Friday, 9 November 2012

Just call me Mrs Talented

I know this blog is a long time coming, but I have come to discover that my written communication skills are much the same as my verbal, that is…if I have nothing to say I say nothing.  However, now I have something to say about my journey towards getting my first YA book published.

You may recall that I had sent my manuscript off to a Manuscript Assessor (MA) and was preparing for a long, anxious and as it turns out unproductive wait.  Long – two months. Unproductive – well let’s just say I found it very hard to concentrate on anything while my first born was in the hands of a professional. Anyway, my time is up and my manuscript appraisal has been delivered to me as promised and on time.
When I sent my manuscript off I was a bit concerned about whether or not I would be getting value for my money; well I did, and then some. My MA sent me an extensive 15 page assessment of my work and detailed comments, instructions and suggestions notated throughout my entire manuscript; and not just froth and bubble, what I received from my MA was solid, substantial feedback.  
So, I guess you’re wondering what the verdict was?  OK, here I go.  Let me start offering a quote from the email sent to me from my MA. "This book has the young, edgy YA appeal that many of the big publishers are looking for.  Don’t get too excited. She also wrote that I should not be daunted by the inordinate amount of editing I have in front of me in order to get my manuscript to a point where it is ready to be presented to the publishers.  

I have to say that my determination to see my work through to publication has not faltered since my journey began; but encouraging feedback from a professional is so motivating, it’s like music to my ears.
My MA made comments such as;

“…you’ve created a vivid, exciting story that’s well worth editing.” and

“…it was a solid action-packed chapter, well done.” and my personal favourite,

“…and of course the most important thing is you’ve got talent.”


Perhaps boosting my motivation is not what has really happened here; perhaps it’s my confidence that has been bolstered and the hounds of doubt, which had been snapping at my heels, have been sent packing.
 Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of negatives in my manuscript assessment as well as the many reassurances, I need to spruce up a couple of my characters, and tidy up my editing issues of which there are many, but…I have a way forward and am eager to get back to work. One thing is certain though…if you are into instant gratification, then writing is not the game for you so give it up now, because if you are serious you have to be in it for the long haul.

So this part of my journey has all been about using a professional manuscript assessor and I must say that in this case I have taken steps in the right direction. My MA has proven to be highly professional, highly valuable and a source of genuine encouragement. I have no qualms in saying that my money was well spent and I can now see a glimmer of light at the end of this very long tunnel.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

E Book versus Tree Book

E Book versus Tree Book - This was a catchy phrase I heard on the radio and I think it asks a good question.  Which do you prefer? Which do I prefer for that matter? After all it is my blog.

I have to say that I love books. I love the soft rustle of the page as it turns to reveal more of the book’s mystery. I love that unique smell of ink on paper and I love to study the front cover. I like to try to relate the cover picture to a particular scene within the book, not always possible I know, because some covers are abstract to the extreme and others seem to have no relation what-so-ever to the story.  Still…I like to look. That sounds creepy doesn’t it?  The point is…the paperback has a distinct physicality that just isn’t present with an e book.

Then you have to consider the process involved in purchasing a book.  I have spent many hours roaming the shelves in the bookstores, (now it seems to take me hours just to find a bookstore) I’d scan the colourful, exciting and sometimes misleading covers, until I found one in my ‘genre of the day’ that caught my eye. Phase two; pick it up and read the blurb on the back, if it sounded good I had one more test to run before it left the store with me.  Flicking through a few pages I’d check out the style of the author, that’s my thing…no matter how good the story sounds, I won’t buy it if I don’t like the way it was written.

Yes, buying and reading the good old paperback is undoubtedly good for the senses. Whether curling up on the sofa, soaking in the bath or killing time on public transport. Even licking your fingers to turn the page, and then wondering what that god-awful taste was, only adds to the experience of enjoying a good book. Except…since I bought an e reader (shock horror) none of those things seem important anymore.

What made me put aside all of the emotional and pleasurable experiences of purchasing and reading a Tree Book, for the more clinical practice of reading an E Book?  Well to be honest I only did it to help me get published.  Huh?  Most of you know that I have written a Young Adult (YA) novel.  Now, I probably shouldn’t make this public knowledge, but I did promise to keep you updated with my efforts towards getting my book published, so here I go.

When I started sending my manuscript out, a lot of publishers wanted to know what YA novels I had read recently, and who my favourite authors were.  It shames me to say that I hadn’t read any. (Sorry publishers)  To be totally honest I hadn’t read much of anything over the past 9 months as I had been totally focused on writing. So what’s a girl to do?  I immediately ordered and e reader then started to look at the YA e books available online, there are millions.  As soon as my e reader arrived, I got to buying.  I now have a small library of YA novels, and a few other things as well, so I don’t have to make things up next time I send my manuscript to a publisher. (Again I am sorry.)

I have to say that I didn’t like the e reader at first.  It just didn’t feel or smell the same, and there was no licking of the finger required, just a simple tap on the screen.  But it serves its purpose well. The stories are the same, the pages still turn and when you open it, it always takes you back to where you left off.  I’m sure we’ve all lost our bookmarks and spent the first couple of valuable reading minutes searching for our place, well…never again.

