Warm Thoughts From Home & Abroad

Another month has passed, and although there have been minor adjustments to lockdown here in the UK, nothing has altered the schedule I’ve followed for eleven months. 

When I wrote to you in May, I was about to start writing ‘Barking Mad’, #6 in the Freeman Files series. It’s  now 80% complete. I mentioned eleven months earlier because that’s how long I’ve been writing about Gus Freeman. Six books in a year? I was happy with producing three titles a year with The Phoenix Series. Why have I apparently speeded up? Five years ago, when the first title hit the bookshelves nobody noticed or cared. Little changed until March 2019. Since then, things picked up, and by December 2019, when ‘Fatal Decision’ was published, there has been an audience waiting for the next title to appear; and the back catalogue is still delivering the goods.   

I received this email a couple of weeks ago from a 40-year old father of two who lives near Manchester. He’s not a Phoenix Club member (yet) but it meant the world to me that he took the trouble to write.

‘I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for the Phoenix Series. The books are so easy to read and I feel sad when a book is coming to an end because I just don’t want it to finish. I am on the fifth book at the moment and I look forward to reading all the other books in the series, plus your back catalogue and any future books you release. Thank you again. You have brought back my enjoyment in reading books. All the best.’

I’m the first to admit my books aren’t perfect. I’m a storyteller rather than an author. Imagine how I felt when another reader took the trouble to deliver this message –

‘I found your books through Kindle, and I really love your characters in the Phoenix series. I also enjoy your little narrative comments throughout. They add a cheekiness to your story telling. I am, however, distressed at elements of your grammar. It really does interfere with your wonderful story line. Could I offer my services (for free, absolutely no strings attached) to help you clean up your manuscripts? It would be so much fun. I have been a fan of Ian Rankin for some time and, as far as I can see, your books are up there with his!’

Praise and criticism all rolled into one email!

Every writer needs to be wary, but when I checked I found the email came from a Professor who has taught English for over 20 years. A linguist, who is an author for Oxford University Press. The collaboration has begun. My manuscript cleaner is enjoying her work and I feel as if I’ve gained a life-long friend. 

Regardless of what’s happening in the world this past four weeks have given me hope.

I’ll be back with an update in July. Take care, stay safe and best wishes. 

Ted Tayler

 

It’s An Ill Wind

There’s been a longer gap than usual between Newsletters and that wasn’t because I hadn’t been thinking of you. I prayed each and every one of you was still fit and well when I got back in touch.

Lockdown continues here in the UK for someone like me. As I mentioned last time, I found very little difference in my daily routine in those early weeks – the occasional social outing involving friends and family stopped completely, but that was it.

I planned to use the extra free time to publish this next book by the end of April.

So why the delay?

It was a combination of things. The BookBub Featured Deal for Book #1 in the Freeman Files Series was sensational. As a result, April produced more Sales, Page Reads and Downloads than ever before. I suddenly realised I had readers waiting for the next title. I experienced pressure for the first time since I retired. I didn’t have writer’s block, but I certainly struggled to get the usual number of words done per day.

An audiobook publisher contacted me asking if they could handle the Freeman Files series on my behalf. I was tempted, but then I worried that April was just one month. An exceptional month triggered by Covid-19 and an unprecedented surge in the need for books to read.

There’s always a ‘spike’ with a good promotion deal and it’s followed by a honeymoon period where figures thrive. After a month, the honeymoon ends and although Sales don’t tend to drop back below the average prior to the deal, they stabilise until the next ‘spike’ occurs. Maybe that’s why I thought of ‘Onwards and Upwards’ as The Phoenix Club’s motto?

I kept my promise to post daily quizzes and Ted’s Weekly Tips until the end of April. They didn’t take much time to prepare, but it was preventing the flow of my writing so I stopped. Once I put my undivided attention to ‘Final Deal’ everything came together and it’s ready now to hit the bookshelves.

Book #5 ‘Final Deal’ in the Freeman Files Series went ‘live’ in Kindle format today. If you want to read and review it then just let me know and I’ll gladly forward a .mobi copy.

To those of you who have been with me for a long time, you know that by July 2018 I was convinced I’d written my last word. Nine months later, my wife said after my first BookBub Featured Deal – “You need to write something for people to read after they’ve finished the Phoenix Series. Get out from under my feet and back in your office.”

