Thursday, 29 January 2009

Out Of Touch

I'm moving house this weekend, and any minute, my computer is going to get buried under a pile of bedlinens or kitchen equipment and I won’t see it for days! I’ve moved it ten times this morning but it keeps finding its way back in the ‘To Be Stowed’ pile!

I have had some encouraging comments on ‘The Maze’ at Authonomy – from complete strangers who have no reason to tell me my writing is any good. I decided to try and approach the manuscript in the same way I search for books to read, with no preconceived ideas about the story.

I'ts amazing what you see when being objective. The editors are right in that if you ask, ‘Is there a reason for this paragraph?’ and the answer is No, remove it. It’s not as painful as I thought.

I’m reducing the word count without really trying. Hopefully, the prose is crisper, and easy to read. I need to get it down to 100,000 words as it seems to be a basic requirement for most publishers.

I worry that the more I re-write a particular storyline, the more the impact will be lost, however, even to me this story still has passion in it – no not that kind, I’m hopeless with the sizzling scenes, I always end up laughing like a schoolgirl. Mostly telling myself, 'I can’t say that!’

One nice aside - a gentleman who responded to my comment on his story, read ‘The Maze’. He e-mailed me last night to say he had ordered my first novel, that had arrived from Amazon that morning. You never know when the promotion thing will pay off do you?

I’ll be going, ‘No mail’on my blogs and groups until settled in the new house and get the internet sorted. I hope I can stand the withdrawal!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Book Deals at Authonomy


Coming fast on my last blog about Authonomy and the cynics who claim the site is misleading, Harper Collins have officially announced three multi book publishing deals have been offered to three Authonomy Authors.

How’s that for encouragement to all those struggling would be scribblers who feel they will never get a crack at a mainstream publisher?

My own novel has moved up a thousand points in the ranks and I’m receiving some very nice comments from people who have no reason to ‘blow smoke up my ass’, as my DH is fond of saying about the critique groups I belong to.

Now getting HC to take a look at it – and like it – is another thing!

The very best of luck to those new writers and for those who are interested – take a look here.

Friday, 16 January 2009


Recommended by my critique partner, Gemi, I signed up to the Authonomy site run by Harper Collins and uploaded my latest wip. The purpose of the site, is to have your work read and commented on by other authors. If they add comments to your work and recommend it to others who in turn read it, your book ranking climbs. If you participate regularly and comment on other books and on the forum, your member ranking climbs too.

The higheryour workclimbs,the more chance it has to make 'The Editor’s Desk' and the ultimate aim is to be one of the five manuscripts a month that are read by a Harper Collins editor.

My manuscript has been on the site for five days and four people have added it to their bookshelf and I have had five constructive and complimentary comments on it. My ranking has climbed considerably, but part of that I put down to it being on the ‘new’ list and those books are bound to get attention.

However, browsing through the forums, I have noticed that some people seem to be under the impression that Harper Collins staff will be trawling through the site offering six figure book deals to at least three authors a day.

They aren’t happy bunnies that in their opinion, this isn’t happening either.

I don’t know how old the site is, but HC are a large company and any negotiations are going to take months, not days. So maybe they
have approached some authors, but if they haven’t, why are the authors complaining?

The site is available to anyone, your work gets read and you receive feedback. This feedback is predominantly constructive and useful, enabling the author to polish and hone their work – and all for free. And as my fellow author Ginger Simpson said in her own blog today,
'It's a known fact, if you solicit an opinion, you'll get one...and you may not always like it or agree.'

I intend staying on the site, at least for a while. I would recommend it to anyone who wants feedback on their work and who is prepared to offer it to others in return.

