Category Archives: Henry

An interview

When did you first start writing?
Well, I’ve always been a story teller, as far back as I can remember. Poetry has, from time to time, forced its way out through me too. But I first started writing my historical fiction as a result of my archaeology hobby. You see, I’d found this previously undiscovered Priory, which led me into relearning Latin, so I could read charters and documents written at the end of the 12th century, and figure out what was going on. Then this man called Wimer kept popping up, and his life-story became so compelling that I had to put it in book form. The Henry stories started when I was letting Wimer incubate between edits – I had a full-scale writing habit by then, and a void!
What are you working on next?
I’m working on the Wimer successor novel at the moment, where Wimer’s adopted son Jean takes on the might of the 13th Century establishment, to stop them killing the Priory that Wimer built. He also discovers along the way that he wasn’t meant for a vow of celibacy…
Then Henry is still demanding attention too, with the third volume of 3 stories due out. I shall try and save the next batch of stories until I’ve finished Jean’s novel, but Henry can be very insistent!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love the first draft, and the first edit, best. The first draft, because that’s when you find out what’s really going on in the story, and how far out your plot was – in my current story, I had a whole extra character elbow her way in! Then when the raw material is complete on the page, the first edit allows you to see how much better it could be, and to start shaping it into something finer.
What is your writing process?
I’m still developing my writing process. It is, of course, informed by a half-century of reading anything I could lay my hands on. I was surprised how classical a structure Wimer had, because I’d completely written that by the seat of my pants; Jean has been plotted, sort-of by the Snowflake method. I’m enjoying the challenge of that; I think I may continue to use that method for subsequent books as I’m learning this writing craft, because it gives me rules that support me whilst I’m learning and practicing nuance.
I use both copy and content editors, after I’ve had 4 or 5 passes through it myself!
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I’m not writing, I’m either working (as a business improvement consultant, what a contrast to my other loves!), or doing something archaeological or historical. I’m working on a metal-detector survey of an 1,000 acre estate in Suffolk, plotting finds on a map so the data can be cut by time, by material, or by use; a fascinating project. You wouldn’t believe how much time I invest in finding stuff, washing it, reporting it to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, plotting it, doing show-and-tells to my landowners, researching finds… at least I’ve discovered that I can dictate into a little USB recorder that I sling round my neck, so I can write at the same time!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I can remember being absolutely furious with my mother, because she tried to shorten a bed-time story. I wasn’t having any of that! I wanted full measure in my stories! I must have been around 2.
What do your fans mean to you?
My Henry fans are very opinionated, and I love them 😀 There’s nothing like a 7 year old describing in detail what he wants to read about next, to make writing worthwhile! That is, incidentally, another reason to self-publish – feeding that direct demand. If I went trad, that 7yo would be a different person by the time his request was published.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I got fed up with agent after agent telling me my historical novels were good, but they’d just published something mediaeval… or it didn’t quite fit their list… or-or-or. If I knew what I was in for, I might have continued to send out query letters – the marketing is a real learning curve! But the Henry stories – written for around the 6-9 age range – are simple to produce, and I can get them into peoples’ hands very quickly and cheaply.
How do you approach cover design?
I am very lucky in that my elder daughter is a fantastic and professional artist, and is happy (for a suitable bribe) to do all my Henry covers.
I used a service called 99designs.co.uk for the Sheriff and Priest cover. I was very impressed indeed with the quality and range of covers on offer, and I’ll likely use the service again. The end result feels well worth the price paid.
Who are your support people?
I’ve already mentioned that my eldest daughter does my artwork, but my youngest daughter is crucial to Henry’s success too – she’s my editor in chief. I read each story out to her, and she somehow holds it in her head as a whole, and suggests tweaks, or different word choices – she’s good!
I also have a circle of friends who are my cheering section, and who are my alpha readers for the historical novels. These are people who are good enough friends to say “this bit stinks”!
Describe your desk
My desk is archaeological in nature – I think it’s pale wood, but I’m not sure, there’s too much stuff piled on it! That may be why I generally write in the lounge, on my laptop, to my favourite music; or on one of the notebooks I have in every handbag and pocket.
Who are your favorite authors?
I am in awe of authors like Hilary Mantel, Sherri Tepper, and Lois McMaster Bujold, all of whom are writing way above a level I can achieve at the moment. I’m trying to read their books to figure out how they’re doing it, but it’s taking a long time, because I keep getting sucked in!
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Writing Henry – getting the covers spot-on!

