Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Benefits of a back list - Miss Peterson and the Colonel

US  UK  Pre-order. Out 25th August.
Miss Peterson and the Colonel will be the last book from my back list to be published on Amazon. I wrote nine books for Robert Hale, the first more than ten years ago, and then sixteen for DC Thomson – all these were Regency. I'd also written four World War II romantic sagas and one very long Victorian family saga. The agent I was with at the time failed to place any of them so they were hiding, unloved, in the recesses of my computer.
With the advent of indie publishing on Amazon I was able to recycle them. The secret of success as an independent author is to either be able to write at least six books a year or have, like me, a huge back list. It's taken four years to publish them all as I write five or six new titles every year as well.
Obviously writing a good book is important. However, finding your market, and having sufficient titles to satisfy that, is even more crucial. The advice I give to anyone starting out on the indie journey is to wait until you have at least three books edited, proofread and professionally covered before releasing the first.
I know a lot of writers complain bitterly about Kindle Unlimited (the subscription system for books in Kindle Select) having slashed their sales.Writing is a business like any other and if you want to be successful you need to find as many customers/readers as you can. Amazon provides the window for your books. If a reader likes the first one then they can download your entire back list – and frequently do.
I buy physical books for research and the hardback copies of Bernard Cornwall/Lee Child/Michael Connelly. It's actually cheaper to buy the hardback than the e-book because of the way five price their e-books. I love the fact that I can see the book I want to read and be able to read it minutes later.

Here is an extract from the first chapter of Miss Peterson and the Colonel:

Lydia grabbed at the strap as the carriage tilted but failed to stop her undignified slide into the well. Her maid landed heavily on top of her. For a moment she lay winded, unable to move.
'I beg your pardon, miss, I couldn't stop myself from falling.'
'It's not your fault, Martha. I think we must have broken an axle. I sincerely hope the horses are unharmed.' With some difficulty she extricated herself and stood up. 'At least we are both in one piece. If I balance on the edge of the seat I believe I might manage to open the door.' She attempted the manoeuvre and the coach rocked alarmingly.
'Please don't do that, Miss Peterson. You'll likely have us right over.'
'Why doesn't Jim come to our aid? Do you think he's taken a tumble from the box. As Billy has gone ahead to order our refreshments he cannot assist. I must get out.'
This time her struggles sent the coach crashing right over. Her world turned upside down, her legs and arms became entangled with Martha's and it was several minutes before she was able to get both of them upright. The doors were now the floor and ceiling, the squabs pointing into the air. The sound of her precious horses panicking meant she had no option. If she did not get out and release them from the harness one would likely break a leg.
Martha screamed and pointed down. Lydia saw water seeping in through the door that now acted as the floor. They must have turned over into the ditch that ran alongside the road. 'Hold onto something, Martha. I think if I could step on your knee I might reach the door handle somehow.'
Her smart travelling ensemble was ruined, the hem already saturated with muddy water and her spencer in no better case. Her lovely new bonnet was hanging in disarray around her neck. Her sister had been most insistent she dressed in her best to meet the colonel, as the much longed for visitor was to arrive today as well. She was not going to impress anyone now.
The whinnying and stamping from the team had stopped. Was this a good or bad sign? Before she had time to consider, the door above her head was slammed back and a gentleman appeared in the space. His features were indistinct, but from his voice he was obviously well-to-do.
'Why couldn't you stay still, ladies? You have turned a minor accident into a major disaster. I have released your horses and attended to your coachman, however, now that you've managed to tip the carriage over there is nothing I can do to get you out without assistance. You must stay inside.'
The incredibly rude gentleman vanished as suddenly as he'd appeared, leaving Lydia up to her boot tops in freezing water. 'Come back here this instant, sir. You cannot abandon us in here.'
He slammed his fist against the carriage and shouted back. 'I cannot right the vehicle unaided, and can't pull you out through the door. You will come to no harm, the ditch is shallow, I shall be back as soon as I can.'
Then he was gone, only the sound of hoofbeats echoing in the cold winter air to keep her company. This was no gentleman. He had callously left her and Martha without making a serious attempt to rescue them. He could be gone hours. What about poor Jim possibly unconscious on the side of the road?
She would not remain incarcerated a moment longer.
'Martha, let me stand on your knee. If you brace yourself against the seat I'm certain I can scramble out.'
'It's a good thing you're not as short as me, miss. I'd not reach if I tried.'
With her maid as a stool, she grasped the edges of the open door. 'Martha, give me a push.'
Her feet were grasped firmly and she rose steadily. Throwing herself forward, she tipped headlong through the door and slithered, skirts and petticoats flying, down the side to land with a thud in the road. 'I'm out, Martha. I shall come back to you in a moment. I must check on Jim and the horses first.'
Three of the team were standing dejectedly in the shelter of the hedge that bordered the lane. There was no sign of Jim and the fourth horse. Good grief! The wretched man had used the lead horse to convey her coachman. Surely it would have been better to wait until a cart could be brought round?
Too late to repine. She must get Martha out and her precious chestnuts to shelter. The White Queen could be no more than two miles away; that must be where her would-be rescuer had gone for help. The thought of him returning and castigating her a second time prompted her to take matters into her own hands.
'Martha, if I lower the reins to you, you must take hold of them. I shall attach the other end to one of the horses. I think it will be possible to pull you out.'
'I shall do my best, miss, but I'm a fair weight. I reckon they might not hold.'
With ingenuity and the help of Rufus, the most amenable of the remaining three horses, Martha emerged through the door a short while later. Lydia held her maid's boots and guided her to the ground. 'We are only a brief ride from the hostelry. If I lead you, do you think you could stay on board Rufus for that short distance?'

Martha viewed the animal with disfavour but nodded. 'I reckon even riding that beast is better than standing around here getting frozen to the marrow.'

Fenella J Miller



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