Thursday, June 11, 2015

Guest post: "How to Do Everything Wrong, and Somehow Still Get Published," by Terry Jackman

Apparently I won a Cadbury’s essay competition in primary school. I don’t remember but I do recall an exciting day the teacher shared out chocolate. With hindsight I have to wonder if that was my prize. Maybe that was my first intimation that one shouldn’t expect to get fat, or rich, from writing. J

Secondary school produced my first ‘published’ work, in an end of year magazine. I was about sixteen. Unfortunately it didn’t actually have my name on it; it was a piece I’d dashed off for a friend when she’d begged for help. If you haven’t guessed, the entries weren’t voluntary. She did offer to own up, but I told her I wasn’t bothered. The truth was I didn’t want my name in print; by that time I was abnormally shy, something I still struggle with despite numerous public appearances.

I got a job as a teacher. I wrote exam papers. Once I wrote a playscript for a music teacher who fancied being another Andrew Lloyd Weber. I recall a scene where the young hero climbed the church tower to talk to the weathercock, a chance to write choral music without words to represent  the wind as the boy climbed higher. But the musician vanished to another school with it. I have no idea if he ever completed the libretto. It would be nice to know, but it was fun anyway.

Maybe by now you’re seeing a pattern? I liked writing, the challenge, the excitement, a lot more than I did people knowing about it? In fact, I kind of preferred them not knowing. I went through my teens frankly too self-conscious to live; the kind of ‘shyness’ that means taking a deep breath before walking into a room with actual people in it. I did manage to partly handle the problem during my college years. That’s when I studied Drama- and did rather well at it. Because I discovered I could perform pretty well in public - if I let ‘Terry’ replace‘Teresa’. It wasn’t the real me, it was this much braver alternate persona. (No wonder I like fantasy.)

But neither Terry nor Teresa was brave enough for a long time, they let ‘life’ get in the way. Till one day I thought, ‘All right. Why not. But how? How do I know I can write anything worth reading?’ And that’s how I enrolled in a writing course. Hey, it was long distance, and it promised if I completed the course and hadn’t earned back my fees they would refund them! Couldn’t lose.
Lesson one: plan three articles for three magazines. Bother, I’d wanted fiction. Never mind, it would still be good for me. I planned them. Lesson two: write them. Done. Lesson three: send them off. 


Long story short, they all sold and one turned into a series. I’d earned my fees in three lessons. And editors asked for more. A great compliment, how could I refuse. For ten years my spare time – I often worked six day weeks in my ‘day job’ - had a waiting list of articles. I’d become a ‘writer’. I was fairly sure I was a good one, at least in fifteen hundred word bites. I finally had my name on my work. I got paid. The problem I wasn’t trying the fiction I’d intended.

And of course I had no idea how to sell my writing. I’d never had to.

So picture the shock when I finally switched tracks into fiction. I was supposed to submit stuff? You’ve guessed it; the old me came rushing back; the me who had trouble facing people. I sold a couple short stories, but I didn’t send out anything once it failed a couple of times; obviously that meant it wasn’t good enough.

In fact I did exactly the same thing with Ashamet, Desert-Born. Getting the world the story is set in just right took a while but eventually I took a breath and sent it out; twice. First time: a senior editor held it for a year, then said no. The second: they said it was “too difficult to market”. I knew it didn’t fit an established niche, but stupidly I’d thought that might be a good thing. Obviously not. I was disappointed, but prepared to shelve it when, amazingly, Dragonwell Publishing heard about it from another writer and asked me if I’d “like to send them something”! When I recovered from the shock Ashamet was sold, in ten short days.

Truth really can be stranger than fiction. But trust me, it’s not the way you should intend to get published. Even if it makes such a great story in itself.

TitleAshamet, Desert-Born
Genre: Fantasy/adventure/romance/paranormal
Author: Terry Jackman
Find out more on Amazon
A desert world. A warrior nation that worships its emperor as a god. But for Ashamet, its prince, a future filled with danger…
Ashamet is confident his swordsmanship, and his arranged marriage, will be enough to maintain the empire’s peace. But when a divine symbol magically appears on his arm, closely followed by an attempt on his life, he no longer knows who to trust. Worse, the strange attraction he feels toward a foreign slave could be another trap. As events unravel, too fast,Ashamet must find out if this innocent young male is a tool for his enemies–or the magic key to his survival.
“Ashamet, Desert-Born” is a debut adventure fantasy with an exotic Arabian-style setting and elements of same-sex romance.
author pic 1

Terry Jackman was christened Teresa, and is married with kids. She’s not pretending to be a guy just for the book. It’s just that nobody, but nobody, calls her anything but Terry, so Terry is actually the most honest name to put on the cover.
To go with her two names she inhabits two worlds. In one she’s a mild-mannered lady who tutors children and lives in a pretty English village, called Lymm. [It’s not far from the Manchester United football ground. You can take a peek at it If you look carefully at the picture of the old stone cross in the village centre you might see the ancient stocks below, where villagers would have thrown rotten eggs etc at local miscreants – but we don’t do that now, honest.]
In the other, she’s written articles and study guides, is secretly on the committee of the British Science Fiction Association, coordinates all their online writers’ groups, writes a regular page for Focus magazine and reads submissions for Albedo One magazine in Ireland. Oh, and has been known to do convention panels and some freelance editing.
When Ashamet goes public the two worlds will finally collide. She suspects there’ll be some raised eyebrows so she’s stocking up on fortifying tea and biscuits – and lots of chocolate!

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