Wednesday, 31 December 2008

End of Year Round-up

This time last year I wrote "2007 has been a good year writing-wise. Let's hope 2008 is even better!" I couldn't have made a more prophetic wish.

To anyone who reads this blog semi-regularly you'll already know that 2008 has been my best writing year EVER. Let's face it - when the one dream you've hung onto since you were eight years old finally comes true it's going to be one pretty damned amazing year.

I ummed and ahhed about whether to write an end of year round-up because I didn't want anyone to think I was being a big, fat show-off but I can't let the end of the year pass without doing some kind of summary of my year.

So here we go:

In 2008 I:
  • Wrote 9 new short stories thanks to my Story a Fortnight Group
  • Rewrote novel 1 after agent feedback which said it needed more work
  • Wrote 20,000 words of novel 2 (a)
  • Sent 28 short stories to women's magazines (a lot of the submissions were the same story sent to multiple magazines. A story isn't dead until it's done the rounds!)
  • Entered 8 stories and 1 novel extract to writing competitions
  • Came up with a new idea for novel 2 (b), started writing it in December and hit 11,000 words by the 31st

'Bad' things in 2008:

  • 7 of my competition entries were rejected
  • 20 of my short story submissions to women's magazines were rejected
  • Scrapping 20,000 words of the original novel 2 and wondering if I'd ever fall in love with a novel again and actually finish it

Good things in 2008:

  • 8 of my short stories were bought. 6 by women's magazines. 1 by an online magazine. 1 by an arts magazine (my only story sale without payment). 6 of the 8 stories bought have now been published
  • An extract of novel 1 became one of four finalists in the Romance Writers of America Stiletto contest (paranormal chicklit contest)
  • My story "My Daughter the Deep Sea Diver" placed third in the Writers Bureau short story competition
  • I signed with my literary agent
  • Said agent got me a two book deal with Orion (novel 1 to be published in October 2009) and sold foreign rights to Russia, Germany and Brazil
  • I met Orion to discuss novel 1 and was stunned when lots of people popped into the meeting told me how much they'd enjoyed reading it
  • I got my mojo back and fell in love with my new idea for novel 2 and wrote 11,000 words of it.

So there you go. To say I'm excited about 2009 would be an understatement. I've got so many wonderful things to look forward to writing-wise including the publication of my novel and a writing holiday in Thailand (please god let it happen!). I also have to do the edits for novel 1 and continue to fight the demon that sits on my shoulder and says, "Novel 2 is never going to be as good as novel 1 and your agent and editor will hate it!" and finish the first draft by September. There's also a few things I'm planning on changing in my personal life but more about those if and when they happen!

And I just want to end this wonderful year by pointing you all to Sally Quilford's inspirational post here on the secret to achieving writing success.

Here's to a wonderful 2009 for all my blog readers. May all your dreams (writing and otherwise) come true.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Happy Christmas!

I'll be off line for the next few days so just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all my blog readers a very...

Happy Christmas!


I hope you all have a wonderful time.

Friday, 19 December 2008

What editors want

It's all about the links this week. Here's a good one about why your novel was rejected/what editor's want and includes some useful things to think about if you're not sure why your book isn't quite working:

http://writeblogspotcom.blogspot.com/2008/09/road-ahead.html

I'm off work at the moment so, in theory, I've got all the time in the world to work on novel 2 (well, 24 hours a day if I don't sleep). The only trouble is I have been sleeping - a lot - and watching TV - a lot - and getting out and about - a lot - and faffing around - a....you get the picture.

It's weird isn't it, when you've got a day job you think, "Oh, if I could just give up work and write full time I'd get a lot more writing done" but when you do have time off you write exactly the same amount as you would if you'd done a full day at work.

Well I do anyway.

Over the last few days I've written between 1,000 and 2,000 words a day. Not that my word count has grown much. Today I deleted all the words I wrote yesterday and wrote something new (I changed my mind about the right way to approach a certain scene). I also went back and tweaked a few scenes. When you write romantic-comedies your novel has to be humorous and my first 4,000 words were decidedly NOT. For a while I worried that I'd lost my 'funny' but an idea for a scene came to me today that actually made me grin while I was writing it.

Which is a good thing.

I read an interview with Sophie Kinsella the other day that said something along the lines of, "If a scene doesn't make me laugh when I'm writing it it obviously doesn't work, so I go back and re-write it until I do laugh."

I'm starting to understand the way I write - I need what I've written to be structurally sound before I can move on and write more. If I don't it bugs me and I find myself thinking about what needs to be fixed or what doesn't work and I feel blocked and can't write.

So things are good and I'm actually enjoying writing book 2 (crossed my fingers when I typed that bit!). My aim is to get to 10,000 words by the end of the year.

Book 2 wordcount: 6,339 / 90,000 (7.0%)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

How Publishing Works

I don't know why it's taken me so long to find this blog

http://howpublishingreallyworks.blogspot.com/

but I've just spent a good half an hour reading through her posts and nodding my head at most of the advice proffered.

I particularly like this paragraph in a post on criticism:

"Remember that your levels of reading comprehension drop dramatically when reading a criticism of your own work: you filter out the good stuff and magnify the bad, so that you translate “this is good but you need to work a little on your characterisation” into “I hate all your characters!”

I think the same can be said when you're critiquing your OWN work. You're totally blind to the good stuff and all you can see are the faults.

Worth thinking about when I start my edits of book 2 some time next summer...

Monday, 15 December 2008

On meeting my publishers!

Today was a day I've been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures for AGES!

I was looking forward to it because...well, that's fairly obviously really isn't it? In my mind it was the day that would make all this getting a book published malarkey real.

And dreading it? Because:

a) I was nervous I'd be asked to make lots of changes to HoWG
b) I was nervous my editor wouldn't like my idea for book 2
c) I'd been told I had 'lots of fans in the office' who wanted to meet me and I hate being the centre of attention
d) I was sure I'd do or say something so inane and idiotic they'd immediately rescind the 2-book deal and tell me never to darken their door again!

As it turned out I really, really shouldn't have worried. It was a great few hours and none of the scenarios I'd been dreading came true.

So what happened?

I met my agent at her agency at 11am. She gave me a guided tour of the agency (I'd only seen a little bit of it during my last visit) and I totally fell in love with it. It's a house that has been converted into offices and it's full of charm, an adopted cat - and books. Books everywhere! There's a ten foot bookshelf in the hallway that is absolutely stuffed with books and every office is absolutely crammed with shelves filled with book after book after book. The staff there even use piles of hard-back books to raise their computer monitors up to the correct height! Book heaven I tell you.

I was introduced to my agent's assistant who told me she'd sobbed over the last few pages of my book when she read it at her desk (is it awful that I love that fact it made her cry?) and then gave me some fabulous news - she'd sold my novel to Russia!

I was still taking in that news when my agent and I set off across London to my publishers'. It was an impressive-looking building with glass doors, fancy lifts and two reception desks to navigate and if I hadn't had my agent at my side (and been dosed up on cold and flu remedies) I'd have been quaking in my boots when my editor came out to meet us! I shouldn't have worried - she was really lovely and very welcoming. She led us into the main office (which looked just like a normal office - little booths in the middle with glass-walled offices on one side) and then into her office. I was introduced to someone who went off to make me a cup of coffee and then my editor started talking about my book and what happens next -

First of all she'll get some edits to me before Christmas (not very many thankfully!) and she thinks I should be able to get them done within a week. The manuscript will then go off to a copy-editor who'll go through the book with a fine tooth comb and highlight any inconsistencies, glitches in time span/clothing/description etc and get them back to me. I'll then have to make the changes and a 'proof' will be produced (my manuscript in book form - either with a plain cover and my name and book title or a mock-up of the final cover) and I'll get to read through that to check that the typesetting hasn't introduced any glaring inconsistencies/changes. A proof-reader will also do the same. At some point during this process I'll also be asked for my feedback on the cover (apparently the first cover mock-ups will be produced in around February time next year!).