I’ll admit that I am a true convert and I make no apologies for it. I can take my books; notice the plurality, everywhere with me. I no longer have to fit a door stop of a book into my already crowded handbag; this is a big bonus for me because as well as the other bits and pieces in my bag I now have to carry reading glasses.  Does anyone know why they give us such big, bulky cases for our reading glasses?  Do they think we are too blind to find them otherwise? I digress. If I want a book I can download it in minutes, it can be read in the sunlight or shade, indoors or out and it is small, light and portable. I do miss browsing the book stores, although I know I could still browse, I would feel guilty when I went home to buy online.

There is one big drawback for me in using an e Book; you see I have a bad memory, a really bad memory.  I even bought a book years ago about how to improve my memory and I forgot where I put it…I kid you not. Okay, so when I pick up a paperback I would always look at the cover while I got settled. In doing this I read the book title and the name of the author.  Now over the days or weeks of reading the book those two bits of information tended to stick in my memory.  I can still list dozens of book titles and authors that I have read, even as far back as my school days (and that’s a very long time ago).  But when I pick up my e reader and switch it on, all I see is the pretty cover I bought for it, then it opens to the last page I read, so if you were to ask me to give the titles and authors of the books that I have read on my e reader, I’d have to say…none.  

For me it’s a bit of a conversation killer,

“Yeah, I just finished this great book. No sorry can’t for the life of me remember the title. Nope don’t know who wrote it either.” See what I mean?

For the authors it’s not so good either, they need to be remembered and to be talked about, especially in this techno age where word of mouth and social media rules, though I think I have found a solution to my problem. I will try printing a copy of the book cover and stick it onto the inside cover of my e reader.
Does that mean I’ll have the world’s first             e tree reader?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Back on Track

Ok here I am again to update you on my progress along the publishing path.  Now if I was a woman of few words and of weak character I would simply say, No one is interested…I’m giving up! Luckily for you, or unluckily whichever way you want to see it, I am neither of those.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog I submitted my manuscript to four publishers and one agency, all of whom have elected to pass me by…their loss. Again I remind myself of JK Rowling and as it turns out many more successful authors, who received multiple rejections before their ultimate success. Follow this link, for an extensive list including some of my favourites, William Golding, Ursula Le Guin, James Patterson and Frank Herbert, check it out.  Believe me it’s worth looking at if only for the reassurance to keep on going.
So…what’s next for me now?  Well I am up for another round of submissions but I am also looking at joining the “indies” and self-publishing an e-book. If I do that I want my work to be flawless, and for that I need help. So…I have just sent my manuscript off to a Manuscript Assessor (MA). Yes I know I should have done that before I sent it off to the publishers, just remember…my blog is about the journey I am taking and that includes all of the stuff ups, of which I am sure there will be many - so learn from them. The MA will appraise the plot, structure, characterisation and dialog, amongst other things, and will hopefully reassure me that I am on the right track, and provide pointers to get me to where I want to be.
I have to tell you, sending my manuscript off to the MA was hard; maybe even harder than sending it off to the publishers. Why? I think because I had toughened myself mentally against the possible rejections. Now the publishers only saw a single page synopsis and a chapter at most, while the MA has the full manuscript, and her job is to objectively critique it. So for the very first time a professional will be reading my manuscript, and she will provide an unbiased, honest report on its quality.  Now tell me that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine!
The bad news is I have a very nervous wait ahead of me, nothing happens quickly in this industry and it will be a couple of months before I hear anything. I will let you know what my MA thought about my work; if I thought it was worth the wait and the money, and whether I thought it was beneficial to me as a budding writer. I am sure it will be.
On the upside, now that I don’t have any distractions relating to the first book, I can continue to work on the second book in my trilogy and I will be able to update my blog on a more regular basis.
I hope you enjoy the photos I post on my blogs, photography is another passion of mine. If you like these little snippets that represent spring, the season for new beginnings, feel free to check out more of the same on my Facebook page.!/joanne.pick.1238

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Code Name 'Book Club'

I know I haven’t been near my keyboard for a while and for that I apologise. But I have a good reason. I haven’t forgotten my promise to keep you updated with my quest to get published, but allow me this digression…I’m sure it won’t be the only one. My husband turned 60 a couple of weeks ago, and I have been planning a surprise party for him.  You will be pleased to know that it all went well, the secret was kept, and the surprise was indeed a surprise, a well-received one at that.

Has anyone ever organised a surprise party? It’s a lot of work isn’t it? I am pretty confident that I won’t do it again. The hardest part for me was not being able to talk to Peter about it. Sitting in front of the TV at the end of the day, I would have to constantly stop myself from saying,
‘Do you think I should organise games for your party?’ or
‘Do you think there’ll be enough food for your party? And so on.  Luckily I tend to think before I speak, and as a result I was able to stop myself from saying anything.

I started planning way back in February, sending out Date Holders, stipulating that all future correspondence about the party would be referred to as 'Book Club', and knocking about with a few ideas. The planning started to get more intense a couple of months prior to the party, and the last three weeks before ‘P’ day were full on. My main problem was how to get organised while keeping Peter in the dark.

