Thursday, February 19, 2009

Awards, Parties, Deals and Book Covers

Forgive me blog readers for I have sinned. My name is Calistro and it's been a week since my last confession blog post.

It's been one hell of a busy week though. Actually a busy week and a half if I'm talking about things I haven't actually blogged about.

First was the RNA Awards lunch last Tuesday. I wasn't planning on going as I haven't actually got round to joining up yet (bad Calistro) but the lovely Liz Fenwick told me she had a spare ticket and asked whether I'd like to buy it. It would be a great insight into the RNA she said and besides, my agent was going! After thinking about it for all of 30 seconds I bit her hand off! The life of a writer is about as far from glamorous as it gets (you should see the state of my bedroom/study!) and I couldn't resist the idea of a 3 course meal in a fancy hotel in London and an awards ceremony.

I wasn't disappointed. The venue was absolutely crammed with writers of all ages dressed up in their finery and I was temporarily hit by an "Aaaaggh, I don't know anyone!" feeling as I walked in. Luckily Liz, looking gorgeous in a black dress and orange jacket, was at the bar so I hurried up to her. She immediately introduced me to lots of fellow writers and we went for a mingle. It wasn't long before Debs spotted me and came over to say hello. She looked gorgeous too and we were mid chat when my editor came over and asked if she could borrow me (I hadn't realised my publishers were there!). I was then introduced to the PR & Marketing team and had a long discussion with the Director about his plans for my book - including some quizzes and fun stuff on the publisher's website when my book comes out. All really exciting stuff.
Midway through that conversation I spotted my agent and someone announced it was time for lunch so off we went into the main dining room. Oooh it was gorgeous! Beautiful black and red feathery candelabra decorations in the middle of each table and lots of shiny cutlery and about four wine glasses at each place setting. Here's a fairly rubbish camera phone pic I took of mine!

On the menu was:

Starter: Scottish Salmon Parfait with Tuna Tartar and Creme Fraiche Caviar

Main: Fillet of Chicken filled with a Paris Mushroom Mousse, Marsala Cream Sauce, Marquis Potatoes and Sugar Snap Peas

Dessert: Bitter Lemon Tart with Creme Fraiche Sorbet and Raspberry Jelly

It really was gorgeous food although I probably didn't appreciated it as much as I should have as I talked pretty much all the way through the meal! First to the writer on my right (who was doing a PhD in Creative Writing), her friend (who runs a self-publishing website for writers) and then to my agent and Liz who were sitting to my left.

When the meal ended it was time for the awards. Unfortunately Peter Bowles (who was due to make the presentations) was too ill to appear but the stand-in MC did a fine job. India Grey won the award for the Romance Prize 2009 for her novel "Mistress: Hired for the Billionaire's Pleasure" and Julia Gregson won the Romantic Novel of the Year 2009 for her novel "East of the Sun". Julia, who I didn't get to meet, has the same publisher as me so that was particularly exciting!

After the awards people mingled a bit and I got to meet two lovely authors who are also with my agency and then Liz suggested we go off to the pub. I didn't have to be asked twice! We went off to the pub across the road and I got to meet the very friendly and welcoming Katie Fforde (I was a bit star struck!) and writer-extraordinaire Julie Cohen who, along with prolific Mills and Boon author Fiona Harper gave me lots of useful advice about beating second novel syndrome! I stayed for a couple of glasses of wine and then made my excuses as I had work the next morning!

Last night it was my publisher's author party. I've been hugely excited about it for AGES and even dropped out of a holiday so I could attend. It didn't disappoint! It was held in the Victoria and Albert museum in London and I was instantly wowed by the circular champagne bar that had been set up in the middle of the room and the amazing glass sculpture that hung from the ceiling above it.

I'd only just stepped into the room with my agent when my editor spotted me and asked for me to pose for photos with a fellow author whose name I instantly forgot (pretty much the theme of the evening!). We then had to have individual profile photos taken which was horribly cringe-worthy (I hate having my photo taken!) but over quite quickly!

Agent and I then wandered round and she introduced me to loads of people including publishing scouts and other agents (isn't it ironic that, when you're unpublished you'd give anything to be introduced to a roomful of agents, but when you've got a publishing contract you can't move without knocking into one!). I also spotted lots of people from my publishers who I've met before so stopped to chat to them about their jobs and the processes involved in getting a book published.

As if by magic, every time my glass of champagne started to look even the slightest bit empty, a member of the V&A staff would appear by my side and pour some more in. As a result I haven't got the slightest clue how much I drunk but it was a lot! Luckily there were also canapes available so I tried to soak up some of the alcohol with mini mushroom tarts, little sausages with dips and diddy treacle tarts. After starting the night by putting my badge on upside down (luckily my agent spotted the error before I walked in!) and then dropping my ticket on the floor and trying and failing to pick it up for a good minute or so (I'd had my first ever set of acrylic nails fitted specially for the party and they don't work like normal nails!) I think I avoided making too much of a tit of myself and didn't, I hope, say anything too stupid to anyone!