So we talked a bit about covers and retailers and various people popped into the office to meet me. I can't begin to explain how truly BIZARRE it is to meet so many people that have read (and enjoyed) your book. Other than my agent and publishers NO ONE other than me has read the book from start to finish (my editor told me she's read it FOUR TIMES now!) and for someone to say, "It was really funny," or "I could hear my colleague giggling from my office," or "there are some really touching bits," is a real pinch yourself moment. For a start you have no idea how to respond. My natural response was to go, "Really?!!!" but I managed to smile and say "thank you" instead. Of course now I feel a HUGE pressure to make book 2 equally as funny but I'm trying not to think about that!

At one point I was asked how I'd written the book as it all seemed to slot into place and I sheepishly admitted that, while I knew the first few scenes and how it ended, I'd made up the middle bit on the fly. I expected everyone in the room to gasp in horror but instead they just nodded sagely and commented that all authors were different - some plotting every scene while others sat down with a blank screen and made up the whole lot as they went along.

That was a relief as I'm approaching book 2 in the same way (I know the first 9 scenes and the ending but not the middle) and I was dreading being asked to provide a more detailed synopsis! I asked when I'd be expected to let her see book 2 and she said I could either provide a bit at a time or finish it and then let her see it. I went for the latter - I'd much rather finish a draft and then edit it into shape than send in 3 or 4 chapters that I might end up changing later anyway. My editor suggested next September as a delivery date and I agreed that that sounded do-able.

So about an hour into the meeting my editor suggested that we go to lunch. She took us to a lovely restaurant in Covent Garden and ordered each of us a glass of champagne and toasted me (so weird!) and then we perused the menu. I had king prawns and squid for starter and swordfish for main and a coffee instead of dessert. We mostly talked about non-writing things over lunch and the next two hours flew by.

Goodbyes were said and then I headed home.

So there you go - my not-very-terrifying-at-all meeting with my publishers! There are more people to meet in the future (there's an authors' party in January that I'm really looking forward to - apparently the last one was at the Royal Opera House with unlimited champagne!) and lots of work to be done but it's all really exciting stuff.

And I'm not going to feel stressed about book two (much!).

Friday, 12 December 2008

Fake vs Real (aka the bizarre conversations you have at your work Christmas do)

First things first. I've got a question for you...

If I were to say to you, "Fake or real?" what would you think I was asking about?

Hold that answer in your head.

The conversation started off innocently enough with a discussion about who'd bought an artificial Christmas tree and who'd bought a real one. We discussed the number of people needed to carry a real tree home, the maximum distance you could be expected to lug it without the help of a car or taxi, and how many months you can expect to be sweeping up pine needles after Christmas is over.

Then the conversation swiftly changed to another subject.

About an hour later one of my male colleagues turned back to us (myself and two female colleagues).

"It's unanimous," he said.

"Sorry?" we chorused.

"On the fake verse real debate," he said.

"Sorry?" we repeated.

"All the boys are in agreement."

Three brows knitted in confusion.

"About fake verses real," he said. "And what that conjures up."

"Boobs!" I said.

Male workmate nodded. My two female colleagues did not.

"We thought you were talking about orgasms," they said.

I raised an eyebrow. "Surely everyone thinks boobs when asked 'fake or real?'"

They shrugged.

"I immediately thought orgasms," said female colleague to my right.

"Why don't you ask that bloke what he thinks," suggested female colleague to my left, pointing to a gay gentleman on the next table.

The colleague to my right tapped the guy at the next table on the shoulder.

"Excuse me?" she said. "If someone were to say 'fake or real' to you what would you think they were talking about?"

"Handbags," he said.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Progress and links

Book 2 is going well *touches wood*. I've been writing every other day and that seems to be working for me. On writing days I manage about 1,000 words before my brain goes 'that's enough' and shuts down. On the days that I don't write my brain still thinks about my novel and I've had ideas for various scenes/bits of dialogue/funny bits on the train, on the sofa, at work, right before I fall asleep. Pretty much everywhere really. As a result I've now got lots of scribbled notes on the backs of envelopes, important letters and, very occasionally, actually in my notebook. Hmmm...time to transfer them all to my index cards so I've got them all in one place.

Anyway, I've got a secret weapon for those days when I'm supposed to write but the words won't come...

Write or Die!

I first saw this linked to on Sally's blog and I think it's a genius idea. Basically you set yourself a word goal and the amount of time you're giving yourself to write those words (2 hours max) and then you choose the mode you want - from gentle (if you stop writing the screen gradually goes red and you get a pop up message telling you to get writing) to normal (screen goes red plus scary noise if you stop writing) to kamikaze (if you stop writing it starts deleting your words!!! Not recommended).

On the subject of links...

Do you ever find yourself using the same physically descriptions over and over again to express certain moods e.g. she frowned, he bit his bottom lip, she glared, he folded his arms etc (it's easily done over the course of 80-100,000 words!). If so check out the site below:

Body language cues to emotion

I don't recommend you use the exact words/phrases used on the site but it's certainly useful for thinking about the way a character might physically show that they're defensive/nervous etc.

Book 2 word count: 3,087 / 90,000 (3.4% written)

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Time to stop faffing...

...and get writing!

"I won't start writing book 2 until I've tidied up my desk," I told myself earlier this week.

then...

"I won't start writing until I've had my new book shelf put up next to my desk," I thought. "I need all my 'how to' books near me before I get started."

then...

"I need a white/cork board next to the desk."

then...

"I just need to print out my synopsis and breakdown of the first 9 scenes and pin them to the board."

then...

"I just need to read through my notes on book 2."

then...

"If I created some images of my characters and pinned them to the board that would help me visualise my characters as I write the novel."

then...

"I need to set up a new word counter for this book on my blog"

And then the realisation hit me - all this is well and good but what you actually should be doing Calistro is WRITING the damned thing!

So I got started today.

I fired up my old favourite YWriter and started at the very beginning of book 2 - chapter 1, scene 1. At first I felt a bit self-conscious and the words stumbled out of me as my internal editor awoke and started mumbling, "that's not very good," and "bit of a weak opening there," and "are you sure this is the best way to start?" but I forced my way onwards and, before I knew it, I had 1,289 brand news words.

It's a good start.

I wrote book 1 in 3 months and 3 weeks but didn't have much of a life outside of work and writing. This time around I'm going to give myself 6 months to finish the first draft so, fingers crossed, I should be finished by 5th June. That's 3,750 words a week if I want to write a 90,000 word first draft. Or 1,250 words 3x a week. Perfectly do-able.

I hope.

I'm still a bit nervous about getting 20,000 words in and realising the book isn't working and needs to be ditched (like I did with the original idea for book 2) but I'm feeling positive and I'm enjoying getting to know my new characters. And besides, with all four of them staring down at me from the cork board on the wall, it's not like I'm going to be able to forget about them!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Good news and bad news

There has been good news and bad news today.

The bad news is....

...one of my stories was rejected by Woman's Weekly.

Boo!

The good news is...

...one of my stories was bought by Take a Break Fiction Feast.

