#IWSG – Confessions about quitting

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Time for the monthly post as it’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day – well tomorrow is. I’m writing this a day early as I have the energy and my eyes aren’t as bad they have been – more of that below.

The starting point is what is this month’s optional question?

June 7 Question: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

That’s a tough one. The simple answer is that when I had a non-writing job then it was simply workload that made me quit and the urge to write down an idea that brought me back. So, in some cases that was months later and in too many cases it was years before I listened to my muse.

Then came multiple sclerosis and by then I was an equestrian journalist. Eventually, the disease forced me to quit. But there was a novel that needed writing and even though I retired as a journalist, I struggled on with the novel. Thirteen years after I was diagnosed with MS, “Spiral of Hooves” was published in December 2013. Sadly, the book is out of print but plans are afoot to re-publish and there is even a cover design by the brilliant Jonathan Temples, as the old one was designed for the original publishers.

What do you think? Does it make you want to read the novel? (Apologies that it’s a PDF link at the moment)

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The re-release of “Spiral of Hooves” was to be the re-launch of my writing career, but the damn disease disagreed. Followers on Facebook might know that I get tired and my eyes are troubling me so I’m cutting back on what I do. I’ve struggled to expand my A to Z posts into “A Brief History of Kanata” and that is ready for some beta volunteers. Anyone want an alternative history lesson?

Apologies if I hardly visit or comment anymore because that has become one solution. But am I about to quit for good or will the muse that has inspired other draft novels to help me stumble on? I must remember how to touch type as my voice is too glitched to use voice recognition software. Or is there another way not to quit?

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

The awesome co-hosts for the June 7 posting of the IWSG are JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

WHERE NOW WITH SPIRAL OF HOOVES?

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My writing year has got off to a good start as I completed Stage 1 of my writing plans. Over the last month, I have managed to finish a re-edit of my debut novel “Spiral of Hooves” with the aim of getting it republished. For those that missed the original release, it was in December 2013.

So, I removed a subplot that didn’t work and garnered some negative comments. I also tidied up some strange sentence constructions, and corrected all the Americanisms, as it’s set in England, and I had a UK publisher in mind.

Then, everything went awry – I read more about the publishers including an interview with their main man and I concluded that my mystery was wrong for them – not gritty or dark enough. They also tend to go for writers with a few books to release at the same time.

The problem now is what next? Do I submit this novel to a UK agent, a UK publisher, a US agent, a US publisher, OR do I translate it into German or Martian? Joking…

Oh, in case you were wondering, it’s a mystery set against the horse world, but not a cosy mystery. It has action, darker moment, and a couple of erotic scenes, but it isn’t really bloody or violent except for a few brief moments.

A shorter version of this post first appeared on Facebook, and several friends made helpful suggestions, some of which I will mention here.

In the FB comments, and back on my January blog, several people talked about self-publishing. However, I know now that will require extra skills that I need to acquire or pay for – not just the editing services that I already use. I have been reassured that I am capable of learning to format but I’m a writer. I am aware that there are excellent companies out there that will help in that process.

My major concern is the money, as we face major health bills that look like a bottomless pit. When my wife spent two days in the hospital after her recent heart attack, the bills came to $30,000.

The logical alternative is to try to find an agent or a publisher in either the UK and/or the US. How many submissions should I do at once? Do I start with agents first? Does it matter where the agent/publisher is?

The big quandary: As I’m disabled, I’m very restricted in where I can go. Flying is out, so that leaves driving – well, someone else driving me. What happens if an agent in New York wants me to go there = 2+ days driving? Book tours would be a challenge.

Then there is the language – British-English and American-English. I changed the manuscript into British-English with a US address, but I’ve found a US agent that is interested in submissions on horses. Guess I need an American-English manuscript for US agents and publishers. Yikes. Back to Grammarly then.

That would then allow me to submit to publishers like Imajin Books when they open for submissions in April? Although they like to see reviews, Amazon deleted mine but my Goodreads reviews are still up. One of their star authors said, “I wouldn’t worry about it. You can do this.”

So, do I submit to agents first and then, come April, I submit to publishers?

