>How I started

>Teresa started it, and if you’d like to see her post, you can find it here.

Apologies if you’re sick of reading this (my) story. :o)

I never knew I wanted to be a writer. Okay, all of my school teachers thought I should also be a poet (whatever the day job), but I hated and detested poetry. Still do. If it doesn’t go tum-ti-tum-ti-tum-ti-tum, I’m not at all interested. However, no-one ever said “you should write a book” or even “you should be a journalist”. Instead, I was told: “You should be a nurse.” (I got too tall to dance …) And so I started my pre-nurse training …

It was at the age of 20, in 1984, that me, my (then) fiance and my dad were at my dad’s cousin’s in Worcester talking about a letter she had found written to her mother many, many years before. I’m not going to go into detail because it’s very personal to my dad. However, I started to learn about his dad (my dad and his older brother were orphans), and I found out he used to play billiards and snooker. He was so good he used to play with his walking stick (he couldn’t afford a cue), and he beat the late great Joe Davis at billiards – all of the snooker world knew the stories about my paternal grandad, even among players still famous today.

And so I wrote to the Kidderminster Shuttle to see if anyone remembered my grandad, and the replies I got were so moving and so numerous (one man even cut out a cartoon* he had in a very old newspaper that featured my grandad), that I suddenly said “I could write a book”, and my dad said “go on then”.

But I didn’t know where to start, and this has to be one of the most daft stories ever – I was reading Jackie Collins at the time, can’t remember which one, and Corgi were publishing her … So I got the publisher address out of the front of the book and fired off a letter: “Dear Sir/Madam, I’d love to write a book, which I think you’d be interested in. Would you tell me how to go about it, please? Thanking you in anticipiation, etc, etc …”

Well, I should never have received a reply to that letter, I didn’t even enclose a stamped, addressed envelope. It should have gone straight in the bin, once everyone had had a jolly good laugh about it. But I did receive a reply and I wish I’d kept it. A lovely lady took the time to write me a personal letter, suggesting I enrol in a writing class, get hold of Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, join a local writers’ group, and maybe get a few stories or articles under my belt.

And so I did. I enrolled on the then Successful Writers correspondence school from David & Charles (before they became successful publishers). I spent hours pouring over the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook at the library and bought their previous year’s copy from them. I joined the then Birmingham Writers’ Group. And in 1985, following a rather horrid manuscript reading (a few BWG members, for some reason, thought you had to serve a 20 year apprenticeship, that you couldn’t just come along one day and decide to be a writer, it wasn’t fair to those that had been writing for years), I had my first short story published. (The wanting to write story is repeated on this same archive post.)

I put my mind to it and I did it.

Why can’t I do that now?

Anyway, the rest, as they say, is history, and for those that don’t already know the story of how I became a non-fiction writer, ask for it and I’ll provide it in another post.

How was it for you? How did you start? When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

*Oh, and I still have the cartoon. I may scan it one of the days and post it as a pic.

>A bad blogger

>I’ve been a bad everything these past few days, not just a bad blogger. The main reason is because my keyboard packed up and since I’ve had the wireless keyboard, the laptop hasn’t recognised its own. So I’ve been restricted to mouse work (i.e. games) and whatever I can do on the mobile phone (i.e. not a lot). So I’m very sorry for not being “here” and I’m also very sorry for not being “there” on yours too. At least I’m back at work tomorrow, so if the problem persists, I can do other stuff from there.

Friday night I went out with a new friend I met at a gig a few weeks ago. We went to see a band I’ve not seen for over two years in a club I try to avoid and while the “crowd” was very small (less than 30 of us in a big club), it was quite a good night. Having not seen the band for so long, or with the current line up, the set was refreshing and included a few new songs too.

On Saturday I went out to a charity gig to see 1 new band and another of me ol’ faves. That was a great night. We didn’t expect a large turnout, but the room was full with a brilliant atmosphere, and they raised a nice little sum for charity too.

Yesterday I really, really wanted to go to the seaside, but with my new finance regime in place, and having to pay something out of my wages that was unexpected, I’ve had to tighten the belt even further this month. So I couldn’t really afford the petrol money.

