Friday, 30 October 2009

I Hate Halloween

It's that time of year again and I'm afraid I'm coming out of the closet to say Halloween is not my favourite time. The pumpkin lanterns and the arched cats in shop windows with witches' hats are fun. What I don't like is that parents are emotionally blackmailed into buying elaborate costumes for their offspring for the purpose of demanding sweets with menaces from complete strangers at their own front door!

I hate the gimme-gimme aspect, and the fact they are rarely polite - even with Mum or Dad hovering in the background, most don't even bother to say "trick or treat," but just reach out to dip their mucky little mitts into a bowl of sweets I felt compelled to buy for this express purpose!

They aren't happy with a few either, these kids have buckets to fill! - in a nation with a serious obesity problem where the Government is spending public money on viral TV advertising!

And some of them aren't kids, they have real facial hair and a can of lager in their back pocket. Their hands are so big, they grab five times what the little kids take and have no shame about it.

At least I can console myself with the image of the little dears throwing up in the back of Dad's BMW on the way home, only to stuff themselves with their booty all over again until they have enough refined sugar and E numbers crashing through their systems to bring on a permanent personality change.

The very worst thing about Halloween, is, every year I promise I'm not going to eat the left over sweets - and I always do!!

Spoilsport? Maybe, probably, definitely, and before you ask - yes of course my kids went 'Trick or Treating'. What do you think they were - deprived?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The OMG Moment

For those authors, and that's just about all of us, who carefully prepare that vital query to the 'perfect agent', agonising over what to say, what not to say, which order to put the information in, should we tell them we won the History prize at school? That our Reading Group loves us? That we have another six wips ready and waiting if they don't like this one?

We even submit the query to a critique group or forum to ask for critiques and advice for the re-writes. In fact, many of us spend more time perfecting our query letter and synopsis than we do the first chapter of our manuscript.

Then we carefully format and prepare the file, compose the e-mail and ten seconds after we press the 'send' button - the OMG moment - when we realise something got sent that shouldn't have, or we spelled the agent's name wrong.

I would love to hear about the funny things aspiring authors sent off by mistake - I'm sure it would make an extremely entertaining novel all by itself.

Jane Austen Is Alive and Well....

Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennett in the 2005 Film Production of Pride and Prejudice
....and living amongst the hundreds of Austenesque Blogs and publications that have come onto the market over the last couple of years.

Many novels use her original characters, expanding them into stories of their own. I first noticed this when a book landed on my mat from Random House requesting a review for 'Lady Vernon and Her Daughter', written by mother-daughter team, Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. They have expanded the neglected Austen manuscript of 'Lady Susan' and turned it into a Regency story based on the premise that on the demise of her husband, a widow is dispossessed of her home and fortune by a vindictive male relative and has to find a means of survival for her and her daughter.

A cursory search of the web brought up pages of references to publications where the authors have taken Ms Austen's characters and written stories round them. Amongst them being The Other Mr Darcy, a novel by Monica Fairview, where the odious Caroline Bingley meets Fitzwiliam Darcy's American cousin, and Eucharista Ward's, 'A Match For Mary Bennett'

Publications abound on every aspect of Ms Austen's life, which if one reads her biography, wasn't nearly as exciting or interesting as these accounts. The Austen family fought genteel poverty and Jane and her sister Cassandra didn't even get close to a proposal, much less from the romantic, 'looks-good-in-wet-shirt' type we all love.

There are books of Jane Austen's letters, society guides for the Regency lady, and contemporary novels where the heroine visits the world of the author and meets the characters, country diaries, biographies, travelogues and even a Jane Austen Cookery Book. There are so many, in fact, I cannot mention them all here, but if you are interested - try this list! Jane Austen Books

I imagine Miss Austen herself would be completely bemused by the attention she now receives nearly two hundred years after her death. In fact I read somewhere that the income she received for her books, was £650.00 during her entire lifetime.

Some Austen Blogs For Jane Austen Fans - Austenblog
Jane Austens World - Jane Austen Today - Following Austen - Jane Austen Addict - Jane Austen Forevermore - Jane Austen Books

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Blogging Is Cool

Not that I am allowed to say that particular 'c' word as I am over forty - but this blogging stuff really works. To an extent anyway, because my booksales haven't hit giddy heights, but I still have hopes.

David Plant, the manager of a fabulous website about the English Civil War, the site I make most use of on my bookmark toolbar, has e-mailed me out of the blue informing me that he is happy to link my blog to the site under 'Links' as his web statistics state I have generated some valuable traffic for him from my blog.

There you go then links do get used, so do keep circulating the blogs and keep chatting - about anything.

And for anyone who is interested in the Civil War of 1642-1646, this is the site and it makes very interesting reading. There is a great timeline, the biographies of leading Royalists and Roundheads and summaries of all the pivotal battles and sieges with maps.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Authors Don't Get Rich

An article yesterday in the UK newspapers discssed the financial situation of the Duchess of York - you remember her, the one who ditched her royal husband but hung onto the title? Well, it seems that her foray into publishing books, her autobiography and childrens books, wasn't as successful as imagined.

Authors always roll our eyes at the 'celebrity books', most of them ghost written and published purely for the recognisable name on the cover. I never did understand the point of that. If they want to write a book, write it - don't hire someone to do it for them? I mean they wouldn't hire someone to have a baby for them?
Oh, hang on-scratch that.

Anyway, it seems the DoY's autobiography, published at the height of her notoriety in 1997, raked in £2million. However since then, she has brought out more than a dozen books - all of which grossed only a little over £127,000. Her self-help book, 'What I Know Now', published in 2003 only sold 802 copies. She has also written childrens' books, the Little Red Series, the latest of which came out last month and has so far sold 58 copies. And yet - there is talk of an animated film being brought out for these stories. despite mediocre sales.

The writer of this article conceded, amongst the bitching, that, 'not many authors, apart from an elite few, can make a handsome living out of writing books'.

Is that hope for us all, or the bell of doom tolling?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Story Arcs in Historical Fiction

As any author will tell you, conflict is the essence of drama. It’s the primary ingredient that weaves together the other elements of a novel. Without conflict, you don’t have a novel. You also need a structured story arc, with subplots and a solution.

These principles, however, don’t quite fit when writing historical fiction. In history, the action, conflict and plot don’t necessarily follow a straight course, and often there isn’t a clean cut climax to give that satisfactory resolution all readers want when they close the back of the book.

Real life is messy, loose ends don’t necessarily tie up and there isn’t always a happy, or even an acceptable ending because in real life, heroes and villains don’t always get what they deserve.

Where the mists of time separate the author from the facts, who can really know how the characters felt at that time, so a certain amount of licence is required to make the story something a reader wants. True - that’s what makes a novel rather than a biography, but it is those details which present problems with my latest novel, and I have no idea how to begin solving it.

The external conflict is restricted to historical happenings and timelines, so I have to make the internal conflict stand out – but when that same ambition runs through the series of events and repetitions occur – and at which point do my readers become bored with the same thread?

In writing a first person novel, I’m also faced with setting credible scenes that my 17th century female heroine is likely to have been involved in. She won’t see any battles, and she’s unlikely to be a party to military and political activity. Nor is she going to be part of the Oxford Parliament of 1644, so how do I involve her in the action that takes her outside clich├ęd dinner parties and girly chats in drawing rooms?