Saturday, 23 November 2019

Going back to move forwards

Sounds like the title of a film, doesn’t it? However, this blog is not about a movie. It is about changing habits in a way, but is why sometimes you have to change them back.
As anybody who follows me on Facebook or Twitter will know, I have had severe difficulties using the dictation app that comes as standard with Apple. Unfortunately, Apple decided that they could no longer allow Nuance to access their software, which meant that Apple users could not use Dragon Naturally Speaking. This would not have been such a problem had the Apple integral dictation software been programmed to learn its users’ vocabulary or to learn from its mistakes, in other words, the user having the ability to tell it how to spell a word.
Neither of these two things happens and that means that the software is fatally flawed for everyone except bloggers or people who dictate emails - things that are quick to edit. In other words, millions of writers cannot use it efficiently because it makes far too many errors. For somebody like me who writes 100,000 word books, the Apple dictation software is useless.
Therefore, I have decided with much thought and a lot of regret that my increasing problems with arthritis mean I must go back to a Windows machine so that I can continue to produce my books by dictating them. This decision is solely down to Apple’s inability to realise that some users need a good quality, dependable, dictation system that learns with its user. My husband is therefore going to build me a new computer. 
The other thing to which I am returning and that is already resulting in a huge increase in my writing productivity, is to revert to my original method of writing. In other words, using the writing method that worked for me so successfully when I penned The Tudor Enigma.
All writers want to learn new things, try new things, but over the past four years, I became too focussed on other people’s methods of writing and plotting. I learned about inciting incidents, thwarts, character flaws and pacing – other people’s pacing. And, to be completely honest, writing lost much of its charm and became something of a chore. 
I have writing friends who plot every little detail of a book before they begin writing it. Jeffery Deaver allegedly writes 40,000 word preparations before he writes a word of the book he is planning. I have other friends who sit down with an idea of some characters and write the book by the seat of their pants.

My instinctive method, before I became bogged down trying other people’s, is what I call the roadmap method and it is a mixture of the plotter and the pantser. Since I live in the UK, I will use the UK roadmap to illustrate what I mean. Let us say I plan to journey from the Isle of Wight to Newcastle. The Isle of Wight is the beginning of my book. I know what my beginning is, who my main characters are. I know the basic plot and several events that must happen during the course of the book. To continue the metaphor, logic dictates my route needs to involve a passing acquaintance with London, Peterborough, Leeds and York (the events) before it ends up in Newcastle, which is the end of the book. However, since I write crime, I reserve the right to suddenly make tangential moves to Birmingham and the Lake District before heading up to Edinburgh and then circling back down to Newcastle. 
I do not plot the tangential moves, they happen as I write. Quite suddenly, one character will do something I hadn’t planned. For instance in my current book, a character made a sudden declaration of love to my main character that took both of us by surprise. It is akin to having booked a hotel in York and finding yourself in Liverpool. You have to rethink what is going on. 
Usually, I have found these tangential unexpected moves to be beneficial to the book. And it is instances like this that make me love writing and are things that could never happen when every little detail is planned in advance. Going back has reinvigorated my writing and my
passion for writing.  
     When I have finished this first draft, I will return to this year’s Georgia Pattison Christmas novella, While Shepherds Watched and edit that ready for publication before the festive season. I hope to have my current work in progress, working title Keeping Secrets out in spring 2020.

You can read more about me and my books here:

Monday, 21 October 2019

Why write and why write crime?

I had my nails done last week. Now I have moved house to a centre of civilisation, I can easily access a nail salon that does acrylic nails. However, that is not the subject of this blog. During the nail appointment, my technician asked what made me want to write and what made me want to write crime.

For a few moments, I was completely stuck and gave a pathetic answer about loving puzzles and having a weird mind. But it made me think. A lot. So, what is the answer, what made me want to start writing anything, but why crime in particular?