Instead I found a local cricket match. I’m not a fan of cricket – there aren’t enough goals for a start – but I do understand the rules, even if the scoreboard takes a bit more working out. This was Barnsley Cricket Club and I didn’t even know we had one. The weather was glorious, not too hot, and I was able to sit out in the fresh air and sunshine without getting burned for 3 hours and it hardly cost me anything.

Today I need to update my gig list for July and I want to get some groceries. I may also sit and work with a note book too.

>A busy week

>It’s been a busy week over here in Parkinland, starting on Sunday with a drive down to see my parents on Fathers Day. On Monday I went to physio.

When I last went walking I wore my new boots and they tore my feet to shreds. My heels were bruised and bleeding and I’d adjusted my gait to ease the pain a bit. In doing so, I pushed my left hip out and popped my right knee. The hip fixed itself within a couple of days. On the evening after the walk I couldn’t move at all and settled into the warmth and comfort of my lovey settee, then over the next few days walking was more of a hobble. The knee, however, started to click, and before long it was was starting to hurt too. It was either a compensatory injury, or rheumatoid arthritis was setting in. And that’s why I was at physio. It seems it was a compensatory injury and had already started to heal itself, but the physiotherapist gave me a few more muscle strengthening exercises, told me to go walking again, up my yoga, and to get back on the Wii. She only wants to see me again if the pain is still there.

Monday afternoon a Sky engineer came to look at my apparatus. I’ve been calling Sky for weeks telling them there was something wrong with my setup, but they continually and perpetually blamed severe weather conditions, which I accepted. However, when my next door neighbour’s Sky didn’t drop out at the same time mine next did, I insisted on booking an engineer, and they still tried to fob me off. I had to tell them I wanted to pay the £65 and get it sorted, because so far my £17.50 a month was a total waste of money and if I wasn’t getting the service I was paying for, I’d cancel. So the engineer came out, and my dish had fallen forward by about 45 degrees … It’s fixed now.

On Tuesday I was back at this place with Shirley. The weather was gorgeous and Settle was open, so it was heaving with people. The market was in full swing, all the shops were buzzing, and we had a great meal at this wonderful cafe, plus whipped ice cream followed by a pot of tea. How frightfully English. We both came away with purchases, most notably second hand books (I hate used books, but I’m on an economy drive you know …), but when we saw an adorable doorstop for just £3.99 I just had to buy it … especially after the shop owner had got step ladders and dismantled the window display and everything to get it for me.

In my absence, my mate Colin Galbraith provided us with a terrific post, another one that sees to have covered all the bases. You can still see it here – please go along and ask him questions – and you can still see Jenny Storm’s posts here and here.

On Wednesday my keyboard went, and since I’ve had the wireless keyboard, the laptop hasn’t recognised its own keyboard. So I could do lots of mouse-type stuff, but limited keyboard stuff. I charged the keyboard batteries and did mouse stuff instead – i.e. played games – and I washed, hung out and brought in laundry.

Yesterday I decided on a computer-free day, went into town to sort out some banking stuff, and spent 2 hours in the hairdresser.

Today I intend to write up some notes I made on the train to Settle on Tuesday. I’ve been doing this all week, but something else has always come up.

Still no sign of Tinker, but the other 2 are getting on really well. They could rarely be seen in the same room unless Tinker was there umpiring. Now I keep finding them curled up fast asleep on the same bed – the same single bed. There’s progress. So, Tinker, if there was a method in your madness, your job is done. You can come home now.

>Guest post: the making of Stella

>Today I’m jumping on a train and heading to Settle to meet Shirley for our jolly. In my absence, I’m delighted to welcome Colin Galbraith as he talks about his latest book, Stella.

by Colin Galbraith

The idea for Stella first came to me way back in 1985. Yello, who were a Swiss electronic pop duo, released an album of the same name, which contained an international smash hit in the form of the track, Oh Yeah. It was used in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to name but one.

But it wasn’t the hit song that made the album tick for me, it was the less obvious tracks that made up the rest of the album. From the moment I first heard the evocative tunes of Stella, my head became filled with a myriad of wonderfully dark and mysterious images; images of gothic Eastern Europe, of moonlit, smoke-filled train stations with men in long coats and high collars, and ladies with red lipstick and lashings of glamour. It brought to mind demons and the paranormal, of the unknown, and of secret underground lairs.

