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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Unusual Books to Read!


Reviews often say that a novel is "gripping", "can'be put down", or "the must-read book of this year". The last comment is frequently made in March, making it a wee bit previous! On the other hand very few non-fiction books are described as "kept me on the edge of my seat", so I thought I'd draw up a list of those non-fiction books that have done just that, bearing in mind I write fiction for kids and my two favourite authors are Terry Pratchett and Bernard Cornwell.
1. Brewers Book of Phrase and Fable - A book I can read again and again and dip into constantly. Discovering the origin of otherwise well-known phrases such as "freeze the balls off a brass monkey". When war ship used round cannon balls they were mounted in pyramids for easy storage by the cannons. Under normal circumstances they would roll around,so the balls at the base were put into a mounting made of brass called a monkey to keep the pyramid stable. Unfortunately in extremely cold weather the iron cannon balls would expand and often fall off the monkey. Hence in really extreme conditions the weather could freeze the balls off the brass monkey! A book of joy to dip into and relish!
2. The Encyclopaedia of London - tells the A-Z story of London, street by street, event by event, location by location and monument by monument. This is not a history book, but a wonderfully detailed journey around the common-place sites we walk past every day and how they evolved. The story of the sewers of London is strangely fascinating and the incredible work done by Mr Basilgette who literally diverted the crap from London and the Thames and in doing so probably saved thousands of lives by reducing the instance of Cholera and other diseases. Rather perversely his ancestor by the same name has put the crap back into our lives on British TV (my personal feeling!).
3. The Biography of London (by Peter Ackroyd) - This is an amazing book and told in a way that only the great Peter Ackroyd could do it. He writes it with love and feeling and almost as a historical romance, taking us from Roman Britain to the current day and makes the city live. It's smells, the vigour all come through and the little known places that are still visible make the book fascinating. For instance in a niche in the \Bank of China is the original foundation stone that was laid commemorating the establishment of the city of London. It probably dates from Roman times, but it's now visible behind glass in the most incongruous of places.
4. The Times Concise Atlas of the World - Not exactly a page turner, but the amount of information in facts and detailed cartography is incredible, and for an author invaluable. There is only one problem and that's political, rather than geographic. The split of the Soviet Union and the renaming of African countries has made my edition redundant, except as a political history book, but the size of the pages, the colour and the sheer detail makes this book a "must".
5. The Eagle Book of Cutaways - When I was a kid, the Eagle comic was a weekly treat. Dan Dare and his sidekick Digby battled the evil green  Mekon was always on the front page and the rest was packed with  stories designed to keep a kid quiet. One weekly item I always loved was the "cutaway". This would be an incredibly detailed coloured drawing of anything from a family saloon car, to a nuclear power station, or an aircraft carrier. The artists would then take sections of the drawing out to draw in detail what actual happened inside whatever it was they'd drawn. Bearing in mind this was the 1950's and 1960's this was in the days of technology's infancy, and amazingly innovative. Looking back now I'm surprised the Men in Black suits didn't find a reason to stop the cutaways in the interest of "National Security"!
3 to 4 years ago the Eagle published the Eagle Annual of Cutaways. My wifr bought it for my birthday. Treasured!
6. Kenneth Williams Diaries - The man who had a genius for making people laugh by looking down his nose and saying "Oh, Matron!" always wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, though he knew that having played in so many Carry On films no one would take him seriously as Hamlet. The audience would be waiting for his trousers to fall down and the leading lady's bra to fly off! He became more and more morose and that, coupled with violent bowel and stomach pains led to his death. His diaries are very well written  and are far from the "Got up. Went to the loo. Boring day" variety. They actual offer a great insight into a tormented mind. One interesting snippet tells us that for many years Kenneth Williams's best friend was Gordon Jackson of The Professionals and Upstairs Downstairs fame.
7. The Train Now Departing - For anyone who hankers after the days of the steam train, this book is one for the coffee table. It's not just for anoraks and tells in fascinating detail how some of the best loved railway networks were killed in the Beaching purge and how many small railways have been resurrected and now run profitably. The maps and photographs and not just pretty, they're remarkably informative and evoke a by-gone era that many of us would like to return.....without the smoke, dust and dirt, of course!
8. A Short History of Almost Everything (by Bill Bryson) - As a foreigner Bill Bryson has carved himself a well-deserved niche as one of our greatest non-fiction writers and I'd include almost any book by him in this list. Narrowing it down to one book I had to choose his magnum opus "A Short History Of Almost Everything". The book's title is no idle boast and covers all aspects of science from fossils and geology, to nuclear energy and rocket science. It literally is the "couldn't put it down" book, but choose a long weekend when you have nothing else to do, because it is LONG. But then so is History!
9. The Guiness Book of Records - I get one every year in February, because they're usually half price then. I don't know why I do it because there can't be that many records broken in the previous 12 months to make it worthwhile. Interestingly the Guinness Book Of Records is actually in itself as the non-fiction book with the most copies sold world-wide. The perfect book for trivia geeks!
10. Dickens (by Peter Ackroyd) - I chose this for the same reason I chose Peter's Biography of London. It's extremely well researched with any and every possible fact wee presented and yet for a biography it's told as a story and you want to know what happened next to the main character.
I could have equally chosen Claire Tomalin's "Samuel Pepys", or Antonia Fraser's " Cromwell: Our Chief of Men", or even Peter Lacey's "Ford". All are excellent books and well worth reading.

