I have now written 2 adult romances. However, for one reason or another, it has taken two years between them appearing. So I thought I might put up a first chapter of Penelope’s Ghost as a foretaste of what Emily’s Ghost might be about. Both books are set on the Mornington Peninsula in Australia and overseas readers might be interested in what they also say about this environment. Both are published by Boroughs Publishing Group as eBooks and can be found on Amazon and every ebook reader,
Here is part of the opening of Penelope’s Ghost:
As I looked up at the house, a shiver ran down my spine. The tremor was small, but it was definitely there—much like a malicious waft of air or a jarring note in a piece of music.
I took a deep breath and dismissed it as nerves. It had been too long since I last applied for a job.
Across the courtyard, stairs led to a carved door surrounded by stained glass. On one side was an electronic buzzer. I pressed it. When no one answered, I pushed it again.
This time the door flew open so quickly I took a step back.
The guy on the other side was in his mid or late forties. Maybe because of his colouring, I had the impression of an older Jude Law, only not nearly as handsome, not quite as picture-perfect.
He stared at me for a good half minute as if equally startled at finding a stranger on his doorstep. “Lisa Harbinger?”
Looking at him, I felt a tingle of awareness and I had a sudden hunch that this man would be important to me. The knowledge was certain and frightening. I swallowed hard before saying uncertainly, “Mr. Prescott?”
“Yes.” His tone was abrupt. “I’m Richard Prescott. Please come inside. Hope you don’t mind being interviewed in the kitchen.”
“Course not.” I stumbled over the step. Something about his intense gaze turned me into an awkward teenager.
He led me into a huge entrance hall, the walls lined with wooden wainscoting and grey and blue flock wallpaper. A flight of stairs curled to an upper floor and a magnificent chandelier glittered like a frozen fountain. Every surface shone as if recently polished and the air smelt of lemon and lavender. It all reminded me of an old-fashioned hotel; everything seemed too large, too grandiose for ordinary people.
I followed Richard past the stairs down a narrow passage into the kitchen. Part of this room was taken up by a long table scored by decades of use and flanked with bentwood chairs, the seats covered in colourful cushions. Everything here also seemed oversized—from the double bank stove to the industrial refrigerator, long marble counters and sinks. I later was to learn of a walk-in pantry, shelves stacked with preserved fruit and vegetables, and a cellar filled with expensive and often irreplaceable wine.
It all spelt money, lots of money.
Richard gestured at a chair and waited for me to settle. “Tea or coffee?”
My throat felt as parched as after a heatwave. “Ahh… Just water, thanks.”
He filled a glass from a ceramic vat and placed it in front of me. I swallowed the contents in almost one gulp. It tasted cold and sweet.
He sat opposite me. “I’ve read your references.” His tone was abrupt. “One refers refer to you as Lisa Wall. Are you married?”
Though half expecting this, I paused before saying, “I was. I’ve now gone back to my single name.”
“Hmm.” He frowned as he thumbed the pages. I wondered if he was prejudiced against divorcées.
“I note you have no formal experience with kids.” His voice was dry. “But you have two years college, and you worked seven years in real estate.” For a second he looked puzzled. “What led you to that?”
If only I had a dollar for how often I’ve been asked that same question. I said, “During a uni vac, I took a job organising rental properties and found I was good at it.”
His eyes narrowed. “So why throw it in?”
His tone was so patronising, I was half ready to walk out. Only needing this job kept me seated. Anyway, this wasn’t the time to explain that I was sick of mean landlords and rude whiny clients, tired of prattle about an erratic real estate market—and fearful of meeting more ghosts.
I cleared my throat before saying. “I needed a fresh challenge and, anyway, I wanted to get out of the city.”
He sat back and stared at me quite openly. “So what’s your experience with kids?”
“Nothing formal,” I was forced to admit. “I used to babysit for the neighbours through high school and uni. We got on well. There was never any trouble—” My voice trailed away. But as this didn’t seem enough, I lamely added, “Kids and animals seem to like me.”
Convinced he was about to send me away, I was astonished this answer seemed to satisfy him. Possibly because it was honest. I had already concluded that he was a terrible snob—he had to be. But he could recognise truth from lie. That, at least, was in his favour.
The slight resemblance to the actor was emphasised by brown hair streaked with grey flopping over a high forehead, thick eyebrows, and the kind of dark blue eyes that catch people’s attention. Smudges under his eyes could be due to stress or maybe lack of sleep. Weathered skin told me he worked outdoors. Add to that paint-spattered jeans and a washed-out T-shirt. I glanced under the table. His boots were dusty. His nose had a slight kink as if it once was broken and that cleft chin hinted at a stubborn personality. The backs of his hands seemed strong though the fingers were long and slender, the nails slightly grimy, his right thumb covered in a bandaid. They were rough hands but sensitive. Those fingers looked as if he knew exactly where to touch—
“So”—I woke up to what he was saying—“you need to know what your duties will be.”
