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Would a literary agent be interested in ‘imaginative genius’. The answer is no. At least not the agent at York. (This is not a moan. She is right. I tried an agent five years ago and thr material came back the next day - unread)
Is the letter underneath important? No - but it does provide a strong character for a plot. It is possible to consider ‘the immortality that might have been’ but I had to find material to support this. It is OTT like the rest of the book. But the book doctor was accurate when he wrote ‘I am curious as to how this will shape into a larger work” His only comment about Middleton was that seems an intreguing character. The book doctor had not read the whole book, and I gave little information in my pitch. Bu I had done much of what he suggested and I had progressed in very much the way he suggested too. Some things I can’t change. “We shift around in time a bit’ I went backward and forward over some’s life. I wrote it in linked segments. The book evolved organically as I researched. This bit fitted here -that bit fitted there. The book doctor is right. It is creative non-fiction and I wrote it as such. Things might have been different over the pond. Who knows.Another part to the answer lies in a letter Middleton received from an (unknown) critic. It was a personal letter and one found with a bundle of letters, in the bottom drawer of an old Victorian sideboard. It is undated (about 1920 and concerns Middleton's South Sea writings. The critic is talking about an earlier admirer of Melville (Foule'?) and he continues: 'I can imagine the pleasure he would have had in the stories of our Modern Melville, Mr Safroni- Middleton, who, in some respects, is more imaginative, and is certainly more of a creative genius than the earlier writer. I have not come across any stirling notices of 'Sestrina' which Methuens evidently did not send me. If it is up to the standard of 'South Sea Foam' it must be very fine indeed. I do not find it surprising that your work should be so good inspite of your immense rush of writing. Rather I think that the speed accounts largely for the artistic success. And what is noticeable is that you do not understand your impact on the critical mind, precisely because your creative work is unconscious. When your stories are bringing in a fair income you will have time to 'fine the flats' to use a scene shifting phrase, and when you have done that, then the critics will hail you as an incomparable artist. I stake my critical reputation in your genius, and I know I am not deceived in such things. Many critics are only comfortable when they are (the rest of the letter is missing)
'Fine the flats' The books need editing - drastic editing!!
I knocked on the door of a house a few doors down from me - on an issue concerned with the interconnecting house - and was invited in for tea. The housewife is a novelist. Fancy living near someone for a good many years to find this out! She sells her books over the internet - romantic fiction - and is quite honest that she promotes them under her brand name and she might as well promote a brand of soapsuds. She does well and looks down at the conventionally published writers she knows as poor relations.
But then she told me about her father who had five degrees and was completely unworldly. - a bit of a recluse. She said the first time he kissed her was shortly before his death. She was then passed all his poetry and novels written in a flowery Edwardian style. She also spoke of madness in the family. Join the club
I don’t see how you can promote literary fiction in the same way that she promotes romance. I will change the term to ‘Books written within the framework of a literary tradition‘ The audience might not be interested in computers to begin with.
I will be back at work soon so it will be back to auto-pilot. The following idea had been Delilah inspired, but she would not be mentioned at all. The deus ex machina of the plot is someone who sexualises a library. This is just something I have been typing this morning as the weather is so bad. It has been a way of organising my ideas .
Aramantha and Minxie made some comments about my blog which
have been cause for thought. Minxie said she had
never tried to write a love story. I don’t
think there is a story in love. There is a story in
unconsummated passion. Sexual love might be the climax and
resolution of a plot. (The Delilah problem. She should not
trifle with affections, especially those of someone who writes.
See what happens!)
I could not send Delilah erotica expressing my desire, even if I wished to, because she is a Moslem - though she is totally free with sex with everybody apart from me. But I am the one who loves her? I had delated her from my life, but she has come back. She must be on some hard drive of mine. How to erase her!! This is Emile Jenkins and Marlene Dietrich now.
Aramantha who is very perceptive etc; pointed out that the situation is much more complex and this comes back to a project I began and abandoned early this year, in that pornography is not a genre I wished to explore. Aramantha is quite right. I am not of this world and I wrote aabout 00.5 of a shade of grey. I did not even read the book.