Yay!

It's one of the stories I wrote for my Story a Fortnight group and my second 'SAF' sale since the group started back in April. As a group we've now had TEN sales and I couldn't be more grateful to the girls for their enthusiasm, dedication and fantastic prompts!

Here's to doubling that 10 to 20 in 2009 girls! ;o)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

What's in a name?

My surname is very common, my first name is not, and if you type my full name into Facebook you'll only find 9 matches. In fact, if you type my name into google most of the results that come up are to do with me (but not the poetry, that's definitely not mine!).

So imagine my surprise when I tuned into Holby City (a medical drama for those not from the UK) on BBC 1 tonight to find that one of the 'extra' characters had EXACTLY the same name as me!

It's really quite disconcerting to watch your name-doppelganger slip into a coma while the doctors desperately shout her name and try to save her!

How about you? Have you ever watched a TV programme/film/play where a character has the same first and last name as you? Did you find it a bit freaky or am I on my own on this one?

Writers' Rooms - one for the voyeurs amongst us!

Are you curious about where other writers write? Want a peek into their rooms? Go here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7754115.stm

(link 'borrowed' from Scott Pack)

Fascinating stuff!

Seeing some of those rooms makes me want to ring up everyone who's every accused me of being messy so I can say, "You think I'm messy, look at THAT!"

And the writer with all the yellow post it notes on the wall - WOW! That's some serious plotting (at least that's what I assume it's for).

Hmmm...maybe I should get in touch with the photographer to offer him my a shot of my 'basement-like' writing room (although he'd probably say no because I'm not famous). Okay so it's not a basement (it's my bedroom) but my desk is wedged up against my bed and there isn't enough room to swing a mouse!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Spotted...

...a sign saying "Santa stop here"...

...in the window of a Funeral Director's.

Is it just me or is that a tiny bit wrong?

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Errrrrrr....

I emailed my agent about something or other the other day and said how I was SO looking forward to starting book 2 but would wait until after the mid-December meeting with my editor (so I could get her feedback first).

"I think you should start writing it anyway," my agent replied, "as they do like the idea."

Great, I thought, I can get started!

So why do I feel like my fingers (and brain) have suddenly frozen? Urrrgh.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

On wonderful things...


Sometimes in life you come across a film, book, play or piece of music that really makes you feel alive. Sometimes, if you're very lucky, these things will appear in your life one and another after another until you feel almost breathless from the emotion of it all.

That's how I felt last night - song after song after song - when I went to The Swell Season at the Royal Albert Hall. The Swell Season are Glen Hansard from Irish band The Frames and Marketa Irglova. They both appeared in a film called Once and won an Oscar in the Best Original Song category for 'Falling Slowly'.

I bought the soundtrack to Once not long after seeing the film and when I heard about The Swell Season I snapped that up too. I can't even begin to estimate how many times I've listened to those albums (click here if you want to hear a few Swell Season songs on myspace) and when I heard they were touring I was determined to snap up a ticket, no matter what the cost.

I wasn't disappointed. It was one of the best gigs I've ever been too (and I've been to a lot) and, song after song, the hairs went up on my arms and I felt...well I can't really describe how I felt. Emotional, that's for sure.

And, for a evening, I fell in love with Glen...





...and Mar




(apologies for dodgy youtube quality in both vids. Couldn't find any footage of last night so had to nick borrow what I could!)

Actually I'm still a bit in love with them both...

*ahem*

Anyway, check them out if you like melancholy, folky, singer-songwritey stuff.

Onto other wonderful things...

1) I found out last week when I'll be meeting my editor/publishers. Middle of December. And I've even got something to wear. Result.

2) My book is listed on Amazon.co.uk !!!!!!!! I was utterly flabbergasted when I typed my name into Amazon (even as I was typing it, I was thinking, this is stupid...it's not going to be there) and there it was - my name and my novel!

Ever since I first discovered Amazon I've SO wanted to have my book listed on it (even before I wrote the thing!) and now it's there, for the whole world to see (which is simultaneously exciting and terrifying).

So yes, there's no cover but there is a title, a description (and you'll see what a bizarre idea for a novel it truly is!) ...and a publication date!

And my real name (you didn't really think my parents were cruel enough to christen me Calistro did you?). Ssssshhh!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Want to write stories for women's magazines?

If there was a Royal Family of women's magazine fiction then Della Galton would undoubtedly be the Queen! Hundreds of her stories have appeared in magazines like Take a Break, Woman's Weekly, My Weekly and The People's Friend and if there's one person who knows what it takes to crack this market it's Della.

Earlier this year I travelled across the country to attend one of Della's workshops and when I heard that she was bringing out a 'how to' book I couldn't WAIT for it to come out.

Last week my copy finally arrived - and I wasn't disappointed. This is the book I wish had been published when I first started subbing to the women's magazine (womag) market back in 2005. If you're a complete beginner and haven't got the first idea:

a) what to write

b) where to submit it

b) how to submit it

then this is the book for you. Della tells you, in no uncertain terms, what types of stories work (and which don't) and how you should format them for the magazine editors. Like most books on short story writing she also covers:

  • finding ideas and inspiration
  • turning your idea into a workable plot line
  • writing effective dialogue
  • creating believable and sympathetic characters
  • settings
  • flashback and time span
  • using a theme
  • structure and pace

but what I particularly enjoyed about this book was the way Della asked (and answered!) questions that we all find ourselves asking at some point like - 'What to do if your plot doesn't work' and 'How much physical description should you use?' She uses examples from her own stories to illustrate her points and also includes extracts of fiction by other authors to show what she admires. Oh, and each chapter ends with 'Tips from the experts' - other published writers - including our very own womagwriter.

Even if you're not a complete beginner when it comes to womag stories there's still lots to learn from Della's book and I've got a feeling mine will become very well thumbed over the next couple of months. Highly recommended!


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Win a FREE edit/critique of your novel!


Have you written a novel? Want a free critique/edit in time for Christmas? Check out the fantastic competition below (the company running it, Bubblecow, was set up by one of my writer friends Caroline Smailes so I can vouch for the quality of the critique/edit you could win).

Here's what Caroline says on her site:

"In honour of the credit crunching times and to wish those who are often faithful seasonal joy, BubbleCow is offering a free in-depth edit and report to one lucky individual, drawn randomly (but always fairly) from the BubbleCow-Christmas-stocking.

On December 01 2008, one entry will be drawn from the BubbleCow-Christmas-stocking and an in-depth edit of a manuscript (up to 100,000 words) (worth £500) will be completed before Christmas.

This edit and report will be free of charge and is BubbleCow's way of spreading the Christmas love.

To enter the stocking draw for the free edit:

1. Simply email IloveChristmas@bubblecow.co.uk by midnight GMT November 30 2008.

2. To avoid being spam, the subject line of your email should read ‘I love Christmas'.

3. Within the email, confirm your name, your manuscript’s final word count and title.

4. The winner will be announced on December 01 2008 and informed by email.

5. The winner then has five days to email the manuscript to BubbleCow.

6. The in-depth edit and report will be completed before Christmas.

7. The rules and details can be found HERE.

8. It is all rather simple.

And, in case you’re currently making a list of all the things that you’d like for Christmas, check out the BubbleCow Christmas gift ideas for writers."

I so LOVE these badges (and if I ever get to do a book signing I'm so wearing "I'm a writer" and "Please buy my book" because, from what I've read of most book signings, the book browsers just tend to stare at you like you've just beamed down from outer space!)

Further proof that I have no sense of direction...

