Archive for category Successes
Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve had an up and down journey over the past few years in my quest to see my commercial women’s fiction novels published. You can read about some of it here and here.
Now, finally, some good news: I have signed a 3-book contract with Ruby Fiction and the first book (provisionally titled The Museum of Hope, but that might change) will be out sometime next year. Ruby Fiction is the sister imprint of Choc Lit, which publishes stories with romance at the heart. Ruby Fiction publishes women’s fiction such as thrillers, saga, mystery, chick lit, historical, fantasy, etc.
Ruby Fiction and Choc Lit are different from most publishers because all submitted manuscripts are reviewed, in the first instance, by their Tasting Panel who are genuine readers. I was overjoyed when I was told that The Museum of Hope had done well with the panel and the readers felt it was a unique story.
I have been made very welcome by my fellow Ruby & Choc Lit authors within their private Facebook Group and am now looking forward to working with Ruby’s editors and sharing the finished books with you!
And a reminder: if you’re looking for Christmas stocking fillers or secret-santa presents, my latest short story collection, Hit or Miss, is now available in paperback, on Kindle and on Kobo.
Challenge yourself! Which of these short stories were competition or magazine hits and which failed to land on the right editor’s desk at the right time?
I’ve been busy with the feather duster in my Dropbox repository and have rediscovered several of my favourite short stories that missed their target. These are the stories which didn’t land on the right editor’s desk at the right time or failed to catch the imagination of a competition judge.
This exercise made me think about two things: What are the best tips or rules for short story writing? And how can I best utilize these short story ‘misses’ in this age of recycling and ‘waste not want not’?
Here are the five top short story writing tips I came up with:
1. Have only a few characters. Any more than three or four makes it difficult for the reader to get to know them in a short space of time. Make sure all their names begin with a different letter – this makes it easier for the reader to differentiate between them. Don’t give names to ‘walk-on’ characters such as the postman or policeman – this will only add to any confusion in the reader’s mind.
2. Be clear whose story it is i.e., from which character’s point of view are you telling the story. That person should have the most to gain/lose from the action. Ensure the reader becomes emotionally invested in that person.
3. Have the action take place in a short timescale. Focusing on a single moment in time works best because the story is ‘immediate’. Avoid a long buildup of backstory. If back story is essential, drop it concisely alongside the action.
4. Conflict should be at the centre of the story. The main character should be facing a dilemma or decision of some kind. This character should solve the dilemma himself rather than have it sorted out by someone else, coincidence or fate.
5. Edit! Give the story more impact by removing words like ‘very’ and ‘just’. Replace adverbs with more specific verbs, for example ‘run fast’ becomes ‘sprint’. Combine characters, for example does the heroine need two friends or will one work just as well and make the story neater?
And what’s happening to those short story ‘misses’? They are now getting their fifteen minutes of fame in Hit or Miss? 33 Coffee Break Stories. I’ve mixed the stories up with others that DID land on the right editor’s or judge’s desk at the right time, and I challenge YOU to decide which were hits and which missed their target.
It would be lovely to get the comments started on the book’s Amazon/Kobo Review pages to indicate whether or not you agreed with those editors and judges.
For the greater part of this year I’ve been working with my wonderful agent, Juliet Mushens, to get my current manuscript into tip-top condition. She is now happy with it and last week it went out into the big wide world of publishers. My fingers are firmly crossed but, as I know from my experience two years ago, there is many slip between cup and lip. I’m not saying much about the actual story except there are no murders and it’s infinitely more cheerful than Bedsit Three or The Promise.
Juliet recently re-opened to submissions if you’re currently querying agents and think she might be a good fit for you.
I’ve also continued writing occasional articles for The People’s Friend and was asked to pitch ideas this week for Christmas 2022! As I’ve said before, finding the ideas is by far the hardest part of article writing. Correction: finding ideas that haven’t already been covered in some shape or form by a magazine with such a long history is the hardest part of article writing. The good part about writing for The People’s Friend is the quick response to most pitches – I usually get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ within a week to ten days and the ‘pitch black hole’ of many publications is non-existent.
There are submission guidelines on The People’s Friend website if you fancy having a go at writing features for them.
Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners was selected by Amazon as one of November’s Kindle Deals. Amazon have discounted the book to 99p and given it a little bit of a push. So far it has sold about three times more than in October which is good! And it’s currently got orange bestseller flags in both the Amazon Electronic Publishing and Digital Media categories. But at 99p my royalty rate drops to 30% so financially I won’t make any more money, however I’m hoping the boost the Deal has given me will generate a head start for December when the price returns to normal.
If you’d like to nominate any of your books for an Amazon Deal, go to your Amazon bookshelf and click the Marketing tab along the top of the page. Scroll down to see the option to nominate your e-books. It’s free of charge and so worth a try. There’s more information on the Amazon help pages.
Now I’ll stop typing so that I can cross my fingers again!
October and November 2020 contains two big anniversaries for me.
Five years ago, on 26th October 2015, my first psychological thriller, Bedsit Three, was published in paperback and e-book format.
The book was the result of my 2013 NaNoWriMo project (after a substantial amount of re-writing and editing!) and went on to win a competition.
