Thursday, 1 December 2016

*Falalalalaaaah* My Winter ‘16 TBR pile

 It’s curl-up-with-a-book,-mulled-wine-and-a-log-fire season. Hurrah!
I said I was going to do something a bit different this time. Only a bit. Not much. The pile looks like this;

Small, no? But Christmassy, yes?
They are;
Maybe this Christmas by Sarah Morgan (Romance)
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson (Romance)
I will marry George Clooney (…By Christmas) by Tracy Bloom (Romance)
The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan (Romance)
Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan (Romance)
For Christmas, El Hubby is replacing my lost kindle machine. (Hallelujah!!!) On my kindle account are a bazillion books that I haven’t read yet, and have been steadily adding to, in spite of being kindle machine bereft. (Mad, right? I know, I know…) So. In addition to the mini-pile above (how many of something constitutes a pile?), I shall also be reading at least the following, plus as many others as I can hoof through.

Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson (Romance)
Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin (Romance)
Christmas under Starlit Sky by Holly Martin (Romance)
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider (YA)
I was here by Gayle Forman (YA)
Me being me is exactly as insane as you being you by Todd Hasak-Lowy (YA)
Seeds of Deception by Linda Castillo (Amish Crime. Niche, right? Suspect that after all the Christmassy schmaltz I shall be ready for a bit of slaying, -neither pun in that sentence intended.)

Have a lovely winter! What are you reading?

Friday, 25 November 2016

Autumn '16 Gut Reactions

  AAARGH! I forgot to write notes about this season’s books as I went, and now, having just been fully immersed in a rewrite of my story, I have forgotten most of my thoughts. So this is going to be a scant reactions blog I suspect, and it’ll be based on me staring very hard at this picture:

 and then trying to remember what I thought a while ago.

I’m giving Book of the Season to the Lockwood & Co series (MG), which I belted through, one after the other and Son One did exactly the same. He’d gone off reading for a bit, much to my woeful lamenting, but these books brought him back to the light. It’s ghosthunting essentially, but as only kids can see the “visitors”, they are employed to catch and eliminate them. Stroud doesn’t dumb things down, the tension and scenes can be properly scary. Normally, my boys can be utter wusses when it comes to anything frightening – reading or viewing-, but I rather neglected to mention the ghost bit to Son One when I started him off, and he was hooked before he could get scared.

My only whinge is that it took until book four for the narrator and the actual main character (girl) to make it onto the front cover, as opposed to her colleague Lockwood (boy). Shows that marketing depts. still won’t risk putting boy readers off a series by having a girl on the front. So I'm going to put a bigger picture of it here, just because I can.

  Jackaby (MG) was a similar set up; girl narrator, quirky boss, facing the supernatural, but set in Victorian times, on the east coast of America. Lockwood & Co was more punchy, but it was still a fun adventure.

Another day
(YA) – I love books where you get an alternative view. This didn’t disappoint, I might even have liked it more than the original -, but then I could only do that having read the first one first, if you see what I mean.

 The Widow (Thriller) was a gripping read. One of those books where really the action isn’t high octane by any means, but the tension grows and grows.

  And the other stuff;

  One of these books, by a writer I admire, seemed well… a bit pointless in the plot. Made me think that had it been their first book, it wouldn’t have been taken on.

  One of these books was a deep disappointment. It’s been a bestseller, raved about everywhere, and the setting was interesting, but the end was dire. It made me want to shout. So many unresolved issues, and maybe it was so it could be ‘deep’, but it just felt half-arsed and weird.

  That’s it. That’s all I can remember. My small brain is full of other stuff – my own plot for example.

  I’m doing something slightly different this year for the Winter TBR pile. You’ll have to wait and see.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A agent-hunting we shall go...