I went to Barcelona last weekend. It didn't start well. We got lost in the airport.

Yes, the airport.
Getting off the plane was simple enough but when we got to baggage control there was no sign of our flight on the boards. We looked longingly at the suitcases that whirled around the conveyor belts behind us. Where was our luggage?
"You just came from London, yes?" said a German man who could obviously read the confusion on our faces.
"Yes," we chorused.
"Me too, you need to go to Baggage Claim B," he said and sped off.
Briefly registering that we were in Baggage Claim A, we hurried after him, but he was too speedy for us and disappeared into the crowd. So we looked up, we looked down, we looked left and right and when we saw a sign that said "B" we followed it.
"Strange," I thought as we approached what looked a lot like the security check.
"Really strange," I thought as a guard asked me to take off my boots and put my bag and coat in a tray to be X-rayed.
"Really, really strange," I thought as my boarding card and passport were checked and I was waved on. "Who knew the Spanish were so security conscious about letting people into the baggage claim area?"
I turned to check that my friend was following me but she was having what looked like a slightly heated discussion with one of the guards. She'd left her boarding card on the plane and he was refusing to let her step through the x-ray machine. We tried to explain, in English (I know, bad tourists), but he wasn't having any of it. A kind stranger stepped in to say that he spoke English and would translate. So we explained and he talked to the guard, then turned back to us.
"You need to go to BA to get another boarding card for your friend," I said.
We exchanged looks.
"To get our baggage?" my friend said.
"Can't I go and get it?" I said.
"No," the stranger said. "You need to get boarding card to get on the plane."
Which is when we twigged.
I'd just been waved through into the DEPARTURES area (with a boarding pass that had already been used to get to Barcelona, not leave it!) and the security guard and stranger thought we wanted to get our luggage off the plane back to London! What we'd done was confuse 'Baggage Claim Area B' with 'Departure Area B'. Finally, looking a bit fed up with us holding up the queue, the security guard waved us both into the departure area and we walked for what felt like miles back to baggage claim area B.
And found our bags.
Hooray!

We didn't want to risk getting lost again so got a taxi to the hotel instead of negotiating the buses but the scene had been set for the rest of our holiday. We got lost several times a day during our long weekend in Barcelona:

- we ended up in the commercial district instead of Las Ramblas

- we ended up at the cathedral in the Gothic district instead of La Sagrada Familia (Gaudi's church) in a totally different area

- we ended up in a very dodgy Brixton-esque area, instead of the beach

- and to top it all a taxi driver dropped us off god-knows-where instead of at the fairytale bar we'd been looking for (and we had to get another taxi to take us to the correct place!)

But we did end up seeing a lot of Barcelona (most of it unexpected). We went to:
- Park Güell (the park Gaudi designed)

- The Cathedral (absolutely beautiful inside. The view from the roof was pretty spectacular too)

- Montjuïc Castle (quite WHY I suggested we jump in the cable car when I'm terrified of heights I don't know. I spent a good 5 minutes gripping the seat and staring at the floor)

- The beach (we got a taxi there in the end!)

- Sarriá (the guide book said we'd be charmed by its bustling atmosphere. It was deserted. Well, it was a Sunday afternoon)

- Various sites including Barcelona football club from the top of the tourist bus (red route)

- Los Carecoles (a restaurant recommended to us by an older English lady we met in Sarriá. She'd lived in Spain for a good part of her life and told us the restaurant was popular with locals and celebrities so how could we not go. The hour-long wait to get a seat wasn't much fun, although the food was gorgeous)

- El Bosc de las Fades (a bar decorated like a fairy tale forest)
- La Sagrada Familia (Bizarrely Darth Vadar and some Storm Troopers were posing outside)

Despite the fact we seemed to get lost every five minutes it was a wonderful break - if utterly exhausting because of the amount of site seeing we crammed into two days! Barcelona was really lovely and there are tons of places still to visit if I ever go back (like the Miro museum - we turned up on the only day of the week that it's closed!) but Paris still remains my favourite city in Europe. Mind you, I still have Rome, Venice and Prague on my 'must see' list so that crown could still be lost...

Breaking news...

Yesterday I came back from a long weekend in Barcelona (more on that soon) but just wanted to share the news that...

...my novel has been sold to Germany! My German publisher has also published Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding and I am utterly, utterly delighted!

My agent rang me to tell me the news while I was on the train back from London last night and it was all I could do not to squeal (I always talk very, very quietly when talking on my mobile on the train but it's VERY hard to do that when you're very excited!). I nearly nearly shared my news with the guy sitting next to me but he seemed very engrossed in his novel and besides, I'm far too British to do something like that!

I still feel like I'm living in a dream.

There's a part of me that feels like, at any second, someone is going to shake me hard, pop a pill in my mouth and tell me that I'm actually sitting in a psychiatric hospital having delusions about becoming a published author!

"Now don't be so silly, Miss Calistro," they'd say. "None of it is real. It's all in your head."

But it's not.

In other news I finally got to speak to my UK editor! It was a really, really short phone call (under 2 minutes) as she was on her way to a meeting but she said lots of lovely things - like how she was very happy to be my editor and that she was very much looking to meeting me! A couple of hours later she sent me an email saying more lovely things and now it's official...later this month, we (my agent and I) are going to my publisher's offices to meeting the team, drink champagne (!!!), have a quick meeting and then we'll be taken out to lunch.

I'm scared and excited. I'm nervous and delighted. I'm definitely more than a bit wobbly. But the one thing that's playing on my mind more than anything else is...

...what the hell do I wear?!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Fire!

How was your November 5th? I wrapped up warm, dragged my lazy bum out of the flat and went to the rainy crowd-fest that was Lewes bonfire night.

As always it was a brilliant night and the procession was as noisy and magical as ever (though I didn't really understand the Health and Safety effigy. Anyone who lives in East Sussex care to explain?).

Talking of fire - my guardian angel is most definitely looking out for me. After saving me from a melting computer a year or so ago it protected me from a smouldering set top box last night!

I'd been out of the flat for a few hours and tried to get 'Strictly Come Dancing - It Take Two' to play on the On Demand service when I returned. It didn't work so I unplugged the set top box, counted to ten, then plugged it back in. I was just about to leave the room to let it boot up when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a plume of grey smoke snaking out of the top of the set top box and a chemical burning smell filled the room. Aaagggggh! I unplugged the set top box, tapped it tentatively to see if it was hot, then hauled it up off my TV, carried it across the hallway and chucked it onto my balcony.

At first I was miffed that I had an evening of no TV and, more importantly, no broadband in front of me but gradually realised how lucky I'd been. If the set top box had started to smoulder while I was out of the house the entire flat might have burned down by the time I got home!

I rang Virgin Media and when the Indian call worker asked me, "What is the nature of the problem?" I amused myself by replying "My set top box is on fire". I could actually hear his sharp intake of breath. "Have you unplugged it madam?" he asked. Good job I had - during the 5 minutes or so it took to listen to the squillion options and press 100 different buttons my living room curtains would have been up in flames!

Anyway, good ol' Virgin. They had 2 engineers out first thing this morning to replace the set top box and I have broadband again. Hoorah!

Here are some photos I took in Lewes with my mobile phone (click on them to see a bigger version):











Friday, 31 October 2008

Need to flex your writing muscles?



In a slightly different incarnation this year but back nevertheless.

What am I on about?

