Wednesday, November 11, 2015

GIRL NUMBER ONE hits Top 30 in the UK Kindle store

This is just to thank everyone for their support of my self-published novel, GIRL NUMBER ONE, and let you know that, less than eight weeks after publication, it reached number 27 in the UK Kindle store today.

I am still pinching myself, wondering if it is a dream ...

And since I appear to be rather good at selling thrillers, I have a new, dedicated website for mine:


Friday, September 25, 2015

GIRL NUMBER ONE: new fiction out this week

Girl Number One
Those who know me well will agree that, as a novelist, I am a genre-hopper. I hop from one genre to another with scant regard for market positioning, or what publishers and retailers like to call 'author branding'. This is one explanation why, despite having written several dozen novels, I am not a star in any one genre. (I will leave the other possible explanations for you to guess at on your own.) But that does not mean I would not like to be!

About a year and a half ago, while I was still knee-deep in an historical fiction series, it was suggested to me by a senior editor that I should write a contemporary thriller. A crime novel, but not a police procedural. Being a rabid fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels, I embraced the idea with enthusiasm and excitement. At last, a chance to show what I could achieve as a contemporary writer within a popular mass-market genre.

But of course it's also an over-crowded market, and the novel I produced over the next year did not appeal to the editor who first suggested it. It went through several laborious redrafts, then was sent out to other publishers. Nobody wanted it. The rejections differed as to detail but the overall message was the same. Like the three bears' porridge, it was too hot, too cold, too salty, too sweet etc. for the market.

The project was then handed back to me, with the suggestion that I should self-publish.

To say I was disappointed is grossly to understate the matter. It was a serious blow to my self-confidence as a writer, especially as I was by that stage out of contract with all my publishers. After some years in traditionally published historical fiction, that book represented my calling-card script as a contemporary writer. A calling-card that had been handed back to me by a disdainful majordomo, and the door slammed in my face.

After some time nursing my wounds - I wish I could say 'downing tequila on a desert island' but I'm not that cool - I sorted through all the rejections I had seen and picked out the main thrust of their issues. I worked out how I could rewrite the book to 'fix' it. One key change was making my main protagonist older. A simple enough change, on the face of it. But of course that involved rewriting every single page of the book, because in the process of recasting her character, her narrative voice had to change, to mature, to harden. Rather like me as a writer ...

I really wish I had not chosen to write this scary scene so late at night ...

The main differences I noted between writing GIRL NUMBER ONE (the title of my thriller) and my previous novels, mostly either historical fiction or romances, were as follows:

Pace - a contemporary thriller is fast and furious. It has to be, to deliver the requisite thrills and keep an easily distracted reader turning the page. So introspection and description take a back seat, and action comes to the fore. The verb becomes king here, the adjective and adverb have to be rooted out. Not 'I thought' or 'I saw' (I chose a first person narrator) but 'I did'. Dialogue can take the place of internal monologue, which means it has to work harder, to underline character, drop clues and turn the plot.

Tone - the narration of a contemporary thriller is terse, or at least that's how I prefer it. It's also highly self-aware. This is someone who observes everything around them, whether a trained or natural detective, constantly noticing, examining, deciphering, unravelling, understanding. And often without an excess of emotional response, as emotion tends to hamper that process. (Emotional response being the sine qua non of the romantic novel, I often found myself working at the opposite end of the narrative spectrum to my other books.)

Character - the characters in a contemporary thriller are not, in general, those you might encounter in other genres (though that rather depends on the writer). They have to be boldly drawn, sometimes even starkly and at speed, because a thriller is about action and reaction, rather than a leisurely character study. But the main protagonists also need qualities that others around them noticeably lack: massive intelligence, strength, resolve, courage, generosity, kindness, plus a few special skills. They must leap off the page without being caricatures, and linger in the reader's memory, not least because some of them may become suspects later.

Where the narrator is concerned, assuming that is your chief protagonist, we need the reader to care about that person deeply. Otherwise, there will be little reason to keep reading when he or she is put in danger. Such a character must be sympathetic and strongly-drawn enough to elicit an emotional response from the reader. By which I really mean, he or she must feel true.

Truth - a contemporary thriller should seem realistic, even more so than romantic or historical fiction, and the actions of its characters must be completely believable too, even when your plot is unlikely or even preposterous at times. So how to achieve this? In the same way as a sci-fi or fantasy novel, you have to anchor the world of your novel somewhere that feels very realistic, and therefore works to distract the reader from the unlikeliness of your plot.

In my case, I decided to follow the well-worn advice, write what you know, and achieve narrative truth that way. So I based the world of my debut thriller on the Cornish village in which I was actually living at the time of writing. I was then able to describe, with absolute accuracy and consistency, the village layout and its surrounding area, the views, the flowers in bloom at each season, the likely weather, the very feel of the air ... A bit of a cheat, perhaps, but I wanted to nail that 'truth' element of the thriller first-time-out.

Did I manage to nail it though?

The proof of the thriller is in the reading, and I hope you will give mine a shot. You can find a free sample or buy GIRL NUMBER ONE on Amazon. Digital only at the moment, with paperback POD to follow.

This blog post first appeared September 21st 2015, at 52 WAYS TO WRITE A NOVEL.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Thimblerig Books website

Since a large number of my independent titles are published under Thimblerig Books, I've set up a new website where you can find all of them under one roof, as it were.

The new site provides details for digital-only indie titles by Jane Holland, Elizabeth Moss, Beth Good and Victoria Lamb. It's still in the process of being put together, but there's enough online now to give you a sense of where I'm going with it.

Kind of a one-stop-shop for my independent books, with covers and blurbs and author details for browsers, and quick-click links through to Amazon for those who decide to buy!

At some point in the future I may decide to publish other writers under the Thimblerig Books imprint. Who knows? Meanwhile, here it is:

digital books with attitude

Monday, March 02, 2015

21 Ways To Write A Commercial Novel

I'm delighted to announce that my first non-fiction title is now available digitally. Kindle only, I'm afraid, for those who don't own Kindles, though you can access it via free Kindle apps on other devices like laptops, iPads or computers. Just go to the book page on Amazon and try to buy it - Amazon will then guide you through the process of installing one of these Kindle-reading apps on whichever device you are on.

This new book is based on my Creative Writing blog, and is called 21 WAYS TO WRITE A COMMERCIAL NOVEL. 


A 'How To Write' guide based on the first twenty-one weeks of award-winning author Victoria Lamb's 52 WAYS TO WRITE A NOVEL blog.

Bursting with up-to-date information and entertaining anecdotes from the world of writing and publishing, this guide also features helpful comments on writing from both new and established writers, including Rowan Coleman, Katie Fforde, Judy Astley, Lesley Cookman, Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Alison Morton, Elizabeth Moss and many, many others. 

A goldmine of advice for writers from an author of over twenty commercial novels, covering these general topics: 

Fake It Till You Make It
Commercial Ideas
Hooks And Teasers
How To Open Chapters
How To Close Chapters
Writing A Commercial Scene
Location, Location, Location
Writing Complex Characters
Staying Commercial
Novel Avoidance Syndrome
Writing The Commercial Synopsis
Dealing With Rejection
Other Writers
Four-Point Commercial Checklist
Changing Identities
Ten-Point Guide To The Commercial Novella
Writing Your Novel
Rowan Coleman’s Advice To New Writers