Michael Barton, one of the competition organisers, said, “This novel is well-constructed and well-written. But it’s also far more than that. It’s a book that elicits emotional reaction, drawing the reader into the story and placing him or her in the middle of the action page after page. Be prepared for a sleepless night, because you won’t want to put it down until you get to the end.”
The Kindle version of Bedsit Three is currently only 99p!
At the beginning of November this blog will be ten years old! And I’m in good company, fellow bloggers about the writing life, Helen Yendall and Carol Bevitt celebrated the same milestone in October. There’s lots more of you who’ve been blogging a long time too. Possibly some of you longer than ten years? Please drop your blog link and longevity in the comments – even if you’re a relative newbie. We all deserve a pat on the back.
My first, tentative post was about self-discipline for writers.
I am attempting NaNoWriMo again this November and so I may be gone some time. But don’t go away! In the middle of November I will have an interesting guest post about writing the short story synopsis – something several women’s magazines now ask for.
I’ve been beavering away on a couple of projects recently and am pleased to announce that one is now complete. Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is now available on Amazon Kindle and paperback. It brings together everything I’ve learnt about addressing an audience over the last five years.
Who should buy this book?
- Anyone who has to speak in meetings (work or otherwise), on a committee or any other group scenario such as a book club or writing group.
- Anyone who’s been asked to speak at a wedding, funeral, family party or similar occasion.
- Anyone with something to promote. That something could be a business, a favourite charity, a political or community campaign, a sports team in need of a sponsor, a club appealing for new members or anything that needs someone to pitch for publicity.
- Anyone who’d like to be paid for talking about their passion. (I receive a small fee when talking about writing to community groups).
- Anyone not included in the above. Remember those times you’ve felt awkward introducing yourself at a writers’ workshop, ‘selling’ yourself at an interview or making a complaint in a shop? There are times when we all lack confidence but being able to organise our thoughts and speak calmly makes these situations much easier.
As the title suggests, Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is aimed at those with no or very little experience of addressing an audience – that was the starting point for my journey in public speaking when I joined Sutton Coldfield Speakers Club in September 2013. The club is part of the Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) and in 2018 I represented the Midlands in the national final of the ASC Speech Competition. Back in 2013 I had no desire at all to enter a speech competition and never expected to find myself, a few years later, speaking in a competitive situation on a stage in a packed hall at the ASC Annual Conference. It’s amazing what we can achieve with a bit of encouragement, self-belief and hard work!
But far more important than the competition, several people have commented on how much more confident I’ve become in everyday life since learning to speak in public – and I think that is the real benefit to me from the last few years. I wrote Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners to minimise the fear that we all feel when asked ‘to say a few words’.
I hope it will help you grow in confidence too.
Today marks the six month anniversary of the publication of The Promise on January 28th 2018. Coincidentally, the publishers have lowered the e-book price to only 99p for a VERY limited time and also secured a Bookbub promotion to publicise the price drop.
Bookbub is a service which helps e-book readers to discover free or discounted books in their favourite genres – so if you like a bargain it’s worth signing up to their newsletter which is circulated in the UK, Canada, Australia and India. Bookbub promotions are a paid for service, open to self-published books as well as those published by large and small publishing houses. It is a competitive submission procedure and Bookbub receive far more promotion applications than can be used in the newsletter. In order to choose the featured books Bookbub considers things like reviews, sales, the cover, the formatting and other variables – so I’m excited and pleased that The Promise has been selected and is getting this coveted exposure!
If you fancy putting your own book forward for a Bookbub promotion have a look at this checklist to see what sort of thing the selectors are looking for. There is no charge to submit to Bookbub, you are only invoiced if the book is selected.
To take advantage of this less-than-half-price 99p offer on The Promise, be quick (I don’t know when the price will go back up!) and grab it from one of the following retailers:
If you’re ‘real book’ person, the cheapest place I’ve seen the book is WH Smith where it you can also do click and collect to save the delivery charge.
The results of the Words Magazine 2017 ‘Murder’ short story competition were published a few days ago. There were 139 entries and I was delighted to make the shortlist. Other writers I recognised on the list were Patsy Collins and Julia Thorley. Many congratulations to John Silver and Sharon Boothroyd for rising above us and taking first and second place respectively.
Words Magazine runs two competitions a year and the next one is now open for (free!) entry. The theme is ‘Christmas’ and the closing date is 30th June 2018. The winter weather is still fresh in our memories – so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get in a Christmas frame of mind! There is a limit of 2,000 words. First prize is £50 and second prize is £25.
Today The Promise goes out into the big wide world!
It’s been a long time coming. I signed with The Book Guild last June and since then there’s been cover designs (back and front), proof reading, a marketing meeting, sorting out a blog tour etc. etc. Lots of people have been involved in bringing The Promise to publication. As well as the lovely people at The Book Guild, there’s my writing friends who have cheered me through the whole process of blank page to finished manuscript, my husband who puts up with a wife hiding herself away with a computer (at least I’m not hiding myself away with another man!), my mum who totally believes in me, everyone who bought Bedsit Three and made me think it was worthwhile trying to write another, all the followers of this blog who let me know I am not alone in my endeavours plus everyone in my non-writing life who has asked when the next book is coming out. The dedication at the front of The Promise is to you all with very many thanks:
For all those who have helped along the way – your support continues to be invaluable.