In November last year Sarah Salway and Lynne Rees set up a blog. Each day for a month they posted a piece of flash fiction from their book 'Messages' and writers were asked to post a flash in the comments section in response, within 24 hours. Dozens of writer took part and, at the end of 30 days, Sarah and Lynne read through all the pieces and chose a selection to be published in a Your Messages anthology.

This year they're doing it all over again but, this time, your response should be 30 words long OR 300 words long. There won't be an anthology but the best piece, as judged by Sarah and Lynne at the end of the month, will win a fantastic selection of their books.

I really recommend giving it a go. You can think of it as a way to warm up your writing muscles each day, drop in and write something every now and then or you could use it as a way to generate a new piece of writing (you don't have to post your response in the comments if you don't want to). It's also a great way to meet new writers online and last year there was a fantastic feeling of camaraderie amongst everyone who took part.

So what are you waiting for?

Your Messages kicks off tomorrow!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Breaking news...

The Portuguese rights (Brazil only) have been sold to one of the biggest publishing houses in Brazil. It's the same company that publishes Marian Keyes (about the only thing I've got in common with her but still). Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!

My book is going to be published in a foreign language! How exciting!

Any Portuguese speakers/Brazilians amongst my blog readers? No...didn't think so!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Thank you all so much...

...for all your wonderful comments in reply to my last post. You all made the moment even more special that it already was. It would take me forever to reply to all the comments but I did read and cherish every single one. Thank you.

Sometimes having a blog bugs me and feels like a bit of a (virtual) weight around my neck. At other times, like Monday, it feels like the best thing in the world and I'm so glad I started it as I've now got a permanent (or as permanent as the web can be) record of my attempt (I hate the word 'journey') to become a published author.

So how do I follow up a post like the last one?

With a bit of a whimper really.

I don't have much to report apart from the fact I've been frantically scribbling a new outline for book two (yes, this would be my third idea for book two if you count the 20,000 words I wrote of idea 1!). I feel sorry for my agent. Just when she thinks I've sent her my 'definite, definite' idea for book two I go and send her another one!

I blame her.

She told me that book 2 needs to be 'even better' than book 1, so she's indirectly responsible for my frenzied attempts at meeting that standard.

I have to keep reminding myself that I was never 100% sure what I was doing with novel 1 and had no idea whether or not the story would work so mustn't put too much pressure on myself to come up with the 'perfect idea' for book 2. That said, having already written and ditched 20,000 words of my first attempt at book 2 I certainly don't want to make that kind of mistake again! I want to get it right.

The good thing about idea 3 is that it's already very visual in my head. One of the tips I once read on plotting a novel is to see it in your head, like you're watching a film. I pretty much lived in the film version of novel 1 while I was writing it so I think it's a good sign that I can already 'see' a lot of the locations and characters in idea 3.

Of course my agent hasn't actually replied to my email about idea 3 so she may hate it for all I know.

Or maybe she'll tell me she likes idea 2 best (which would be disappointing because I'm pretty sold on idea 3 now!).

Either way I know she's going to be talking to my editor about book 2 tomorrow.

Ah, the waiting and nerves don't stop do they?

p.s. A little coffee break tale of mine is out in My Weekly, now!

Monday, 27 October 2008

If getting an agent was the best news in the world...


...then this is the GREATEST news in the world.

I have a publisher!!!!

My amazing, fantastic, believes in my novel like no one else, agent has got me a 2 book deal with one of the UK's top publishers.

I can't believe I just wrote that.

I can't believe it's real.

I can't believe that, in a few weeks, MY PUBLISHER is going to take us both out for lunch to talk about my book and their plans for it!

Including *shakes head in astonishment* issues like cover design.

COVER DESIGN.

I've designed the cover in my head dozens of times but they'll be talking about it for real! An actual, non-imaginary cover that will have my name on it.

My book.

I really truly can't believe it.

And I haven't signed a contract yet so I suppose it's not 100% official yet.

But my agent seems to think it is.

Her most recent email to me was titled: "You are now going to be an official author"

It's still sinking in...*

And don't get me started the other talk. Talk of selling the rights to other countries and some of those countries actually showing interest.

It's more than I can take in.

*And even now, blogging about it. I feel like I'm jinxing it and I'll wake up in the morning and someone will tell me I dreamed the whole thing. But I didn't. I have my agent's email to prove it's real. But just in case I dreamed that too...don't wake me up!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

More on romantic fiction...

First off, thanks so much to everyone who sent me Birthday greetings yesterday, either on here or via email/facebook/text (oh the wonders of technology!). I had a lovely day, received lots of great presents from friends and family and spent the evening laughing my head off at a comedy club. Perfect!

Anyway, back to the post...

I think the programme "Reader, I married him..." (about romantic fiction) might have been shown a little while ago but I only just discovered it on BBC 4. For anyone that doesn't have the watch again function on their TV you can watch it online here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0074swd/Reader_I_Married_Him_Happily_Ever_After/

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!


I've been ill with a cold and chest infection this week and have been desparately willing my body to get well for my birthday today. If there's one thing worse that being another year older (yes, I finally understand why, when I was a child, my mum never got very excited by her impending birthdays) it's being ill on the actual day. I've been ill on my birthday a few times over the years (one of the joys of being born in cold and flu season!) but am pleased to report that I feel much better today (red nose excepted!).

Anyway, one of the side effects of being ill this week has been insomia. I haven't been able to get to sleep until 4 or 5am every day. That was a huge pain in the bum at first but recently my insomnia has started to bear fruit. On Thursday night I created a synopsis for the new book 2 (quite a vague synopsis but a synopsis nevertheless) and last night, during a marathon 'Anthony and Cleopatra' watching session (I'd forgotten how long a film it is!) I outlined the first nine scenes of novel 2!

This is very good progress and it's exactly what I did when I was writing novel 1. I knew the beginning, I knew the end and I only had a vague idea what happened in the middle but I knew enough about the first few scenes to get writing. Now all I need is an okay from my agent (on my synopsis) and I'll start writing. And you know what? I can't bloody wait!

On a personal level I'm not too happy about being another year older but there is cause for celebration. This has been my best writing year ever and, in the future, when I look back on this birthday, I'll always associate it with wonderful things happening to my writing career.

And yes, there is news on the search for a publisher front. But nothing official yet (and possibly for some time) so watch this space...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

What makes a great love story?

That's the subject that was explored in the latest BBC 'Imagine...' programme, fronted by Alan Yentob.

To quote the programme blurb:

"What makes a great love story? Imagine looks at the great books, films and pop songs that have tackled the thorny issue of love, pain and desire. Lancelot and Guinevere, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Lady Chatterley's Lover, 24 hours from Tulsa, Casablanca, Brief Encounter and Lolita are all great love stories. But what makes them special? 'A great love story has to have a fly in the ointment', according to Pulitzer prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides.

Other contributors include best selling authors Sarah Waters, Helen Fielding, Jane Austen's biographer Claire Tomalin, Burt Bacharach's lyricist Hal David, screen doctor Robert McKee, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and literature professor John Sutherland"

You can watch the programme using the BBC's iplayer here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00f5vk9/Imagine_Imagine..._A_Love_Story/

(available to watch online until 9th December).

I found it to be a really thought provoking programme, particularly as love is something that features heavily in novel 1 (and is also the subject of novel 2). What particularly interested me was the debate on whether or not a love story should have a happy ending. Helen Fielding (author of "Bridget Jones's Diary") argued that there should be happy endings in light entertainment and Robert McKee (author of screenwriting bible "Story") agreed that romantic-comedies should have happy endings but that true love stories are more powerful for having tragic endings.