There are loads of books out for people who like lists, the main one being "The Book of Lists", but I prefer what's in the list and why, rather than looking at the list itself.
I hope you have a look at some of the books I've chosen. Some are well-known, others may be more obscure, but all are great fun to read. Let me know what you think and how you get on.

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Monday, 28 May 2012

New kid on the Blog!


I have to admit I spent yesterday and today either gardening, or lying on a sun-lounger thinking about gardening, which doesn't quite come to the same thing. I did spend yesterday evening editing my latest book Trouble with Swords, but it was either that or watch the BAFTAs I think I chose wisely!

So today was a nice relaxing period enjoying the last of the summer and thinking about a writer friend of mine called Rebecca Emin whose new book When Dreams Come True was launched to great fanfares today. This isn't her first book by any means and she has a reputation writing books for 10 to 14 years old that are enjoyed by 80 year-olds and anyone in between because of the humour and pathos she puts in her work.

This is one of the early reviews:
"Charlie is forced to go stay at her Aunt's house when she falls ill and her parents aren't able to take her home. Whilst she's there she discovers a secret passageway, has a lovely time with her two friends and even gains a new skill!
When I was offered the chance to read this book, I was entering exam period at college and didn't expect to have a lot of time to read. In the same breath, I didn't expect to read it all in one sitting! It was addicting and lovely. Charlie herself is a great character, developed well.
The story was a breath of fresh air as there was no supernatual creatures causing mayhem... there were no murderous criminals... It was just a normal girl dealing with normal girl problems. I really enjoyed it and will happily read it again!
Loved it."

I must admit I haven't read it yet, but I will, partly because it's much the same age group I write for, and mostly importantly because Rebecca's reputation as a gripping writer goes before her.

When Dreams Come Trues available now on:

Saturday, 26 May 2012

It's a drought. Get the umbrellas!


The last time I can remember having the time to sit in the garden on a series of beautiful hot, cloudless days was in 1976 when the sun shone for nearly 2 months and we never thought it would rain again!. A drought was declared and I can remember my wife and I took a week's holiday in Exeter, renting a caravan overlooking a beach. We were in for a fantastic sunbathing few days!
The second night we were there it rained. And rained. And then rained some more, until we could feel the caravan moving with the torrent of water pouring through the caravan park. That day we walked up a street in Exeter to visit a friend of mine in his office and because the road was also a hill the roadway was a waterfall and no cars dared brave it.
We drove up to Barnstaple that afternoon with the rain still beating down and saw the irony of the townspeople whose water supply was rationed having to wade through minor floods to fill up water cans from street stand-pipes and water bowsers.
A couple of days beforehand the Labour government appointed Dennis Howell as Minister for Drought and he actually had one of the few really good ideas a politician has ever had. He was mulling over in his mind that the north od England is awash with water and yet the south always seems to have far too little. The idea of moving excess water to the south was no new concept, but the cost of building the infrastructure and especially buying the land to build the pipe network would have been prohibitive. Mr Howell was passing over the M4 motorway and had the incredibly intelligent idea of running the pipe on the motorway central reservation (already owned by the government) that ran from the very north of England to all parts of the South. Brilliant and exciting. The end to droughts for many years to come.
Then it rained cats and dogs and the idea faded away....
This year this is our third period of really hot weather and by the end of April drought orders were in place around the country and hosepipe bans common-place. Mr Dennis Howell could have solved the problem at a stroke though unfortunately he died in 1999. During his parliamentary career he was Minister for Drought, Minister for Floods and Minister for Snow. Clearly a Man for All Seasons!
It's a drought. Get out the umbrellas!

