Friday, 6 December 2019

At the mercy of unknown agents

I know I was lucky. I got placed in a big writing competition and found an agent all without having to query one. But six years on, I need a new agent and a chance to get the other books I have written in the last five years that haven't been published, out there. So I did what was recommended and sent out to a whole batch of very professional agents - and one asked for the whole MS. Three more said thanks, but no thanks. One asked for anything else I had for consideration. I knew The Asylum Sisters would be a challenge, but I wanted to give it one more chance. I'll go out with Finding Noah next month. I've still got other books so I can keep going BUT... As my books have changed, have I moved from saleable to more niche and less commercial? Who knows? That's why a writer needs an agent. The hardest thing is the rejection. They look at what you wrote and - no thanks. It's hard on the confidence. Meanwhile, I have FOUR books to sell and more stories to finish. 

Anyway, the new book rolls on. It's so hard to get into the head of someone who doesn't think like non-psychopaths. My character enjoys the challenge of taking on the establishment, he doesn't actually like hurting people. He doesn't care that much though... I'm rationing the time I spend with him and concentrating on my grandchildren (plural - how lovely is that?). One is a month old, one is just three years old today. Fantastic. We're doing our pre-Christmas get together, just the kids and their people, to celebrate Lily's birthday, get a bit of Solstice cheer going on. Another excuse not to write this weekend.

We're also loving being settled in our new house. I haven't felt at home since we left Pinehurst with its hot and cold running badgers and precipitous drive. I don't miss being so isolated, though, Appledore is a wonderfully welcoming community. And when my neighbour's security light went off in the middle of the night, waking me, it turned out to be a fat, grey badger. 
Old house

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

A Fresh Start

Things change, things move on. My publishing career seemed to be wandering off on a direction of its own, so I committed the possibly insane act of parting ways with my agent. A Shroud of Leaves came out in July and I'm well into my new book as well as sitting on several projects that have been waiting for their turn in the sun. I realised I need to get my focus back. One of the problems with having an agent is they don't have much time and they have lots of different authors and books to represent. A remark made in an email might get me rewriting the whole book - just to find for them it was just a passing idea. They are the experts but - here's the heresy - they don't know if anyone will buy the book either. But they know a lot more than I do, so I've been guided by them for years and they have been wonderfully supportive and helpful. But I need someone who has the time and energy to nudge me in the right direction.

It's my own fault in a way. They are trying to make books commercially successful and my priority has been to write a better book (rather than a saleable one) in the first place. Of course it would be lovely if it found loads of happy readers and maybe some money for me and my agents too. But my priority is to write the books. There is a pressure from publishers to create another book just like the last one, only more saleable and more dramatic.

I think I write too fast. A Baby's Bones and A Shroud of Leaves came out 15 months apart, during which time I wrote a whole different book and started another one. I also have two earlier books just sitting there, not able to do anything with them while we wait for the publishing process to run its course. It's driving me nuts, I'm a creative, I need to be working.

So I'm writing query letters and submissions for agents. But I need to chat to them face to face to see if they are up for the challenge. I'm very biddable, I will happily work on a book and edit it to fit a publisher's vision, I'm just rubbish at sitting on my hands. 

So, the Writers and Artists yearbook is out and the website for the Association of Authors' Agents is very helpful: Back to rejections and being ignored (why do we do this to ourselves?). And writing synopses and emails and counting 10, 30 and 50 pages and making them compelling and not end in a stupid place. Putting some in envelopes with stamped addressed envelopes and some in emails with or without attachments etc... Sigh. But the new book is over 40k words and flying down, wants to be written. New house is lovely and we have a new grandson, Wren.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

It's been a busy year

I've been terrible at blogging, mostly because I've been so busy. A Shroud of Leaves has been edited (several times) and many, many thanks to Cath Trechman at Titan for never saying 'do the whole thing again!'. Definitely a lot of work but I'm thrilled with the way it's turned out. 

It comes out on the 9th July 2019, which amazingly is just around the corner, and you can pre-order it here if you're so inclined. Where did spring go? 

Oh, yes, in a frenzy of packing and moving. We have sold the house in Northam and are now in the middle of selling the cottage in Appledore to buy (don't want to jinx it so I'll say it quietly) a lovely Georgian double fronted house up the road. With a proper study and spare room to park the youngest child when she's not having adventures at university and a 60ft walled garden which is literally my fantasy garden. It even has my most wishes for feature of enough room in the kitchen for a table and chairs.

Our two year old granddaughter will have something to say about the garden, no doubt, although the play house isn't safe to use. It may need to be replaced, Grandy... or Mangee as she calls him.

As a writer, things have changed quite subtly. After the sadness of Christmas with the loss of my father-in-law, I parted company with my lovely, kind agent. I think I felt too stretched and stressed to even care about writing at the time. Of course, when you take the pressure off the creativity flows back, I haven't stopped writing, but have had time to think what do I actually want to write? I love crime, I read loads of crime, but I'm not sure I want to stick to the formula of traditional crime books with red herrings and suspects. I'm more interested in solving the psychological mysteries around people's lives. I also write the historical stories in a quarter of the time so I think I might stretch into purely historical at some point. Meanwhile I have a stack of books ready to edit to hopefully find a publisher. Finding Noah is nearly complete, Sage 3 needs a better ending but is nearly there and The Asylum Sisters is finished and looking for a home. Meanwhile we're living in a cottage 8 feet wide with one bookcase. Hopefully, not for long! 

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Fresh start, new book

It's been a difficult couple of months. My father-in-law died in December and we organised his funeral. It was a privilege to arrange another creative's funeral, his coffin was decorated with some of his favourite cartoon characters. He drew some of them for a dozen years for children's comics in this country. I left a pile of pens on top of the coffin, people wrote messages of love and farewell, coloured in the drawings, even drew their own. A strange but lovely moment of remembrance and celebration. 

Meanwhile, I've been working on A Shroud of Leaves, trying to get the new edit to the same standard as A Baby's Bones and keep it in the same style. Not easy, I think writing evolves and moves on, it makes writing a series more complicated. It's getting there, but it;s been much harder work than I expected. My editor has had to work very hard too! I hope the next book I have to edit won't be so much work (for either me or an editor). 

It feels like a proper book now. I like the cover, it's got a similar creepiness to the other one without giving too much away. I imagined a brick house in the book though so I've changed it to stone in the text!

After running a novel in a  year course, I'm now working on an course looking at editing (very timely), at Barnstaple library. It should be fun, and great to be working on a few books that were written in that year.