A link to an author interview I gave this week:
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A link to an author interview I gave this week:
When I made the decision to write a book out of my family history research, I literally had no idea what I was doing. Not about writing fiction, not about Victorian-era England, nothing. All I knew was that I had a story that I wanted to tell.
Since then, it’s been a slow process but gradually the book I originally outlined to be nineteen chapters grew … and grew. Initially, I’d worried that it wouldn’t stretch to a hundred pages, but with time it took on a life of it’s own. By 2015, I had a full-length trilogy on my hands, but still something wasn’t right. Part Two was too long. I would have to trim the word count when I edited it.
Despite this, I thought my writing was coming along fine. I’d done the best with it that I could and a few family members and friends had said it was good. Surely all I needed now was some line editing and proofreading. It’s funny how many times I’ve been wrong as I’ve gone through this process!
I now shudder to think what would have become of the series had I not used an editor. Suffice to say, it took me about six months to rewrite the book based on her comments and to get to the stage where I was confident enough to submit it to a second editor. This time when it came back, the comments were much more manageable and I published Part 1 of The Ambition & Destiny Series: Hooks & Eyes, in March 2017.
My initial plan was to release one book every six months or so, but it wasn’t long before those plans went out the window as well. When you are writing a series, especially if you have cliffhangers (which I do), you can’t leave readers waiting that long. Thankfully the rest of the books were already written, they just needed editing … didn’t they?
No, they didn’t. Because of everything I’d learned from my first editor, I realised two things:
1) My early drafts were lacking a lot of things like descriptions of settings, and emotions. That meant when I came to edit them, the books would increase in size rather than decrease.
2) The unedited books were terrible! Not the story, that was fine, but my style of writing seriously needed to up its game. I didn’t need an editor to tell me that.
I was going to have to rewrite both books before I could send them to an editor. No mean feat when you now want to publish the rest of the series at three monthly intervals!
The biggest problem was Part Two. At this rate, it was going to rival War and Peace for length and so I made a decision. I needed to split it in half. My trilogy would be no more, and instead, it would be a four-part series. I was relieved when I made the decision because the change meant that editing Part Two would be much more manageable than it would have been otherwise (because it was approximately half the length of the original Part Two).
So, how did it go? Well, as Part Four of The Ambition & Destiny Series, Only One Winner, is ready for publication on 13th March, almost a year to the day after Hooks & Eyes, I can say I did it (yay!) … but I’m exhausted! I feel as if I’ve done nothing but writing and editing for the last twelve months.
But that’s not the end of it. When I originally wrote the first four books, I ended with an epilogue and a summary (intended for family members only) of what happened to the characters after the end of the story. I can’t remember exactly when I made the decision, but at some point, I realised that the summary should be part of the series.
As a result, I am writing this post in a break from writing Part Five of the series. I had hoped to have the first draft finished by now, but as with everything I write, it’s ended up being longer than I hoped. It’s already as long as the previous books, but I still have another six years to cover. I’ll deal with that in the editing! Having said that, it will be one book (that’s my accountability), and it won’t go beyond the year 1911.
So, am I glad I turned my family history into a novel? Absolutely. I have no regrets about writing the books. They have brought my ancestors to life in a way that I couldn’t have imagined from the dry documents of family history research. Having said that, there are things I would do differently. By publishing Hooks & Eyes when I did, I put myself under a huge amount of pressure with the subsequent books in the series. Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll try to pace myself a bit better rather than leaving all the pacing for the storyline of the book!
Only One Winner: Part 4 of The Ambition & Destiny Series will be released on 13th March 2018 and will be at the introductory price of 99c / 99p until Wednesday 14th March.
To celebrate the launch, Part 1 of the series: Hooks & Eyes will be available as a FREE download from 12-16th March.
All books in the series can be read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited and a FREE copy of the short story prequel, Condemned by Fate is available from my website. The fifth and final part of the story should be ready for July 2018.
Why not grab your copies today!
A recent interview I’ve given about my life and inspirations as an author …
Writing a series about my family history has taken me to places I hadn’t imagined before I started. I talked in an earlier post about how I uncovered a world where women were treated as little more than slaves and seemed to be incarcerated in lunatic asylums for very spurious reasons.