So there I was, a kid going to sleep at night with a head full of all these weird scenes and characters but not having a clue what to do with them. To me, Stella sounded like the soundtrack for something, I just wasn’t sure what. Every November, I used to listen to the album like crazy, because in Scotland that’s when the evening moon is at its clearest and brightest, and it seemed to go well with the music. Little did I know it was all inspiration.

Eventually, after several years writing with serious goals of publication, I finally sat down to create a story that befitted my original idea, something I always promised myself I would do. The original concept was for each chapter to match each song, but as I got into it, the story soon grew out of all proportion to the album.

Normally the amount of planning I put into a longer piece of fiction will depend greatly on how clear the original ideas are. With Stella, I had several years thinking about it before I eventually sat down and put pen to paper, so when it came time to join up the dots it was relatively easy to go with the flow. With that being said, Stella and Randolph still found it in themselves to throw up several surprises along the way, which looking back now, only served to enrich the plot.

And that’s the way I like it; a modicum of planning — A to L to Z clearly marked — the rest in between is up to the characters and the mood of the piece; drive by night but with a road mark for the major points along the way.

The first draft of Stella was a shadow of what it is now. It really was quite poor, but most of that is down to two things. First, when I began writing it, I was nowhere near as experienced a writer as I was when I came to write the final draft. And they weren’t my usual kind of drafts either, there was a lot of re-writing and major surgery that went into the story to achieve the balance and mood I was aiming for. I don’t think I’ve ever written so may re-writes to that extent before!

With my intention never being to try and get Stella published — I never thought the idea of a chapter to song book would ever work anyway — once I opened it up and it grew into a more solid piece of work, I began to think it might just have a chance.

With it being novella length, I knew it would never stand a chance of being published traditionally — there’s just no market for it any more — but with a rapidly growing e-Book market, and in particular paranormal market, the idea began to appeal more and more that it might just be able make it in the real world.

I don’t think Stella being an e-Book affects the structure or style in any way, in fact, I think both go well together and Stella is well-suited as an e-Book. It’s not too long, has lots of twists to keep the reader’s interest, and it has enough chapters of just the right length.

Secondly, the original manuscript was more or less along the lines of what I imagined the album to be. Once I realised I could break away from the rigidity of what had been resting in my mind all those years, it blossomed into something much more exciting.

Mostly, all of the writing I had done up until Stella was crime or crime related, so writing a paranormal mystery, although I never set out planning to write one, was a blessed change for me. I had been wanting to try something new and unwittingly when I undertook this private project I had on the go for so many years, little did I know what I was doing for myself.

The “problem” I have now is that I can’t let go of it. All the while the manuscript was being moulded and shaped into what you read now, in the back of my mind I could hear myself asking more questions like: “what happens next” and “that would be a great link to a sequel”.

And so it’s proved. I’m currently writing the sequel to Stella, which is called Baccara Burning, and with it being totally free of the age-old images I had in my head for the first story, this one is really living up to the phrase, “letting the characters do all the work”.

Of course, writing long fiction means one can’t be doing other things. I take my writing very seriously — I used to get wound up by people saying my writing was a hobby — but I’ve grown used to that and changed their view of me.

Getting published has helped change people’s attitudes, as has the way I now talk about my writing when I’m around other people. It was a slow process, but most people now think of me as a writer who earns his keep by working in IT, as opposed to an IT worker who writes in his spare time.

I’m lucky, too, in that my wife works in the arts — she’s a semi-professional photographer — and we can relate to each other in many ways within that sphere. She’s been a great source of support, as has my daughter, but it can be all too easy to fall into the complacency trap. You have to make time for your family (and yourself) and yes, it can lead to friction, but in the end you can’t write constantly, you have to be with your family sometime.

About the author

COLIN GALBRAITH’S popularity as a contemporary Scottish writer has grown rapidly over the past few years. He is a prolific writer of fiction, poetry, non-fiction articles and reviews, and has been earmarked by the Scottish local Press as one to watch. His latest book, STELLA, is available for purchase from Eternal Press and you can find his website here.