Friday, 25 May 2012

"Left wing vicar in sex scandal!"


Any newspaper knows that to sell itself to its target audience it has to grab their attention and it only has a couple of seconds to do it in. The headline above may be a bit over the top, but it incorporates the three topics we're always told to avoid in conversation (Politics, Religion and Sex), however put together as a headline its guaranteed to make you read on! I know...I wrote it  and even I want to find out more!

How similar then is a a book title and cover design to a newspaper headline? Does the title sell the book by grabbing the potential reader's attention in the same way? Of course it does. Some authors even have a small stock of carefully crafted titles ready for use when the appropriate story evolves...and may never use them. Others finish a novel and take weeks creating the right title. Others slap too long a title on their books and end up putting a shortened version as an addition! Take Charles Darwin who wrote a book on evolution with a title so long it almost warranted a whole page to itself. It became Origin of Species and was a winner.

Saying, or aphorisms are favourites. Agatha Christie had Ten Green Bottles (initially a far less PC title and subsequently changed twice), while Terry Pratchett has Thief of Time and Monstrous Regiment (both totally appropriate to the book content and plot. Titles like that resonate with familiarity. My own Leap of Faith is another example. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt, it's a friend and comforting. Over-familiarity breeds contempt.

An agent friend of mine told me that the title is the most important part of a book, until the author's name is printed larger than the title, at which point the writer's reputation from past releases sells the book as much as the title will. I suppose that's when an author knows he moving up the fame ranks when his, or her name increases in size. Time for the measuring tape!

Other titles speak for themselves because they incorporate the name of the hero in a series of books, "Harry Potter and the....", "Sharpe's....", "William and the....", "Famous Five....." all sell in a series of books, and it's also true that almost without exception none are out of print. New readers will always be joining the ranks of past fans.

Fortunately no one can copyright a title, so when I chose Leap of Faith for my first book in the Temporal Detective Agency series I found there were 19 books with the same title, so it's gratifying to see that it's ranked number 2 with books of that title and only beaten by Danielle Steel. Still, there's always tomorrow.
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Thursday, 24 May 2012

If it works, don't break it!


The square wheel never did take off, though its inventor insisted it would stop far more quickly than the original round version, and he was probably right. 0 to 60 might have been a problem though!
You often hear of actors who leave a successful series because "they don't want to get typecast". Never mind the regular pay cheque!
So how important is it for a writer to create a series once he, or she has found a successful formula? That's always supposing you find the formula in the first place!
Most successful authors keep the round wheel rolling: Examples.....
1. Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are unique in that within the series there are around four formulae, all of which have well-loved characters. I asked him once how difficult it was to create new DW plots after so many books and he said it was becoming easier as the characters tend to write their own plots and books now, He just puts them in situations and off they go!
2. Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books are some of the most formulaic (and best written) stories. Sharpe is sent on a mission, he makes an enemy, he meets a woman who falls madly in love with him, he has a battle, he wins, but loses the woman and walks into the sunset. It works every time and I love them!
3. Me...but I suppose one book published and another in the edit phase doesn't count as a series....yet!

All the current best-selling authors keep to a formula if it sells....agents and publishers will insist on it I suppose...though creating a new and separate wheel is a good idea to keep the creative juices flowing. JK Rowling moving on from the Harry Potter books into adult mysteries is a courageous move and she deserves every success, both in sales (not really in doubt) and from a critical audience. Strangely, people like icons to fail!