Peter and I live alone with our girls, Willow and Alba, and we have enough of everything to comfortably entertain 8 people, chairs, cutlery, crockery, glasses etc. and space to accommodate 4 guests.  I had 44 RSVPs with 15 people wanting to stay overnight!  I won’t bore you with all of the details; suffice it to say that many of our guests came prepared.

In order to throw Peter off the scent, I planned a fake BBQ for the following day (the Sunday) with just the immediate family; five guests.  That allowed me to explain away the extra cheeses, crackers and other party nibbles

I arranged caterers for the food; they were very good and supplied everything needed for the meal.  Our local party hire supplied the extra tables, chairs and a few braziers for the evening; and the balloons which lasted about 30 minutes thanks to the wind and Willow. Some good friends collected the cake on their way to the party, others were kind enough to bring some ice, (I still owe you for that,) my dad-in-law did a brilliant job in getting Peter out of the house so that the pandemonium could begin, and my mum helped me to finalise everything and to put up the marquee from hell. (That is a blog all in itself, I’m still traumatised over the act of erecting that damned marquee, but I might be willing to write about it…one day.)

The party was on the Saturday before Sunday’s fake BBQ and the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before that were pure chaos. Last minute shopping, and hiding of the shopping, last minute planning, re-planning, panicking and finding a solution, only to do it all again.  My dad-in-law arrived, and I have to say was duly ignored while mum and I continued to run around like a couple of chooks with our heads chopped off.

Saturday morning found us all enjoying a relaxed cup of coffee over breakfast, chatting easily about this and that until dad finally convinced Peter it was time to leave. He did well, at 8:40am, 20 minutes earlier than expected; they were gone, with a friendly reminder to refill the gas bottle for the “BBQ” on Sunday as they went on their merry way.

I closed the gate behind them and strolled casually down the driveway waving to them as they left the estate.  Once they were out of sight I started to run and I didn’t stop until…well, it felt like three days later. Between 8:40 and 12:15, mum and I faced the evil marquee, it put up a valiant fight, and found an ally in the strong westerly wind, but in the end we won. The caterers arrived minutes after we had defeated the marquee, which was a good thing as it was for them. Hidden away at the east end of our house, they set up their spit roasts and started cooking a selection of meats and fresh veggies, yum. The party hire stuff arrived and was promptly hidden. Why hide it?  Oh I forgot to tell you. Well instead of Peter walking into the house on his return and having everyone jump out from behind the furniture yelling, surprise! I mean let’s face it, we haven’t got that much furniture, I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted him to walk into the house, to see everything was the same as when he left, then he would answer a knock at the door. Get the picture?
So where was I? Oh yes the marquee was beaten, the caterers and party hire bits and pieces had arrived, morning tea was set up behind closed doors in the laundry and the guests started to arrive.

The cars were hidden from sight on the far eastern side of the paddock, my Belladonna tree being the cut off zone. I was running around trying to place all of the clues for the treasure hunt (yes I did plan some games) stopping only to welcome more guests, then ignoring them, one of my closest friends yelled out at me every time I was within hearing range:
‘Jo, go and have a shower.’
You know who you are, and you were right.  I was sweaty and still wearing my daggy house clothes and time was running out.  Finally there was no more I could do, everyone, and everything was here and out of sight, it was indeed time for me to have a shower and get into my party dress.

All that was left to do now was to wait for Peter to arrive home. We got the word that he was close, and we all hid behind the marquee and set a sentry to watch the entrance of our housing estate.  After a false alarm, he was finally home. As the car drove into the garage we all began to tippy-toe around to the front of the house, only to have me hold up my hand to stop them as he walked out of the garage to say hello to Willow & Alba. Quickly, and I must say silently we tippy-toe-ran back around the side of the house. He disappeared again and again we started on our tippy-toe way. We got a bit further this time before I heard him call out to dad, ‘I’m going to close the gate.’

Well that could not happen, he’d see everything! Once more my hand was raised and back they all went to hide while I ran through the laundry door and called out to mum,
                ‘Tell him to leave it open, I have to go out!’
The message was passed and the crisis was over. Then the bugger called out:
                ‘Ok. I’m just going to get a coke.’
Now the coke is kept in the fridge in my hobby room which backs onto the garage. Unfortunately that is also where I had stashed all of the party hire stuff. I called out.
                ‘I’ve got one in here all ready for you love, ice and all.’
I waited until I heard his footsteps coming up the hall before I bolted back out through the laundry door. I knew he was inside now, so I didn’t hesitate, everyone was rushed around to the front of the house where they took their positions while I ran up the driveway and into the neighbouring property, to get the best photographic vantage point. Within seconds we were ready and someone stepped forward to knock on the door.