I almost blushed. What had I been thinking? Instead, I leaned forward to show he had my full attention.
“My brother, Thomas, and his family will be staying here over their summer vacation. The children are Mitchell and Willow, aged five and seven.”
No babies or toddlers. I hoped he doesn’t notice my shoulders subside.
“Their mother, Anna, insists on a break from childcare.” His mouth gave a slight twist as if he didn’t quite believe this. “It will be up to you to look after the children and keep them outdoors as much as possible. Think you’re up to it?”
I swallowed, still finding that piercing gaze disconcerting. “Yes.” I hoped my voice sounded firmer than I felt. “I’m sure I can. Kids like the sort of things they can do here in summer: surfing, swimming, exploring the beach. I noticed horses in your paddocks.”
His eyebrows lifted slightly as if implying, what would someone like me know about horses? “You ride?”
Hating his condescending tone, I said tersely, “I’m no expert. But yes, whenever I can find time.” I didn’t add that this was a hobby I could no longer afford.
He rubbed his chin as if remembering he’d forgotten to shave. Then he got up to refill my glass before returning to his chair. “I suppose we need to discuss wages and hours.” He cleared his throat. “As we’re offering room and food, how about—” He named a sum I considered generous. “We’re paying well as it’s a six day week. You can let us know when you want time off. That okay?”
“Sounds fine,” I assured him, though I had no idea of what conditions other nannies worked under.
He stood up. So did I. I was so close to him, I could feel the warmth of his breath. The top of my head barely reached his chin. I felt myself softening toward him, but he broke the spell, saying, “If you take this job, you need to see where you and the children will sleep.” And with that, he led me out the back door into the courtyard.
I have a number of comments I would like to send all that lovely yet unknown audience who kindly respond to my blogs. Thank for from the very bottom of my writer’s heart. You cannot believe how wonderful if it is to receive comments from all over the world. If only I could read those written in Vietnamese and/or Chinese, but alas the translation on my computer seems to be malfunctioning.
You should know that my blog has a system which erases those comments I consider irrelevant. These variably are either ads or random nonsense. What I truly don’t understand is why these senders bother. I wish they would save themselves the effort as they will never appear on my blog.
Also, please take note that sometimes the words I place on my blog are not mine but belong to another author. This information is always places at the very top of the blog so there should be no misunderstandings.
The other thing I feel I should mention that 2015 is a bad year for beginning and middle range authors. Big publishers are accepting very little and pulling in their subsidiary companies. But take heart! This has happened before, as in the 90’s a time when small companies blossomed. Swings and slides. Except now there is the added problem of so many bad books appearing on line often ‘for free’. How can anyone find you amongst that welter? I have no answer except the secret belief that good stuff will eventually survive in spite of all these drawbacks.
Back to pleasanter issues. What a thrill it would be if those people who read my blog also dipped into my books. Given you are computer literate enough to read a blog I assume you won’t mind reading a book on line. Most of my latest books are hardcopy – that is, a book with paper pages – and also can be read on line.
So in an attempt to wet your appetite I am displaying the cover and the opening of my latest adult romance: PENELOPE’S GHOST. This novel is available on Kindle and other book readers for a very, very small sum.
“Penelope’s Ghost”: www. boroughspublishinggroup.com
UNCOVERING MY SECRETS
“He fell in love with someone else,” Richard repeated thoughtfully. “Was she a friend of yours?”
It must be time to confess. What he would think of me after that, I didn’t dare consider. “Actually, she was a he. Simon fell in love with Robert and finally admitted he was gay.”
Richard’s eyebrows shot up. “Married to someone as lovely and intelligent as you? That’s almost impossible to believe.”
Lovely? Intelligent? Not knowing how to respond to these compliments I said quickly, “I think Simon always knew he was gay. Even when he married me, he was just in denial. I was too dumb to wake up to it.”
“When you did realise, how did it make you feel?”
“Angry. Miserable. Then totally stupid,” I answered. “There were so many hints, but I kept on ignoring them.” Then I dared to venture, as the atmosphere between us was definitely pulsing, “He was never interested in sex.”
His face blank, Richard turned to the next page of the book we were sharing, then another. In the pause I heard an owl hoot and the wind rustle a branch against the window.
At last he put down the book. “Never interested in sex. That mean you’re not? Let’s find out.” With this, he placed one arm around my waist and with the other hand tilted my head so I faced him. Then he carefully and delicately placed his mouth over mine.
Who? What? Where? How?
Given you have an excellent idea, and you are all ready to get started, ask yourself?