So keep the mold, keep the round wheel and don't be afraid of being a typecast actor. It pays the rent.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Blog v. Spam


Yesterday I was told by a member of a social networking site that advertising a blog site with update blog posts was equivalent to being a Spammer! Truely, this person from America really thought that. She then proceeded to reiterate her feelings on that social network site and included a link to her own blog where she'd written an article reinforcing her argument!
I rather think the irony of what she did in advertising her own blog was lost on her and the size of her own ego as self-appointed arbiter of good taste got in the way of any sense of humour, or even of any good sense at all.
As a relatively new blogger, though with something to say that hopefully will be of interest to the audience at large, rather than just to myself, I know that a new blog has to be advertised and it's audience expanded by word of mouth / keyboard, so for the past two days if I have a new blog post I've shared the link with Twitter and Facebook followers and friends. If they're interested they'll go and look. If they're not, they won't. Hardly "in your face" spammer advertising. Needless to say the person who accused me of being a spammer was not on either of those two sites. Indeed that particular site is one I joined months ago and I've seen very little usage of it since, or increase in its membership.
So...what is a spammer. Surely that's someone who sends out messages to everyone and anyone, without any form of filter and without any thought for the destination. They know their target interest audience is very tiny, so as they aren't focusing, they blitz the world and annoy a lot of people in the process. My email spam filter is full every morning offering me patent medicines that may, or may not exist, lotteries that I certainly haven't won, let alone entered, inheritances I don't qualify for, and replica fake watches I certainly don't want. That is spamming and scamming (they often go hand in hand).
A blogger has a core number of subscriber readers, is not interested in making money from the blog, but does want to entertain, or provide thought provoking ideas. Oh, and bloggers always want a bigger audience....please!
I'm a Blogger, not a Spammer.
I'd be very interested to know what other people think.
Incidentally, you can subscribe to this blog site by entering your email address in the box at the bottom of the colunn on the left of the page.
Thanks!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Interview with Richard Hardie

Publerati Publishing of America is publishing the first volume in a planned Young Adult fiction adventure ebook series called Leap of Faith, targeting readers ages 12 and up.

The Temporal Detective Agency's first case since relocating to the 21st century from Camelot involves the theft of the world's biggest diamond, the disappearance of Lord Nelson's statue from the centre of London, and a battle against a gang of ship wreckers and smugglers based in the year 1734. With the help of Sir Galahad, the Agency faces death and defeat in their first real case when they meet the evil Black Knight and the cliff where he kills his enemies... by throwing them over a cliff called the Leap of Faith.



Leap of Faith is available now at Amazon UK and Amazon US

By the end of May it will also be available on Barnes & Noble and Gardiners.

Richard has his own website at www.rhardie.com

What was the first thing you had published?
Leap of Faith is my first book published on the worldwide stage, though it did have a predecessor called A Leap of Faith that was published by a small company in New Zealand. Unfortunately, it was only available on their own website so it had very little market visibility. I have to thank Caleb Mason, CEO of Publerati Publishing in America for believing in me and taking a chance on a relative unknown.

Tell us about your proudest writing achievement.
I was an Assistant Leader in the Scout Association for 15 years and for the last 10 was very much involved with the Scout & Guide Gang Shows. I co-wrote the 2000 Millennium show and then wrote and produced the one in 2002. Writing a show for 80 people on stage and another 80 people behind scenes and front of stage was a wonderful experience.

I also managed to get Terry Pratchett to agree to be filmed being kidnapped by the cast from Ottakar’s bookshop in Salisbury. He co-wrote the scene with me and we showed it as part of the story every night. I think co-writing with Terry and having such a phenomenal success in 2002 is my proudest writing moment. Incidentally, Terry remains a friend and he appears by name in book two of the Temporal Detective Agency, which is called Trouble with Swords.
My greatest thrill has yet to come, I hope, when the Temporal Detective Agency series becomes a best-seller!

What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?
Like many authors I occasionally go off on a tangent, and need to do ruthless editing to bring the story back on track. An agent friend of mine, Sarah Manson, advised and nurtured my meagre talent (?) but the one piece of advice I’ll also hold dear is her instruction to have a piece of paper above my PC with the letters GOWTS on it. It stands for Get On With The Story and is the best advice I ever had. Other than that I give thanks for spelling checkers and for people like Sarah who help people with no expectation of a return!

Do you have a writing routine or any odd writing quirks?
When I first started writing I worked for a computer company and ran their AsiaPac sales operation. That meant (luckily) lots of Business Class flights and plenty of time to relax and write. Now I mostly work in the UK and frequently from home, so tend to take an hour at lunch time mostly to do editing. In the evening I find I’m at my most creative and will usually spend a couple of hours. Maybe more at the weekend.

