What times we’ve lived through.

Annie Shaw

Grandmas Annie Shaw circa 1918

My grandma’s house was a miner’s cottage in Mapplewell, probably built in the mid to late Victorian period. It was red brick, two up, two down with a toilet in the yard. There was a cellar with a freshwater spring in it, forming a little well, which may have once been the water supply, but by the time Grandma and Grandpa moved in, there was running water to the kitchen sink. Though it was a tiny house they hardly ever used the front room except when there were visitors. The back room was always referred to as the ‘house’ and was the only room that was heated regularly using the coal allowance from Grandpa’s job as a miner.

My parents’ house, the one I recall from my childhood, was a few miles away in Athersley, on the outskirts of Barnsley. It was probably built in the 1920s/1930s, a two up, two down semi with an indoor bathroom. We lived in the back room during the day – a combined kitchen, living room and dining room, with a coal oven and two gas rings on the sink draining board. Outside was a gas street lamp – replaced by an electric one when I was very young, but I can still just about remember it.

What times we have lived through! From black lead fireplaces and gas street lamps to personal computers the size of a slim paperback book.

I’ve spent the last few years, off and on, researching family history, going back (through some lines) to the 1600s.

Clifford's postcard 1925 front

You won’t find any lords of the manor or toffs of any kind in my family tree – certainly no royalty or nobility. We’re a boring lot. As far back as occupations are recorded we’re mostly miners with a few nailmakers thrown into the mix – a job, in its own way, almost as dangerous as working at the coalface, at least for the children of the family who often played around the family’s forge while both parents worked.

I’ve done quite a lot of history research for my Rowankind books which are set in 1800, 1801 and 1802. It’s the period of Regency romances (though strictly speaking the Regency didn’t begin until 1811).

Duke and II love Regency Romance. It’s my guilty pleasure. Though sometimes I wonder how many dukedoms have been invented by authors writing in the genre. Pretty debs in Regency romances always have to find a rakish duke, or at least an earl or a viscount they can reform into good husband material. The aristocracy has never been so populous.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love reading all that kind of stuff, especially if it’s written with wit and a touch of humour. (Julia Quinn’s books come to mind! And, of course, Georgette Heyer.)

Winterwood front cover

Winterwood by Jacey Bedford, published by DFAW, Feb 2016.

Northern working class folk didn’t mix with the likes of the ton, so I’m happy to write books set in that era where the ton is never mentioned at all. The heroine of my Rowankind books, Rossalinde navigates through life on the outskirts of polite society. Ross’ family is firmly middle class. Her father was a sea captain, and she took to the sea herself when she ran off with her first husband (who features in the trilogy as a jealous ghost).

My Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmothers  were born around the same time as my fictional heroine, Ross. Ann Wyatt in Somerset, and in Yorkshire, Sarah Pollard and Ann Auckland. Ann was born in 1774 and lived to be 78 years old. She married Reuban Hargreaves and they had at least eight children. Mary Fleetwood was born in Staincross in 1774. She married Timothy Crow and proceeded to pop out nine children at approximately two year intervals. That (and looking after them) is hard work! You can bet your bottom dollar that she never aspired to travel to London, and never had a voucher for Almacks.

Though Timothy Crow’s exact occupation is unknown, he’s listed as a labourer. His father, Robert, was a blacksmith, a respectable profession for a working man. Timothy’s grandson, George, was a coal miner, living in Mapplewell, a pit village in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

george & eliza crowe

George Crow and his wife Emma. He was a coal miner. She was from a nailmaking family.

George Crow is the son of Timothy’s youngest daughter, Mary, born in 1838, two years before her marriage to Charles Pickering. George’s siblings are all Pickerings. As to whether Charles is George’s father I’d hazard a guess that he’s not. None of the indicators are there. It was common for bastards to have the surname of their father as a middle name, but George had no middle name. Also, if Mary and Charles were going to get married after George’s birth, it’s not likely they’d have waited two years. Neither George’s birth certificate nor his marriage certificate name a father, so I draw my own conclusion.

Unlike my characters I don’t think there would have been much magic in my ancestors’ lives.