The latest book in the series (When Time Runs Out), moves to the stage where women are starting to demand the right to vote and have some control over their lives.
In the early part of the 19th century, there was a widely held belief that women did not need the vote because their interests were the same as that of their fathers or husbands, who did have the vote. As the century moved on, however, many women were no longer prepared to be defined by their biology.
Initially, the women’s suffrage campaign was closely associated with a sex war between men and women. Women started to rebel against historical male sexual domination and campaigned against being forced into a sexual identity that was often imposed by withholding the right to education and the right to vote.
By 1868, a number of local groups had come together to start the National Society for Women’s Suffrage (NSWS). This was the first attempt to create a unified voice for women’s suffrage. Due to splits in the membership, however, it was relatively ineffective.
Between 1870 and 1880 the suffrage movement began to gain momentum and meetings were set up all over Britain. Speakers such as Millicent Fawcett and Mrs Ronniger attended meetings and during the 1870’s an average of 200,000 signatures a year were collected in support of votes for women.
Due to the lobbying of women and their supporters, the subject was debated in the House of Commons every year (excluding 1874) from 1870-1879. The debates continued beyond this time, although with less frequency. From 1886 onwards every vote taken showed that the majority of MPs favoured women’s suffrage. In spite of this, however, it was not permitted to become law.
When Time Runs Out is set between 1876 and 1885. At this time, the aim of the suffrage movement was to encourage women to read and be polite in order to show that they were worthy of the vote. Nineteenth-century suffrage was not associated with the militancy of the suffragette movement in the early 20th century.
As I wrote The Ambition & Destiny Series, it felt natural that my lead character, Harriet, would be involved with the suffrage movement. In the books, she is portrayed as a strong character who had suffered miserably at the hands of some of the male members of the family. I decided that in When Time Runs Out, enough was enough and she was going to make a stand. I suspect that this would have been vehemently opposed by some of the males in the family as suggested in the following excerpt.
In this scene, Mr Wetherby, the alpha male in the series, has just paid a visit to his stepson William:
Once the door was shut, Mr Wetherby declined William’s offer of a seat.
“Is everything all right?” William asked. “It is an unusual time for us to meet.”
“Do you think everything’s all right?”
“Yes, I think so, for me at any rate. The business is going well and I’ve managed to secure several bigger orders this week. Most are from new customers, but Porters have put in a repeat order, which is double the size of the last one. That should keep the men busy for a few more weeks.”
“I’m glad to hear it, but that wasn’t what I meant.”
William’s brow creased as he waited for Mr Wetherby to continue.
“How would you say your wife’s state of mind is at the moment?”
A smile broke out on William’s face. “Absolutely fine, in fact I’ve never seen her so happy. She’s helping me with the business, doing the accounts and making sure I keep under budget; it’s given her a new lease of life.”
“You’ve obviously not been privy to some of the conversations I have. Over the last few days I’ve heard some particularly disturbing news about her.”
William’s frown returned. “About Harriet? Idle gossip I shouldn’t wonder.”
“That was my first thought, but it was too much of a coincidence when I heard it from two other sources.”
“What have you heard?”
“Are you aware of the women’s suffrage movement in Handsworth?”
William’s face paled and he walked to the window. “What’s that got to do with Harriet?”
“I’ve been led to believe your wife has become a regular attendee at these meetings. Were you aware of this?”
“No … well … yes, perhaps.”
“Would you care to explain yourself?” Mr Wetherby’s eyes narrowed as he glared at William.
“Back in May, the day before she went into hospital, I saw her going to one of the meetings. I mentioned it to her when she came out of hospital and said I didn’t want her going to anymore.”
“Well it would appear she’s disobeyed your wishes.”
“How can you be so sure? Maybe your sources saw her when I did.”
“I’ve only heard about it recently. First was from someone Sarah-Ann invited to Wetherby House. Not a woman I’ve ever taken to if I’m being honest, a bit too forthright, but she mentioned to Sarah-Ann that she’d seen Harriet at a meeting.”