Is there a special place you like to write?
I have a large study at home, equipped with chair, settee, TV, business phone, fax, stereo and coffee. More often than not, it’s also equipped with a cocker spaniel called Benji, who is threatening to be in book three of the series!

How important is it to you to plot your novels?
I love writing for Young Adults, or to put it another way, anyone from the age of 12 to 80. The plot is everything and knowing the route of the novel is critical. That comes back to GOWTS! I have to admit sometimes I don’t know what is going to happen next, though I find the characters always know. I always know the main plotline and how the story is going to end and why. The “why” of course is most important, both for me and the reader.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Terry Pratchett is a name only in my second book, but other than actual characters from history that feature in all my books, I may occasionally use the personalities of people I’ve met, but never their names. In fact Tertia’s character was very much based on someone I know.

How much of you is there in the characters you write about?
There’s nothing of me in any of my characters, either by characteristic, or name. I’m not interesting enough.

Who is your favourite author and why?
I have two favourites. Terry Pratchett has been a consistent favourite of mine and I re-read his books like old friends. His high standard has never dropped and each new book is a joy, full of humour and pathos. He found a treasure-trove in Discworld that hopefully will never end. I also love Bernard Cornwell. I’ve read all the Sharpe novels, but have to admit his Saxon series and the King Arthur books are wonderful. They’re so realistic and well researched.

What qualities do you think writers should have?
Always write for the reader, not for themselves. Persistency... rejections come all too frequently, so remain positive and remember that all the agents who wrote those rejection slips will be kicking themselves one day! Above all, always take advice and act on it if it’s good. Read out loud what you write and if it doesn’t sound perfect, then it isn’t.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m editing the sequel to Leap of Faith in the Temporal Detective Agency series. It’s called Trouble with Swords and takes the characters on an adventure trip to Camelot, ancient Rome and Egypt. We’re hoping to release it in August or September this year. I’m also part way through the third book in the series, with a working title of the Big Bang Theory. Book four’s plot is already mapped out.

Further down the line Marit Meredith and I are going to be working on a rather special celebrity chef recipe book, but more of that nearer the time. Those who read Leap of Faith will understand!

What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
Terry Pratchett gave me an excellent piece of advice when I told him I wanted to write a book. He told me to keep the day job. I have, but I still hope that one day I’ll be able to support my family by writing about the Temporal detective Agency.

Having said that, keep trying. A good author thrives on rejection. I did, and so did someone called J K Rowling!

Biography:
Richard Hardie lives near Southampton, is married with two grown-up kids and a cocker spaniel. He has mostly worked in IT sales and still does while he achieves his ambition of becoming an independent writer. He has been a leader in the Scout Association for more than 15 years, which has given him great insight into the humour and story likes of children. He has written five stage shows called “Gang Shows” for the Scout Association, which have been performed as far afield as New Zealand. Richard second book,  

Trouble with Swords will be out in the autumn.
History of a book.


