Happy endings (no, not that sort. Although mentioned.)

“If you want a happy ending you have to decide where to stop your story – Orson Welles”

I am slightly addicted to twists whether I’m writing a whodunit, a microstory, or any of the other ways in which I kowtow before my muse. The one on the drawing board has several twists. There’s one, though, which turns the whole story from a slightly OTT love story (the alert reader is already saying hang on just a minute) to a slightly creepy stalker story, to abrupt terror. In two paragraphs it goes from mildly steamy (and wildly romantic) to chilling, and I didn’t even plan it that way. I love it, though.

Hence the Orson Welles quote. I could literally stop the story at its happy point and leave most of its readers contented.

Not going to, though. The book in question (and I only say this because I am personally annoyed by dangling hints and coy half-references) is still in process,  The Money Honey, and it’s odd in many ways.

Only once before have I had a young protagonist*, because I find mature characters much more intricate and interesting, but Miranda’s story starts when she’s around twenty, in 1996, and the reader follows her for the next twenty years.

She only came into existence because she’s a large part of the backstory for Seventeen Eighteen Past Lies Waiting, which is being published soon. I wrote her story separately, to get it clear in my head, and then I got engrossed in the challenges it presented. I hadn’t a clue who my target reader was, but sometimes books take on a life of their own and this is one.

There was tons of rewriting for Seventeen Eighteen, as it happened, but the beta readers who have now read both books were pretty positive in their feedback. However, the beta readers who only read Money Honey weren’t. They found the ending, with its sudden introduction of a bunch of amateur sleuths from the Lawns, thoroughly confusing.

By the time that feedback was trickling in, I quite liked my Money Honey but I could see their point, as a stand-alone book she would need an ending of her own. So I borrowed from a few other authors faced with similar situations, and Money Honey has three endings.

Miranda’s whole story is about the unorthodox choices she makes (the working title was Step By Step) so it felt right to let those readers who have engaged with her make the final choice for her.  They will choose whether she calls an old friend for help, which is where Seventeen Eighteen came into the picture – or whether she tackles the situation herself, the way she’s always done – or whether the original storyline from Seventeen Eighteen holds true, but this time she and her son take on the challenge together.

No confusion there, then.  grin

It really has been a very challenging book, I’ve put it aside at least five times and every time it has come yammering after me demanding attention. She’s so unlike any of my other characters, and so very in need of a happy ending.

And yes I know the other meaning of that phrase. In fact that’s why Money Honey is going out under the Clarissa name, not EJ Lamprey. Lots of happy endings, and never, it seems, one for her.

Seventeen Eighteen has finished its rewrites, gone off for editing, started its countdown, and will be out shortly. Oh, and one other oddity – they share the same cover photograph. Slightly different cropping, a lighting difference, but the same photograph. I’m not being cheap, I’m not even being Scottish and practical, I simply couldn’t decide which cover to use it on. It feels right to have it on both.

 

 

*Lucy, in Time Before Time, by Joanna Lamprey

 

Question to writers – when your guest character’s iceberg is getting invasive, how do you solve it? #amwriting

I’m assuming it’s the same for every writer, that each character is an iceberg, only 10% of them showing in the story but the writer has to know the other 90%, see it clearly, to give that 10% credibility –  not only what they look like, you have to know the main events shaping their lives, how those brought them to the point of your story and made them into the person they are.

Oh, I know in some books that is the story but in whodunits, murder and the solving of the murder is the priority. There simply isn’t the time, and the reader certainly doesn’t have the patience, to delve off into hugely detailed backstory for every character. That’s the huge advantage of a series, of course, but although my main characters can drift amiably through the shipping lanes of the series, each book is stand-alone and has one-off characters.

Those destined to die are easy. Pick out the traits which made them ideal cannon fodder. grin

Those who are to live, but will not become series characters, not so easy. I’ve got an iceberg of note on my hands now, because I’m throwing words at the first draft of Seventeen Eighteen (Past Lies Waiting). My guest character accidentally killed a man when she was in her early twenties, which is the direct cause of her deliberately killing a man in her early forties, and she’s on the run. Her eighteen-year-old son is in direct danger and she ropes in his biological father, who is Donald. So that’s where 17 18 starts (and gets its title) but I’ve never before wrestled with a twenty-years-and-counting backstory.  Tell you what, I never will again.

laugh

To keep her history straight in my head, I kept jotting separate notes, and writing out little scenarios, and populating the twenty years with the people who shaped her into a woman I could identify with,  yet who would kill a man. Eventually I had written nearly more about Miranda’s backstory than I had put into 17 18 itself, and all I needed of it was enough to explain her to the 17 18 reader.

Here’s the thing, though. There’s ten thousand words in my jotted outline and I’ve barely scratched the surface. She fascinates me, she’s taken on a life of her own and that twenty years just keeps growing in my head. Hence the title of this blog.  How do you solve a problem like Miranda, stop her sinking your crisp and tidy whodunit with the massive iceberg she has become?

