Market listings for writers

Writing is the easy part. Finding a home for your work is more difficult. That’s why I, like many other writers of short fiction, are indebted to those who find and list the markets for those. There are three sources that I frequently use.

The first is Submission Grinder. As of today, it has details of 2784 open markets. You can search by a range of criteria and the best part is a database that allows you to log submissions. It then uses this data to provide an average response time for each market, prompting you to chase anything outstanding.

The next is Ralan, a long established and easy to search site. I especially like the way it is divided into categories so that you can easily distinguish between professional and non-paying markets. Like the Submission Grinder it encourages writers to send in updates so that you can help keep listings up-to-date.

Finally there is the Horror Tree. I subscribe to the free weekly newsletter which almost always has a market that I haven’t seen before and helpfully copies the guidelines. There’s also some original fiction and other interesting features.

All three are not-for-profit sites run by writers who are interested in helping others. Their efforts are much appreciated.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. His study of the Jack the Ripper suspects is available now.

The Carmarthen Mystery revisited

Recently I narrated a podcast for the first time in Rippercast’s Cast of Thousands series.  In the first of two parts I expand on my article about Doctor John Morgan Hopkins and his son-in-law John Rees. In 1888 whilst his wife, the illegitimate daughter of Dr. Hopkins was awaiting trial for murder, Rees claimed that he knew one of the Whitechapel victims, Mary Kelly. He is the only person in Wales to support Mary’s story that she lived there.

By that time Morgan Hopkins was dead, having been acquitted of murder in 1884 after Emily Cope died in his house. It is usually assumed that Emily visited for an illegal abortion, encouraged by the father of the child Andrew Bayntun who was originally charged alongside Hopkins. In the podcast I give some reasons to doubt this assumption.

Most important is a letter that Emily wrote a letter to her sister, saying that the child had been born alive. Secondly is the realisation that Emily’s visit was funded not by Bayntun but her father George who claimed not to know why she was travelling from Chippenham to Carmarthen. In the 1861 census he is listed as a neighbour of Hopkins and, given his trade as an agricultural labourer, probably worked on Hopkins’ farm.

So now we have a missing child and a victim’s father who withheld information. In the second part of the podcast I will talk more about the mysterious Mary Rees.

Paul Williams is a writer best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper Suspects.

RIP Terrance Dicks

This week I was shocked and saddened to hear that Terrance Dicks had died at the age of 84 . Terrance was a beyond prolific writer, best known for his work on Doctor Who. He contributed scripts between 1969 and 1983, was script-editor through the Jon Pertwee era, adapted over sixty stories into books, and wrote original novels.

Before the invention of video, the Target books were the only record of Doctor Who’s past adventures. Terrance skilfully compressed ninety minutes of action, sometimes more, into less than 150 pages. These engaging reads were often superior to the original version.

For me the highlights of his many achievements were The War Games, the second video I ever brought, followed by The Five Doctors which superbly commemorated the twentieth anniversary and then Exodus, a book which showed that Doctor Who could continue without television. I should also mention one of the finest opening lines to any book. His novelisation of the Dalek Invasion of Earth begins, “Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.”

A generation discovered Doctor Who’s history through Terrance Dicks. Children learnt to read because of Terrance Dicks and many, including myself, were inspired to write by Terrance Dicks.

On the day of his death I received the latest Doctor Who Magazine, which contains the opinions of modern writers on their predecessors. They rated Terrance in the same high class as his friend and colleague, Robert Holmes. That accolade from fellow professionals is perhaps the finest tribute.

RIP Terrance Dicks. A cosmos without you is scarcely worth thinking about.

Paul Williams is a writer best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper Suspects. He has contributed Doctor Who short stories to anthologies and fanzines and is currently watching the entire show in chronological order, one episode per week.