>What week off?

>I’ve registered her with the national pet register and petsearch, I’ve put posters up around the village and in shops, including one in the car window, I’ve spoken to all of the neighbours, I’ve put food and water out in the yard and a nightie out of the laundry basket in the cat kennel, I’ve walked the village, and I keep calling her every so often in case she can hear me. Short of knocking on every villager’s front door and WAITING while they check any outbuildings, I don’t think there’s anything more I can do. There is still no sign of Tinker and as another day passes, another hope fades. I will still hope, though.

Apart from that I have a very, very busy week – and it’s supposed to be a week off. Saturday was shopping and chores. I had a lovely ride down to my parents’ yesterday. The weather held and the traffic was good. Today I have physio at 11am (won’t be able to stay on here long) and the Sky engineer at 12noon. I’ve already done the blogs for the day (once I’ve done this one), I want 30 minutes on the Wii, I want to do some admin on the non fiction, and I want to get an article written. Then this evening, I want to do an hour or so on the novel.

Tomorrow I have another guest post as I’ll be on a train to Settle to see Shirley for our monthly jolly. The rest of the week is filled with lots of writing work, more time on the Wii, and admin. I’ll give more information when I have a bit more time as I have to dash now.

>Still missing

> I’m very sad, and my imagination is running riot. But it’s Tinker I’m worried for. She’s been missing since Tuesday evening, which is so unlike her, and all I keep thinking is she must be trapped and frightened somewhere, and I hope someone finds her before it’s too late. I’ve registered her at petsearch.com and will look at another one shortly. There are posters out. The neighbours are all keeping an eye. I can’t believe that she was rolling in the dust and sunshine one minute, and gone the next. Thanks to everyone for the lovely messages of support and concern. Please keep everything crossed.

Today I break up for a week, again. I always try to when we’ve finished a magazine. On Sunday I’ll be driving down to see my dad for Father’s Day (will try to get there before noon …), on Monday I have physio and a Sky engineer, on Tuesday I jump on a train and meet Shirley in Settle for the day. The rest of the time – I’ll probably be at my wits end.

Keeping busy is good, but being creative is difficult when all I want to do is find my cat.

Hopefully more upbeat very soon.

>Guest post: Jenny Storm on writing without a contract

>Following on from Tuesday’s post, I asked Jenny Storm (aka Devon Ellington) how she motivated herself to write something without a contract in place when she is usually so busy meeting other “actual” deadlines.

by Jenny Storm

I want to write, whatever pulls me. Everything sells eventually, so I don’t worry about it. The pull of the story is the most important thing. And it’s a reality of the industry. Until you have a solid selling track record in fiction, it’s very rare to sell it on a proposal and the first few chapters.

If you want to write fiction, you have to write and sell SEVERAL novels, and they have to sell WELL before you can land a contract on a proposal. If you want it badly enough, you learn how to manage your time to write your fiction and keep up with other client projects. As far as projects, 1,000 – 1,500 words per day is my usual pace on fiction. If a contract forces a faster pace, I’ll do it, but that’s a steady, comfortable pace. It took me a few years to figure it out, but now that I have it, it works. Sometimes I’ll catch fire and write 2,500 – 3,000 words, but my goal is at least 1K a day, with what I call the “Primary Project” as the first one attacked in the morning, before I’m “tainted by the day”.

If I’m juggling two or three novels, I prioritize them, do my first 1 – 1.5 on one, shower, eat breakfast, go back and do the next project or two, and then start dealing with email, client projects, etc. I write best creatively in the morning, so mornings are for fiction. Practical writing works better in the afternoons.

Some days, contract or not, it’s a trudge, but I don’t have to cajole myself or trick myself. I am a writer. This is what I do. This is how I pay my bills. No excuses. Get it done, send it out, and it might not hit pay dirt the first time, but eventually, it will find a good home and earn its creation.

