with the complete pointlessness.  You've done some other gorgeous intuitive writing too, but I'll have to go through it again and pick bits out to feedback to you.  I became so involved in the story and so determined to 'turn the page' that I was caught up and didn't want to hover and delay things."

"All readers read with their own 'back stories' which influence the way they individually perceive books, so you are never ever going to please all the people all the time, but with Daffodils, I reckon you've done a great job and will win over thousands more than with your first published book.  This one deserves to be seen by an agent and publishers.  Proper job.  You'll do it and it will sell ... in shops ... and airports and all that.  Really!"



Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Fan Mail!

My first proper fan mail!
I really was thrilled to receive this letter from an old lady who had enjoyed The Twisted Vine.
I shall endeavour to fulfill her request to write more books for her to enjoy.  What a compliment. 



And here's another lovely tribute, this time received via a Christmas card from an acquaintance who is much younger.




Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Harri Romney's Happy Customers

Harri Romney is an author I've got to know through the wonders of Facebook.  She writes and illustrates her own children's books.  They are excellent for early readers with humour, colour and simple stories that are cool and witty enough not to patronise  the modern child.  Here's a link to one I gave to a great-niece at Christmas.  She loved it!

Lord Tarquinius Snout and the Vacuum of Doom by Harri Romney
Harri Romney Children's books

And here are the thank you letters from the little twin sisters. They are aged about 5 or 6 and just starting to read independently.  Harri's books hit just the right note.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Champagne Lunch

The delightful Catherine Kirby - author of Sari Caste and See Through - invited me to lunch at her house this Saturday.  I was greeted by a champagne cork popping and we enjoyed a delicious feast before caving in and gravitating to the computer to discuss books, Twitter, promotion versus writing and our current Works In Progress.
So nice to meet this lovely lady, and her family, face to face and thank her for all the help she has given me since we met via www.youwriteon.co.uk about 18 months ago.  To add to the joy her clever husband has made a plaque for my writing shed.  They came up with the  name between them.  If it ever stops raining I shall attach it to my wooden shed at the end of the garden with great pride.  Here's a pic.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Birthday pic

 
This is a picture of my on my recent birthday, hence the amount of slap I'm wearing which looks a bit shiny!  Couldn't disguise the double chins, sadly.  But at least this one's up to date!

Monday, 21 January 2013


http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/511916313">5 of 5 stars

See Through by Catherine Kirby

What an original idea! I really enjoyed Sari Caste and the compassion the author displayed in that shone through this book too. A very different setting in prosaic suburbia but the challenges faced there are just as difficult as those on the Indian continent even though, or because, they are self inflicted. A phantom pregnancy leads Fleur to crisis point from where she escapes into a parallel reality. This enables her to witness the people in her life coping without her. She begins to understand the situation from their perspective - a clever ploy by the author - maybe we all need to do that in our lives from time to time! Seeing her problems from other's view points enables Fleur to understand the complexity of relationships and therefore to heal them. It is an interesting introspective journey and a thought provoking one.
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<a href="http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/10518353-alex-martin">View all my reviews</a>

Beta readers for Daffodils

This is the first feedback from a beta reader (someone who's critical, honest but trustworthy and you ask them to read your manuscript before publishing) I've had.  It promises well and I'm on pins to hear the final verdict.




"It must be such a grand feeling to have finished Daffodils. I have to complain that it’s keeping me up at night! I can’t tear myself away to go to sleep! It flows really well and is rounded and fulsome – sorry the words are a bit sort of stilted but that’s the best way I can describe it. I feel like I’m in a good restaurant with delicious and beautifully cooked food – can’t get enough. You’ve really put your heart into it. Kate is sympathetic and believable and although I don’t like Charles much because he’s thoughtless,  his rashness is shown in a fuller context and he is so young too. Somehow I’m much more aware that he’s off to war and desperate to take every last bit of fun he can manage before he goes.  You really are letting your characters shine and lead the way. The flow of the story is very polished and the characters too. If you want me to nitpick about tiny minor things, which may only be down to me let me know.  Nothing has spoilt the story in any way so far. I’m loving it but I want to make the best job possible of being a beta reader for you, as promised."

 
It's agony waiting for the verdict when they've finished it.  Let's hope it improves the further into the story my friend goes!
 
Watch this space....

Beta readers feedback for DAFFODILS

Daffodils is nearly ready.  Currently it's being read by my lovely beta readers.  These friends are chosen for their pin point accuracy, honest criticism and reliable feedback.  If they don't like it, they'll let me know!  And if the years of work that this book has taken have been wasted, now is when I find that out!  I am, as you might well believe, on pins.  Nails bitten to the quick and jumpy as a cat on a hot brick.

Glad I was then, when one of them (see the next post because I can't seem to paste it here) gave me some early feedback in a recent email.  She's a writer herself, and knows what I'm going through so her first responses were greatly appreciated.

