Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Reality checks all around

The book has arrived. In its shiny, glowing redness, and it's very lovely. It's been so long since I read it I've been picking it up and getting drawn into the story with ... ooh, I wonder what happens ... wait, you silly idiot - you know what happens! It just seems very different from the first draft I know so much better which is far less readable.

This is middle daughter holding said book. That makes it seems even more real! Two things I made and I'm very proud of both. It does remind me that one is enormously more important than the other, though. The summer has been full of family challenges and it's focused attention back on what's important. Love writing books as I do, it is just what I would do anyway.

Meanwhile, I am struggling to re-engage with book 3. I've just run off a copy of the chapters with Edward Kelley in to look at again, as they are weirdly clumped together in a  few places in the book and absent from others. I also think I've fallen into the trap of starting slow with the historical strand, when I should have started with a bang. Book one starts with being chased by wolves, book 2 with being robbed and knocked out, book three with - sitting at the table talking to one of his children. I think I can do a bit better than that! It will be fun to travel with Edward Kelley again.

I'm also thoroughly enjoying blogging for Mslexia in the run up to their women's novel writing competition. I've got a couple of friends entering, I hope they get as much out of it as I did! I most recently blogged about the writing community of bloggers I belong to. A generous and helpful community it is too. Which gives me a chance to mention a fellow blogger, Kate Kelly, the Scribbling SeaSerpent. Kate has just published her first book with Curious Fox and if you are buying a book for anyone older than say, ten, Red Rock is an excellent read. It's a fast paced dystopian novel with a  very human and very appealing central character, Danni. It's part of an increasingly important genre of cli-fi, as in climate change, and is scarily convincing. I couldn't put it down, and neither could my twenty-three year old son. Well worth a read, it's published in paperback at £6.99.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

I wrote an actual, bookshop-ready book. Really.

And for those who thought I was making it up (perfectly possible, I am a fiction writer!) here is an actual book, on the desk at Random House. Really. Wow.
Aren't they pretty? I just hope the words came out OK!

One month exactly to go, plans to publicise said beauties, and book three coming on nicely. Excellent news all round. I can't wait to actually hold one.

It's all happening. My agent moved agency to United Agents, and I'm going along with her so I don't lose all of her help and expertise. The book is coming out, kids off to university, life racing along at a dangerous speed - who knows where it will all end up?

Statistics show that about one in ten published debut novelists have the golden ticket, they actually make some money for the publisher or at least don't cost them loads of money. I've got everything crossed, because with all the work the great people at Del Rey UK have done to make the book look its shiny best, I want it to do well, not least because they might want to publish a few more. Now let's see what Jack and Sadie and Edward Kelley do when they are out in the world. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Autumn is here, my favourite season

It's September, and although the weather is still lovely and warm, rain is on its way. I love autumn, the seasons run through my books. The Secrets of Life and Death is set in late autumn, in the leaf-fall and frosty morning time, running up to Christmas. The rain pelting down, the crisp frost on the grass around the cottage, even the damp chill of the priest hole under the house all adds atmosphere and indirectly to the story. My main character is at the late autumn stage of her life, not through age but through her unique situation. The magic is running down like an old battery, and the year with it.

A Baby's Bones is set in March, the spring sunshine slowly warming the landscape, and the story is about three unborn babies, one at least of which won't make it. All four of my own babies were due in the same month - 4 May to 4 June. For me the spring was all about growing babies. The spring comes early to the Island too, where the book is set (that's the Isle of Wight, where I had to invent a village called Banstock).

The sequel to The Secrets of Life and Death, still known as Book 2 in the family, is also set in the spring. There's something about the changeable weather that makes it satisfying, and also it's cold enough to be painful if you're lost in it.

But autumn is full of my favourite moments - making jams and chutneys, sending kids off to university rested and ready to learn, watching the garden orb spider growing fat on late flies, picking blackberries and plums, planning the return of all the kids for our solstice celebrations. It's also a time for a good clear up to put our winter rugs down and sort out the greenhouse and plants in the garden. We have badgers visiting the front of the house each night, they will start fattening up for the winter soon. (My most friendly badger has already achieved winter weight, and possibly next winter's as well - I'm starting to feed her chopped apple and low calorie dog foods.) The wild birds are finishing their moult and starting to return to the feeders with trim feathers, even the chickens have shed a few. There's a fresh feeling in the air and I love it. The book coming out in the middle of it all is a great bonus.

There's also a great giveaway on Goodreads - check out the details in the sidebar. Good luck!    

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Five weeks to go before publication.

Kind, interested people keep asking how I feel about the book coming out. I wish I knew. Sometimes, I feel like this:
This was taken on a brilliant afternoon when I got to hang with the coolest of birds, Brann the raven. I am still occasionally saying 'Wow!' at the sheer wonder of it. Yes, he really is that big. He's also the gentlest of creature, flies like an airborne ninja and loves his work. Even when he has to pose with authors. It was an amazing day, and I was blown away by the wonderful life the handlers, Lloyd and Rose Buck, give these birds. Brann loves working because he gets to hang out with Lloyd. Check out their website. We met all sorts of birds, including stunt starlings (there's a sequence with Chris Packham) and a golden eagle that started Russell saying 'Wow' too. My only regret is not spending time with their crow, but he was chilling, still in his moult, so we didn't disturb him. That beak can crack a walnut.

Other times I feel like I'm just plodding away writing, looking after kids and animals, and life is much as it was a year before when I didn't have a deal yet. Other writers have warned me, it's a quiet time and it's normal. I feel I should have T-shirts printed or something. 'Ask me about my book' or something. Although, I still can't pitch it, so it would lead to a lot of odd conversations. This is my fault, not the book's! We're worrying about money along with everyone else because I haven't seen any money for many months and we have extra kids home. So, we are thinking about selling our house. Now, this makes me heartsick, because I love living here. It's old and creaky and none of the floors are level but it has hot and cold running woodpeckers and badgers, everyone has their own room - and it's high above the valley facing south. But we moved here with five kids and all their stuff and we'll be down to two in the autumn as two boys go off to university. Maybe that's where the sadness is coming from.

One lovely distraction is the camaraderie I'm getting from the writing groups in Barnstaple, and other writers I've met. I'm also teaching, always a joy, and that is as grounding as it gets. Here are these people writing some great stuff, and the only difference between me and some of them is probably the amount I've written and a modicum of luck. I think a couple of them will catch me up. It's a great community to be part of.