A Day in the Life of Tim Ellis, Crime Writer

So, here’s the thing! I was reading an article in Writer’s Magazine about Bernard Cornwell’s day, one of my favourite authors. So, I thought if Bernard can do it, so can I. My day usually begins about 5am, but I don’t beat myself up if I have a lie in now and again. The dogs (four of them) look at me as if I’m a sandwich short of a picnic. Three of them get up, go out and then go back to bed. They’re more normal than me – ain’t that the truth?

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I make my coffee – always been a coffee drinker, but I don’t mind the odd cup of tea if the whim takes me – and switch my laptop on (a Dell Ultrabook XPS13). I work off a miniature 8GB Verbatim memory stick. All of my writing is on there, but I do back-ups onto another memory stick, which I keep separately. And, of course, most of my writing is in numerous places online anyway! Then I get stuck in by checking my emails, my sales, my rankings, my facebook page and I’m off. Whatever the project is I get stuck in. The whole purpose of getting up at this ridiculous hour of the day is to work in peace and quiet with an uncluttered mind. If you’re going to procrastinate (or feed the monkeys) then you may as well go back to bed.

So, how did I get into writing? Well, I look back over my life and see the milestones that lead me here. As a teenager I wrote poetry, and that has continued. I was editor of a magazine called “The Gopher” in my early Army days. I used to play in the regional Scrabble championships, construct crosswords for fun, and read everything that I could lay my hands on. And then, one day about six years ago, after I’d read a book on Caesar by Conn Iggulden, I decided I could do that, so I wrote Warrior: Path of Desitiny. Since then, I’ve written twenty novels – mostly crime.

I sit in the living room in my leather recliner chair. I have got a shed, but I’m not keen on spiders, and there’s no electricity in there. Now that I’m 60 years old, my wife says I can write where I want to – so I do. There’s only the two of us now – the son having finally got a life of his own – about bloody time I often say! So, life doesn’t get in the way of what I want to do much anymore. I started writing a while back when I was still teaching. The more I wrote, the less I wanted to teach. Then, four yeas ago I had a heart attack and survived. It was a good excuse to retire – so I did. I suppose I’m a writer now, and I don’t think there’s a retirement age for writers – they just get recycled through charity shops (Ha, ha! There wasn’t a joke for ‘old writers never die . . .’, so I just made that up). Maybe I should start writing humour! Hecklers can kiss my ballpoint pen!

It’s just 7am, and I’ve been doing a lot of administrative tasks since 5am relating to my latest police procedural bestsellerThe Terror at Grisly Park (Quigg 5), which I published on Monday. Yeah, being a writer means doing loads of rubbish that isn’t actually writing, which is probably a good job because otherwise my brain would turn to mush if I tried to write all day. So, I like to intersperse my writing with frequent trips to the kitchen to make drinks/snacks/chocolate, the odd tweet/retweet, reading the news/sports on Yahoo, and so on.

My days are mostly the same because I don’t want to do anything much except write. At about 8:45am I go for my shower, and then take the dogs for their first walk. Gives me a chance to think through what I’m writing and what I’m going to write next. I have a target word-count of 1,000-words a day, but again I don’t subject myself to self-flagellation if I don’t make it. Most days I achieve a lot more, but I work on a larger target of 10,000-words a week, 40,000-words a month, and a finished 80,000-word book in two months, which is what I’ve been achieving for a while now. Being old, wrinkly, crotchety and forgetful has its advantages.
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After I’ve walked the dog I generally get back to writing for a couple of hours. At midday I have my lunch and watch something I’ve recorded on Sky+ for an hour, and then I have a siesta for an hour or two. I get up again and start writing. At around 3pm I take the dogs for their second walk, and then write some more. At 5.15pm I put my laptop down and watch Pointless (big fan Alexander and Richard), watch the news and then do a bit more work until about 8pm and then I call it a day and watch some TV. Most of my writing gets done between 5 – 8am when there are no distractions.


 

v  There’s lots of talk about planning, chapter outlines and a dozen other ways to write. Each to his own. When I’m writing police procedurals I like to have a title, the names of my lead character(s) and a location before I start – this means I own it. It’s mine. That’s it really. I then begin writing and go where the characters take me. I have a notebook by my chair, and I keep notes of what I’ve got to include in the future. I write in scenes, and I try to make each scene as interesting as I can. I suppose you can relate it to: Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. If you’ve got your scenes right the book should be good – build it a brick at a time . . . Well, as long as you’ve got a plot, a story, interesting characters, conflict, and all the other things you’re meant to have in a book.

