Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Never Give Up!

Hooray!  August is the month that has witnessed the release of Dicing with Death.  It’s been a long time in the shaping.  I wrote it first, nearly ten years ago, as a competition entry.  It was unsuccessful but I felt that I had ‘something’ and was determined to keep going with it.  I added another 20,000 words and sent it out to publishers and agents, receiving the inevitable round of rejections.

At that time I was unrepresented and Joanna Devereux, who is now my agent, was interested enough to request the full manuscript.  She suggested some changes which were duly made but unfortunately the book still wasn’t quite right for her.  At that time she didn’t sign me and I felt that another opportunity had slipped through my fingers.

I shelved Dicing with Death and went on to other projects which did lead to Joanna signing me, albeit several years later.  An introduction to the lovely Rachel Kellehar and the brilliant Kate Paice (the keenest eyed editor I have ever worked with – and yes, if she reads this she’ll be yelping at the poor grammar) led to the dust being blown off Dicing with Death’s cover and it being re-written for Bloomsbury’s Black Cats series.

And so, over ten years on from its original conception, with half a dozen re-writes, Dicing with Death is finally out there.  It just goes to show that sometimes a good idea for a book isn’t always enough.  It needs to be matched with the right editor, at the right time, for the right audience.  So don’t give up.  Just because you haven’t found your match now, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future!



Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Fools Rush In

If you've read my other posts you will be aware that I had my seeming moment of glory and then all went quiet.  I have to tell you, the silence was not due to an abandonment of my humble blog because I'd become an Overnight Success (after twenty years of sheer graft).  Before I proceed to enlighten you, a word to the wise for those who may have stumbled across this blog and really can't be bothered to scroll down to find out what I'm talking about, the letter below should clue you in:

Dear Beth,

I’m delighted to write to you today to let you know the very good news that your competition entry Future Shadows, has been chosen as the winner of the paranormal romance category and will be published by Piatkus Entice next year.

The Piatkus team absolutely loved Future Shadows.  You have such an evocative narrative voice and a real understanding of the genre which shined through in your story.  Erin Marshal and Adam Hunt are engaging protagonists and their love story is guaranteed to appeal to paranormal romance readers everywhere.  The first person narrative works really well too, completely hooking the reader in.

As we want this story to be the very best it can possibly be, there will be some editorial work to do structurally on the story and on developing the characters and their relationships further.  I will be working with you on this and I’m very much looking forward to guiding you through the editorial process.

In terms of timings, we are aiming for a 6th June 2013 publication date on Entice.  This will mean that I will need the final version of the manuscript back to me by the 1st of January 2013 at the latest.  I intend to send revision notes to you in the next week or two and I’ll be on hand to answer any queries you may have by email or telephone as we work through the manuscript together.

The next stage will be to draw up the contract and I’ll be in touch next week with further information.

I’m very much looking forward to working with you and congratulations again!
Yes, this was the big break I was waiting for, or so I thought.  Finally, I was moving up the seemingly endless rungs of my writing career ladder and surely this rung wouldn't break beneath my foot as had so many others?  I splashed out a small fortune on accommodation, a new dress and tickets for The Festival of Romance where I was to be presented with a bunch of flowers.  But it didn't matter because I had Finally Made It (although it did seem strange that I had to pay for my own tickets to attend the award ceremony!)
My euphoria wasn't to last long.  My agent, looking over the competition rules, warned me that I might have to surrender all rights to my manuscript.  It was my bucket of cold water moment.  Yes, I'd accepted that Piatkus Entice wouldn't be giving me an advance.  I'd also accepted that the book would be an e-publication but I hadn't processed that I would be giving up all rights to Future Shadows!  My agent contacted Piatkus Entice to find out if they would be prepared to negotiate but we were met with a firm no and the thought occurred to me that self-publishing the book on Kindle would give me just what Piatkus Entice were offering but at least the rights to the book would remain mine!
And so my short lived bubble of euphoria burst, my foot broke through yet another rung on the ladder and yes, I admit, my disappointment was so great that I retreated from the writing world to lick my wounds.  For the first time in my life, I didn't rush into something over which I had a nagging doubt.  I'm sure some writers will be yelling at their screens that I was stupid to turn down a publishing contract and, believe me, over the last six months of contemplation I've had one or two moments where I questioned my sanity, but I've got to look forward, not back, and tell myself that the light at the end of the tunnel is not that of emergency service vehicles attending a car crash!
As with all authors, my muse will not leave me alone for too long, and so I am now going to enter the virgin territory of self-publication.  Before a final edit of Future Shadows I explored the need for a professional front cover.  I stumbled across James at www.goonwrite.com  who offers The Most Amazing and Super Speedy Service.  Not only will he design a cover according to your specification but he also has brilliant 'off the peg' book covers for sale.  I found the perfect cover for Future Shadows and James added the font changes I needed within hours.

