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Apricots and Wolfsbane

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My debut adult, historical fiction thriller, Apricots and Wolfsbane, is now available from Filles Vertes Publishing

It is also short listed for the 2018 Chaucer Book Awards for historical fiction!

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Buy now!

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Watch the Book Trailer

Read reviews from other readers and on Goodreads or read an excerpt below.

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Synopsis

Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies, to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Her morbid desires are balanced with faith since she believes confession erases the sin of murder, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.

At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge against her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.

With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder, but the betrayals are just beginning.

This novel was inspired by the life of Locusta, Rome’s notorious poison brewer, and a homily from my priest about the ease of getting caught in a cycle sin and penance. I can’t wait to share more with you in the coming months!


Excerpt

The violent display of convulsions lasted longer than I anticipated.

With my boots propped on the table, I remember watching beads of wax roll down the candle, marking time between my victim’s spasms. The brothel room was sparse, and the bed in the corner remained undisturbed. I had assumed the role of temptress that evening, but delivered a different climax.

I savored the fear on my victim’s face as much as my own unlaced mead. The sweetness of both danced on my palate. His repulsive gagging, however, I endured with patience.

My target focused upon me. His hand shook, reaching out in a misplaced plea for aid. Instead, I raised my goblet in a final toast while he turned purple. He glanced towards his spilled glass, and then studied my face with new understanding. With his last remnants of life, he pieced together what I had done. Those little moments made the act so delicious. And as his body collapsed upon the floor, I added one more success to my mental tally.

Murder just never got old.

The scratching of my chair sliding across the uneven floor broke the sudden, serene silence of the room. Driven by curiosity, my boots echoed with each step towards my victim.

The man’s eyes contained a lingering remnant of vibrancy despite the departure of the soul they once served. White froth percolated from his open mouth, overflowing the orifice to trail down his neck. It was not an honorable death, but my client had paid for certainty, not dignity.

Curious, I examined the large ruby on the victim’s pointer finger which matched the client’s description — an ornate setting with a coat of arms on one side of the gem and a mare’s head on the opposite. The worked piece of silver did not seem important enough to procure my service, but as a professional, I had not asked for justification, only payment. Material significance so often motivated patrons to fill my coffers. I recognized the inherent sin, but I never judged a client’s reason. I was not qualified to cast the first stone.

I did admire my victim. After all, he was a fellow criminal. I believed his talents as a thief must have been remarkable to pilfer the ring unnoticed from the finger of its owner. I often boasted of my own sleight of hand, but admittedly, I could not accomplish such a feat. Though in my defense, assassin clearly trumped thief.

After donning the black leather gloves concealed within the lacings of my bodice, I returned to business. I pushed the tipped chair out of the way and pulled on the ring, but my motion abruptly halted.

Caught at the knuckle, the gem did not budge.

I stared at his limp hand, dumbfounded, before a flame of focus burst through my body. How I craved and savored that rush. That high, and the feeling of power, motivated my ghastly craft all those years. Despite the stress, I never lost control of my emotions on the job. No matter the circumstance, I learned to remain calm and reason through any dilemma. That night was no different.

Grabbing the corpse’s wrist in one hand, I pulled on the metal band with all my strength. Still, the damn ring did not move, even with my heel braced against his chest. But through the sound of my grunting, the unexpected scratching of a nearby rat interrupted my efforts.

The rodent stood tall on his hind legs, observing the entertainment outside his hole in the floorboard. What else could I do except laugh in amusement? There was something poetic about the meager creature being the singular witness to the growing farce, while beyond the chamber door, an entire brothel remained unaware.

But their ignorance would not last for long.

By God’s nails, I was not going to degrade myself to play tug of war with a corpse, nor disgrace my spit to serve as lubrication. I retrieved the dagger from my boot and sawed through the bone of the blasted digit. In contrast, his purse strings cut with ease and the contained sum gave me confidence the proprietor would retain his promised discretion. Eager to depart, I cleansed the ring with the pure decanter of mead and left the contaminated gloves on the table.

I threw the finger to the rat.

 

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Writing Tip

Surviving the Fair Chaos: Tips and a Checklist for Selling Your Books

Planning for a book fair, comic con, or any book sales event is a lot of work which distracts from precious writing time! To simplify the task, here’s my checklist for events.

1. Books!
This should be a given, but you will need your book to sell. The difficult question is: how many? If you’re traditionally published, then you’ll have to buy them from your publisher and it becomes a math/risk game – buy too many and you won’t make a profit, have to few and you’ll miss out on sales. Unfortunately I haven’t found a magic formula for this dilemma and from talking to local authors, it seems it’s hard to predict turnout at events you have not been to before. I would recommend having 5-6 copies of each title/hour of the event.

