Monday, 10 December 2012
Author Sally Quilford has set up a Facebook page challenging fellow writers to join her in writing 100,000 words in 100 days. The start date is 1st January 2013 and the challenge ends on 10th April.
To find out more, and sign up, go here and ask to join the group:
100k in 100 days Facebook group
And for more details go here:
Once I've finished editing novel 3 (I'm pruning it to get it down to 100,000 words) I'm going to spend the rest of December plotting novel 4 and drawing up some character profiles so I'm ready to go on 1st Jan.
I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't written anything new since my maternity leave ended at the beginning of September and, although I'm itching to start novel 4, I've found it impossible to find the time to write. We recently bought a house and organising that, working full time and looking after the Spudling (now 14 months old and toddling about like a drunken John Wayne!) only leaves a few hours a night to sleep and very little else. I also need to start exercising again and I'm determined to find a way to work out 3x a week AND write 1,000 words a day.
I'll reveal all soon...
Thursday, 1 November 2012
So, without further ado, here's Maddy...
1. Most people I know, excluding writers, have ended up in their career by accident rather than design (when I left Uni in 1995 with a degree in Psychology I never imagined I'd end up as an E-Learning Manager, for example). Did you always plan to become a literary agent? What was it that drew you/continues to attract you to the job?
On graduating from St Andrews University, I went to Germany where I found work with a small independent publisher. Every evening I researched literary agents and what they did. The role of a literary agent combined my passion for books with my love of negotiating, so I knew it was for me. I actually got my first official job with the oldest literary agency in the UK, A P Watt, where I worked in the foreign rights department – this is what has given me an international outlook for the authors I represent today (for instance C.J. Daugherty of the NIGHT SCHOOL series, now sold to 20 foreign publishers). I love helping my authors become successful – this is what drives me each day.
2. What qualities do you think a literary agent should have?
A successful agent needs to be a good talent spotter, an excellent networker and an ambitious negotiator. Author care is also extremely important.
3. What should an author expect from his/her literary agent?
Someone who will handle the business side of their writing career and also guide them editorially – I explain exactly what I do as a literary agent on my Agency home page: www.madeleinemilburn.com
4. You recently ran a couple of competitions to attract authors to your agency. One was an open call for submissions (taking into account the preferences you state on your website) and the other was for crime/thriller writers. What genres are you looking for at the moment?
I launched a crime and thriller competition to show writers that I was expanding into crime, thrillers and psychological suspense. As I represent a lot of women’s fiction, I was only getting submissions in this genre. I look at every genre though. If I think I can sell something and I believe that it will be successful, I will offer representation.
5. Is there anything you're seeing too much of? Either a genre, a plot or certain type of character?
I see a huge mixture of genres now – I get about 50 submissions a day. I am getting a lot of erotica due to the current trend!
6. What makes your heart sink when you read a synopsis/first page?
A synopsis that is far too long and complicated, or a first page that doesn’t hook you in.
7. And what makes you sit up with excitement?
A fantastic title, a really strong pitch and an opening chapter that grabs you by the hand and won’t let you go!
7. I know it's impossible to predict trends in publishing (and whatever is hot now will probably be out of favour next year) but is there anything that editors are crying out for at moment? (and if you've got an inkling what the 'next big thing' is, do share!)
Editors are crying out for psychological suspense and crime. Books like INTO THE DARKEST CORNER by Elizabeth Haynes and BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by S.J. Watson. The great thing about this genre is that it’s universal and usually sells all over the world. A lot of publishers are jumping on the erotica bandwagon simply because FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is the biggest selling book of all time. I’ve just had an erotic title published by Penguin, THE PLEASURES OF WINTER by Evie Hunter, but I also had huge success with two psychological suspense novels at the Frankfurt book fair this year, including your latest AN END TO SILENCE. The big high concept, accessible literary books are still selling really well, too.
8. Last year the media was full of stories about falling sales in women's fiction. Is chicklit dead?
Publishers rarely offer for new chicklit titles unless they have a fresh edge and a fantastic selling point. There is so much chicklit about so I find it very easy to spot chicklit that is fresh and original. I’m looking for more realistic books about women; something that would sit nicely next to the American sitcom GIRLS. Hodder is publishing the romantic comedy NEVER GOOGLE HEARTBREAK by my client Emma Garcia in March next year, and it’s going to be their biggest women’s fiction début of 2012, so women’s fiction is very much alive! MIRA (part of Harlequin) is also investing heavily in growing Victoria Fox, my fabulous author of bestselling bonkbusters.
9. How healthy is the publishing industry at the moment? We hear every year that it's getting harder and harder to a) get a publishing deal as a debut author and b) hang onto your career as a midlist author. Do you think that's true?
Yes, it is more challenging to sell a début author so I am much more selective when I offer representation. I look for authors who are going to work on an international level. A midlist author has to be driven and ambitious. There will always be hard times in a writing career but those who get to the top are able to ride the storms.
