The Tarnished Crown
**FINALIST** Page Turner Awards 2023
I’m excited to announce that WHEEL OF FORTUNE is a **finalist** in the Page Turner Awards 2023 for best historical novel! Or am I the finalist? https://bit.ly/3rU6Ei0 Whichever it is, I am grateful to all those lovely readers who have voted for Isobel and me. Let’s face it, poor Isobel needs all the help she can get if she is to make it to Book 2 in THE TARNISHED CROWN series…
If historical fiction is your thing, and you’re looking for an immersive story of intense love, loyalty and treachery during the 15th century Wars of the Roses, you can find Isobel and WHEEL OF FORTUNE as a paperback and ebook at Amazon. https://amzn.to/45cx8JJ
If You Want To Understand People, Study Hens
In terms of life ambitions, I have had a few. I wanted a smallholding since my early teenage years. This desire developed after my burning interest in medieval history, but before I became involved in specialist education and long before I began to write. In terms of outcomes, the smallholding lagged way behind and only became possible once we moved to somewhere with a big enough garden. Even then, my attempts to husband the land have been somewhat thwarted by the horrendous soil we have here. But chickens – yes, chickens – have headed the list of to-dos and, ten days ago, 8 feathered ladies arrived to take up residence in their new home.
I put my interest down to my DNA inherited from generations of farmers. Working the land and being close to all that is green and growing, mooing, and crowing, must somehow have become embedded in my psyche because my birthday wish-list as a fourteen year old included a book on self-sufficiency by John Seymour. I have it still, looking a bit tatty around the edges, but no less loved.
Which brings me back to chickens – or to Matilda, to be precise – the dippiest hen I have ever met. Matilda is one of two Chamois Laced Padovanas and 6 other hens from https://www.pipinchicksilkies.com/live-poultry-shop/and I’ll no doubt be writing more about her in the future. She is joined by her sister – Myrtle, two Lemon Laced Padovanas (who have yet to be named), two big Gold Laced Wyandotte girls – Big Sue and Little Sue – and the two pencilled Wyandotte bantams – the youngest of the bunch. Small the bantams might be, but they have fearsome personalities.
What do hens have to do with writing, you might ask? Everything and nothing. For one thing, they make a marvellous foil to sitting and writing, and for another, time spent in their company inspires a surprising number of ideas for character traits. The question is, do I really want a chilly Felice Langton or a moany Joan in my flock? Thankfully, none of my ladies appear to be that way inclined, even if Big Sue does get a bit picky now and again. The upshot is: if you want to understand people, study hens.
CF Dunn is an award-winning novelist of history, mystery and suspense.
She is currently writing The Tarnished Crown series, the first of which, Wheel of Fortune, is described by novelist, Elizabeth Chadwick as ‘The best Wars of the Roses novel I have ever read.’.
Now living in the South West of England, her love of history is equalled only by her delight in the natural world and the unruly sea by which she lives with her family and assorted animals in suitably rambling historic surroundings.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE Launch Day!
I’m also taking a step back and reviewing the event as a whole. My first thought is that releasing a book involves so much more than writing it and throwing a party. Yes, the lengthy process of editing and negotiations over cover design – all the itsy-bitsy aspects of producing the final version – is complex and time-consuming and I can’t thank LizCarter at Resolute Books enough for all her input and support.
The event itself was something else again, involving lots of people and moving parts especially as we weren’t launching just one book, nor even two, but two books AND a business. This required mega amounts of coordination and a first-class honours degree in organisation. Thankfully, the members of Resolute Books have this in bucket loads.
Thanks to everyone at Resolute Books and fellow Resolute authors: Paul Trembling, Sue Russell, Ruth Leigh Writes, Edward de Chazal, and Sarah Nicholson. We were spoilt for choice with a superb selection of meats, pies and local cheeses from Framptons Of Bridport, and delicious canapés and St James cake by talented Nick Leigh.