Parents always influence a child, sometimes not in a good way. My mother loved reading crime and she loved reading history. Both of those loves, she bequeathed to me. She had a wonderful grasp of what-if? That’s the good bit. She also became obsessed with the Moors Murders: I suppose because one of the victims was the same age as me. She kept a tight grip on my freedom after that, which sometimes made life difficult but developed my devious mindset. In retrospect, that is perfect soil in which to nurture a crime writer. I was always good at essays at school and had what one of my teachers called an over-active imagination. Brilliant for a writer, but Miss Dunning didn’t know that.

The physical act of writing I have always loved. And pens. From an early age. I remember being about 10 and buying a new fountain pen ready for exams. I have an impressive collection of fountain pens now and different coloured inks. They are useful in ways I never imagined.

Although these days, I write directly onto the computer, there are some occasions when I switch desks – yes, I have two. The one for working out plot complications is an old pedestal desk, set across the French doors in my office, looking out over the garden. (And before you ask, there are so few occasions I would need the doors open, it makes sense to take advantage of being able to see the garden.) If I am stuck on a plot point or overcoming a piece of evidence that need negating, I might use several different pens and different coloured inks to work through the problem. I used to think I was weird because of that, but there are more than a few writers who do the same.

Does that answer the question why crime? It is the puzzle, I think. I’m not one for crosswords but give me a situation that requires an answer and I will sit and try and work out the solution. A writing friend of mine, wrote a mangled word the other day in error and only when she read back what she had written did she come across it. And couldn’t work out what she had meant to say, so she posted it on Facebook. I spent about two hours trying to work out what that word could be. Was it one word or two? Had she shifted her hands across from the home keys to one key either side? I never asked for the context, but at the last communication, she still had no idea what she had meant to write. And neither did I. But trying was fun. I like to make the puzzles in my books as convoluted as is feasible and, for me, that is more than half the fun. 

In marrying my love of music and singing, it was a logical progression to write the Georgia Pattison Mysteries and, for readers who might be interested, I always include links to the music mentioned in the books. Georgia always has a Christmas adventure and this year is no different. While Shepherds Watched will be available in mid-December

And history? Again, it was a logical progression to mix that with crime and adding a bit of magic led to The Tudor Enigma books. Now I have ventured further back and hope to have Loyalty in Conflict, the first of the Gideon Rooke Chronicles, set in the Wars of the Roses, available early in 2020.

Have I answered the question? Not sure, but I hope you will have a clearer idea of why I write.

You can read more about April Taylor here:

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Want to meet an amazing man...?

Seumas Gallacher is an amazing man. He was Blogger of the Year in 2013 and has an eye-watering number of followers. I met him - once - and he is warm, welcoming and gives you his entire attention. He has what used to be called the ‘common touch’ and it is clear this stems from the fact he is interested in people. When I heard he had written his autobiography Strangely, I’m still here, I wondered why the title included the word ‘strangely’. When I read the book, I discovered why. 

Seumas is very open about his, now defunct, relationship with alcohol. He is not quite as open about having to travel around parts of the Far East in a bullet-proof car with two armed bodyguards in constant attendance, but you certainly get the picture of a very genuine human being who hates bullies, is endlessly supportive of fellow writers and who repays good fortune in his own life by paying it forward to others whenever he can. 

It is also a life story where I cried, giggled and laughed so hard I was unable to read the relevant paragraphs aloud to my husband. I also winced a few times, especially the part when, as a child, Seumas was outraged about treatment of a friend of his at the hands of two bigger boys. 

He is very upfront about saying that he isn’t telling you his story warts ’n all and that is fine with me because although I am interested in somebody’s life enough to want to read their story, it is very right and proper that some things are kept private. However, there were some things I felt needed further explanation, so I asked a few questions. Read on. 

Q : In the book you show a Puckish sense of humour. Where did it come from or was it a bequest from one of your parents?

A : Humour is in the Glasgow DNA – I think it derives from the history of the large influx of Irish and other immigrants in the 19thcentury – my comedic God is Billy Connolly, who tells stories with wit and humour, rather than jokes per se. Dark, gallows humour is also strong in Govan and other districts of Glasgow, for obvious reasons – and we enjoy poking fun at ourselves and our real pals… but we reserve the ‘take-downs’ for snobbish posturing and the ‘establishment’.