And now some questions from my blog readers:
10. From Sarah: What is the usual sequence of events from someone submitting a manuscript to it being published. Assuming of course it is good and warrants publication. How many people read it etc?
I will always work with a writer editorially before I submit their manuscript to publishers. I also get one of my Agency editors to offer feedback. There are not set rules when I submit. It depends whether I want to submit to UK or US publishers first, or to make a simultaneous submission. I usually target the top 10 UK publishers and the editors I believe would be the best match for my author and their work. I will pitch the book to them long before I submit to get them excited and prepare them for the submission. If I get more than one offer, I can take the book to auction. The most important thing is finding one editor who simply loves the book and will champion the author in-house year after year.
12. From Yasmin: As a literary agent, are you ever able to negotiate cover control on the writer's behalf as part of a publishing contract deal? Meaning the design is co-planned and they get final say in the process. It's something I feel really strongly about.
I do make sure that my authors have a say over their cover design. It is important that my authors feel ‘ownership’ of their novels. That being said, the publisher does know the market best, so it’s important to make the author aware of their vision too, and why they want to use a particular cover. They have to fight for retail space so their sales team needs to love the cover too.
13. From DJ: Maddy, if one of the authors on your list sent you a MS (of theirs) in a genre you didn't represent would you still read it with a view to passing it on to another agent / agency?
I receive some really good manuscripts and I sometimes make recommendations but, to be honest, I receive so many submissions that I can’t justify getting into correspondence with writers I am not going to represent as I need to give this attention to my own clients. I am open to all genres – even if I don’t represent a particular genre now, if something screams out at me as being a success, I will definitely consider representation.
14. From Karen: How long have you been a literary agent and what is your favourite genre?
I have been working in publishing for over eight years now. I have been a Literary Agent for the last five and a half. Before that I was the Head of Rights and the Deputy MD of Children’s books at a leading literary agency. I don’t have a favourite genre – I fall in love with a voice or a character.
15. From Helen: Agent Kristin on the PubRants blog recently admitted that she is far more likely to take on a new author during the winter months.
And I imagine agents have far less time to look at new submissions whenever there's a big book fair on. So is there a 'best time' to submit to the Madeleine Milburn agency?
I look at submissions on my Blackberry so if something instantly catches my attention, whatever time of year, I will request the full manuscript. It does get extremely busy around book fairs though, and that is why my responses can be slower, but I am always looking and reading at the start and end of each day.
16. From MamaJ: The covering letter is the first thing an agent sees from a submission. What is the most important element you're looking for and what would make a covering letter stand out?
My advice is to be as clear as possible in your covering letter. When writing this letter, imagine you are talking to the literary agent in person about your book. Pitch your book in one line that will make people want to read it immediately and tell the reader a little bit about yourself and why you write. Do tell us why you have chosen us. Keep your synopsis under a page in length – this is good practice to make it as concise as possible and as interesting as possible. I think titles are really important too as a strong one will grab a reader’s attention.
17. From Captain Black: When seeking representation, new writers are advised to consider only literary agents with proven track records. How does a relatively inexperienced agent go about improving themselves and gaining their track record?
By selling lots of books! You can find out if an agent is active by researching online. It is important to find an agent who has the time and energy to make you a success.
18. From Susanna: Would it put you off from representing an author if his/her work was good enough but too similar (or on a similar theme eg supernatural romantic comedy) to another writer you already represent?
Even if the genre is similar, the voice is usually completely different so it wouldn’t put me off. There are lots of publishers who are looking to publish similar genres to another publisher, especially if a particular genre has been a hit.
That's the end of the questions! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer them Maddy.
Huge congrats to Sarah who wins the signed copy of HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, the tote bag and the bookmark for her question. Let me know your address and I'll get them in the post to you ASAP.
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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
What is the working title of your next book?
I'm actually planning book 4 at the moment but it's at such an early stage I'm going to talk about book 3 instead (working title AN END TO SILENCE).
Where did the idea come from for the book?
In 2011 the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) ran a competition (the Elizabeth Goudge award) to write a 1,000 word novel opening on the theme of 'keeping a secret'. I had no idea what I was going to write about but then a couple of lines popped into my head (spoken by a very softly spoken woman) when I was walking back from the supermarket one day and they were so intriguing I scribbled them down as soon as I got home. By the end of the day I had my 1,000 words down and a couple of months later I was handed the trophy and told I'd won the competition!
That was in the summer of 2011 but the story, and the woman - Susan - who'd whispered those first few lines wouldn't leave me alone so in March this year I started writing. I was on maternity leave with my son at the time and, although severely sleep deprived, the creative urge was too great and I'd write during his 1.5 hour lunchtime naps and whatever time I could grab at the weekend.
What genre does your book fall under?
