Wednesday, 25 February 2009

I'd like to thank...

Gosh. Two shiny awards from two lovely people, Sue and Cathy. And even better, they are not for being curmudgeonly or grumptious.

I would like to cheat a bit and, for all the support they have given me, offer the Friends Award to the Novel Racers - a finer bunch of... well... racing novelists, you could not hope to meet.

And the Best Blog Thinker Award goes to Alison Shaffer for her two blogs which always keep me on my mental toes.

See... can be done.

Another rejection today (they are coming in thick and fast).

But this one one was printed with my name handwritten in at the top (and spelled correctly) and an apology for it being a standard rejection.

It will have taken that agency no longer to produce than an illegible scrawl, yet it showed a level of courtesy that helps soften the blow (although I had no real expectation that this particular agency would take me on, but you don't know until you try - and I'm nothing if I'm not trying).

Tuesday, 24 February 2009


Another rejection today from an agent. Well, I assume it is a rejection. My submission came back exactly as I sent it with the addition of an illegible scrawl (some of it crossed out) across part of my covering letter. Hence the sigh. For all I know it could be an offer to represent me.

Now, this makes me cross. And it is not the first time I’ve had this in a long career of writing. It makes me cross because, as a writer, I am forever urged to be professional, to take great care over my submissions to agents and editors, to be clear and concise. That, I am forever being told, is the way to impress and the way to get on.


But tell me.

Why the hell should I play that game when some of the people I am contacting apparently don’t give a rat’s arse about their own presentation? What message does it send to authors and publishers?

Well, all that scrawl told me is that the agent who wrote it has treated me with contempt. If they did not like my work, fine. I am well aware of how subjective this game is, especially when it comes to fiction. But it wouldn’t cost more than a few pence per copy to type and run off an A5 letter. That and a signature would at least let me know the work had been rejected.

If that piece of scrawl is an acceptance… Well, sorry, but there is no way I would wish to be represented by someone who cannot make the effort to ensure their message is legible, who cannot be arsed to be clear, who cannot even make the same effort I did in approaching them.

I might be a ‘nobody’ (after all, I’ve only had ten books published – one of the novels with glowing praise from two of the world’s best sellers in the genre); they might be a ‘busy and important’ agent (possibly); but that is no excuse for not observing the common decencies of human communication.

This is pretty much the written equivalent of a conversation I once had with an agent. I phoned them to see if they were accepting submissions. The person I spoke to questioned me about my writing background and then asked me to tell them something about the book I intended to submit. Remember that. They asked me to tell them. So I did. Well. I started to tell them. I wasn’t long-winded. I didn’t have time. I’d been going for less than a minute (and wouldn’t gave gone on for much more), when they sighed very loudly and hung up on me.

Perhaps I have a lousy telephone manner. Perhaps I use the wrong kind of paper to print my submissions (and I know for sure my letter and synopsis could be better – those are things that can always be improved and I work on them all the time). But there are times I get heartily sick of the whole business, because whilst there are a lot of good people in publishing (most of them authors), it is riddled with arseholes – hence all the shit it produces.

Monday, 23 February 2009


This might be a joke. It might not.

I am an addict. I am addicted to writing. And to reading. The reading bit I can cope with (apart from the times I pick up a book that is poorly written and rant about how such a piece of garbage ever made it into print). It is the writing bit I have problems with.

And today I am desperate for a cure. I want to be free of the compulsion that drives me to sit down and string words together. Not because this is inherently bad or detrimental to my health per se. I want to be free because it eats me from the inside out. It uses up all my physical and psychic energy. It uses up vast amounts of my time. It turns me into a boring and increasingly bitter husk. Because writing isn’t the end of it. You then feel compelled to expose it to other people.

I have fine friends who tell me they love my writing and to them I am eternally grateful. There are agents and editors who tell me my writing is good, but in the current climate… (this being the latest phrase of choice) they are not taking on new clients/prepared to take a risk on unknowns.

You get to the stage where you wonder what the point is. Why string words together if no one is going to buy them and see them (and make me enough money so I don’t have to choose, for example, between heating a room or running the dehumidifier to keep damp at bay – that bit’s not a joke).

This may seem like an awful whine. Maybe it is. But I have always worked hard. I have always lived well below the official poverty line. I never bought into the system that is now crashing about people’s ears. I don’t mind being ‘poor’. I just want to get rid of the voices in my head that keep me on this soul-destroying treadmill.

But, of course, there isn’t a cure. Like every other writer who suffers from depression, I have to sit this out, tell myself that writing is a therapy and will make me happier, suppress the urge to moan about things, and just get on with it.

My best hope for today is that this post might dissuade people from thinking that writing is [a] easy and [b] financially rewarding (the average annual earnings of a writer in the UK have crashed from the princely sum of £7000 to £4000). If you are hooked already, you have my deepest sympathy. If you are dabbling, step away now before it is too late.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Oh, what the hell. Here's waving at you.

I'm writing another novel (yeah, all right, hardly a surprise is it). I had intended to plunge straight into The Mirror That Is Made, which is the second of Charlie Cornelius's books. But it requires extensive research. I'm doing some of the background at the moment, but I'm going to need to do some very specific stuff as well. And at the moment, the money and the energy just aren't there (it will involve travel).

So, to avoid wasting endless hours playing games, fretting over how the submissions of Thin Reflections are doing, or getting into sickening and socially reprehensible habits like dusting, I decided to write a book. The ultimate in procrastination, if you like.

Charlie Cornelius exists in other planes of reality (how could she not). One of her alternates, is a young woman called Jeniche. She lives in a city and makes a living by relieving the rich of all those pretty trinkets they don't really need and selling them back to jewellers, who break them up and use the prcious metal and stones to make more pretty trinkets to sell to the rich. A great deal more honest than being a banker (cheap shot of the day).

I have nothing invested in the book other than having fun in writing it (well, fun is a subjective word, but I have no intention of getting angsty over the thing). It is a fantasy adventure. It might have wizards (but, probably won't), there will be mysterious happenings and Jeniche does, of course, have a mysterious past. So mysterious I certainly have no idea what it is. I've also a rough idea for a second book, which makes a trilogy inevitable, really.

And, yes. I am having fun with it. I'm also learning things about writing, trying new ways of doing things, and desperately (bugger) trying to avoid words that end with -ly.

I'm not doing too badly with it. I started on the 31 January and then stopped for just over a week. Now I'm back with it and have about 11,000 words on paper, aiming for a modest 70,000. Who knows, it might even be saleable when it's finished.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

I'll be glad when this year's over

By god, it's dusty in here. Cobwebs in the corners. Woodlice partying along the skirting board.

I have, to put it bluntly, had a bastard couple of months. I have been writing, but not felt much like coming in here and waving it about in public - so to speak.

Not only have I lost my brother, my beloved little cat was discovered to have had a tumour - the sort that you know nothing about until it is too late. We had her put to sleep and she now rests in our garden.

Given that she was my constant companion over the last seventeen years, especially since I became ill, the loss of her has been hard. So, here's to Catkin who was with me when I got my first contract and who was with me with every book I have written since.