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New Year and a New Plan

Happy New Year everyone! Yes I know it’s a little late now. I’ve been a little busy.

I know I haven’t done my usual start of the month blog since September. I didn’t see much point doing one for November and I plain forgot about December until it was a bit too late. This month I thought I’d talk about the whole of the last year and some of my goals for the year ahead.

I wrote a significant word count in 2012 – 184,717 words to be exact. This is over 60k more than 2011. This was just on stories too and doesn’t include the word count for all the blogs I’ve written this year.

Research has been another big thing in the last year. I’ve had to learn about all sorts of things for the current works in progress, ranging from, the best place to hijack the tran Siberian railway and smuggle people off (see Shattered when published) to research into end of the world prophecies (see Sherdan series) and many things in between. I think ¬†anyone looking through my internet history would be mildly concerned if they didn’t know why I just happened to be looking that kind of stuff up.

I’ve published two novels this year, both Chains of Freedom and Sherdan’s Prophecy and all the reviews I’ve had of those two so far have been very positive. There’s definitely a lot of evidence that I’m growing as a writer, which is always a healthy thing.

Future plans include the print version of Sherdan’s Prophecy as well as the eBook of both For Such a Time as This and Sherdan’s Legacy as this years releases. I also hope to finish the first crafts of both my other two works in progress, Shattered, and The Fire of Winter. On top of that I want to start the third book in the Sherdan series and another book which is still totally under wraps for now but involves another writer. I’d like to see how that goes before I do any big announcements.

In terms of word count I’m going to aim to do a little more every month than the matching month year on year to try and hit that illusive 200k word goal. We’ll see how that pans out with my goal to also step up on the marketing in the early parts of this year. I really want to promote the Sherdan series over my other works as I think its my best work by far but it will probably depend on how well I’m feeling. 2012 was a crap year for me health wise and I’ve still got hospital appointments and tests trailing well into this year.

So there’s my work related goals. Anyone else have anything similarly ambitious (or even more so)? Or anyone want to remind me of things I said I’d do that I might have forgotten? Sometimes I forget I wanted to do a project.

Cornwall 2012

This summer I was invited to spend a week in Cornwall to see the J class regatta being held in Falmouth. I made mention that a good selection of the Mountifield family were hoping to get a moment or two on the J class yacht Velsheda.

This boat was built in the 1930’s and was one of only 6 boats in it’s class at the time. I believe at the time the J class also represented the largest single masted sailing yachts.

Velsheda’s first ever captain just happened to be a Mountifield. A Captain Alfred Mountifield. One of Alfred Mountifield’s grandsons is alive today. I call this man Grandad. His eldest son is my husband’s father. So I married the direct descendant of the first ever captain.

Not that long ago another of my Mountifield relatives found a photo of the original captain at the helm. As my uncle in law had been allowed on Velsheda before to have a quick look over while she was docked in Falmouth in a previous year he let the whole family know they were in Falmouth again this year and emailed the new captain to request the possibility of the grandson, great grandson, and great great grandson (my husband) all being allowed on board to get photos in the same position as the old one.

About the same time we were talking about this I was also working out the plot for the sequel to Sherdan’s Prophecy and had a scene I wanted to be on a boat out at sea. Being the kind of person who likes adding in little gems of family history (there’s a relative of mine in the Caribbean at the same time as With Proud Humility is set and he’s mentioned in the book) I wanted that boat to be Velsheda so my uncle in law mentioned that too.

Unfortunately the new captain didn’t take too kindly to the idea of people wanting to go on the boat he commanded and wasn’t particularly polite in his replying email. To be honest I’d have understood if he’d said he was too busy, or even said something like you can come take a few photos but you can’t sail on her, or something like that. I’d have been disappointed but I would have given him the benefit of the doubt and possibly just emailed to ask nicely if he’d answer a few questions about the boat so I could still do enough research to include it in my novel.

Despite the mildly grumpy Captain we did still get to see Velsheda race against some of the other J class yachts. Including Lionheart, the newest J class. The shot above and the few below were all taken from my camera off Pendennis point at Falmouth as they sailed out in the waters in front of us and sailed back into the mouth of the river.

As you can see from the photo above all the J class yachts are a lot bigger than the normal ones that look tiny dotted around the outside. Although it’s not the clearest of photos it gives an idea of the sheer size of these yachts. Hopefully I can still find enough info out about one of them to include it in a novel even if it can’t be Velsheda.