It occurred to me that people might be interested in the process I use to write these childrens’ stories, which are very different to writing either stories or novels for adults. In the first of this mini-series, I introduced you to Henry. The second talked about the inspiration for the stories. The third discussed story structure, and some of the mechanics of getting the stories to work. In this last post in the series, my daughter – a professional artist, who does all the covers – talks about her process.

Fi11Nov2014Fi says:

“My mum is the best client ever. This, however you may beg to differ, is not bias. It’s not because she’ll still love me if I miss deadlines (my services come with a certain amount of inbuilt procrastination) or because the content is easily achievable (it varies, and I’m never against dinosaur reference researching when unaccountably she doesn’t have a full topical lecture prepared with slides) but because she knows what she wants.
  This simple aspect derived from her process of storytelling, means that when she skypes me, or we’re face to face (either at home or on rare and happy occasions beer festivals) I get a clear understanding almost straight away of what is needed from the image and how it fits in around the other covers she wants from me. I am completely spoiled. It’s wonderful.
  Take one of the latest books for example (check them all out, they’re awesome *shameless plugging*). We sit down. I sip my mead, then open my sketchbook and grab my trusty black biro. ‘I want a Viking’ she says ‘a proper one, without the horned helmet. Did you know that there’s no evidence of them wearing them? Depictions around the 8th to 11th centuries had them bare headed or with simple helmets.’ This continues for a little while, ‘he needs to look confused please, as well.’ During this dialogue I am happily sketching away, I like vikings. They remind me visually of Tolkein’s dwarves and I’m drawing an expansive beard and a comically confused expression. Even, after 5 minutes of Viking hat history, adding a helmet because after receiving all that new information. Yes, he will have one. Without the horns.
  From this meeting it becomes fairly straight forward, she’s approved my preliminary sketches of this character, we have been over two other book covers in the same session. I’ve justified my composition choices and we’ve oohed and ahhed over what the primary background color should be (the books are sold in threes so some visual tying together is nice). I go home, rosey, and sit down before my computer and my graphics tablet.
  My first job is to upload my preliminary sketch to the computer, I do usually like to get a rough one down first using pen and paper. It feels a lot easier to me, in a digital format mistakes are too easy to undo, this takes away from the end quality which keeps a lot of its original charm from those first imperfections.
  I settle into photoshop now, drawing over the sketch on different layers. The colours are blocked in and the hair layer kept separate from the clothes layer, for example. Once these first steps are done I add in the agreed background colour, this might be the first time I use the primary brush of these covers. A chalk brush gives a great amount of texture, I like the soft effect that can be achieved.
  Shading is completed throughout the picture, then the colours adjusted so they look good next to each other and as a whole. At this point the original sketch has vanished, so I dig it up again and make sure I haven’t strayed too far.
  I add the familiar ‘Henry Baker’ to the bottom then Skype my mum. At this point in the process the image is usually (in my mind, unless I’m stuck and actively looking for guidance) 75% done. She has been known at this point to declare them finished and grab them for final text addage. I find this slightly stressful. I’m looking for feedback and changes! But the customer is, in this case, right as she is happy. I then simply save the image as a jpeg in the highest quality setting and sit back. Trying really very hard to not look too closely at the picture again, the urge to tweak is deadly and ever looming.
Onto the next cover. “
See why I love my darling daughter so much, not only for her sweet self, but as a co-creator? She listens to my random history outbursts without compaining! (much.). She takes my ramblings and draws EXACTLY what I wanted, much, much better than anything I had in my head. She puts up with me nagging her at increasingly frantic intervals, as my arbitrary self-imposed publication deadlines approach. And she still comes home to visit 😀

The first three Henry stories have been available for some time, either as a bundled paperback, or as individual electronic stories. The next three have just been released, with three more planned early in 2015.

The stories are:

Book 1

Henry and the Necklace – In which Henry meets a surprisingly large elephant.