I'm delighted with the end result and can't wait to finally get Future Shadows out there.  I'd love to hear from any other authors who have gone the self-publishing route - I'm sure there are many stories of highs and lows from going it alone.
Look out Kindle, I'm about to take the plunge!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

And the Winner Is!

It's the morning after the night before. Last night was the Festival of Romance 2012 and my Young Adult novel, Future Shadows, won first place in the paranormal romance category! It's always so good to have positive feedback on a script, but to actually come first in a competition is very special - especially when I know how much amazing talent is out there. The evening was full of fun and it was so nice to meet new writer friends and talk about the highs and lows of being an author (more highs than lows I'm glad to say).

One of the nicest comments to be made about my script was how invested in the protagonists the judging panel felt. During the writing of the book I fell in love with my three main characters Erin, Adam and Hal and I'm so glad that others felt the same. You never know how readers are going to react to your characters and so I'm delighted that the panel felt that the book's central love triangle story struck the right note.

Future Shadows is my first, as of yet unpublished, attempt at both a young adult novel and a paranormal romance. Of course, knowing that everyone's on the lookout for the next Twilight was one of the motivating factors in writing it but I also wanted to tap into the darker side of my psyche to see what would come out. The cover blurb for Future Shadows follows, you can of course read the opening page on this blog:

Suddenly it didn’t matter where he had come from, where he was headed or what his reasons had been for hiding the truth. All that mattered was that somewhere along his journey we had found each other, no matter how briefly.

Occasionally there are two people who are so meant for each other that destiny will overcome even time itself to bring them together. Erin Marshal doesn’t believe in fate but her life is turned upside down by the sudden appearance of Adam Hunt.

Who is Adam? Where has he come from? Who, or what, is pursuing him? As Erin struggles to unravel the web of confusion a distant menace draws closer leaving murder in its trail. Finally confronted with the truth, Erin must re-evaluate everything she thinks she knows about Adam. It’s amazing how staring down the barrel of a gun can crystallise the thought process – especially when it’s the love of your life who’s about to pull the trigger.


Erin can only fight what is flesh and blood. It is Adam who must face the shadows on the horizon and be willing to sacrifice everything to remain with Erin.

All she’s asking for is eternity.




Tuesday, 6 November 2012

How did you become an author?

This is the question I am most frequently asked during author talks.   I always know that by this people mean, when did you first get published?  The assumption is that you're not a 'proper' author unless you're published, with your own name on the cover.  When I was first published I felt I wasn't a 'real writer' as it was under a pseudonym.  Twenty books later I still hadn't managed to convince myself I was doing anything other than the writing equivalent of painting by numbers and it wasn't until Petrify was published last year that I really felt I'd 'arrived'.  However, I digress. 

Okay, so, where did it all begin?  Well, my mother would say that as a child I would lie on the floor scribbling away.  I remember writing a story for my best friend when we were twelve and avid fans of a-ha.  She was passionately in love with Morten Harket (anyone born in the seventies won't require an explanation) and so I penned a happily ever after story which involved my friend, Morten and a beach on Antigua (ahh, the thrill of artistic license).  It might not have  been the stuff that wins the Orange prize for fiction but it gave me my first insight into what it was like to write for an audience.

