A Little Grammar for Authors


I have finally, after four rewrites and several beta-readers, sent the manuscript of Sowing Promises to my editor. The book will be a sequel to Ploughing Through Rainbows, and the first draft of Promises (which at the time felt ‘finished’) was completed many months ago, before I even published Rainbows. My point is this, being an author, and creating wonderful stories is great fun however, before we sell those stories to the public, we need to do a lot of work—work which is mostly boring and frustrating, and in some cases, when an editor tells us that something which we love really doesn’t work, we need to take a big breath and accept the criticism, change the manuscript and move on.

Anne E Thompson has written several novels and writes a regular blog each week. You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com

Now, I read a lot of books, of many different genres by both famous and unheard-off authors, and just about the only thing which makes me stop reading a book before the end, is bad grammar. I was not particularly well educated as a child; my English lessons consisted of telling us to ‘be creative’ and very little teaching of formal English grammar. But it matters. It matters a lot. Anyone who plans to publish their work, really needs to invest in an editor who has better knowledge of formal English than they do, and they also need to work hard to improve their own understanding of some of the ‘rules’ (even though, when writing a novel, many of the ‘rules’ can be broken in the name of building tension and creating an atmosphere). I will tell you a few of my pet hates, which is very brave of me because when writing, even when you know the rules, it is so very easy to make an error, and when writing about grammar, someone else is sure to spot them!

One common error is apostrophe s. This one is easy. If something belongs to someone, the someone has apostrophe s. So ask yourself, ‘who does it belong to?’ and add apostrophe s. “The boys shoes”—who do the shoes belong to? The boy? Then write “The boy’s shoes.” More than one boy? So the shoes belong to the boys? Then write “The boys’s shoes”. In English, we don’t like s’s because it looks ugly, so take away the second s but leave the apostrophe: “The boys’ shoes.”

One thing I learnt very recently was the use of superlatives. This is the fancy name for when you have the most of something, and the rule is, you cannot use a superlative unless there are more than two. So, two brothers playing croquet? Neither can be ‘the best’ one can be ‘better than’ the other, or the ‘better player’ –but not ‘the best’. If however, their father plays too, then he can be ‘the best’ because there are now more than two players. If you have two children, one can be the older child, but he cannot be ‘the oldest’ nor ‘the eldest’ because there are only two.

There is another rule about the use of ‘less’ and fewer’. If you can easily count the items, use fewer. If there are too many to count, use less. You will now be irritated every time you visit the supermarket, and see the Express Checkout till, which is sure to be (wrongly) labelled “Five Items or less” (however, we have seen it so many times, that ‘Five items or fewer’ simply seems wrong!)

I hope you write well this week.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

A hilarious family saga set on a farm. Being a parent has no end-date, as Susan discovers when her adult sons begin to make unexpected choices in life.
A warm-hearted, feel good novel that will make you smile.

When you are useless…


Do you ever feel that everyone else is more capable than you are? They seem to have more friends, more purpose, to achieve more—and you feel as if you’re playing ‘catch-up’ the whole time? I think we’ve all felt like that at some time. The trouble is, we tend to evaluate ourselves in comparison to everyone else, we see what they’re achieving, and we feel less able, less capable; a bit useless really. In 2014, I really was, utterly useless. Let me explain.

In 2009, I was a working Mum, teaching in the local school, preaching occasionally in local churches. We had returned from a few years in New Jersey, the husband’s career was developing nicely, and all seemed good. It wasn’t, but it seemed good.

But then things started to unravel for me. I started waking each morning with headaches that lasted all day. I was forgetting things, and I felt, very slightly, as if I wasn’t quite coping. Teaching seemed more about politics and pleasing parents, and less about the pupils. Preaching felt more ‘head-knowledge’ than true. The family and house and animals all seemed slightly too much. I put all this down to stress, cut down on teaching, stopped preaching, and tried to get the home bit right.

Then one day, while emptying the tumble-dryer, I came up under the work-surface and knocked myself out (as you do). The next day I had an awful headache, so went to Casualty, where they did a CT scan. They told me that I had a small benign tumour, right in the centre of my brain. When I got home, I did some online research, and found this was very rare, often undetected, and sometimes caused “sudden instant death”. So not hugely reassuring.

