Update April 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
I’m a little late with April’s news this time because of two reasons, the first being that for our May Bank Holiday we were extremely busy completely redecorating and moving furniture around in our bedroom. At least we’re delighted with the result, just waiting on a couple of finishing touches.

Most of April we spent refurbishing the garden, and this previous weekend we cleared out the garage and put up new racking. As we’re choosing not to mingle and I presently find travelling difficult (waiting on some appointments which I hope will improve the situation), and the weather is less than delightful, we decided these weeks were better put to good use getting various jobs completed.

FILM/TV:
We watched Your Honor starring Bryan Cranston; always a fabulous actor and a series with a intriguing plot — that of a judge’s son who knocks down and accidentally kills the son of a mobster so they try to cover it up. Recommended with reservations; be aware the pacing is quite slow.

Finished Black Mirror the series, which we thoroughly recommend, though found the ‘choose what happens’ film, they created a painful experience and boring. Was also a little annoyed that for some peculiar reason Netflix ran the seasons backwards and we didn’t realise until halfway through. The stories got better as they progressed, so watching in reverse we got the opposite experience. Not that any of the stories were especially weak, and all threw up disturbing questions regarding the advancement of technology.

READING:
End of Watch, Stephen King
The last of the Hodges’ trilogy takes a paranormal twist which for an average thriller might be one leap too great, but this is a King novel, so expect the supernatural. This begs the reader to accept a world of possibilities or impossibilities, depending on one’s point of view. The strongest parts are the fully fledged characters (especially if the reader comes to know them over the course of all three books), something King is renowned for. The weakest point for me was I’m still uncertain about the flow of tense changes. It’ll be hard to forget Hodges, or Holly, or even Jerome. Even Brady, an evil man you love to hate. All three books walk a sad, dark line, but the right tone of sadness becomes memorable.

If It Bleeds, Stephen King
Four decent offerings starting with Mr Harrigan’s Phone, a ghost story with a difference. Not exactly scary, yet there’s a little chill when that number rings… The Life of Chuck is a strange tale which may well garner split views. Still, I felt there was a fine sliver of fear at the end, touched with a sweet sentiment. If It Bleeds adds to the story begun in The Outsider. While not ‘necessary’, it’s always good to spend time with Holly Gibney, especially if one has read the Hodges’ trilogy. Like King, I love Holly. Rat concludes this quartet of stories, but will stick in my mind the most. Though not chilling, there are ‘moments of madness’ that, as a writer, likely creeped me out in a way for obvious reasons, the madness that is part of writing. I was expecting a darker ending, but perhaps subconsciously (either King’s, or mine, or both), there seems to be more than one subtext here reflecting the process of writing itself. There are not the most spooky of King’s tales, but made for an overall pleasant and well worth read.

How to be Human, Ruby Wax
Told with undisguised humour, Ruby still throws an ugly light on modern day living within the first chapter, moving on to why and how we can and should be less self-critical. On the subject of Shame (page 49), she reveals with a few choice words how ridiculous our reaction to modern life and social media is now. And I think there’s a lot to be said for the thought that happiness is something less aggressive than pain, so much so, we don’t notice it much of the time, leading to the belief we’re lacking in some way, leading to a state of discontent. I was glad to see a section on compassion and the differences between that an empathy. The section on relationships is simply hysterical. I love what she says about teachers and learning. The last passages in the book also give us an enlightening insight into the author’s background. As one endorsement says, a book that makes the reader think about thinking.

The Bird Eater, Ania Ahlborn
The book truly takes off from Chapter Two because in Chapter One I felt the opening pages threw too many names and too much background at the reader, but once I got close to the end of what read like a prologue, I fell into the story. Once I got to the end, I realised how well plotted the story was, all the threads interwoven. The odd grammatical redundancy jarred me out of the story but it’s otherwise superbly written with a proper sense of a descent into madness as someone’s psyche unravels, tormented by evil spirits perhaps of the supernatural world and of one’s own making. My first book by this author, but it won’t be my last.