Now that I’ve finished writing the Rowankind trilogy, and my next book after that is written, my mind is turning towards writing something new. Am I going to stick to the past or travel into the future? I’ve got a few interesting characters in my family tree such as Fletcher Fletcher who was a colliery engine wright and whose third wife, Ann Randle, was listed as a schoolmistress on the 1861 census. There’s Moses Lockyer, born around 1600 in Radstock, Somerset, who married Mary Wiles, had nine children and lived through the English Civil War.

Inspiration for a story? Maybe. It’s certainly worth looking into my family history a little more closely while I’m contemplating my next book.

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Rowankind Delivered

On Friday night I sent off the final edited version of my upcoming novel ROWANKIND.

Let me say that again because it never gets old. On Friday night I sent off the final edited version of my upcoming novel ROWANKIND.

Jacey Office 4It’s the culmination of seven months of work, five months to write the first draft and deliver it, a gap of a month while my editor (Sheila Gilbert at DAW) went to work on it, and another month of (structural/story) editing.

Of course, work on the book isn’t finished yet, but most of my work is. From here it goes to my editor for a final check. I’ve gone through one edit with Sheila already, and made the changes she suggested, but if there are any issues she still needs me to address, of course, she can send it back to me and I can do more edits.

Once Sheila is happy with it, it goes to a copy editor who changes my British English to American English, and checks my prose for clunky sentences and bad punctuation. (Americans use a LOT more commas than we Brits, do for starters. And don’t get me started on the Great Oxford Comma debate. Sometimes Oxford commas are necessary, and sometimes not.)

Rowankind_coverI get to see the book again after the copy editor has worked on it, and I can make any necessary alterations (or query what the copy editor has done in specific cases) before it goes to the typesetter. My final view of the book will be the page proofs, which I like to do on paper (though I send any resulting changes to my publisher by email). Once it gets to the page proof stage I can only make small changes. Trying to add or subtract substantial chunks will make more work for the typesetters.

Before it comes out in it’s final form DAW will produce ARCs, advance reader copies, which will be sent out for review, hopefully so that published reviews will coincide with publication.

DAW’s publicist (DAW is part of Penguin Random House) will do some work on getting the book some promo, but it helps if I can do some of that, too. Setting up a blog tour is something I can help with, i.e. writing guest blogs for anyone who will host me on their blog. Sometimes I get to write an opinion piece, or something about the nuts and bolts of writing, and sometimes I get to answer interview questions. I’m happy to do any of those types of posts.

Do contact me if you can either offer to review ROWANKIND or host a post on my blog tour.

Ross PartialCorwenROWANKIND is the third and final book in the Rowankind trilogy which began with WINTERWOOD and continued with SILVERWOLF. It continues the story of Ross (Rossalinde) and Corwen set in 1802, in a magical Britain. The Fae are threatening magical retribution if the newly enfranchised rowankind are not protected from the Mysterium, Corwen’s shapechanging brother is a constant source of trouble, and an unexpected peace treaty with Napoleon’s France brings an old enemy back to England’s shores. Can Ross and Corwen protect Britain’s magicals without sacrificing themselves? Expect adventure on land and sea, an unexpected encounter with a pirate, magical creatures on the loose, some politicking with a guest appearance by Mr. Pitt the younger, and a desperate final struggle against Walsingham.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had some input into the selection of a cover artist for the trilogy. Larry Rostant has done a marvellous job of bringing my characters to life. I absolutely adore his artwork. The cover of ROWANKIND features Ross and the rowankind Charlotte with Corwen in Silverwolf form. The book is due from DAW on 4th December 2018. It’s available for pre-order on both sides of the Atlantic from the folks named after a South American river.

Winterwood&Silverwolf-800px

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The Reading Conundrum

When I got my first publishing deal back in 2013 I found that when I was writing to a deadline it was difficult to keep up with my reading. This reading conundrum is something many writers suffer from…

  • When I’m writing I’m always slightly worried that if I read books in the same genre that they will subconsciously influence me.
  • Yet all authors are advised to read widely in order to keep up with what’s being published.

