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.

Eight is many, many, many too few.

despair_by_astridle-d60lux7I finish January with a little spark of life.  In October last year, I completed a mass of submissions; a volume of work so large, I recently took time out to count how many agents had received my work.  My cup of tea had barely stopped swirling.  In the bin, the teabag still perspired with Earl Grey’s sweat.  Before me, I had the number: eight.

Eight was not as vast as the number of submissions I had envisaged.  I honestly think, following my manuscript assessment, that I’d acquired a little…er…confidence.  The cold wind howls and a tumbleweed tumbles across an icy tundra…it had rolled a long way.  As I wrote last month, my rejections were very supportive.  Since then, I’ve had a conversation with a lovely publisher (who rejected my manuscript) who also offered praise for the book.

The spark?  Well after looking at the number EIGHT, I realised that it needed to be much larger.  Didn’t J.K have fifty or sixty rejections?  I employed assistance, my wife lay on the bed with ‘The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook’, whilst I scoured the internet.  She called out UK agent names and I read their websites – I hope they appreciate that some of us do try to find an engaging match with both company and agent.

On one agent’s page, they recommend that a writer’s submission will be immediately thrown out if emoticons are used.  This kind of information fills me with the confidence that tells me, ‘You’re already beating someone.’  The race however, is to be the first out of thousands.  Another site recommends, ‘Don’t address us by another agent’s name.’…brilliant, that’s two people I can do better than.

Today, the submission count is at seventeen.  I think I’ve fallen in love with the idea of working with all nine of the new contacts.  As the submissions pile up, it becomes more apparent that I need:
The right agent, on the right day, with the right needs and the right publishing contact in mind.

Next weekend: I’M HOME ALONE!  Debauchery – excesses – wild abandon…
…are all things that won’t happen.  Instead, I think The Hollow needs a kick in the backside.  I’ve never written a short story over such a long period of time.  I usually tear through the first draft and then edit it for the rest of eternity.  Writing the first draft for, The Hollow has been like building a Lego car, except the bricks are arriving one at a time via sea mail.  Well, let’s see what happens next weekend, maybe a bulk order will arrive.

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
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APOL: Third Anniversary.

It has been three years today since I wrote the first words of ‘A Plague of Ladybirds’.  The passage I composed was the, now binned, foreword.  I can’t believe I’ve been living with the story for three years.  I’ve actually been telling people it’s four years.  Whoops.  Perhaps now, I can honestly say, ‘It’s in it’s fourth year’?

With good fortune and a little more elbow grease, I may be able to start submitting it within the next few months.

A plaque of ladybirds 2