TV has long since given us solutions – a spin-off – and I’m trying it. As if it isn’t hard enough to write one book, I’m now writing two. At the same time.  Bouncing from one to the other as details need to be clarified and tidied, and trying not to think ahead to the time when they come out of their resting period and need editing . . .  EJ Lamprey only writes whodunits, so Step By Step (working title) will be a Clarissa book, and Clarissa books are a little more, er, worldly. They do have a strong storyline, that’s important to me, so right now the focus is on Miranda’s story, I’ll flesh in the sexier bits on the second draft.

I’ve spent my whole life reading voraciously but I’ve not knowingly come across this solution to the character iceberg before, and I’m wondering how common it is? Anyone?

COUNTDOWN to corpse – that’s it, 15 16 has launched. Try the PDF – https://elegsabiff.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/excerpt-15-16.pdf

The thumbnail – It’s the eighth in the series and the first in the classic format, a country house, a houseful of guests, even a body in the library, and it all happens because William inherits a slightly decrepit shooting lodge from his decidedly eccentric uncle. Uncle was an illusionist, something of a genius in creating optical and mechanical illusions, and the attempts of William, Vivian, Donald and Edge to solve the case are definitely hampered by Robertson Manor’s peculiarities.

This blog was created to provide a preview which you can now see on Amazon itself, but there’s an excerpt from nearer the action, HERE

 

If you’re new to the Lawns, by the way, the first book (One Two Buckle My Shoe) is on a permanent promo price (cover in the margin, or click on the title) or the first three books are bundled for US$ 3.00  (One To Six, Buckle to Sticks)

OR – because it is the Edinburgh Festival – I have Seven Eight Play It Straight on a giveaway from Thursday for the weekend.
Fifteen Sixteen_high Res

Learning curve #329 – know the floorplan before you write the book  

#8 in the series has only 8 days to launch, and wow the days are flying. It’s been over a year since the last Lawns book  was released, for lots of reasons, one being that it was the book I have looked forward the most to writing so you’d KNOW it was going to be the hardest, right?

When I first thought of using the nursery rhyme for the series some names suggested themes, and some  presented obvious problems. Seven Eight, lay what straight? Corpses, seeing the books are whodunits? Nah.  I ended up cheating and making that one Seven Eight Play It Straight and setting it in the Edinburgh Festival and since this is August and we are once again enjoying the Festival, I’m going to put that on promo at the same time as I release the new one. Make a note in your diary. One for nothing and one at launch price? BARGAIN.

I’ve only just worked out how to handle Seventeen Eighteen so now I can get on and write it (Ladies Waiting, unless it changes again) but from very early on two were always going to be easy.  Three Four Knock On My Door, that was a GIFT.  And Fifteen Sixteen Maids In The Kitchen? A little pilot light went on. I would have Vivian and Edge in the kitchen of a country house doing the catering!

There were times I battled with the others when I consoled myself with the prospect of Fifteen Sixteen, because I knew with that conventional setting, that country house, that body in the library, it would write ITSELF. Ha. I am a prolific and speedy writer, and the books are novellas, and the book was written nearly a year ago but – not quite right. It didn’t work. I put it aside and wrote something else (as Joanna Lamprey). Went back to it. Still couldn’t get it right. Wrote something else (as Clarissa Rodgers-Briskleigh). Went through a bit of writers block as well, which is the equivalent of a runner getting a stress fracture and not being able to run for a while, and is horrible.

Finally the book relented, turned smooth, the rewrite was a success and all was well with the world, it was, finally, as much fun as I had always thought it would be.  The alpha readers liked it. The beta readers liked it. I sent it off to the editor and turned my attention to one thing both the alpha and beta readers had requested – a floor plan. This is a houseparty of thirteen, after all, and they all said a floor plan would be invaluable.

As it happens, Robertson Manor is (very) loosely based on a real Edwardian estate (Kinloch Castle) so obviously I looked at their architectural plans first. Hmmm, no. I simplified. And simplified. And simplified again, until I had exactly what I needed, the main hall, the library, the other rooms, and the ten bedrooms.

My floorplan still looked like something drawn by a writer with no architectural training whatsoever. Almost in tears I turned to a friend who is a professional mapmaker, who in an hour or two turned my tatty sketch into something I could fiddle with and mess up again. Excellent!  Here’s the upstairs plan, with guests who are mainly writers. (My four main characters, Edge, Vivian, William and Donald, are downstairs)

15 16 upstairs floor plan

Except . . . some of the action in the book happens in passageways. All that simplifying, I had removed nearly all the passageways downstairs.  I was left with the open-arch walkway around the hall, and that was IT.

This is what that walkway looks like at Kinloch Castle, by the way, which was originally a shooting lodge, hence all the deer. So was Robertson Manor, which I promise does not have exotic metalwork or a baboon-eating eagle statue, although it does have a very elderly stuffed eagle. And, since it was also once a shooting lodge, deer.  There are living ones, too, which are relevant and play a role and don’t get shot.

kinloch hall lacey pic

 

So there had to be some fairly agitated rewriting. I think the book is actually the better for it. I hope so, anyway. The countdown and link to pre-ordering will be in the next blog, which in theory (gulp) is tomorrow. Or the next day.