‘SURPRISE!’ We all yelled, and it was.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Another Disappointment

Okay guys, here is my latest update on my journey to get published; and as you can tell from the heading…you’d better get out the tissues.
Yep that’s right, yet another rejection. I shouldn’t really use that word.  Rejection, it sounds so…final, so rude and I know that that is not the case.  I think that I mentioned that I had submitted to an agency, well today I received a letter, or should I say a ‘With Compliments’ slip stating, very politely, that they were unable to offer me representation.
I don’t want to sound negative, but I knew this was a long shot. The agency I approached is one of the biggest in Australia, maybe a tad out of my league, but hey…I had to give it a go. Now, I am going to keep harping on about this throughout my blogs, and it is just as much to reassure myself as it is to suggest to you, that these rejections are not a reflection on the quality of our work.  I truly believe that and you should too; if you don’t believe in your work, then don’t even bother to send it out. Don’t stop writing though.  If you get half as much pleasure and satisfaction from your writing as I do from mine, then it is worth every single second you pour into it, even if you have no intention, or desire, or opportunity to publish.
If you were a fly on the wall around my place you would often hear me talking to myself, one of my favourite topics is the preparation for the rejection letters. I am not being negative, though I imagine a lot of you might be thinking, hang on…she just said if you don’t have faith in your work don’t send it off, and now she’s saying she’s expecting rejection letters.  Let me reiterate, I am not being negative, what I am being is realistic. I don’t want to build my hope up just to have it shattered into a thousand pieces. I understand that this is a very subjective industry, and I know that this is likely going to be a long haul.  As a result, I want to prepare myself for the rejection letters so that when they arrive, I am not totally deflated, demoralised or depressed.
My reasoning above is good in theory, but not fool-proof, because no matter how much I prepare myself for the dreaded rejection letters, they still affect me. So…I went to collect the mail yesterday and sitting on top of a small pile of bills was an envelope that I recognised.  I recognised it because it was the self-addressed, stamped envelope that I sent off with my submission. I didn’t have to open it to know that it was a rejection, the envelope felt thin and empty, so too did my soul. I’ll be the first to admit that that’s a bit melodramatic, but at that point in time, that is how I felt.
Anyway, I walked back down the driveway dragging my bin behind me, that’s not an analogy, it’s just that Wednesday is bin day, I went inside, sat down and opened the envelope to read my letter, or should I say my With Compliments slip. Does anyone else see the irony here; that they are rejecting my work, with compliments? The point is, despite all of my preparation the wind was well and truly taken out of my sails for the rest of the day.  I felt dejected, disheartened and discouraged.  All of the things I was trying to avoid.  I guess I’m not as tough as I thought I was.
The thing is though; here I am today, writing.  I am writing this blog.  I am writing a short story, which I would like to enter into the The Annual Scarlet Stiletto Awards, and I am making notes to continue my second novel. In short I am plodding on. I have had my brief period of feeling low, and now I am once again full of confidence, determination and hope.  And that my friends is why it is important to prepare yourselves for those rejection letters, because when you get them, and you probably will, you have to be prepared to dust yourself off, get back to your keyboard and continue your work, and one day, the letter in your mail box, or the email in your inbox will be something better than a rejection letter, it will be a letter of acceptance.
Isn’t that something worth working towards?

And if you should fall...

Get up, dust yourself off...

and try again.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Finding the Time

Where is it? Where is the time? People keep telling me that I have to find the time to do everything I need to do. 
I have to find the time to keep on top of my Social Media; Facebook and Twitter, both of which have turned out to be very distracting. Even now I have to keep stopping to check what the new Tweets have to say, even though most have absolutely no meaning to me, and of course my blog.  Now I see my blog as being the most important of the Social Medias for me.  It showcases my writing skills, consistency and ambition. At least it does for those of you who take the time to read it, (a few comments and followers would be good as well guys.) But I digress.
I also have to find the time to research for my writing and to find potential publishers. I have to prepare query letters, cover letters and synopses. Why not send the same to all?  Simply put, not all publishers request the same information in the same format, and each new submission must be addressed specifically for the publisher it is intended for. No copy and paste here guys.
Okay, so what else is there? I sleep when I need, that is the one thing my body insists upon, I don’t eat regularly, but that’s not all bad as I could do with losing a few kilos. We live on 2 acres and since hubby works full-time, the property is my responsibility, as are the dogs the chooks, the orchard and the vegie garden. Then there is the house-work, of course, washing, ironing and preparing meals. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this, I mean I love my lifestyle and not having to work is a blessing, but I need to write, and that is the one thing that I am having trouble trying to find the time to do. Does this sound familiar?
My first book is complete and currently holding its breath at the publisher’s office, I have outlined books two and three and have started writing book two. But…I want to really get stuck into it and I just can’t find the time, so…if anyone out there knows where it is, please…just tell me.
Seriously though, it is hard to juggle day to day life with a love of writing, but not impossible.  You just have to find a method that works for you, be it writing when the inspiration hits you or writing to a timetable.  Personally, I find it best to break up my day into timed segments, that way I can fit everything in, and I always factor in a good deal of fun-time with my girls. I have to…they’d bite me on the bum if I didn’t.  Anyway…I am an early riser so I generally have all of my domestic duties under control, the chooks fed and the girls’ first playtime out of the way by 9am.  That’s when I make my way into my office, with a steaming mug of coffee clutched tightly in my hand.  I then spend no less than 2, and no more than 3 hours on my Social Media, before stopping for a break and a play with my girls. Then it’s down to business.
Depending on what stage I am at, I will either get straight into my research, or pick up my story where I left off. Today, as soon as I have posted this, I will be making another cuppa, and then I will open my folder labelled, A Taste of the Past, which is the sequel to A Taste of Reality, and is the second book in my Reality Bites trilogy, to review and then to continue my work. 
I will take a break for lunch when my stomach tells me to, and I generally work through until 4:30-5pm when I start to think about dinner and begin to wind down. I know that some writers will go all night, (writing people, writing) but that is not for me. My body is very regimented and at 6:07pm precisely my brain clocks off, or as my husband so succinctly puts it, I hit the wall.
So for me a 9 to 5 working day suits me well, I fit in a good 6 hours of quality work per day and I am happy with that. But everyone is different and trial and error is needed to find the most workable regime for you. All I will say is, once you have found a good working routine, whatever it may be, stick to it.
There's always time to chill out
I take one day off work, writing,  a week to do the groceries and a ‘big clean’. I read whenever I can, I need four hours to mow the paddock, oh, and I have two new gardens to buy for and plant. I also have to make the curtains for the office and move all of our 1000+ books from the laundry cupboard to somewhere else, because the mice are eating them. The girls need a bath and the chooks need de-lousing.  The fruit trees need feeding and pruning and my rose garden needs tending to, I have to take the trailer to get more mulch and order the sleepers for the new sections.  I need…I need… bugger it…I need more time!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Do Not Presume to Presume