The wife got up. I grunted at her a few times – she’s happy. Had a shower, walked and fed the dogs – they’re happy. Made a coffee and had a couple of pieces of toast – I’m happy. Back to writing. You know, I had a quick look at rules for writers – there’s a whole bunch of them that people have come up with from Diane Athill (who?), through George Orwell to Jeanette Winterson (who?). Anyway, I thought I’d let you know some of the ones I abide by:
1. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue (Elmore Leonard). Although sometimes I break this rule, but not much. I try to use actions, body language, or speech indiosyncracies to indicate who’s speaking,

2. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” (Elmore Leonard). I very rarely use adverbs (or “ly” words). Adverbs are telling – I prefer to show through actions and body language.

3. I don’t use “suddenly”.

4. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters (Elmore Leonard). I’m a bit in the middle with this one. I do give some description, but not too much.

5. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip (Elmore Leonard). Yes, I’m one of the readers that skip, and I keep this in mind while I’m writing.

6. Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue (Helen Dunmore). Yes, I tend to do this. I go to bed, and between the light and the dark, my characters show me where they’re going and what they’re going to be doing next.

7. A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk Helen Dunmore). While I’m walking the dogs, problems often get solved. If your instinct is saying it doesn’t work, your instinct is probably right – change it. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you it doesn’t work.

8. Don’t wait for inspiration. Discipline is the key. I agree. Get up, get writing. Do it every day – rain or shine. No excuses – just do it.

9. Use layering. When I re-read that one time I think about: The five senses, the descriptions, the dialogue, the emotions and feelings, body language, conflict, actions, the pace, active/passive, and long/short sentences.

10. Also, I keep it simple, I make sure there’s lots of “white space” i.e. I use a lot of dialogue. I like reading dialogue. I tend to skip over chunks of description when I’m reading.

Some of the rules I break with wild abandon:

1. Keep your exclamation marks under control (Elmore Leonard). No, I tend to use a few more than 3 per 100,000-words!

2. Read it out loud. I can already hear it in my head, so I tend not to read my work out loud. Although the wife has caught me muttering to myself on occasion.

3. Cut. What I write is usually the finished product. There’s nothing to cut generally because my writing is minimilastic anyway. I re-read what I’ve written, make some minor changes, etc., send it off to the proofreader. Make some more minor changes.

4. Avoid using a thesaurus. I use the online version whenever I lose a word, or I need a definition. My memory isn’t what it was, and Statins make it worse, so I break this rule when I need to.

5. Cut out the metaphors and similes (Esther Freud). No, I break this rule regularly. Metaphors and similies are like old friends.

Well, I think that’s about it. A life in the day of Tim Ellis.
Read more from Tim Ellis at his Blog.

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The last chapter of the Assassin Chronicles series: The Red Cross of Gold XXX:. The Wayward GodKing is now available on Amazon for Kindle and at Smashwords for all eReaders. Only $3.99! 

Rebecca’s Questions

NOTE: If you are reading the series and haven’t at least reached Book 25, the Ancient Evil, this information may contain spoilers. On the other hand, if you haven’t yet reached Book 9, the Queen of the Abyss, this information will certainly confuse you and by the time you fnish Book 8 and begin Book 9, you will have forgotten it entirely.

Always keeping us guessing! August 1, 2012
By Rebecca
Again I finished this book in a matter of days! As said by Heidi, I too will be going back to the beggining for a re read of this FANTASTIC series once the last book’s been written. A couple of things I don’t understand though… how is Mark again split usunder and from where did the second body come from? and if Meredith was always a part of Nanna then why is Merry just a simple human… did Nanna manifest as Merideth always knowing she would fall into Mark’s path? Anyway, another well written installment, I can’t wait to see what happens next! Thankyou Mr Carrol for sharing this wonderful and uniqe story with us.

I certainly appreciate reviews like this one and I love to pique the interests of my readers enough to make them ask questions. These questions, I feel could be answered without spoiling anything in the last two up-coming books in the series. So I thought I take a minute and try to answer them.