I recently read Karen Armstrong’s book ‘A Case for God‘ She used three words. Mythos, logos and exstasis. Sacred texts belong to myth (Mythos). Science belongs to reason.(Logos) Exstasis stands outside both. Armstrong removes myth and reason leaving only exstasis - the search for God. Exstasis might be one of Plato’s ideal forms. An idealized and perfect version of something - justice, whatever - that can never be obtained.
(I might have totally misread the book)
Now let us consider the sexual act as one of Plato’s ideal
forms. If I were to write pornography, two people would try to
achieve this ideal form and I would research the relevant books
to find out how to get there. This would not be a happy
experience, it seems. I read about
one sexual act which was - as I thought - totally
innocent. (Well, golly gosh!) And this information
was on the internet too!
But the situation is much more complex as Aramantha pointed out. Mythos and Logos are still around There are differences between the God of the Moslems, the Jews and the Christians. The God of the Christians has evolved - species adaption, while the God of the Moslems has remained in the medieval period. (Though I cannot remember if Karen Armstrong stressed this)
I had written a piece of erotica which was gender and racially neutral. If I had changed lace panties to boxer shorts, the gender of the protagonists would change. (It might not, but let’s not complicate things.)
Hindus might be more sexually free than Moslems who might be as repressed as the English let alone differences in ages, gender etc. The concept of love might only apply to Western Europe and, it appears, is only supported by men. Egyptian men act as satyrs while the women stay at home. So I have been ‘reliably’ informed (Delilah) Sexual desire and love are culturally determined, though nature itself might not be racist.
I need a PHD in sex, rather than a visit to a brothel and what underpins a simple farce are complex ideas,though of course every character is a stereotype. All this might well be creative non-fiction, though my idea of creative non-fiction might be different from somebody else’s idea of creative non-fiction. This is the problem of a genre in which there are no genres.
The play would be called ‘Prim and Proper’ which had been the title of a TV sit com I wrote about the library service I can’t work out, at the moment, how to incorporate this story into the play which, in theory, would have to be situated in an academic library. The tv sit com was partly about the way people betray themselves by the books they read.
Keep the day job. I think. But I’ve been working on paradoxes all this morning. It’s not good weather, though I am going to the theatre this evening. (Am dram in a village. Two plays by Daphne Du Maurier.)
Was ever woman in this humour woo'd
Was ever woman in this humour won.
I am not interested in internet dating but internet wooing is
something different and I have had a ago. I think it is
best to leave such things to the professionals but I have an
unerring ability to shoot my self in the foot, stab myself in the
back and score an own goal. But the words had seemed
appropriate. Would this have made word clouders swoon or
arrange another funeral. Whoops!
Last November, I think, I e.mailed the secretary of a literary agent asking if she would read Kathleen's novel and her other writing. (word clouders have praised her prose) I did not send the material itself. I waited about two months and had no reply. Apparenty, if they are not inerested agents just don't bother.
I then looked again and found an agent who covered literary estates and journalism. She was at the same agency. I e.mailed her ,and at least she e.mailed back, and said she would deal with it when she got back from holiday.
Months passed and I waited for a reply. In the end i e.mailed. I got an e.mail back telling me, more or less to piss off. So six months passed. Had I not e.mailed I would not have got a reply
Some of you have read Kathleen's material and it needs no editing. She also wrote children's poetry for a very young age. I am executor of her estate - half of which went to the Cystic Fibrosis Society. A children's writer is ideal for this charity.
The estate was cleared about ten years ago, As executor, I cannot claim any money if her books are published - half of which would go to the society, if not all of it. One has to guess what Katheen's wishes might heve been? I had asked around. The material itself could belong to anybody in two families and doing something for charity seemed the option.
Of course, I can do nothing myself. I did try. But what I produced, I gave away. Then I became my mother's carer and everything went on hold.
Some backing from the nedia would have helped and actresses often support a charity.
I am not too keen on literary agents. Of course, nothing might have come of it, but the loser is the Cystic Fibrosis Society. I will not try again.
