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Friday, 27 December 2013

A book advisory service can make or break you. Don't let it become the latter.

A Day in the Life of... 
Louise Wise

March 8th 1999 was the day I BECAME an author.

I'd been writing a long time before that, but that was the defining moment in my head and where I received the most horrendous review on my precious novel. I'd sent it for analyst to a well-known (shall remain nameless because I'm still scared of them) book advisory service.

I paid my money (over £400) and waited for them to fall over themselves in recommending me to agents and publishers (we're dreamers, us authors).
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Four months later, I received my ms back (in those days it was all done via the old fashion postal service) and I opened the brown package with eager fingers. The smell hit me first: cigarettes. But I wasn't deterred. I sat down with my smelly ms to read the advisory's review, digest their suggestions and to feel warmed by their encouragement.

What I got was wriggly red lines underlining sentences, red circles around paragraphs and lots of exclamations or question marks in the margin. There was no explanation to these marks, but there was a one-paged mockery analyst of my work. It was handwritten with very bad handwriting at that.

Of course, I was devastated, and my husband suggested I not contact the advisory until I calmed down. But name me a woman who listens to her husband! Oi, put your hand down, you.

The advisory was blunt, unapologetic: "Welcome to the writing world, dahling, this is what it's like, get used to it." They blamed the smell of the ms on the 'cheap' (their words) ink I'd used, and said the wriggly lines and circles should be self-explanatory. 

They offered to take the ms back and re examine it 'providing I pay the postage costs'. But I was so shocked and demoralized by their attitude I declined. 

The report could have broken me. It was more than harsh, it was nasty. In hindsight, I think I was sent the note version of the analyst although this was never admitted. But you know what, that day something clicked in my head and my backbone strengthened.

I put the ms aside and began another book. This time though, I used another advisory service: Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. This book wasn't ready either, but the service was encouraging, patient and most of all, a learning experience.

The moral? 

There are some nasty people out there. Be strong.

Louise Wise has written two comedy romances, two science fiction novels, a collection of short stories and a non-fiction novella.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas from me to you!

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. 
May all your wishes be books!

© Egidijus Mika | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Back for business December 27th!

Friday, 20 December 2013

When a dream becomes reality

A Day In The Life of 
Carmel Harrington

Have you ever watched the Oscars and fantasised about one day walking the red carpet one day? Maybe you have stood in front of your mirror with a hairbrush in hand and practised your ‘Gwennie’ acceptance speech!

Or of a Friday night, while soaking in your bath do you do a ‘Jimmy Rabbitte’ from The Commitments? Remember that hilarious scene where he practiced his celebrity interview with Terry Wogan? (Ok that’s a few years ago, so now it might be Graham Norton or Alan Carr that you use, but you get the idea!)

If you are sport-mad like my husband, you may have thought about scoring the winning goal for Liverpool in the Champions League Final once or twice. (delete/insert your favourite team here!)

My point here is that for most of us, we all have a day-dream or fantasy ‘what if’ moment in our heads that we never really think will come true, but it’s fun to think about every now and then.

Well for me, my fantasy day-dream was to see a book I’d written for sale in a bookshop. Preferably not in the bargain basket! Ever since I was a young girl, a self-confessed book nerd I might add, I would marvel at the beautiful covers that adorned book shelves row after row and wonder what it must feel like for those authors to see their work displayed so magnificently. Over the years, I have spent many a happy afternoon drinking coffee in my local bookshop, flicking through new releases and deciding which book would be my next purchase. And inadvertently I would find myself day-dreaming about one day seeing my own name amongst those heroes of mine. Just thinking about it would make me smile.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

It’s All About The Mornings

A Day in the Life of...
Elizabeth Myrddin 

I work a full time job. Thus, my writing must be scheduled so that it becomes part of my regular daily routine. A work shift of 11:30am to 8pm enables me to write in the mornings. This early-to-rise habit is easily applied to weekends and holidays, whenever feasible.

I attempt creative productivity in the mornings at least five days per week. Some weeks it is less. In other weeks, I go into the zone and amass a nice chunk of chapters, or, in the case of short stories, some workable drafts. A typical day in the life of this author goes something like the below:

6:30am: The alarm goes off. I shut it down and ignore the morning for about fifteen to twenty more minutes. My cat starts acting noisy and mischievous around the apartment because she has also heard the alarm and wants food.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Just an ordinary day for Karen Martin

A Day in the Life of...
Karen Martin

Well, first of all, most of my writing time isn’t spent writing novels, and my average day of writing is never average! I never know what I’m going to be working on next, as I get new assignments from my clients all the time. I write both fiction and nonfiction for a wide variety of educational publishers, such as Scholastic, National Geographic, and Oxford University. One day, I’m writing nonsense poems for 2nd grade, and the next day, I’m creating the index for a university’s book on bio-terrorism. It keeps me on my toes, but I like it that way. I love learning about new things, and my work keeps me researching constantly.