The rest of the holiday was spent in a very chilled out fashion, often near the coast and gazing out to sea. Something about being near the sea or at sea that I find relaxing.

Historical accuracy

Lately I’ve been doing research for my fourth novel and also with my first historical book out and my second very very close to being out I’ve been thinking a lot about historical accuracy.

There’s a lot of history and studying any one section of it well can take an entire lifetime. This can present a problem when writing historical novels. I’ve only got soo much time I can devote to researching an area. Admitedly I usually stick to my favourite era and the one I know the most about, 1790-1850. It’s the regency era, the French revolution, the abolition of slavery and the early parts of Queen Victoria’s reign. There’s obviously more to it than that but I feel fairly comfortable in that era.

The other problem is sometimes the plot and story is deemed more important than a historical fact, after all I write fiction, and to me, writing relatable characters who go through something people can understand is often more important than whether they really would have spent time with that person, or would have prefered a bow and arrow over a spear. If they don’t spend time alone with that person romance won’t blossom and people in battle with only spears get one or two hits in then get massacred, but bows and arrows means the fights a little more even. I’m sure you get my drift. Sometimes I deliberately write something historically inaccurate.

The biggest killer though is that 90% of the historical information we’re taught and we read in other books is actually wrong (yes I have just made that stat up). Though in all fairness, most of my sources these days are the internet and we all know how consistent that can be. Sometimes I will find something out, think I am right, and be wrong. Likewise some people will read my books and think I am wrong because they’ve read something different somewhere else, but I’ll actually be right. On top of that we all make assumptions. Someone may read that people in the 1800’s in the US could rarely read, even nobility, so assume people in London in the 1800’s also can’t read. Most people in the Uk are fairly aware they could, however. Jane Austen’s and Beatrix potter’s sales figures anyone?

It’s history, and by definition of a lot of it no one from then is still alive to tell us what it was really like, and it wasn’t the same everywhere even if we know what it was like in one place. You can’t compare a 1810 regency historical romance with a 1810 American-front historical romance. You can be pretty sure the two sets of societies had very different sets of rules, issues, and quirks.

I don’t write regency historical romances. I actually don’t like them (the whole chaperoned everywhere all the time missconception gets me angry. It was only really London and Paris and there were certain ‘public’ places you were allowed to talk unaccompanied) so I’d really appreciate it if people stopped comparing my historical adventure novels set in the 1800’s, in other places, to regency.

In fact I’d really like it if people just generally started off from the assumption that the author did do research and generally only think they didn’t if some big glaring mistake was made, like having steam power in the early 1800’s. Although, if that does happen and you’re worried, check you’re not in the steampunk genre. If you find you are, and are about to throw said book across the room in disgust at the historical inaccuracy of having steam almost 100 years before it was invented, please put it down gently and make a note to not read that genre again, you won’t like it.

Oh and also people, read the blurb, it helps give you an idea of where the book’s set and if you’re getting that regency romance you want. Also don’t tell me you didn’t know my first book was set in the Caribbean. It does say so in the blurb and last I checked Montserrat hadn’t moved.

Background Details: Book 3, Part 2

A few months ago I wrote a blog post detailing some of the background details that were needed and some research points for Book 3. I thought I’d share some of the research and interesting things I found in follow up to the previous blog here.

My first point of research was Bristol, I’d like to know where the Universities are and all the transport links and map off an area where Sherdan’s compound could be. I went on google maps and had a look around the city, I couldn’t find anywhere already perfect for a compound but I did find an area that with 9 years of change could well be suitable. Here’s a shiny map of the area with a red outline of the part Sherdan’s people will occupy.

I’ve kept my boundary lines off main roads for the most part, especially as I’ve not yet decided how Sherdan will keep unwanted people out, if he even will. I’d like there to be some kind of barrier of sorts, just not sure what yet.

As you can see the entire main Bristol University Campus is included in the area and I’m going to make that the main headquarters of Sherdan’s little empire. Bristol Homeopathic hospital is going to be the entrance of the main underground bunker and the school that’s not labeled in the middle of the area will be some high rise flats and useful things like a Hellipad.

I estimate with my modifications there will be approximately 4,000 people in this compound, with over half of them being young people of student age and just above.

Bristol University will still be taking Students on each year as that’s how Sherdan is making new people with abilities. Spiking the students in some way.