They say that everyone has a book in them (whoever "they" are). The problem is getting the darned thing out and then getting it in front of a reading public.
It's also true (apparently, because someone must have counted them) that for every book that gets published over 1,500 books are written. Presumably the other 1,499 are rejected by publishers, rejected by agents, or the writer gives up before getting into the rat-race of publishing where the realities of Life take over. For years I was that man!
Anybody who read yesterday's blog posts will now know the history behind the story of Leap of Faith, the first in the Temporal Detective Agency series, but poor old Tertia and Unita, not to mention Marlene (Merlin's younger sister with the flame orange hair) nearly didn't have a life beyond my imagination and 5 nights on a stage.
Some writers start with a rough premise , then go straight to the ending and work backwards, on the basis that the end is the most important part of a book and knowing how everything finishes is more important than knowing where it starts. Others proudly say they have no idea what happens until they actually write it.and that their characters take them on the ride and dictate their own future. Perhaps both are right and maybe a superbly crafted character in a series of books (Terry Pratchett's Discworld  for example) has enough biography and background that their persona will function of their own accord.
I wrote the first few chapters of what became Leap of Faith with 2D characters from a stage show who could sing and dance a little (like Fred Astaire) but beyond the show story, I had no idea what happened next. Actually, what happened next was that I contracted with a UK agent.....one of the hardest things to do and at the time I didn't realise how lucky I was. I had visions of multiple book deals with large advances and all this to happen within a month or two. Needless to say things didn't pan out that way. I finished the book (the lady agent had signed me on the basis of what had already been completed) and then we started the painful process of rewriting, editing, deleting, shouting (mentally), until what we had left looked something  like a Temporal Detective Agency novel, except it was far too long for a YA novel and leaped around like a kangaroo on a pogo stick! Back to rewriting etc! This time whole chapters were deleted (some were my beloved babies!). After five years (!) my agent couldn't take me any further towards publication and we severed our agent / client agreement, though we still remain friend and the rules about writing I learned from her are too many to mention.
I'll mention one...GOWTS. It stands for Get On With The Story and is probably the most important rule an author can adhere to. I keep GOWTS on a Stick-It note on the top of my computer screen.
I kept writing nd homing Leap of Faith and sent it to two editing agencies who were very encouraging and made several constructive comments, but if the book was ever to be published then it would be hard graft and not luck that would get it there.
A very small e-publisher in New Zealand agreed to convert Leap of Faith into an e-format  and publish it on his own site. Hardly an Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, but it still meant it had a potential audience. I also got to know a wonderful lady called Tracey Tucker who designed a cover for me, as well as my website and blogsite. Sales were slow and meager to say the least, then a friend of mine suggested trying to work with an American agent and sell in the States. I talked to load and eventually started a dialogue with Calen Mason, the CEO of Publerati Publishing, a relatively new venture for Caleb who had been in the publishing industry at the highest level for years.
We got on...and that's an absolute must for any relationship...and after reading Leap of Faith and making some suggestions that I was more than happy with, Caleb agreed to take me under contract as my e-book publisher and traditional industry agent. Since then Tracey Tucker has revamped the cover of Leap of Faith and has joined Publerati as illustrator to give the company a uniform and recognisable brand.

They say that everyone has a book in them...and what does it take to get to market? Luck...lots of it and plenty of perseverance. They (the wonderful "they" again) say that if J K Rawling released a book with 500 blank pages called Harry Potter and the Secret Codes it would still sell 20,000,000 copies, but her first book in many ways mirrored what happened to Leap of Faith. If I can only mirror a tenth of what happened to J K Rawling after that.........

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Today's blogs


Time to take Benji, my cocker spaniel (pictures on my website) for his morning walkines. The it'll be time to donate an hour to blogging, before reading one of Marit Meredith excellent stories WIP.
Past experience might be a good topis and how it affects what you write, how you write and how you get published. Plenty of time to think about content while I chat to Benji and he throws sticks for me to fetch!
Back in a couple of hours with ....something worth reading!

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Monday, 21 May 2012

Waterstones and the Kindle


Waterstones announced this morning that they have struck a deal with Amazon to sell the Kindle in the UK. As more than 50% of books by volume are now e-books (not by sales value yet) it's a logical step for Waterstones to take, especially as they already have an e-site you can buy from.
They haven't mentioned the Kindle Fire colour version, though Amazon seem reluctant to bring it into the UK. To have a colour reader therefore probably the best is iPad, which I have to admit I use and which still allows the whisper fast single touch download from the Amazon site.
Hopefully this won't start the demise of the traditional Waterstones. It's still a wonderful experience to go book browsing, and for an author to see his or her book on the shelf, it has to be a massive thrill!

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LEAP OF FAITH - what happens next?


I originally looked on Leap of Faith as being a one-off story, but it became obvious that Tertia and Unita were not going to fade easily into the background...especially Tertia, as I may have said before. The original story was too complicated and when I'd simplified it to what Leap of Faith now is I realised I had enough material for a number (well, 4 or 5 at least) of books which would become the Temporal Detective Agency series.
Much or the plot for the second book in the series, Trouble With Swords, was already established and the book is now finished, is currently being edited and should be out in August / September under the Publerati Publishing banner.
Trouble With Swords mostly has the same core characters, but a different set of villains and takes the girls (and their new boyfriends) all over Europe trying to save the world.
The third book is provisionally called The Big Bang Theory and involves the Gunpowder Plot, while in the fourth book the Temporal Detective Agency will be going to America for the first time.
In parallel, Tertia is writing her own version of History in an encyclopedia called "Tertia's Cyclepodica" (she hates long words unless they're used for swearing) and a great friend of mine (Marit Meredith) is helping me write a cookery book based on recipes through the centuries. You'll find out the reason for the cookery book when you read Leap of Faith!
So Merl's Girls and the Temporal Detective Agency will fight many more fights and solve many more cases.