I get very impatient with writers who “don’t have time” to write. It means they don’t want it enough. And so many use their families as an excuse not to write, especially if they have a spouse or partner’s income on which to rely. Believe me, when it’s all up to you, you put your butt in the chair, and you write until you’re done, and you get it out there. Or you don’t eat, and you don’t pay the bills.

Arthur Miller was absolutely correct when he told me I’d never be a “real” writer until that’s what I relied on to pay the bills. I didn’t have the courage to take his advice at the time, staying within the safety of the theatre, but once I made the leap, I completely understood what he meant. The stakes are entirely different.

Writer’s block is a luxury of the unpublished or under-published.

Jenny Storm publishes under half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. She’s been a fan of horse racing since the age of 7, and collects YA mysteries from the early twentieth century.

Read more about Jenny Storm here, and visit her on MySpace here.

>The best laid plans

>Wasn’t it great to hear from Jenny/Devon yesterday? She turned that post around really quickly, and we have more from her tomorrow.

Well, on Monday I had such great plans, and they started well, they really did. And then I heard the rumbles of a thunderstorm getting closer and closer. I love a good thunderstorm (in case you didn’t already realise), but I could tell this one was going to be a right humdinger. It rumbled dryly for ages and ages, then the first big plops started to fall before the torrent continued. All 3 cats came hurtling in … and it knocked my modem out … At the exact same time, the keyboard and mouse stopped working too, and I thought it had shorted the work station I use that lifts the laptop up to eye height.

I spent the next hour trying to fix this, looking for spare batteries anywhere so I could make sure it wasn’t that that was the problem. I raided clocks and battery chargers, but still the keyboard and mouse didn’t work. I rebooted, switched everything off and on again, waited for the worst of the storm to pass, and tried again. But still it didn’t work – and since I’ve had the wireless keyboard, the laptop has had trouble recognising its own inbuilt keyboard, so I get numbers where letters should be, and capital letters where symbols should be.

I had so much to do, including typing letters and drafting blogs, but I couldn’t do any of it.

At the same time my pedometer packed up too – so that was my modem, my wireless hardware, and my pedometer. Surely things could only get better?

Well, they did … I discovered there was nothing wrong with the keyboard and mouse at all. In pushing the work station towards the back of the desk, and then pulling it back towards me, I’d somehow dislodged the power cable … oops. Yup, it really was a simple as that, which is Very Good, but what a total waste of time.

My library stuff is going to have to be done tomorrow now, and the ironing got pushed away until next weekend – oh dear, how sad never mind.

However, I DID do 30 minutes on the Wii, although the skipping will have to wait, and I did all of my baking, cooking and washing up, and some of the R&R things too.

Yesterday was steady, but nothing to shout about, other than the entire village having no internet due to BT carrying out some essential maintenance. Oh and Tinker, the eldest of my cats, going AWOL. I’m a bit worried because she never, ever does that. I’m hoping she’s not trapped or injured or frightened.

EDIT
Here is a selection of news stories from today’s Daily Mail Online. I feel as though the world is going barmy at times …

Bloggers NOT entitled to anonymity

UK’s 3rd largest High Street bank national computer failure

Recommended broadband tax on EVERY home in Britain, whether they use it or even can get it

18 year old girl claims she “fell asleep” during the tattooing of 56 – FIFTY SIX -stars on face

And here’s one I’m in 2 minds over: Wheelie bin revolt

It’s not one of my favourite papers, for obvious and political reasons, but they couldn’t make this up … surely …

>Guest post: The evolution of Dixie and Jenny

>Today I’m delighted to welcome Jenny Storm (aka Devon Ellington), as she continues her tour publicising Dixie Dust Rumors

by Jenny Storm

The spark of an idea and its creative evolution is slightly different from book to book. No matter how you hone your process, there’s a bit of a need to reinvent the wheel with each new piece. I enjoy that; I don’t ever want to feel stuck or refuse to try something new because “it’s not my process.”

