They’re all dead.

dead-ladybirdThat’s it, done. If I’m ever going to write a new novel, I have to kill off, ‘A Plague of Ladybirds.’

The final straw came this week. I was booked in to do a cold pitch at the Rockingham Writer’s Festival. Within days of the event, they wrote to me and switched the times for my cold pitch. Not a big deal, but I couldn’t make it to the 12th Planet Press pitch, the one I really wanted.

I’m not one for belief in an external locus of control, but it felt like the final ‘sign’. Following this, a cynical realisation followed, ‘What if they just took people’s money for cold pitches, and had no free spots in their lists?’ They could sit there all day, taking $50 for ten minutes of nodding…that’s a great income.

This isn’t a cry for help. There’s nothing I could try with this book that I haven’t already tried.

I’ll always write. I just won’t write about an Akubra wearing woman, single-handedly running a sheep station in perfectly pressed clothes – striving against adversity to finally win in the end. Therefore, I will write for me.

Thanks for the support and encouragement.
I was proud of the book, and I know it entertained many of you.

Ideas from the shed

Shed in the woodsI’ve moved my attention across the Atlantic. With the U.S version of the Writer’s and Artists Yearbook, namely The Writer’s Market, I’m scouring for suitable agents. There’s an immediate, and promising, difference. I’m finding agents with interests in Lovecraft, weird fiction, Gaiman – they actually use those words in their bio-pic. One stated he had authors on his list who can’t define their genre, but get labelled as thriller, horror and supernatural writers. He went on to say that none of those genres fit precisely, but defining creative work into boxes isn’t always possible. Delightful.

I officially hit thirty submissions last night. Every time I hear how many rejections Harry Potter received the number changes. At this stage, the higher numbers are sweet, sweet music. Something like sixty-seven was the last number I heard. I appreciate that many of my submissions could have been to the wrong person, or arrived when a list was full.Hopefully, I can do it in quicker time than J.K.

Not all responses (rejections) have been automatic responses either. Many have been complementary and referenced parts of my manuscript as being engaging, ‘something I would love to publish’, and ‘with a wonderful twist.’ These comments are heartwarming, they bump the confidence into submitting again. I think I’ll cry for a week when someone responds with, ‘Let’s get to work.’

The follow-up to A Plague of Ladybirds hasn’t received words-on-page for a little while. My focus has been on the structure and my desire for dynamic character interaction. The common-place book is bursting with goodness. I hope all that goodness, written in my barbed-wire handwriting, is decipherable when I need it.

This week I am off work. The job is heavy and wearing – it eats into creativity. So I am resting…as fast as possible. My method for relaxing, in what remains of the week, is to write a short story for fun. At the bottom of the garden, inside the shed, a painting is coming together; something else I’ve been working on. The painting, however, is a scene from the final stages of this short story.

So, off for fun.

Fuelled by Christmas Wine

Merry Face-SSwamp Monstertuffing!  As I drift off into a post lunch coma, I will attempt to write this month’s blog.  Fuelled by two-to-three wines I will try to report what’s been happening in December?  There have been a few very positive responses to my novel, but silence rules most of all.  I have received two rejection emails and, after eight weeks, about six to eight non-responses.  I am still agent and publisher bereft.

I’m happy with the rejections as they were both extremely polite.  They said that they had enjoyed the work…but it just wasn’t ‘what they were looking for.’  One of the respondents indulged me with their reader’s feedback, which was very kind.  I believe, to my credit, one of the companies who rejected the story didn’t get what I was trying to do.  Ultimately, this is always my fault, however, I’m still not keen to ‘dumb the novel down’ at this stage.

In last month’s blog, I made the observation that submitting one’s novel required a steady stream of submissions.  I have immediately ignored this rule…to my own detriment.  If the agents who haven’t responded, don’t respond, then I’m at least eight weeks off hearing anything new.  I need to submit-submit-submit.

There is one publisher, whom I have submitted the novel to, that I hope will still get back to me.  I love their stuff and would love to be part of growing with them.

