ALL IN THE MIND with Jenny Twist

Hello, everyone.

I’m Jenny Twist. It seems a long time ago that I first visited this page. On that occasion it was to publicise my first book, “Take One At Bedtime”. I seem to have come such a long way since then. I’ve published two more single author books and contributed to several anthologies, including, most recently, “Bedtime Shadows” with the amazing Tara Fox Hall. (and if you haven’t read any of her stuff, you certainly should). I have also reviewed countless books and written a great many articles. Yet it is actually less than two years since I first graced the pages of this illustrious blog.

My latest offering to the Gods of Authors – the Readers – is “All in the Mind” and this is the story of how it was born.

Years ago I read about an old people’s home where they did the experiment of making the residents’ environment like that of their youth. I can’t remember where I read this or what the experiment was attempting to prove, but I do remember that one surprising result was that the subjects’ hair darkened.

I’ve had the idea lurking at the back of my mind ever since. What if you carried the experiment to its logical conclusion? Would the residents actually regain their youth? Where would it stop? Would they regress to childhood and eventually go out all together?

Last year I entered Nanowrimo for the first time (a competition to write a novel in a month) and this was the idea that resurfaced when I sat down at my computer. I have never written so fast and furiously in my life before. The story just poured onto the page.

I kept coming across gaps in my knowledge but followed Stephen King’s advice and just wrote it, intending to deal with all that when the first draft was finished.

When I picked it up again a few weeks later and got down to seriously working on it I found I had to do a lot of research on the Second World War. I knew a fair bit already from reading and television documentaries, as well as from the experiences of my own parents, but I needed to know things like what branded goods they used, how the rationing system worked, etc.

I also realised, when one of my characters suddenly got completely out of hand and decided to go to India, that I was woefully ignorant of Indian culture. I knew some from reading, and I had studied a lot of Indian history at university, but I had no idea whether my knowledge would suffice for modern day India. The problem with something like that is you don’t know what it is you don’t know. I did not realise, for example, that a Hindu would be unlikely to understand Urdu. So I appealed on Twitter for experts on Hindu culture to read and correct it. I had four responses and checked all their comments with Google. Thank you, you wonderful people. You’ve saved me a lot of embarrassment. And thank God for Google. It’s saved me weeks of work.

My dear friend, Caroline, read the proofs when she was staying with me and suggested the idea for a cover. She painted the beautiful hands. They belong to her mother, Anne Ritson, to whom the book is dedicated. The photograph is of my own mother, May Thornton, who was a nurse at the end of the Second World War.

So, to a large extent, this book is the product of friendship.

It’s out now, no longer just a figment of my imagination, but a story waiting to be lived by the people out there who now rule my life – you – the Readers. I hope you will love it, as I have, and I hope you will be kind.

Here are some of the things other authors have to say about it:

“Jenny Twist is an enormously talented story-weaver who just goes on getting better.  Fans of the wonderful novel, ‘Domingo’s Angel’ will not be disappointed with this latest offering from her.  It’s a sweet and haunting feel-good story which will immerse you totally in its fictional world and leave you feeling deeply satisfied.  Absolutely recommended.”

Lynette Sofras  

“All in the Mind will take you on a mind trip, one from which you won’t want to return. As always, Jenny Twist’s fiction is an addictive treat that’s tightly woven to draw the readers in and keep them there.”

Su Halfwerk  

“This book moved me more than any other in recent memory, not because it was sad, although some scenes were very tragic, but because of the depth of emotion I felt for the characters, and the lasting love they share.  I dare anyone to read this book and not be moved to tears of joy.”

Tara Fox Hall

Jenny Twist was born in York and brought up in the West Yorkshire mill town of Heckmondwike, the eldest grandchild of a huge extended family.

She left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford.

She stayed in Oxford working as a recruitment consultant for many years and it was there that she met and married her husband, Vic.

In 2001 they retired and moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat

Her first book, Take One At Bedtime, was published in April 2011 and the second, Domingo’s Angels , was published in July 2011. Her novella, Doppelganger, was published in the anthology Curious Hearts in July 2011, Uncle Vernon, was published in Spellbound, in November 2011, Jamey and the Alien and Uncle Albert’s Christmas were published in Warm Christmas Wishes in December 2011, Mantequero was published in the anthology Winter Wonders in December 2011 and Away With the Fairies, her first self-published story, in September 2012.