Across the Nightingale Floor, Iian Hearn, Book 1 of the Otori
Listed as Young Adult Literary fiction, this certainly fits the bill. The Japanese world contains enough flavour to make it vivid without being too heavy for the intended age group. This is a good adventure tale with plenty of secrets. That the youngsters in love are so young fits a society where they are old enough to be passed over into marriage for political endeavours — such things have and still happen in the actual world. The romance again written for the intended readership is well done, though reading this as an adult I couldn’t help wincing at the ‘fall in love with a glance’. Fall into an intense attraction is the reality, an attraction that could become love in time. I also found it too easy to forget how young they’re meant to be, but by necessity put this down to their upbringing, and what life and training had thrown at them. Perhaps not perfect, but an enjoyable book for the intended age group and older.

Hello, Is this planet Earth?, Tim Peake
Although essentially a photo album, I include this in my reading list as a must-have book. This is the closest most will ever get to seeing Earth from space (aside from documentaries and news items), and it’s a fabulous keepsake and reminder of our place in the universe. I bought this book when it first came out, but aside from flicking through, hadn’t had the time to study seriously the photographs and share a glimpse of Tim Peake’s journey. It’s amazing that even from space, I could easily spot areas of the world I would love to explore and those I would prefer to avoid. At night, the dark areas drew me more to places with fewer inhabitants and less light pollution. The photographs reveal amazing patterns it’s hard to believe are spottable from such a distance. Breathtakingly beautiful and a precious revelation of our most priceless and abused commodity.

Grass for his Pillow, Lian Hearn, Book 2 of the Otori
Certainly interesting, and one can’t help but feel for the various plights of the characters. Although not sold on the romance between Takeo and Kaede in the first book, I still felt for them in this volume, especially Kaede, whose role in life is subordinate owing to the simple fact she is female. This is a good exploration of a different culture that rings alarms for all women on a visceral level that elevates this read. This sings of women who want to be more than the society and customs they are born into. Not that the battles and ruthlessness of the males take second place. The second in the series, this book picks up pace as it continues and is a wonderful blend of conflict, combat skills, and magical ability. If one likes Japanese films or even Manga, this series may be an interesting read.

WRITING:
I at last started a new project and in the first week I was delighted with my word count. Alas, in the second week I didn’t do so well, simply because tidying and sorting the house took priority, but I hope to be on schedule to finish a new first draft around the end of this month.
Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

The Joy of Travelling

Everyone’s excited to ‘return to normal’. Whatever every individual’s version of that will be moving forward (personally, we’re keeping to ourselves for some weeks to come for various reasons), the lockdown this year and having difficulty travelling gave me cause to look through some past trips. As much as I like taking a holiday, I detest the travelling to get there and back.

One of my most memorable breaks was a winter holiday taken for a special occasion. But I’m not here to divulge the highlights today. That trip reminds me of the ‘joys’ of travelling. Seriously, give me a TARDIS or beaming capability. Well, okay, maybe not; I’m inclined like Star Trek’s Doctor McCoy that way. Heavy and extremely sneaky sedation may be required.

During this holiday we were going to have to get a connecting flight both ways and spend some time on a ship, some on land. The day had barely begun when I remembered why I hate airports. It’s not the flying. It’s the monotony. It’s the waiting. It’s the feeling of being ten years old and not understanding anything. Airports always strike me like this, probably because I choose to fly so seldom if I can, and every time the procedures seem to have changed. Self check in? Whose bright idea was that, and we’ve never used it, anyway. There’s always someone lending a helping hand and we tag on and I smile and stare in a somewhat bewildered fashion until said person takes pity on me. Note: this requires minimal acting — I really do feel rather lost. Not only do I feel ten years old, I may have shrunk down a few inches to complete the scenario.

The trip I’m speaking of, I felt relieved to jump in behind four other men to ask for assistance, as the woman ‘helping’ had trouble identifying our booking number. If she was clueless, we were even more so. In this new state-of-the-art mode of passing through security, they’d done away with tickets. I liked tickets. Tickets used to be easy. I can understand the passport scanning, but where’s my beloved ticket?