The very gifted Jason Smith of Social Shapes organised photographs of the event (herding authors is no easy task I can tell you) and ensured it was recorded for posterity. Lovely guests travelled from far and wide and bought many books (thank you!) and we had eight dogs to add to the joy of it all. Congratulations to Paul Trembling for his release of his chilling crime novel, LOCAL KILLER and to Resolute Books for making it a day to remember.
Countdown to Book Launch Begins
The countdown to the book launch has begun with just over two weeks to go until Wheel of Fortune‘s release. And I’m still waiting for delivery of the books. It’s always the same at this point – the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ trepidation, those first-night nerves. This is the sixth book launch I’ve done since 2012 and I’ve never not had the books for the big day. There’s always the risk that the much anticipated box won’t arrive in time, that the distributer has mislaid the order. Or perhaps the lorry has been waylaid by book-loving gremlins en route… No, that last is implausible. Gremlins don’t read.
Meanwhile, preparations continue apace. Not only is Wheel of Fortune due for release by Resolute Books on 20th May, but my good friend and author, Paul Trembling, is launching the latest instalment in his Local series – Local Killer – on the same day. I had the privilege of seeing an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of Local Killer a while back and it is a cracking read. I’ll be writing a full review of Local Killer shortly.
It struck me how different our writing styles are, reflecting the different genera in which we write. His – taut, sparse, tense – the epitome of great crime thriller writing. Mine – with tension woven throughout a longer, multi-layered narrative, where the historical landscape is peopled by complex personalities negotiating a web of political and personal dilemmas. The varied styles of authors writing in different genera is one of the aspects of literature I find so enjoyable – mystery, suspense, thrillers and, of course, history – set in any location and in any period. When it comes down to it – and whatever the genre – it’s all about story.
There is one type of story of which I am not particularly fond, the one where the author has a queue of eager readers waiting for a signed copy of her book – and an empty table. I haven’t read that story yet and I’m determined not to write it. Roll on 20th May and my box of books!
Local Killer by Paul Trembling and Wheel of Fortune by C.F. Dunn are published through Resolute Books on 20th May 2023
5* NEW BOOK REVIEW for WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Only one week to go until the book launch and WHEEL OF FORTUNE has a 5* review!
‘CF Dunn’s strong, hard-hitting narrative is also often intensely lyrical and poetic. I found every aspect of this novel utterly compelling.’
author SC Skillman
Find the full review here at https://scskillman.com/blog-scskillman-writer-psychological-paranormal-mystery-fiction-young-adults-and-new-adults/
2022: The First Day of the Rest of the Year.
How have you spent the first day of the new year? Having prepared the stollen that I somehow missed at Christmas, I have spent the rest of the first day of 2022 ensconced in my study. The files – ordered months ago – have finally arrived. Now labelled, they have taken a wealth of research material, notebooks, specialist articles – all the bits and pieces garnered for the current writing project.
Sorting and filing are apt metaphores for the process of preparing for the new writing year. Even if Book 3 of the series is well underway, there’s a sense of renewed vigour, a fresh beginning.
I love the weeks of festive preparation in the lead up to Christmas with its delightfully chaotic, diamond-bright cheerfulness as absorbing now as it was to me as a child. Yet there’s something about the turn of the year that calls for a reflective mien. Perhaps it is the lull after the Christmas rush, or the quiet, dark days in the depths of winter. Or is it the hibernation of the self before spring awakens the senses and drives us from our insularity?
Now listening to my writing playlists while making notes, I’m shaking off December’s dust and readying myself for the year ahead. On my list of things I wish to achieve (aside from all those relating to the garden, house and family) is a pile of books I want to read (research-related and novels), a research trip for the current project and preparation for the next. I have a conference to go to as well as several literary festivals. Covid notwithstanding, I’d like to meet up with author friends because there is only so much a Zoom get-together can deliver. But much of that is dependent upon the unpredictable outcomes of the present pandemic as well as life’s twists and turns such as had me bed-ridden for fifteen weeks last year with a broken leg. Is it no wonder then, that we look to those things we can control – books and shelves, our little spaces – that make up the safe part of our lives? There is comfort there among the regularity of numbered pages, the neatly labelled files, the array of pens and coloured tags and the pristine notebooks waiting for the first impression of a fresh idea.