Highlights of last night include spending time with Kate Harrison, Meg Sanders and Veronica Henry, rubbing shoulders (literally) with Michael Palin who was standing right beside me at one point (I was too chicken to interrupt his conversation to say "hello, I love you"!) , hearing the design department's ideas for my book cover (so close to my ideal cover it was freaky!) and the news that my agent has got me another foreign deal - this time with Hungary!

The party ended at about 9pm (we'd pretty much drunk the bar dry by that point) and a few of us went on to a local bar to share a bottle of wine. At about 10.30pm I shared a taxi to the station with Kate Harrison and sprinted across the platform to catch my train.

Lots of people told me last night that such glamorous events are becoming increasingly rare in the publishing industry (particularly in the current economic climate) so I made sure I enjoyed every single last second. I can't even begin to explain how surreal it felt to be in the midst of a world I've so longed to be part of, and how I had to keep mentally pinching myself that it really was real. If it weren't for the hangover I'd be walking on air today!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Black Books in Brighton

I was going to write a blog post about going to the Romantic Novelists Association awards lunch the other day. And I will. But it's late and I wanted to post this instead!

In case you didn't know the lovely Caroline Smailes has decided to celebrate the launch of the paperback of her fantastic second novel - Black Books - by holding a fanastic competition with loads of great prizes! All you need to do to take part is to take a photo of Caroline's book on sale in a bookshop and the most imaginative photo (as judged by Scott Pack) wins all the prizes!

Now I wasn't sure about entering this competition (mostly because I won the flying saucers in Caroline's last competition and the bundle of books when the hardback of Black Books came out) but I couldn't not take part - it was too exciting! One of my writer friends has a book out and said book is in bookshops up and down the country. I wanted to see how many I could find!

I was going into Brighton anyway so plonked my mobile phone (which has a rubbish camera inbuilt) into my bag and set off for town. As I was walking I started to think of all the wonderfully inventive ways I could take a photo of Caroline's book. Maybe I could ask a whole bunch of customers to cheer and jump up and down whilst holding copies of the book. Or maybe I could convince a whole load of staff to stand by the table and point at Caroline's book. Or maybe...

You get the idea. My imagination was running wild.

So I walked into the first bookshop on my travels - Waterstones. I slipped through the entrance and wandered over to the nearest 3 for 2 table. Nope, no book. Next one? Nope, no book. Third one?


Tons of Caroline's books.

Now what?

I rooted around in my bag for my mobile. And I rooted a bit more. And a bit more (my bag is full of crap). And various people passed me and frowned and I started to feel a bit self-conscious standing by a 3 for 2 table rooting around in my bag so I sloped off to a lesss conspicuous part of the store and rummaged some more. Result! By this point I'd been in the shop for a good few minutes and hadn't even looked at a book. I felt like I had a big red arrow over my head going "Suspicious" so I hurried back to the table, opened the shutter on my camera phone and click!

This is the photo I took:

Hmmm, I thought. Not a bad photo, but not very inventive and it doesn't give Caroline a sense of where the book actually is (she could end up with lots of close-ups of her book!).
So then I took this:

Look! Real people, standing near Caroline's book. And up on the wall it says "Stones, Brighton" which is kind of clever because there are lots of stones pebbles on the beach. No? Okay, I didn't think it was a particularly inventive photo either but by this point I'd started to worry that I might feel a heavy hand on my shoulder and a "Excuse me madam, what are you doing?" so I hurried out of the shop!

Next I went into Borders. I meandered around the shop trying to look casual but actually feeling guilty, like some kind of book pervert on a mission to take illicit photographs of unknowing paperbacks. I weaved in and out of various tables and then - spotted! - more copies of Caroline's book. On a 3 for 2 table. I drew closer but there was a woman standing right in front of Caroline's books. With a copy in her hand! And she was reading the back!
I was so excited, and so keen not to disturb her, I skipped away then thought, hang on, how many authors get to see photos of people they don't know reading their book?

So out came the camera again and I took this:

And the shutter noise was so freaking LOUD I was convinced the woman would realise I was taking a photo of her and ask me what the hell I was doing - so I ran away!
So there you go. Jack Bauer on a mission I'm not. I'm a big scaredy cat and I didn't ask ANYONE to help me take an inventive photo but there's no reason why you can't do better.
So what are you waiting for...get over to Caroline's blog, read the rules and go off on your own little mission.
And if all that sounds too much like hard work (or you're snowed in) you can always order a copy of Black Boxes from instead!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

New Newsy News Type Stuff

I'm Tracy McDonut and here is the writing news in brief....


The title of Book 1 has changed. It's now officially called XXXXX [edited to remove title as was making this blog google-able] What do you think? Like it? Don't tell me if you hate it for the love of God. I'm still trying to get my head around it. And remember it. How weird is it that I keep forgetting the title of my own book?!

If you've pre-ordered on Amazon under the old title don't worry your order still stands and you'll get the newly titled book (apparently the ISBN is set in stone so the Amazon page won't change if the book title changes).


My publisher has released the name of book 2 to the press (well, The Bookseller) and I'm still writing it. That's a bit freaky.


