I’m so topical I don’t understand why I’m not an icon

Just call me Ms Demographic, Demi for short. I’m a babyboomer, for starters. Born between 1946 and 1964, and a little fed up that my retirement age moved from nicely handy to six years further down the line.

I’m a writer of breezy novellas who, thanks to the ebook and POD revolution, could publish myself. That’s a bigger demographic than you might realize. Last time I checked there were over 13 million books out there, and I checked Amazon.com right now, as I’m typing this – in my main category, Mystery Thriller and Suspense, there were 6829 new releases in the last 30 days.  (One of them is mine, 17 18, woohoo). There are over half a million in that category alone.  I do get pretty excited about occasionally popping into the top twenty thousand writers, but the reality is that only authors consistently in the top thousand enjoy the dizzying excitement of being able to support themselves with their writing.  Still. My books pay for my holidays, and I do take a lot of those.

I’m a mature single – that’s an absolutely huge demographic – and have been on a singles website for a few years now. Research, of course,  but I take my research seriously, been there, done that, got my heart broken (okay, dented) and wrote the book(s). (Being the mature single is the demographic, writing On Meeting Mr Will Do Nicely and a couple of novels was a bit more niche.)

I was made redundant  recently, that’s a growing demographic, and for the second time.  With all those extra years to fill in before I can start living off the fat of the land with a (partial) British pension, I’m part of that other demographic, the one that thinks oi, life the way it is hasn’t really ticked all my boxes or rung all my bells, is it time to try something else?

There’s the demographic of the many, many Brits who bolt to the sun to try that something else in a warmer climate. A staggering percentage of them chose Spain. Never one to buck a trend, I found a dilapidated (i.e. affordable) townhouse in a fairly perfect white village, and decided that was it, future sorted. Sell the house in Scotland, buy the house in Spain, which is way big enough to run a couple of Airbnb options (another growing demographic) and Bob’s your uncle.

Okay, working in Spain would be challenging, since my Spanish so far consists of knowing how to order coffee, and increasingly talented in the areas of point-and-or-mime, and that’s after seven holidays in rapid succession in Spanish-speaking territories.  All I can reasonably ask of the house is that it will earn enough to pay for its own maintenance and upkeep.

No problem. Teach the Spanish to speak English. So I did a TEFL course and am currently busily gaining vital experience as a teacher through an international online agency. That’s a smaller demographic, I’ll grant you that, but it too is growing.

Demographically, I am in so many Venn diagrams that Windmills Of Your Mind is becoming my theme song. I’m a human fidget spinner.

Surely I can turn this wealth of overlapping demographics into cash terms somehow? Brexit and the dratted General Election are playing merry havoc with the pound / euro exchange rate, and I do need that rate strong to do the house-and-fix-up thing. Scotland’s will-we, won’t-we rumblings about independence has slowed the house-sales market to a crawl. Tchah!

Ideas on cashing in on my demographic potential ? Anyone? Ta.

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What makes a granny? This is not a rhetorical question, I need an answer …

What comes to mind when you hear the word Granny ?  And WHY in the name of all that’s holy is this a cross -section of what I get when I looked online for granny cartoons?  Rocking chairs, zimmer frames, grey or white hair – remember Wayne Rooney’s “granny” scandal? She was in her late forties.  Lots of grannies are. Do the math. Have a child in your early twenties,  your child pups in his / her early twenties –  don’t really need a calculator, do we?

So women with children have a reasonable chance of being a granny in their forties, a fairly good one in their fifties, almost guaranteed in their sixties:  yet all the cartoons show dear (or feisty) old ducks, Indian summer gone, winter well on its way, average age, hmm, 80?

And hey, on the subject of 80 – Sophia Loren is 80, and going on tour. The first word that sprang to my mind when I watched her being interviewed was not ‘Granny’.  I have a cousin who is roaring into her 80s. She’s tall, plays golf, skies, gardens, travels a huge amount, she’s fresh-faced and fit as a flea, you’d unhesitatingly knock 20 years and more off her age. She’s very good at being a granny, skies with the grandkids and all. Not a rocking chair in sight.

But back to the fifty-something granny – I said to a male buddy that I was looking into the granny thing and his instinctive reaction? He said he couldn’t help, he never met either of his.  He’s sixty, single, and has dated several .

It’s a sign of the times that we of potential granny age aren’t seen automatically as grannies, and I’m very happy about that, but what word would sum up the woman whose offspring has produced offspring, if they aren’t dear old ducks?

Hence my opening question. What comes to mind when you hear the word Granny? This isn’t idle wittering, I’ve challenged myself to write a ‘granny’ story but this granny – you know me by now – is not a dear old duck.  I have no idea what her grandchild is to call her.

South Africans have a lovely option with the Zulu word for grandmother, gogo, pronounced gaw-gaw,  which I will absolutely claim in real life when the role is available. It’s a bit niche, though, Zulu not being one of the world’s widely-spoken languages.

I’ll be back to worry at this question later, but for now I’ll leave you with this, because it is currently my favourite cartoon.  In fact – I know Goodreads blogs don’t always include my pics – I’m going to add it to my profile, because I really do like it.  The credit to source shows on the photo.

 

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