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved the juvenile mystery series fiction of the early twentieth century. I grew up on Nancy Drew, as did most of my generation. That expanded to the Hardy Boys and the Dana Girls and The Bobbsey Twins and Cherry Ames and Sue Barton, and, of course Trixie Belden. I loved the Trixie Belden books because they were set about twenty minutes from my home town, and I knew the area well. I learned about the Strathmeyer Syndicate and earlier series books, such as Ruth Fielding, Judy Bolton, Beverly Gray, Vickie Barr, Dorothy Dixon, etc, etc, and kept collecting them. If you have any interest in these books, GIRL SLEUTH: NANCY DREW AND THE WOMEN WHO CREATED HER by Melanie Rehak is an outstanding book.

Anyway, I always wanted to write what used to be called “juvenile” mystery fiction and what is now called “middle grade” or “YA” fiction. A good story is a good story, but hitting the right tone was a bit harder than in adult fiction. I wanted it to reflect the books I loved, but not mirror the prejudices or have it be too black-and-white/good-and-evil, the way many of these older books are.

At the same time, I was writing a lot, mostly plays, and working full-time on Broadway. I’d expanded my writing to cover horse racing, and I was just getting back into ice hockey and starting to cover that. The dynamics of the behind-the-scenes and the relationships on the backside of the track fascinated me, and the way the life commitment (because a barn full of horses must have care EVERY day ALL year) affects the families involved fascinated me. I had no idea how it would all fit together. It was more a feeling I carried around in me as I attended the races (usually every week at that point in time).

The character of Rose appeared to me, and she started telling me about her annoying younger brother Simon (who she adores), her single dad, the horses, etc. I still didn’t know what kind of book it would turn into. I knew she had a story to tell, I wanted to write a mystery for this age group, but I wasn’t yet sure that Rose’s story was the mystery.

At the same time, I was playing with a character named Geri Baxter, of the same age, who’s a female hockey player. Different town, different school, different conflicts, different personality, same age.

I developed the two characters, not sure if I’d continue working on them in tandem, or put one aside and focus on the other.

Then, a situation occurred at the track where a jockey was accused of impropriety by someone who had about two articles to his credit. Of course, there was nothing to the claim, and the jockey was cleared. The pseudo-writer may have believed he was “cleaning up the sport” or he may have just wanted attention. I have no idea. Once the idea grabbed me, and I decided to write about it as a piece of fiction, I didn’t make any effort to get to know the actual individual who perpetuated the claim. I knew how my fictional character would handle it and wanted to keep the fictional character very separate from the real human being. I also wanted to change the details of the incident to serve the story better.

As all of this evolved, I also wanted to play with the idea of a mystery where no one is murdered. I don’t know if I could get away with it in an adult novel. I wanted to see if I could create a book with tension and mystery, but without a dead body.

The more I mulled everything over (during a period of months), the more I realized that these elements should affect Rose and her family — that the pressure should be on her trainer father rather than on the jockey — for this incident.

So, I knew the central conflict in the piece, but didn’t sit down and plan it. I pantsed my way through the book, putting aside Geri’s hockey story after a few days, because Rose was more insistent. She’s quieter as a person, but was more insistent as a character that her story be told before Geri’s! I knew where I started; I knew where I wanted to end; I wasn’t sure how to get there.

The tracks in downstate NY are in diverse neighborhoods, so reflecting that in Rose’s friends came pretty naturally. I didn’t sit down and say, “We need an Asian and a Latina” — it just happened that those were the cultural backgrounds of Rose’s two best friends. There are always cliques and conflicts in school, so it made sense that there would be reverberations of the accusations against Rose’s father towards Rose and her brother, especially by the kids who already didn’t like them. The arrival of Justin in the story was a big surprise — I thought there would be more conflict in the story between Ben, Libby, and Rose, but Rose just didn’t have much chemistry with Ben, nor would she put any attraction towards Ben ahead of her friendship with Libby. I tried to enhance that conflict, but it was untrue towards Rose’s character, felt false, and I changed it.

The first draft itself went down pretty quickly — it’s short, and, even though I was working full time on Broadway (8 shows a week, only a single day off), I did a few pages every day. I had sports writing deadlines and book review deadlines, but I didn’t have business writing clients at the time. I just sat down and told whatever portion of the story Rose revealed that day. As I wrote, I saw a contest for the age group advertised by a major publisher, and used that as my motivational deadline.