It's psychological suspense. I know, not what you'd expect from a chick lit author but there have always been two sides to my writing personality - the light fluffy side (HEAVEN CAN WAIT, HOME FOR CHRISTMAS and my womag stories) and the dark side (AN END TO SILENCE and pretty much all the short stories I've had published in literary magazines) and I loved this idea so much I just had to write it. And I had so much fun that book 4 is going to be psychological suspense too! That doesn't mean I'll never write another chick lit book of course...
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I don't really have any in mind if but I'd love to see it come to life. To be honest I see it more of a 3 part TV serial than a film. Susan's 43 so it would be great to see one of our really talented British character actresses step into her shoes.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Can Susan discover the dark secret that caused her 15 year old daughter to deliberately step in front of a bus before it destroys both their lives?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent Madeleine Milburn has already sold the rights to Germany and Italy at the Frankfurt Book Fair and it's being read by British editors we speak... *crosses fingers*
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
'Before I Go to Sleep', 'Into the Darkest Corner' and 'Cuckoo'.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to explore the legacy of abusive relationships, the secrets that exist within families and the lengths mothers will go to to protect their children.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
It's a mystery - why did Charlotte write 'keeping this secret is killing me?' in her diary? - a thriller - who is sending Susan disturbing parcels? - a relationship tale - is Brian the loving husband Sue thinks he is? - and, hopefully, one hell of a page turner!
My five writers for next Wednesday are:
Anyone who volunteers! I'd love to read your responses.
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Tuesday, 2 October 2012
Book 4? I've only just finished with book 3.
Hmmm...but hang on, there's a itch of an idea at the back of my brain. I might as well tell Maddy about it.
She thinks it's 'gripping and original' does she?
Maybe I like the idea more than I thought.
So maybe I'll think about it a little bit more.
Oh! What was that? A plot twist I didn't see coming?
Getting exciting now... *scribble, scribble*
Sunday, 30 September 2012
To quote her email it's my 'best, most ambitious novel yet', 'I was utterly hooked from start to finish' and 'it's incredibly suspenseful, chilling and addictive'.
Those closest to us know our family has had a really rotten couple of weeks. It's been one bit of bad news after another, so Maddy's email was just the panacea I needed to lift the gloom. Who am I kidding? Her email made me cry I was so relieved/pleased!
She sent me a few revision suggestions, all of which I totally agreed with (fortunately!) and I spent the whole of yesterday beavering away on the manuscript to get them done. The word count has now reduced from 123,000 (first draft) to 104,775 so that's a fair bit of pruning but I could still do with lobbing off those last 4,775 to get it to a nice round 100,000.
I sent it back to her last night so now I get the day off to celebrate the Spudling's first birthday (a day early) at the grandparent's house. Where has the last year gone? Does time speed up when you've got kids or is it just me?
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Saturday, 22 September 2012
And I'm really nervous.
Not just because, other than me, she's the first person to read it but also because (and I'll whisper this bit) I really like what I've written. That perplexes because I normally hate what I've written at this stage and am riddled with insecurity. Not that I don't have any doubts about this book. I do, I know certain parts are quite weak and will need rewriting, but I'm also quite pleased with it. And that makes me nervous. If I hated my other books during the editing stage and my readers loved them then maybe me liking this book means something's gone horribly wrong and my readers will hate it.
Okay so I take it back, I AM still riddled with insecurity this time around!
Am I right to feel this way or wrong? Do you trust your gut instinct about your writing? If you think something you've written is good is it? Or does it turn out to be the worst thing you've ever produced?
I guess I'll just have to see what my agent thinks...
Taking of my agent. Thanks for all the questions. She's got the full list, as well as some of mine, and will be replying as soon as she can.
Happy writing. May all your insecurities be little ones!
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Sunday, 26 August 2012
It's taken six months of writing like a demon while the baby naps and snatching time whenever the boyfriend takes him out and about but I've done it! I've finished the first draft of novel 3 - all 123,110 words of it!
There's a hell of a lot of rewriting and editing to be done, not least how I structure the two narratives so neither suffers from a drop in tension when there's a switch (anyone done that successfully or read a book that does?) but I'm really excited. I can't wait to whip this book into shape (not least because my agent will be promoting it at Frankfurt so I need to get it finished ASAP). I worked on HOME FOR CHRISTMAS for what felt like forever and can't believe this is only the third first draft I've completed.
Thanks for all your agent questions. Maddy will be answering them in September.
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Thursday, 9 August 2012
So I'm going to...but I want to do things a bit differently. I want to throw it open to my blog readers to throw some questions into the mix. What question have you always wanted to ask a literary agent but have always been too afraid (or never had the opportunity) to ask?
It could be anything from - 'what's the shortest amount of time it's taken you to get an author a book deal?' to 'how old is too old to be an author?' to 'what do you think the next big trend will be?' to 'how do I know if an agent is a good fit for me?' Anything at all! I can't guarantee Maddy will be able to answer every question (you might want to avoid 'will you sign me?' and 'does this sound like a good idea for a novel?') but I know she'll give it a go.