I wanted to have it in the coffee or something like that but it turns out orally ingested enzymes are broken down by the stuff in our stomach before it can be absorbed by the body, essentially having no effect at all. Therefore I’ve decided to have a patch or armband the students and surrounding people are encouraged to wear to support something, like a nicotine patch it will allow the enzymes or whatever chemical compound I want be absorbed by the body.

Stage 3 of my research was into cults, I want to know how much Sherdan is likely to have achieved before people have noticed he’s up to something. I found that most cults that stay relatively close knit and don’t talk too much can easily have several thousand members for quite a few years before anyone really hears about them, at the most there might have been the odd local news paper report or two but unless Sherdan has deliberately talked about his cult publicly himself there won’t be much awareness of what’s going on at all.

My final point of research was the miracles that God was likely to perform. It seems there are four types of these, the healing three which are cures, exorcism and raising from the dead and the natural miracles that involved God controling nature in some way. This actually leaves me with a lot of scope to explain something as God if I need to.

In terms of progress with the book I now only have my character bio’s to do which I probably shan’t post. I’ve already done a couple of character interviews so I’ll leave it there. Hopefully that means my next post concerning book 3 will actually be the opening scene or two, maybe, if I do really well a whole chapter.

Background details: Book 3

Sherdan and Anya’s world

Now that there has been some more character development and some basic ideas of what’s going on has been established we can start setting up the world around the main characters. Figure out where they live and why and all the important details like that.

We know there is some kind of compound and a fairly large number of people so a city or edge of a city is best, and it needs to be defensible, so a port city. The only port cities I can describe well are Ipswich and Bristol in the Uk. I grew up near Ipswich and now live in Bath so Bristol is probably best for me wanting to check out anything last minute. Bristol is also the bigger of the two, I believe, and has a better network of public transport, as well as having the most strategic value in terms of nearby locations.

The story is sci-fi, end of the world stuff, so potentially set a few years in the future but not too many. Maybe 2020. I’ve always liked that number. It also gives me 9 years of back history where I can make it all up rather than following what’s already happened and having to stick to rules.

Moving in a little on their ‘world’ let’s decide how big this compound actually is. Research would be good at this point. How many people live in Bristol? This guys only had 9 years to displace people from their homes and I doubt he’ll have managed more than a few thousand without incurring the wrath of the Uk Military. Looking on Google maps for the areas with big apartment blocks, or open spaces, possibly even one of the Universities could have been Sherdan’s starting point. So mapping out an area about 5,000 people big in Bristol with a key structure or two would be a very good start.

Another key decision is how these ‘special abilities’ are spread and if everyone with one has come to join Sherdan’s group. If he started in the University, has he been spiking the campus coffee shop with some kind of drug? Possible idea, though there are many to choose from at this point. Some research into enzymes, drugs and spreadable things like viruses would be useful for this part.

From the world point of view what is Sherdan to them currently? An odd ball with a small cult? A uk threat or possibly even a world threat? Barely registers on the radar? In terms of a series barely registering on the radar gives us time for more stories, plots and development before we’re likely to hit mass end of the world stuffs. At the worst a small cult that Bristol authorities have begun to look into. May have made national news for some focus on the super powers, and it’s highly likely the local news have mentioned him.

From Anya’s point of view we need to decide some things about her church. If Sherdan’s only made local news then it makes some sense Anya is more local. She’s definitely got to be in the uk too. Do the church perhaps know more than the average person? They do have the whole grapevine flow of information between Churches, especially of the same denomination. It’s highly likely to be useful taking a look at Revelations while putting together her back-story. What do they think will happen when the world ends?

The other big question about Anya is how she managed to get into Sherdan’s compound and what kind of resistance did she meet. I think we can assume she doesn’t have an ability so she will have snuck past people that did. Seeing as she relies on the power of God, by fasting, it might be useful to research miracles that seem fairly normal for God to do. Healing is pretty standard but what other things do people say God has done? All could be things that have happened to Anya to get her into the compound.

So Research list

  • Bristol population.
  • Map are of possible locations for compound.
  • Viruses, Enzymes and drugs.
  • What authorities check out cults and how many reports they need to do so.
  • Local church denominations and what they believe.
  • Revelations.
  • Common miracles of God.

For more info on this book and all previous posts head here and look under Book 3