Her new anthology, with Tara Fox HallBedtime Shadowsa collection of spooky, speculative and romance stories, was published 24th September 2012.

Her new novel, All in the Mind, about an old woman who mysteriously begins to get younger, was published 29th October 2012.

                

 

 

 

Jenny Twist – After you get published

Hi everyone.

I’m Jenny Twist. I’ve visited Manic Readers before to talk to you about how I came to write my first two books and the difficulties I experienced in getting them published. Today I’d like to talk about what happens after you get published.

I had, rather naively, assumed that once your book was accepted by a publisher all you had to do was sit back and wait for the money to roll in. Well, it doesn’t happen like that. In order for a book to sell, the author needs to have a fan base, to get fans in the author needs to be actively marketed. Even the best publishers, and I think mine is one of the best, cannot spend the time and money  marketing an unknown author. They will only do this for new books from authors who are already best-sellers or for those whom they believe have a really good chance of becoming best-sellers – celebrities writing their autobiographies, for example.

So is this a Catch 22 situation?

Not quite.

The answer is, you have to market yourself. Luckily, a good publisher will give you lots of tips on how to do this. Ultimately books sell through word of mouth, so the more people you can get to read your book, the better chance it has of becoming well-known. Join author groups – Yahoo has dozens of them. Send your book for review to any review site that seems to be appropriate. It is so easy now that we have the internet, and costs you nothing but your time. Offer to do interviews and blogs. It’s time-consuming, but it really does work.

That’s the down-side of getting published. The upside, apart from the sheer joy of seeing your precious book in print, is that once you are on a publisher’s list of authors, you regularly get asked to submit more stories and your publisher will actually read them! Just remember how many rejection letters you used to get and how you just knew they hadn’t even read your precious manuscript. How fabulous is it to know that your publisher will read your story and take it seriously?

The other great thing, and I wasn’t expecting this at all, is how many new friends you make amongst your fellow authors.

I found myself energised by all this and started writing at a rate of knots. I have so far had three other stories accepted by Melange, two of which, Doppelganger in the anthology Curious Hearts and Uncle Vernon in the anthology Spellbound 2011, are already in print. The third, Jamey and the Alien will be published in a Christmas anthology later in the year.

Contributing to anthologies is both exciting and nerve-racking, since you have absolutely no idea who the other authors will be until the finished product appears. To my great relief, I have enjoyed the other stories in both books and found the other authors to be highly entertaining and full of enthusiasm for promoting the books. It’s too early yet to tell how they’re doing, but I have high hopes.

Here are a couple of excerpts from my contributions:

CURIOUS HEARTS

EXCERPT from Doppelganger by Jenny Twist

Christine lay in the bath sipping a glass of wine and staring at her toes. She had quite nice feet, she thought. A little chubby, perhaps, but a pleasing shape, the toes even and straight. In fact, she wasn’t bad looking altogether. Despite bearing two children she retained a shapely figure. She had stretch marks, of course, fading to silver now, and scarcely noticeable, and her breasts were perhaps on the large side. Kevin thought so, anyway. He had laughed at her bra on the line, saying it looked like a couple of potato sacks. And she used to think he was such a kind and loving person.

She scooped up a handful of pills and knocked them back with another sip of wine. It was taking much longer than she had expected. She’d had to run more hot water in twice and had to get out to get another bottle of wine and more pills. She’d used all the painkillers she could find – paracetamols, aspirin, ibuprofen, even the children’s junior aspirin and was now starting on the rest of the stuff in the bathroom cabinet – antihistamine, diazepam, something for diarrhoea. They all said not to exceed the stated dose, which just goes to show how much leeway there was.

She had considered slashing her wrists, even gone as far as bringing the sharp kitchen knife into the bath, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. An overdose seemed so much more civilized, less messy. And if you did it in the bath, you’d slide under the water when you passed out and there would be no question of botching it.

Except she wasn’t passing out.

Buy Curious Hearts here

SPELLBOUND 2011

Excerpt from Uncle Vernon – Jenny Twist

She reached the ground floor without further incident and was just reaching for the handle on the back door, when she realised there was someone in the kitchen. She could hear singing – Janice, singing along with the radio. Damn! She didn’t think she could let herself out the back way without being seen from the kitchen window. She was still trying to work out a way round this when suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder and she gave a small shriek of surprise and turned round.

