Category Archives: Wimer

Launch Day!

Today is The Day!

Both paperback and e-book versions are available on all Amazon sites (and are even linked together, after a bit of fighting with dragons), and the ebook is trickling out onto the wider distribution sites – currently available on Kobo and Indigo but not a couple of the others.

We are GO!

There is so much you could do to help make the launch successful:

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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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Galley copy giveaway

I’ve got a copy of Wimer in the flesh to give away on Goodreads – or at least, a pristine galley copy! The contest runs from 12/7/17 to 12/8/17, and is available to the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. And if you’re not in those countries and REALLY want an advance copy, and can live with my dog-eared and annotated one, drop me a line 🙂

Enter here:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/244621-sheriff-and-priest

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Reliquaries

I have been researching reliquaries at the moment – well, the current endpoint of the research is reliquaries, which are delightful! Serendipity may still take me elsewhere…
The trail led from a procedural question over the ordination of a deacon – which Wimer became, before becoming a priest – to a realisation that he would have loved the deaconate, because of its association with the Gospels, and the Deacon’s role in reading the Gospels to the people. He would also have hated the requirement to sing part of the sermon, so would have wanted to become a priest as soon as possible!
Then I moved on to his ordination as a priest, and discovered as part of the reading around that, the requirement for every Catholic altar to have within it a relic from a saint – preferably a martyr. This holds to this day, which I am amazed by.
Relics led on to reliquaries – and what lovely things some of them were! The first one I fell in love with was this beauty, made at exactly the right time. I loved its colours and vivacity first, then realised that it was made to hold relics from Thomas a’Beckett – whom Wimer could not stand. Being excommunicated twice by someone does that to you…

So of course the casket, and its relics, had to fall into his hands; and then he had to swap it somehow for a set of relics from someone he’d be comfortable with. I found this nice shape:
http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/reliquary-casket
And then discovered the right saint. Meet St Walstan, the Saxon-born patron saint of crops, healer of animals.

This is beginning to come together… I’ve now stopped trawling the web for images of reliquaries, and am off to write the scene when he discovers the right reliquary for his Priory-to-be!

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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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I love this editor…

Work gave me a prorata’d bonus this year – the amount wasn’t enough to do any of the big projects I’d like to do. Also tipping the balance was the fact that yet another agent had inhaled the query and first few pages of Wimer, and then faded into a black hole once they’d had the full manuscript. So, I blew my bonus this year an a editor.

The next issue, of course, was which one? And having chosen one, what’s the name for the kind of editing I needed? I liked the look of one recommended by, I think, Writers Village – although don’t quote me on that – and sent her an email. The response was quick, friendly, professional; she asked enough questions for us to decide that I didn’t need a copy editor, nor anyone to check the historical facts, and that she could help me.

So, I sent my baby off into the void, and contemplated my fingernails. On time, the report came back; 11 pages of carefully reasoned advice, interspersed with humour and compassion. The verdict; I can write – but the story is lacking conflict and is often from the wrong POV. These things I can fix – and I’ve never had the experience of laughing out loud whilst being clipped around the ear before!

This lady will get more of my custom:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Hilary-Johnson-Authors-Advisory-Service/135740463266239

www.hilaryjohnson.demon.co.uk

Thanks, Hilary!

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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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Things I’m looking forward to over the summer!

As well as more mundane things, like the Cosmos in my garden blooming, and having the house to myself so I can cook on my braii Every Single Day if I feel like it – I’ve got some really fun things planned over the summer!

I’m starting July off gently, with a karate training session-cum-get together on the beach, plus a couple of days’ leave just to chill in. I may get organised enough to weed the garden or start a couple of the paint projects I have in mind; or the harvest may be in, giving me access to some super countryside. I have to spend a week in Milton Keynes towards the end of the month, but that’s good – I’ll accrue enough time off in lieu to take a whole week off (note comment re harvest 🙂 )

August is headlining with the World Science Fiction Convention in London over the Bank Holiday weekend – apart from all the fun of the con, I’m attending a writer’s workshop, which should be cool too! Plus my eldest and her boyfriend are going, so I may meet them in corridors or at the bar occcasionally!

September is the Historical Novel Society’s convention, again in London this year. I hope to have Wimer polished to my current level of the art by then, and to wave him at some agents there – plus just generally have a good time.

Then October is bronze casting workshop month. I am SO looking forward to this – I can claim it as writing research, making the self-indulgence acceptable to my inner critic, and I have the BEST idea for a bracelet design to make. Assuming I can become competent enough in wax carving between now and then to actually accomplish it… but my darling artist daughter has been drawing the shapes for me, simplifying them so that even Mum can make them 😀

And throughout this, of course, is weaving my newfound pleasure in the pub, and my longstanding love of the particular bit of countryside I’m studying. A lot of joy in my life!

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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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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