At long last, the day arrived when my little baby matured and was finally published on 1st of June! And yes, it really has been 20+ years in the making. Out now on Kindle worldwide, and shortly to be in paperback and other ereader forms too.
The story began life in 1998, born with a different name, one which flitted between that and the published title. The first version went through the RNA New Writers Scheme, its reader recommending several agents to try. At a RNA conference, one agent asked to read the complete mss; but decided it wasn’t for her. I sent it to the book doctor, Hilary Johnson, who made suggestions, amended a few flaws and loved the story but not the then title, hence its change. She advised I would have trouble finding an agent or publisher because the book crosses several genres: romance/mystery/paranormal/timeslip/investigative/fantasy – something which at the time wasn’t readily accepted. It was also rather long, which didn’t help.
But White Stones wouldn’t die or go away. I liked the story too much, so over the course of the next few years kept tweaking and sending it out to agents and publishers. One in the USA showed interest but wanted me to change the location from England to somewhere, anywhere, in the States.
This I tried to do. I carried out a great deal of research as to where the story might work there, but it doesn’t’ allow itself to be transferred for reasons which become clear within the novel on two counts: the location is vital to the plot, as is the fact that a character (real, not fictional) within the story did not travel to America during their lifetime, and the fact this person is a crucial element of the storyline. What to do? There wasn’t a lot I could do unless I virtually rewrote the whole novel, so I put it back in the proverbial drawer and moved on to another.
That book, Every Step of the Way, proved a little more successful in that it went on to be shortlisted for the prestigious Harry Bowling Prize for a London novel in 2004, in turn leading to me being taken on by a top London agent who wanted synopses for two more similar books, hoping to secure a 3-book deal. I began writing the next, but every step of the way the agent tried, she couldn’t find a publisher for me and we eventually parted ways.
And still White Stones wouldn’t go away. It played in my head during the day. Kept me awake at nights as I tried to rework the story, tried to fathom out what was wrong with it, why no-one would take a chance on it. One night it dawned on me … no, actually it was my sister a few years later, who read the whole book in one sitting. At a certain point, she looked up and said, “At last, here’s where the action starts!” That’s when it hit me… the beginning of the novel, the entire first three chapters, was nothing but back story. No wonder I wasn’t getting anywhere. So those chapters were scrapped, with any relevant information pertinent to the plot drip fed into the new version.
Life, work, family got in the way on many levels and again White Stones was shelved whilst I wrote two new novels. And still the Stones kept knocking at my head wanting to be let out. I picked it up again and read it through from the start. Many years had gone by and, consequently, White Stones was out of touch with modern technology. People now had mobile phones, computers, the Internet and the world-wide-web – all things that needed to be brought up to date as they are relevant and necessary for the story to work, as were events that had taken place in the real world – important things which impact on the plot.
A few more years came and went. Having received many rejections but also many encouraging comments and feedback from some, though not all, publishers to whom it was sent, the publishing world had also changed in those intervening years. Self-publishing came along, which for a while sounded the death knell for agents and conventional publishers but, in turn, that world has again altered because publishers seem to prefer authors who have a backlist, have self-published several novels and gained a readership and following, meaning many aren’t prepared to take a gamble on a “new author”, which is what I am to them. However, I was determined the Stones wouldn’t crumble and turn to dust in the drawer. I had to release them, set them free so that I could move on.
That day has finally arrived and my baby has grown up, reached adulthood and I have cut the strings binding it to my heart. Whether it flounders or flies, it will always be with me. I will always love it. I hope you do too. Whether you are a sceptic or not, whether you believe in ghost or angels, or if you just like reading a good love story, White Stones might steal your heart away too and leave you with some lasting memories and thoughts. It might also make you change your mind about all that you or don’t believe in. That is my intention.
Paperback and other ereader forms soon.
Brief Extract from White Stones
He blew a kiss from the doorway. “Coffee in fifteen minutes.”
In her hand she caught the love token, lay back against the pillow and listened to his retreating footfalls as he took the stairs two at a time, jumping the last two as always.
If someone had told her life could change so rapidly, become so blissfully tranquil and perfect, she once wouldn’t have believed them. But it was true. As the days and weeks had slipped by, he had filled each waking moment with pleasure, each hour of darkness with such tender love she thought her heart would burst from so much devotion.
Hounslow seemed a thousand light years away instead of a hundred-odd miles. Ten years of married hell over. Almost over, she reminded herself with a jolt. There was still the matter of the divorce to deal with. But yes, Harry was right. Life was good. Apart from one black cloud forever lurking below the horizon, gripping on at its edge, always threatening to spoil things – Alex.
Like that annoying little tune still duelling with the other inside her head, Alex wouldn’t go away. Her thoughts returning to him at inopportune moments, always skulking there in the back of her mind, waiting to pounce.
Why won’t he let go of me and let us all get on with our lives?
With every ring of the telephone, each persistent knock on the door, she dreaded it would be him. Each day living in trepidation that he would turn up at the house. It could surely only be a matter of time before he found out where she was, and he would be here, thumping on the door, demanding she come home with him at once.
There had been no remorse in leaving Alex. No pangs of guilt or tinges of sorrow, only relief when she closed the door on the West London house for the last time. But there were tears. Tears of regret that she hadn’t had the courage to do it sooner. When Harry had rushed to her that day she’d arrived at Hill House and pulled her into his arms before she was even fully out of the car, she knew she had done the right thing. Harry would always take care of her. Keep her safe. Love her.
But she feared the repercussions. Revenge was the sort of thing Alex was capable of. He’d pick a fight with Harry, come in with arms flaying, blaming everyone but himself.
This looming threat worried her, not that she had spoken of these fears to Harry. He had his own past to deal with. Her physical wounds and bruises had healed; his were still sore. Emotional scars that would be with him for eternity, so why make him suffer any more than he already had by worrying over the baggage of her past.
If only he would talk about Lorna and little Sam and Elly more, speak about the accident instead of clamming up every time she tentatively broached the subject. They were a part of him she wanted to share yet she knew so little about them. She needed to understand, to know that part she hadn’t yet been able to reach….