Leave your questions in the comments or, if you'd like to ask your question anonymously, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The best question (as chosen by Maddy) gets a signed copy of 'Home for Christmas', a bookmark and a limited edition tote bag of the Duke of York's cinema, Brighton (the inspiration behind the cinema in 'Home for Christmas') by designer Natalie Gowing.
Closing date for questions - Thursday 23rd August.
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Tuesday, 31 July 2012
I haven't written a parallel narrative before but I think this novel needs one to explain why the (unreliable?) narrator acts the way she does in the present. It'll also, hopefully, be a page turner in it's own right (I'm sure I'm not the only one to skip through a parallel narrative to get back to the main thread of a novel). Maggie O'Farrell used parallel narratives to really good effect in 'The Hand That First Held Mine' although I'm no Maggie, that's for sure!
What do you guys think? Are you a fan of parallel narratives or would you prefer the occasional flashback instead?
How lovely was the weather last week? The Spudling and I went to stay with his grandparents while the boyfriend went off on a camping/mountain biking expedition. I don't think the Spudling has ever had more attention - from his uncle, auntie, cousins, grandparents and great aunts - he was in seventh heaven. Everyone wanted to cuddle and play with him and, to make the weekend even more momentous, he decided it was the perfect time to start crawling! Time to baby-proof the house now we're home...
Not long now until my maternity leave is over and I go back to work (September) so only a few weeks left to enjoy spending all my time with the Spudling until he goes to the childminder three days a week. I'm going to miss him terribly but part of me is quite looking forward to talking to other adults about non-baby matters when I go into London for team meetings, and listening to my CDs and records on the days I work from home (instead of nursery rhymes on a loop!).
Between now and then, however, there's lots to be done. The boyfriend and I are buying a house so there are mortgages to sort, surveys to arrange and measurements to take (it feels like forever since we last saw the house we're buying. I hope we still like it!) and, if I didn't have enough on my plate, I've agreed to send Maddy (my agent) the first draft of novel 3 by 24th August. Even if I pull out all the stops I'm not going to have much time to give it much of an edit and that makes me nervous - I normally edit a novel within an inch of its life before I show it to anyone but maybe this is a more efficient way of working - any structural issues can be fixed before, rather than after, I spend hours primping and polishing the prose.
Better get on with it then...
Friday, 20 July 2012
I still have to write the parallel narrative that runs alongside the main story! I think the final word count is likely to be about 120,000 words - which will make this book the longest of all my novels.
It struck me this morning that I've not made it easy for myself with my novels because they all have different point of views and structures:
HEAVEN CAN WAIT - first person point of view, past tense, hero's journey
HOME FOR CHRISTMAS - two alternating first person point of views (there was a 3rd person POV too but that was cut during the edit), past tense, 3 Act Structure
NOVEL 3 - first person point of view, present tense, parallel narrative, 3 Act Structure
For me HEAVEN CAN WAIT was definitely most straightforward of the three to write, structure-wise.
What have you used in your novels? Have you tried using different POVs and structures? Any you found easier than others? What are you going to choose for your next novel? Any you'd never do again?
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Thursday, 19 July 2012
Over to Niki...
Emma's life has always been a struggle, and now she's been accepted at a prestigious music school, she is determined to excel. But when the impossibly chic twins, confident Sophie and quieter Matilde, come crashing into her life - surrounding her with champagne and parties - they demand Emma's full attention.
Then shy Matilde commits suicide and shockingly, her identical twin Sophie flourishes. Now odd things are happening to Emma: blackouts, waking up in strange places, bizarre dreams. Something, or someone, is consuming Emma's mind. Terrified, Emma begins to doubt everything and everyone around her, especially the beautiful Sophie...
Tuesday, 17 July 2012
1. It was my first weekend away from the Spudling since he was born 9.5 months ago
2. It was the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) convention in Penrith, Cumbria
I went to my first ever RNA conference last year and had an amazing time which was made even more special when I won the Elizabeth Goudge trophy for best novel opening. This year it was my job to hand over the cup to the new winner at the Gala Dinner and there was no way I was going to miss out on doing something as special as that. I was nervous though, about going to the conference. I've only ever been apart from the Spudling for 5 hours and that was a few months ago when his Daddy drove him to Birmingham to meet his Great-Nan and Granddad (and I cried then!) and I was worried about being so far away if he needed me. I needn't have worried though and huge thanks to all the ladies who told me to stop worrying and enjoy my very rare taste of freedom! (you know who you are).
Last year I shared a flat with only two other people and, as I was pregnant, I didn't join in the drinking/late night talking festivities. This year couldn't have been more different! We had the best kitchen (I know everyone says that) and that was down to Mills & Boon authors extraordinaire - India Grey, Scarlet Wilson, Natalie Rivers and Fiona Harper - and my flatmates, and good friends, Rowan Coleman and Tamsyn Murray. Special mention should also go to Gillian Green (editor at Ebury Press) who joined us around the kitchen table for wine after the gala dinner on Saturday and...er...enlightened.... us about certain erotica practices (the erotic imprint Black Lace is back, she wasn't talking from personal experience!). I think we may even have scared the lovely Liz Fenwick (who very kindly supplied the photos in this post) off when she popped in for an impromptu hello!