“That could have been before she was in hospital.”
“It could have been, although I was led to believe it was only a couple of weeks ago. In addition, a second friend of hers also mentioned it to me last week.”
“That still doesn’t prove anything, but even if she did, why’s it of such concern?”
“Why is it of such concern? William, listen to yourself.” Mr Wetherby’s voice grew louder. “Women are not capable of understanding politics and shouldn’t be encouraged to do so. I’ve no idea what propaganda they give them at these meetings, but it’s not right. Can you imagine what it would be like if women did as they pleased? This country would be the laughing stock of the world. Haven’t you heard the Marquis of Salisbury talking about it? He makes a splendid case for keeping things as they are.”
“But they’re not going to change anything, are they? It just lets them get together and have a cup of tea. Most probably it’s an excuse to sit and talk for an afternoon.”
“Don’t you be fooled. The third person I heard it from, and the reason I’m here, was a Liberal councillor in Handsworth. Apparently, they had a Liberal Member of Parliament at last week’s meeting. A Liberal, William, are you listening? Goodness knows what he told them, but you can imagine the delight of the councillor when he told me a member of my own family was fraternising with the Liberals. How do you think I felt? Not only that, it’s the Liberals in parliament who are encouraging this nonsense. Can you imagine if millions of women started voting for the Liberals? It could be the end of the Conservative party. Don’t you understand? We can’t let that happen.”
William laughed. “Harriet’s not going to do that by herself; we’d have to stop them all from attending.”
“You have to start somewhere and Harriet’s the sort of person who’d encourage others.”
“That’s unfair. She’s not one of the leaders.”
“Not at the moment, but if she gets the chance to make a nuisance of herself then she will. If I’m being honest, you’ve become far too soft with her and this sort of behaviour suggests to me that she’s still ill. If you want my opinion she has to go back to the asylum until she learns her place.”
Extract from When Time Runs Out by VL McBeath
When Time Runs Out is published on 15th November 2017.
To mark the launch, all available ebooks in the series are available for 99p / 99c until 19th November. It is FREE on Kindle Unlimited. To get your copies, click here.
Please Note: The books in The Ambition & Destiny Series form one story. Each ends with a cliffhanger and it is recommended that the Parts are read in sequential order.
The book is written in UK English.
An outrageous development for researchers of family history. Let’s hope that something can be done.
Would you pay £31.50 per hour to access your local archives? This is the charge Northamptonshire Archives and Heritage Services announced would apply from 21 August 2017. This eye-watering price is just to visit the archives and conduct your own research. It is more than the hourly cost most researchers charge to undertake research on your behalf!
Archive Storage: Image – Pixabay
There is still free access to their Archives Service. But this is limited to Tuesday to Thursday, 9am-1pm; and the first Saturday each month between April to October, 9am-4pm. In total, over the year, free access therefore amounts to less than 10 hours per week. In contrast, the chargeable access applies Monday and Friday 10am-1pm and 2pm-4pm; and Tuesday to Thursday 2pm-4pm: a total of 16 hours per week.
Yes, money is tight in local Councils. Over the past few years we have seen many cut back the opening hours of Archives…
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“You can never truly judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
When I started researching my family history, I wanted to do more than just collect names, dates and places. I know that’s where you have to start, but that was never going to be enough. I’ve written before about how a family rumour, suggesting we had once been wealthy, had been a starting point for me. As I discovered more information, however, I found more questions that needed answering. Some surrounded the life of my great, great, grandmother, Harriet.
Until I started my research, I had no idea who she was or even her name. Of all the ancestors I’ve discovered, however, I believe she had one of the most intriguing lives.
She was the twelfth of thirteen children, but for some reason, out of all her siblings, she was the one ‘adopted’ by her father’s brother and his wife.
She died way back in the 1880s and so I have no knowledge of her character, but from several incidents that occurred during her life, I have pieced together details of the sort of person I think she could have been.
Initially, life seemed routine. She married and had two children in quick succession, something that would have been expected at the time. Then things took a turn. In 1871 she was admitted to a lunatic asylum, reportedly for depression, and stayed there for two months. When she came out, on paper at least, life appeared to return to normal. However, fourteen years later, she was admitted to the same asylum, again for another two months.