Received a comic double take from one of the security people at the airport when I replied no to whether there was any tablet or kindle in the items we’d placed in a tray to be scanned. I’m thinking the day will come when they will pull you over for NOT having electronics with you. I’m on holiday. I can’t be arsed. The number of people we saw sitting together, not talking, heads down, eyes glued to their phones… we’re just not like that when away. When I say we were entirely out of touch on holiday, I mean we were entirely out of touch. I don’t think anyone believes us. Yes, I had my phone. No, it can’t access the internet on the sim card I was using at the time. Besides, the screen is so small I wouldn’t be able to read email on it if I wanted. Yes, my phone is a novelty — people look at it and laugh or wonder what it actually does. Amazingly, I’m able to make a call on it; I’m able to text. I apparently can take a photograph, but the times I’ve found that capability by accident has sent me into a mild panic. I don’t want to take a photo by phone. I have a very good camera that I spent far too much on to want to take phone pictures.

Now note my mention of drinks; it’s important. We had a drink before we left and a light breakfast. We picked up a snack and drink and then sat around for I don’t know how long, maybe an hour and a half. The trip out otherwise went well until we got to Copenhagen. There we didn’t have long before departure, so by the time we got to the departure gate we’d not had much of a chance to do anything other than find a toilet. We then hear they’ve overbooked our flight by 7 spaces and they need 7 volunteers to leave the plane for 300 euros. We wait and wait and eventually they sort 7 people out. We think now that’s over with we’ll be on our way, but no. We’re still waiting.

We’re wondering what can take so long when we hear the cabin crew are on a semi-strike and they are waiting to see whether the last two cabin crew arrive. They do, but only one stays — the other goes on to a meeting. They try to get someone else… during which we wait, and when it becomes clear they can’t find a replacement, and they are one cabin crew short, they have to ask for another 17 (yes, 17!) volunteers to leave. This takes a while, as you can imagine. We cannot ‘volunteer’ — we have connections to make.

During this time we’re stuck by the boarding gate. There’s a toilet nearby, but not much else. Finally, enough people have left and we can board. So we queue… and we wait, and we wait, and wait, and wait to a point where my back is hurting and I’m thirsty. There’s complimentary tea and coffee on the flight, so all we want to do is get on board. Seems as they had to reallocate seats owing to removing passengers, the computers went into meltdown.

We finally get on the plane… and the next thing we know, one of the cabin crew starts counting. I knew what was wrong even before it came out of my husband’s mouth — we still had one passenger too many and sure enough there’s 151 on board, not 150. They have to ask for yet another volunteer or else the plane isn’t going anywhere. We at last get a drink about half an hour after takeoff, but we’re talking airline drinks and that’s not really more than a cupful. Never mind. Less than an hour later we’ve arrived at Bergen, collected our bags, and are making our way out to the transport to take us to the ship. We’re late, of course. Possibly an hour and a half or even two hours late, but the bus is waiting and we get to the terminal. There we queue and wait while they check us all in. They tag the cases and take them off us once more to be put in our cabins.

FINALLY we’re checked in and we head for the elevator. We get to the top and go walking, we believe, to board the ship… only to get stopped. There’s a safety film we have to watch before going on board and as it’s already started for some of the group… do you need to guess? We have to… oh wait for it to finish and then we can begin again. By now I’m willing to melt snow for a drink, but there’s no snow to be seen. I’ve had one cup of coffee, one bottle of soft drink, one small cup of tea, and it’s late afternoon. There’s nothing for it though but to wait! We’re in a secure area and not allowed to leave. We sit, we wait, we get in to watch the film. We can finally board the ship. We queue to do that… and suddenly there’s a problem. A cable has broken and they can’t let us over the gangway.

We’re invited to take a seat… while we wait. If you can imagine much gnashing of teeth and hair pulling about now, then you’d be wrong because I’m not left with enough energy. At this point I’m thinking if I don’t get to drink soon, I’m just going to die. Their 10 minutes becomes 20 and then 30. I think 40 minutes went by before we’re told we can finally get on board.

By the time we get to our cabin, by the time we can finally ‘drink’ we’d been on the go for a good 16 hours and travelling for at least 12. Shattered isn’t the word for it. We could have easily gone to America in that time.