I have to admit I'm a fan of both types of story. Some of my all time favourite films end tragically - Casablanca, The English Patient and The End of the Affair for example - but I do like love stories in books to end happily (mostly).

I won't give away how novel 1 ends (or it'll spoil it for you if/when it gets published) but what do you think? Do the best love stories end happily or tragically? Which ones stay with you the longest?

And which modern love stories (post "Pride and Prejudice" and "Wuthering Heights") have you most enjoyed and why?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Blog award/meme

Thank you to Paige, Lily and Womag (and someone else, sorry got a bit lost in blogworld trying to find you) for giving me this blog award . I promise to get back to blogging about writing very soon but my brain is too wrapped up in novel 2 to blog about the process. The plan is to blog about the difference between plotting a multi-character novel in the 3rd person (novel 2) verses one main character 1st person (novel 1) but don't hold your breath. I've got a fair bit of work to do yet!

One thing I can say is that public transport is doing amazing things for novel 2. I've been inspired on the train, in a taxi and I nearly missed my stop on the tube the other day because I couldn't stop scribbling into my notebook.

Anyway, this is the blog award I was given:



And, because you get nothing for free in this life, I have to answer some questions to earn my award (using only one word answers). So here we go:

1. Where is your cell phone? Sofa

2. Where is your significant other? Who?

3. Your hair color? Brunette

4. Your mother? Supportive

5. Your father? Hero

6. Your favorite thing? Yeses (as in 'do you want to buy this story?' or 'are you my agent?')

7. Your dream last night? Confusing

8. Your dream/goal? Bestseller

9. The room you're in? Living

10. Your hobby? Writing

11. Your fear? Illness

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Content

13. Where were you last night? Life-drawing

14. What you're not? Short

15. One of your wish-list items? House

16. Where you grew up? Army

17. The last thing you did? Type

18. What are you wearing? Jeans

19. Your TV? Widescreen

20. Your pets? None

21. Your computer? Laptop

22. Your mood? Optimistic

23. Missing someone? Gran

24. Your car? Nonexistant

25. Something you're not wearing? Socks

26.Favourite store? Jewellery

27. Your summer? Variable

28. Love someone? Many

29. Your favorite color? Blue

30. When is the last time you laughed? Today

31. Last time you cried? Friday

Now I'm supposed to pass this on to seven other bloggers but it feels a bit like the whole internet has already done this so...if you haven't consider yourself tagged!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Breaking the Block

The name of this blog is a bit of a misnomer.

I haven't been writing.

Infact, I haven't written anything for a very long time.

My contribution to my Story a Fortnight group has been zilch (and I feel particularly guilty about that) and as for my novel writing... what novel writing?

For a while now I've been wrestling with novel #2. Not physically as I haven't actually touched it for months. But mentally. What to do about novel #2?

I'm just not in love with it.

I'm not in love with the plot, the character or the premise.

That's why I found getting those first 20,000 words out such an ordeal.

My heart wasn't in it.

But I was scared to ditch it because it fits so well with novel #1. Well...it's paranormal and that's about the only way it fits. Because, when I re-read novel #1 recently, I realised that what novel #2 lacks is a premise that touches me. Novel #1 makes people who read it cry. There's something about novel #1 that touches people. It explores love, loss, hopes and dreams. It's about selflessness and sacrifice.

Novel#2 is about 'going after your dreams'.

Which isn't a bad premise per se but it's not one that touches me profoundly. Nothing I've written so far has made me laugh out loud or brought me even vaguely close to tears.

And I don't want to write a book I'm not in love with.

I can't.

So I been thinking about an alternate novel #2. A novel that is paranormal but has stronger themes.

And I was scared to ask my agent if, maybe, possibly I could ditch novel #2 and write a replacement.

I shouldn't have been scared because my agent immediately replied saying she didn't want me to write something I wasn't in love with and could I run the idea for new novel #2 by her?

So I did.

It was only a vague idea. It didn't even have a plot.

But she said she liked it. And she liked my temporary title for it.

And I felt heartened and set about trying to think the novel through, trying to work out the plot.

But my brain refused to co-operate and I hit wall after wall after wall. My brain, my creative centre, was empty.

And I seriously started to think I'd never write another novel.

Then, tonight, I got out my 'how to plot' book and read a bit. Still my brain was blank. So I picked up one of the books that I won in Lucy's prize giveaway ("Morality Tale" by Sylvia Brownrigg) and, as I read about a world so far removed from my idea for novel #2 that they couldn't be more different, I had an idea.

And scribbled it down in my notebook.

Then I went back to Sylvia's novel.

And had another idea.

And suddenly...suddenly...almost magically...I knew what replacement novel #2 was about. I know what the premise is and it explores themes that really touch me.

I don't, exactly, know what the plot is yet but I know what emotional journey two of the characters need to go on.

And I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.

And I feel a teeny, tiny bit excited.

So my solution to beating writers block? Read something totally unconnected to what you want to write.

What are your solutions?

Sunday, 5 October 2008

My first book launch (aka Lovely Caroline and Lovely The Friday Project)




















(photo shamefully stolen from Liz!)

So, I couldn't let another day go by without blogging about Caroline's book launch the other week.

I'd never been to a book launch before - I was supposed to go to the Your Messages (which contains two of my flashes) book launch earlier this year but was ill - so was really excited about finally getting to go to one. Not just about attending a book launch but about attending Caroline's book launch and meeting up with some of my fellow Novel Racers. When you're a writer there are so few occasions to be sociable with other writers that I leapt at the chance to go along.

And a bloody good evening it was too.

The second I stepped off the escalator on the third floor of Borders, Oxford street I spotted CC Devine and Jude (who I'd never met but recognised straight away. God bless Facebook!) and then (oh dear, it's a bit of a blur now), Leigh, Juliette (and the Ginger Guitarist), Kate, Cathy and Helen (and the man I mistook for The Welshman. Sorry about that). In fact, there were so many of us that knew each other the circle we formed as we got together for a gossip and catch-up, glass of wine in hand, took up most of the space at the top of the escalator!

And then lovely Caroline arrived! (with her lovely family)

Poor thing. She looked a tad bewildered at the mob that descended on her the second she stepped onto the floor but she looked the picture of elegance in her black dress and heels (I want to be an elegant author damnit!) and her family so was damned adorable I wanted to squeeze them all! I had a quick chat with Caroline and then she was whisked away (where I'm not sure) and we all chatted a bit more, drank a bit more, then took our seats. The book launch couldn't have been more different from the gallery showing I went to a few weeks ago. It was so wonderfully friendly, fun and chilled and I felt like a real part of it instead of a casual observer.

Anyway, Caroline reappeared from wherever she'd been hiding and her editor, Clare Christian, said a few - wonderfully supportive - words and then presented Caroline with some flowers and a present and then Caroline said a few words (which were really lovely) and then sat to read from her new novel, Black Boxes.

And then I felt nervous for her. Actually I wasn't nervous for her (she seemed so assured). I was nervous for me. Wondering how the hell I'd ever manage to do a reading in front of ALL THOSE FACES with a microphone in front of my mouth. And I felt a bit sick at the thought but I tell you what, I learned a lot about doing a reading from Caroline. She read so, so beautifully. There was such a lyrical, melodic quality to the way that she read and the rise and fall of her voice, the words, that transfixed the audience. I didn't want her stop.

But she did. She had to. She had to answer some questions on her book! And then a representative of One in Four (the charity Caroline generously supported with the proceeds of her novella Disraeli Avenue) said a few words and thanked Caroline for her support.