If you’ve seen the post below, you’ll know that I’ve managed to convince an agent to represent me and my Women’s Fiction/ Romantic Comedy story. 
 I finished it in June and sent out the submissions (the first three chapters and a one page synopsis) in July, then spent the summer holidays trying not to think about it. We’re supposed to wait eight to twelve weeks for responses. Patience is not really my thing, so on my return home I sent out another to an agent who represents one of my must-reads. Really, I sent it just to feel I was being proactive; she’s a long established agent with an extensive list already, the chances were very very slim. She emailed back. She really enjoyed it. It was pacey and funny. She really thought I had something here…. (My heart started belting…) but that said, it wasn’t quite right for her. (That’s an email-load of rollercoaster emotions, right there.) But BUT, she had an agent friend who had just set up her own agency and would I like her to recommend me? Well, YES actually, yes please, that would be lovely, thanks.
   And so my story went to Federica Leonardis, and she really really enjoyed it. We met, we discussed the story and our plans and she made me an offer of representation. Hurrah! Her list is still building and she has more time for me, which as a newbie is exactly what I need. There’s still lots of work to do before the manuscript can go out on submission to editors at publishing houses - it’s definitely a marathon not a sprint- but with an agent I feel I’m on the starting line and can face the hurdles with more confidence and clout.
  But that’s not really what this post is about.  I wanted to go back a bit, to the point where I sent out that first round of submissions. They weren’t to names I picked randomly, I had a full ‘Agents Hitlist’ drawn up, with various levels of approach, and in phases. Three years ago I posted about Agent Hunter, a site that makes compiling a list like this so much easier. In ye olde days you had to trawl through the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, but this is online and has filters, so The Fast.
Agent Hunter has just been updated, and so in exchange for an honest review, I got a free limited membership, which was perfect timing for me.
   I’d recommend this site to anyone who is about to start a submissions cycle. I took a day to bend and flex the site, compiling a list pinpointing agents who represent Women’s Fiction and are also still open to submissions. (Some agents have closed their lists, which is fair enough as too many clients would mean less time to spend on each.) The site is clearly laid out making searches very simple and it allowed me to save my searches in their various permutations, so I could return to them later. You can see images of which agents belong to each agency should you choose to search by agency first. I would have liked to have their names pop up as I held the cursor over the pictures as this would have made it easier to flip between agents within an agency who might both rep a genre, but perhaps that could be a later change. I did use the new ‘favourites’ function to highlight some agents, but then for the life of me couldn’t find a field that listed all my favourites. (That could just be my computer-lemmingness.) I’d still like to have a clear ‘shopping basket’ where I can drop in all the relevant agents, so I have an exportable list at the end of my session.
   The profiles of the agencies have a wealth of information on both the agency and the agents, it links to their websites and in some cases their Twitter feeds. And that part is crucial, because the Agent Hunter site is the first port of call, but it shouldn’t be the only port of call. Every time I homed in on an agent, I’d then take the link to their agency website and carry on my research there, looking at their company profiles and the submission requirements, working out a specific plan of action for that agent. I checked their Twitter feeds to get an idea of what they were like. Ultimately each covering letter could be tailored to the specific agent, with exactly the right information, in the way that they want it.
If you like to work from something spreadsheet-like when it comes to a plan of attack for your submissions cycle, Agent Hunter is absolutely the place to start when building it. Writers' & Artists' Yearbook costs £13.60, whereas subscriptions to Agent Hunter start at £5 for 1 month (£12 for 6 months, £18 for a year). (I researched and planned numerous levels of approach in one go, so I had more batches to send out should I need them.) 
    Of course, the on-going strength of the site will depend on Agent Hunter’s ability to keep on top of the changes, whether new recruitment, agent moves, new agencies (you need to get Martin Leonardis Literary Management on there, guys) or address changes.  But for now, it's an excellent starting point that will comprehensively set up any submitting writer for their cycle. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

That thing that was afoot...

So, here I wrote about Rejection Chocs, my not-yet-patented-but-I-really-should-get-around-to-it method for taking the sting out of agent rejections when on a submissions cycle.

The box started out looking like this. The Yummy.

Now it looks like this. The Sad, yes?

BUT NO. That is a box of chocs that have been part scoffed in celebration.
I am now daftly happy to say that the lovely lovely Federica Leonardis of Martin Leonardis Literary Management represents me and my writings. Of course I had to horse the rest of the chocs...

Friday, 7 October 2016

There is something afoot...

...but I can't say what it is yet.

Annoying, right?

I know. It's killing me.

I want to be like this;

Thursday, 1 September 2016

*Cue fanfare of rustling leaves* My Autumn '16 TBR Pile

I had planned for a smaller pile this season as I really need to be writing, but then this happened; 

The Widow by Fiona Barton (Thriller)
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Historical Fiction)
Jackaby by William Ritter (MG)
Lockwood & Co (X 3) by Jonathan Stroud (MG)
Dinner for Two by Mike Gayle (Commercial Fiction)
Café Tropicana by Belinda Jones (Commercial/Women’s Fiction)
Picture me gone by Meg Rosoff (YA)
Another Day by David Levithan (YA)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (YA)

Plus there are two incoming;
End Game by Alan Gibbons (YA)
and another Lockwood & Co title.

Ok, so there are four titles in the same series there, the Lockwood & Co bunch. I’ll confess I've just finished the first, hence my need to read all the series. (I know it wasn't officially Autumn yet, and technically beyond the rules, but as I set the rules and was without a book then it’s been keenly negotiated and allowed.)

