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 HOXTON. 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 Hoxton 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’tappreciate 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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Book recycling

Having received my latest edit copy of HOXTON through the post yesterday, I decided to landmark it by creating a hardback cover for the floppy thing with its present nasty shiny encapsulation. Two agents are thinking about the tale at the moment so no point getting any further with a cover, until anyone says yea or nah.

So, down to the local up-cycling place, found an old red-covered book almost the exact dimensions, sliced out the old narrative and stuck Hoxton in its place. Black and gold paint added, various bits of old map and text added inside and it looks the part. The part being my idea that the reader is holding an ‘old’ book made in 2072 on the Sureditch Press that has somehow made its way back in time. If/when, this project ever gets to a publishing house, that’ll be an interesting discussion point.

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Triple happiness

 

I opened my mail a couple of days ago and was delighted to find, amongst all the ‘dear friend I am writing to you from Botswana’, your dropbox has expired’, Amazon suggests from your profile that you would like this CD of German experimental jazz’, and all the other stuff, these wonderful reviews from Ruth Angell.

Review for The One Hundred and Fifty – Eighth Book by Kate A Hardy.

After devouring two of Kate’s other novels Hoxton and Smithi I couldn’t wait to read this book. I wasn’t disappointed. Her style is exciting, involving, humorous, gritty and beautiful.

Kate’s imagination and descriptions of character, place, smell, form, colour, language, relationships and emotion are utterly wonderful. I was transported deep in to her interesting and compelling world and lost until the very last word. I wanted to dive in and be in the guts of the story with the characters and experience all they were experiencing.

I love how this story is almost unbelievable and yet I found myself finding similarities in my own life and hooking elements from the characters experiences into my own. The places that Hamish finds himself on his journey are so familiar, some because I have been there myself others because of how familiarly they are described to me.

The cliff hanger ending made me shout out and wish for some resolution, I couldn’t believe I would never know, genius.

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Review for Hoxton by Kate A Hardy.

This is the first of Kate’s books that I have had the pleasure to read. I consumed this book within a day, no one could get through to me.

From the first opening paragraph to the last word I was wrapped in her fantasy. Kate’s imaginary world of our apocalyptic future set in Londonia is so real that you are swept along in it’s wonder and wish you were there.

I felt like the places and people were so real that I must know them already. The depth and detail in each character brings them to life on the page. The intricacies of each place, event, custom, costume, sound and so much more mean that you are left in no doubt as to where the action or non action takes place. The cultural references are perfect, the sage/ olive green bath, clothes from every era, silvers, Ikea furniture, music, a

good wine or the design of a bed throw keep linking back to what we already know or have known in our collective past.

The challenge is how to describe Kates writing without saying I am literally her biggest fan. I want to spend more and more time lost in my imagination with the wonderful creations from her head.

Review for Smithi by Kate A Hardy.

As with Kate’s other novels this one is a page turner and really had me gripped from start to finish. I love the greenness in this novel. Lots of country side, fresh air and elemental happenings.

The main character of Smithi is beautifully drawn, I found myself relating to him in his desire to escape from the city life in Manchestershire full of technologies and disconnected robotic beings to the green, fresh air and a life in the countryside. His journey takes him through such beautiful and for me familiar countryside that I found this rather an emotional read.

I think deep down we all can connect with Smithi’s longing for something better and Kate has captured that perfectly in this story in her wonderful futuristic world.

I love the darker side of Kate’s writing, her analysis of human behaviours when in difficult circumstances, situations not yet encountered by us in 2018 but so very possible in her 2070. How death is part of survival and always very near and most likely violent.

My thoughts can hardly describe or do justice to how brilliant Kate A Hardy is at engaging the reader and bringing them into her wonderful world.

I will read her novels again and again.

Ruth Angell 2018

Three months on . . .

 

Following last post. I haven’t done much other than write, eat, sleep, be slightly sociable and deal with all the usual life-stuff that we all deal with. Half way through this re-write, I’d emailed the (potential) agent to say: ‘I’ll be sending the new draft through, end of April,’ and I will. A deadline, even if self-imposed is a good way to stop, reflect, and hope what you’ve been hunched over for many weeks is at least better than the last draft.

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 Fifth read through of this draft number . . . lost count

I’ve read through five times and three folks are reading at the moment; and I’m about to scoot through it again. There are still mistakes and my made-up language to improve on but . . . time to stop – for the moment – work on some of the illustrations whether they’d be ever used by a publisher or not. I feel the book needs a few of the visual elements camped out in my head, so, I’ll put the laptop away for a few days and concentrate on ink and paper.

