Take One At Bedtime with Jenny Twist

Hi everyone. This is the first time I’ve visited Manic Readers, so perhaps I’d better introduce myself.

My name’s Jenny Twist (it’s my real name) and I’ve been writing now for about ten years, but have only recently had my first book published – Take One At Bedtime. I had always wanted to write but life kept getting in the way, so I didn’t actually get started until my husband and I retired to Spain.

Not long after we moved here Stephen King brought out his seminal On Writing, which has been my bible ever since.  One of the things he does in the book is set the scenario for a short story and suggest that you finish it. The result in my case was Waiting for Daddy, the last story in the book. I was so pleased with it that I sent it to a local magazine, Streetwise, which publishes, amongst other things, short stories for English people living in the Costa del Sol. To my delight, they asked me to provide a piece every month, alternating between articles and short stories. This was really good for me, as it gave me deadlines to meet and I really set to and began to write down stories I’d had in my head for years (which felt a bit like cheating) and the occasional new one. I also started writing stories for competitions, one of which was set in Spain in the 1950s and became the first chapter of my novel, Domingo’s Angel.

I spent several years sending stories to magazines and getting them rejected or   ignored and I had really given up hope of ever getting any published. It seemed there just wasn’t a market for the kind of stuff I like to write. I tried my hand at more middle-of-the-road romance, which is what the English magazines prefer, but they all have their existing stable of authors and aren’t really interested in looking at anyone else. Most didn’t bother to reply at all. Those who did were usually quite obviously using a form letter and clearly hadn’t read the work in question. I once, to my amazement, got quite a rude letter from a major magazine publisher which appeared to be criticizing an entirely different piece. The comments didn’t relate to my story at all. What amazed me was that they should be so unkind to people who submit stories to them. Surely many of these are their own readers. Do they really think it’s a good idea to insult them?

By this time the novel was nearing completion and I began sending it out to publishers and agents. I had higher hopes for the novel because it seemed to be a more commercially viable proposition.

During my research on publishers I had a very close shave with a vanity publisher which had disguised its true nature so cleverly that I was about to sign the contract when my husband, re-reading the small print, noticed it was ‘author-funded.’ I could have committed myself to paying £3,000 (about $5,000) to a publisher who would have had no interest whatsoever in marketing my book, since it had already been paid for printing it.

Then I discovered the site The Passionate Pen. If you are an author looking for a publisher, you really need to know about this site. It not only lists all the publishers who pay YOU (rather than the other way round), and all the reputable agents, but it also has a list of the ‘bad guys.’ Through this site, I found the wonderful publisher, Melange Books, then called Midnight Showcase.

I sent them the novel, but I noticed that they specialised in short stories, albeit with word counts considerably longer than mine. So I enquired whether they would look at shorter stories if there were enough for a whole book. They would and they accepted the anthology a few weeks later. That was one of the happiest moments of my life.

A few weeks after that they accepted the novel as well. (I’ll talk to you about that in my next visit). I had gone, in a matter of weeks, from struggling writer to soon-to-be-published author with TWO BOOKS to my name.

Take One At Bedtime was published 23 April this year and Domingo’s Angel on 10 July. I have since had another three stories accepted, Doppelganger, which appeared in the anthology, Curious Hearts, on 24 July, Uncle Vernon, which will be included in an anthology scheduled for October, Halloween Treats, and Jamey and the Alien, which will appear in a Christmas anthology. My cup runneth over!

Some of the stories in Take One At Bedtime have been in my mind for so long that it’s difficult now to remember where the ideas originally came from.  But I can remember a few.

The Apple Tree, for example, is based on a ghost story told to me by another student one drunken night after the college ball. I thought about it on and off for years afterwards, trying to come up with an explanation for how the aunts could have been dead and alive at the same time.

The Scam is based on a real incident that happened to a friend of mine in a motorway service station in Madrid. It was my way of getting revenge. I thought what if they’d picked on someone with the power to get their own back? My friend, incidentally, didn’t like the story. She is much more forgiving than I am.

If you would like to know a little bit more about Take One At Bedtime, here is the blurb:


Nobody ever goes upstairs in Margaret’s house. So what is making the strange thumping noises up there? And why is there a toy rabbit under the kitchen table?

Margaret’s Ghost is just one of a collection of short stories consisting mainly of horror and science fiction, ranging from a classic gothic tale – Jack Trevellyn – to the Wyndhamesque Victim of Fortune, and the modern Waiting for Daddy, with its spine-chilling twist.

There is also the occasional excursion into romance with A Castle in Spain and Jess’s Girl.

But most of these tales take you to a place which is not quite as it seems.

It’s bedtime now. Time to go upstairs. Time to take a look.

Just one look.

WARNING: Do not exceed the stated dose.

Published by Melange Books 23rd April – Editors’ Pick.

Available on Amazon and Kindle:

Excerpt from the tale: Victim of Fortune:

She reached up and switched on a hanging lamp above the table, then marched across to the door and switched off the main light. Instantly the room was plunged into near total darkness. Only the space in the middle of the table was illuminated with a deep, rosy glow. He noticed that the lamp was draped in some soft, silky material of a deep red. Behind him came a stumbling sound and a muffled curse as the old woman tripped over something on her way back to the table.

After some fumbling, she resumed her seat and carefully unwrapped the object she had removed from the windowsill. It was a simple glass globe on a wooden stand, but she gazed at it reverently as if it were a holy relic.

Passing her hands over the top of it several times and crooning under her breath, her face bloodied by the red light, she could have been some ancient priestess communing with her dreadful gods.  Gradually, he began to get the impression that her face was under-lit, that the globe itself was giving out a milky luminescence. She closed her eyes and swayed slightly, then opened them wider than before and peered into the globe.

“I can see a strange land,” she declared in a sonorous chant, her voice suddenly taking on a deep and powerful note. “It is a dreadful place, all red desert and black rocks. And it is hot.” She drew her hands back from the globe as if she could feel the heat scorching her flesh. “So hot.” She moaned.

She seemed to have forgotten the presence of the young man and he leaned forward, trying to see into the globe. It remained clear and empty, bland and innocuous.

“There are terrible storms here. The winds rage over the surface and rains fall on the black rocks. A terrible place.” She drew her breath in a long whistle. “The rain is poisonous. Nobody could live here. How could anyone live in this desolate place?”

She lifted her eyes and looked at him, but it was clear that she wasn’t really seeing him. In a daze, she returned to the crystal.

“Yet there are people here. There are buildings, and I can see people walking amongst them. I think they are people.”

She uttered a low moan, closed her eyes and shuddered, then her eyes snapped open and she looked directly at him, seeing him.

“You!” she cried. “You come from this place!”

For more excerpts and other stuff, go to my website.

Thank you so much for sharing my visit and thank you, Manic Readers, for giving me the opportunity to talk about my writing.

‘Bye for now.

Jenny Twist

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