With no recent history of mental illness in the family, this made me wonder whether the ‘depression’ was a real event, triggered by her genetic make-up. Or did her admission to the asylum have a more sinister side?
Although depression was a reason for patients to be admitted into lunatic asylums, many were sent there for much more spurious reasons. As the image shows, being a woman was certainly high on the list of possible offences, especially if you dared to behave differently to the expectations of society.
Other parts of my research have led me to believe that Harriet was probably an intelligent woman. She could certainly read and write. In the 19th century, however, the idea that women could be intelligent or that they should be educated went against perceived medical opinion. Doctors argued that the physical demands of menstruation and the intellectual demands of studying were incompatible and that educating women would lead to mothers of puny, weakened and sickly children.
Building up a picture of Harriet, layer by layer, I wondered if maybe she was ahead of her time. Perhaps she was an intelligent woman who wanted to break free of the traditional role society planned for her. If this were the case, it was likely to have caused her untold trouble.
Taking this train of thought one step further, I came up with two scenario’s that could have seen her sent to the asylum:
It’s quite possible that neither of these options applied to Harriet. The sad fact is, however, they were real for too many women of the time. As I was writing Harriet into my novel, I couldn’t help but give her a storyline to fit with the character I think she may have been. Even if it’s not true, it highlights the hurdles women faced and serves as a salient reminder of how far we’ve come in terms of gender equality.
The Ambition & Destiny Series is a five-part series set in Victorian Era England. Harriet’s story starts in Part 2, Less Than Equals, which will be published on July 17th 2017.
If you like heroines who are ahead of their time, and epic sagas set in Victorian Era England, click here to start the journey today … and walk a mile in Harriet’s shoes.
A post I’ve recently written for another site.
Less Than Equals
“Even though they make up half the population, women and girls have endured discrimination in most societies for thousands of years. In the past, women were treated as property of their husbands or fathers – they couldn’t own land, they couldn’t vote or go to school, and were subject to beatings and abuse and could do nothing about it. Over the last hundred years, much progress has been made to gain equal rights for women around the world, but many still live without the rights to which all people are entitled.”
— Robert Alan Silverstein
“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”
― Marie Shear
Researching my family history is something that has taken up a considerable part of my time since about 2008. At first, it was collecting the names and dates of people I had never heard of, but before long I needed to…
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Being in the middle of writing and publishing a series, I feel confident in saying that it adds a layer of complexity compared with writing a standalone book.
But what do I mean by a series?
My series is essentially one story split into six parts, where reading book four would make no sense without reading the earlier books. Similar series would include Lord of the Rings or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (or books two and three at least). The same tips would also be relevant where two or more books have either the same protagonist or cast of characters, even though each is a standalone story (e.g., The Jack Reacher Series).
So, when writing a series, things to consider:
1) Have Foresight
This is just another way to say ‘do your planning’. I know planning is important when you are writing a single book, but when you’re dealing with a series, it is doubly important to get it right.
To start with, do you know where you are going with the series? It’s important to understand the storyline and subplots that you intend to deal with so that you can start off with the right characters and setting.
For example, is your character fit for purpose? Will they be interesting enough to last the course? Do they have the right build and attitude? When you get to book three, and they need certain knowledge or power to deal with a situation, can you realistically call upon this information from the story line in the earlier books?
If you understand what you need upfront, it will help further down the line when your character(s) is facing new challenges.
2) Consistency and Continuity
I accidentally slipped into this but think it is vital. If you’re writing a series, write it as a series, and not as one book after the other. I would also suggest that you don’t publish one book before the next book in the series is at an advanced stage.
At the outset, because I thought I was writing a single book, I just wrote … and wrote. Before long, I realised I would need to turn it into a series, but that didn’t matter, I just kept writing. I ended up (at the time) with a trilogy.
Once I came to editing, I was so glad I hadn’t stopped at the end of Book 1. I constantly needed to align the text of Book 1 and Book 2, tweaking the storyline, making sure the foreshadowing was consistent with what came next, making sure the backstory supported where I wanted to go, adding in scenes to make sure the books worked well together.