Do I mention that I don’t stick to genre? “Spiral of Hooves” is a mystery with a sequel; then I’ve almost finished “Storms Compass”, Book I of my post-apocalyptic saga; then comes “Fates Maelstrom”, first of the Snowdon Shadows mysteries; and my alternative history, “Eagle Crossing”, is flying along.

 

Where am I going in 2017?

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Any realistic writing plans for 2017 are dependent on my health.

My multiple sclerosis has entered a vicious, downward spiral with side issues like pulled tendons and swollen legs aggravating the MS. The consequences are that first, I have to cope with constant pain, sometimes bearable but other times excruciating to the point that all I can do is scream. Second, a combination of medication and lack of sleep at night, from the pain, means that I doze for much of the day, or I struggle to stay awake when I need to do anything crucial.

Excuses over, here are my writing targets for 2017 in achievable order:

I fell asleep here at 17.45, I think [Day 1]

[Day 2] Finally, I’ve got a bit more energy to write.

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TARGET 1 – RE-PUBLISH SPIRAL OF HOOVES

My debut novel, Spiral of Hooves was published on December 9th, 2013 and was available for eighteen months. My publisher, Spectacle Publishing Media Group was changing hands, so I chose to terminate our agreement, receiving all my rights back.

As I don’t feel that the novel was promoted effectively, which is clear by the friends who ask if I ever finished writing the book, then a second release is needed. Furthermore, there has never been a paperback version, so that will be part of the publishing plan.

The first step, though, is to check the reviews, that I copied off Amazon and Goodreads, for anything that needs revising and reading the novel again myself. The resulting revision will also allow me to check the foreshadowing for the sequel Tortuous Terrain.

Next, I need to identify the publishing route. I had presumed that it would be impossible to find a publisher that handled previously published books. However, I discovered Fahrenheit Press that publishes ‘Crime Fiction’ and are “not too bothered if the books have been published before”. I need to check them out more, so if anyone knows about them, please let me know.

The other option is the self-publishing route, and the choice seems to be between Create Space and Book Baby, although there may be better options that I’m overlooking. All recommendations are gratefully accepted. This route means formatting the novel for both eBook and paperback, a major task and daunting – but worth getting right. There are also financial implications at a time when health care has to be the priority.

And then I need to promote Spiral of Hooves effectively and widely – having prepared a strategy in advance.

 

16:00 – can I rest now, please?

20:28 – rested and showered so sort of energized.

 

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Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

TARGET 2 – PUBLISH STORMS COMPASS

Storms Compass is the first book in the post-apocalyptic series Gossamer Flames. Books 2 and 3 are partly written already, as I constructed all three around short stories.

One of my critique partners has done an extensive page by page assessment that will be the basis for my final draft. Even though one of my two line-editor friends edited an earlier draft of Storms Compass, I will have made enough substantial changes to run it past the other editor. There are cost implications at this stage as well.

When I have the polished novel, I will attempt to find a publisher – having ensured that I have an excellent synopsis and blurb, that my author profile reflects the ones on social media, and ensured all recommendations for submissions are checked off.

That process could take me into 2018, so I need to be making other plans.

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A lot is dependent on (a) the response that I get to the re-release of Spiral of Hooves; (b) my financial situation. If sales are minimal and health care eats away at our savings, I can attempt to finish the re-draft of Fates Maelstrom and doing research for Eagle Crossing.

On the other hand, if both Spiral of Hooves and Storms Compass are well received, I will need to work on their sequels. Is that hopeful thinking?

Have you any advice on this crazy plan, please? Does my strategy make sense?

 

 

#IWSG – Best Thing Ever Said…

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day, and from today onwards the group are revving up IWSG Day to make it more fun and interactive!

Every month, they’ll announce a question that members can answer in the IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt us to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. So on to the JULY 6th QUESTION:

What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

My immediate thought was of some of the motivational words that my IWSG critique partners had written about my writing – helpful in getting me progressing stalled projects. That should have applied to the encouraging comments from the first professional editor to appraise one of my draft novels. However, I still need to apply those constructive but daunting suggestions.

So I’ve decided that one of the good reviews that I received for “Spiral of Hooves” comes in at number one. I would have chosen one of the Five star reviews on Amazon, but they got removed when the book ceased being available – and I’ve mislaid the file where I saved them.