The talks this year were every bit as entertaining and informative as they were last year. I particularly enjoyed Talli Roland's on online marketing, Kate Harrison on the research she's carried out amongst readers, writers and industry professionals about the future of women's fiction, Tamsyn Murray about sex in Young Adult literature and Julie Cohen on what the Pixar films can teach us about structuring story. Here's a quick round up from what I can remember...
Talli's talk - online marketing for writers
Talli talked about blogging, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon author pages and how we should manage them in order to promote ourselves as a 'brand'. She said that we, as the author, are the brand rather than our books and we should create a tag line (mine might be 'writes sparkling romantic comedies that make you laugh and cry') and reinforce it with our online activity. Talli stressed that we should ensure we fill out our Amazon author pages on .co.uk, .com, .de and wherever else we have a book presence.
She also mentioned that you should separate your Facebook personal page from your Facebook author page (your 'like' page) by adding something like 'Author' or 'Novelist' to your URL (something I've actually done! Mine's www.twitter.com/CallyTaylorAuthor) or else you'll end up with two Facebook URLs that feature your name and readers won't know which is which.
Regarding blogging she stressed the importance of replying to all blog comments (something I'm guilty of not doing) and of following all your followers back (again *cough* I've not been the best at that but, since returning from the RNA conference, I followed over 100 of my followers and am planning on adding the other 163 over the next few days!).
One final point about blogging - make sure you're consistent. Once a day, once a week, once a month, it doesn't matter how often you blog as long as your followers know when they can expect to hear from you. Talli's enthusiasm for her subject was so infectious she's inspired me to follow her advice and I'm going to try and blog more frequently from now on - at least once a week. Feel free to kick me up the bum and tell Talli on me if I don't! ;)
She also said to keep blog posts short - oops!
If you're interested in online marketing do friend Talli on Facebook and 'like' her author page. She regularly guest posts on a variety of subjects to do with online marketing and today she's linked to a blog post she's written about Facebook marketing. As well as being a fabulous novelist she really is the guru on all things to do with ebooks and online marketing.
Kate Harrison - the future of women's fiction
I won't blog too much about Kate's talk as she'll be publishing the results of her research on her blog/website very soon but, basically, she carried out online research to find out why, if we believe reports in the press, the sale of women's fiction are in decline. She gathered data from over 300 readers, 50 authors and dozens of industry professionals and presented us with the results - which were very interesting.
As well as dividing the readers into 3 separate groups with different reading tastes and patterns, Kate was able to establish what it is that the majority of readers want from women's fiction. Off the top of my head I think the top four qualities were funny, moving, thought-provoking and thrilling.
Kate didn't say as much but the fact that many of the readers also wanted to 'learn something' from their books also suggests that we might be moving slightly away from purely entertaining 'fun' chicklit and more towards women's fiction with deeper themes that's thought-provoking (but the sample size, at 300 readers, was relatively small so don't quote me on that!).
Anyway, do follow Kate's blog if you'd like to read the survey results in full when she publishes them online.
The only downside to going to Kate's talk was that it clashed with Nell Dixon's talk on editing (something I'm creeping ever nearer to as novel 3 has just hit 72,000 words). Fortunately I ran into Nell on Sunday and she very kindly gave me a copy of her print out. What a star!
Tamsyn's talk - sex in Young Adult books
Tamsyn's talk was a lot of fun. She discussed the history of sex in young adult literature (anyone remember 'Forever' by Judy Blume? Yes, I thought so... ;)) and gave us a variety of examples of sex in YA books these days - from masturbation and sex in Keris Stainton's 'Della Says OMG' to the rather more chaste 'they spent the night in each other's arms' in her own 'My So Called Afterlife' series to the really quite explicit no holds barred intercourse in 'Adorkable' by Sarra Manning.
After the talk everyone joined in the discussion which ranged from YA authors being banned from school talks because their books contained sexual references, to Irish librarians sticking red dots on racy books, to 'Banned Book' week in America.
Find out more about Tamsyn and her books here.
Julie's talk - what Pixar films can teach us about story structure
Julie's talk was all kinds of fun! Not only is she one of the most enthusiastic, energetic and fun workshop presenters I've ever had the honour of watching but she's also hugely knowledgeable about the craft of writing.
Julie talked us through a number of subjects including the 3 Act Structure (her handout on how 'Cars' follows the 3 Act Structure was so good it's going up on my study wall!), beginnings, plots and subplots and climax and illustrated each one by talking about various Pixar films, showing clips and explaining how and why Pixar are so good at what they do.
And then, just when we thought her talk couldn't get any more enthralling she showed us a clip from 'Up' and made the entire room cry!