I’m not sure which body Rebecca is talking about so I’ll try to cover them all as well as I can. Mark’s first body was Mark Andrew Ramsay, brother of Luke Matthew Ramsay. The entity Myrrdyn Ambrosius (Merlin of King Arthur legend) was on the run from Marduk, his ancient enemy, shortly after the incident with the Woman of Sidon during the Middle Ages. (Myrrdyn Ambrosius, you will recall, actually helped the original nine Templars excavating under Solomon’s Temple in finding the Jewish treasures lost, i.e. Ark of the Covenant and other Temple treasures.) Now, Myrrdyn retreated to Scotland after fleeing Jerusalem and happened upon one Morna Lily Ramsay, the wife of Sir Timothy Ramsay in the service of King William of Scotland at the time. They hit it off and the next thing I knew Myrrdyn was gone and remanifested by way of the ancient secrets into Morna’s eldest twin, Mark, in order to elude Marduk once again.
Mark and Luke ran off to the Crusades and eventually fell in with the Templars and then with d’Brouchart after the fall of Jerusalem. When the Templars were disbanded in 1307, a handful of Templars and a lot of treasure was shipped off to Scotland and eventually carried across the sea to Nova Scotia. Much of the treasure was returned to France and then Italy and Scotland when the Order of the Red Cross of Gold began to build up its clandestine army in the 15th and 16th Centuries.
When Mark Andrew tried to go back and reset the clock, unbeknownst even unto himself, his jaunt through time created a separate time-line, hence the formation of King Ramsay, who saved both Luke Ramsay from Jerusalem and later, Simon of Grenoble from the Inquisitor’s dungeon. Then we had two Ramsays.
The Original Mark Andrew was completely repressed by the entity known as Myrrdynn, Uriel, Adar, etc. When he learned of King Ramsay’s existence, he went looking for him and beheaded him, but, once again, he could not release his own soul with the Key of Death, just as if he had committed suicide by cutting off King Ramsay’s head.
The Queen of the Abyss then took King Ramsay’s head away to the Abyss and put it in her treasure house in a cask because she was, as we know, quite fond of Adar and his son Luke Andrew and his brother, Luke Matthew, because they are all quite similar.
When the Ancient Evil caught up with Sophia and Mark Andrew while they were riding through the forest, Uriel/Adar had to evacuate Mark’s body in order to escape annihilation at the hand’s of the Ancient Evil, Samael, who had destroyed Jozsef Daniel and taken his body. When he left Mark’s body, it was as if Mark Andrew Ramsay was just newly born in his brain and that was why Sophia had to raise him again as if he were a baby. However, Mark and Luke are both sons of Uriel, Sons of Light, if you will, Uriel being a messenger and archangel of God.
Uriel/Adar assumed his spiritual form just as John Paul assumed his spiritual form when his earthly body died in the underworld. Uriel/Adar’s physical form was not like Marduk and Nergal’s physical monstrosities, but more human in appearance because he had been one of the archangels for a time and simple kept the form of the angel instead of reverting to a more primitive form like some of the watchers in the Seven Gates of the Abyss. If you will remember, Shammash was a shining, human-like form even though he was one of the Watchers as well.
So, Mark as Uriel/Adar in spiritual form was able to refashion his own body from the materials at hand whenever he had fully regained his memory and ability to use his powers (much like Nergal and Marduk when they assumed human form).
Thus we now have three Mark Andrew-like incarnations, one with his head in a cask. King Ramsay, once released from his prison in the Queen’s treasure house, was able to inhabit Mark Andrew (the Dove’s) body once more when Sophia and Mark ended up in the Abyss at Lily Ramsay’s home in the Seventh Gate. (Lily, I’m sure you have noticed is quite confused.)
When the Ancient Evil was finally defeated, Omar was allowed to take the body that once belonged to Jozsef Daniel, Jozsef Daniel having taken his leave of it and gone off with Anna, his wife when Uriel/Adar released them inside the Ancient Evil’s head. This allowed Omar to resume the likeness of Lemarik’s “beautiful son” who was simply a replica of Luke Matthew, created by Lemarik by alchemical means.
*Deep breath*. *Blow out*.
Now, as to Merry Ramsay. Nanna knew things were counting down to Armageddon and he wanted to be there to help defeat the Ancient Evils from Beyond the Abyss. So, he took up the incarnation of Meredith Sinclair and viola! He/She/It hooked up with Mark/Uriel/Adar when he went to Texas. In the second time-line, Nanna was not incarnated into Meredith and Meredith was simply herself, as she would have been, had Nanna not infiltrated her mind. Merry Ramsay, Luke Matthew’s wife was a simple human woman who became immortal by eating the Golden Apples in Semiramis’s Orchard in the Hesperides’ Garden. Meredith Sinclair, who lives in the First Gate with Nanna is the Meredith Sinclair from the first time-line who was John Paul/Nanna’s mother. She is like Morna Lily Ramsay, Mark Andrew’s mother, who lives in the Seventh Gate. Lily was saved from Purgatory by Mark/Uriel/Adar because he felt guilty for having caused her to go to Purgatory in the first place.
You will also remember, John Paul/Nanna retrieved his wife, Michelle, from Purgatory because he felt guilty because she had committed suicide.

So there! If you have read and are confused, don’t say I didn’t warn you. And if you haven’t read the Assassin Chronicles at all, it’s not too late to start.

Go here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001J6ORUI for Kindle USA

Go here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B001J6ORUI for Kindle UK