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Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Next Big Thing

When Steve Bichard (who wrote Vantastic France) Vantastic France. Follow the adventures of a family moving to France by Steve ... http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B006TJV02S/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_alp_z.99qb0MWCADM via @amazon

and is following it up with Encore Vantastic asked me to join in with the Next Big Thing, I was well chuffed.  Part of being an author (a lifelong ambition for me) is the joy of meeting like-minded scribblers and co-operating with them in the relentless round of marketing to get our wonderful works seen.
My first book, The Twisted Vine, is set in the French vendange of the 1980's.  I went grape-picking there myself at that time and met some great characters.  I hope that people who love to drink wine should find the harvesting of the grapes interesting, as I did, despite the back-breaking work!  Against this colourful backdrop is a romantic thriller story which will keep the reader guessing until the last page.  It's received over 15 5* reviews on Amazon.  Some of the key characters are French so I've used italics when they are speaking in French to get round the language thing but there is plenty of French scattered among the pages and the scenery, food and culture of France are characters in themselves.

You can find some of the reviews elsewhere on my blog and here is the link to the book on amazon.

The Twisted Vine by Alex Martin http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0089M2TSM/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_alp_KDP8qb1NP5H71 via @amazon


 It's also available in print as a paperback via www.feedaread.co.uk and www.waterstones.co.uk and as an ebook on www.smashwords.com

However, THE NEXT BIG THING is about the next big thing all us authors are writing!

So I'm following Steve's excellent example and using the same questions:

What is the title of your next book?

This book is called Daffodils.  It's a very different animal to The Twisted Vine but some of its scenes are also set in France - on the battlefields of the First World War.  It follows the changes war brings to young Katy Phipps, a naive but aspirational servant at Cheadle Manor in Wiltshire.  She tries to escape her humble beginnings but only manages to create a scandal that traps her into marriage before she's ready.  She makes the best of it and bears her husband a child.  All looks set for happiness but after tragedy strikes, they both leave for the Front.  Through the hardships and trauma of a global conflict, Katy gradually matures into a resourceful woman, who finally realises the value of the home she left behind.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I had both my children in a tiny Wiltshire village with very similar in geography (though not characters) as Cheadle.  One of my neighbours, Old Harry, who had a wooden leg, had lived in the row of tiny cottages since he was 4.  He was nearly 100 years old when I knew and loved him.  He had witnessed many changes over the years and I wanted to write about them before they were lost forever.  Then the story grew and before I knew it, it had morphed into a big sweeping saga about the First World War.  The research for this background was sobering but fascinating.  I hope I've done it justice.

What genre does your book fall under?

This is easier than The Twisted Vine - historical fiction and I suppose also Military History.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Now this is a really fun game I often play with both my books when I can't fall asleep!
These are my stars for the Twisted Vine:
Toyah Wilcox http://toyahwillcox.com/blog when 23 would have been perfect for Roxanne.  Perhaps the shorthaired girl from the original Spooks now?  the guy playing the French windowdresser in Selfridges - who's actually called le Clair! - would be great for Armand and I've always thought Charles Dance for Louis http://www.charlesdance.co.uk/ and Lindsay Duncan, http://www.lindsayduncan.com/with her hair dyed black, for Jeanne Vallons.

Daffodils has a big cast so I'll confine my choices to the three main leads:  Hayley Atwell's intelligent acting would draw out Katy's character very well Hayley Atwell , though I see her as looking more ethereal, more like Keira Knightly Keira Knightley.  Jem's character could be portrayed by Jude Law, Jude Law if he was a lot younger and Lionel - mmm tricky - Christian Bale would make a good fist of him and he has the right name!  Christian Bale:   Of course this would only work if he dyed his hair golden.  Don't suppose he'll object to that - for such a part??

I can picture it all sooo easily!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Daffodils aims to encapsulate the immense social changes brought about by WW1 in the life of one working class woman's heartrending story.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Show me an author who doesn't want an agent to do the hard slog for them! But, even though I'll try and get one, I'll self publish first.  People are waiting...(I hope!)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Simply years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Birdsong springs to mind but there are many others written about this era.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See reference to Harry above but also everything I have learned about WW1 has drawn me into the global tragedy and the sheer huge waste of it.  Soon it'll be the 100th anniversary of that conflict.  I wanted to salute those who sacrificed their lives for ours.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Essentially this is a book about love.  Not just romantic love, although that is central but also love of family, of place and of children.  I hope everyone who reads it will empathise with Katy's trials as she battles her way through life at a time of high drama.  She starts out naive and aspirational, restless with the energy of youth and seeking adventure.  When real life presents challenges Katy rises to them and comes to realise what is really important.

I would like to tag the following five authors.  Please check back and give them time to add their own posts and links.  All of them write well and I have enjoyed their work immensely.