And then we queued to get our books signed and I met Liz Fenwick at last (and lovely and effervescent she was too) and her friend Biddy, Pierre L blog-reader extraordinaire AND I got to meet writing legend Sarah Salway at last (and discovered, via a Facebook connection, that we both knew someone not connected with the writing world) AND I got to meet the superfit journalist Julia Buckley whose blog (and magazine/newspaper columns) I'd read but never actually talked to in the virtual world.

So finally, signed book in hand, it was time to go. And there were lots of goodbyes and hugs and "we should do this again" and then I got lost in Black Boxes all the way home (it's the kind of book that sucks you in and you just can't stop reading). I haven't finished it yet as I'm currently reading about 3 books at the same time but I can't wait to dedicate a rainy Sunday afternoon (and I get the feeling there will be a lot of those over the next few months!) to lose myself again in the world of Ana and Pip.

And why do I love the The Friday Project nearly as much as I love Caroline? Because of this...


... my prize for winning Caroline's Black Boxes photo competition. Will you look at that loot! How wonderful to get my hands on so many books that I've read about on the net and wondered about (and wanted). And two mini twixes too! Clare Christian sure knows the way to a woman's heart. Books and chocolate. Perfect! :o) Thank you so, so much.
p.s. Sorry if I've forgotten to mention anyone I met/talked to at the launch. It's all a bit of a bit of a blur now and not just because of the wine involved!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Good news!

I haven't blogged about Caroline's book launch yet (it was excellent!) but just HAD to post this first...

Just found out that my story "My Daughter the Deep Sea Diver" has placed 3rd in the Writers Bureau short story competition! I've been trying to crack this competition for years (well, three or four) and now I have!

I couldn't be more delighted!

I think my story will be available to read online in the next couple of days if anyone's interested.

No news on the novel. I completed the edits last week and it's in the hands of the gods (well, my agent/editors) now. If it sells I will squeal like I've never squealled in my life before (and I'm not a squeally type of girl!) but I've been reading writers' blogs/forums for long enough now to know that getting an agent doesn't guarantee a thing. It could still all go horribly wrong and I might be one of those writers that has to write 3, 4 or 5 books before they see their work on the shelves. If ever. But we'll see. Fingers crossed and baby steps and all that.

And in the meantime. Third place in the Writers Bureau comp. Squeeeeeee!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Guardian Writing Tips

The Guardian newspaper are running a series called "How to Write". So far there are articles by Robert Harris, Wendy Cope and Catherine Tate.

Talking of Catherine Tate....this made me laugh out loud....

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Short Story Challenge

Like short story competitions?

Like writing to prompts?

Thrive on a deadline?

Got £15?

Want to (potentially) win £110?

Got enough time in the next 20 weeks to write a story a fortnight?

If the answers to the above questions are YES! (or even Yes Please!) get yourself along to Slingink and sign up for the Eurofiction competition.

It's called Eurofiction because, a bit like Eurovision, the submitted stories are given a score (some stories get 'nil point'!) and the scores are collated in a league table. Over the 20 weeks (10 stories) you'll see yourself rise (or fall!) in the table and the writer with the highest cumulative score at the end of the competition is the winner. You'll also receive your score via email with a couple of brief lines of critique.

I entered last year (and the year before that) and while I didn't win I did get a lot out of it. It increased my short story productivity for one and I even went on to sell a couple of my stories.

I should note here that this competition isn't without its hiccups and, pretty much every year, entrants moan that they want to know who the judges are and what qualifies them to judge a short story competition (the judges are anonymous and plan on remaining that way!) and there are some heated discussions about whether or not the top scoring merited its score or not. Oh..and if you're a very literary writer you probably won't score very well. This is a comp for the genre writers amongst you.

I say go for it. It's a bit of fun and you'll be 10 stories up by the end of it if nothing else. You'll need to sign up as a Slingink member before you can enter the comp (membership is free). Oh yes, and it all kicks off on 1st October so make sure you register in good time.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Screenprints and Sunsets

A few posts ago I talked about the magic tiles I ordered from talented artist Rob Ryan. Mister Rob, as he is known, is based in London and has a shop in the east end that's only open on a Sunday. I really, really want to go and visit his shop but, what with the rewrite for MsAgent and everything, I haven't really got time.

So imagine my delight when I received an email from Mister Rob yesterday saying that a gallery on Brighton seafront was exhibiting his work.

AND...

...the first 50 people to step through the doors at 6pm on opening night would receive a free lazer cut (shown above).

I couldn't believe my luck!

I hot-footed it down there and arrived at the door five minutes early (but it was okay, five other people were already in the gallery so I wasn't the only obsessive fan to rush down there). After a bit of faffing about and confusion I was given my free print, paid to have it framed (ooh it's going to look soooooooo lovely) and wandered round looking at Mister Rob's prints.

They were absolutely gorgeous and if I ever have a spare £1,500 I'm so going to buy one of the original lazer cuts (or a spare £400 for a print).

As I wondered past the cash desk on the way out I couldn't resist buying a copy of Mister Rob's book This Is for You*. It was more expensive than the copies sold on Amazon but I wasn't bothered. I just wanted to look at more prints and read more words.

As the sun slipped down the sky I took my book down to the seafront, sat down on the pebbles and turned the first page.

And discovered that it was a signed copy!

A perfect end to a wonderful afternoon :o)

* the most romantic book I've read in a long, long time. If you are a man and you want to buy your partner a present that will make her melt. GET IT! And if you're a woman with a romantic bone in your body, GET IT! Honestly, it's so lovely.

p.s. If you've found this blog via Caroline's widget please leave me a comment to say hello. I promise my blog posts aren't normally this mushy/gushy!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

My new favourite thing...

...is the widget Stray created for the launch of Caroline Smailes's new book Black Boxes.

If you look over to the right of the page, under my profile stuff, you'll see a tantalising button marked 'Decide'.

Go on, give it a push and see where it takes you....

Oh, and I just wanted to say a big thank you to Lane for giving me a blog friendship award




I'm supposed to pass it on to three (or is it 5?) other people but I can't. Far too many of you have been a friend to me over the year(s) and I'd worry that I'd missed someone out.

So this is for all of you - all my blogging friends - for, as it says on the cups, your trust, kindness, honesty and caring. Feel free to put it on your blog and say I gave it to you. Because I did. x

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Secret's Out!

My novel is a finalist in the Chicklitwriter's Stiletto contest (Paranormal Chicklit category)!!!!!!

Someone rang me from America to tell me the news but my voicemail cut out part way through the message. Good job they followed it up with an email to confirm the details.

I was sworn to secrecy because some of the other categories hadn't had their scores finalised but a list of finalists has been published on a few blogs now so I think I'm free to talk about it.
Basically I received my two crit sheets back via email a week or so ago and was given until 10th September to edit my MS for final judging (by a US agent and editor). I finally finished the edits this evening and the first 35 pages of my novel are electronically winging their way to the organisers as we speak.
The final results will be announced in November so cross your fingers for me :o)

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Best Book Ever

Fionnuala got in touch to say she was linking to me so off I went to check out her blog and found this great animation about writing (and then I stole it, sorry Fionnuala!). I've seen it before but it still makes me smile.

The Best Book Ever...

Friday, 5 September 2008

If you've lost your luck fairy I think I may have her!

Either the luck fairy was blown off course and has landed on my shoulder or...well, I don't know really but I'm starting to wonder if I'm due for a massive fall because wonderful things keep happening to me!