Help.

It’s that holiday time of year – go to the Canaries, by plane or by book #free (7th in the #whodunit series)

There are reasons why Thirteen Fourteen Maids A-Courting is not listed in the column of my books, but I shan’t bore you with those now. It’s the most recent in the series,  although Fifteen Sixteen is almost ready to start its countdown, and hasn’t many reviews and I’d really like to redress that. Tell you what, take a quick and only slightly murderous break in the Canaries this weekend,  my treat, and let us know what you think?  Can’t say fairer than that.

Click on the cover and by the miracle of modern technology you should be whisked to the Amazon closest to you. It’s a little like magic –

Most people know by now you can download an Amazon reading app for free, even if you don’t have a Kindle, but if I’m the first person to tell you, that’s two bits of good news for you today. Click on the free book, download the free app, and off to the sun with you!

thirteen fourteen kindle

Don’t forget that review. Good, bad or indifferent, you know, they all help the reading public and are appreciated by writers and readers alike.

Ta, enjoy, and don’t be a stranger

 

 

 

Back to cosy and off to the Canaries

thirteen fourteen kindleTomorrow Thirteen Fourteen Maids a-Courting sidles into the family—sidles, because it only officially joins the gang on May 1st. There was a time when I was truly organized, and had interview launches in blogs much more widely read than this one, and begged my beta readers to give me reviews (good or, gulp, bad). When I asked people buying at the introductory price to please spread the word. When I even sacrificed one of the earlier books as a freebie to whip up excitement in the series as a whole.

You can of course only do that so many times before you exhaust all your options and become too shy to ask again. I’m no longer remotely organized, and when Eleven Twelve scrambled aboard in breathless haste, making its vital Halloween date by the skin of its fangs, it did so with hardly any launch help at all. It had to make its own friends (and enemies, sadly, but it was controversial, and although I titled it appropriately, and put a warning in the Amazon blurb, and even in the book itself, I managed to shock and upset a couple of readers) with very little support from me. I am rubbish at marketing. My skills boil down to a blog or two, offering a lower price for a few days, and intermittent tweets.  Oh, and crossing my fingers.

That may be about to change at some time, as I’ve heard about a cooperative indies group which combines publishing forces. Some indies could sell bibles to atheists. Some can edit, some can illustrate, and some are a fund of good advice and experience. Gathering a good group, where the members take on each other’s books and burnish them to a brilliant shine, then work together to market them, is probably the only way to survive and grow in a flood of millions (literally millions) of books where the best are often unrecognized, the worst give us all a bad name, and some diamonds in the rough never get to shine as they could.

I’m not being coy about the name of the group, just cautious: I want to find out more before I start wholesale recommendations. I’ve heard they are extremely picky about the books they take on which sounds both promising and, of course, alarming. Perfect world, I’d want them to consider one of my books (which are brilliant) as a borderline decision, because their portfolio is that good.

Until then, I’m still paddling the indie canoe, telling you that you really, really want to buy Thirteen Fourteen and you can pre-order tonight at promotion price, buy it from tomorrow on promotion price, or wait until it goes to the usually tooth-thirteen fourteen kindlerattling full price on May 1st. It is sunny, and cheerful, and mostly far from Scotland, set as it is in Tenerife: back to cosy, while still being true to our rather alarming world: and fun. Trust me. Gamble your 99c. Pack your sun-cream. Go on holiday.

Just click on the cover.

Boo. Whatever.

I was up until 03h00 waiting for Amazon to load the new book so I could make some capital out of it being, you know, Halloween. Since I was publishing a book sub-titled, you know, the Halloween edition.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley and it only published at 08h30 this morning. Pretty sure Halloween was over for 2014 everywhere in the world by then, so that’s a lesson learned and the first and last time I try to publish on a ‘celebrity’ date. Although Three Four was published on April Fools Day, now that I think back, but perhaps there isn’t such a rush to publish on 1st April.

Anyway, here it is. For the thousands upon thousands of you who like to grab my books in their first few days, when they’re on promotion price. Don’t come whining to me if there are eleven twelve (2)oddities and glitches, that’s why they are cheap for the first few days. It used to be because I hoped to get a few friendly reviews before the new book soared to its teeth-rattling full price but that hasn’t been happening much lately. I know, I know. Those of you that do reviews have done some already, and don’t see why I need one on every single book.

WOW, am I crotchety. Blame Amazon and the 03h00 bedtime. Blame the cat for waking me at 06h30 by bringing a live bird into the bedroom. Blame the bird for being so paranoid it was 07h30 before it finally decided the window was open to the full for its benefit and not because I wanted howling Scottish gales roaring through the house.

If wishes were horses that cat’s tail would have been stood upon pretty heavily by now.