Henry and the Magic Teapot – Henry tries to give his Nan a present – but she is not happy with the results!

Henry and the Football Boots – Henry has to choose between being brilliant at football, or hurting his friend.

Book 2

Henry and the Viking – a trip to the museum has some interesting consequences.

Henry and the Dinosaur – Henry’s brother Mike creates a big problem!

Henry and the Bird Bath – Henry swears never to try karate again…

They are all on my Amazon page: UK and US

As a bonus, I’m recording Henry and the Football Boots, and will be giving that recording away.

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Connect with me online:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/moxeyns

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https://www.facebook.com/pages/Henry-and-the-Magic-Pencil/542341045784909 (Henry)

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Writing Henry – getting the words right.

It occurred to me that people might be interested in the process I use to write these childrens’ stories, which are very different to writing either stories or novels for adults. In the first of this mini-series, I introduced you to Henry. The second talked about the inspiration for the stories. Now I’d like to talk about getting the structure and mechanics of the story right.

I know the bones, by now; the story needs to be somewhere around the 3,000 word mark, with a reasonably classic story arc – set-up; crisis; committment; mid-point; action; result; close-down. Generally, I’ll want a scene break or two in there at or around some of those points, so I can skip boring bits of time and move the action on. However, there is one huge, looming problem, that I have to bear in mind right at the start.

These stories are aimed at an independent but not very confident reader. Ideally, I’d like to stick to the frequently-used word list for the UK Key Stage 2 – readers up to age 10. However, this list is appallingly short and narrow in scope. I don’t think either “football” or “boots” are on it, from memory – let alone “elephant”! So, I have to keep the words to ones that can be easily sounded out, or worked out from context.

However, I refuse to dumb down the story!

So, the process generally goes;

– write the first draft, often on paper, getting the feel for the story. (Start talking to my elder daughter about the art work. She’s a brilliant artist, and I love what she’s done / is doing with the Henry covers.)

– Typed up into Word, and edited for structure.viking wordle

– edited for story flow.

– put into wordle and edited for word overuse. Wordle is a seriously useful tool!

– read out loud – for story flow and rythm.

– Given to my younger daughter to read, as lead beta reader – she’s severely dyslexic; if she can cope – and enjoys the story – it’s on the right lines. Pass the story out to other beta readers. Give Elder Daughter a deadline date for the artwork.

– Final edit & polish.

– Fight my way through the compiling jungle, and publish the story as an e-book and as part of a paperwork bundle.

I remembered to look at the stats that Word gives me, when I’d finished Henry and the Viking – apparently I took 10,111 minutes to write it! I feel a bit binary about that 😀 But that’s not far off, I guess; 160 hours or so, 20 working days, call it about 3 months elapsed time given that I write these on a very part-time basis, hours stolen from the day job and my historical novels.

The first three Henry stories have been available for some time, either as a bundled paperback, or as individual electronic stories. The next three are due for imminent release, with three more planned early in 2015.

The stories are:

Book 1

Henry and the Necklace – In which Henry meets a surprisingly large elephant.

Henry and the Magic Teapot – Henry tries to give his Nan a present – but she is not happy with the results!

Henry and the Football Boots – Henry has to choose between being brilliant at football, or hurting his friend.

Book 2

Henry and the Viking – a trip to the museum has some interesting consequences.

Henry and the Dinosaur – Henry’s brother Mike creates a big problem!

Henry and the Bird Bath – Henry swears never to try karate again…

They are all on my Amazon page: UK and US

As a bonus, I’m recording Henry and the Football Boots, and will be giving that away during the next release.

Sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/9xPxv

Connect with me online:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/moxeyns

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nicky.moxey (Nicky)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Henry-and-the-Magic-Pencil/542341045784909 (Henry)

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Writing Henry – where the stories come from

It occurred to me that people might be interested in the process I use to write these childrens’ stories, which are very different to writing either stories or novels for adults. In the first of this mini-series, I introduced you to Henry. Now I’d like to talk about where the stories come from.

The inspiration for them comes from many sources.

Football Boots was the result of overhearing a conversation between two boys on a train; they were clearly deadly sporting rivals, but were being very gentlemanly about it. I liked that their friendship took first place.