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LEAP OF FAITH.  How did it REALLY start? (part two)


Ten years ago I wrote a show for the Scouts and Guides association. It was known as a Gang Show and had been put on every 2 years with sketches, jokes and songs. I and my production team (I was also producer) wanted to make it a story that would appeal to both kids and grown-ups with up to date songs. We chose an updated Camelot theme and the plot evolved over a period of weeks. Songs were chosen, ranging from Pink Floyd to Ralph Reader (the original Gang Show producer from half a century ago!). Our one problem (blessing) was that the perfect person to play the part of Merlin was a Brownie leader and definitely a woman! There was no hiding the fact, so our Merl became a well disguised female wizard with a wardrobe of false beards and a massive crush on her king!
I always thought the story-line had the potential for a book, but it was another 9 years and multiple rewrites and plot changes before I found an agent and publisher that agreed with me.
Merlin, Arthur, Marlene (her sister), together with Unita and Tertia (Merlin's apprentice wizards and known as Merl's Girls) all made the transition to the final book, Leap of Faith, and they were joined by Sir Gawain, Sir Galahad and a host of new characters.
In Leap of Faith they become the Temporal Detective Agency and solve their first case which involves the disappearance of Nelson's statue, the theft of the biggest diamond in the world and a battle with evil ship-wreckers and smugglers.
Leap of Faith is intentionally full of humour as well as adventure and was great fun to write. Indeed as the plot matured, Unita and Tertia (especially) became more and more capable of dictating what would happen next as their personalities became more powerful. Unfortunately Tertia hasn't learned how to use a keyboard yet so I still have to type everything up!

So what happens next....?

What's it all about and how did it start? (part one)
Good question!
One dark and stormy knight! ....once upon a time Merlin had fifteen apprentices (all girls) and all given names she made up because at her ripe old age of 30 her memory wasn't what it was. As a result there was Unita (one), Douvet (two), Tertia (three), Quattra (four) etc....up to Quindecatta (fifteen). But that was far too many  to build into the story of the Temporal Detective Agency, so it quickly became Unita, Douvet and Terta. Though even Douvet melted into the background, even though I suspect she may make an appearance later in the series.
To me Merlin was always a woman (for reasons I may go into one day!) and was madly in love with Arthur, the King of the Britons. She also had a younger sister called Marlene who was frumpy, dumpy and had an amazing shock of orange / red hair. With Arthur eventually realising Merlin is the woman of his dreams and the two of them disappearing to the island of Avalon for a honeymoon the opportunity was there for Unita, Tertia and Marlene to start the Temporal Detective Agency and base it in Merlin's old cave. Rather than operate from Camelot in the 5th century they used Merlin's Time Portal to set up the center of their operation in the 21st century because the cases would be more interesting and thee toilet facilities infinitely better! They also took sir Galahad with them because he made darned good coffee and didn't charge much!

The Temporal Detective Agency was ready for its first major case!
Amazing!
Leap of Faith is now number 5 in the ranking of books with a Camelot theme. It's even beating most of the Merlin TV spin-ff books. It's even number 14 with the tag "Children Fantasy Adventure".!
I'm not sure how accurate or representative the rankings are, but Tertia and Unita and the whole Temporal Detective Agency is thrilled to bits. They also added that of course they were beating the Merlin books, because they have the real one and besides she's honeymooning with Arthur at the moment!
Can't argue with that!
Hi everyone,
What a Friday Facebook  launch party for Leap of Faith!
I was stunned at the number of people who "popped in" and wished me, Tertia and Unita the very best success. Visitors came from the UK (expected), Norway, Africa, India, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Luckily we had plenty of virtual sandwiches and make-believe Chateau Laffitte 1967 to keep everyone happy and after 8 hours the party closed at 6.00pm UK time and the celebrations began in earnest!
In the evening I looked at the Amazon rankings and Leap of Faith had leaped 250,000 places on Amazon.com and 80,000 places on Amazon.co.uk.
Massive thanks to everyone who came to the party and supported me and my two young Camelot detectives so fantastically!