I then started a whole era of brain surgeons, MRI scans, and frequent migraines. For five years, I lived in this rather tense bubble, because the medics said removing the tumour would damage the brain, so it was better left where it was and monitored. My migraines meant I was too unreliable to teach or preach, so I felt a bit useless. Except, God still had a plan for me. Because however incapable we might feel, God can use us, and life can be good and full of meaning (which is the point of this article).

Being ill is mainly boring—so I decided to learn Mandarin. I practised by teaching English in the local Take-Away restaurants, and I made some very special friends amongst the Chinese community. I often hurt too much to talk, but I learnt to listen.

In 2014, the tumour changed and became dangerous, so my surgeon took it out via a craniotomy. He cut through the right side of my brain, right to the middle, and patched me up with bits of metal. There I was, a middle-aged woman, with half my head shaved, an impressive scar, and a terrible memory. Pretty useless really. Plus, as they cut through the part of the brain that controls anxiety, I also became anxious about really daft things—like leaving the house to have coffee with my mum. (And although my mum’s coffee is pretty awful, it’s not something normal people become anxious over.) My rather dodgy maths became even worse, so counting or having any awareness of time became very hard. As the brain was having to make new, less efficient pathways, I grew tired very easily, and found too much stimulation (noise, lights) exhausting.

As a scarred brain doesn’t really heal, it just finds new ways of doing things, all those things, to some extent, are still true today.

However, the left side of my brain was undamaged, and my language was intact, and this became very important. Gradually, I grew more confident. I found that people didn’t mind the over-emotional woman with the terrible memory—in fact, some people preferred her. Leaving the house is still a bit scary, but I have learnt to force myself, to pray very hard (and to carry Immodium at all times!) The more I do, the more God enables me to do, the more I realise that I can trust him. It started with tiny steps, the “Please God can I have coffee with my mum without having a panic-attack” sort of prayer.

Since then, I have travelled the world, in fact last year I was walking through the slums of India talking to people, researching a book. Because now, I write books. When I was at the “leaving the house is too scary” stage, I started to write a blog. This developed into longer articles, and finally books. All the stories I have always had in my head, are now forming themselves into words, and I find I can write them down. Excitingly, people are buying my books, and liking them enough to buy the next one. Gosh!

So the next time you feel useless, are tempted to think that everyone else is doing rather better than you, remember this: You were created for a reason, and whatever happens, however weak, and dependent, and incapable you may become, if you lean on the God who created you, you will never be useless. Because there is a plan. We simply have to learn how to follow it.

xxx

These are my books. They’re available from book shops and Amazon. Please will you buy one to read this summer?

Following my diagnosis, I began to learn about how the brain works, and am fascinated by how controlled we are by our brains. I then began to explore other illnesses and disorders, focussing on psychopathy. Psychopathy is a mental disorder, not an illness, and it causes certain personality traits – most psychopaths are not violent, or ever convicted of any crime – but the way their brains function mean they have certain behavioural characteristics. As I studied psychopathy, reading books by neurologists, listening to psychopaths as they talked, and even finding two mothers of psychopaths who were prepared to talk to me about raising a psychopathic child, I realised that most people have no idea how a psychopath thinks, why they behave as they do. In response to this, I wrote two novels: JOANNA and CLARA. Both show how people are affected by the way their brain processes information—and the impact on people around them. (When selling these books, I am often asked by people if any US Presidents are psychopaths. I think if people read CLARA, they will be able to decide for themselves!)

Thank you for reading.
Anne E. Thompson

 

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

This tells all the things I wish I had known when first diagnosed. A helpful book for anyone with a potentially terminal illness. It shows how to find a surgeon, how to cope with other people’s fears, how to not be defined by an illness. It also has a few funny anecdotes – because even when you’re ill, it’s good to laugh.
Available from Amazon (you can get it free if you have a Kindle).

A hilarious romance for when you want to relax.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson.
An easy read, feel good novel, set in an infant school. An ideal gift, this is a book to make you smile.

An exciting novel, set in the near future. One family shows how they cope with driverless cars, new laws, and schools run by computers.

Selling Books – Letter to a Sister


Hi, how was your week?