No matter, Goodreads has seven still accessible, from the weird one star one that said, “It’s missing an understanding of the horse world that makes someone who is immersed in it want to read the book”, to the four star ones that felt that I demonstrated my knowledge. Yes, I was a professional equestrian journalist – or was that in another life?

Anyway here’s one of the best extracts:

“Spiral of Hooves is a great book for horse lovers who also love thriller or crime novels. The plot has several twists and turns, the characters are rich, and the author’s in depth knowledge of the world of eventing brings the story to life.

Arguably one of the best things about this book is the writing of the riding scenes. They are authentic, realistic, and incredibly well written. The reader is brought with over every jump and through every turn.”

What more can I say? Was I right to feel chuffed and inspired? Dare I attempt a better sequel?

Spiral of Hooves

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with my fellow writers.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

And be sure to check out our Facebook group –https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/

Our revved up IWSG Day question may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

The awesome co-hosts for this July 6 posting of the IWSG are Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, Madeline Mora-Summonte , LK Hill, Rachna Chhabria, and JA Scott! 

 

End of an Era: Closing a Chapter in My Life

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With my mother Nidia Clarke at Borde Hill Horse Trials – by Tony Warr

As I prepare to embark on a life in the US, I realise that 2015 is witnessing the closing pages of some chapters in my life: my involvement with the sport of eventing.

On April 4th, I lost my close friend and organiser-mentor Bill Allen, and I attempted to say in my tribute what Bill meant to me and to the sport.  Not long afterwards, on April 29th, The Hon. Daphne Lakin, organiser of Iping Horse Trials, died and with her more memories of a special person. At the beginning of June, Bill’s co-organiser at Purston Manor Horse Trials, Dr Peter Lamont, and another guiding light, sadly passed on. Despite the courage of Bill and Peter’s widows, Ann and Jill, there were not enough entries to stop the final running of Purston being cancelled.

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Bill Allen at Borde Hill Horse Trials- by Tony Warr

I felt these sad departures heralded the end of an era, but they are underscored by another departure. On May 22nd the final issue of Eventing magazine was published, the June 2015 edition. I wrote on Facebook, “As others have said, Eventing got many of us started in journalism – or in my case re-started after a false start. Made so many friends this way from journalists like Jane Perry, Julie Harding, Ellie Crosbie, photographers like Nick Perry, Stephen Sparkes, David Miller, and riders, owners, organisers, grooms. So many memories and a sad end of an era.”

Although Kate Green was the editor that gave me my first reporting job for them in 1993, her assistant and successor, Julie Harding kept me writing. To my post Julie replied, “Agree Roland. So many wonderful people met along the way and friends made. Delighted to have helped some launch their careers too. Eventing was so many things to so many people – hence why there is much sadness surrounding its demise.”

In her own post she said, “Sadly the end of Eventing after 30 years… Janet and Brian Hill, its founders, could never have believed when they started it that it would go on to have such a long and illustrious history. A lot of people will miss you Eventing.”

That was reflected in both the comments about Eventing Magazine’s departure, and in the tragic loss of three great organisers.  They will all be missed, and the sport is poorer for them leaving us.

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The Seahorse Achievement Award

Although I didn’t start writing about the sport regularly until 1993, and didn’t co-found the South East Eventers League until 1995, my own involvement with eventing actually preceded the magazine’s launch by over twenty years.

In 1973, when I was twenty, my journalism career started as a sub-editor for The Field. Then one day the assistant editor, Derek Bingham, took me with him to Tidworth Three-Day-Event, which was the British Junior team trial. Once they saw my amateurish photos, those Juniors even persuaded me to take photos at their final trial. So began a sporadic flirtation that took me all over the UK taking photos, briefly to Toronto, and to events on the continent – Netherlands and Germany. Basically I was hooked.

I experienced some high-points, although the pinnacle came from carriage driving – as a passenger in the ‘suicide seat’ of a marathon carriage. But I remember cheering friends to victory at three-day-events, which is echoed in my novel “Spiral of Hooves”.

