A new book out this month – more in a minute!
Just to prove I occasionally put my nose out of doors, here is a lovely rose in our garden:
It was already here when we bought the house and, as far as we can calculate, it must be at least fifty years old. In early June it puts out its first buds. By mid June it is smothered in blossom. At Christmas and beyond there are still a few of these lovely soft pink flowers to remind us of summer. I love it!
Not that there has been much venturing forth this month. Shakenoak Press has continued its relentless progress. Or at least that’s what it feels like. Mary Hoffman says she can’t keep up with me, and sometimes I feel I can’t keep up with myself, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. So far in the first six months of 2014 I’ve published six books in paperback and on Kindle. However, two of these were previously published by Random House: The Anniversary and The Travellers. One more, A Running Tide, still to go.
One was a reissue of a previously indie published novel, The Testament of Mariam.
Then two previously unpublished books: Flood and The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez.
However, although these two were new, not previously published, they had been written before this year, but had started on the dreary, soul-destroying round of my existing agent, new agents and publishers.
At that time The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez was a much longer book, covering about ten years, plus an epilogue. On the advice of distinguished editor, I rewrote the first year-long episode as a full-length book during the summer of 2013 and began the second volume, writing about two-thirds of it before Christmas.
It was at that point that the iron entered into my soul and I decided to turn my back on traditional publishing and follow the independent route. As regular readers of this blog will know, I had already published The Testament of Mariam independently, but that was in the middle of the worst of the recession, when editors wanted it but the money men in the big publishers did not. I had hung on to the belief that things would change as we came out of the recession. They haven’t, as far as I can see, in the commercial publishing world. What has changed is the world of independent publishing.
Now it is much more straightforward to publish high quality paperbacks and accessible ebooks at very little cost. I buy my own ISBNs (though that isn’t obligatory) and I employ a professional cover designer, but I do all the technical stuff myself, having some experience. I also have experience as an editor, but I do get other people to read my MSS before publication.
So, with all these publication-ready books in hand, I’ve really only written one-third of a new book this year, the rest of the second volume in the Christoval Alvarez series, The Enterprise of England. This was King Philip of Spain’s arrogant term for his plan to invade and occupy England. While he was married to Queen Mary – yes, Bloody Mary, as some like to call her – he wished to be known as the King of England, and was reluctant to give up the title, even contemplating marriage to her Protestant sister Elizabeth. The Pope might have had something to say about that, as the church forbade marriage with that degree of consanguinity. Philip never abandoned his ‘enterprise’, so England was always under threat from Spain.
The Enterprise of England takes the story from the death of Sidney while helping the independent Dutch fighting the Spanish oppressors in the Low Countries, through the fall of Sluys, Drake’s attack on Cadiz (singeing the King of Spain’s beard), the build-up to the Armada, the sea battle itself, and its tragic aftermath, rarely now remembered. During the period when the Armada is expected, Christoval is sent on two missions to Amsterdam, for events in the Low Countries are very closely tied up with the Spanish invasion. Philip’s army there is to be loaded on to barges and ferried across the Channel under the protection of his warships. The plan is almost identical to the invasion of D-Day in the opposite direction – rather appropriate in the seventieth anniversary year of that invasion.
So, The Enterprise of England has now been published in the last few days, and there is a Countdown sale on the Kindle version of The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez until midnight on 6 July, to introduce readers to the story of young Marrano physician, code-breaker and agent Christoval. And, since I am so immersed in this sixteenth-century world at the moment, I have started on the third book, which deals with the Counter Armada, when in 1589 England followed up the previous year’s victory by launching an attack intended to destroy what was left of Spain’s fleet, to drive the Spanish occupiers out of Portugal, and to put Dom Antonio, of the royal house of Aviz on the throne. Working title: The Portuguese Affair.
The month has ended with even more exciting news. I had mentioned on Facebook that I was in negotiations with a Hollywood actress to record the audio book of The Testament of Mariam. I didn’t want to give away any details until the contract was signed, but she was on the point of going away for a long holiday in Continental Europe and Britain, so everything was on hold. Now the contract is signed and recording starts on 2 July, so I can now reveal that it is Serena Scott Thomas, younger sister of Kristin Scott Thomas. She’s starred in many films and TV dramas. To name just a handful – Harnessing Peacocks with Peter Davison and John Mills, Hostage with Bruce Willis, Diana Her True Story with Peter Threlfall, and the Bond film The World Is Not Enough. I listened to dozens of voices and I knew hers was just the right one for Mariam. I’m thrilled to bits that she has agreed. She’s absolutely lovely.
Mariam needed a special narrator and I can’t wait to hear the first section, due later this week. I think with Serena narrating it is going to be a stunning audio book.
As you’ll guess, I’m on cloud nine!
Till next month,