Milestones and impulses

I’ve had a reasonable amount of them: Certificate for best swimmer in my junior school, first boyfriend (oaf) degree, first real job with scary responsibility, getting married, producing an infant, kids book publishing deal, moving to France, finding an agent for my novel, finding a publisher, and the final book arriving on a memorable day: first February 2020.

This milestone was a particularly vivid one, partly as it was marked by the mother-ship (UK) deciding (or some of its inhabitants deciding) to become a small leaky boat de-moored from the safety of the European landmass, and partly as the book was so extraordinary.  I knew it would be beautiful as I had seen the artwork, but . . . well, suffice to say I spent most of the day getting on with stuff but just sidling up to the stack of books just to check they were really there, and that my name was indeed printed on them.

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And impulses.

A friend asked me the other day about what inspires or drives me to write in a particular genre. An interesting question and one that I never considered when I started writing, or even now. I just write about things that seem important to me. I can’t imagine setting out to write a crime story, or a historical romance, and I feel that only when being true to yourself can the work be satisfying to push uphill, follow around winding paths or wherever it takes you.

A couple of times when faced with rejection I have thought: Okay. What would work . . . Hm, Vampire Western ? interplanetary detective agency? but in the end my genre seems to be human relationships within a dystopian/speculative/futurist setting; often London as it’s where I feel fictionally most comfortable. I suppose my concerns lie with where are we heading, and what can we do about it? I do listen to a great deal of collapsology podcasts, along with videos on food production, sustainable living, recycling, alternative architecture, possible future societies, etc, and have always been interested in such subjects. It’s a challenging time to be alive in, but one where we still have choices we might take now to avert whichever apocalyptic scenario is likely to occur first. Cheery stuff . . . So, my genre . . . Dyst-hopia. Yes, that sounds about right.image001.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landed safely with only a few bruises

So . . . the moment arrived, the one I had let wander about in my head a few hundred times: my novel, Londonia, listed on a real PUBLISHER’S site. The publisher being Tartarus, producer of ‘strange literary fiction’ with an impressive catalogue of titles all encased in their signature cream jacketed hardbacks . . . Oo, that’s a nice thing to read out loud: cream-jacketed hardbacks.

It’s been a long journey from initial idea to finished tome with valuable input from so many readers, and several re-writes, but I think that’s what it’s about – learning on the job, so to speak. I was listening to Will Self speaking about his work at Politics and Prose bookshop earlier and he said something along the lines of ‘creative writing’ courses being a load of bollocks and that all you need is to live and read a lot. I think he’s probably right (to a certain extent) in that you have to be in it for the long-haul and accept there is no magic injection of inspiration and skill. Storing up life experience, observing and listening seem to be the tools, the mistakes one’s chance to do better. My knowledge of grammar was zilch at the outset, and I’m still not sure about commas after but, and many other things. I suspect that grammar is like paint: you have to learn the basics about colour but then spend a Hell of a long time getting splashed, mixing bit all up and finding your own style.

There’s still uncertainty of course – will people buy the book? I hope so; will the sequel see the light outside of my USB key? that would be great (,) but I’m thrilled to have reached this point. Really thrilled.

Londonia can be pre-ordered from Tartarus – link below, and a sample chapter is available on their site.

Link to my book at Tartarus Press

dickensian_london_by_karlfitzgeraldart_d96bxjd-fullview.jpgThe book cover from a painting by Karl Fitzgerald

Moments in time

Yesterday I received my contract with Tartarus Press for my novel.

Some way to go yet: editing, etc, but I’m thrilled.

So . . . all those years of ideas, tentative attempts, previous try-out novels, and learning . . . well, how to write really – my North London Comp school education didn’t really furnish me with any actual skills in that department.

Over the years I’ve come to view grammar and words rather like paint. You can learn the theory of how to apply it to canvas or wood but it’s through experimenting for hundreds of hours that you begin to see how it works; how it can be smeared, scuffed, diluted, scratched, etc, to form your own style.

The other thing I have learned in long-distance scribing (novels) is the importance of writing everyday. Even if it’s just a couple of hundred words. Keeping the idea moving along, keeping the characters in your mind, and always leave a little thread of plot dangling for the next time you approach the A4/notebook or computer . . .

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Mapco/ David Hale image of the Borough of Southwark – 1775. St Leonard’s Church near the centre of the map. St Leonard’s is the pivotal building in the book (although the story is set in 2072) Mind, it could look rather like this map again . . .

 

Nearly four months on

Long time no post.