Who is your audience? Who is going to read your book?
There are almost as many possibilities as there are ideas.
(Warning: Please note that none of the guidelines I mention below are set in stone. I can always find a text which negates any rule I mention in this blog. The only thing is: you need to know these rules before you can break them.)
If you think you have a story that will suit 8 to 18 year old readers, forget it. You haven’t really given enough thought as to your audience. Even if you read this story aloud to a number of people, and they love it, it’s probably because they are charmed by your personality, intonation and gestures. But not because any publisher will accept it. You have to be more specific.
So here are a few guidelines that might be helpful. Of course you mightn’t agree with them. You don’t have to. What I write in my blog is totally idiosyncratic. But I have been coaching emerging writers for nearly 20 years, so I kind of know what I am talking about.
1. Boardbooks which have few or no words. These are aimed at babies and toddlers and forms their first reading experiences. It is a child’s first introduction to the delights of story, whether it be presented as hard copy or digital. Currently, many are turning up as apps on ipads and toddlers seem to manage this technology quite brilliantly. I think there will be a constant demand as ipads become even more popular.
2. Story picture books.
These can be aimed at new readers. The more complex are intended to be stories read aloud by an adult.
Story picture books can also appeal to older children if the topic and issues are relevant. My ‘Lame Duck Protest’ is being used as a text to discuss environmental issues by middle graders. Graphic novels can be included in the genre and these can be aimed at newer readers or young adults. The illustrations are as important in telling the story as the words. If you have an idea for a story picture book, unless you are a proven illustrator yourself, don’t give it to your friend or partner to illustrate unless that person is also a professional creator. Publishers prefer to choose their own artists. Most story picture books hang in at 600 to 800 words.
3. Short fiction/ junior novels,early chapter books.
These are often put out by educational publishers aimed at very new readers and sold in schools. Mostly these pieces are short, often no more than a 1000 words, sometimes less. The ideas, words must be simple, the sentences short and easy to read. Repetition is good. There are lists of words considered suitable that can be found on the net.
Becoming slightly more sophisticated are early chapter books. They are regarded as aimed at 7 to 9 year olds. But that definition means ‘reading age’ not actual age. As a book becomes longer and a little more complex, so does the story line and sometimes another thread or subplot can be woven into it.
4. Middle grade fiction/non fiction
This is the audience that are great readers, particularly if we can catch them before the worst of pubescence sets in. Middle grade fiction can cover just about any topic – apart from the obvious stuff you wouldn’t want your daughter or son to read. Sometimes we divide middle grade fiction into aiming at 8 to 10 year olds. The more complex a novel becomes, then 10 to 13 or 13YO. Length is usually well over 20 thousand and can reach as much as 50 though that is getting a bit long. Given length, many sub plots can be introduced.
5. Young Adult fiction/nonfiction
Again I see divisions in the genre. Many adults enjoy reading YA (think Harry Potter) because they tend to be paced very well, they definitely have a plot, and most of the padding that occurs in adult fiction has been avoided. (Do I sound nasty about some adult fiction? Three cheers for the return of the novella.) There are YA novels aimed at 13 YO readers, and YA novels I regard as ‘crossovers’ into adult fiction. There are YA ‘voices’ that would be definitely considered as adult fiction apart from the age of the protagonist.
This outline is rough, but I hope it is helpful.
In my next blog I will discuss WHAT!
Mavis Road Cover1. One of the great things about being a writer is that you can diversity into so many different areas. If you are a skilled wordsmith, you can write fiction and non-fiction; short pieces, novels and scripts. I think I have tried everything apart from ghosting and scripts for film. Be aware of your own limitations. I’m hopeless at design and even worse with technology. I work on my strengths and recommend that so do you.
2. Novel writing is like attempting a long distance swim over a cold dark choppy sea. If I don’t have strict guidelines for my first four novels I would never have known how to do it. It also forced me to remember the power of plot. Without narrative drive, you end up with beautiful but meaningless words.
3. In a way the ebook has become both a life saver and a curse. Hazel Edwards and my ‘The Business of Writing for Young People’ might be out of hardcopy print, but it is on Hazel’s website to be bought and read. My ‘Mentoring Your Memoir’ is available as both hardcopy and on line. We are now able to take books that have been long out of print and upload them as ebooks.
I have done this to the first YA novel published under my own name. ‘Mavis Road Medley’ was originally put out by Margaret Hamilton in 1991 with a grant from the Australia Council. The first print run sold out, but then this small company was taken over by a larger company and the book sank into oblivion. Unfortunately, that’s what happens to lots of books. So the blessing of ebooks is the ability to revitalize some of our hardcopy in digital format. The curse is the flood of ebooks now appearing on line, many of which, dare I say, not worth the trouble of downloading much less reading.