Q : It has to have been frightening facing down people who put out a contract on you. How do you summon the wherewithal to confront such people calmly and what were their initial reactions when it became clear you weren’t intimidated by them?

A : I hate bullying of any kind. All my life I’ve faced it down, finding that most of the time the bullies are cowards with runny mouths. With the rogue cop captain in the book, he could easily have shot me and claimed I was resisting arrest – these things can and do happen in some of the places and situations I worked in. It’s not a case of courage, it’s more a case of being more scared of backing down.

Q : Tell us three things you are thankful for every day.

A : My life. My sobriety. My faith.

Q : It’s clear from the autobiography that you are persistent when you set your mind to it. Let’s say that you have decided you want to go to the Moon in 5 years. Take us through your thinking process for giving yourself the best chance of success.

A: Preparation, preparation, preparation. Research as much as I can about every detail of what would be required - cost, vehicle, material, support, physical and mental fitness, proper assessment of survival and decision on how much risk I would be prepared to take. 

Q : One thing that shines through the book is your ethos of paying things forward, something the world desperately needs right now. Tell us more about how that ethos developed.

A : You will have noted, I’m sure, that at several, not just one, but several, critical junctures in my life, some amazing people were put in my sphere. Some I recognised at the time, some I came to understand and appreciate much later. The biggest was the gift of sobriety, in understanding that I was not a bad guy because I drank to excess, but that I had an illness that could be tackled with the magnificent help of others just like me, who gave unconditionally of their time and love, Reciprocation of that comes so easily, and so gratifying, that it truly is an inherent core of my life now.

Q :I have to talk about Jack Calder. Now we all know why we haven’t seen Book 6 yet. Is he anywhere on your horizon and if so, can you give us a taste of what we can expect him to be fighting next?

A :Jack Calder and the other characters are never far from my author’s mind. Book six, ‘NO IMPUNITY’, is work in progress. I never put deadlines on my writing, but I expect it to be ready before the end of the first quarter, 2020. The story will have the team tackling organised biker drug gangs across Europe, who are not averse to murder in the wake of their business and who also coerce young ladies into prostitution. A few bad authorities also have to be dealt with along the way.

And there you have it - from the man himself. But don't take my word for it. Not only has he written the aforementioned thrillers, but also a guide to promotion and marketing for writers, not to mention the poetry! You can't say this man isn't proactive! 

All his books are available on Amazon Kindle Unlimited. You can find his new book, Strangely I'm Still Here here: for Amazon UK and here: for Amazon US