I am feeling like bit of a plonka. Someone – a complete stranger, never met them before – asked me to sign their book, which I was very excited to do. So, they told me their name, I wrote a little message, then signed it “Love, Anne”. As you do. Except, when you are an author, signing a book, I imagine that you don’t write “Love, X” I bet JK Rowling doesn’t sign books for strangers “Love, Joanna”. Realised immediately it was an amateur mistake, but what could I do? I could hardly snatch it back and put a line through it.

Most authors have a ‘book launch’. I am not brave enough to do this. This was bit of a mistake. I hadn’t realised that local shops (possibly bigger ones too) are quite slow when restocking. They have lots of suppliers, there is no sense of urgency. So friends were going in to buy my book and being told it had sold out. I took a fresh supply, but was told by the shop that they couldn’t take them until they had done the paperwork and paid me for the books sold. There was no way round this system (I did try). The process took three days. I have no idea how many sales I lost in those few days – some people will go back, but not everyone will bother twice. Very frustrating. If I had organised a ‘book launch’, all my friends could have come in one go, seen the book, and if they liked it, they could have bought it then. This would leave the shops for the slower, less definite customers. Next time…

I also realise now how important it is to make sure my supply chain is working properly before I start advertising. (Hope you are noticing all the clever marketing phrases I have been learning.) I have now put it into more than one shop in each town, so if one sells out, the other will hopefully still have some.

A few things went badly this week actually. I also lost the chicken who thought he was a duck. (I am pretty sure he was a ‘he’ as his tail feathers were getting worryingly long.) Every day when I let him out the chicken cage he would run to the pond and peck all the ducks so they went back into the water (nasty bird.) In the evening, when the chickens all went to roost, he would try to stay by the pond, but if I chased him (dog helped) then he would follow his sister (who might be a brother, not sure yet) into the chicken cage, where he would safely roost all night. This went badly wrong on Saturday, when we met friends for dinner in London and arrived home later than expected. All the chickens were roosting, so I could just shut their door – all the chickens except for that one. He was asleep at the top of the ramp into the pond, which is as near the actual water as he ever goes. When I woke him up to move him to the cage, he charged off. Not sure if you have ever chased a chicken around a pond on a dark night with only a torch with weak batteries and an overly excited dog to help, but it’s not great. Eventually he darted into the middle of a prickly bush and refused to budge. We couldn’t reach him and he wouldn’t come out. I left him and hoped if he stayed there he might be safe. He wasn’t. Found a heap of feathers the following morning. Feeling slightly guilty (though not sure what I could’ve done differently.)

Also this week I was interviewed by the local paper. This is so not me – I’m quite a private person really. Son came for support. The reporter was very nice, but he did tend to chat about me, and I just wanted to talk about the book. You can’t “not answer” when someone asks why you stopped teaching or where you lived and when. Of course, when the article appeared, it was more about me than the book. But it was nice of him to include something. He even took a photo (which is awful, I am wearing my “I feel really silly” face.) I hope it’s a good way to let people know about my book. I loved writing it, now I would like to hide under the bed and let people buy it and recommend it to others. But no one will buy it unless I advertise it a little, so I’m forcing myself to publicise it. I have to keep reminding myself, it’s not about me, it’s about the book. And it IS a good book. It has strong, realistic characters, so by the end you feel they are real people, and you might have met them, and you want to give them some advice about the terrible decisions they are making…

Have you bought a copy yet?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Faces-Anne-E-Thompson/dp/0995463204/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469974917&sr=1-1&keywords=hidden+faces+by+anne+e+thompson

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

Thank you for reading.

xxxxxxx

Publishing a Book – Part Four


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When your book has been written, edited, typeset, proofread (sweated over, prayed over, cried over….) it will be ready to send to the printer. Now all you need to worry about is selling it. This is, I think, the main (and massive) disadvantage to self-publishing. So, how to overcome the problem?

Son-the-marketing-expert had lots of advice (really, lots – many, many hours worth – I have summarised.) He strongly suggested that before I even thought about selling, I should listen to some focus groups. He told me to think about my target audience and ask groups of people some questions. This was not within my comfort zone, so I thought I would just email questionnaires to some friends. This apparently is ineffective, as when a focus group discusses, they remind each other of things, so the results are better. I was told that after listening (trying to not influence the discussion) I should decide where and how I would advertise and sell my book. Here are some of the questions:

Were they influenced by price? – So, would a very cheap or very expensive book make them more or less likely to buy?
Most people said they were unaffected by price, as long as it was within the ‘normal’ price for a paperback book. If it was cheaper, some people said they would be suspicious of the quality unless it was marked “special offer”.