So forgive me if I linger here a while longer, temporarily secreted from the volcanic anxiety of a stressed world as I navigate the paths of a known past. Standing at the gate of the year, I’m taking a moment to rest and relfect before taking the first step into 2022 with all the vicissitudes and possibilities it offers. Whatever road you find yourself on, may you find it a bright and smooth way. Happy New Year!
Authentically You: Writing, Genre & Identity.
Understanding your writing, genre and identity is key to describing your latest book. In an interesting on-line discussion the other day, the question of self-identity came up. This was in relation to how we view ourselves in terms of being ‘human’ and our ‘gender’. This, in turn, had me thinking about something authors are frequently asked: Who do you write like? How does a writer categorise their book’s genre and identity? What makes them authentically you?
The question often stems from people wanting to get their heads around what you write. This gives them an idea of your genre and whether your books are ones they might read. Fair enough.
For publishers, the question is more pragmatic and commercial: who is the target readership and on what shelf of the bookshop is your book going to sit? After all, a publisher wants to sell your books, so knowing the answer to both of the above is one step on the ladder to publication.
The answer to the question of genre is all your potential readers need to know. The question of how it reads is what they will find out when they pick up a copy of your book. You cannot write like anybody else; your style is authentically you.
The question therefore is twofold: What is your genre? and to whom will your writing style appeal?
Asking a writer to identify the author whose books most closely resemble their own is more difficult than it first might seem. When originally asked the question I must have looked like a rabbit in the headlights. I honestly couldn’t say. It helped when my editor, quite unsolicited, described my style as being similar to P.D. James and, oddly enough, someone else said the same in an unrelated conversation. At least I could now come up with a name. But did it really represent my books?
The second question, that of genre, also proved to be tricky to pin down – important if your book is being entered for awards. Nobody likes picking up a mug of tea only to discover it’s coffee instead. Getting the genre – or genres – of your book right is just as important. Classifying a romantic-mystery-suspense with a paranormal-and-historical twist is a bit of a mouthful. My publisher entered Mortal Fire in the Adult Romance catagory of the Book of the Year Awards. The genre didn’t quite cover all the bases, but Mortal Fire won GOLD nonetheless, so must have ticked at least some of the boxes.
The current series should be easier – a straightforward historical novel. Yes, but historical romance? Historical suspense? Historical blood-and-guts? A bit of all the above is the answer. You see the problem.
It’s not straightforward at all, so perhaps the other way to look at this classification issue is to ask people who have read the books. The following excerpts have been taken from reader reviews on Amazon for Mortal Fire:
‘Thoroughly recommend if you enjoy a bit of history, a touch of romance, mystery and maybe some crime too.’
‘Romance and mystery, a perfect combination in this page turner of a novel.’
‘The author conveys the sense of mystery and tension brilliantly. She has researched the 17th century very well.’
‘I was entranced by Moral Fire by CF Dunn. It brings together all my favourite themes: romance, murder-mystery-suspence, history and an elusive “extra” that has not been fully disclosed in this first book in a series… time travel?’
‘This book is both a thriller and romance with the undertones of Du Maurier’s Rebecca.’
There we have it. From the point of view of readers (and they are the ones that count), The Secret of the Journal series is a romantic mystery-suspense with a historical twist and might be found on the same shelf as Daphne Du Maurier.
So, how do you categorise your book – simply and succinctly – when someone (reader/agent/publisher/film producer) comes up to you at a party and asks that question? Seperating the question into two distinct parts makes it easier to answer:
A. ‘Hi’ you say, quick as a flash and with a confident smile. ‘I write books of…
Q. Who do you write like?
A. I write like me, of course, you might secretly think, but seemlessly reply, ‘You will find me on the shelf next to…’ At which point the reader/agent/publisher declares an undying interest in everything you’ve written and you have a fan for life. No? Well, perhaps you’ve managed to tickle their curiosity and that’s the first step, but getting the pitch right? That’s entirely another road for a future post.