Saturday, 21 September 2019

What to do first…

Some writers like to ring the changes and although they may write in one particular genre, they might also have more than one series going and write standalones, too. This is me.
When I first had my “big idea” in 2009 for an historical series set in an alternate Tudor universe with my hero, apothecary and elemancer (magic using the elements), Luke Ballard, I had no idea this would not cover everything I wanted to write. 
When Harlequin picked up the three planned books in The Tudor Enigma, I worked ten- hour days for over a year, including Christmas to meet my editor’s deadlines. And, to be honest, I became a bit jaded with the Tudors. Then, it was made abundantly clear that the three Luke novels were all the publisher was interested in. I was, and remain, a bit fed up that I cannot write about Luke until 2022 because of contractual obligations, while the publisher makes no effort to help me promote the books. And I have another three plots sitting waiting with ever-decreasing patience.
However, this meant I could return to my first finished book, which needed a complete rewrite, but was set in contemporary times. I eventually ended up with my early-music soprano and general nosy diva, Georgia Pattison. I have to say she has been a joy to write but, once bitten, twice shy, I decided to become an Indie writer and retain total control over my work.
Of course, several years on my interest in history has never abated, but gone backwards  in time from the Tudors to the Wars of the Roses. Even this grew out of the Georgia books. I made her love interest a wrong-side-of-the-blanket descendant of Edward IV. You – and Georgia – first meet him in The Midnight Clear.
Although I am a member of the Richard III Society, it is always Edward who has caught my interest. An unsung battle commander, who won his first battle at the age of 19 and never lost a battle he led. Allegedly, he was unbelievably handsome with a huge appetite for all things sensual, Edward was, until the break with his cousin Warwick, very laid back about forgiving people. And all that changed in 1470.
I found out quite by accident that the leaders of the Lincolnshire uprising of 1470 had a manor house 2 miles from where I lived in rural Lincolnshire. My imagination then conjured a stable lad of 17, who was unusually intelligent and observant. The action of the first chronicle in the Gideon Rooke series takes place around the Battle of Empingham, one of the battles so insignificant it usually only merits a passing mention in the history books. More about that in another blog.
And then life got in the way, as it does. We have recently uprooted from Lincolnshire and moved to a market town in North Yorkshire. However, one consequence is that my writing has been non-existent for about 4 months and now I must start again.
I recently decided the first Gideon book needed an extra dimension, so one of my aims is to re-write the book taking that into account and completely changing the ending. I also need to keep Georgia going. There is the third full-length Georgia Pattison mystery already planned and ready to write, but first I must continue her annual Christmas adventures. 
The first glimmerings of this Christmas offering came last week, so I need to plan that and then get it written by the middle of November, about 3 months later than I normally would. And let’s not forget the standalone, set in 1953 with its origins in the second world war with a heroine who worked in SOE, currently standing at 30,000 words, sitting in the drawer.
Mary, Queen of Scots, at her trial in 1585, knew she was doomed. She is alleged to have said in my end is my beginning. And so with this blog. What to do first?
Rewrite Gideon and get it out about a year later than planned? Ditch Gideon for the moment and get the Christmas Georgia sorted? Finish the standalone? Put some more flesh on the new full-length Georgia? Plan where Gideon will go after the end of book 1? 
I’m still working on deciding that because, naturally, the one thing common sense dictates I do first is the last thing I want to do. 

Friday, 29 March 2019

Last Chance Saloon

Last chance saloon a very commonly used phrase and especially for the UK at the moment. The media are using it to describe the political turmoil we are currently experiencing. However, last chance saloon can mean many things to many people. I have a significant birthday coming up very soon and because of that, I have decided I must audit my life. There are two areas that I think must be last chance saloon country.

The first is getting myself fitter and healthier. That means addressing my eating habits which have never been bad eg I do not indulge in chocolate, cakes and biscuits and never have. But now is my last chance to do my best to shed the weight, help my arthritis, lower my blood pressure, blah-di-blah. I have started one popular eating programme that has many foods I like which are free to eat. I am getting used to tomato puree on my toast under the scrambled eggs!!

The second is my writing and because this is an author’s blog, I suppose that is what I should be talking about here. 

What happens when an author comes to a crossroads and realises that he/she is never going to be as successful as JK Rowling? Answer: Rethink every aspect of their writing life. 

Last night, the following article appeared in my twitter stream. It made it abundantly clear that a powerless writer like me and millions of others, have an almost zero chance of improving our financial lot. The Nora Roberts' of this world have the resources to fight and, all power to her, she is fighting. Read this, writers (and non-writers) and weep.

So I and most of my fellows, are handicapped before we start. There will never be a level playing field for us because the scammers make too much money and Amazon doesn't care.

I have decided the only option is to change my mindset. From now on, I write when I want to, not as the full-time job I have made it for the past ten years. This will have additional benefits in that I can take up my hobbies again. I can find time to play the piano, sing, do my cross-stitch and paint my watercolours. I won't feel guilty taking a few hours out to drive somewhere and mooch around the shops. 

I think it might actually help my writing, in that doing other things and seeing the world around me will allow my subconscious the time to sort out that little plot glitch without me sweating over a hot keyboard. I can become a human being again, not a human doing, flying from one task to the next without having the time to take a breath.