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Penny Sangster on Greenbank Harlequin by Roland Clarke

And there were terrible low points, mainly when riders were killed, or horses. I’ll never forget standing by the main arena at Badminton in 1976 when Lucinda Prior-Palmer (now Green) won on Miss V Phillips’ Wide Awake, but then he died of a heart attack on his victory lap.

I regret losing a photo I took of Mr C Cyzer’s Killaire in his stable, a photo that looked like a painting. It was taken a few years before Lucinda won Badminton on Killaire in 1979.

When it launched in 1985 The Guardian described Eventing as “a tough workhorse aimed at the serious trials riders and budding Lucinda Greens.” But that workhorse has now retired, and so has this one.

But we’re not going to retire gracefully, are we? NO WAY.

I’ll keep writing about horses, even if they are fictional. Okay, “Tortuous Terrain”, the sequel to “Spiral of Hooves”, is based in Idaho, and the sport is more western – endurance riding and barrel racing. But easier to research, I hope.

And then comes “Suicide Seat”.

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Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners – by Roland Clarke

Winning formula for Badminton Horse Trials

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On Sunday 11th May the winner of the 2014 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials will be decided after four days of intense CCI**** competition. Central to the winner’s success in this three phase competition will probably be the cross-country course designed by Giuseppe Della Chiesa, Badminton’s new designer – the first in 25 years.

But who are the prime contenders for the Badminton title? It takes years of training, dedication and great skill to succeed at the world’s most prestigious four star three-day. Sothere will be the “usual suspects”, including William Fox-Pitt on top form as winner of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event at Lexington last weekend. This was William’s third Kentucky win, each one on a different horse. His 2012 winning ride, Catherine Witt’s Parklane Hawk is one of his rides at Badminton this year, and won Burghley in 2011. With two rides at Badminton, William will have to be a favourite.

William Fox-Pitt in Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead on Lyn How's Diamond Manati ~ by Roland Clarke

William Fox-Pitt in Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead on Lyn How’s Diamond Manati ~ by Roland Clarke

However, the field of 85 rides includes some notable previous winners, including equestrian legend and four times Badminton winner Mark Todd, GB Team stalwart Mary King, and Pippa Funnell – the only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam (for consecutive wins at Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley). There are also others in the field whose build-up may have given them and their rides a chance at the title. Of course injuries could also see some contenders fail to start – that is a risk with horses.

But not all of the riders and horses are likely winners, nor are they just making up the numbers. There are many other reasons for running. Some are aiming for a spot on their country’s team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy from August 23 – September 7, 2014 – the eventing is Thursday 28th-Sunday 31st August. For others this seems like a natural step in a horse’s career and could be the rider’s own Badminton debut. Many pony club riders dream of riding at Badminton and that dream may never die, even when it is fulfilled.

Many of the riders entered I know from my days as an equestrian journalist and photographer. A few I can remember competing at pony club trials, like Sophie Jenman, who is making her Badminton debut having done Burghley CCI**** in 2013. I used to write about her mother for local papers as she was a leading contender in the South East Eventers League, as were over a dozen of the riders.

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

It’s a long road to Badminton and far from smooth. Portraying that struggle in realistic terms is difficult, and I hope in my novel “Spiral of Hooves” that I succeeded. Writing a Badminton winner was never my intention, but I wanted to set some scenes there. So over to my Badminton runners – why did you compete there?

Carly Tanner: When first asked about Badminton, I told a reporter that my mare Silver Torc is, “…fantastic and owes me nothing. If it wasn’t for her injury, we might have gone. Without a top horse, Badminton’s just a dream.” However, Gilles persuaded me that I was capable of riding there and realising my pony club ambition. I had to relent saying, “Okay. Torc and I have done a few three stars, so we need a challenge.” At that point I was unaware of where it would all lead.

Gilles Boissard: It should have been my dream but instead my competing at Badminton was driven by my father’s ambition of having bred a Canadian team horse. However, Carly told me when we walked the course, “That’s not you talking, that’s Roman’s pride. He doesn’t care about the means or the cost, just the result.” At that stage Carly was unaware of what pride and ambition would unleash.

So when the first horses do their dressage on Thursday 8th May 2014, keep your eyes on both the names like William Fox-Pitt, but also watch out for the outsiders and the hidden agendas. There might be a mystery there.