It has been eight days since my last blog, about five days too long I think, sorry about that, but I know a little more now than I did then.  Out of the four publishers that I have submitted to, one has passed the time-frame set in its guidelines and I have had no response.  Another…well I have to say that this is a bit embarrassing, but it seems that I sent my submission to the wrong department, and I will talk more about that today. The other two are still well within the set time frames; one ending July 9th the other October 13th and I have had no news from either of these.  Being a glass half full kinda gal, I am going with the no news is good news line of thought.
Now back to my embarrassment.  I know I stated earlier that I am by no means an expert and you should not take what I say as any form of advice, well…I wish to recant that for this one piece of advice. READ THE SUBMITTION GUIDELINES, FOLLOW THEM TO THE LETTER, DOUBLE AND TRIPPLE CHECK EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU SUBMIT.
Upper case is very dramatic isn’t it?  I didn’t mean to shout at you but as simple as these instructions are, they are often not followed…even by me.  Non-compliance to these guidelines, even in one area, will see your hard work off to the recycled basket without a second thought.
I was excited when I discovered that one of my preferred publishers was taking unsolicited manuscripts, and I set to work, following their guidelines carefully, as I readied my submission. My query letter was ready, complete with all relevant information; I had a synopsis of no more than 300 words and my sample chapter was double lined, with 3cm margins all around, and so on. Satisfied that all was in order, I confidently hit the send button.
Late the next day I received a very polite email stating that my work was not suitable for the children’s publishing program. I was horrified, how could I have sent it to the wrong department? Will I be able to send it to the correct area? Have I just shot myself in the foot?  After my mini meltdown I went back on to their website and went through the submissions guidelines again.
My error was this…I presumed.
I am writing for Young Adults, and I have found that with many publishers, the YA genre is merged with the children’s department.  I presumed that this was the case and I was wrong.  I let my excitement of discovering that a preferred publisher was taking unsolicited manuscripts blind me to the details, and as a result I showed myself as being ignorant of, or thinking I was above following the set guidelines, or at the very least of being unprofessional. A mistake that I will not make again!
I have gotten over my embarrassment and hope not to relive it, I’d hate for you to have to go through the same thing, it was a horrible sinking feeling and I was very disappointed in myself. Still am in fact.   Saying that, I have picked myself up, brushed myself off, and I am back on track. 
You will find that the submission requirements will vary from publisher to publisher, do not presume that they are all the same.  Read them carefully and follow them. If there is a Q & A section, answer honestly, and if they have supplied sample answers, follow that format. For example, if they have supplied a short sentence answer, do not supply a paragraph. 

I can’t stress enough the importance of following their guidelines, no matter how pedantic they seem, just do it.  If it helps, put yourself in the publisher’s shoes, and imagine the quantity of work they have to sift through, and how happy they will be to be able to discard some of that workload simply on the basis of non-compliance, and remember that they are looking for potential authors to work with.   
Never Give Up...
I am presuming, and I could be miles off track with this, you now know of my bad experienced with presuming, anyway, I am presuming that these submissions are, as well as a means for assessing your work, a means of assessing your compliance and attitude.  If you were looking for someone to work with, would you hire the person who came late, didn’t provide all of the relevant information, and openly ignored your company guidelines?  No? Well neither would I, and neither will the publishers.

even when things aren't going your way..