As for the journey home, we can only say we were lucky. We heard Norwegian air had a pilot strike. We were flying SAS — Scandinavian airlines, and it turned out we were fine. Everything ran on time, but even then… connecting flights are the pits. The added time of getting off, going through some kind of check even if it’s straightforward, and then getting back on just makes for such a long trip. The staff at Kirkenes couldn’t have been kinder though — they took us directly to the airport even though they didn’t have to; didn’t have to take us anywhere, in fact, as the transfer back to the airport wasn’t anything to do with them. To them I offer my utmost thanks and sincere gratitude for taking such good care of us. Seriously, if I ever need to write about the pain of travelling, I have this and many other experiences on which to draw from.

All I can say is for those of you dying to go abroad when able, the best of luck and happy travelling!

Presentation Part Two

Always submit your work according to the agent’s, or publisher’s guidelines. If the guidelines do not state a preferred layout, then submit the manuscript as close to Standard Manuscript Format as you can. Most agents and publishers will specify what portion of your work they wish to see. Don’t send more than they ask for.

If they say they’ll accept email submissions (more common these days than when I first wrote anything), present it neatly according to their specifications if they have listed them, and pay attention to whether they want the story or excerpt in the email or as an attachment, and if so, what format.

If posting the manuscript, make sure you keep a copy. Although less common these days in a digital world, there are still instances where people either send their only copy or don’t back up the one they have and lose their work entirely. If posting a printed copy, make it clear whether the agent/publisher should return the MS and enclose sufficient postage and packaging. This can prove expensive, and not all publishers will have a return service. It’s often easier and cheaper to state they may destroy the submission. In either case (digital or hard copy), most will initially only want the complete work if it is a short story. For a novella or novel, they are more likely to request an excerpt and will specify what portions they wish to see. It’s easier just to reprint this for another publisher, with the bonus that each recipient sees a fresh copy, rather than something that grows ever more tatty as it goes back and forth in the postal system.

Take care with the choice of packaging. Don’t make it difficult to open. Take care of your presentation, and I don’t simply mean the submission layout but everything related to the work. Some writers believe that if their work is good enough, they can get away with anything, but this simply isn’t the case. Badly presented work often gets deleted or sent on its way to the shredder and/or recycling plant without so much as a glance. Work as hard on your blurb, synopsis, and cover letter as you would a story. Keep the cover letter concise. Perfect it. I’m not going into detail here (and I’m still constantly learning how to work on pitches), but look up the term ‘elevator pitch’ to help in constructing these things. Don’t submit before you are sure the work is ready. Don’t think any editing details don’t matter because you and an editor can work on any errors later. You’ll be lucky to send in work without at least an occasional typo, but pay attention to things like story structure, spelling, punctuation. Recheck your first page. Does your opening sentence grab attention? Do the first three pages hook you into reading more? Check the ending. Even at this late stage, it’s not too late to double check. If you’ve taken a break from the story, even it was only to work on the submission format and cover letter, etc., you’ll likely look at your work with a fresh eye.

Though I’ve said previously to go to some pains to address to an editor (at a push Dear Editor is fine, though it’s preferable to address the work personally), there’s a good chance an editor is not the first person who will see your submission. It will go to a slush reader. According to the dictionary, a slush pile is a set of unsolicited queries or manuscripts sent to publishers or by authors or representative agents who are unfamiliar to the publisher. It is these readers’ responsibilities to sifting through these submissions. They will select those worthy of further consideration and often have to summarise the story in two or three sentences. Try to do everything to make this easy for them.

Presentation Part One

Standard Manuscript Format. Yes, there’s a layout for the industry. I won’t go into the specifics here. Do a search and the details will readily appear. If the publisher’s guidelines don’t specify, it’s easy to find the format. Roughly, it’s one-inch margins, double-lined spacing, although there’s more to consider, such as what goes on the front page. I’m not talking about a cover letter, but the layout of the manuscript (MS) itself. Name, contact details, word count, title, what publication rights are on offered, and the MS may require page numbering and other information in the header and footer. Check Standard Manuscript Formatting alongside the publication’s guidelines, and if in doubt, keep it basic.