Standing in the passage was an enormously tall, incredibly thin man. His face was so pale it was almost translucent. His hair was completely white and swept back from his forehead in a perfect Dracula’s widow’s peak He was dressed entirely in black, the collar of his coat turned up like Dracula’s cloak. And his eyes were staring and colourless in the dim light of the passage.

She screamed a full-blooded, heroine in a horror film scream. And the man put up his hands as if to fend her off. Long, thin, incredibly white hands with long, thin fingers.

She screamed again and was just taking a breath to scream a third time, when the kitchen door opened and Janice said, “It’s all right. It’s only Uncle Vernon.”

Alison flung herself, sobbing, into Janice’s arms and looked back into the passage way. The man had disappeared! How? There was nowhere for him to go. At that moment Gary came clattering down the stairs.

What the fuck?”…

Gary!” Janice said. “Watch your language! It’s only Uncle Vernon.”

Buy Spellbound here

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

Visit Jenny

Thank you so much for sharing my visit and thank you, Manic Readers, for giving me the opportunity. I really appreciate it.

Jenny Twist

DOMINGO’S ANGEL with Jenny Twist

Hi everyone.

I’m Jenny Twist. I visited Manic Readers last month to talk about my anthology of short stories, Take One At Bedtime.

This time I’d like to talk about my historical novel, Domingo’s Angel.

I retired and moved to Spain ten years ago and I am ashamed to say that before I came to live here I knew nothing of Spanish history other than than the stuff we were taught at school. I knew that it was the Spanish Ferdinand and Isabella who financed Christopher Colombus and so conquered the Americas. I knew about the Spanish Inquisition and I knew about the Spanish Armada.

But I had no idea, for example, that Spain was under Moorish rule for hundreds of years and had a rich heritage of Moorish architecture and culture. I had not realised that the same Ferdinand and Isabella finally drove the last of the Moors from Spain and instituted a harsh and repressive regime which kept the Spanish people in fuedal  poverty right up to the twentieth century.

And nobody told me about the war.

I was horrified to find out about the dreadful atrocities committed by both sides during the Spanish Civil War and the appalling cruelty perpetrated against the Spanish people under Franco’s fascist dictatorship – which lasted from 1939 till his death in 1975. I had actually been to Spain on holiday while he was still in power!

I didn’t actually set out initially to write a novel about it.

What happened was I wrote a short story and it grew. But as it grew I realized I had a lot to say.

The first chapter is essentially the original short story and tells of an English woman who came to Southern Spain in the early 1950s. Tourism had barely touched the country at that time and the people were only just beginning to recover from the deprivations of the war. She arrived in a remote mountain village and caused some consternation amongst the inhabitants, who had never met a foreigner before. But Domingo, the goatherd, fell in love with her. When she introduced herself, he believed she was saying she was an angel (‘Soy Ángela’ in Spanish can either mean ‘I am Angela’ or ‘I am an angel’). Hence the title of the story.

I entered the story for a competition and it was short-listed, which was encouraging, but didn’t win.

In the meantime, I had become more and more intrigued by one of the characters, Rosalba, the shopkeeper, and I found myself writing a sequel and then another, and before long it came home to me that I what I had here was an embryo novel.

Because it was initially a series of short stories, the first few chapters, to a large extent, stand as individual stories; and I did, indeed, publish them as such in a local magazine.

But it wasn’t too difficult to go over them later and make them into a more homogeneous whole. And as I learnt more and more about the history of my adopted country, I incorporated it into the novel, introducing past events through the memories of the major characters.

I had huge difficulty researching the history because there is so little written about it. You can find out a great deal in the way of historical background from books like ‘The Spanish Civil War’ by Anthony Beever, which has a lot of (some might say rather too much)  information about what went on in the major cities. But there is virtually nothing written about what went on in the little villages, and the people are very reluctant to talk about it. It was a nightmare for them. Brother fought against brother, and in Spain the family is everything.

I relied on what I knew about my own friends – the story of Salva the Baker, for example, who was imprisoned for years for giving bread to the starving children, is true. I also transposed some of the real events from the history books to my own imaginary village.