Yes, it’s the big day! Future Perfect has been released! Funny, I don’t know what I imagined this day would be like – relaxing on a chaise longue while sipping Dom Perignon perhaps? – but so far it’s the same as any other day. It started by dragging one of my Labradors away from spilt fish and chips while trying to bag the deposit the other had left on the pavement. Nothing like dogs to bring you down to earth! Because today is only the e-book release (paperback is out in December) it doesn’t feel quite real yet. And now I’m at home on my own – the celebrations will have to wait until this evening. But there have been lots of lovely messages from friends, the happy discovery that I’m sitting next to SecretSpi on my Kindle.
So what have I learned along the way? Firstly, that I’ll never enjoy marketing but I can cope with it. For a while I resisted the idea of a blog about myself as a writer. While I enjoy my blog on fascinating females in history, the idea of anything else seemed too self-promotional and, being English, I'm terribly apologetic of anything that smacks of pushing myself forward. But in the last few months I've read many blogs written by other writers and not all of them are saying, "Look at me and buy my book!" Most are, in fact, nurturing a supportive community of writers. Over the last few months I've learned plenty by reading about other writers' experiences of the publishing industry. I've also discovered that blogs can be a valuable way of sharing tips, whether marketing or for writing itself.
But the other thing I’ve learned is the most important. I thought that writing was a means to an end, the end being publication. I was wrong. Of course the day that I received the e-mail from Elsewhen Press was a huge thrill But the greatest joy I've had this year was writing the last novel in the trilogy. There's nothing on earth to beat the adrenaline rush of being so immersed in the writing process that the world disappears around you and your fingers can hardly keep up with the words that are leaping from your mind. And that's my advice to all writers. If you don't love it, don't do it. Writing isn't a means to an end; it is the end.
P.S. Awfully sorry about this, but since it's been requested,
here's a link for anyone who wants to buy it ;-)
So what I want to know is... what do other writers keep under a sheet in their garden shed?
You know, the project you've had going for so long you can't remember when you started. The one you tinker with now and then, always tweaking or refitting parts, or oiling it lovingly then taking it apart and starting again.
I think everyone has one.
It's my Achilles heel - or my Achilles hell, as my auto-correct suggests. For six years or so I've had an idea for a novel based on medieval travelers' tales, where the strange creatures they describe are all real and non-magical beings, some sentient, some sapient, some in between. I've created six species, their cultures, their myths and legends, and their daily lives. If I were Tolkien I would have plotted their languages by now, but (un)thankfully I am no etymologist! Every time I got close to putting together a recognisable plot I got distracted and wrote another twenty-page anthropological guide. Of course, I always said that one day I would knuckle down; one day I would sit down and press 'Save' with a full and comprehensive story. Then, a year ago, I had a revelation.
I will never finish this story.
And that's ok.
Sometimes you need that quiet time, tinkering with your pride and joy. It's a time when all the pressures of the world drift away, even the pressure of actually producing anything at the end of it, and you can immerse yourself in pure creation. After all, isn't that why every dad retreats to the garage or the bottom of the garden?
So, Cloudies - what's in YOUR literary shed?
Dr Hairy's outburst about the Big.Data initiative finds its way into the press, and eventually comes to the attention of the Prime Minister himself, Nadvik Clamouregg - with hilarious results!
The latest in a series of low-tech zero-budget puppet-animation videos about the adventures and misadventures of an ordinary (but somewhat hirsute) doctor working in the NHS.
On YouTube: http://youtu.be/GZurXhpEZjc?list=UUddSGRCOJ_QeAI9fxDp75AQ
On Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/106282993
More about Dr Hairy: http://drhairy.org
- Edward Picot
http://edwardpicot.com - personal website
Great to meet so many people old and new!
To name but a few.
I know that, because I've thought all those things myself. I've tried to put into words the things that are bothering me on various places here – the occasional post on someone's blog, the paranoid comment on a private wall – but I haven't sat down and pulled it all together. I don't know why. Probably due to all the things I mentioned above.
Things came to a bit of a head this morning. I read this blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/charlotte-kitley/bowel-cancer-charlotte-kitley_b_5836238.html and it struck me (possibly because this brave lady's daughter was also called Lucy) that living in fear is not a good thing. Then another author commented on how he Googled himself that morning and he found a fan page. Rather than feeling happy for him, I panicked. Yeah, I know, weird reaction, but it's the truth.
So here it is.
My big confession.