As for new writing – that never stops.  I have started another Greysham short story titled, ‘The Hollow’.  It has been in the works for years and I’m enjoying the first draft.  I’m playing with the idea of a narrator disliking another character for being similar to himself.  In this exercise, I have Poppy making a guest appearance.  Initially, a character is rather sexist towards her.  She puts him in his place – as Poppy can do.  The narrator observes this and reports what a pig the man is.  He then journals his own lustful thoughts, almost in unison with the man he despises.

It’s a weird exercise to attempt.  I risk losing the reader’s trust in the narrator at this point.  Perhaps the double standard the narrator exhibits will be viewed as false…it’s an illustration of ‘thoughts’ that maybe covered in polite interaction.  I think the issue is an interesting one, and will hopefully provoke thought.

Now…back to my coma…ZZzzzz…..

A Collective-Noun of Submissions

BrokenWithin forty-eight hours of the first collective-noun of submissions, I received a response.  Well, that’s not how it’s supposed to work, shouldn’t I be waiting for months…in silence…checking the mail…watching the inbox…tick, tick, tick.  The response was positive, too: ‘Please send the rest of your novel.’ I had initially provided the first three chapters as required.  They loved the premise of the book, and ‘the writing caught our attention.’  Within a fortnight, this happened twice again.  By this time, naturally, I started to panic.

I realised that if a publisher made me an offer, I might not know what to do.  I would need an agent.  Therefore, during this first round of submissions, I changed gears from submitting to publishers to only submitting to agents.  It seemed like a step I would need to take anyway – so why not now.

Most submission outlines declare that the author should wait eight weeks before considering their efforts a failure.  After my blistering start, I immediately ceased further submissions and waited for more promising news.  Another forty-eight hours passed and nothing.  It hasn’t even been a month since my first submission, and I think I’ve become a little spoilt.  Submitting your novel tip #1: Keep sending out the manuscript.  If I reach the second week of December without hearing from anyone, I don’t want to be starting all over again.  A steady trickle out, should mean a chance of a steady trickle of return.

In a small act of artistic cross-pollination here in the journal, I’m going to try and have guest artists for the thumbnail.  I will attach a link to their website, so that if you like their stuff you can buy it.  If you are an artist and would like me to like to you, please get in touch through one of the many ways…here, social-media, blah, blah.

Finally, the ideas for Greysham-shorts have been flooding my idle thinking time.  I hope to sit down beneath Plushy-Cthulu and start work on a new tale tonight.  I’ve been mapping it out for a few weeks and I think it deserves a chance at life.

Thanks to everyone who is now supporting the blog – I really appreciate your interest, time and well wishes.

Blushing my way to a better book.

Rick BerryThis week the ‘journey within’ has become the ‘journey without’.  Hopefully, it won’t be without good fortune.  It’s all about having the right person out there read the book.

Since May, I have been hammering away at John Harman‘s Manuscript Assessment.  Fortunately, his remarks were full of praise and the list of recommendations were short.  I was still conscious of getting the changes correct.  As a result, I found myself interviewing a Consultant Psychiatrist colleague on what the mindset of a strong feminine woman might be.  Her answer inspired one of my favourite scenes in the book.  I believe, Poppy grew as a character because of my efforts in questioning my work-mate…despite my stuttering and blushing and repeated assurances that, ‘it’s for my book.’

I sent three new scenes off to friends for feedback.  When I thought the passages were close to complete, I sent them on to John and then wove them into the book.  After this I tweeted that a new anxiety had been born…the worry over opening the document and accidentally placing a comma, or a space where there should not be one.  Copies of the manuscript appeared on different hard drives, dropbox, thumb drives…all needing to be updated when the smallest change had occurred.  The time to submit the book had arrived.

So back to this week, a week off work.  I’ve been scouring the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook, the internet and chatting to writers about what and whom they know.  Submissions have begun.

As I started this process I noted that this website looked dowdy.  The cobwebs were cool, but ‘the house’ needed a spring clean.  Hence, the new theme – I just hope it all works.  Fortunately, I’ve been doing a lot of preparation for this moment…yet, you don’t know, what you don’t know.  At the end of the day, it is for art reasons that all of this is done.  The dream is still big though.  Henry, Charles and Poppy have set sail.

I’ll blog progress as it happens…I hope you’ll join me.

Fragment, oil painting © 2014 Rick Berry
view more art www.RickBerryStudio.com