Archive | July 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Ann(ie)

Now lost ten and a half pounds. (Only another two pounds to go and I shall weigh the same as I did this time last year.) I put on nearly a stone sitting on my backside writing ‘Sunlight on Broken Glass’.

Kevin – please STOP me pigging out in Wales. Remind me that it’s taken me five weeks of severe self-deprivation to lose the equivalent of ten and a half packets of slimy, greasy white lard.

The weight watchers leader had a dozen packets stacked up on the front table this week. It made me feel quick ill looking at them.

Mind you – my extremely tactful hubby has just reminded me that he can’t tell yet.

‘Still Waiting’ and Agent Responses

I’m still waiting to hear. And it is HORRIBLE!

I know that I am lucky to have an agent.

I know I should be grateful that my novel has been pitched at the publishing world and no news is good news (so they say!!).

I know I am a complete pain in the a**e to anyone who knows me. I can’t concentrate on anything else – this enormous warm and fluffy feeling that is my first novel occupies every space in my brain, forcing out mundane things like shopping, cleaning and working.

I’m coiled up like a cobra, periodically sticking my head up to spit venomous poison at anyone who asks if I have heard anything from my agent.

Anyway – less of the incoherent burblings of a frustrated wannabe, the reason for this post is to share some information with my fellow aspiring novelists.

I sent out a total of six submissions to agents earlier this year. I have now had a reply from all of them; the last one responding just yesterday. I thought you might like to know the statistics and how and by when they responded. I won’t put the names of the agencies on my blog, but most of you know who they are anyway from chatroom ramblings, and if you e-mail me I’ll tell you privately.

Agent No. 1: Submitted end February. Replied five weeks later with a request for the full manuscript. Rejected one week later with an individually written letter, mentioning the huge amount of submissions they receive, the current economic climate and suggesting that I try elsewhere. The letter was polite and friendly and I got the feeling this was a top-class agency.

Agent No. 2: Submitted 3rd May. E-mailed on 20th May to say she would like to read the whole manuscript. M/S submitted 21st May. E-mailed on 29th May to say she liked it and would like to meet me to discuss it. Meeting held on 6th June. Revisions suggested. Rewrite submitted on 16th June. E-mailed back to say she was sending it out to two big publishers on 3rd July and ‘a few more’ during week commencing 7th July. She says she will let me know immediately she hears back from any of the publishers. (Hence the constant checking of e-mails and jumping each time the phone rings.) I have to say that the service I have received as a new author has been second to none, and although this agent has a scary reputation I feel she will do her utmost to get me published.

Agent No 3: Submitted 3rd May. I received a lovely individual response at the end of May saying that she had enjoyed the first three chapters, but that ‘on balance, she felt she would have to pass this time as it didn’t quite grip her in the way that it should for her to offer to represent it’. She urged me to try other agents, who may be looking for this type of family saga. Once again, she made me feel valued as a person, even though she had rejected my manuscript.

Agent No. 4: Submitted 3rd May. Package returned with no covering letter, standard letter or anything to indicate where it had come from. I had to guess which agency it was by the postmark. Big thumbs down for this agency. I wouldn’t have thought a standard rejection letter would have been too much trouble to include in the package. Mind you it does now say on their website they are not considering any unsolicited material at the present time, although it didn’t mention this at the time I sent it off. Perhaps a junior assistant forgot to include the standard letter?

Agent No. 5: Submitted 3rd May. Packaged returned with standard rejection letter mid June. I have to say that the manuscript looked as if it hadn’t even been read.

Agent No. 6: (Submitted 3rd May, reply received yesterday). A letter requesting the full manuscript after I have re-written it using just one narrative voice. The agent said ‘…. we enjoyed the writing immensely, but feel that it is best for a new author to stick to just one narrative voice.’ I have written back to the agent thanking her for her time and informing her that I now have an agent.

What do you all feel about the response of Agent No. 6?

The first part of my novel is written in the first person from five points of view as each of the principal characters describes what happened on Easter Sunday in 1922. The second part takes up the story from the Autumn of 1922 and tracks the life of the family up until 1978. It is written traditionally in the third person, with occasional narrative (typed in italics) in the first person as the main character (Tom) speaks directly to the reader and makes comments on his life story, giving shocking little secrets away.

It just goes to show how agents have differing opinions doesn’t it?

JM (my agent) loved the way it was written. She said it was original and made the reader feel a part of the family. When we met I did say that I was worried about the structure of the novel, but she dismissed my comment with a wave of the hand and said that ‘true writers just write, and it’s how it grips the reader that matters, and how quickly they want to turn the pages, not how it is technically constructed.’ Mind you, she suggested changing the viewpoint in places, and I could see why when I did the revisions – the whole thing flowed much better.

I’m just hoping that publishers won’t take the view of Agent No. 6 just because I’m an unpublished author; I feel that No. 6 does have a valid point about using just one narrative voice, and it’s something that I’ve read elsewhere too.

The only thing is, I don’t see how the story would work if I changed it.

Anyhow. I’m keeping everything crossed that it’s just a hypothetical conundrum, and hardly daring to hope that one of the publishers will want to publish my novel. If they don’t – then I suppose it’s back to the drawing board, but even though the waiting is killing me, I wouldn’t miss the experience for anything!

But what is really comforting is knowing that my blogmates are right beside me, and if the ultimate outcome is rejection then I know I’m in good company!

A Tribute to the Man who Serviced the Trains at Wicksteed Park – Ben Martin – An Urban Legend

Ben Martin was a joker: his loud booming voice delivering random snippets of quirky wisdom about anything and everything could be heard all across Wicksteed Park Lake.

He worked there for nearly forty years as the park’s Chief Engineer.