A tricky few months with life-stuff swamping most creative activity but yesterday while sighing over another other small problem that had arisen, an email plopped into my inbox which pushed all frettings aside. My lovely agent has found a home for my novel. Details still sketchy and a few days to wait to finalise but, Yow, what a difference a few words can make. All the years of writing, editing, culling piles of manuscripts, agent-hunting, receiving rejection letters, starting afresh, crying, raging and laughing are all totally worth it.

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One project that has been a constant over these afore-mentioned months has been getting my other blog – Writing and other stuff – (nearly ten years worth) into BOOKS. Yes, real hardback books . . . A surprisingly easy process – half an hour or so (after all the weeks of editing) and the Blog2Print site showed me a screen mock-up to flip through.

Wondering if the Real Thing might be a slight disappointment, I was utterly delighted with the three beautiful volumes that appeared within a couple of weeks – they had said within a month – even more impressive. Husband Mark commented it was a bit like ‘This is Your Life’ and it is somewhat, but in this age of us no longer making up photo albums, as we did before the digital age, they are a wonderful, and will be, a treasured documentation of our family, dogs, garden, projects and our home.

 

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The small and leaky boat of indecision

I seem to have climbed into it this morning and shoved myself off from the mooring without oars.

That’s what happens – to me anyway, if I don’t write for a few days.

It’s been a long and enjoyable summer with our son being at home from art college; days concerned with running our small bed and breakfast, socialising with family and friends, but always writing, every day. First thing.

I’ve just taken the lad back to college, including a road trip of a few days so the laptop and notebooks got rather abandoned. Now back at home, the other half is back at work and suddenly everything feels very large, empty and a little worrying, with winter jobs looming – stacking wood, organising chimney sweeps, fixing broken guttering, etc etc. I know what I have to do. Start writing again and immerse myself in the next project. My on-going novel is with my agent and I have a choice of which way to go next – a follow up? It’s written but as the main book has gone through so many changes, the back half is now not relevant. I’ve started re-jigging it but . . .possibly best to wait and see what happens with the first one . . .

On a long hike yesterday, Mark (afore-mentioned other half) suggested I should start something new. I think he’s probably right. There is a story that’s been hovering around my mind for some months, based on a short I wrote called, The Panto-horse End. Like all my tales it will have links to the other books so I’ll feel safe in this new world ready to be created.

Just have to jump into the sea and tow the boat back to land. Starting this afternoon.

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Nothing to do with oarless, leaky boats but I just had to post this beautiful image

Usefulness of Google

While trawling for a cover picture of my back-catalogue kids’ book, Alfi Beasti Don’t Eat That! I found this delightful photo of someone reading to their appreciative offspring. An image like this makes all the process of writing, illustrating, editing, endless meetings, and waiting totally worthwhile.

Thank you, ‘Red Rose Mummy’, for posting that image.

 

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16th August 2018

A memorable day for me as I signed and sent off a contract agreeing to be represented by Sandra Sawicka at Marjacq Scripts in London.

Wheeeeeeeeeee!

After a silence and an occasional tentative email prod from me over the last few months, Sandra wrote to me a few days ago saying she would love to take me on and work with me on my novel. There’s still quite a way to go with editing, discussing and finally tidying before the book can be sent out to prospective publishers, but this feels like a massive step forwards.

I was struck by Sandra’s enthusiasm for my work when she first asked me to send her the whole MS, compared to the other replies I received back regarding initial chapters. I had a feeling that she would be the right champion for it, even though at that stage there were many changes to work on for her to truly consider the book.

So, what have I learnt from the process of trying to find someone to take me on, and what could I relay to anyone else involved in this often spirit-crushing task?

Number one – you have to be able to bin large chunks of script that you may have felt perfectly happy with, and feel able to take a lot of constructive criticism from someone who knows a lot more than you do about how the industry works. Of, course this may not be the same for everyone but I feel I am continually learning by taking on big edits and re-writes, and cannot imagine the process ever being very different.

Number two – Hone and hone and hone the letters and synopsis, synopsises? synopi? to be sent out. I cringe now when I look at my early attempts. – far too much waffle about my past, typos, badly-summed up plots, etc , etc . . . it’s worth taking the time and it can become enjoyable (!). A few posts back when I was attempting to approach agents with an earlier version I turned the whole process into a sort of art-performance piece, complete with dropping off hand-inked, tea-dipped letters off to my chosen ‘prey’ before sending the chapters out. It was an interesting exercise but failed utterly – one response being ‘I don’t know why you authors go to all this trouble and expense. We don’t appreciate it’.

Number three. Never give up – if you feel writing defines who you are and what you want to be.

So, his morning, I will slip my agent-contacting book away on a shelf, clear up my writing corner and start editing with a feeling that my efforts have been validated – officially. Feels . . . great.

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