If I’d published Book 1 before I’d written Book 2, it would have seriously impacted the storyline for later books. Although it is possible to change a book once it’s published, I would suggest it is less than ideal both to yourself as a writer, but also to your readers.
3) Don’t keep your Readers Waiting
Another benefit of writing several books at once is that you should be able to publish them much more quickly than if you write/publish, write/publish. Nowadays, readers want things instantly, and if you have a series, they don’t want to wait too long for the next book.
If you have a gap of one to two years between books, the chances are your readers will have moved on and you’ll lose any momentum you may have built up with your first launch. Sadly, we’re not all JK Rowling or the like, with readers eagerly anticipating our next instalment.
My series is now in five parts, with a short story prequel. The prequel and Part 1 of the series were published in November 2016 and March 2017, respectively. Part 2 should be ready for July 2017.
Although Parts 3 and 4 are written, they still need thorough editing. I know the overall story won’t change, but I still want to go through another round of edits to Part 3 before Part 2 is published, to make sure everything flows. I then need to start writing book 5!
It does mean you don’t get much time to take a break, as you always seem to be writing or editing, but hopefully, at the end of the day, you’ll end up with a piece of work you’re proud of.
The Ambition & Destiny Series is a compelling family saga of love, loss and betrayal, set in Victorian Era England.
Falling in Love Shouldn’t To Start Again, Mary must
be a Crime… Leave the Past Behind…
Part 2: Less Than Equals, will be available for pre-order on Amazon in June 2017.
I didn’t set out to be an author. The fact is, when the idea of writing a novel kept nudging itself into my mind, I did everything I could to resist it. I am a scientist by training, and creative writing was something I had only done, very badly, at school.
The whole idea came about while I was researching my family history. I was intrigued to know if there was any truth to the rumour that our family had once been very wealthy. Based on our circumstances during the 20th century, it seemed highly improbable, but this begged the question. If my ancestors were wealthy, where did the money go? Did it pass out of the family as a result of a death and re-marriage as we had been lead to believe?
As I picked my way through an assortment of historical records, it appeared that, yes, the family had once been very wealthy, but no, the money did not leave the family as a result of a re-marriage. It was much more complicated than that. As I delved deeper, the story I uncovered astounded me. The more I learned, the more I needed to know, and within a couple of years the idea of turning it into a book started to build.
With no clue about where to start, I pushed the idea to the back of my mind. Eventually, however, when the idea wouldn’t leave me alone, I started to write. Initially, didn’t expect to produce more than about a hundred pages, but now, six years later, I have a five-part family saga entitled The Ambition & Destiny Series. Part 1, Hooks & Eyes was published on March 9th, 2017.
The story takes place in and around Birmingham, England. It was triggered by an event in 1839 that is now the basis of a short story prequel to the series, Condemned by Fate. Condemned by Fate was inspired by three months in the life of my 3x great grandfather and recounts the time he met my 3x great grandmother and the turbulent months they encountered before they married.
The main series (Hooks & Eyes) starts in 1846 with the family moving to the town of Birmingham. At first, they struggle to survive among the back-to-back houses, but eventually, they leave their working-class origins and become part of the affluent middle classes. Unfortunately, the good life didn’t last and with one fateful event in 1882, followed by a second in 1885, everything changed.
As the story started almost two hundred years ago, there are no living relatives who have any knowledge of the people involved. That means I have no idea how close to the truth the story comes. All births, deaths and marriages are correct, and most of the major storylines are based on fact. I will never know, however, the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ that drove the actions of my ancestors. To deal with this I took what I knew, and where I wanted to go and tried to create a plausible storyline that linked the events. Many of the sub-plots and all characterisations are fictitious. I have also changed the names and places of those involved to protect the identity of the real individuals.
Initially, one of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t find out what happened in time to tell my grandfather. He spurred my interest in the whole story because he said there was money in the family and yet he lived with the shame of being made homeless as a child when his father couldn’t pay the rent. Knowing what I know now, however, I think it’s perhaps as well he didn’t know the truth.