1.  Tomas L. Martin

Tom is, I admit it, my son, but he is a genuine writer of many years and much talent.  His genre is Science Fiction.  He's contributed to many reviews of other books, an anthology and is now engaged in bringing out a new boardgame for adults called Maelstrom.  He is also a brilliant editor for me!Here he introduces himself in his own words:

I have been a writer for more than ten years, and have been blogging on livejournal, blogger and facebook for a similar amount of time, although my posting regularity and medium has changed over the years. I was also a daily blogger on the excellent Futurismic for a year, posting about science, technology and geeky stuff. ​Over the last two years, I have had a lot more fiction publications, and am working on three novels, including one for a confidential project I'm very excited about. As my fiction career begins to get serious, I've realised that I really need an official site to represent it, and so I've migrated these seldom-read blogs across to my new website at TomasLMartin.com.​
 

2. Penelope Hellyer

Penelope Hellyer was born in Sussex where she lived for 57 years before she moved to Northern Italy. She now lives with her husband Philip on the shores of Lake Como. Her days are filled with writing - both prose and poetry, painting, pressed flower work, sewing, knitting and photography.
Early retirement from working as a gardener/nurserywoman enabled Penelope to complete her first book 'The Haphazard Gardener'. As the daughter of the late Arthur Hellyer - editor, horticultural journalist, author and photographer - her story is quite unique.
Follow the sentimental journey of her time in the garden, the most rewarding period of her life, when her ambition to open her own specialist nursery was fulfilled and the garden of the great Arthur Hellyer became accessible to the general public.
A Kindle version of 'The Haphazard Gardener' is now available but without colour photographs as planned.
Penelope's debut novel was published on Kindle in October. A paperback is to follow. Penelope is now preparing for the NaNoWriMo challenge in November; as well as working on a poetry book and stories for children.
She has had articles published in 'The Hardy Plant Journal'.
One of her poems is included in 'My Home' - Stratford Literary Competition Winners 2011.
Penelope has recently published 'Alice' which is a fictional story of a girl of that name and is available as a Kindle book on Amazon.

3.  Karl Jones whose blog can be found at:   http://booksboozeandbanter.blogspot.co.uk/


In the dark of the night and the still of the evening you'll find Karl Jones writing furiously to exercise his dark muse to the delight of his fans. Specializing in Crime and Horror thrillers, he refers to himself as a loner, haunted by the stories he pens and driven to push the boundaries until all lovers of the genres have no choice but to sleep with one eye open. Karl explores the dark side of humanity and turns the stories of some of the most depraved into literature you'll have no choice but to read with one eye on the door and every light in the house on. Grab a sample if you dare...

4. Malika Gandhi

This is the description of Malika's latest book:

Scattered Ashes is a series of stories of five people: Rakesh, Dev, Pooja, Amit and Sunil. Victims of the hate towards the Raj, they battle through relationships and prejudice and love.

This is Rakesh's story. A son, a brother, a friend and a Freedom Fighter.

When Rakesh heard the call of Quit India, he wanted in. Joining his fellow comrades in this “war” against the British Raj, Rakesh becomes a Freedom Fighter. Little did he know the pain he would cause his mother, father and his younger brother, Dev, when he chose to go on that march.
 
and here's the link:
Rakesh's Story (Scattered Ashes (Book 1)) by Malika Gandhi http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00AZWR8D0/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_alp_Hmd-qb01CJFNB via @amazon
 
5. Ian Davies
 
Here's a list of some of his titles in children's stories:
 
 
Charlie Rabbit - Train to Funtown Park (Charlie Rabbit's Adventures) by Ian Davies http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B004N84W5O/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_alp_Byd-qb1FXY2C6 via @amazon
A short story ideal as a bedtime story with a happy ending as always with Charlie Rabbit!
From the author of a 2012 #1 Amazon.com Bestseller in Kindle store in both Short Story Collections & Children's Short Stories 'Charlie Rabbit The Easter Bunny'.
Some other titles available in this series:

Charlie Rabbit Discovers Christmas Day
Charlie Rabbit and the "Haunted House"
Charlie Rabbit Goes Pony Riding
Charlie Rabbit Goes Fishing
Charlie Rabbit the Easter Bunny
Charlie Rabbit Goes To The Seaside
 
Ian was too shy to speak for himself so here's his favourite character speaking for him:
Hi,
Well the author was taking too long to add this bit so I am doing it on his behalf.
The author from Hampshire has very kindly made my home in these stories within the New Forest area of Hampshire. I am really pleased about this as it is such a pretty place to live.
We do get lots of visitors during the year but they are very good and drive slowly through the area as the ponies often wander across the roads and they are never in a hurry.
I do hope you get to visit me in these stories.
Talking animals? Of course, we all talk!
Best wishes to you.
Charlie Rabbit
 
 
 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

A male perspective on The TWisted Vine

The Twisted Vine by Alex Martin http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0089M2TSM/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_alp_EAB8qb1JAAFJ6 via @amazon

Just had a new 5* review for the Twisted Vine from a bloke!  Nice to hear what he thought -here goes:
Not just a girlie tale, 8 Jan 2013

Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)

This review is from: The Twisted Vine (Kindle Edition)
I bought this book as a Christmas read, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The descriptions of wine growing and the French countryside, landscapes and people were excellently drawn. The book did what it said on the blurb, a thriller with a French bouquet. The style was sharp and well observed and evocative, the thriller part, (and speaking as a bloke), I would have liked to have been a little more "Ooomphy", but that is a very minor criticism and does not detract from the five stars I have given, and which this book richly deserves.

However, another reader wrote: Not sure about the 'oomphy' I thought it was pretty exciting - but then - she was a girl.

Do girls know best?
I'm biassed - what do you think?