They won't find me complaining anyway.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

I Hate January

The London Eye

In fact I hate January so much, I even made my heroine in my third 17th century novel hate it too, allowing my angst to vent through a sixteen-year-old girl. How sad is that?
Christmas is a fond memory and the last of the chocs got put in the bin a week ago – you know those, the yellow wrapped toffees everybody ignores to get to the nut and soft centres. The decorations are back in their boxes and the weather forecast is for wind, rain, possibly snow and more rain.
What’s to look forward to before spring – not that spring is a certainty in England. For all anyone can tell it will stay wintry until July. Does anyone feel the same, or do you have a fondness for the first month of a brand new year?
My critique groups have slowed down to a crawl, what my Southern friends would say, ‘slower than molasses in January’ – and there’s a distinct lack of enthusiasm amongst the online community for publishing in general, all blamed on the so called depression. All that hype has affected everyone.
Roll on February, it’s marginally less depressing. Maybe.

Monday, 12 January 2009

What Agents DO Like!

I commented on a blog last week which was a hardnosed expose about what a particular author thought about literary agents treating authors like frangible commodities whom they find tiresome and wouldn’t deal with unless forced to.

I joined in and had my moan, although being a Libran, it's in my nature to try and find out the other guy’s perspective, and usually empathise with it. That makes me a lousy decision maker, but that’s another story, at least I’m fair!

In Poets and Writers, I found this article written by a journalist who plied four reputable literary agents with food and alcohol and threw questions at them.

The agents were:
Julie Barer of Barer Literary Agency, Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary, Daniel Lazar of Writers House and Renee Zuckerbrot
Snippets are paraphrased here, but if you would like to read more, go to Poets and Writers and read the other three pages – it makes for fascinating reading.
And proves that agents are people too – which is what I did say in my comment, but also with the lines of, ‘when you have would-be clients banging on your door begging for representation and don’t have to go looking for work, wouldn’t you be a bit complacent and take the,
Please don’t call me, I’ll call you stance?

What are they looking for?
BARER: Everybody's looking for a book that you can't put down, that you lose yourself in so completely that you forget everything else that's going on in your life and you just want to stay up and you don't care if you're going to be tired in the morning. You just want to keep reading.
ZUCKERBROT: Doesn't that have to do with voice? It's about the way that somebody tells a story. It's about a person's worldview. There are probably very few new stories, but it's the way someone sees the world and interprets events. It's their voice. It's how they use words. It's how they can slow things down when they need to. It's how they build up to a scene. It's how they describe ordinary things. A gifted writer will make me see things I've never seen even though I may have walked down the street a thousand times. At the end of the day, for me at least, it comes back to voice.
LAZAR: I generally find myself liking books that are not set in New York. Give me a weird little small town any day of the week.
BARER: I love reading a book where I don't know anything about the setting.
KLEINMAN: I have three criteria. The first is missing your subway stop. The second is gushing about it to any poor slob who will listen. The third is having editors in mind immediately.
BARER: That's so important. If you can't figure out who you're going to sell a book to from the get-go—if you finish it and think, "Who on earth would buy this?" and you can't come up with more than three names—it's a bad sign.

Aside from referrals, where are you finding writers?
LAZAR: I get most of my fiction through slush.
BARER: I found The Heretic's Daughter in the slush pile. The author had never written a novel before. She had never been in a writing class or an MFA program. She came out of nowhere. She simply had this incredible story, which is that her grandmother, nine generations back, was hanged as a witch in Salem. Just because you have that great story doesn't mean that you can necessarily tell it well, but it was an incredible book.
ZUCKERBROT: I still read literary magazines, and I'll write to people whose work I like to see if they're working on a novel or a short story collection.
BARER: Bread Loaf. The Squaw Valley writers conference. Grub Street, in Boston. I found the Sri Lankan novel at Bread Loaf last summer. I heard the author read for five minutes and was so blown away that I was basically like, "You. In the corner. Right now. Don't talk to anybody else!"

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Mainstream Versus Romance Genres

I was offered a contract for my Victorian Novel by a small press with a growing reputation who have been enthusiastic about the story. I was happy to cut 10k of the manuscript to suit their wordcount requirements. However, there is usually a catch isn't there, and today I received this:

.... the hero and heroine must meet much sooner and the romance between them needs to be increased.......and, it must be written only in the hero and heroine’s POV's.