But on a typical writing/work day, here’s how it goes:

9:36 am (approximately) – Wake up, after having been up late last night reading some book I just couldn’t put down, brainstorming for my upcoming novel and/or novella, or playing Jurassic Park Builder because I was too wired to sleep. #WorldsWorstSleeper

9:37 am – Stumble 16 steps to the “office” and prep a one-cup of extra bold, boot up computer. Proceed to social media, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Spend way too long putzing around on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon KDP, Smashwords, Goodreads, my blog, emails, and Pinterest. Cook and eat breakfast in there somewhere.

10:45 am – Realize I need to get down to business if I want to get any work done today. Sigh, and click open the folder to my external hard drive, where I store all my current work projects. Check my work email to make sure there are no urgent client messages I need to return, then get down to work.

11:45 am – Make lunch for Mom. (She lives with me in her own little suite in the house.) Back to work. No lunch for me yet; I just had breakfast.

2:15 – When the weather is nice, take a turn around the neighborhood with Mom to get some exercise, not to mention take a break from computer eyestrain/get some sunlight so I don’t start looking like one of those no-pigment-having creatures that hide away in caves at the bottom of the sea their entire lives. Twenty or thirty minutes later, back home and back to work.

4:30 pm – Look up and realize it’s time to make dinner for Mom. Some days we dine together, and some days I keep working through the dinner hour.

8:30 pm – Wrapping up work for the day because I’m too cross-eyed to see the screen anymore. At this point, I may be doing “work” work or personal projects:  blog posts, writing or editing my next creative piece, formatting a new book to upload to the internet, checking up on any marketing promos I’m currently running (such as blog hops or Rafflecopter contests), and so on.

9:00 pm – Spend an hour or so chilling with Mom, watching the shows we can both stand to watch together:  The Paradise, The White Queen, Two and a Half Men, American Pickers, Castle, Chopped, and Flea Market Flip are a few of the usual suspects.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A New Yorker in London

A day in the life of...
Lynn Marie Hulsman

The manner in which books are made today differs starkly from half a century ago, starting with the point of acquisition. In those days of face-to-face appointments and the gentleman’s handshake, my initial “virtual” meeting of my editor would have been unimaginable. Even now, the majority of authors physically walk into their editors’ offices to seal deals and sign contracts early in their partnerships. Since I’m in New York and my editor, Charlotte Ledger, lives in London, our initial meeting was a long time in coming.

On the morning of the big meeting, I felt nervous and out of my element. I’d flown to England to attend The Festival of Romance in Bedford, at which my editor would be representing my publisher, HarperImpulse at a romance fair and writer’s conference. I’d arrived in the town the night before, later than I’d hoped. It had been dark, and my brain had been exhausted from the strain of negotiating foreign maps, currency, and customs. Jet-lagged and unfamiliar with both town and event, I missed the first attraction of the festival: A costumed reading of excerpts from historical romances that took place in a local art gallery.

Determined to start fresh and get it right, I woke bright and early. I breakfasted alone, despite the fact that the Park Hotel’s dining room was filled with festival attendees. Shy and self-conscious, I ate quickly and was among the first to arrive at The Corn Exchange, the venue for the authors’ and publishers’ stalls. Many of the HarperImpulse writers already knew each other, adding to my feelings of awkwardness. On top of that, some were seasoned in the skills of presenting at these gatherings. I tried to pitch in as the others set up their table tents, laid out their bookmarks, and arranged dishes of chocolates to lure in curious romance readers. Feeling very much an extra wheel, I kept my eye on the door for any sign of my editor. She would be my lifeline, I hoped. I’d soon feel at home.

Despite the miles between us, I felt I already knew her on some level. It had been a leap of faith to hand my romance novel, Christmas at Thornton Hall, over to a stranger for a critique. I consider it act of intimacy. Charlotte had made it possible for me to do by giving me permission, in the form of buying my book. Her welcoming letter was filled with the promise that she already liked what she’d read, and would help me make it even better. When I received my revisions, I couldn’t bear to open them for nearly two weeks. When I overcame my fear, I found that I agreed with 99.9% of her suggestions, and was giddy that I’d made such a match in the form of an editor. How could we not have a warm connection in person?