Of course, you can sell other things besides books. I’ve seen authors also sell journals, and cards, etc.

2. A Sales Price and Sign.
You’ve got books, but how much should you charge? I recommend charging as close to retail price as possible, but with some discount. Also consider the ease of making change (it’s easier to charge $15 then $16 and then have a lot of $5 bills on hand to make change). Think about the psychological affect of the price ($9 sounds better than $10 simply because it’s a single digit). Also decide if you’ll give a discount if someone buys more than one book.

Whatever you decide, you’ll need some sort of sign to display the price. I also put a quick summary of my book with reviews on the sign in a frame.

3. Cash to make change and a good bag/box to keep your money safe.
Bring more than you think you need. You don’t want to lose a sale because you can’t break someone’s $20.

4. A credit card reader.
I was unsure if this was required but several authors assured me it was worth the effort and I have to agree: I would lose a lot of sales if I didn’t take credit card.

I use Square. They will send you a free device reader and the app is free and easy to use. If you sign up with this referral link, you’ll get your first $1000 or 6 months fee free (afterwards it’s 2.5%+10 cents per swipe.) I’ll get a perk too I greatly appreciate! (Thank you in advance.) You’ll also have to decide if you want to charge more for a credit card payment than cash.

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5. Sales Tax Permit.
(U.S. information below. If you’re in another country, you’re on your own…)

If you’re like me, this item is more daunting than writing item #1 above. Tax laws vary significantly from state to state. Depending upon where you live,  you may not have to pay sales tax if you do not sell more than a certain amount of sales in a year. If you live in Texas, like me, you have to pay no matter what. Some venues will want to see your sales tax permit before you start selling. I have to file quarterly with the State of Texas – even if I didn’t sell something that quarter. What a pain!

Regardless of what state you live in, you need to know the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code for the product you’re selling. NAICS is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy. Interestingly enough, it is managed by the Census Bureau. To save you an hour on the phone, the NAICS number to sell physical books is: “454390 Other Direct Selling Establishments.” (Totally obvious, right?)

I wish I had better tips for you on this topic, but you’ll have to spend time digging into your state laws and applying for a permit if required.

6. An Ice Breaker.
You’ve got a product, you’re set up to sell, now you need customers!

Think of an ice breaker to draw potential readers to your booth; something age and genre appropriate. Nothing is a bigger turnoff than an obvious sales pitch as the first words from a seller’s mouth.

Since Apricots and Wolfsbane is about a poison assassin, I ask people as they pass if they want to try some poison trivia. It’s a great way to see if they might be interested in the topic of my book. I give them a trivia question that’s not too hard because people get so excited when they get it right! Then I launch into my book pitch and hand them a book to look it.

I’ve see other authors comment on something someone is wearing, ask people what type of books they like to read, ask if they’ve visited a specific destination, etc.

7. Decorations for Your Booth.
Along with an ice breaker, the physical set up of your booth can attract readers. Decorate it with appropriate items of interest. (I use battery powered candles and a mortar and pestle). Use table cloths to cover the bare table. Use a cake stand or some other item to add vertical height for appeal and pick up a small stand to hold up the book.

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8. A Big Cover or Banner
A blown up version of the book cover can help attract readers from a distance. I love my book’s cover and had it printed on foam board. I’ve had several people come over from across a room to look at the foam board and then comment they also love the cover.

At least at the time of my research, Vista Print was the cheapest vendor to print on foam board (you can save some money if you print to a standard size) and I picked up a cheap, collapsible easel from Amazon.

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9. Consider Your Appearance.
No matter what you wear, look professional and approachable. Since I write Tudor English historical fiction, I wear my Renn Fair Garb and it does attract people to my booth – it also serves as a nice ice breaker 🙂

This is not the time to wear those high heels. Pick a comfortable shoe so you can be out in front of your booth selling. Prepare for a lot of standing!

10. Promotional Material
You’ve got a potential reader at your booth – Great! Make sure they at least leave with something to remember you with: a bookmark, a business card or some freebie. Just because they don’t buy your book there, doesn’t mean they won’t grab the kindle later!

11. Sweat The Small Stuff.
When in doubt, pack it! Bring:

  • Lots of good pens to sign books
  • Rubber bands
  • Extension cords/battery back for that cell phone which is taking credit cards
  • Masking tape
  • Post-It Notes – Write the reader’s name on a scrap piece of paper before you write it in a book. It’d be awful to have to waste a book because you spelled their name wrong!
  • Plastic bags in case a buyer asks for one
  • Snacks! You need to keep your energy up, but try to refrain from eating at the booth.
  • Water – You will do a lot of talking!