The Necklace in question was a gift from one of my daughters. It stands about a centimetre high, made of some ebony-black South East Asian wood, bound in silver chains. It looks very real. I live in a rural village, with horses up and down my road all the time, often leaving behind free manure. The thought of the pile of poo an elephant would leave – and one of my neighbours leaping on it, for their roses – was the clinching image…

I’m not sure where the idea for either the Teapot or the Dinosaur came from. Those stories just emerged fully formed! I do have a Brown Betty teapot, just the shape and colour of the one in the story, though.

The Bird Bath evolved from my own love of karate. I’ve been doing it for quite a few years now, and am becoming vaguely competent, at least – but I also love watching the joy that youngsters take from doing the flashy stuff! I have, embarrassingly, messed up a kick just like Henry did, luckily with no bad consequences!

I was lucky enough to see the Viking exhibition at the British Museum in London over the summer. I knew I wanted to write about a Viking artefact; but initially, it was the tiny Valkyrie statue that caught my imagination. No story was coming, though – usually a sign that I’m barking up the wrong tree! I went Googling for her picture, to try and kick-start her imagination, with a rubbish search term – just “Viking artefact”. From the page of images, two leapt out at me – and I knew I had both the item in my story that Henry draws, and the Viking who had to be in it too.
0a06c-vikingfigureheadsnorri

The first three Henry stories have been available for some time, either as a bundled paperback, or as individual electronic stories. The next three are due for imminent release, with three more planned early in 2015.

The stories are:
Book 1
Henry and the Necklace – In which Henry meets a surprisingly large elephant.
Henry and the Magic Teapot – Henry tries to give his Nan a present – but she is not happy with the results!
Henry and the Football Boots – Henry has to choose between being brilliant at football, or hurting his friend.
Book 2
Henry and the Viking – a trip to the museum has some interesting consequences.
Henry and the Dinosaur – Henry’s brother Mike creates a big problem!
Henry and the Bird Bath – Henry swears never to try karate again…
They are all on my Amazon page: UK and US

As a bonus, I’m recording Henry and the Football Boots, and will be giving that away during the next release.
Sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/9xPxv
Connect with me online:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/moxeyns
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nicky.moxey (Nicky)
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Henry-and-the-Magic-Pencil/542341045784909 (Henry)

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Writing Henry – a bit about him

It occurred to me that people might be interested in the process I use to write these childrens’ stories, which are very different to writing either stories or novels for adults. First, I’d like to introduce you to Henry!
In my head Henry’s a slightly scruffy small boy, maybe 8 or 9, living in a very ordinary house in a small town in England. His family – mother, father, older brother, and grandmother – is very important to him, as are his school friends. Henry’s not at the top of the class, but he’s not thick either; he bumbles along somewhere in the middle of things, trying his best, and generally getting on quite well with the world.
He might be one of these lads…

Credit: joebackward on Flickr, under a Creative Commons license

Credit: joebackward on Flickr, under a Creative Commons license

The person I’m writing for is someone who’s not a very confident reader, who’s not into the high drama of, say, the Northern Lights, and would never have the courage to pick up something as thick as a Harry Potter book. This person wants something close to home, something they can relate to, and something that’s not too long!

Alternatively, the books appeal to a wider audience as bedtime stories. At around the 3,000 word mark, they’re an appealing length, delivering a complete story in a reasonable time; or the reader can choose to stop at break points. Each story has at least a couple.

The first three Henry stories have been available for some time, either as a bundled paperback, or as individual electronic stories. The next three are due for imminent release, with three more planned early in 2015.

The stories are:
Book 1
Henry and the Necklace – In which Henry meets a surprisingly large elephant.
Henry and the Magic Teapot – Henry tries to give his Nan a present – but she is not happy with the results!
Henry and the Football Boots – Henry has to choose between being brilliant at football, or hurting his friend.
Book 2
Henry and the Viking – a trip to the museum has some interesting consequences.
Henry and the Dinosaur – Henry’s brother Mike creates a big problem!
Henry and the Bird Bath – Henry swears never to try karate again…
They are all on my Amazon page: UK and US

As a bonus, I’m recording Henry and the Football Boots, and will be giving that away during the next release.
Sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/9xPxv
Connect with me online:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/moxeyns
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nicky.moxey (Nicky)
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Henry-and-the-Magic-Pencil/542341045784909 (Henry)

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Viking eye candy!