At last, I saw Charlotte sweep into the room. Unfortunately for me, she was all business as she approached our table. She was in problem-solving mode: The shipment of POD books meant for the display had never arrived. 

She greeted me, and was cordial, but it wasn’t exactly the moment of hugging like long-lost sisters I’d dreamed of. Feeling fragile as a newbie author and a fish out of water, I succumbed to my demons, and allowed myself to feel uncomfortable and out of place.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


A Day in the life of...
Cindy McDonald

Over the course of twenty-six years I was very comfortable with my title: Miss Cindy—dance teacher/choreographer, and after a long and successful career, I decided to make a change. In 2011 I published my first book, DEADLY.COM. I became an author, a writer, a storyteller. Problem was that I still thought of myself as a dancer/choreographer. Nothing had changed and I didn’t give it much thought until I attended a wedding—it was the day that everything changed…

I had just retired from my dance school in May to focus on writing my books, and on a very hot day in June, my husband and I attended my dear friend’s daughter’s wedding. It was an outside wedding and we took our seats waiting for the ceremony to begin when another friend sat down next to me. She asked about my new release and how it was going, and we chatted casually until it was time for the bride to make her appearance. I didn’t give it another thought. After all, I was still just Miss Cindy the dance teacher/choreographer, and then as I approached the cookie table a woman tapped me on the shoulder.

“I didn’t mean to listen in on your conversation,” she began, “but did I hear you say that you are an author?”

I probably looked at the woman like she had just grown another head. What? Am I a what? It was the first time anyone had called me that! It was the first time anyone had even uttered the word. Author…author… I must’ve stood there for well over fifteen seconds staring at her like an idiot because she cocked her head to the side and said to me, “I could have sworn that I heard someone ask you about a book that you’ve written. I love to read, and I’ve never met an author.” Skeptically, she repeated, “Are you an author?”

It wasn’t computing. Yes, I wrote a book, and I had said book published. But I’m a dance teacher, a choreographer, I couldn’t possibly be an …um… author. Finally, my husband spoke up, “Yes, Cindy wrote a book called, Deadly.Com. It’s a murder suspense book. Do you like murder suspense books?”

The woman’s face lit up. “I love murder suspense books! Where can I buy it?”

Yet still I stood there like a total moron, still contemplating her very first question: are you an author? At last I managed to speak. I said, “Amazon… you can buy the book on Amazon.”

Tickled pink that she had actually met a real-live honest-to-God moron… I mean, author, the woman gathered some cookies and returned to her table. My husband turned to me and said, “Well you totally blew that. If she’d have asked you about the dance school, you would’ve given her a business card, directed her to the website, and told her all about it. She asked you about your book and you were clueless. You’ve got to get better prepared, Cindy. She was a potential customer.”

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Chasing the Cookbook!

A Day in the life of... 
Joan Porte

As a cookbook author, my methodology is not typical of most writers. I do not have to face a blank screen or piece of paper and will the words out of my right brain. I don’t have to fear writers block. However, that does not make my task any easier than that of the novelist or biographer. In fact, I am not as fortunate as those lucky people are. Every time I sit down to work on a recipe, I face something much more dastardly. It is the memory of the days when I had to chase my mother around the kitchen to try to have her actually write down a recipe for what she was making. Don’t snicker! This is something that can cause flashbacks of horrors for decades.

Members of my mother’s family were of the touch-and-feel school of cooking. If you would ask her how much salt to add to a pasta recipe she would say something like, “Feel it, when it feels like there is enough, it is good.” How do you write a recipe that reads – amount of salt --- to the feel? It can’t be done.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Do you have a memorable day as an author?

This month authors have an opportunity to write "A Day in the Life of..." and this needn't be an average day! I could be a special day they'd like to share: the day it hit them they were an author, the day they met their editor, the day they realised becoming an author wasn't easy...

It's going to be fun. So, not in any order, the authors who have booked their slot are:

Cindy MacDonald
Lynn Marie Hulsman
Karen Martin
Joan Porte
Elizabeth Myrddin
Carmel Harrington
Louise Wise

What about you? Do you have a memorable day you'll never forget, or an unusual writing ritual? We'd all love to hear about them. Remember to leave your purchase links if you leave a comment!

Best wishes,