To address these difficulties I made sure that when I was writing fantasy, I read science fiction, and when I was writing science fiction I read fantasy or historical novels. That kept me happy for a few years, but gradually I’ve eased up on my own self-imposed rule. There are too many great books out there to limit what I allow myself to read.

GollanczSince 2009, I’ve blogged every book I’ve read, not on this blog (where I mostly blog about writing) but on my Dreamwidth blog at https://jacey.dreamwidth.org/. This has several advantages. Firstly it introducers people to books they may not have considered, and secondly it forms a database to help me remember book details. I so wish I’d done it decades ago.

I’ve always been a science fiction and fantasy reader. I my teens I read (from the local library) everything I saw which had one of those Gollancz yellow jackets. Oh boy, I do wish I’d been doing writeups then. I read a lot of the classics (which I was probably too young for at the time) but sadly very few of them have stayed in my brain.

Battersea BarricadesSo my advice is not only to read, but to keep track of what you read and even if you don’t do reviews, jot down something which will jog your memory five years from now; ten years from now. Go on… you’ll be glad you did.

Having said that, though I’ve been reading, I’ve had a lapse and I now need to catch up with this year’s book blogging. My reading is fifteen books ahead of my blogging. I promise to catch up soon. My random 2018 reading includes historicals by Julia Quinn, Ella Quinn, Danielle Harmon, and Sheila Walsh, a couple of delightful St Mary’s offerings by the wonderful Jodi Taylor (one novel, one short story), Patricia Briggs’ latest Alpha and Omega novel, the first Lindsey Davis Falco novel, and a couple of history books (non-fiction) by Peter Ackroyd.

 

 

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Cover Reveal Rowankind

Cover reveal: Rowankind, the last book in the Rowankind trilogy is due in November from DAW. Need to read the first two? They are Winterwood and Silverwolf in that order.  The cover illustrates Ross (Rossalinde) with Corwen the wolf shapechanger and Charlotte, the young rowankind housekeeper we met in Silverwolf, and who also appears here in Rowankind.

Rowankind_cover

The artist is Larry Rostant who illustrated the first two books in the trilogy, too. I love his work. Here’s his website: http://rostant.com/illustration/ He mixes photography and digital artwork to get amazingly natural results.

Winterwood&Silverwolf-800px

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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Empire of Dust

My first book, Empire of Dust, launched on 4th November 2014 from DAW and, boy, was I excited. I’d waited a long time for that moment.

When I got the first review , from Publishers’ Weekly, no less, I read it with trepidation. (Hey, it was the first review of my first book, I was allowed to trepidate!) I read it, and then I read it again and gradually it began to sink in. It was a good review. Then I looked back at the email that it had arrived in – a congratulatory email from my editor, enclosing the review. (I should have read that bit first and saved myself a giant case of the trepids.)

It started off: “Bedford mixes romance and intrigue in this promising debut, which opens the Psi-Tech space opera series.” Then it goes on to talk about the book’s plot and premise and ends with: “Bedford builds a taut story around the dangers of a new world…. Readers who crave high adventure and tense plots will enjoy this voyage into the future.”

And it struck me, as I read it for the fourth or fifth time how author worries morph as you move along the path towards publication. I was talking to Alastair Reynolds on Twitter just before the review came out (Al and I did our first ever Milford SF Writers’ Conference  together back in 1998 before he got his first publishing deal and became mega-famous), and he reminded me that: ‘Worrying is the gift that keeps on giving.’

First, you worry that your writing just isn’t good enough to make the grade, that you’ll never finish the damn book, anyway, and if you do that you’ll probably never even dare to let anyone else read it. Then you do finish it and think that, just possibly, it doesn’t suck too badly. You begin to think that you’d like to show it to someone who actually might know something about writing and publishing, but you worry they’ll just laugh at your puny efforts.

Once the manuscript is finished and it’s as good as you can make it, you begin to wonder if your dream of being published is getting closer. Hey, you’ve written the book and polished it. What’s the next step? An agent? Is that even possible? Yes, it is (in my case four agents, but that’s another story, and a long one), but it takes a long time, much research and many queries (see my blog piece on How to Get a Literary Agent) and you worry that it will never happen for you.