A few years later I decided to get serious and bashed out on a typewriter a detectives on horseback novel which I sent out with high hopes.  These hopes were soon extinguished as the rejections began dropping on the doormat.  One of the rejections came from Penguin but some kind person to whom I shall forever be grateful had scribbled at the bottom of the standard letter, you might try Working Partners, they publish this sort of thing. 

For those who may not know, Working Partners is a packaging company.  They have a brilliant team of editors who come up with terrific ideas for books which are then matched to suitable authors who write to spec.  I duly approached Working Partners and not too long after was invited to 'try out' for their Animal Ark series.  I was unsuccessful but they did provide me with detailed feedback on my manuscript.  A while later they invited me to try out for their Heartland series and this time I was taken on as one of their writers.  I'll never forget the day I played the voicemail saying that I'd been successful - a twenty something turning cartwheels is not the most graceful sight to behold! 

The best thing about working with a packaging company is the help and advice you are given by the editors.  I was first privileged to work with Amber Caraevo before coming under the guidance of the very lovely Victoria Holmes.  We have now worked on four series together (Heartland, Chestnut Hill, Champions Yard, Sanctuary) and Vicky makes the process from beginning to end a complete joy.  However, I soon came to realise that to reach the next rung on the writing ladder was to secure an agent....

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them...

Are great authors born or can people build upon average writing skills to become great authors?  I was interested to once hear Jackie Collins describe herself as a storyteller (with sales of 500 million this lady must surely be at the top of the storytelling game).  She was drawing a distinction between her art and the writings of other authors who she would describe as great.

For sure, creativity is something you are born with.  It runs in families.  As an assessor of specific learning difficulties I know that where there is dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, etc, there is a strongly creative nature.  With a plethora of conductors, composers, musicians, artists and poets, creativity certainly runs in my family, but everyone has worked hard at their art which has often had to come second to a day job.

I remember one occasion after I had submitted my second novel, one of my editors scribbled on my manuscript alongside a particularly laborious piece of prose, “I’ve just stabbed my eyeballs out with a spoon.”  She even drew a little picture to demonstrate how tortured my writing was making her feel!  I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since then but know I have much further to travel.  I often pick up a book, turn to the first page and think, I’d love to be able to write like that.  I’m currently reading Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf and am absolutely hooked both by her storytelling skills and the effortless writing.  Are such authors born or have they just worked very hard at their art?

I know that many authors would not want the greatness that is thrust upon them.  The authors I know are private individuals who, whilst happy to see their work in print, are less enthusiastic about participating in the publicity that accompanies it!  Increasingly these days an important part of the author’s role is self-publicity.  Not only do you have to turn out a manuscript in an ever competitive climate that gets you noticed, you also have to demonstrate the ability to market yourself.

Of course, there are those ‘authors’ who have ‘greatness’ of a different sort and choose to cash in on their fame by putting their name on a book cover.  For us plebs who have struggled for years to hone our art and secure a book deal this can be the most discouraging practice of all.  I can happily take on board editorial criticism – pictures included! – as part and parcel of improving my writing skills; far harder to swallow are the tabloid headlines of £400,000 advances to those in the public eye to whom writing is not of any great personal importance. 

But the pay cheque sure is…..

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Final Edit

Whenever I finish a piece of writing, be it a proposal, a short story or a novel I'm always in such a tearing hurry to get my agent's/editor's feedback that almost as I'm writing The End I'm attaching it to send.  (There's a poem in there). 

The truth is that a cooling off period should be written into every author's schedule.  By this I mean letting enough time lapse so a writer can grow sufficiently detached to return to the project and view it objectively.

I've often been delighted with a piece only to return to it after a cooling off period to think, did I really write that?!

Patience is one of the best, and hardest, lessons an author can learn.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Suffering from Writer's Block... or should that be Blogger's Block?