I know it’s my own fault – the story is really a Mainstream Historical Novel, but as an unagented writer, the vehicles for querying manuscripts is restricted and to be fair, this particular company is a romance publisher.

I realise I may be too close to the story as it’s my ‘baby’, but after careful consideration and compiling a synopsis to conform to all the changes I was asked to make, what remained left me cold, and certainly not something I would want to read - A run of the mill boy-meets-girl story with the two of them wandering round a country house throwing each other longing looks –yeuck!

And as a dear friend and critique partner who knows the book intimately said to me: -
I hate that dumbed down romance formula that says "they have to meet here, their first spark of attraction is on this page and they have to kiss here" and now we can add to that, "and let's make it so it's all about their angst because no other persons colour their world or have a viewpoint on the lovers". [She has strong views on this one - bless her]

Who decided readers want ‘clone’ stories that are identical but for the time and setting? I don’t understand it at all. Has anyone written a review of a romance novel which said: ‘It completely threw me that the hero and heroine met in Chapter Four instead of Chapter Two and I had to plough through three scenes that dealt with a subject other than the lover's feelings, so it confused me!’

I doubt it! So on this one, I’m going to say, ‘Thanks but no thanks’.

However, on a positive note, I have heard this publisher is excellent to work with. Several of their authors are friends who speak, and blog, glowingly of their relationship with them. I realise they are a commercial concern and their focus is on the bottom line and the need to make sales in a competitive and difficult market.

Perhaps I should plan a story around their guidelines rather than make a finished manuscript fits neatly into their jelly mould, because I would still be thrilled to published by them and see my name on their author list.

By a staggering coincidence, or not, as this subject seems to be at the forefront of the writing world recently, Jane at Dear Author blogged today about a similar subject – do go over and read it, it’s a good article. I paraphrase her here: Publishers rely on hegemony to drive their industry – If a subject sells, replicate it and keep on replicating it until the public screams ’No More’. How many 'Holy Grail' stories were churned out after the success of 'Da Vinci Code'?

And another thing - as the proud owner of a Sony E-Reader, why am I expected to pay as much for an electronic copy of a new release as a paperback? Can anyone come up with an acceptable explanation for this piece of flagrant profiteering?

Friday, 2 January 2009

The Only Way I Know...

What my kids are getting up to is to go onto facebook and see what they have posted!

This was New Years Eve 2008 a la Davison!!!

Kick Start to January

On 7th of this month, I will post a review of Jean Fullerton's debut novel, 'No Cure For Love', set in the East End of London in 1838.

Released by Orion this month, Jean won the Harry Bowling prize in 2006, for an unpublished novel written about London. This book has also been long-listed for the Romantic Novel of the Year 09 prize. An amazing achievement for a first novel, so my congratulations to Jean.

Do drop by The Historical Novel Review Blog to read the review and on the 11th January, there is an interview with her heroine, Ellen O'Casey.

It's a heartwarming story of a young widow in a time when women were frowned on for even trying to survive without a man, and as a result were morally suspect too. Ellen is an engaging heroine and I dare you not to sympathise with her struggles.
Jean's Website is here.

And My New Year?

My critique group have asked us to supply a list of goals for 2009, and I couldn'tbe the
only one who didn't make an effort!

-I finished, ‘The Maze’, my Victorian Romance and have queried it – watch this space.

-I also attended the NHS Conference last April, which was a great experience. I wish I could attend this year’s in Chicago, but that’s unlikely.

-I still don’t have an agent, but spent so much time trying to compose witty, attention grabbing queries and getting even less response than from publishers, I decided to give that a rest for a while and concentrate on writing good historical novels.

-I began another novel and am well on the way with a first draft, so would like to finish it this year. I would also like to finish my third 17th Century novel by the end of 2009 too.

And that’s about all I will commit to as they will, apparently, be brought out at the end of the year to beat me over the head! Not mind-shattering, but plenty for me to be going on with.

And a Happy New Year to You All