The Promise is dark fiction and the back cover blurb reads:
Olivia has recurring nightmares about the murder of a man which took place when she was a teenager. She refuses to explain the dreams to her worried fiancé, Mark.
Petty criminal Tina is diagnosed with a terminal illness and becomes concerned for the future welfare of her younger brother, Wayne.
When Tina finds a forgotten letter from her ex-cellmate, Audrey, a promise made decades before links the two families.
But the letter also contains a sinister secret…
In the coming week I’ve got wonderful bloggers helping me get publicity for The Promise off to a flying start:
Monday 29th January – Helen Yendall’s Blog About Writing. Helen is my longtime writing buddy and fantastic womag writer.
Tuesday 30th January – Lou’s Book Blog. The lovely Lou will be shining the spotlight on The Promise.
Wednesday 31st January – Anne Harvey’s Passionate About The Past. I met Anne through my contact with the Birmingham Chapter of the RNA and we’ve helped each other along the way.
Friday 2nd February – Julia Thorley’s Life, Yoga and Other Adventures. Julia is a woman of many talents. She and I are virtual friends.
And week commencing February 5th there’ll be a 21 stop blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
Exciting times! I can now reveal the fantastic cover of my forthcoming grip-lit novel, The Promise, to be published 28th January 2018.
As yet, the back cover is not finalised but the proposed ‘blurb’ is:
A man has been stabbed. A woman is bloodstained. The nightmares have begun again for Olivia Field.
Ex-convict, Tina is terminally ill. Before she dies, the care of her younger brother must be ensured. She calls in a promise made thirty years ago in a prison cell.
Tina’s terrible blackmail demands put Olivia’s entire future and, ultimately, her freedom under threat.
“Jenkins spins a web of intrigue” – Judith Cutler
At this point I’d like to give a very grateful shout-out to two of the very few people who have read the book so far:
Womag writer, Sharon Boothroyd acted as my beta reader and gave valuable feedback on the parts of the story where what was in my head didn’t quite make it on to the page. Thank you for your patience and constructive comments, Sharon!
Prolific series crime writer, Judith Cutler read The Promise and gave me a great shout line for the front cover, ‘Jenkins spins a web of intrigue’. Thank you for making time in your busy schedule to read my book, Judith.
The Promise is now available for paperback pre-order, either from Amazon, Waterstones and other book shops or direct from The Book Guild. Why not treat yourself and get a lovely, brand new, first edition (!) paperback book through the post in the dark days of January?
Alternatively, leave me your email address and I’ll send you a reminder about the publication date in January and let you know when the e-book editions become available (should be the new year too).
And if any of you bloggers out there would be willing to host a guest post/interview spot around January 28th or into February 2018 please get in touch. I would be grateful for any help with publicity! I can be emailed at sallysjenkins ‘at’ btinternet.com (replace ‘at’ with @).
Thank you all for sticking with me over the years.
Back in May I went on a day course in London run by the very successful Joanna Penn and Orna Ross entitled How to Make a Living (and a Life) from Writing.
We covered lots of topics to do with writing, publishing, money, income streams etc and I came away inspired. Needless to say, these things take time and I’m not yet (!) making a living from writing. However, I wanted to tell you about one very simple but motivating exercise that we did.
At the end of the day each course participant was given a sheet of paper and asked to note down their writing goals for the next three months. We were also given a stamped envelope, asked to address it to ourselves and put our sheet of writing goals inside. Joanna and Orna collected the envelopes, stored them for three months and then posted them.
My list of goals arrived through the letterbox a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t remember exactly what targets I’d set myself (they’d been written at the end of a long day when I was full of enthusiasm for everything I’d just learned) so I was prepared to see a list of over-ambitious stuff I hadn’t done. But there was a nice surprise – all three goals had been achieved:
- Started the publishing process for my second grip-lit novel, The Promise. At the time I wrote this goal the novel was under consideration by The Book Guild and I’d decided that if they turned it down I would embark on the self-publishing route rather than join the masses knocking at every agent’s door. Happily, The Book Guild felt The Promise had commercial potential and I’ve now seen the cover (it will be revealed it in a later post), had a lovely endorsement by crime writer Judith Cutler and had the typeset proofs. Publication day is 28th January 2018!
- Create a boxed set of my three short story collections in e-book and paperback format. Done and blogged about. The proof (should you need it) is on Amazon and Kobo in the form of A Coffee Break Story Collection : 36 Short Stories
- Update Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners to reflect the lessons learned as I created the paperback version of the boxed set and also to include other changes in KDP since I’d last updated the book. A tick for that one as well! The updated book is now available.
Last weekend I exchanged my next set of goals with my writing buddy, Helen Yendall (we managed to talk writing for 4 hours – can you believe that?!) and we’ll meet again in November to see how we did.
Do you make goals? How do you make yourself accountable?