Being published kind of sucks.
See, I said you'd think I was an ungrateful brat. How can I hate it when that's what everyone craves? Why did I even bother? Good questions, and ones I ask myself frequently. In the past all I ever wanted to do is share what goes on in my head. It get a bit strange in there sometimes, but I think it's pretty neat.
Problem is, it turns out when you share your head with hundreds, possibly even thousands (I dunno how many exactly, but it's been quite a few. I'll find out when I get paid next month) of people, it can make you feel really vulnerable. It isn't about good reviews vs bad reviews – I have a butt-load of both now (97 on Amazon.com alone and counting, including one where they declare my book is the worst thing they've ever read – woo hoo!), but just the physical fact that anyone can get hold of the book, read it and.......
… I don't know.
And that's what bothers me. Negative reviews are horrible (I won't lie – they're pretty devastating, but you do get used to them existing), but they aren't impacting in sales, so I shouldn't be bothered, right?
But I am.
Because every single time someone pops up a negative review, the old Fraud Police come knocking. Imposter Syndrome is a horrible thing (and something I've battled for years), and when these people come along and just confirm everything you've ever thought about yourself, it's hard not to sit up and listen. And the stupid thing is, Morbid Curiosity (the Fraud Police's CSI department) then pipes up and says: 'go on. Go and see what else people are saying. I dare you. I bet they're all out there, laughing at your sad, pathetic attempts. Don't you want to know? I bet you do. I do. Go on...
And round and round it goes until I either crack and look, or have a panic attack... and look. Some times it isn't as bad as I expect, but sometimes it is, and it's never good.
Then there are the positive reviews. The ones where people declare you're their New Favourite Writer, or they compare your silly little book to a symphony. Those people scare me more than the I Hate Your Book And Wish You'd Jump Off A Cliff brigade, because the latter will probably never read anything by me again. The former, however, are looking forward to the next book. They (gulp) want a sequel to PredX (I didn't write PredX's ending in that way to pave the way for a sequel. I'd never even considered the prospect. I just like ambiguously bleak endings. It's what I do). It's these people who scare me, because they are the ones I risk letting down.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. I remember, when I first joined the Word Cloud, feeling pretty much like this every single time I posted up anything for critique. Now, I'm okay with it. It doesn't bother me so much. I also remember when I first started teaching. It wasn't a good start – I was assaulted by a pupil in my first NQT term, which ended up me having a full-blown nervous breakdown. But, a couple of years later, I rejoined teaching and I stayed there. I did it. So I can do it. I can get through this. It's going to be horrible and it'll take time, but there will be a point in which I can be proud of what I've done on my own terms.
So, why have I written this? Part therapy, I suppose, but also part 'it's okay to feel overwhelmed', too. I wonder how many other new authors have felt this, but kept it to themselves. How many of them felt 'I may have made the biggest mistake of my life' rather than it being something to enjoy and celebrate. In fact, I know I'm not alone.
In his book 'Make Good Art', Gaiman says:
“I was writing a comic that people loved and were taking seriously. (Stephen) King had likes Sandman and my novel with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, and he saw the madness, the long signing lines, all that, and his advice was:
Sure, Gaiman is in a league so far out of mine it may as well be in a different universe, but the sentiment struck me. A friend of mine (who is now a Cloudie – hello, Hoodedman!), reminded me of this quote when I was being neurotic all over facebook a little while ago. I wrote a #1 bestselling horror novel. Not kidding. Top of the Amazon.com horror charts. And I was on facebook, hating it all and wishing it would just go away and leave alone.
But now I'm going to try to enjoy it. I'm going to try to be proud of it. I'm writing my second book for Severed Press now (I have a 3 book deal with them) and I'm enjoying it. If PredX was my At The Mountains of Madness, then Canter's Leap is my Shadows Over Innsmouth. It's fun. Of course, some people will hate it. Some people will take it too seriously. But, hopefully, some people will enjoy it. And those are the people who count. Because Neil Gaiman said one thing to me (I met him last August) after I told him about my deals:
“What do you mean, you're trying to write? You're already there.”
And then he wrote 'Keep making fantastic mistakes' in my copy of his book.
You know? I think I will, Mr Gaiman, I think I will.