Today is a bit of an occasion. It’s the final post in the 2015-1016 Mystery Mondays series, and next week, I’ll have something special for you.
So to celebrate, Cathy Ace is joining us today.
Editing and Writing Multiple Series (aka soot-juggling) by Cathy Ace
I’m a lucky girl (apparently it’s okay to call myself a “girl” if you go by the plethora of books with “girl” in the title…when the subject is anything but “girl-aged”!). Yes, I’m truly fortunate. I’m in the enviable position of having two publishers, each allowing me to write a series of books, with contracts stretching a couple of years into the future. So I have it a lot better than many authors, let alone writers searching for that elusive first contract. (Keep going, by the way!)
I’m writing this on June 3rd 2016. I’ve just returned to my home near Vancouver, BC, Canada from a trip that took me to CrimeFest UK (a large UK crime convention) where the likes of Ian Rankin were guests of honor, and then Toronto where I attended the Arthur Ellis Awards and the Bony Blithe Awards. Thus, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been surrounded by people intensely focused on crime fiction, and those who’ve been nominated for, and won, the top prizes in their field. It’s been a wonderful trip – the sort of thing that makes me realize how many people are out there who share my passion for creating crime fiction. But now it’s back to just me, my laptop, all the people in my head…and my dogs at my feet.
As I mentioned, I write two series of books: The Cait Morgan Mysteries are published by TouchWood Editions based in Canada, The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries by Severn House Publishers in the UK. The series differ from each other in many ways, yet are similar in that they are both “traditional”: no foul language, no sex on the page, no gore or “unnecessary” violence. Yes, they’re murder mysteries, but I stick to the more palatable types of murders…the sort I first encountered in the books of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh.
Right now I have two manuscripts on the go – one for each series. That’s not unusual, but the specific timing is. And not in a good way. I think of writing a novel as being akin to Three-Day Eventing: day one sees horses galloping over fences and across fields, day two forces more discipline as the show-jumping takes place and day three requires deftly controlled exercises in the dressage. First drafts, editing and copy-editing follow much the same formula for me; the joy of the gallop, the challenge of refining, the excruciating attention to detail.
Book #3 in the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (currently entitled The Murdered Miniaturist, but that could change) is at the stage where it’s contracted for, and I have a deadline of June 20th to get the manuscript to my publisher with agreed structural changes having been made to what is currently the fifth draft. This will mean I have to, essentially, pull the book apart, delete one sub-plot and insert another plotline, with new characters that then have to be woven through the entire work. It sounds scary, but (having done this before) I know it won’t be as bad as it feels right now, before I begin. It will then go to my editor (who works for Severn House) who’ll go through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb and get back to me with notes, which I will work through. We’ll finally agree it’s ready for proof-checking, and then I’ll go through notes on that part of the process. I’m looking forward to it – I enjoy being with “The WISE Women” as I call my characters in this series.
The slight “challenge” I face is that I expect to receive notes from my editor at TouchWood Editions about Cait Morgan Mystery #8 (entitled The Corpse with the Ruby Lips – that’s set) any day now. I’m one stage further along with this book than the WISE book, but a bit of a problem with scheduling means I’m going to have to do what sounds a bit like brain-mashing, by working on both manuscripts at the “same time”. How will I handle this? One during the day, one at night. That’s the best I can do.
Usually, when I am writing and working through my own editing and redrafting, I give up most of my daytime work hours to organizing events, writing guest blogs, writing for the two blogs where I’m a regular contributor (7 Criminal Minds every other Wednesday and Killer Characters on the 22nd of each month) as well as prepping for Blog Tours for book launches (I had four books published last year) and the work and various committee meetings I undertake for Crime Writers of Canada (I am Chair for the next two years). That, plus using Facebook and Twitter to promote my work and build and maintain relationships with readers I meet in the digital world (and having six grandchildren, five acres, two dogs and a husband to tend to – yes, I thought about the order!) takes up a good deal of time, so I write when everyone’s gone to bed – from about 9.30pm until I realize I’m typing what looks like a poor hand at Scrabble…maybe 1-2am.
But for the rest of this June, it’ll be a bit different; I’ll have to switch from the Welsh stately home of Chellingworth Hall and the nearby village of Anwen-by-Wye, where the four women of the WISE Enquiries Agency run their business, to Budapest – where Cait Morgan is having a challenging time trying to work out whether a cold case back in Canada is connected to the Cold War, or whether being so far from her Canadian home without her retired-cop husband is addling her thought process. Cait’s stories are told in the first person, the WISE women each have their own point of view chapters. It’ll be a blast (I hope!). My plan is to work with the WISE women during the day, and Cait at night. With a break to make and eat dinner with my husband in between the two, that should give me enough head-space to shift location, storytelling style and voice.
Yes, I’m giving the impression I don’t know how it will go, and that’s true; I’ve never done this before. I’ve worked on the two series for a couple of years, but with only one book on the go at a time, thanks to some canny scheduling. Now the planets have aligned to no longer allow that to be the case, I plan to cope. I have to cope. Somehow.
That’s the thing, you see; there are always new challenges in this writing life. Last year was the first time I’d written four books in a year, but I know I won’t do that again. I managed it, but my family and home life suffered because of it, and that’s not fair on anyone. I have agreed to write three books this calendar year; one’s the WISE #3 I mentioned above, one will be Cait #9, the third will be WISE #4. Two books have been launched in the US/Canada this year so far (WISE #2 and Cait #7) and Cait #8 and WISE #3 will be published before it’s 2017. It’ll still be a busy time, but I am (I think/hope) becoming a smarter worker. I’m a detailed outliner, and I don’t use any programs to schedule characters/timelines; I found the use of technology took too much time in itself. Nope, it’s good, old-fashioned pencil and paper for me (and the frequent use of an eraser!).
I’m fortunate to have the deals and the deadlines I do. And I know it. My parents always taught me the harder you work, the luckier you get. Like I said, I’m a lucky girl, so I’d better keep my head down, and get back to this manuscript!
Cathy Ace was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales, worked for decades in marketing communications, and migrated to Canada in 2000. Having traveled the world for work and pleasure for many years, Cathy put her knowledge of the cultures, history, art and food she encountered to good use in The Cait Morgan Mysteries – a series of traditional closed-circle murder mysteries featuring a globetrotting professor of criminal psychology. Ace’s other series is set in her native Wales: The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries feature four female professional investigators, one of whom is Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish and one English, aided and abetted by a sleuthing dowager duchess. They tackle quirky British cases from their base at a Welsh stately home – the ancient seat of the Twyst family, the Dukes of Chellingworth, set in the rolling countryside of the Wye Valley in Powys, near the picturesque village of Anwen-by-Wye. Cathy lives in beautiful British Columbia, where her ever-supportive husband and two chocolate Labradors make sure she’s able to work full-time as an author, and enjoy her other passion – gardening. Bestselling author Ace is the 2015 winner of the Bony Blithe Award for Best Canadian Light Mystery (for Cait Morgan Mystery #4, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair).