Monday, 27 December 2010

Melting Snow

The snow is melting as the year draws to a close. 2010 has been an exciting year for me as far as my writing is concerned - signing with an agent being the highlight, but I also attended my first literary festival and had my success in the Yeovil Prize, as well as doing well on the short story front.

Who knows what 2011 will bring. I'm starting on a journey into uncharted waters (uncharted for me at any rate). It's a new adventure - like my new WIP. My heart beats a little faster and I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Me and My Caganer

Last Christmas my Catalan friend brought me back a caganer when she went home to Barcelona for Christmas.

So this year my Nativity scene has an interesting addition. And here she is in all her glory, squatting in the bushes round the back of the stable. Isn’t she great?

The Catalan people are very keen on their Nativity scenes, making them much more elaborate that the simple stable gatherings we Brits have, and there is always a caganer, somewhere in the background. Traditionally it is a little peasant boy having a dump, but if you take a look at the caganer website you can see that they now come as a wide range of celebritites, footballers, and I’m guessing that some of those I don’t recognise are Spanish politicians.

The kids think my caganer is fabulous. I think it’s a tradition that should be introduced over here.

So Happy Christmas dear blog readers. And if you have any interesting or unusual festive traditions where you come from that you think I should adopt do let me know about them.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Cooking up a Sequel

I’ve made very little progress on DF over the past couple of weeks. And this is why.

You see, my Agent (can you see the big smile as I say that) has asked me to think about a possible sequel for WRRW (which now has a new title but I’ll stick with the original acronym for now).

And that’s what I’ve been doing.

There are so many possibilities – different options – different ways the story could go. The trick is to pick the right mix of ingredients – a bit like inventing a recipe – does that ingredient work – if not take it out! I may think up a couple of characters – only to morph them into one. I may completely change a section of the plot because I’ve thought of something better.

I’m one of those people who like to outline anyway, so it’s not too hard.

But of course, this is a story that may never be written. WRRW still needs work. And then it will need to find a home. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Book Launch – Enchantment of the Black Dog.

Sunday afternoon – clear skies and frost – a lovely day to visit Portland for the launch of Carol Hunt’s latest book in The Portland Chronicles series – The Enchantment of the Black Dog, published by Roving Press.

The second in the series of children's books, The Portland Chronicles, by author Carol Hunt. In Enchantment of the Black Dog, Isabel Maydew sets out to unravel the mystery of the phantom Black Dog of Portland. The story features time travel to the English Civil War years and to the Ice Ages, when snow wolves roamed the Isle of Portland. Joined by a Southwell fairy and a cool surf-dude, Isabel finds clues to the true identity of the mysterious Black Dog.

It all took place at White Stones Café in Easton where Carol and the illustrator Domini Deane were signing copies and the kids (and Carol) were dressed up as characters from the book. People queued to buy their copies and to get them signed and there were activities to keep the kids busy while the adults supped coffee and scoffed cake. There was a really good turnout, which was great to see.

So congratulations Carol and I hope you have as much success with this one as you did with The Portland Sea Dragon.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Guest: Romance Writer Emma Shortt

Please welcome romance writer Emma Shortt.

Emma works as an editor for Evernight Publishing. As well as having a short story 'The Christmas Fae' in their Christmas anthology 'Twas a Dark and Delicious Christmas, she has a series of romantic novels coming out throughout 2010. This series is called FairyTales (the erotic kind) and takes up where The Christmas Fae finishes.

Tis Christmas and everyone is stirring…

From the keeper of Santa’s naughty list, delightful little Elves eager to please, and the sensual love of a toy soldier—the holidays are filled with orgasmic cheer. Where wishes come true, Frosty is itching for a melt-down, fairies and angels are randy to grant your every wish, and ‘tis the season to be oh, so jolly-filled.

Unwrap your darkest desires…for this is Christmas, and it will never be the same

Emma has kindly agreed to answer a few questions

1. When did you first start to write and why?

I actually wrote my first book when I was fifteen. It was called Crimson Wars (I was in my Anne Rice inspired goth phase) and was this human-vampire war type epic. It was done by hand (we were poor so a computer was about as attainable as the moon) and I reckon it must have been about thirty thousand words - a huge number to a fifteen year old. I’ve still got the scribes bump that the book produced, it’s never gone away. I wish I still had a copy, I bet it was dire.

Anyway I turned into a bit of a science geek from then on and the writing took a back seat but it was always on my mind. Then about five years ago I started to really think about doing it, as a job, not just a hobby. I was working a really stressful corporate job at the time, travelling all over the country and felt myself coming close to burn out – I’d gone straight from uni into a high pressure job, was only twenty five and knew already that it wasn't the life for me. So I quit my job, got a far less fraught one and started writing. When I didn't get published right away I took a better job, and then another and now I'm back in the 'stress zone' only writing as well!

I just love books, I love reading, I love writing. If I don't write something just feels 'off', it's a compulsion for me and I can't deny it. My perfect life involves me sat in front of my computer writing all day... oh, the bliss.

2. When did you realise that romance was your genre?

Other's realised it before I did. I started out writing YA, I think, because everyone else was at the time. HP was making millions and Twilight had just come on the scene - to me it seemed the obvious genre to write in. Then too I had a teenage daughter and it was like having a perfect beta reader in situ. I wrote several YA books and the first I really finished and loved was Immune. I subbed it to various agents and publishers and though the feedback was good it wasn't published. At the time I was devastated but I know now that I wasn’t ready. The writing wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t savvy enough about the business. I spent two years chasing agents, I’d never do that again.

So I carried on writing YAs but something was clicking. It got to the point where I’d start something and get bored or I’d write thousands of words then delete them the next night because I wasn’t feeling them. I couldn’t work out what was wrong and it was my fiancée who cleared things up for me. All my YA books were romance, that was the central theme, I knew that but I’d never classified them as romance. To me they were sci-fi or horror or something else and the romance was simply part of the plot, my chap disagreed! He insisted I was a romance writer and urged me to try and write a ‘grown up’ romance. I was intrigued by the idea. I’d thought about it certainly, but never had the nerve to follow it through. I think part of me was worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a romance writer but that was a stupid thought. I love reading romance books, some of my favourite authors write romance… so what was holding me back?

Nothing, so I plunged in and started writing… I’ve yet to stop.

3. Tell us a bit about the Fae?

I’d been thinking about a paranormal romance involving fairies for a while. I wanted to create a world ‘The Faedom’ where fairies live separate to humans. But I wanted those fairies to want to be part of the human world and to do whatever it took to achieve that. So, I created a world where Fae society is very much like ours - structured and hierarchal - and the only way for a Fae to interact with humans is to get one of the approved jobs – either as a holiday fairy or a guardian fairy. The thinking behind it is that once a fairy has one of these jobs they can interact with the human world by granting wishes. Just one wish for each fairy, once a year.

In The Christmas Fae Isadora has just been promoted and it’s now her job to grant one wish to make one human’s Christmas perfect. The wish will not be what she expects. The book is rated heat level ‘3’ so I need say no more than that!

I’ve really enjoyed writing this and I’m now editing the next book The Valentine’s Fae.

4. What does your job as an editor involve?

I’m both a content and copy editor which means I work on everything once the contract has been signed. At the moment I don’t play any part in the acquisitions process. I mean sure, if someone sent me something I could pass it on to my publisher and say, this is one for us, but I’m not a reader. My job is back office only. I get the manuscripts after the contract has gone out so there’s no turning back. Once I have that book I HAVE to make it saleable. Whatever it takes, removing chapters, adding them, deleting characters – it’s all wide open.

Generally speaking how it works is that my publisher (Evernight) sends me a manuscript through. I do a first read and give initial thoughts, concerns etc. This might be something as simple as a few tweaks to a major re-write. The MS goes back to the author who then addresses these issues. The turnaround for this is about a fortnight. The MS comes back and I'll check it to make sure the author has addressed the issues, if so I'll do a complete proof read of the whole MS, I'll re-write parts if need be, correct grammar and punctuation and make sure the flow is right. I both copy and content edit – so it’s the whole nine yards. If the issues haven't been addressed then it goes back to the author again. This is rare, usually we only do two edit rounds. Total turnaround is about 6 weeks, this is all done by email.

One thing I won’t do is compromise the author’s voice. This is her book, not mine, my job is to polish it up not re-mould it. Preserving the author’s voice is crucial, all ego has to be swept away. I’m lucky because I come at it from a writer’s perspective and so I know how much has gone into it. I know the author will have spent hours reading each bit and tweaking each line. I respect that totally and only make changes where they’re necessary. The impulse to re-write it the way I would has to be crushed, it’s not my book.

5. What do you see as the future for e-publishing?

E-publishing is the future, it’s as simple as that. I see us reaching a point where only the very high selling books come out in print. Ebooks first, then if sales targets are met, a print run. This makes perfect sense to me, both from a financial and environmental perspective, and in my genre we’re well ahead of the game.

It’s funny because a year ago I always said I would never get an e-reader. I love the smell and feel of books and the idea of having them in e-format was abhorrent to me. Now however, if there’s not a Kindle wrapped under the tree for me come this Christmas my chap’s going to be in trouble.

6. What piece of advice would you offer the aspiring writer?

Ooo someone else just asked me this and I’ll tell you exactly what I told them, I’m not the right person to ask this question! These days when someone tells me they’re thinking about writing my usual response is, please don’t. The trouble is I don’t think most people have any idea the amount of work that’s involved, I know I didn’t. When I got involved in writing (about five years ago now) I assumed I’d write an amazing book, get published, make a load of dosh and duh dah! It sooo doesn’t work like that.

Try instead long hours hunched over the computer, after a manic day at work, trying to cudgel the old brain into producing 2000 words. Or having to delete yesterdays 2000 because they’re crap. Try coming home to rejection envelopes piled high on the mat and feeling your heart drop. Countless hours spent trying to build yourself a platform. I wouldn’t even want to calculate the hours it takes to increase the blog by one follower or the Facebook group etc. It’s very, very difficult, like a full time job only with no pay.

Any newbie writer needs to realize that it is HARD work with very little reward for a long while. I’m only just seeing the fruits of my labors – five years after I begun. And the cash I’ve made so far? Oh, I don’t even want to think about it.

Still, I don’t want to be all gloom and doom, there are some positives. Like when something gets accepted and you see it out there in the real world. That is an amazing feeling. Or when the words work properly and you read it back and your heart beats a little faster. Being a writer, in my opinion, is just about the best darn job there is, but make no mistake, if you’re going to do it properly you have to treat it like a job.

Once you’ve made the decision that writing is for you then my best advice is to follow your own instincts, and if that means breaking the rules, break them. I don’t think I ever did what I was told, don’t phone agents, don’t email publishers direct, no multiple POVs, no telling. Bugger that, I write what feels right and if someone wants to read it after the fact then that’s brill but if they don’t then that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I shudder at the idea of this formula type writing that we get rammed down our throats or the strict way we’re told we must approach agents and publishers. They’re human beings for crikes sake, yes they’re busy, but you know what, so am I. I’ve never once had an agent or a publisher complain about the way I interact with them. Besides publishing is changing drastically, it will be the canny, break-the-rules type writers that will flourish.

Thank you Emma for answering my questions.

You can find out more about Emma at her website and her blog.