Where do they buy books? Would they consider buying a book from somewhere different (for example, a charity shop or coffee shop or community hall.)?
Older people and avid readers tended to prefer shops to Amazon. If there was a display of books somewhere unusual, they would look at them and possibly buy one.

Before buying a book, do they read some of it first? If so, where would they do that? (Would they remove a book from a shelf to read it, or more likely to pick it up from a display on a table top?)
Definitely table top.

When did they last buy a new author, and why? (Was it recommended by a friend, seen in a review?)
Reviews in newspapers or on radio scored highly here.

Would they look at a book that came with a ‘special deal’? For example, ‘buy the book, get a bar of chocolate for free’. {I told my son this was silly, no one would buy a book just because it had a bar of chocolate attached! He told me ask anyway, so I did. One of my friends told me that in China, a new author did exactly that – if you bought the book, you got a free mobile phone! The author made a massive loss, but her book rose to the top of the best sellers list. Her subsequent books made a profit and she is now a well known author. Interesting…}
Everyone I asked agreed this was silly!

What types of cover attract your attention?
Some looked at books with scenes from the television. Many liked people or ‘cosy scenes’ on the front.

 

xxx

I dutifully asked the questions and thought about the answers. This guided the types of places I decided to advertise and display my book.

If you persuade local bookshops to stock your book, they will want to receive a certain amount per book (between 35% and 50% mark up, depending on the shop. So, £2 or £3 per book.) You also have to deliver the books to the shop and collect them if they don’t sell, as shops tend to be willing to take them on a ‘sale or return’ basis. If it’s a bookshop in your town, that’s easy.

If you decide to sell through a big London shop (say Foyles or WH Smith) then you will need to factor in travel/delivery costs. Large bookshops (like Foyles) will sell self-published books. Each shop has different criteria, and you may need to use a wholesaler, which is expensive. For Foyles, you have to write a submission, much like when trying to find an agent, and they decide whether your book is suitable for their shop. You need to decide if it’s worth the time/money. You can find all the details online (sometimes it is hard to find – try clicking on the ‘contact us’ button, it’s often there.) I will explain about wholesalers in my future blogs, as there’s a lot to say.

Amazon also charges to sell. If you use Amazon, you can either use ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ in which case, they will store (for a price) and send out (for a price) your book. Or, you can post the book yourself. For my size of book, an envelope cost 35p, UK postage was £3:35 and US postage cost £7:80. If you aren’t a US resident and you want to sell on amazon.com (to US customers) you have to register for US tax. You need to think about if you are away/ill – will someone else send out your books for you, or will your customers have to wait a few weeks?

As can be seen, even selling the book is expensive and relatively time consuming. The basic cost of your book depends on how many you print (which should depend on how many you think you will sell.) As a rough guide, if you print 500 copies, your costs are likely to be as follows:

Indemnity Insurance : £175
Formatting : £302
ISBN (for ten titles): £149
Editing : £750
Printing : £1,051
Barcode: £35
Cover Format: £35
Cover photo : £50
Proofreader : £300

If you add the amount a small shop requires for selling the book, this comes to roughly £7:99 per book. This is the price of the average novel. So, if you want to make any profit at all, your book will cost more than the average book on the shelf. You need to listen carefully to your focus groups. If people in your target audience (and this will depend on the type of book you have written) are affected by price, then consider carefully how many books you will print.

If, realistically, you are only going to sell to your close friends and favourite aunty, then probably price matters less but you will need fewer books.

If you are trying to launch a new career, you hope your book will become popular, that your friends will recommend it to their friends, will buy a second copy for their mother’s Christmas present, then I would recommend keeping the price of the book down. Try to cover your costs, but don’t expect to make a profit. Not even a penny. None. If you give books to your nearest and dearest, they are not ‘free’ books, they are a gift, which has cost you £6 (not that this should deter you, but you should be aware.)