How Practice and Experience Improved One Author’s Craft.
Can practice and experience improve an author’s craft?As I write this I am about a quarter of the way through the first draft of my latest book. It is the eighth I’ve written and the third in The Tarnished Crown quartet. If numbers add up to anything you might expect the process to become easier with time, but does it? In my case the answer is yes. And no. I’ll deal with the yes first.
Since embarking on my first novel, Mortal Fire, in 2009, I’ve encountered many slings and arrows along the way; but I’ve also seen positive changes in the way I approch my writing. As an aide–mémoire for those moments of doubt, I’ve come up with an (admittedly) incomplete list of the benefits garnered from years of writing:
- Understanding how novels work in my genres of historical fiction and romantic mystery-suspense takes much of the gueswork out of plot and structure. This has come with experience and being open to learning and refining aspects of the craft.
- I’ve developed my own written language style. I didn’t know what it was before I began my first novel, but I do now. That’s a plus. Writing increases confidence in your own unique voice – the one that identifies your work as, well, yours.
- I know what to expect of my writing journey. Since producing my first book in the euphoria of ignorance, I now realise that size really does matter. A 350,000 word book is not going to appeal to a publisher no matter how well it is written. My books are still long, but they are now within the range of what is acceptable for historical novels.
- I have an idea of how long it will take me to produce the next volume. I reckon on the first draft taking a year – give or take a few months for moving house, Christmas and other such eventualities.
- I’ve worked out what daily routine works best for me and plan my schedules accordingly. Emails get answered in the morning, then it’s gardening, cooking, or household maintenance (DIY, restoration, cleaning) all before early-afternoon. From then onwards I write until at least 7pm and woe betide any interruptions or interruptors.
- Over the last decade I’ve concluded that editing is preferable to writing the first draft. I like to have the backbone of the story done before fleshing it out and adding the details that provide richness and depth. The first draft can be a bit of a white-knuckle ride, an adrenaline rush before relaxing into the second draft.
- The subsequent books in a series tend to be easier to write because the fictional world and its inhabitants have been established already.
- It has been a real eye-opener working with publishers and seeing the world from their perspective. They are the ones producing and selling your books, so it helps the relationship if you have an insider’s view on what sells, how books are marketed and how you can help the process.
- Marketing and self-promotion – ah, yes, two things writers are urged to embrace with all the enthusiasm of a convert. I have yet to conquer social media and I confess I’d rather be writing than Tweeting, but I am working on improving my understanding of such things. I have already learned a tremendous amount, made many good friends, and sold books to readers across the globe who enjoy my work. That can’t be bad.
So much for experience helping with aspects of writing a new book and all that goes with it, but what continues to be tricky?
The actual slog of writing is much the same whether it is your first, tenth or last book. It requires mental effort, discipline and, not to put too fine a point on it, bum-glue. Yes, without dedicated time at your desktop or with your quill, that book will not get written. Accept it and buy a decent chair that supports your back.
The snakes and ladders of writing are just the same whichever book you write. You start off on an anticipatory sprint, slow down to a jog, before mooching about in the mire in the middle. Pulling yourself out is tough, but once over that hump and peering at the finishing line, you’re almost there. N.B. Write that down and remember it for the next book you write. There will always be ups and downs – plough on.
For many writers, including me, self-doubt is the elephant in the room. Learning to open the door and invite it to step outside is the one thing you can do for yourself. Recognise the doubts, analyse them for what they are, and then give them the boot.
Looking back, I’m struck not by how much easier writing each book has become – and it has – but the confidence that has grown out of tackling each new project. In a note to myself, I must remember that and, before embarking on the next novel with all those snakes and elephants, repeat the words made famous by Chief Dan George in the film The Outlaw Josey Wales:
When in doubt I must ‘endeavour to persevere’.