As part of my writing last chance saloon, I have ordered some pens to send to friends and give to people who stand still long enough for me to put one in their hand. I will organise a proper schedule of tweets for my books, make sure this blog is a regular feature. And that, I am afraid, will have to do and if that means I remain a complete unknown, so be it. Wish me luck.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Georgia Pattison - a singing detective

In my last blog, I explained about my alternate history/fantasy Tudor trilogy, The Tudor Enigma, published by Harlequin. This blog is about my other detective, early-music soprano, Georgia Pattison.

Georgia Pattison, my contemporary detective, was conceived in 1978 - yes I am that old - when, as a member of the Three Choirs Chorus in Worcester, I took part in my first Dream of Gerontius by Elgar. What if, I wondered, the mezzo-soprano soloist delivered a flawless, uplifting performance as The Angel and was then murdered?

The resulting book, Dearly Ransomed Soul, a labour of love for over 30 years, went through many incarnations before the finished product emerged. Strange then, that I knew what the title would be within half an hour of sitting down to plot the book all those years ago and that has never changed. More about titles later.

My detective started off as a member of the Worcestershire Police, but I soon realised I needed an amateur sleuth and Georgia was born. She is not me, although I am a soprano and, when pushed, I can be quite as sarcastic as she sometimes is. I made her an early-music soprano because I love the clean lines and pure tone of early-music singers. No what some call sitting on the washing machine during the spin cycle wobbles with an early-music voice. If you want to hear the ideal - in my opinion - early-music soprano voice singing a perfect example of early music, listen to Emma Kirkby. You will find her singing Dowland's His Golden Locks here:

The Kindle edition of Dearly Ransomed Soul now on sale is the second issue, the first being published by Legend Press in 2008. If you have both versions, you will notice I changed the killer in version 2! What did this particular change teach me? That, just like Jeffrey Archer and Minette Walters to name but two, it is much more fun for the writer not to know who the killer is until well on in the writing of the book. This method, of course, would not suit authors who plan down to the last nut and bolt, what the writing community call “plotters”, but neither is it the opposite, “pantsers”, who plan nothing but sit down and put fingers to keyboard to see what happens. Like many writers, I am a mix of the two methods. 

Quite quickly after Dearly Ransomed Soul, I wrote Laid in Earth, the second full-length book of the series. This one melds the traditional detective story with a touch of thriller, and, of course, there is lots of music. After a hiatus of a few years while I wrote The Tudor Enigma for Harlequin, I returned to my gorgeous singer and decided she needed an introduction to the readers. Soon after Whistles After Dark appeared. Since then, Georgia has had a few Christmas adventures; The Midnight Clear, The Shepherds’ Farewell and The Bleak Midwinter. All of these are novellas.

The Georgia books are set in Worcester. I have sung all my life, but it was not until I joined the Worcester Festival Choral Society that I became immersed in the world of choral singing, meeting world-famous soloists and taking part in the annual Three Choirs Festival, which takes its chorus from the choirs of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford. I was part of the Worcester music world for seven wonderful years. When we had to move to Yorkshire for family reasons, I was utterly bereft for months. I have sung in many choirs since, but never have I had the joy and wonder that I experienced at Worcester. And that is why Georgia is based there.

Those of you with a musical bent will have noticed that all the Georgia titles are musical. Dearly Ransomed Soul from Dream of Gerontius: Laid in Earth from Dido’s Lament by Purcell: Whistles After Dark is from the smugglers poem by Kipling, later put to music by Peter Bellamy. The Midnight Clear, The Shepherds’ Farewell and The Bleak Midwinter are all Christmas carols. 

One feature of the stories is that links to all the music mentioned in them are given at the end of the book.