If people help you, if they recommend your book, if they buy a copy as a gift for someone you don’t know, if your market place grows, then you can do a second print of your book. Then, all your fixed costs (editing, formatting, etc) will already be covered, then you will make a profit. You might turn out to be the next JK Rowling – making 50p per book on a couple of million books, is not to be sniffed at. But probably you shouldn’t plan for that. Probably you shouldn’t start looking at new cars just yet….

I will let you know how my own writing career develops in my regular blogs. Next week I’ll let you know how I get on in the ‘big’ shops (going to Waterstones tomorrow – very scary!)

You can follow my blog at anneethompson.com

– why not sign up to follow it?

xxxx

Thank you for reading.

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson will be available to buy very soon…….(Which is both exciting and terrifying.)

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Publishing a Book – Part Three


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So, after you have had your manuscript edited, have proofread it about a million times, and are fairly sure that you have picked up as many typos as is humanely possible, it is ready to send to a typesetter.

The typesetter puts your book into the right format for the printer. You can assume a cost of about 90p a page. It depends on print size, but a 100,000 word book is about 300 pages. They will send you examples of different text, ask if you want the first letter of a new chapter written as a capital, or the first word, or the whole of the first line. These were all things I had never noticed before (and I am an avid reader!) I think I only notice if something is ‘odd’, if a self-published book has strayed from what my eye is used to seeing. I was therefore grateful that my typesetter knew more than me. He had done this many times before and could tell me what a ‘normal’ book looked like. I had to keep running to my bookshelves to check things.

You also want someone with experience so the margins are the correct size – you don’t want the words running into the fold of the book, nor do you want massive margins because that means more pages, which will cost you more money.

Some people choose to have a running header, with either the author name, or the chapter title on each page. Some people like the page numbers in the centre, some prefer them at the top. I didn’t have strong opinions on much, I was mainly just keen that my book didn’t look odd : that chapter one began on a right hand page, that the starting margins were full width and all others indented, things like that. This was all learned while I was answering questions and checking inside other books.

I was told that pages are bound in batches of 16 (I think it depends on the size of your book.) This means there might be some empty pages, at either the front or the back. My typesetter suggested that this would be a good place to put some ‘tasters’ of my other books, to encourage people to buy them, a ‘free’ advert.

You might also like to think about the copyright page. There is fairly standard wording inside most books, but you can adapt it to suit yourself. In England, copyright is automatic, if you have written something, you own the copyright. Proving that you have written something might be difficult, so it is possible to register your copyright – there are details of how to do this in the Writer’s Handbook. It does not mean you now own the copyright (you did already) but if someone challenges you, you have proof of when you registered it.

It is usual on the copyright page to name the publisher and to put their contact details. If you use a self-publishing company, they will, I presume, put their address there. We weren’t using a company, we were doing it all ourselves and I wasn’t keen on having my own address in the book. We therefore made a company name, The Cobweb Press, and made a website. This gave us an email address that we could use in all the books. (I am sort of hoping no one ever looks at the website, as we made it in a rush, and it’s not going to impress anyone. But it serves a purpose and means strangers can contact me – to order books – without knowing my home address.)

You might decide to have an ISBN number. These are usually included on the copyright page and also on the back cover. It is not essential to have an ISBN number, but shops like them (some shops will refuse to stock the book unless it has one) and it makes it easier for people to find your book if they know it. You buy them. I bought 10 numbers for £149. There was some paperwork to fill out (husband did that for me) and then they were issued, to use as I wished. The ‘cover guy’ had to leave a white space in the correct place so the barcode could be added (my printer did that.)

We also needed to register the book with the British Library, and send them a copy when it was published.

You need a cover for your book. Go and look at some. I wanted something that would stand out, but not something that looked odd. Find someone who has done other book covers. You need to consider how thick the printed book will be, because that changes the thickness of the spine (and the cover is designed as one long, -front/spine/ back – file.) My typesetter had also done other book covers, so he also did my cover. For the front, you can look online and find many different photographs that are available to buy to use as book covers. These range from textures to use as backgrounds, to full pictures. I opted to have a person on my cover, as the book is about people. The ‘cover guy’ came and took lots of photographs and I chose the one I liked best. He then added the words, designed the spine of the book, suggested ideas for the back. I included the ‘blurb for the back’ in the file I sent to the editor, so that was ready to use. I think you need to allow £35 for a cover, plus a price for the photograph.