Everyone is talking about The Widow at the mo, so I want to know why.

Everyone was talking about The Miniaturist last year, so I want to know why.

Meg Rosoff writes really interesting books, so the latest jumped off the shelf at me.

Jackaby got a good review somewhere that I now can’t remember, but it had made it onto my “look for” list.

David Levithan is a YA god (FACT), and Another Day is an alternative view of his book Everyday, and I LOVE books that are alternative views. Win, win! I stumbled across it in the library and got very excited.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was made into a film that I haven’t seen. It won the Sundance Audience Award in 2015, which is very commendable, but I still have no idea what it’s about, other than what the title suggests. See how On the edge I live…?

The blurb for End Game reminds me of the story I have in my head that I am still too chicken to write. I thought I should investigate it, either to scare me more or to encourage me.

Café Tropicana & Dinner for two are my token Commercial Fiction books in this pile, which looking at it is unusually male-author heavy; like 9/13. That hasn’t happened in a very long time. I’m often looking to make up the male quota. Perhaps this will balance things out.

Gut reactions to follow at the end of November.

Have a great Autumn. What are you reading?

Friday, 26 August 2016

Summer '16 Gut Reactions

Wow, that season went fast. There was Pimms, there were bare feet, there was lots of reading.

The pile looked like this,

 With the addition of these;

And on the e-reader I read
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling
The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran – This woman! Honestly this woman… She gets the Book of the Season, and it isn’t even a story. She comments on life and events, and her ideas seem so common sensical, and she writes with such gusto and enviable turn of phrase, that I can’t help but want to make a mahousive neon banner agreeing with her on all things.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (YA) – I had really high hope for this, because I loved the idea of it, that in the background of the paranormal teen stories, there are normal high-school kids, with normal names, who are also surviving their own (normal) issues. Ness had some delightful touches (or pokes at the paranormals), but then, for me at least, he kind of spoiled it, and I couldn’t get past it. It felt like he couldn’t play his idea out to the end, when I really think it must have been possible somehow. Perhaps I missed the point.

Atlantia- I’m generally not a fan of Dystopian. They make me feel icky and uncomfortable, which I guess is their point. (I like exciting stories with happy endings. And kissing. And no ambiguity. And zombie stories are definitely out – Zombie heroes cannot be hot.) This one though, pleasantly surprised me, to the point where I’m actually thinking of looking up her Matched series, which many many have raved about and I have always avoided, because of the dystopian thing.

 Which brings me onto Bloodtide by Melvin Burgess which I picked up immediately afterwards. It took me a couple of pages to suss that this was dystopian too (Atlantia had perhaps put me in the right frame of mind), but it was far far harsher and frankly brutal. It shocked me in places, but I couldn’t put it down. I’ve read a couple of other books by Burgess and what strikes me is the audacity of his writing; he doesn’t write so much to shock, but to show reality without seeming to give a toss about what others might think or what society considers too much.

Summer Days, Summer Nights was the follow up to Stephanie Burgess’s winter anthology My True Love Gave to Me, which I read in the Winter ‘14 pile. It was perfect summer reading, and I particularly liked revisiting some of the characters form the first book.

Tiffany Reisz is an excellent excellent writer, but she generally writes books that you wouldn’t discuss with your mother, so I won’t mention them here. This one though, is sassy and dark, full of twists and not totally X-rated.

The Raven King. Being the last in a series of four, there was a lot riding on this, and I had been waiting for it for some time. Specifically, I had been waiting for Kissing. There had been a distinct lack of kissing. Without spoilers, this is in fact integral to the plot, and perhaps Maggie was trying to convey the frustration of the characters to the reader, in which case she succeeded. But at last they came. Hurrah! And yet… the book left me feeling… well, that there should have been a wee bit more tidying at the end. I had questions and they hadn’t been answered and won’t be, either. And then there was my usual issue that some of the sentences are so ethereal and poetic, that I can’t quite work out what is going on. I have the same issue- possibly more so- with Melissa Marr’s books. I think I might be too thick.

 The other thoughts;
·         One of these YA books was so very very clichéd, I could predict the turns as they came. I know it was a short story, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have an original plot.
·         One of these books has been the bestseller of the summer. HUGE.  And while I loved revisiting the characters, the language just felt clumsy and I just wasn’t convinced by the crucial plot point. Controversial, I know, but there you go…

Am building the Autumn pile, but lamenting the loss of my Kindle Paperwhite, which disappeared at Aalborg airport during my holiday. I MISS IT!! Suspect there will be fewer ebooks featuring in the piles until Amazon puts Kindles on sale again…