12. Do You Need A Friend?
Having a helper can be great. They can take sales while you talk to others. If you’re participating in a panel (or just need to run to the restroom), a friend can watch your booth as well.

13. Wheels.
You have a lot to carry and books are heavy! Bring a wagon, a dolly, or something to help you transport everything from the car. I pack things in a large rolling suitcase.

14. A Smile.
Yep, it’s cliche but no matter what, have fun and be polite.

What is missing from my list? If you have a great tip to share, please leave it in the comments!

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-27,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

Uncategorized

Cover Reveal: Fifty-One

 

Fifty-One

by Chris Barnham

Available on February 12, 2018

from Filles Vertes Publishing, LLC

Fifty-One Cover

( Cover Art Credit : Kate Cowan, Broken Arrow Designs )

Blurb:

Jacob Wesson is a timecop from 2040, sent back to WWII London to stop the assassination of Britain’s war leader. The assignment plays out with apparent ease, but the jump home goes wrong, stranding Jake in war-ravaged 1944. Jake’s team, including his long-time girlfriend, is desperate to trace him before something else goes wrong.

Stuck in the past, Jake must pull from his training and blend in. He clings to the one familiar face he can find, Amy Jenkins, a war widow whose life he saved during the assignment. Drawn to each other by their loneliness and thrown together amid the terror of war, Jake and Amy look to a future together.

But Jake’s future cannot let him go. And when his bosses finally find him in 1944, Jake faces a terrible choice: risk unraveling the modern world, or let Amy die.

PreOrder FIFTY-ONE at Filles Vertes Publishing OR Amazon

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Excerpt:

“What is it?” asked Jake.

“There’s more detail in here.” Robinson tapped the file on the table. “Read this in a minute, but it can’t leave the room. I’ve downloaded the orders on your palmers so you can brief yourselves later. But here are the basics.” Robinson opened the folder and glanced at the first page. “The backroom boys picked up unauthorized temporal Jumps into late April and early May 1941.”

“London?” Lew leaned forward.

“Yes. A history scholar like yourself, Agent Brockley, won’t need me to tell you how crucial a time this was in the war with Nazi Germany, with Britain fighting alone and in danger of invasion.”

“So what’re they trying to do?”

“They’ve already done it, of course,” Robinson said. “We’ve checked it out, and the system says it’s at least 90 percent likely they’re behind the assassination of a politician, a guy called Winston Churchill.”

“Should I know him?” Jake didn’t share Lew’s interest in obscure periods of the past, but the thoughtful expression on Brockley’s face said he’d heard of Churchill.

“Well, he was prime minister for a year, as I’m sure Agent Brockley could’ve told you,” Robinson said. “I’ve had it checked out: if Churchill isn’t shot after a year in the job, he turns out to be an inspirational war leader.”

“How can anyone know that?”

“You know I can’t talk about that, Jake. But you can trust me on it. Churchill shouldn’t die, and your job is to save him.”

“Hold on.” Lew frowned. “What’re these guys trying to achieve by killing Churchill?”

“I assume they want Britain to lose the war.”

“But the Allies won without Churchill,” Lew said. “So they failed.”

“Maybe their computers aren’t as good as ours. But we still need to undo the damage,” Robinson said. “Look, the details are on file but a couple of things I need to say now. First, it’s very important you follow the schedule in your orders. I mean precisely—time, place, everything. You need to be where the orders tell you when they tell you. At all times.”

Jake nodded. Lew remained still. Neither spoke, and Robinson peered once more at the cigar in his fingers before putting it away in a desk drawer.

“I’m sending four of you,” Robinson went on. “There’s you two, with Jake as mission leader. You’ll be joined by Hannah Benedict and Nancy Ahmed.”

“Hannah?” Jake asked. “Is that really necessary?”

“Nancy’s a good pick,” Lew said. Jake found that predictable; Lew had a reputation with the female OffTime agents, and he wasn’t the only one in the Office who thought Nancy was a striking recent recruit.

“But Hannah,” Jake said again. “She’s got the experience, but shouldn’t I get a say, as mission leader? And she’s my partner.”

“You are having a say,” Robinson said. “And I’ve listened. But it’s my call, and I’ve made it. We wouldn’t be much of an organization if the boys on a mission got to choose the girls, would we? Now,” he stood up to leave, “get yourselves briefed. I want you ready to go uptime by this time tomorrow.”