We also discussed choices with the printer. We used cpi (if you look at books you have bought, it usually says who has printed them; ‘cpi’ have printed many of the paperback books that you find in the bookshops.) They were very helpful and gave us a menu of options. We could, if we had wanted, had just a single book printed. If anyone has a book they want to see in print but they don’t plan to sell, they might like to have one copy made. Obviously, the more books we had printed, the cheaper the cost per book. It cost about £2 per book to print 500 copies. If you want to add a barcode then add an extra £35 to the overall printing costs.

They asked us which thickness of paper we wanted and what size of page. I didn’t have a clue! They kindly sent samples of books they had printed, so I could ask all my family and friends to turn the pages and tell me which thickness they preferred. Made a change from talking about the weather.

If you read all the terms and conditions that the printer sends, you might find that one condition is that you have indemnity insurance. This was quite a hassle to arrange, and I don’t think actually it will cover much should anyone ever sue me, claiming I have stolen their ideas. But if you read all the small print (husband is good at that sort of thing) it was a condition of being published, so we did it. We had to estimate my probable earnings for the year – the insurance company then told us they didn’t go that low! It cost £175 for annual insurance.

I really want to tell you about the things we did to market the book, why I had to register for US tax, and how much shops will want to make when they sell your book; but this is too long. I will include it in Part Four. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?

anneethompson.com

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Thank you for reading.

xxxx

Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson.
When did you last buy your Mum a gift that made her laugh?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-Faces-Anne-Thompson/dp/0995463204

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

xxx

Letters to a Sister : 41


Thanks for your letter. You are very lucky that one of your boys cooks. I wish someone in my family did. I hate cooking dinners, really hate it. It is a pressure every day, trying to decide what to eat in the evening. Part of the problem is that although I hate cooking, I do like eating decent food. So ready-meals just don’t do it for me. None of family really cooks though, unless it’s Mother’s Day or something.

Actually, that’s not quite true. When I was in labour with Son 1, Husband did cook pizza for two year old daughter. I told him he just had to take it out the freezer and put it in the oven. Which he did. Literally. It wasn’t until daughter complained there was “white stuff stuck to it” that we discovered the polystyrene base had also gone straight from oven to freezer. I think that’s the last ‘dinner’ he has ever cooked. I blame his mother.

My sons also aren’t great communicators when they’re at uni. I send them emails and texts, letting them know what’s happening, but they rarely reply. Every so often I send an, “Are you dead?” text. To which they usually reply, “Yes, murdered horribly while in pub.” So I know they’re basically alright.

You can then, imagine my concern a few weeks ago when I arrived home to find a message on the answer phone saying, “please call me,” and a text saying the same and three missed calls on my mobile. Heart in mouth I dialed his mobile, hoping that he would pick up, wondering who I should call if he didn’t. He did.

“Oh, Mum, where have you been?” he said, “I need to know how you make soup.”

We discussed the whole idea of beginning messages with “it’s not an emergency.” Then I told him how to make soup.

You have to read my book when it’s published. It is not optional for sisters. It won’t scare you, you’ll be fine. Actually, I have nearly finished the main part, the bit about the psychopath. Which I’m quite relieved about because she’s not very nice.

I did lots of reading, read some papers by neuro scientists and got some of their books. I also watched some clips on YouTube, so I could try and imitate the speech patterns of how known psychopaths talk. It was all very interesting actually. The thing I found most disturbing was how likeable the psychopaths were. I think of myself as a good judge of character, but these people, who had sometimes murdered dozens of people, came over as very nice people. They were the sort of person you enjoy being with, the people who you invite round for dinner.

They were also very believable. Even though I knew, from my background reading, what the true situation was, when you heard someone telling you that they came from a “loving Christian family” you tended to believe them. It was all very interesting. Husband did get a bit fed up with it though. He would come home from work and I would begin a sentence, “Did you know….” and he would instantly say, “Is this about psychopaths?”

Your writers’ group sounds fun. I would love to be able to talk lots about my book. I wouldn’t want feedback though, that would be way too scary. You can be my writer’s group when you come over. I can talk for many weeks about psychopaths – how long are you staying for?