Julie Cohen is currently planning a series of workshops on writing for next year. I cannot recommend her highly enough so if you live in the Reading area or are prepared to travel to see someone who's energetic, fun and really knows her stuff then please get yourself over to her website and sign up for her newsletter.
The gala dinner on Saturday was wonderful. Jan Jones decorated the tables beautifully, the food was delicious and my table - Kate Harrison, Tamsyn Murray, Rowan Coleman and Miranda Dickinson - was an absolute scream. It's not often I turn down apple pie but when Jan came to get me to present the Elizabeth Goudge trophy to the new winner I was out of my chair without so much as a 'does it come with custard?'. I had no idea who'd won it - I hadn't even read any of the entries but I stood by Annie Ashurst, RNA Chair, as she read out the titles of the 3 shortlisted entries and gazed around at the rapt faces.
As she opened the envelopes, revealing the names of the third place and second place writers I noticed a squealing woman on a table to my left with her hands pressed over her mouth and a look of delight on her face - it was Alison Maynard, this years winner! I loved how excited she was - it reminded me of my own reaction last year.
Sunday came by all too quickly and I was gutted when 1.45pm rolled around and it was time to say my goodbyes - not least because it meant I had to miss Miranda Dickinson's talk on her rollercoaster experience as a bestselling author (although, lovely lady that she is, she gave me some of her exclusive 'Wordy' stickers and postcards before I left. She's going to put some on sale on her website very soon so make sure you sign up to her newsletter to find out when that is).
But say goodbye I did and before I knew it I was on the train back to Bristol, sat next to Tamsyn, earphones plugged in as I tapped away on my netbook (anti-social I know but I had to do some work on novel 3 while I was away, and Tam was working too!).
And as for the Spudling? He was crying when I came in (he doesn't like getting out of the bath) and he continued to cry when I popped into the bathroom to say hello but one big cuddle and a rendition of 'Wheels on the Bus' and he was all smiles. And so was I.
So cheers RNA - not just for an amazing conference but for making a rare weekend to myself so very, very wonderful.
Monday, 16 July 2012
Also coming soon - my round up of the RNA conference in Penrith...
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Thursday, 21 June 2012
That's 20,000 words a month! (near enough)
My story is based on the Clayhill cover of The Smiths song 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want' (check it out at the end of the blog post).
If you love super short stories or you want to study some truly excellent pieces of flash fiction they can be yours for the bargain price of £1.99. That's just 2p a story! Get it on Amazon.
What else? Oh, I stumbled across this 'editing' website the other day. It's not for serious editing, obviously but looks quite good fun if you want to see how many cliches you've inadvertently included in your novel. I haven't actually tried it yet (as I'm still in first draft mode) but I used something similar when editing HEAVEN CAN WAIT and it pointed out a few bloopers I'd missed.
Crimefest was in Bristol the other month and it was lovely to catch up with fellow writers Helen Hunt and Mel Sherratt. I even went to a day of talks myself as one of the topics appealed. Wish I'd gone to the talk on 'The Killing' too as some of actors from the original show were touted to appear. Anyone know who?
I'll be removing my crime head in July, however, and fixing my romance head in it's place (ala Worzel Gummidge) as I'm off to Cumbria for the RNA conference. I can...not...wait! Last year I won the Elizabeth Goudge trophy but was pregnant so couldn't celebrate. This year I get to present the trophy to the new winner and the champers is on me! Well, for the people sitting at my table anyway. I'm also looking forward to going to some amazing sounding talks by Julie Cohen, Kate Harrison, Tamysn Murray and Miranda Dickinson.
Exciting news came my way last week in the form of an email about a possible foreign language film adaptation of HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. I can't say more until contracts have been signed (and even then there's no guaranteeing that the film will be made) but to say I'm excited would be an understatement - even if I won't be able to understand a word of the finished film!
Talking of Facebook - I'm much better at updating it than I am this blog so if you want little bite-sized morsels of news as and when I post them (not that often, promise) then do please 'like' me there - http://www.facebook.com/CallyTaylorAuthor
Right, it's getting late so that's it from me, update wise. How are you? What are you working on at the moment? Want a link to your blog? Leave a message and I'll update my blog roll the next time I post. Lurkers - unveil yourselves, I know there are a few of you about. Do say hello :)
*lovely boyfriend, lovely parents and lovely sister-in-law also take the Spudling off my hands whenever they can so I can snatch a few extra hours writing time. I love them all dearly.
Friday, 27 April 2012
"The weirdest stories you will ever read.
A bizarre collection of short stories, each featuring a character with an unusual superpower.
- Meet The Photocopier, a woman who can reproduce herself at will and who attempts to teach her daughter to do the same.
- Or the zombie hairdresser who is able to reanimate every time she dies.
- And the man who can break his way into his lover’s dream.
Over fifty freaks and misfits feature in this unforgettable book, and each is illustrated by comic book artist Darren Craske."