 

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     A rough sketch of Bert the Swagger’s stilt house on the banks of Lady Thames.

I’d love to look at the full manuscript . . .

Uh?

Part of an email from a literary agent – one I had approached a couple of months back along with a few others with regard to my novel, Hoxton. I had idly clicked on the mail anticipating a ‘nice, but no thanks’ and there it was, positivity reaching out to me. After a hasty response of: ‘would you like: word doc? printed – loose pages, spiral bound, hardback, ink-pen original? all of the above’? she requested ‘just a word doc, thanks’; I sent it off and tried to remain very calm.

I did a good job of being calm. I waited patiently, knowing all agents are VERY busy, and expected nothing back for a couple of months. A few days later – ‘I’m loving this, can we meet in London next week?’ I said . . . ‘well, let me see, bit busy’ . . . (not really), booked trains, rearranged stuff and went about feeling all warm and worthy until an email the afternoon before my trip. She had read to the end and somewhere around halfway the narrative had obviously taken a massive weird trip somewhere she hadn’t been expecting. A page of notes was attached, and the invitation to duck out if I didn’t feel as if a massive re-write could be possible. As I love re-writes (see 2 posts ago) and was 100% reluctant give up on this possible chance, I wrote back saying: ‘not a problem – see you tomorrow’.

My initial feeling was one of desolation at the prospect of ripping the book up again – as it had already been thoroughly through an major edit with Cornerstones – but then all sorts of other more positive thoughts started converging in my head – sitting down, making cups of tea and settling themselves in for a really BIG conversation. Was I happy with the story? Really? Were there a few doubtful plot lines there? Could it do with an overhaul? Yes, yes and yes. I suppose I’d covered it all up – the doubt. Hoxton was written fairly plotlesslessly (is this a word?) and developed over time – I find it very difficult to plan anything beyond a few pages. Readers seemed to like it – or perhaps they enjoyed more my writing itself . . . I had good reviews – onto the next thing, send out a few submissions and see what happens.

The meeting  happened and it was great: incredibly useful and she homed in on all the content I had been less than sure about. I left with a million ideas, a positive mind and a lot of work to do.

So, here I am in my office (corner of the sitting room next to the wood-burner) fighting with the plot, and it is coming together – patching in the sections I want to keep, and the new stuff to be written. I’ve got the outline now – finished this morning, and a walk must now be done. It seems to be the best way for me: plan, wrestle with words then get out and let it all mill about in my mind until certain useful threads appear; run back and scribble it all down before the thoughts disappear.

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Train journeys

Visual and audible writing-fodder. What could be better than to be nestled with your notebooks, laptop and paper mug of tea listening to everyone else’s conversations, and a continuously changing land/cityscape to look out upon.

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A day or two back, after a very elongated journey from France to the UK, I got on the train from Alton to Poole (usually takes about hour and a half) and became trapped in a time-displacement zone of some sort – five hours, including a freezing stop in Guildford while the display board’s info for my connecting train’s arrival time and platform number flickered indecisively in the gloom.

Lots of character studies, however . . .

On the Guildford to Poole train: to my right, a couple who might have been said to be stereotypes if I’d included them in a novel: he, groomed, neat stubble, latest iPhone, reading ‘Top Gear’ and Mm-ing occasionally in response to his immaculately made-up and jewelled wife/partner’s comments as she scanned ‘Closer’ magazine.

In front of them: two cheery older ladies dressed in acrylic, shortish, slightly curly white hair, carefully prepared sandwiches, Daily Mail, discussing grandchildren, a new conservatory and trips to Poole shopping centre.

My fellow passenger: young woman with head of perfect ice-blonde hair and very long manicured red nails, texted and face booked throughout the whole journey.

Two seats on front: a pack of young men on their way to Southampton for a football match: back-to-front baseball caps (still de-rigeur in Southern UK . . .) waving phones about, guffawing, comparing past football highlights and the merits of present girlfriends, much beer already drunk and being drunk.

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Outside the train window: equally inspiring for any writer who appreciates the melancholic atmosphere of a British January day: drizzle, dank gardens, mossy semi-detached houses, breakers yards, derelict buildings, bare-branched grizzled trees and dark rivers.

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