First I won Lucy Diamond's limerick competition

Then I found out some secret news (sorry, still can't tell you!)

Then I got myself an agent

And earlier today I found out that Clare Christian chose my photo as the winner in Caroline's Black Boxes photo competition!

My truly wonderful prize is a signed copy of Caroline Smailes's fantastic new book Black Boxes and a book bundle from her publishers! Caroline is a wonderfully talented writer (have you read "In Search of Adam" yet? If not, you should!) and I absolutely can't wait to start reading Black Boxes.

I'm kind of gob-smacked.

A lot gob-smacked actually.

Please don't hate me internet. I'm sure this run of luck won't last!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

A new way to get published?

Very interesting post on Scott Pack's blog today about a website set up by Harper Collins (called Authonomy) where writers can upload their unpublished novels for review and possible talent spotting by agents and publishers or, as Harper Collins put it, "for promoting and recruit new writing and editorial talent". Worth a look.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

There is such a thing as a free lunch...

... and very nice it was too! :o)

I was REALLY nervous on the way to the agency's offices this afternoon but my agent was really welcoming and put me at ease. Her office was exactly as you'd imagine an agent's office to look - with bookshelves up the ceilings, lined with book after book after brightly coloured book and piled high with what looked like manuscripts. I so wanted to have a nose about but we only stayed in the office long enough for her to grab her bag and then we were off to the restaurant for lunch.

It was a Moroccan place and really nice (not surprising considering I was in a very nice part of West London). MsAgent asked me if I wanted a drink and looked a bit disappointed when I asked for a glass of wine so I let her talk me into sharing a bottle of very nice Chablis! She was totally lovely and as enthusiastic and excited about novel #1 as she was on the phone and via email. We made a bit of small talk as the wine kicked in then she gave me a copy of a novel by one of their newest chicklit authors (apparently it has sold over 90,000 copies. Wow...I can but dream!) and then talked about my novel a bit more and the changes she wants me to make before she starts approaching some editors. Luckily none of the changes are too substantial. Yay!

Then we talked about novel #2* and what I need to do to that. A bit of work to do on chapters 1 & 2 but she absolutely loved chapter 3. Hoorah!

After we'd eaten NiceMrAgent turned up to say hello (he's the one that owns the agency) and he was absolutely charming and had some wonderful things to say about my idea for novel #3.

Then we went on to have a general chat about everything and anything and, before I knew it, it was 3 hours later and time to go!

I've got a very busy month ahead of me. Somewhat optimistically (or is that stupidly?) I've agreed to make all the changes MsAgent requested by the end of September (for both novels!)

Better get moving...but maybe not tonight!

* If an agent asks for the full of your novel it's not a bad idea, whilst waiting for their feedback, to prepare an outline or synopsis for your second novel (and a first chapter if possible). That's because, as I found out today, if an agent signs you and wants to try for a two book deal they'll need to give editors your finished novel AND a synopsis/outline of novel #2 as well as 1-3 chapters.

Oh! And one more tip from today's meeting. When subbing to an agent make sure your cover letter is as good as you can make it. It's the first thing they read and they want to see some evidence that you've done some research about who they are and what they're about. So don't send a generic "Dear agent, here's my novel..." letter. Start your letter by saying why you've chosen that particular agency (you could mention other authors they represent for example, or the agent's reputation, or anything else that shows, as Ms Agent put it, "you've done your research").

I asked what MsAgent would read next and she said "the synopsis". I then asked how much of the 3 chapters she'd read before deciding whether or not a submission was for her. She said something along the lines of "if it hasn't grabbed me after 2 pages I'll stop reading". BigShot backed this up and said that the first page has to be as good as you can make it. So really, really concentrate on making your first chapter as good as you can get it before subbing.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Signed, sealed, delivered...

I'm yours! Or they're mine (depending on how you view the author/agent relationship!).

Two contracts (one for me to send back, one for me to keep), a covering letter and a map showing me how to get to the offices arrived this morning.

Here's me signing the contract this morning. I felt like I should do it with some kind of fancy pen (but I don't have a fancy pen so made do with my favourite ballpoint!)



The contract is now in the post, winging its way to London.

Is it sad that I've already framed the letter that says "Welcome to the Agency!" and put it on my desk?

*grins*

I've been asked to send the agent the first 3 chapters of novel #2 so am currently working through it, desperately trying to polish it (considering it's a first draft) and worrying that it's not nearly as compelling/funny/loveable as novel #1! Oh that getting an agent meant you stopped worrying about your writing being shit!

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Magic Tiles?

Thank you to everyone for all your comments and well-wishes after yesterday's news. I'm really, really touched that so many people dropped by and left a message. And to the friends that called me up as soon as they heard the news. As I said in my last post this development isn't my dream come true yet (getting my book published) and it could still go horribly wrong, but it is a very reassuring step in the right direction!

I'm not quite as manic today as I was yesterday but I'm still incredibly excited and nervous about Wednesday when I'll go to the agency, meet everyone (including NiceMrAgent who first asked for the full of my novel back in November last year! Gosh...this has being going on for 10 months now!) and then go out for lunch with my agent to talk about my book, what happens next and discuss book 2. I've sent her two synopses - one for book #2 (which, like novel #1, has a supernatural element and I've written 20,000 words of it) and one for book #3 (which is 'normal' women's fiction, no supernatural bits and I've plotted it but not written a word!).

I've got a feeling that the agent will go for novel #2 but who knows! Maybe I'll have to come up with a totally new idea?

Anyway, on to the 'magic tiles' of this post's title...

For quite a while now I've been a big fan of an artist called Rob Ryan. He creates screen prints (on paper and tiles) from handcrafted cut outs/stencils. His work is incredibly imaginative, detailed, romantic and just, well, beautiful and I've wanted to buy something from his online shop for AGES. Unfortunately I can't afford one of his prints (about £200-£300 each) at the moment but the tiles are much more reasonably priced at £30 each.

Last week I ordered two and, after yesterday's developments, I'm starting to believe that they might possibly possess magical powers!

This is the one that arrived yesterday morning, a few hours before my agent called me...


And this is the one that arrived this morning...



*smiles*

I'm going to cherish these tiles for a long, long time.

Friday, 29 August 2008

The Most Wonderful News in the World!

Those of you who are my facebook friends will know that I posted a status message "Cally is rubbish at keeping secrets but can't say anything for at least a week".

Well....I can't tell you what that secret is yet but I received some more good news about half an hour ago...

The foreign rights agent at NiceMrAgent's agency rang me to say he'd given her my novel to read on her holidays and...

SHE ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!!

She said it made her laugh and cry and she thought it was such a clever, believable idea and she'd fallen in love with it. She said she had UK publishers in mind she thought might love it and that foreign publishers were after a book like mine and she'd like to take it to the London Book Fair. And we talked about 'the secret' and she thought that was great too. And we talked and we talked and her excitement and enthusiasm were palpable and I said, in a little voice,

"So, um, are you my agent then?"

And she said, "Yes!"

And she said there were a few things she'd like me to tweak ("but it's pretty much perfect") and she asked me to send her a bio. And just now I received an email from her saying my contract was in the post and could I meet her for lunch next week?

And I can't stop crying.

Obviously there's still a long road to go down and I know of lots of authors who've got themselves an agent but couldn't find a publisher but hearing MY AGENT (oh wow, I still can't believe I can finally type those two words) say "I fell in love with your book" made all the hard work and the stress and the late nights and the self-doubt and the worry worthwhile.

I'm the happiest woman in the world.