I thought Gus Freeman was a character I would enjoy writing about. I sketched out six stories based on actual unsolved murders and by December I had four titles ready. I published ‘Fatal Decision’ with no fanfare or expectation, and followed up releasing a title each month until March. Books 5&6 should have been written by the end of February and released in mid-April and mid-May.

Although Sales between December and March didn’t catch fire, I was enjoying the writing so much I opted to extend the series to ten books. I sketched the content, sourced the covers, and looked forward to another quiet, uneventful summer, followed by a genuine retirement.

Funny how things turn out, isn’t it? What does my wife say? “Are you sure it’s only ten?”

I start writing Book #6 ‘Barking Mad’ in a day or two.

I’ll be back with an update in June.  Take care, stay safe and best wishes. 

Ted Tayler

Stay Positive

Most writers probably feel the same way about the lockdown situation we’re currently suffering. The degree to which this pandemic is affecting you will vary, but it hasn’t really changed the way a writer operates day to day.

For the past seven years I’ve intermittently shut myself in isolation for five or six hours a day – only emerging for food and an encouraging hug from my wife.

All we can do is hope and pray we come out on the other side of this sooner rather than later.

I learned how to video call my grandsons the other day. They wanted to SEE that we were still OK, despite reassurances from son and daughter-in-law that we were fine.

I wish I was more technically proficient. Maybe, I could use some wizard app that allowed me to chat with each one of you – to check for myself that you were OK.

So, what’s been happening since my last Newsletter?

Book #4 ‘Deadly Formula’ in the Freeman Files Series was published last week. Some of you may already have it. If you want to read and review it then just let me know and I’ll gladly forward a .mobi copy.

I started writing #5 ‘Final Deal’ straight away. The sooner I can add to the list the better. Day One of the BookBub Featured Deal exceeded all expectations yesterday. There were 20% more copies downloaded than forecast, and Day Two is only just underway.

I guess with so many people forced to stay home there’s going to be a surge in demand for free books. It’s an ill wind, as they say. I don’t want to take advantage of that without giving something in return.

One thing my wife and I have noticed when we venture out for our one ‘exercise trip’ per day, is that despite crossing the road to avoid passing close to one another almost everyone we see says ‘Hello.’ Before Covid-19 we could walk miles, and nobody lifted their heads. I hope this phenomenon is something that lingers long after restrictions are lifted.

I ran a weekly quiz night for over eleven years, and I retained almost all the items I used. So, every day I now post a #tedsbittohelp item on Facebook & Twitter. Every Tuesday, I intend to include an idea for a family game – based on things we did when I was a lad.

Some of you might know this already, but I had 2 aunts who were schoolteachers. When we visited them my cousins and I played a game called Animal, Vegetable & Mineral. We’d sit around the large farmhouse table in the kitchen with an oil lamp in the centre – it was ten years before electricity came to their village. When we weren’t creating animal shadows on the whitewashed walls with our fingers, we struggled to find answers for a letter of the alphabet not just for Animal, Vegetable or Mineral but ten or fifteen other categories too. My Aunt Margaret told me when I was older that it was designed to stretch vocabulary, improve spelling and encourage competition. We thought it was just a game!

So, games like that are being posted as Ted’s Tuesday Tips – in the hope it will offer a solution to a beleaguered parent or carer, who’s run out of ideas on how to fill the hours.

Every little helps, and helping one another is a surefire way to get through this.

I’ll be back with an update in May. Take care, stay safe and best wishes. 

Ted Tayler

A Shift in Momentum

 

 

 

 

 

There will always be months in a writer’s life when things don’t go as scheduled. I need to explain why this past four weeks hasn’t produced the final version of #4 in the Freeman Files Series – ‘Deadly Formula.’

I can honestly say writer’s block has never been an issue in the past seven years, and my output of a mere two thousand words a day when I’ve been writing suggests that things have merely slowed, not stopped. How many reasons can I put forward?

Well, the named storms that have hit the UK weekend after weekend have contributed. Ciara, Dennis and Jorge have hurt my progress. My wife and I helped our neighbours rebuild several sections of fencing between our properties. The floods never reached our doors, but six miles away things were very different.