Forget fancy fonts—again, a publisher may specify but otherwise choose something simple such as Courier or Times New Roman. Forget fancy graphics. Forget all the computer programmes that create beautiful layouts. Publishers aren’t interested. They want to see and read the MS clearly.

I’ve heard horror stories of poorly laid out work. I recall one where an editor wrote an article about one particular MS she received in the post. It arrived in one of those padded envelopes that have fluff in the lining. As she struggled to open it, some of this ‘fluff’ went all over her desk. When she pulled the MS out, it stank of cigarettes and the pages had coffee cup ring stains. Result: Binned—not so much as a glance at it and no reply to the writer. Why? Simple. The editor rightly felt the writer had shown her no respect—hadn’t even shown his own work respect—and had therefore revealed himself to be someone she wouldn’t be able to publish, no matter how good the story might have been.

The MS is a writer’s product, work, even ‘baby’. Why not give it the best chance it could have? This starts with how one presents the work, whether sending it in the post or via email. It’s amazing how many writers never even think to look into how they should present a story. I’ve had editors thank me for my presentation, so what does that say?

If including a cover letter, then consider writing it as when applying for a job… which, in an actual sense, a writer does every time they submit a story. I’ve read an article about a teacher who had criticised a student for writing a covering letter to a publisher for ‘sounding as if trying to sell something’. At the risk of repetition I stress, publishing is a business. Writing is an art form—a craft—but beyond that, it is also a business, and the writer has to sell an idea and convince others it is worthy. This is the purpose of a cover letter and synopsis before one even comes to the MS. Try to find the name of the current editor and address it personally. It does not matter if a reader is the one who sees it first (yes, editorial departments have ‘readers’ and these people are the first line of defence a writer has to pass). Just as a personnel department may first see a resume before the manager, still, finding the name of the person in charge shows effort and research capabilities.

The publisher wants to know what any employer wants to know—what this person is capable of. Writing the letter is as important as the MS. Detailing achievements, experience etc., is important, but shouldn’t come across as boasting. Could be the writer has had nothing published and won’t have very much to say, but the way they wrote the letter reflects the writer and the work. Make it sound as if the story is the best the world will ever see, and needs no editing, and the publisher will think this isn’t a person he or she can work with. Sound arrogant, and the MS may go in the trash pile as swiftly as the editor reads the first paragraph of the cover letter.

It is, in reality, easier to explain what ‘not’ to do in a cover letter than how to write a good one. I’ve mentioned a synopsis and I’ll cover what that is separately sometime, but some may ask why they need to write both. Sometimes it’s unnecessary. Some publishers will specify for the writer *not* to put in a cover letter—another good reason to pay attention to guidelines—but most don’t say or ask. Information required in the cover letter can also vary according to project. The problem of writing a letter increases when considering a short story—shorter work can mean even less to say and a cover letter/and or synopsis may both have to be concise, precise, and dynamic.

The letter needs to introduce the writer; it may be an opportunity to draw attention to a few writing credits, but if the writer has none, it would be pointless to harp on about it. Some publications are looking for unpublished writers but going overboard and complaining how, despite sending work out for ten years, no one has yet seen the genius in the style and stories, will not sing a writer’s praises or make an editor take pity. One thing no editor does is publish out of pity. Equally, never state the opinion of friends and family. No publisher cares that a writer’s grandmother’s uncle’s second cousin adores the story. I’ve yet to meet a writer who has sold an editor on their work by protesting how good others consider the work to be. Unless that opinion is an endorsement by someone in a noteworthy and relevant field, it’s nothing but an obstacle.

Use a cover letter as an introduction—to the writer, to the work. Make it sound calm, crisp, friendly, optimistic, and the MS something that the publisher may be interested in looking at. Most publishers will deign to read letters and synopsis at the very least. Forgive the cliche, but this is the first hurdle—don’t fall over it.

Update March 2021

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:

Slowly gathering the supplies we need for the garden. Plants ordered. Have one more thing to track down and buy. Now we depend on the weather; however, as the world reopens after Easter, we’ll be staying home for the foreseeable future. If we go out for a walk, we’ll be playing things safe and certainly not even considering going abroad until 2023, being sadly realistic. Still, we’ve enough to do in and around the house… and I would love to get in the garden over Easter, but it looks as if winter will be back by then. Don’t mind it cold, but don’t relish working in the pouring rain.