I wrote the book, gave it a quick edit and sent it to the contest — not the right process, but the deadline was much earlier than my original vision for the pace, and I wanted to give it a shot. I sent it off, forgot about it, and worked on other things.

I didn’t win that contest and contract, but I got a lovely note back from the person who read the manuscript, with comments. The reader loved the characters, the story, the fact that there were no bodies in it, but felt too much of the action took place at the racetrack and that element was too complex for the age group.

At that point, I was caught up in a lot of other projects, including spending time with minor league hockey teams as research for a cycle of novels aimed at adults, still working on Broadway, but now taking on more business clients and starting the transition to full time writing. I wrote the reader a thank you note, put the book away and forgot about it.

About a year ago, I came across the manuscript when I was clearing out some stuff, and read it. I felt it had some good bones. I did a pretty massive rewrite, applying a lot of what I learned in the interim to it, taking the reader’s comments into account, and also trying a stylistic choice where Rose speaks directly to the reader in the present in certain areas, where she’s talking about the protocols and routines of daily backstretch life, to differentiate it from where she’s telling the story. Rose tells her story in first person, whereas Geri, my hockey player, tells HERS in third. That’s just what served each story best.

I put it aside again, not sure where I’d send it. I knew I had research to do on the market, etc. I’d met my publisher through The Muse Online Conference. I knew I wanted to work with her, because I really liked her, but wasn’t sure what to submit — FireDrakes had The Jain Lazarus Adventures, and I had projects “in process” while keeping up with the Jain Lazarus books, but nothing really submittable. The playwrighting commissions picked up, and I wanted to work with Vickie NOW, not in five years or something. They publish YA, so I thought, why not give it a shot? I prepared the submission package, sent if off, and it was accepted. It wasn’t a case of me sitting down and saying, “I want this in digital rather than print”. It was more like, “What can I send so I get to work with this person I really like and respect?” and DIXIE DUST was the right piece at the right time.

DIXIE DUST RUMORS was envisioned as a stand-alone, but, as I worked on the proofs, Rose and company had more to say. Also, since I’ve spent more time in Saratoga over the past years, the dynamics of the summer race meet are fascinating, and I want to explore this. I’m outlining DEAD MAN’S STALL, and yes, there is a dead body in this one! Also, Rose is maturing, both physically and emotionally. I’m taking that page from the Judy Bolton stories, where Judy grew up over the course of the series, rather than keeping her the same age, as Harriet Adams chose to do when she took over Nancy Drew. I don’t know if there will be any more books after DEAD MAN’S STALL. We’ll see what readers want. And I’m getting back to Geri’s story, too, and doing a massive rewrite on that. I’m outlining Geri’s piece, too. Now that I write full-time and I’m always juggling at least a half a dozen projects, the outlines are crucial. I save time, because I don’t have to wonder where I was in a piece or where I planned to go, and I stay within the world of the story. And I still have the space to go off in another direction, if I choose.

I’m also developing some YA fiction for older readers along the fantasy and science-fiction lines, and I’m excited to see where those stories take me. I’d like to write more short stories in the genre, but many of the publications geared to this age range buy all rights (and for not much money), rather than first rights, so I’m still researching markets. I’ve got some humorous ghost stories for which I’d like to find homes.

As far as the pseudonym, I’ve always liked the name “Jenny”. I heard of someone with “Storm” as a last name and thought that sounded really cool. I was pretty sure I wanted to use “Jenny” for children’s/middle grade/YA and “Storm” seemed to fit. Every name has a completely different evolution, and that’s the origin of “Jenny Storm”.

So much emphasis is put on the business end of writing, and, when you earn your living by your pen, that’s important. But without the creation process, without the product, there’s no reason for the business end. When you put the cart before the horse, you generally don’t get too far too fast. The horse’ll turn and go in the other direction. To me, the writing is the most important part, and everything else gets slotted around that.

Thanks so much for hosting me!

Jenny Storm publishes under half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. She’s been a fan of horse racing since the age of 7, and collects YA mysteries from the early twentieth century.

Read more about Jenny Storm here, and visit her on MySpace here.

If you have any questions for Jenny Storm, please post them in the comments section, where she will endeavour to answer them as quickly as she can.