We also attended birthday celebrations for two grandsons. I find it takes longer to recover from those than my own birthday – I don’t know about you?

There’s always a honeymoon period after a Bookbub Featured Deal and I knew it could tail off by March, but the good vibes I felt about the early promotions for ‘Fatal Decision’ encouraged me to extend the Freeman Files Series from six to ten titles.

I researched the stories for ‘Creature Discomforts’, ‘Silent Terror’, ‘Night Train’, and ‘All Things Bright’ and secured covers for them to ensure I was committed to produce the goods.

My target now is to publish ‘Deadly Formula’ by the end of March. Books #5 to #10 will follow in a more sedate procession – perhaps every 10 to 12 weeks.

Breaking news: – I didn’t expect another Featured Deal until the summer at least. There was a nine-month gap between the two Deals I secured in 2019. I received confirmation this morning that ‘Fatal Decision’ will be featured on FRIDAY 3RD APRIL in a worldwide Deal. It’s been placed in the Crime Fiction category, which gives it a wider spread than the Phoenix books.

It’s another potential giant step forward and I’m glad that I took those days out to consider more books in the series. Of course, it loads the pressure on me to get #4 finished. I’m 30% into the story now and the incentive to crack on is huge. 

I’ll be back with another update in April.

Take care and best wishes. 

Ted Tayler

Pressure? What Pressure?

Gus Freeman and his Crime Review Team have successfully manoeuvred their way through two cold cases given them by ACC Kenneth Truelove.

In their most recent case, DS Neil Davis’s father, Terry, came under the microscope. Was the former detective responsible for sending an innocent man to prison? Or did he follow orders from a superior officer?

DS Alex Hardy continues his recovery from his motorcycle accident and awaits news on whether he can take a more active role in the job he loves.

Lydia Logan Barre grows closer to Alex and reveals the secret behind her reasons for abandoning her theatrical ambitions and joining the police.

With a wide array of characters on both sides of the law, ‘Pressure Point’ offers plenty of action, romance, humour and drama.

Laura Mallinder left home for work on Sunday, 12th June 2011. She walked to ‘Gentle Touch’, a massage parlour in Broadgreen, Swindon. Her boss, Maggie Monk discovered her body later that evening. Laura, twenty-seven years old, sustained fatal stab wounds to her back.

“It sounds like they’ve landed us with a locked room mystery to solve, guv,” said Neil Davis.

 “Nobody said all these cold cases would be easy, Neil,” said Gus Freeman.

       “The multiple dimensions to the characters give these books a genuine slant. The relationships between the characters are worked smoothly into the plots.”

The increased exposure from that Christmas #1 meant that 2020 started with a bang. New faces, high Sales, and as many Pages Read (KENP) as for the whole of 2019.

 The Freeman Files Series continues to pick up the pace. The first two books are performing well. I made Paperback versions available this week.

Book #3 ‘Pressure Point’ will be published in Kindle/Paperback on Friday 14th February.

I’m always looking for reviews for the brand-new series. If you missed out in the past and wished to grab a FREE copy in return for an honest review reply to this newsletter and I’ll forward a copy straightaway. That goes for either of the three Gus Freeman books; the more the merrier.

Book #4 ‘Deadly Formula’ is maybe two weeks behind schedule. I hope to get it published in mid-March as planned, but I decided that improving the quality of what I already have out there was more important.

 I’ll be back with another blog post in early March.

Take care and best wishes. 

Ted Tayler

 

My first UK Christmas Number One

If you dig back far enough in my literary output you’ll uncover a book of memories that started this whole writing craze. We never made it big in the music world and would have given anything for a Christmas #1 in the UK.

Everything comes to he who waits. I secured my second BookBub Featured Deal for the 23rd/24th December and the Box Set of Books 1-3 in The Phoenix Series held the #1 spot in Free Kindles across the whole Amazon store (plus half a dozen genres within the Thrillers category). In the US store it peaked at #3, but I’m not complaining!

 The increased exposure something like that offers is immeasurable. Safe to say, my decision to launch the new Freeman Files Series in mid-December didn’t backfire. Sales are steady on #1 ‘Fatal Decision’ and #2 ‘Last Orders’ will be published in two weeks. 