I might even bake you a cake. I like making cakes, it’s only dinners I find emotionally difficult. I will make it during Lent, then it will count towards one of those ‘random acts of kindness’ that we’re all supposed to be doing every day. I have a feeling that might turn out to be even more stressful than having to cook a dinner every day.

Take care,
Love, Anne xx

PS. Bring your wellies. It hasn’t stopped raining since you were here last time.

PPS. Happy Chinese New Year. It’s the year of the Monkey!

This letter is a reply.
You can read my sister’s letter at:
http://ruthdalyauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/cakes-migraines-and-cooking-letters-to.html

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Joanna


I have had an idea for my next book. It’s VERY different to my other books but I think will be lots of fun to write. It will take me about 9 months, so I thought I would try out the beginning on you first. Depending on how many people ‘like’ it will help me to decide whether or not to continue writing or change it completely.

I realise I should be posting this at the beginning of the week – always get the most responses on a Monday morning – but I am much too impatient to wait! Here is the first splurge of words. Oh, and Mum, you wont like it.

To save you asking (because my family did): No, it is not based on myself or anyone who I know and, no, I have never wanted to murder anyone at all ever – I could not even kill the rat I caught!

Joanna
by Anne E Thompson

      I first saw them on the bus. They got on after me, the mother helping the toddler up the big step, holding the baby on her hip while she juggled change, paid the driver. I wondered why she hadn’t bought a card or paid by phone, something quick so we didn’t all have to wait.

      I watched as she swung her way to a seat, leaning against the post for support, heaving the toddler onto the chair by his shoulder. Then they sat, a happy family unit, the boy chattering in his high pitched voice, the mother barely listening, watching the town speed past the window, smiling every so often so he knew he had her attention. Knew he was loved. Cared for. They had everything I didn’t have but I didn’t hate them. That would have involved feelings and I tended to not be bothered by those.

      No, I just watched, knew that those children had all the things, all the mothering, that had passed me by. Knew that they were happy. Decided to change things a little. Even up the score, make society a little fairer, more equal.

      Following them was easy. The mother made a great deal about collecting up their bags, warning the boy that theirs was the next stop. She grasped the baby in one hand, bus pole in the other and stood, swaying as we lurched from side to side. She let the boy press the bell button, his chubby fingers reaching up. Almost too high for him. Old ladies in the adjoining seats smiled. Such a cosy scene, a little family returning from a trip to the town.

      They waited until the bus had swung into the stop, was stationary, before they made their way to the door. I was already standing, waiting behind them. The mother glanced behind and I twisted my mouth into a smile, showed my teeth to the boy who hid his face in his mothers jeans, pressing against her as if scared. That was rude. Nothing to be frightened of. Not yet.

      The family jumped from the bus and I stepped down. As the bus left I turned away, walked the opposite direction from the family. In case someone was watching, noticing, would remember later. Not that that was a possibility but it didn’t do to take chances. I strode to the corner, turned it, then made as if I had forgotten something. Searched pockets, glanced at phone, then turned and hurried back.

      The family were still in sight, further down the road but not too far. She had spent time unfolding the buggy, securing the baby, arranging her shopping. All the time in the world.

      I walked behind, gazing into shop windows, keeping a distance between us. They left the main street and began to walk along a road lined with houses, smart semi-detached homes with neat square gardens. Some had extended, built ugly extra bedrooms that loomed above the house, changing the face, destroying the symmetry. There were some smaller houses stuffed by greedy builders into empty plots, a short terrace in red brick.

      It was just after this that the family stopped. The mother scrabbled in her bag, retrieved her key. The boy had already skipped down the path, was standing by the door. The mother began to follow but I was already turning away.

     I would remember the house, could come back later, when it was dark. I would only do it if it was easy, if there was no risk. If she was foolish enough to leave the back door unlocked. No point in going to any effort, it wasn’t as if they meant anything to me. There would be easier options if it didn’t work out. But I thought it probably would. There was something casual about her, about the way she looked so relaxed, unfussy. I thought locking the back door would be low on her priorities until she went to bed herself. People were so complacent, assumed the world was made up of clones of themselves. Which was convenient, often worked to my advantage. As I walked back, towards the bus stop, I realised I was smiling.

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