Monday, 18 June 2012

From Conception to Print - Part One

My last post was five days ago, and I am sure you are eager to catch up with my progress to date.  I thought it best to do this pictorially.  
Well it’s not quite that bad but you get the idea, this is going to be a long, long…long process. Seriously though this is what I have done since we last spoke.
My manuscript has been submitted to four major Publishing Houses.  Four doesn’t sound a lot and it isn’t, but so far four is the number of Houses that are interested in my genre, YA paranormal fiction, and, and this is a big ‘and’,  who are accepting unsolicited manuscripts at this time.
Unsolicited.  That word strikes fear into the hearts of all first timers, and if it doesn’t, it should.  There are many Publishing Houses out there, and many who will be open to your particular genre, whatever that may be.  However, when you start looking further into the publishing process, you will quickly learn that the number of Houses who accept, and here is that word again, unsolicited manuscripts is miniscule. This, in my humble opinion, is our greatest obstacle and I have no idea how to get over it.
The only thing I will suggest is to keep a close eye on any of the Houses you are interested in, they may not be accepting unsolicited manuscripts now, but they could in a week, a month or next year.  Just keep checking, and when the door opens jump in quick before it closes again.  For example; one of the Houses I submitted to will be closing their doors to unsolicited manuscripts at the end of June.  Had I procrastinated much longer, I would have missed this opportunity. You have to remember that no matter how talented you are, you are still going to need a bucket load of luck and determination to get published.
Another of the Houses Isubmitted to, requires a form to be completed, amongst other things.  One of the questions was; Which children’s authors do you admire and why?  I answered; Top of the list has to be J.R.R. Tolkien.  He inspired me at a very young age and his work is timeless, also, J.K. Rowling…for not giving up.  And that is the key point; believe in your work and DO NOT GIVE UP.
 On a slightly different topic, I know that some Publishing Houses state that they do not like it if you send your manuscript to more than one publisher at a time. The thing is…there is often a long delay from the date you submit, to when the publisher gets back to you, if they get back to you at all, and if you followed this suggestion, getting published could take many, many years.  One House that I have submitted to states that if I have not heard from them in three to four months, then I can presume they are not interested in my work.  For all I know they may reject my manuscript in the first week.  Is it fair to me to have to wait the full four months before I re-submit?  I don’t think so. I hope that the Publishing Houses understand our conundrum, and will not hold multiple submissions against us. Let’s face it, we know our work is good, and If they miss out to their competition, that’s their problem.
Saying that, I fully understand where the Publishing Houses are coming from.  They receive thousands of manuscripts each month and it would be a never ending task to sift through all of the work.  They then have to try to decide, from a single page synopsis, query letter and a few paragraphs, whether or not your work is marketable, after all they are in the business of making money.  Again, no matter how talented you are, if they do not deem that your work will sell, they will not take you on.

Let us pray to the big publisher in the city, that we may one day find ourselves in print.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

In the Beginning

Up until now my blog has been a bit of waffle, I was just dipping my toe in to test the water, being a new blogger and all.  Now it’s time to get serious…well sort of.  I want to share with you my journey from an unpublished, passionate and fervent writer, to a successfully published writer.  At least, that is how I hope this blog will end.  Only time will tell.
I thought that the hardest part about writing was the actual act of writing. You know, coming up with an idea, a plot, and an amazing story.  A story that is full of excitement, emotion, unpredictability and an ending that will urge my readers to want to read more. Of course that includes creating   the characters that will live their lives, completely at my mercy, within my story. Characters who will be likeable, hateable, possibly a bit of both, and believable.  Characters who will make my story gasp with its first intake of breath before bursting into life. But guess what?  I was wrong.
Writing a novel is hard work, emotionally draining, and all consuming, yet the dedication, determination and desire to complete this work, has been greatly rewarded by the overwhelming satisfaction I felt when I typed my last, two little words...The End. 
Those two words however, are somewhat misleading, as the end is still far from sight.
You see after I had typed those final two words I then had to begin the necessary but tedious process of editing, and then I had to edit some more.  Then I edited again, and again, and again. In fact I became so obsessed with editing, that I found myself correcting a stranger’s shopping lists over her shoulder, while standing in the check out at my local store; and I have to say…she was not amused. 
And then it was done, I could edit no more, yes I know…you can always edit more, but there has to come a time when you say enough is enough, and I had reached that time.  It was now time to move on to the fun-part…let’s get published. Ha! Fun-part my furry little butt.
This is when the really hard work begins, at least if you are like me, unpublished.  The odds are against us from the word go, and even though the stats vary from one website to another and from the piles of literature, the numbers are something like this; for every 10,000 manuscripts submitted each month, (Australia wide, all genres) only 600 are published. Now if that doesn’t scare you nothing will. 
I have to admit that I am completely overwhelmed by the daunting task ahead of me, the task of finding a publisher who is willing to take a chance with me, an unknown, unpublished writer who has put her heart and soul into her work.  This is a journey that I am looking at with great trepidation but I am determined to give it my best shot, and I would like you all to come along for the ride. 
I can’t guarantee it will be useful or informative, or even entertaining, let’s face it, I haven’t a clue what I’m doing and I don’t for one moment pretend to be offering advice…but it might be fun.  At the very least you will be someone to whom I can vent when it all gets too much for me, and for that alone…I thank you.

However precarious our grasp on life is, there is always hope.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Turkey Girl

Turkey girl was a beautiful Rooster, when the sun fell on his luxurious feathers he would simply shine. I have to say that it was always best to admire Turkey Girl at a distance, not for any aesthetic reasons, but because if you got to close he’d attack; and not in a, go away or I’ll chase you, way. But in a, when I catch you I’m gonna eat you, way. I’ll never forget that fateful day when Turkey Girl drew first blood.
In my defence, I have to say that he took me completely by surprise.  I had been cleaning the chook house, nattering away to the chooks and Turkey Girl, who were all hanging around to see if I had any treats for them, when suddenly Turkey Girl attacked.  He sunk his claws deep into my thighs then began to bite/peck my torso.  I have to say it hurt.  By the time I extracted myself from him I had some nasty scratches and multiple bruises.
Turkey Girl
 Turkey Girl developed a taste for human flesh after that, but the second time he attacked I was prepared, and I had my two German shepherds with me. I am embarrassed to say…we lost the fight. Turkey girl was one mean Rooster.