It may take months, it may take years, but eventually (if you are persistent) it happens. You get an agent. And then you worry about whether your precious manuscript will ever sell. Truth? It might, it might not, but while you’re waiting you should keep on writing more.

Then, all of a sudden, a sale, and your life changes in an instant. Are your worries over? Far from it, but they turn into different worries. Will the reviews be good? Will readers like it? Will sales be good enough to cover the advance your publisher has paid you? Will you get a follow-on publishing deal after this? I think most authors will recognise this cycle of self-doubt and worry (and hard work), but the thrill of seeing the finish line racing towards you makes you forget the speedbumps along the road to publication.

In my case it took years of writing science fiction and fantasy in secret before I even dared admit my genre-vice to my friends. Then a chance meeting with Nebula Award-winning author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough gave me my first nudge along the road, and my first short story sale, way back in 1998. Yes, that’s right, my overnight success, from short story to novel publication took only sixteen years. I’ve lost track of the number of might-have-beens and nearly-bought-its along the road. There was the publisher who sent a sincere ‘We nearly bought this’ letter way back in 1999, and the major publisher who said, ‘The first couple of chapters look interesting,’ and then hung on to the manuscript for three years without doing anything with it. And then there were several false starts with agents before finding my current agent, Donald Maass of Donald Maass Literary Agency.

I kept on going, in part due to the encouragement of fellow writers in usenet newsgroups, online critique groups, and face-to-face at Milford . I can’t tell you how important it is to get feedback from other writers. I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing from denizens of the online usenet newsgroups, misc.writing and rec.arts.sf.composition. I’m still in touch with many of them, and some have become good personal friends. I joined a small email critique group which ran for eight years, and then (through a r.a.sf.c contact) I was invited to attend Milford for a week of face-to-face critiquing and plot-noodling. The right critique group will pull your work apart constructively to help you make it better. They’ll point out the clunky sentences, the yawning gaps in your plot-logic, the excessive use of hand-wavium when trying to explain your magic-system or your latest scientific gadget. And they’ll do it without making you feel small or stupid.

2book-Rowankind

My first completed book didn’t sell, and neither did my second (unsurprising because it was a sequel to the first – duh!), but my third one did. I not only sold Empire of Dust, but in the same deal I sold my fifth completed manuscript (Winterwood, a historical fantasy) and got a commission for a sequel to Empire. Yeah, a three book deal with DAW, my dream publisher of science fiction and fantasy! Pretty cool, huh? I’ve now sold DAW six books. My Psi-Tech trilogy (Empire of Dust, Crossways, and Nimbus) is complete and the Rowankind trilogy completes this year. Winterwood and Silverwolf are out already and Rowankind follows in November 2018.

Sheila Gilbert, my editor, is hugely experienced, totally insightful, and has been working with nervous authors for long enough to know just what to suggest and how to suggest it. She’s also got great taste in cover art and commissioned the amazing Stephan Martiniere to do my science fiction covers, and Larry Rostant to do my fantasy ones. These are both very different artists but in both cases absolutely perfect for the books they are working with. My covers are a thrill and a delight.

So after four years of drafts, edits, rewrites, additions, inventions, reinventions, and just about the craziest most creative spurt of my life to date, my five books are on the shelves and my sixth is incubating. I’ve had some good reviews. My editor is happy. My agent is happy. I’m happy. I hope my readers will be happy. I look forward to more and different worries ahead of me.

3bookpsitech

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Men in Science Fiction and Fantasy

A comedy panel at Eastercon 2018 with Jaine Fenn (moderator), Juliet McKenna, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jacey Bedford.

Comedy panel on Youtube

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My Eastercon Schedule

Very much looking forward to Follycon, the 2018 Eastercon in Harrogate. I’m arriving Thursday and leaving Monday afternoon. I’ll have a Milford Writers’ Conference display (with leaflets and information).

It will be lovely to meet up with friends and see some interesting panels… and to participate.

This is where you’ll find me over the Easter weekend.

Sunday Apr 1, 2018

11:00 AM
6:00 PM

Monday Apr 2, 2018

10:00 AM
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