I have been having a lovely time researching images for the next thing that Henry draws with his magic pencil – it’s going to be a scale model of a Viking ship prow, which gets him into all kinds of trouble!

I’d like to share some of the amazing things I stumbled across today, but I don’t know the copyright owners for any of them – the perils of Google Image-ing! So here are a collection of links; I hope you enjoy the images at the end of them.

A wonderfully engraved axe – I saw this at the British Museum expo, and it was outstanding. Not a prow, though!

Now THIS is a prow! How evil is this! Too creepy, though, it would give Henry nightmares.

These are cool, and so is this and this; but all a bit complicated for my lad to draw.

This is doable – but he’s trying to stay away from things that might bite 🙂

Now this beastie really, really wants to be chosen – its image kept on popping up. It’s cute, and sad – but maybe too complicated; I might go with this or this instead.

And this is the trouble that will show up 😀 His name is Snorri Snorrisen.

This is the last story to be completed of the next book, which should be ready to release just after Christmas.

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I hope you enjoy my books as much as I loved writing them! Here’s my Amazon page.

If you’d like to know more about my writing, you can sign up for my newsletter.

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Filed under Detecting, Henry, History

Castling

I have been on holiday this week, mostly to celebrate the close of the shooting season and the consequent opening of the archaeology season (Yay! The Glorious 2nd!). Not, to be fair, that I have lacked archaeology over this winter. Anyway, Saturday – the last day of the shoot – was a glorious day, and I decided to get well out of the way, and visit Framlingham and Orford castles.

Orford I have visited several times whilst researching Wimer, but I have been sniffy about Framlingham, because what remains is later than I’ve been interested in. However, the Wimer sequel is in the right timeframe, so I decided to go along; then to drive from Framlingham to Orford, a direct trip I haven’t made before.

Visiting Framlingham was useful for scale, and for viewpoints. The encircling ditches were never filled with water, being a dry route for soldiers to move unseen around the perimeter; I wouldn’t have known that without visiting. Also, the River Ore forms a large mere on the North side – I think that was a conceit of the Howards, centuries later, but when I was there the whole river valley was flooded; I think, in the same weather conditions, it would have been just as defensive in 1216, when John attacked the castle. They surrendered after two days – Roger Bigod was away; I bet he swore!

FramlinghamI am left with a puzzle, though. Henry II had Hugh Bigod’s motte and bailey at Framlingham destroyed, after the Young King rebellions in the 1170s. However, the English Heritage people were insistent that the stone chimneys visible in the curtain wall of the 13th C castle were remnants of the earlier castle – in fact, of the Lord’s chambers. How, if the motte was demolished? There’s no sign of it now.

They also suggested that the castle’s orientation has flipped 180 degrees, with Hugh’s castle oriented South, and his son Roger’s, to the North. Here’s a sketch, using Google Maps.

There were some interesting facts on how the castle was provisioned; in 1386 the dovecote produced 431 pigeons, and there were a team of falconers employed to fish from the mere!

I also loved the drive between Fram and Orford, through Parham, Campsea Ashe, and Tunstall. I indulged my church bent, and went into them all 🙂 Something I hadn’t realised is that the route runs alongside the River Ore – now not much more than a stream, but was it bigger then? Even navigable, or suitable for poling a boat up? The other major impression was how dark and huge Tunstall Forest is, even now. The river route might have been much safer!

Finally I had a nice visit with my favourite castle in the world, Orford. I had Wimer’s chapel to myself in the evening sunshine, and it was such a pleasant place to sit and write. I remembered to count this time; there were 12 seats in the chapel, another numerological reference! And I confirmed another hunch – Wimer’s bedroom is the only one in the castle with a private loo, he really did have a thing about them 😀

A most enjoyable outing.

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I hope you enjoy my books as much as I loved writing them! Here’s my Amazon page.

If you’d like to know more about my writing, you can sign up for my newsletter.

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Filed under Henry, History, Wimer