Not only am I a fan of short stories and flash fiction (I can't recommend Nik's flash anthology 'Not So Perfect' enough), I love films about people with superpowers (X Men, Spiderman, Batman etc) and I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. What I expected was a bunch of short stories about people with superpowers, something light and breezy - a loo book if I'm honest! - but what I received was an anthology of brain tickling, heart string plucking, eyebrow raising literary short stories bursting at the seams with weird and wonderful characters. There aren't any capes, costumes or lazer beams shooting from eyes in this wonderful anthology. Instead it's crammed full of strange foibles, odd thoughts, twisted relationships and unusual ambitions. Every time I dipped into it I didn't know what to expect but I was never disappointed. Each story is a delicious literary morsel.
If you don't normally buy short story anthologies because you think they're long, boring and turgid then this is the book you've been waiting for. You won't find anything quite like it in bookshops or on the Internet and, like I said at the beginning of this post, I so wish I'd come up with the idea. Congrats Nik and Caroline, it's a little belter!
Buy 'Freaks' now!
Friday, 20 April 2012
Anyway, just a quick blog to let you know that I am no longer with the Darley Anderson agency. My agent, Madeleine Buston, left in March to set up her own agent - the Madeleine Milburn TV, film & literary agency - and I decided to go with her. I will forever be indebted to Darley for plucking the manuscript for HEAVEN CAN WAIT from the slush pile and giving it a chance but Maddy is the agent I've worked hand in hand with since 2008 and we've built up a fantastic relationship. She's also got me some incredible deals so it was a bit of a no brainer really!
The good news is that Maddy is actively searching for new authors to represent so why not visit her website and see if you think she'll be a good match for your novel? Her blog is an invaluable read too, especially the posts she's writing at the moment about what an agent does. More info here:
Got to go. Time to put the baby down for his nap and get on with novel 3. Now, where did I stash the Diet Coke...
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Saturday, 25 February 2012
Anyway, if I've wetted your appetite you HAVE to enter the competition run by writing.ie
Here's the blurb:
Write us a 250-word short fiction piece (and email it in by midnight 22 March) and you could win a place in the Anam Cara "Short Fiction: So Much More Than It Seems..." workshop retreat led by Vanessa Gebbie, award-winning short story writer, scheduled for the week of 9-15 June 2012.
More details here:
The second competition is being run by excellent women's fiction review website Novelicious and it's a search to find the next great chicklit author with some money can't buy prizes.
They want the first 3,000 words of your chicklit novel. The closing date is 3rd April
Full details here:
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
In her other blog, Marvellous Mable, Kathryn shares spooky real life paranormal stories (including one of mine). And if that wasn't enough she's also written a novel. The fabulous 'Discovery at Rosehill' - a paranormal romance.
When Kathryn asked for people to host her blog tour I stuck my hand in the air because I just KNEW she'd be a fascinating interviewee. Here she is:
1. Your debut novel, 'Discovery at Rosehill' is a paranormal romance; could you tell us more about it and what inspired you to write it?
The book is about medium Camilla Armstrong, who is introduced by her deceased grandmother to the country estate known as Rosehill. Camilla is a complex character having lived a somewhat lonely existence, yet she is strong and determined to rejuvenate the house to its former glory. Realising the house is filled with the spirits of previous occupants, she begins to unravel the mystery that surrounds the Georgian residence. With the help of passed descendents, she is able to discover more about her own life, and learns of the sinister circumstances that surround her past.
There is also a love story incorporated into the plot, where Camilla begins a relationship with the village priest, Marcus Calloway. Controversial and difficult to maintain, their romance faces many obstacles, not least because Marcus has his own secrets and beliefs. Camilla however, helps him to open up and rid himself of the burden he has carried for many years.
Inspiration came from two corners; the first was my father who passed away in July 2001. After moving to my own dream home shortly after his death, I realised he had only left us in human form yet was still very much with us from the spirit plane. Being sensitive to the spirit world myself, I have had many experiences since moving into my own Georgian farm house in Northumberland, and many of these have been fictionalised and included in the book. Camilla was based partly on me, though I don’t share her romantic interests with a village priest!
2. Have you read many paranormal romances before? Have you got a favourite?
I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t, apart from the wonderful Heaven Can Wait written by the one and only, Cally Taylor! My book shelves are mostly filled with paranormal reference books though I do love to read a variety of fiction, including mystery, chick-lit and rom-com.
3. What made you decide to publish 'Discovery at Rosehill' as an eBook rather than go down the traditional agent/publisher route?
When I finished the final edits of Discovery at Rosehill, I spent a few weeks submitting to agents. That was a full time job in itself due to the amount of varied work involved; for example, most agents have different requirements, some ask for the first three chapters, some just want the first chapter, others ask for a query letter and synopsis, and so on. To get these submissions just right, I put aside a day for each one in order to ensure I hadn’t missed anything or skipped a guideline. After waiting a few months, I received six rejections but still haven’t heard from any others to whom I submitted. As it had taken me three years to research, write and edit the book, I decided it was time to publish it regardless and so went ahead and self-published. It is available in paperback as well as an eBook, but the reason I am re-launching it now is because I feel I didn’t promote it enough last year and didn’t work hard enough getting it “out there”. EBooks have become immensely popular over the last 12 months and it is becoming quite common for a self-published author to offer their book in this format at a very low cost. After hearing of many authors who have enjoyed successful sales through publishing this way, I felt it was time I did the same.