After these successful attacks, he started to stalk me, and any other human who entered his territory.  Sadly that territory was our entire garden. To try and put this into perspective, have you seen Jurassic Park? Remember the scene when the big guy was trying to get off the island with the stolen DNA?  Imagine how he felt when his car became stuck and he realised that he was being hunted by Velociraptors.  Well that’s how I felt every time I walked my back yard.
I have two acres of land and Turkey Girl, along with his harem, had the run of the place. I was sitting in the office one day when I looked out of the window to see Willow go running past, closely followed by Alba who was only 9 months old at the time, I remember thinking how sweet it was that they were playing together, but then I saw Turkey Girl hot on their heels. Again…I hang my head in shame.
I think Turkey Girl and my girls had a respectful love, hate relationship.  They would often come head to head, and as the girls learned to work together, the odds began to even, though I have to say Turkey Girl was often the victor. They were playing one day and I wish I had had a video camera.  Now Turkey girl always instigated the chase, he and the girls would circle each other warily until he decided whether or not they wanted a piece of his action that is…his hens. He would then lunge at whichever dog was nearest, and it was on.
Turkey Girl would attack and the girls would turn and run.  When there was enough distance between them, the girls would stop and then turn back to chase Turkey Girl.  He would run for a while, before realising his hens were watching, and not wanting to lose face, he’d stop, turn and chase the girls again.  They of course would again turn tail and run.  I kid you not; they did this over and over again.
This particular day though the girls were chasing Turkey Girl into a corner.  Realising there was no way out, he performed a jump up and over the girls that The Road Runner would have been proud of.  He landed several meters away from them and they then had to put the brakes on hard so as not to get sieved through the dog wire on the fence.
These games ended in one of two ways.  Turkey Girl, convinced that his hens were safe, would stop the chase or, the girls would pin Turkey Girl down on the ground until he conceded defeat. My girls are incredibly gentle and they never hurt him. When they convinced him that they had won this round, they would step back wait for him to stand up, shake himself down and wander back to his ladies. I know it sounds cruel, but there were never any injuries and as I said… Turkey Girl started it.
Nobody knows why Turkey Girl was the way he was.  Perhaps he was over protective of his hens, perhaps he was dropped on his head as an egg, or perhaps it was because we named him Turkey Girl.  Whatever the reason, many people fell prey to Turkey Girl, even after being warned about him.  I guess nobody believed the tales I told, nor understood my completely rational fear of roosters.

We later found out that Turkey Girl was a Malay Fighting Cock

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Willow's Progress

I have been remiss in not keeping you all updated with Willow’s progress.  If you are unsure as to what I am referring to, please read my blogs named, Troubling News and So Far so Good.
Willow is doing great, her wound is all but healed and she is full of beans.  Her vet was a bit concerned that there may have been traces of the spindle cells in Willow’s blood, but an extensive amount of blood work has all come back negative.  My beautiful girl is in the clear and is no longer at risk from the dreaded Big C.

Beautifully Healed
We all sighed a big sigh of relief at that news, including Alba who is really happy to have Willow back; not back to normal, but back to better than normal.  In the past playing with Willow was a bit like playing Russian roulette for Alba, she never knew if Willow was up for a game, or up for bully session. 
I mean, Willow never really hurt Alba, but the threat was never far below the surface.  Hubby and I often joke that if the girls were human, Willow would play rugby, because just runs and shoulders anyone out of her way.  Alba on the other hand would play soccer, because you just need to breath heavily on her and she falls down on the ground crying foul play. (My apologies to any soccer fans) But I digress.  Since Willow has had the tumour removed she has been like a new dog.  She initiates games with Alba, plays much more gently than before and tolerates Alba far better than she has done in the past.
Now in my ultimate wisdom I disclosed my theory for this miraculous change. I believe, I told the vet, that Willow knew she was sick, and now that the tumour has been removed she knows that she is no longer in danger and is much happier for it. The vet smiled at me with one of those smiles you get when someone is trying not to tell you that you are an idiot, and informed me that a more feasible explanation would be the painkillers that Willow has been on.  Seeing my blank look she continued further until the penny finally dropped.  You see, as well as relieving the pain from her operation the pain killers’ also relieved Willows constant pain due to her hip dysplasia.
When I thought about it, it made perfect sense.  Willow as always been a bit rough with Alba, but she only had the tumour for about four months. While Willow has had hip dysplasia since she was about 8 months old.  I manage this with supplements and pain killers, when I think she needs them. Sadly I realised that she has been a lot tougher than I would have been, that’s the rugby player in her again, and that she has been in a lot more pain than I realised.  
I’m gonna getcha!
So the silver lining in all of this nasty business is that now Willow is on regular pain relief, she is relatively pain free and as a result is happy to have a bit of a rumble with Alba. It has taken Alba a while to gain her confidence when she plays with Willow, but she is getting there and more and more often I see them having a good, fun play together.
Yes, I do feel a little guilty for not realising that Willow has been in so much pain, but that is the problem with dogs.  They can’t tell you when they are in pain, or how much pain they are in and Willow is such a gentle natured animal, she has never been aggressive or grumpy towards me or hubby, but if she had been, I might have wondered why.  I also understand now why she has been so dismissive with Alba, I mean let’s face it; if you or I had bad arthritis in our hips, we wouldn’t be happy with anyone who constantly ran into us and knocked us around, sending shockwaves of pain through our bodies…would we?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