His workshop was on the edge of the water, hidden behind some bushes – out of sight of the thousands of day trippers who descend on Wickies Park in the summer. ‘The Lady of the Lake’, ‘King Arthur’ and ‘Cheyenne’ were his babies. He knew every single nut and bolt and took them to bits, serviced them and put them back together again endlessly. How many people enjoyed a ride around the lake on the miniature railway, kept safe by Ben’s meticulous maintenance on the trains? How many children squealed with pleasure on the roller coaster, not realising how much dedication went into keeping it in perfect working order?

When Rob was a little boy, Ben decided to take him on some mad expedition or another involving a farm, pigs and lots of mud. The only thing was, eight-year old Rob didn’t have any wellies with him. Did that matter? No, course not. Don’t be silly – there’s always a solution somewhere! Seven pairs of socks and a pair of size 10 wellies was the answer. Rob says he could hardly drag his little legs along the track, let alone through all the mud and pig muck.

When Rob and I were sixteen we helped him push an old green Morris 1100 across a field from the farmyard to Ben’s house in the heart of the Northamptonshire countryside (please don’t ask why!). I laughed so much my sides ached for a week afterwards, as he kept telling me to push harder, because the herd of cows that were following us were catching us up fast.

He told me I was beautiful on my wedding day – in a very loud and embarrassing voice! When we eventually had children he sat them on his lap and pretended to steal their nose and find it behind their ear. Once my boys were big enough he helped Rob teach them how to mend their cars for themselves, and how, if they couldn’t find a part that needed replacing, they should have a go at making one.

His big hands were always grubby, his fingernails caked in oil. His overalls did actually stand up themselves in the corner of his workshop. Everything about Ben was big, loud, jolly and fun.

Rob and my boys (and Ben’s son, Scott) are all Land Rover mad. They’ve all got one – it’s Landy City around here and Nicky can’t wait until his insurance comes down so he can have one too.

Ben also loved Land Rovers. I couldn’t help but laugh watching them all, getting in each others way. They were all like great big kids playing with giant meccano sets!

Sadly, Ben died in the early hours of Saturday morning of a massive heart attack. No warning. No nothing.

He left his legacy though. On Friday he was in the middle of mending a tractor. It’s now in bits on his front drive in a glorious rendition of his last joke! Rob’s Auntie doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

So Benji, if you are up there reading this, no-one knows where all the bits go. Can you come back and give them a hand!

Ben Martin
24.7.38 to 5.7.08
RIP

Giant Leaps

My book is now with publishers. JM e-mailed me yesterday afternoon at work and confirmed that she has sent it out. She says she has her fingers crossed.

I sat staring at the unopened e-mail for a few seconds before I clicked on it to open it.

I work in an open plan office and everyone was doing their own thing. It was 4.30, quiet, with just the sound of tapping fingers, humming of overhead fans and the occasional rustling of paper. It was just another e-mail.

So why, then, did I feel as if the entire population of Kettering was looking over my shoulder?

I clicked on it to open it, just as my phone rang simultaneously. The sound of the phone made me jump. I answered it. It was reception.

DAMN! I had an appointment at 5.30 and he was here a whole hour early!

Well – the poor bloke. I just shoved him in the Council Chamber (I didn’t want to take him up to the office because of the e-mail. What I really wanted to do was tell Heather and jump up and down in the privacy of the Democratic Services kitchen without the straight-jacket of an Iimportant Consultant from the IDeA in the office.)

DAMN. There was no water in the kettle in the Chamber. I shoved the spout under the nozzle of the little tap on the water cooler. Water splashed everywhere.

‘Be careful,’ my visitor said, alarmed. He thought it was a boiler, and then realised it wasn’t, laughing at himself.

‘What’s up with you?’ he said. ‘You’re a bundle of nerves.’

Now. I know this man is a Very Important Consultant with High Level Connections with Very Important Government Ministers; hell – he’s even on first name terms with our ‘Gordon’! I also know he is devoted to his wife and kids, has two very sloppy labradors and LOVES reading. I know all about his kids. I know where he lives. I know lots of things about Very Important Visitor. I know all these things because we’ve spent quite a few hours talking about such things as ‘Books We Have Read’ , ‘Where We Are Going on Holiday’ and ‘The Ups and Downs of Life with Labradors’ when we should have been working on boring local government stuff.

I decided I knew Very Important Visitor well enough to tell him about my book, and the just-opened e-mail on my PC upstairs.

What I wasn’t expecting was the reaction.

‘I knew it,’ he said, a wide, silly grin plastered over his face. ‘I knew there was a lot more to you than met the eye. KBC will be losing a damned good democratic services manager.’ (Aaaah – he was only being nice – we do get on quite well despite his Very Important status.

‘I’m not leaving,’ I said. ‘Authors don’t earn very much. I need to keep my job.’

‘Bloody hell,’ he said. ‘When can I read it? What’s the title? What’s it about? Can I come to your book launch? Oh, please … you’ve just got to invite me to your book launch.’

‘I haven’t got a publisher yet,’ I said – a tad alarmed at the public display of excitement. ‘Don’t go spreading it around.’

Anyway. This little conversation with Very Important Person is significant on my journey out of the writing closet.

I’ve finally told someone – outside close friends and family – about my book and being a secret writer. Do you know – it felt quite good? In fact, it felt bloody marvellous!

Could it be that people won’t think I’m mad after all?

Now who would have thought I’d have said that a year ago!

An Early Morning (B)rainstorm

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Melody of Raindrops

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A possible title for the sequel has just presented itself to me as I complete my 1,000 words for today. It’s four thirty am and I’ve just got up to write before going to work. Please tell me what you think. Does it work as a title? Would you buy a book with this title? I shall use it as a working title anyway because it’s better than just ‘Sequel to Sunlight’.