Still looking for Mary Jane

This week I had another minor victory in my research into the identity of Jack the Ripper’s final victim, who called herself Mary Jane Kelly. Over several years I have compiled a list of over 663 possible candidates from historical records. Gradually I am trying to trace each individual after 1888, the year that Mary died. To date only 44 have been eliminated, either because they survived 1888 or died before it. It is a mammoth project with plenty of cross-referencing and checking for duplication because the same person may appear several times in different sources.

The most important source, where it exists, is the official birth record. The General Registry office (GRO) contains a list for England and Wales, which also gives the mother’s maiden name. If necessary, you can then purchase a copy of the full certificate, containing actual birth date, address and full names of the parents. Matching this to other records sometimes enables an identification. You have to be wary because information is often incorrect or wrongly transcribed.

A case in point is that of Mary David Kelly who appears in the 1881 census as the daughter of Nicholas Kelly and Ann Park nee Jamieson born c. 1864. She married in 1888 so was not the murder victim but, for a long time, I was unable to find a record of her birth. Then I discovered that Nicholas and Ann didn’t marry until 1876, suggesting perhaps that there was a different father. Further checks that Ann’s previous marriage was to a man called Mulrone. Mary David’s birth was registered under the surname, Mulrue and her mother’s maiden name cited by the GRO as Jemmerson.

This means that of the 467 women on the list, said to have been born in England or Wales, I have located the birth registration record for 256. Plenty of work still to go but every small success brings hope that, one day, we may be able to properly identify the murdered woman.

Paul Williams is a writer best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper Suspects.

A story a day

This week I found a good idea on facebook. A writer posted his intention to submit a short story to a magazine every day for a month. Simple and effective. Most writers have folders full of unpublished stories. Some were rejected, others not yet perfected, and a few waiting to find the right home. We put them aside, meaning to return someday then get distracted by the next project.

One of the reasons is that we don’t work to a deadline until we’re commissioned. Many magazines are always open to submissions so there’s no rush and hundreds of excuses to prioritise something more interesting than formatting and following guidelines.

If you adopt the one a day idea the worst that can happen is thirty-one rejections. I’m off to polish some manuscripts then I just need to pick the right month.

Paul Williams is a writer best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper Suspects.

Consider sponsoring a local event

This week I am pleased to help sponsor an annual race event at my local BMX club. The intention was to help a family friend and support the good work done by this and similar organisations in the community. I belatedly realised that it was an opportunity to promote myself and my writing to a new audience. Marketing isn’t my strong point, but it is something that all writers need to consider.

The relative ease of publication has dramatically increased the number of available books at a time when people generally are reading less. This makes it more challenging for writers, particularly new writers, to gain a following. Those who are self-published can spend up to 80% of their time on promotion not writing. The pressure intensifies for those who rely on the income from sales with most authors earning less than the minimum wage.

If you want to succeed financially as a writer, you need to find readers. There may be some at a community event near you.

Paul Williams is a writer best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper Suspects.

The myth of The Five

This week I borrowed a book from my local library. I refused to buy The Five by Hallie Rubenhold, because of concerns about the way it was marketed. The unique selling point, an untenable suggestion that the canonical five victims of Jack the Ripper were not prostitutes, was presented as a fact and those with differing views criticized on social media. This follows Bruce Robinson and Patricia Cornwell, two other respected authors who also promoted their work by attacking others. A similar approach is used by politicians laughing at the ideas of their opponents whilst failing to put forward a viable alternative.

Rubenhold chose to ignore or misquote evidence that contracted her idea. This is a great shame for two reasons. Firstly, the occupation and status of the victims is irrelevant. They should be remembered, honoured and respected as innocent people killed by a maniac. Secondly it detracts from the considerable achievement of documenting their lives in a very readable narrative. Although it is not the first such biography, or the most accurate, it is the longest and packed with fascinating information about the world they lived in. Through it we come to understand that they were victims of society long before they met their awful fate. Wisely Rubenhold refrains from describing that fate. She is right to complain about the industry surrounding Jack the Ripper but seems to have exploited it to boost sales.

This is not a book about Jack the Ripper or even true crime. It is a good piece of social history sitting in the wrong section of the library.

Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper Suspects.