Yesterday my agent let me know that the next set of edits I'll be getting for Book 1 will be the copy editor's edits. This means that my edits got past my editor. Hooray! Am now getting nervous about how nit picky the copy editor is and hope she doesn't spot anything that requires massive amounts of re-writing.


Still no news on the book cover. Mind you the new title has only just been agreed so am not surprised.


My agent asked me to send my edited manuscript for Book 1 to her because there has been "some film interest" and she needs to send it to her script agent in LA. Funnily enough I am not squeeeeeeeeeeee-ing and running around the room because...

a) I know only about 0.01% of books become films
b) And even if they do the film doesn't come out until about 5 squillion years after the book
c) Your book can be optioned and the film can still fall through
d) 'interest' does not equal 'film' - it's just someone being vaguely interested, probably in a 'flick through this then put it in the bin' kind of way
e) I've known other people who've talked about interest in their book/screenplay and nothing has ever happened

... but I DO love the idea that there's a script agent in LA. I imagine him in a hat tipped forward over his eyes, velvet jacket, smoking a cigar, his feet up on the table and a hot line to Tom Cruise.


Agent also asked for a one paragraph summary of Book 2 and I didn't ask why (I think I may be a very low maintenance author)


Only 3,000 more words and I'll have written a third of the first draft of novel 2


My ticket to the Romantic Novelists Association lunch/awards thingy just arrived in the post. I'll be sitting with Liz Fenwick and my agent. Very exciting! :o)


This is the end of the new newsy news type stuff. Hope you're all having a good weekend.

Novel 2 word count: 27,057 / 90,000 (30.1%)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Remembering Lisa

This morning I woke up to the news that a fellow writer, and member of the Novel Racers, passed away yesterday afternoon.

I only met Lisa once - at the Novel Racers meet in Manchester last year - but I was a regular follower of her blog Hesitant Scribe and greatly admired her determination, her strength of spirit and her passion.

The blog world feels quiet today, now it's lost such a unique voice, but Lisa left all writers a great gift at the end of her final blog post. She wrote, "Writers...write!"

In 2006 I lost a very dear friend. She was only 33 and had her whole life ahead of her. I'd never lost anyone so young before and her death hit me hard. I felt like my world, and my understanding of life, had been turned upside down. But she too gave me a gift. She taught me that life is short and that we have to chase our dreams while we can.

That's why, several months later, I sat down and wrote the first draft of novel 1 in just under four months. It's so easy to procrastinate, to make excuses, to let life get in the way but if you want something, if you really, really want something you have to chase after it like there is no tomorrow. Because sometimes there is no tomorrow.

As I read Lisa's last few blog postings I realised that I'd been taking life for granted, that I was letting the little things bring me down and looking to the future instead of enjoying the moment. What I should have been doing was relishing the fact that I was young, healthy...and alive.

Lisa reminded me that life is to be cherished, not wished away and for that I thank her.

If you'd like to make a donation to Cancer Research in Lisa's memory please do so here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Itsy bitsy, teeny weeny... Netbook!

Yep, it's arrived! And SO much smaller than I'd imagined too. Here's a photo of my 'normal' (17" wide screen) laptop and my new Samsung NC10 10.2-inch Netbook. Please excuse the messiness that is my desk!

It's like a mini-me of my normal laptop and SOOOO light!

I've already installed YWriter on it so now, in theory, I can work on my novel on either laptop - as long as I remember to transfer the files via a flash pen.

The only downsides I can see so far are the fact that the Netbook doesn't have a CDROM drive (I've just ordered an external USB DVD/CD drive via Amazon so I can install Windows Office) and the fact that the shift key on the right hand side of the keyboard is that bit further away than normal so when I try to type a capital letter beginning with a,w,e etc it turns out as \a or \e because I'm only stretching far enough to hit the '\' key (which is where the shift key is on my big laptop). I'm sure I'll get used to it in time though.

The other thing I need to get used to is the fact that the button under the touchpad is really thin and therefore a bit fiddly. It's only one button as well, unlike the two on my big laptop, so I have to find alternate ways to do things that normally require a click of the right button. Mind you I can plug a USB mouse in so that's one way of getting around things.

All in all though I'm really pleased. I was worried that the keyboard would be too small to touch type but it's absolutely fine and I don't have tiny fingers! The font size is fine too - no problems there - and I haven't encountered any websites I can't read or navigate (despite the small screen size).

According to the various reviews I've read the Netbook has a good 7 hours battery life when charged so that's perfect for writing my novel or surfing the web on a train or plane journey or in a cafe or the garden (I'm already dreaming of sunnier weather!) .

So there you go - that's a Calistro thumbs up for the Samsung Netbook. Guess I've got no excuse not to get on with writing novel 2 then. Talking of which...

26,098 / 90,000 (29% of novel written)

Monday, February 2, 2009

More snow than I've seen in 10 years...

For blog readers who don't live in the UK we've been talking about the weather even more than normal today.


Because the South East is absolutely covered with snow!

I live at the top of two quite steep hills and woke up to discover students sledging and snowboarding down my street on 'For Sale' and 'To Let' signs!

As one of my friends put it, "How topical is that as an image of current financial and meterological times!"

Here are some pics (click on them to see larger versions):