The Bible says in my end is my beginning. In 2007, I was lucky enough to meet international mezzo-soprano, Janet Shell, on a cruise. Janet adores Elgar and singing The Angel from Gerontius. Janet woke up my desire to rewrite Dearly Ransomed Soul one last time and that version was picked up by Legend Press. I owe her a huge debt of thanks. in the years since, I have heard her sing Gerontius several times in various parts of the UK and, without prejudice, I can say her rendition of The Angel is, in my opinion, the best. In fact, one critic said her performance was better than Sophie von Otter. You can hear Janet Shell singing the final Softly and Gently from Gerontius here: 

All my books are available on Amazon. If you want to know more about me: 

Saturday, 2 February 2019

About me and my writing:
 My name is April Taylor and I have been writing stories since I was a child. I currently live in Lincolnshire but we are hoping to relocate to North Yorkshire sometime in 2019. We share our house with a mad golden retriever called Bodie.
In my former life, I was an information professional working in public and prison libraries – the latter had some very interesting moments! My last job before giving it all up for writing was as R&D Information Manager for a global pharmaceutical company and that’s where I met my husband. When I am not writing, I love reading, counted cross-stitch, singing and playing the piano and walking Bodie on the beach or in the Lincolnshire countryside.
In 2014, Harlequin published the first three books in The Tudor Enigma series. I do have 3 more to write but they will have to wait. I have other projects on the go but they are for the future. Next time I will tell you all about my early-music soprano, Georgia Pattison.
Book 1: Court of Conspiracy - 

England is the prize. The death of a young king is the price.

King Henry IX, son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, holds the very balance of European power in his Protestant hands. His numerous Catholic enemies have cast greedy eyes upon his crown and will stop at nothing to usurp the throne.

An unassuming apothecary in the Outer Green of Hampton Court Palace is the Queen's last hope.Luke Ballard treats the poor with balms and salves but is careful to protect his greater gifts. For Luke is also an elemancer, one of the blessed few able to harness elemental powers for good. His quiet life ends when Queen Anne commands him to hunt down the traitors, a mission he cannot refuse.

Beset on all sides, Luke mobilizes his arsenal of magic and ingenuity to conquer the enemy. But as the stakes are raised in the uneven battle of good vs. evil, he knows this is only the first skirmish of a lifelong war. The welfare of the Tudors—and England—depends on him alone. You can get Court of Conspiracy here:

Book 2: Taste of Treason

Blood, frogs and a deadly threat to the firstborn…

Luke Ballard, Dominus Elemancer and Privy Inquirer into Divers Mischiefs and Grievances, has grown his magical powers since his last encounter with the Sunderers, dark sorcerers who will stop at nothing—including partnering with England's mortal enemies—to destroy the throne. But is he skilled enough to protect his own and prevent tragedy from reaching the royal family?

The continuation of Tudor rule and the future of England's true religion rest with King Henry IX's new bride, Queen Madeline of Scotland. Pregnant with a possible heir, she's nearly killed—twice—in incidents that bizarrely mimic the Plagues of Egypt. And she is not alone. All of Hampton Court, it seems, has been surrounded by a dark cloud of otherworldly danger.

Fearful for his wife and unborn child, King Henry can only turn to one manYou can get Taste of Treason here: 

Book 3: Mantle of Malice

England's infant heir has been kidnapped, and there's only one man who can find him.

Luke Ballard has dedicated his talents—and his life—to protecting the throne. As Henry IX's Privy Inquirer and Dominus Elemancer, his loyalty is no longer in question. But when Queen Madeline's coronation is interrupted with the news that Arthur, the baby Prince of Wales, has been abducted, Luke is given an ultimatum: retrieve the royal heir and prevent future threats to the royal family or lose his head.

That the young prince has been taken by dark forces is clear. The evil sorcerers of Custodes Tenebris will not rest until they hold power in England with Catholic Mary as a puppet Queen. Luke has bested them before, but he's never needed to defeat evil while falling in love—Arthur's nursemaid, the beautiful Blanche Oliver, has won him over with her seductive charms.

As Luke's investigation leads into the dark recesses of his own family's past, Blanche's hold on him deepens. With the fate of the Tudors hanging in the balance, Luke will need to draw upon untested strength and sort truth from feminine fiction…for the enemy's reach is long and time is running out. You can get Mantle of Malice here:

LINKS: You can read more about me here:  Twitter  Amazon UK  Amazon USA YouTube

Going back to move forwards

Sounds like the title of a film, doesn’t it? However, this blog is not about a movie. It is about changing habits in a way, but is why som...