Reviews for FIFTY-ONE

“If you want to stay up at night thinking about time travel, Chris Barnham is your man.” —–Joe Stech, Publisher/editor-in-chief of Compelling Science Fiction Magazine

“When it comes to time travel, alternate history and the human heart, I would trust few writers more than Chris Barnham.” —– Nicholas Royle, Author of First Novel

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Chris Barnham worked for two decades for the British government, advising Ministers on education and employment policies. In 2013, he decided it was time to make stuff up for himself. He now combines writing with running a small business, and active involvement in community politics in south London, where he has lived since the 1980s. His short fiction has appeared in a range of magazines, including Compelling Science Fiction, Black Static, the UK’s premier horror magazine, and the late-lamented Pan Books of Horror. His first novel, Among the Living, was published in 2012 (revised 2nd edition, 2017).

Chris lives in London, England, with three tall children and a scary wife. Whenever work allows, he spends as much time as possible out of town with mud on his boots. His latest walking challenge is the 630-mile South West Coast Path, around the Devon and Cornwall coasts. You can follow his (slow) progress on his blog

Check out Chris and Connect on Twitter

Check out the Book Trailer for Chris Barnham’s FIFTY-ONE here!

Don’t forget to check out Filles Vertes Publishing, LLC for more great books! Connect on Facebook, Twitter

Apricots and Wolfsbane

Announcing Upcoming Appearances!

I am thrilled to announce three upcoming local author appearances. I hope to see you there!

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On January 27, I’ll be speaking at Murder By The Book – Houston, giving a short lecture about Locusta, who was the world’s first serial killer and the inspiration for my historical fiction thriller, Apricots and Wolfsbane. Afterwards I’ll be taking questions and signing books! The fun begins at 4:30 p.m.

Event Details:

Saturday, January 27, 2018 – 4:30pm
2342 Bissonnet St.
HoustonTX 77005

Brazcon

Join me at BrazCon, February 3! I’ll participating in an author panel (time TBD) about Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and at my booth I’ll be selling and signing Apricots and Wolfsbane. The event is free with a reserved ticket.Event Details:

Saturday, February 3, 2018
8:45 AM – 4:00 PM CST
Shadow Creek High School
11850 Broadway street
Pearland, TX 77584
http://brazcon.org/


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On March 24 I will be selling and signing Apricots and Wolfsbane at the Galveston Island Book Festival. Stop by for some poison trivia!

Event Details: UPDATED LOCATION!

Saturday, March 24, 2018
  Ball High School
4115 Avenue O
Galveston, TX, 77550
United States (map)
Galveston Island Book Festival

Uncategorized

2017 Nanowrimo Reflection

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It’s been 5 days since the madness.

5 days later, I’m starting to have the itch to write again.

I was pretty quiet on my blog during November since I focused on nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). This is an insane, annual activity where authors attempt to write a novel (50,000) words in one month.

Yes, 50,000 words or 1,667/day. (Insert rant of how it’s unfair that a historical fiction novel is more like 80k-100k words…)

As a full-time working mother who likes to remain somewhat sane, I set a personal goal of 30,000 words towards the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane, and am pleased to say I made it. It’s not an “official” nano win since it’s 20,000 words short, but dang-it, I’m calling it a personal win! My official word count was 30,547 and the story draft is sitting ~47,000 words to date.

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Apricots and Wolfsbane was a 2016 nanowrimo project and I also wrote ~30,000 words during the month. I somehow kept up that trajectory during December 2016, but I doubt that is going to happen this year. Frankly, I’m burnt out! Also, marketing for Apricots and Wolfsbane is taking a lot of my writing time, but I have some exciting events in the works for 2018 I plan to announce in the coming weeks!

The good news: I am loving my draft novel so far and am so pleased with how it is coming. I hope to have the first draft finished in early 2018.

But more importantly, I made some new author friends last month. Thank you to everyone who word-sprinted with me and for the fantastic community and encouragement.

Apricots and Wolfsbane, Guest Blog

My novel inspired poems!

@GeorgiaTell is working on a project to write 1,000 poems and two of them are inspired by Apricots and Wolfsbane! In the book, Lavinia dreams of being captured in poetry and now she has!

Check out Georgia’s website, and read her beautiful poems below.


of the same kind

a drop of poison
thief dead on the floor
saw off his finger
he keeps the ruby ring no more


I enjoy

the squeak of a chair
watching their eyes realize
life was draining away

the stillness of the body
when my poison won
taking proof

the silence when it was done
echoing in my head
until confession welcomed God’s voice back