Every author is desperate for reviews, especially with the launch of a brand-new series. I’m hopeful for positive feedback from ten people who have yet to post their reviews. 

This is 2020 – the start of a new decade – what can I promise you? 

I’ll do my utmost to keep writing books you enjoy. In June 2018 I thought I was done with writing. Six months later things started to improve. In March, that first BookBub Deal was a game-changer. In June 2019 my wife urged me to start writing another series. On Christmas Eve Eve(!) that first series received another shot in the arm.

There’s life in The Phoenix Series yet.

Gus Freeman is starting to make an impact.

Retirement is not an option.

Many thanks for sharing this journey with me.  

Before I go, a heads-up for next month. I’m reading another book from Nicky Blue, ‘Numan vs Numan.’ My review will be included next time.

I’ll be back with another update in early February. 

Take care and best wishes. 

Ted Tayler

Small steps

Book Three in The Freeman Files series is 20% finished. ‘Pressure Point’ will be published in mid-February, around 4 weeks after ‘Last Orders.’

I postponed starting on ‘Pressure Point’ to focus on changes to my earlier Box Sets. All that work is behind me now and it’s full-steam ahead with a cold case concerning the brutal stabbing of 27-year-old sex worker Laura Mallinder in Swindon. This will uproot the Crime Review Team from their office in the Old Police Station as they investigate the 2011 murder on the grubby streets of Old Town.

The complex nature of this case leaves Gus Freeman with more than enough to handle. Nothing is ever easy, as the new Chief Constable marks his card early on. She’s not a fan of retired detectives being resurrected. It doesn’t paint the current batch in a good light if Gus keeps solving murders that they found impossible to crack. I love a bit of conflict, don’t you?

Amazon KDP approached me last month to say #1 in The Phoenix Series had been nominated for a Kindle Deal in India. I received confirmation this morning that ‘The Olympus Project’ will be promoted by them during November which can’t be a bad thing. Why turn down a book promotion that I don’t have to pay for?

I’ve set up a Countdown Deal on my short story collection ‘A Sting In The Tale’. The price is reduced to $0.99 for the 12 stories from Monday 4th to the 10th November.

These initiatives may not produce much of an impact, but it softens the blow of not getting a Bookbub Featured Deal again this month. We’ve been here before. If we can’t make great strides then small steps are still moving us in the right direction – onward and upwards.

I’ll be back with another update in around four weeks.

Take care and best wishes. 

 

 

The Invisible Thread

Book Two in The Freeman Files series has been completed. ‘Last Orders’ will be published in mid-January, around 4 weeks after ‘Fatal Decision.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I postponed starting #3 ‘Pressure Point’ because I needed to focus on some changes to my earlier works. Back in 2017 I thought I needed a 4 book Box Set after I’d finished the eighth title in The Phoenix Series. It would have been far more sensible to split the series into sets of three. That’s what I’ve been tackling over the past ten days. So, nine books refurbished and three new box sets in the pipeline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How many of you have read #7, ‘Something Wicked Draws Near’?

Can you tell me what happened to the man responsible for the death of the young Ghanaian girl Awusi Debrah?

I thought not. That story thread was never resolved… until now. I closed the loop in #8, ‘Evil Always Finds A Way’. It was only a few sentences, but it satisfied my desire to tie  up all the loose ends before I finally put The Phoenix Series to bed.

That was a lesson learned. I try to make meticulous notes for each story thread and tag them as needing to be picked up and resolved in a later chapter, or even the next book. The tag should never get removed until I’ve dealt with it. Poor Awusi Debrah disappeared into the ice-house for Giles Burke and his team to investigate and the file was mislaid.

Mea culpa. I believe it’s the only occasion so far in seven years.

An update on my health. I told you things move at a snail’s pace in the NHS. My appointment is on November 22nd. How long after that the operation will take place, who knows? So far, nothing is stopping me from writing, although if you find a typo in this I have an excuse ready and waiting.

I’ll be back with another update in around four weeks.

Take care and best wishes. 