4. Your blog Crystal Jigsaw is hugely popular. What do you think is the secret of successful blogging?
I’ve been blogging since May 2007 and I thoroughly enjoy it. The minute you stop enjoying it is the time you need to sit back and ask yourself why you blog. Crystal Jigsaw is popular because I work hard to maintain my readership. I read and comment on many blogs, and follow a massive amount. I also promote blog posts via my blog and support new bloggers as much as I can. Building up a following and interacting with other bloggers all helps to increase your blog readership; this is something I have worked particularly hard at over the last four and a half years.
I also feel strongly that a well-written blog post goes a long way to a successful blog. I’m a stickler for typos and grammatical errors, perhaps that comes with being an author, but it does make a difference when reading a blog post.
5. Do you think blogging helps increase book sales or do you agree with recent mutterings that people are getting bored of writing, and reading, blogs?
I’m a bit mixed on this question; blogging has certainly helped my book sales – I have a link and a picture of the book cover, together with an information page about the book, placed on my blog so that anyone who lands on it can see my book. However, since Twitter became huge phenomena, I do believe blogging has started to slide. Twitter is a great place to promote your blogs, but I have definitely noticed a decline in my comments as people tend to just tweet their response. I would much rather a comment be left on the post, but I guess we have to accept progress.
6. You've got another blog where you feature people's paranormal experiences (including mine!) What prompted your interest in the paranormal?
Yes I have, and a particularly interesting experience it was, too! Should anyone be interested in reading it, here it is: Cally Taylor
I have always been interested in the paranormal. I encountered my first experience when I was ten years old; a perfectly rounded shape that I can only describe as a full moon moved from one side of my bedroom to the other. It happened in the middle of the night and even though it was 32 years ago, I can still remember that event like it was yesterday. I remember running into my parents’ bedroom and my mum realising I was scared. I don’t remember anything else happening after that until I was 22 and had just got married to my first husband. My grandmother had passed two years previously and I decided to visit a medium. She gave me some very personal information and described both my grandmother and grandfather to me, exactly as they posed in a black and white photograph I had in a frame on my fireplace. From that day on, I realised I needed to pursue my fascination with the paranormal. I had several readings after that, all giving me the same details about my grandparents, together with very personal information that no one else knew about. But it wasn’t until my dad passed over in 2001 that I started to feel the presence of spirits around me.
7. What's your most interesting/scary (you choose) paranormal experience?
I’ve had so many I could be here all week! However, the majority of experiences I’ve had since moving to the farm have been welcoming and friendly, and absolutely nothing to be scared of. One in particular was when I felt something heavy resting on my bed and thought it was the cat. Upon sitting up, I noticed she was actually lying next to me, whereas the sudden movement was at my feet. Without further ado, I got up, put on my dressing gown and went downstairs to the drawing room. I knew I was following someone as I heard footsteps other than my own on the stairs. It wasn’t until I sat on the sofa and cried whilst talking to my dad, that I realised he had visited me. I wrote about this experience in more detail in the book, obviously from Camilla’s point of view.
However, one scary experience that I will never forget happened a few years ago whilst I was working on Discovery at Rosehill. I was sat at my desk when I suddenly heard someone downstairs in the hallway. It was a very distinct sound of someone shuffling about as though wondering whether to walk upstairs. For some reason, I was particularly scared. After grabbing a crystal vase from a shelf thinking I needed to protect myself, I slowly went onto the landing outside my room and quietly approached the top of the stairs. My daughter was at school and my husband was working on the farm. But what I didn’t think about at the time was the fact none of my excellent guard dogs had barked, so looking back, it couldn’t have been an intruder. After what felt like hours, but was probably only five minutes, I relaxed and went back into the room, replacing the vase on the shelf before sitting down to continue my work. I still don’t know who was in the house, but I suspect they won’t be returning!
8. What's next for Kathryn Brown?
I’d love to win the lottery... but I guess I’ll settle for another book being published. I’m currently working on my second novel called Hideaway. It’s a murder mystery about a woman who thinks she has the perfect marriage until she discovers her husband has been having an affair. The story focuses around a murder investigation, a fugitive and a rebound romance. The first draft was completed last November and I’m now in the process of doing the first edit. I’m not sure at this stage whether I’ll self-publish, but I will be submitting to agents once it’s been edited to within an inch of its life. I’d love to be traditionally published one day.
Watch the trailer for 'Discovery at Rosehill'...
Discovery at Rosehill – available at Amazon
Blog: Crystal Jigsaw
Paranormal Blog: Marvellous Mable