FILM/TV:

We’re still watching The Black List and Resident Alien as episodes appear. Tuned into the few appearing episodes of The Walking Dead. Really, this series has carried on too long, but having stuck with it this long, with one season to go and one film, it seems a waste not to finish. I’ve read all the graphic novels.

Continuing with Black Mirror and it’s still not disappointing, and reaching the end of the comedy show, Community. I’d watched the first season of Virgin River, but not the second, so now we’re watching it all together. If I lived in a place with that kind of scenery, I think I’d cry, especially during a pandemic.

Irresistible, a film starring Steve Carell is an open look at politics which turned out to be far better than we expected. Highly recommend. We also sat through all of almost 4 hours of the Snyder cut of Justice League. Definitely better than the far more humorous theatrical cut, though to be fair they called Joss Whedon in the last minute to take Zack Snyder’s place; as much as I like Whedon’s work, and although the CGI still isn’t the best, it’s much more gratifying to see Snyder’s take.

READING:

The Duke and the Lady in Red, Lorraine Heath

Not the usual book I read, I picked this up on a friend’s recommendation and found myself pleasantly surprised. I can see some readers might complain about certain aspects, but this is historical romance for a modern audience so political correctness or errors of the era (and I’m not attesting whether there are any) will be toyed with for entertainment, much as the protagonists Rosalind and Avendale toy with each other. Their misconceptions and mutual attractions are well-played, but it was the perhaps unlikely but heartwarming way in which the story treats Harry that provided the greatest emotional impact. Alas, there’s no way to explain why without spoilers.

Twilight Eye, Dean Koontz

A re-read as part of a book clearance. When I started this, I couldn’t even recall reading it the first time around. The author rarely writes in first person, and perhaps this is why. The idea of someone with a second sight which allows them to see the ‘goblins’ among us starts off well, and overall is a decent book. Alas, it feels as though it goes on too long within a few pages, possibly to the sometimes enjoyable, sometimes eye-glazing descriptions. There are a lot of subtexts to this story of resistance to the evil among us, a perfect analogy of the evil in humans. Too much, perhaps, another of its faults. There’s meaning here that’s ultimately lost in what feels like an overly long book to get the point across. The book works as an allegory to human behaviour, particularly in how we treat each other, but doesn’t especially tell us anything new. The book suffers from excess. Well worth reading once, but not to revisit.

Malorie, Josh Malerman

The end of Bird Box led me to believe this book would take an entirely different route, that the reader would learn about a different section of Malorie’s life than the one in this sequel’s pages. That the story is so unlike what I expected isn’t a bad thing, making this tale a complete surprise. We continue to follow Malorie and the children, now grown, and inescapable hope in the bleakest of times. Malerman hits an emotional tone in this book that feels deeper than the one in Bird Box, driving Malorie on to face danger at the moment in her existence when she has even more to lose. Like most great suspense stories, both these books are not about the monsters, but those who struggle to survive against the odds.

Lassie Come Home, Eric Knight

What can be said of this original classic? Some situations In this book may strike younger generations as strange if they don’t know their history. The way of life, the cruelty, women’s work being very much a part of the home, but the only real warning this book requires for animal and dog lovers, is a box of tissues required. A beautiful keepsake featuring one of the most famous dogs of all time.

Finders, Keepers, Stephen King

Although Hodges doesn’t feature so heavily in this second book of the trilogy, each containing separate, tenuously linked stories, I preferred this to the first. Perhaps because the subject is an obsessed reader. Not only a more than decent thriller, this entire story is a disquieting examination of obsession. Though fiction is a way to explore the actual world, this throws an uneasy light on the reader/writer relationship, questioning expectation vs dictatorship of the writer’s imagination.