 

Ted Tayler

Here We Go Again

I’ve lost count of the occasions when it’s been tempting to use the phrase ‘three steps forward two steps back’ in my writing career. If memory serves I posted an item with that headline on this blog a few years ago. There were some days when I thought the situation was reversed and progress wasn’t being made at all. I hope I’m more philosophical these days.

 In the four weeks since my last post I’ve finished writing ‘Fatal Decision’ #1 in the Freeman Files Series. My sternest critic has read it and she pronounced it the best thing I’ve written to date.

That spurred me on to start on ‘Last Orders’ book #2 so that I took advantage of the rhythm I had finally achieved when the first book neared completion. Three thousand words a day was being achieved with comfort.

I carried that on for the next five days or so and now book two is 25% done. However, it’s been tough going. Without spoiling the plot of either book, the first had a victim with a decent sized family and lots of people with whom she came into contact. Gus Freeman and his team had at least a dozen interviews to undertake. There was background to the new characters to be revealed and the setting to be explained.  

The scenario I’ve chosen for the second story has only thrown up a handful of potential witness interviews so far and there are less introductions to be made. I’m trying hard to avoid the ‘flashback overkill’ that a lot of series writers suffer from. That’s fine in principle but in practice it means a lot more creative writing.

August has never been a great time for book promotions for me. I thought with summer holidays at their peak people would be searching for something to read on the beach. That was a ‘step back’ last month for sure. My return on investment was poor.

The other setback concerned my health. Cataracts had formed on both eyes maybe fifteen years ago, they were slow growing, but it was inevitable they would need to be removed at some point. I went for a consultation a fortnight ago expecting to get a date for the procedure on the left eye in six weeks time (early October).

However, I learned I have a membrane growing on the back of the left eye too and need to see a retinal surgeon to determine what happens next. Naturally, this would be a more complex operation if it was required and my plans of writing four of the six Freeman books before Christmas may have to be put on hold.

I’ll be back in four weeks with an update on progress on the book. As far as the other problem’s concerned, I doubt if I’ll have got an appointment by then knowing the parlous state of the NHS. C’est la vie or Here we go again.

Take care and best wishes. 

Ted Tayler

 

Voices Inside My Head

This time last year I was convinced my writing was done. The Phoenix Series was complete and the desire to start something new was lacking. However, March brought more than a shed load of downloads and subsequent sales. It provided the spur I needed to get moving again.

I previewed the main characters of my next series ‘The Freeman Files’ in the past two blog posts and began writing #1 ‘Fatal Decision’ in mid-July. Twenty thousand words in so far. I’m on schedule for the first four books of the six-book series to be finished by December.

That first book will be published in time for Christmas and as well as writing books #5 & #6 in the New Year, the remaining books will be published far more rapidly than in the past. So, by mid-May the series will be ‘live’ in full.

Not writing for a year meant this past three weeks have been a struggle, I must admit. I hoped to achieve 3000 words per day as I had when I was writing regularly. I was lucky to get a thousand at the outset. Fortunately, I’ve had a couple of better days recently. The rhythm is coming back.

I never had the benefit of higher education and the technical aspects professional writers refer to go right over my head. I draft a skeleton format for a story. I decide on my characters and put flesh on the bones. For all my previous books I carried those characters around inside my head, so they could talk to me, and tell me where they wanted to go.

Then, when I started writing, I would know roughly where each chapter was drafted to reach, but the characters regularly changed their minds and took the story in an unexpected direction. We’d reach the ending I planned for the book, but not always via the route I’d expected.

This past weekend I had a dream. Sometimes we forget what they were all about don’t we? In ‘Fatal Decision’ Gus Freeman has to solve a cold case from a decade earlier. I had drafted the skeleton story line, I knew the killer, but I didn’t have the intermediate clues to sprinkle through the chapters that would explain why they were guilty.

I woke up at about five in the morning. The road ahead was now clear. The conversations the characters had in my dream stayed long enough for me to jot down the salient points. I’ve always kept a notepad and pen by my bed. You never know when an idea will spring up.

Not everyone will know the identity of the killer from the first clue, but it will all make sense in the end. Now all we have to do is write the remaining chapters. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. Those main characters are inside my head for five more books after this one. I’m sure I’ll need their help solving the other mysteries.

Take care and best wishes.  I’ll be back in September.