But then, after I had finished the novel, I discovered a wonderful book by David Baird – ‘Between Two Fires,’ which is the history of his own white village of Frigiliana. It contains the actual testimony of those who survived. Most of these witnesses were already old men and women when they told their stories and many of them had died before the book was published. If I had known about it when I was writing Domingo’s Angel, it would have saved me months of work. As it was, it proved invaluable to me as a way of checking that I had got it right.

I wrote to David when my own book was about to be published and asked whether he would mind me referring to him in my acknowledgements. He was, as I expected, very approachable and courteous. I hope a lot of people read his book. It is unique.

Some of the events in this story are bloodthirsty and shocking, but there is a lot of love in it too. I hope that I succeeded in portraying for my readers the cheerfulness, humour and exuberance of the Andalusian people. And it would be nice to think that it might do something to dispel some of the ignorance about this fascinating period of Spanish history.

If you would like to know a little bit more about Domingo’s Angel, here is the blurb:

DOMINGO’S ANGEL

When Angela turns up in a remote Spanish mountain village, she is so tall and so thin and so pale that everyone thinks she is a ghost or a fairy or the dreadful mantequero that comes in the night and sucks the fat from your bones.

But Domingo knows better. “Soy Angela,” she said to him when they met – “I am an angel.” Only later did he realise that she was telling him her name and by then it was too late and everyone knew her as Domingo’s Angel.

This is the story of their love affair. But it is also the story of the people of the tiny mountain village – the indomitable Rosalba – shopkeeper, doctor, midwife and wise woman, who makes it her business to know everything that goes on in the village; Guillermo, the mayor, whose delusions of grandeur are rooted in his impoverished childhood; and Salva the Baker, who risked his life and liberty to give bread to the starving children.

The events in this story are based on the real experiences of the people of the White Villages in Southern Spain and their struggle to keep their communities alive through the years of war and the oppression of Franco’s rule.

Published  by Melange Books 10th July 2011

http://www.melange-books.com/authors/jennytwist/twistdomingosangel.html

Available on Amazon and Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/Domingos-Angel-ebook/dp/B005EH5U8G/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1312020721&sr=8-5

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Domingos-Angel-ebook/dp/B005EH5U8G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1312020847&sr=8-2

ISBN: 978-1-61235-202-2

EXCERPT

The next day he took his goats to the top of the ridge near the pass and looked down on the smallest casita of Guillermo the mayor. There was a mule tethered outside and a string of washing had been hung between two almond trees. Otherwise there was no sign of life. Halfway down the slope was a large algarrobo tree. He decided it would be an ideal place for lunch.

But although he sat and watched the little house all the time as he ate his bread and cheese and olives and drank his wine, nobody came out and nothing happened. Only the mule moved along the side of the house to keep in the shade as the sun moved round. So he went to sleep.

When he woke up, someone was calling him. “Hola, goatherd!”

He squinted up into the sun and there, standing before him was an angel. It was very tall and thin and there was a fiery halo round its head. “Hello,” it said, “Soy Ángela – I am angel. I am delighted to meet you! Who are you?”

In absolute panic, Domingo shot up into a sitting position and shuffled backwards into the algarrobo tree. His head hit the hard trunk with a resounding crack and he subsided and slumped back down, feeling a little stunned.

The angel came forward into the shadow of the algarrobo tree and he realised that the halo was, in fact, hair – very long hair – falling in waves down beyond her shoulders and almost to her waist. It was exactly the colour of oranges that have dried on the tree. Her skin was so white it was almost blue and her eyes were so pale they had no colour at all. “How could they think she was a dead person?” he thought in a confused fashion. “She is obviously an angel.”

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

https://sites.google.com/site/jennytwistauthor/

Thank you so much for sharing my visit and thankyou, Manic Readers, for giving me the opportunity. I really appreciate it.

Jenny Twist

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:

TAKE ONE AT BEDTIME

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. http://www.melange-books.com/authors/jennytwist/twisttakeoneatbedtime.html

Available on Amazon and Kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/Take-One-Bedtime-Jenny-Twist/dp/161235064X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314428115&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Take-One-at-Bedtime-ebook/dp/B0053CYTA2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306922804&sr=8-1-spell

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.

https://sites.google.com/site/jennytwistauthor/

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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