The Castrato and His Wife, Helen Berry

A fascinating factual account of Tenducci and his bride, Dorothea Maunsell, this is not only a great insight to the life of a castrato and those responsible for the mutilation of young boys (unsurprisingly, in part the church), but a peek into the influence of opera on London and the lives of women back in the 1700s. Perhaps most amazing is the rebellious and staunch Dorothea during a time when a modern audience might expect a woman of that age to cower in fear. History may look at her two ways, either conniving or resourceful, the lengths women needed to go to in order to have any control of their lives, being the property of a man, either that of their fathers or husbands. It also throws a light on society of the time, revealing an inclination to live above one’s means even with the threat of debtor’s prison. Well, written and engaging, there are many reasons to read this book.

Slade House, David Mitchell

A house that only appears every 9 years with two of the strangest ‘ghosts’ ever sounds like the recipe for a true scare, but I never found this book frightening. The story’s told in 9 year breaks by each consecutive visitor, and like the one who believes she’s on a drug-induced trip, that’s how much of this book came across. Perhaps a little too surreal for me with too many obscure references in parts, though nothing that stops you from understanding the basis of what’s happening. Still, there’s something persuasive about the story and the writing which acts like glue. I’ve heard it’s a companion piece to The Bone Clocks, and as I’ve not read that, perhaps it’s why this fell short for me; alas, this didn’t entice me to pick it up the other novel (maybe one day but not immediately). Much of Mitchell’s writing has a dreamlike quality that pulls me in both directions, offering both something fascinating and yet inexplicable, leaving me uncertain as to my level of like/dislike. I guess the best word I have for this is intriguing.

WRITING:

I finished re-editing and adding to an older book and would have subbed it already had I not run into a word processing issue, namely that Mac’s current edition of Pages has a problem changing straight quotes to curly quotes after the writing. In Word (or Scrivener), you can do a simple search and replace, and the programme alters both forward and backward quotes in the right way. In Pages it makes them all face the same way so that half of them are wrong. So, I need to transfer the file to the Window’s computer and deal with this issue first. Then I’m going to work on a new idea.

Stay happy and healthy!

Sharon x

Dragon #10

Actually, two dragons. Quite fragile, and they feel like they’re made of clay. Feel homemade, though I’ve seen them around, and expect they’re more mass-produced than that, but still love them.

Have to keep these two together. I found them in a little shop in Dorset.

Guidelines 2

Check an agent or publisher’s guidelines. It sounds simple enough, but it’s an important detail so many wannabe writers miss. Most have them, and many are readily available either on request or if you have internet access on their website. Also, check that the guidelines are up to date. There’s no point in looking at what a publisher wanted ten years ago, or even ten months ago. Their requirements may have changed only last week.

Use the guidelines as any writing tool. It’s important that the writer check they are sending the right piece of work to the right publisher. It may be difficult to believe, but it’s amazing how many people still send a romance book to a horror publisher, or vice versa, but it happens. Some writers seem to think a publisher is a publisher, and it doesn’t matter, or that their work is so brilliant the agent or publisher will still help them even if they don’t deal with that type of literature. This is not the case. If a writer sends a romance to a horror publisher that publisher is going to put the manuscript in the bin the moment they realise its contents. The chances are they won’t even reply, or they’ll dispatch a terse note advising the writer to ‘check our guidelines’. Save them and yourself a lot of time, money and aggravation, by doing this prior to sending out anything.

As well as advising on content, guidelines may also provide further information such as formatting requirements. Most publishers want standard manuscript formatting, but this can vary a little. If it states a certain layout, then follow it. If not, set your work out in standard manuscript formatting. Another thing to be aware of are submission calls and deadlines. There’s no point sending in an unsuitable story, or even a suitable one, after a deadline has passed. On that note, when answering submission calls, I’ve seen it suggested sooner rather than later is preferable. Many publishers wheedle through that pile right away, throwing out rejections, placing others in a possible pile, a few in another in case they’re left with a space to fill. A few wait until the deadline passes, but not all. If there’s a minimum and maximum word count, some publishers will say it may increase your chances to write closer to the minimum count. Longer stories fill an anthology length, and too many of those leaves less space for the number of stories the publisher wishes to include. Therefore, they’re more likely to take more of shorter lengths. Always research individual requirements of each publication.