It's Done

This morning I submitted my manuscript.  Yes I finally did it.  I believe I followed the publishers submission guidelines precisely, and I have sent only what was required.   So… all I have to do now is wait.  Wait and hope that my work is good enough to entice them to want to read more.
I believe that it is good enough; I am of course somewhat biased, but even so…I have faith.   I have written a paranormal romance novel aimed at young adults, a genre which is very popular at this time.  It is centred on a group of teenagers in their last year at school and is set in Melbourne.  I mean why should America have all the fun?   I feel that my characters are strong enough, and my story different enough, to engage many readers who enjoy this particular genre, and have them waiting eagerly for the next book.  
Do not read this book if you want a slow paced love story.  Do read this book if you like an unpredictable story-line with complicated relationships, love, hate, vengeance and fights to the death.  New friendships’ are formed and tested as the teenagers have to learn how to survive this new and dangerous world that they have stumbled upon.
Will they all survive?
Will good prevail over evil?
Will you ever feel safe again as you walk the streets of Melbourne after dark?
These questions and more will be answered when my book gets published.
How’s that for positive thinking?
Chill out time for Hubby and the girls

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Tiny Visitors

Yesterday morning my girls, Willow & Alba, led me to a couple of unusual visitors who had taken shelter in an unexpected place.

The girls had been dozing on their armchairs all morning, as they often do, when Willow suddenly jumped up and started sniffing and scratching, very determinedly I might add, at the backrest cushion. Now these chairs are situated outside of the house in a very sheltered spot, between the kitchen and the office. They are out of the direct sun, wind and rain and ideal spot for many a wee beastie, but I would not have thought that these particular critters would have made a home here.

Intrigued by Willow and Alba’s growing interest, I left the office and went to see what it was that was getting them so excited; I have to admit that I hoped that it wasn’t one of our regular visitors… a brown snake. I don’t dislike snakes, in fact I rather like them, however…one bite from a brown could be the end for the girls, or make me quite sick for a while.  So, cautiously I pulled the cushion back and took a peek. 

It took me a couple of seconds to realise what it was that I was looking at, but there crawling wing over claw, were two of the smallest bats I had ever seen. Check it out.

They are soooo cute, aren’t they? I have done some research online and these are Broadnosed micro bats…I think.  Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

I am pleased to say that the girls aren’t bothering them at all and I hope that they will have a long and happy stay with us.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A Day to Celebrate

It is a simply gorgeous day today; there is no other way to describe it. I was up in time to see the delicate mist rising from the valley floor, and I watched as the low feathery clouds drifted down to greet it.  The mist and the clouds finally came together, like a lovers caress, and they created a mystical, shimmering lake.  If this were the gateway between heaven and earth, then I would have no qualms about making that journey.

A pale blue sky, speckled with white powder-puff clouds provided the perfect back-drop for our sun, and when she rose high enough I could feel the warmth she provides on my face; warmth that was pleasantly countered by the cool autumn breeze. The scene was picturesque and tranquil, a near perfect day, but…it’s still its bloody cold inside.

Enough of that!  You know I still have no idea if anyone is reading my blogs, but I am going to pretend that there are hundreds…no millions of avid fans all waiting for my next entry.  Yeah right, but a girl can dream can’t she?

I am getting a bit excited about handing over my manuscript to a publishing house.  I did mention briefly that I had written a Young Adult novel in the paranormal romance genre.  Well, one week from today it shall be winging its merry way, via email, to the publisher of my choice. I do hope that I can impress them enough that they want me to send the manuscript to them.  And yes, I know that the probability of this happening is less likely than me suddenly getting you guys to read my blogs.  But try and try again will I, in the hope of getting published.  Would you like to read a snippet?

Of course you would, just a taste then.

Psychologically the change had already begun; Vanda had opened herself mentally and was now ready to accept the physical change which was well on its way. She dropped down to her hands and knees in anticipation of the bitter sweet pain that was to follow. One by one her bones began to elongate, break apart and then reform underneath her writhing skin. A skin  which seemed to be fighting to contain her bones as they metamorphosed,  while externally her skin was rapidly developing a thick, jet black, glossy coat.
The vampires had foolishly waited for the change to begin, hoping to attack when she was most vulnerable, but vulnerable was not a word one would use to describe Vanda, or her wolf, whatever the stage of her transformation.  To the vampires it seemed that the Lycan in front of them was struggling within her own, still transforming skin, stretching and writhing in apparent agony, the perfect opportunity to attack - they were wrong.

If this is somthing you think you'd like to sink your teeth into, please…leave a comment and let me know.