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Friday, 15 February 2013

And Somewhere An Owl Hooted

It's true what they say about never throwing any of your old writing away. You just never know...

My three when they were little.
Years and years ago, when my three children were all young, and my writing was in its very early stages, ie, writing loads and getting loads rejected, they liked to help out now and then.

The kids all knew and liked the fact that mum was trying to be a writer, and often encouraged me – especially my son Wayne who would add a line of narrative whenever he found my computer open and I was off probably doing the dishes or making dinner.

Later as I would be reading through my story, I'd find his helpful line that was going to turn my story into a best seller ....And somewhere an owl hooted.

Wayne!!” I'd yell.

It got to be a bit of a standing joke over the years, and he has never got out of the habit of adding his 'catch phrase' whenever he gets the chance. Now donkey's years on with the kids all grown up and flown the nest, and with kids of their own (well two of them) I still find ...And somewhere an owl hooted in whatever I'm working on if he happens to call by and spots my computer open. The most recent time only a few months ago. It just makes me laugh although I wouldn't be surprised if one day I'll be reading through something I've had published and I'll see his handiwork there in print, somehow having escaped my eagle eye.

Thinking back to the very first time he'd added his few words, it was to a story I was working on called Death Lay Waiting which was an adult novel about murder and a kidnapping. After I'd finished it, I sent it off to various publishers. I remember one rejection coming back saying it was too violent and gory and another came back saying it wasn't hard hitting enough. Eventually it got put away in a drawer and I got on with other stuff. Happily that other stuff turned into six books for Scholastic, the first being Cry Danger.

Then about two years ago as I was sorting out my old filing cabinet I came across this slightly yellowing manuscript, with the title Death Lay Waiting. Attached was a review by a writing tutor who I couldn't even remember sending it to. His comments were very encouraging, which made me wonder why I hadn't persevered with it years ago.

I think when you first start out, a rejection letter is a rejection letter. I didn't realise then that I should have taken those editor's comments on board and re-wrote/adjusted or whatever.

However, curious, I re-read my story and realised that it wasn't too bad at all, so I set about re-writing it and bringing it up to date, and off it went again winging its way to another publisher, only to have it rejected again; and then another publisher – who, to my absolute delight, have accepted it!

It's an American publisher who I hadn't heard of, but they seem very keen and there's a contract for hardback and paperback and as an e-book, with an advance – not huge, but still an advance, and decent royalties.

I'm over the moon about it, and just so pleased that a story first written, dare I say it, over twenty years ago, is finally going to see the light of day.

And now that I'm making a start on the proofs, I wonder if I can slip in there somewhere that classic line...And somewhere an owl hooted.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Year of Books

My new book - coming soon!!

What sort of books to you like reading? That's a question I often get asked by school children when I'm doing an author visit. Usually I find myself waffling on a bit because I like all kinds of books – children's and adults and often have a few books on the go, so I can always find something to read that suits my mood. Currently I'm reading 61 Hours by Lee Child - a Jack Reacher novel and Lynda La Plante's Bloodline. Very different in style but both gripping in their own way. 

I've also been reading the proofs for my latest children's book, The Trunk, which is being published by Penguin Australia in their Eerie Series under the pseudonym of S.Carey. This was great fun to write and it's exciting to know it will be out soon. A few friends and relatives have asked me 'what's in the trunk?' But I'm not saying. Only my 14 year old grandson, Jake (and Penguin editors) know. I tried the story out on Jake to gauge his reaction, which was. 'Nan! Your mind! I can't stop thinking about it!'
'Good, good', I say rubbing my hands together with glee.

So, looking back over the last 12 months, I thought I'd pick out a dozen or so books that I've read and which have left a lasting impression.

Other recently read books have included Claimed by Vicky Lewis Thompson, a Mills & Boon romance – I've been trying to write a Mills & Boon for years. It was my original ambition when I first got the writing bug. I've had some success with two romances, published by DC Thompson and which are coming out in hard back and large print via other publishers, but the ever illusive M&B still eludes me. 

Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis is another book I've enjoyed over the past year. A friend leant me this book because I needed to get the feel of the Australian outback for The Trunk which is set in a vaguely similar location. So while I'd intended reading it just as research regarding the accents and backdrop I was soon captivated by the story. 

Firstborn, Karen King's delightful dragon book was a really enjoyable read, and was one of the first ebooks I downloaded onto my new kindle at the beginning of 2012. 

Another great children's book which I absolutely loved was Katherine Langrish's Dark Angels, and what was so exciting was that I'd read the book without realising it had been written by Katherine - a fellow member of the Scattered Authors Society. I hadn't looked at the author's name until after I'd finished reading it – doh! It was such a lovely surprise!

Indie book The Survival of Thomas Ford by John A A Logan was another great read. John is a member of Authors Electric which I also belong to, and this was just one of the fantastic reads I've downloaded in e-form over the year.

I bought Pincher Martin by William Golding in a second hand book shop. It was first published in 1958 and is one of those books that sticks in your mind. The beginning absolutely captivated me, the middle almost drove me mad with frustration at the repetition and difficulties the protagonist endured and twice I put it down deciding I couldn't read on. But read on I did and was blown away by he ending – so much so, I will be reading this book again.

I do like Stephen King books and during 2012 I've enjoyed two blockbuster novels of his. Under The Dome being one, and as soon as I'd finished that I started on 11.22.63. Desperate to get through them, but not really wanting them to end, it resulted in reading long into the early hours of the morning instead of sleeping.

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold. I went to a quirky book 'speed dating' event at my local library, which wasn't dating, but had that same format where instead of telling people about yourself, you chatted for two minutes about your favourite book. One of the ladies couldn't speak highly enough about Girl in a Blue Dress, so I just had to bring it home with me. And it was indeed a great read based around Charles Dickens.

At the same event I heard about Fatherland by Robert Harris, which is all about the German SAS but it's fiction and its setting is Germany after they won the war. Incredibly thought provoking book that I would highly recommend.

And now Hilary Mantel. Her book Beyond Black was the first book of hers I had read – and loved this beautifully written story of troubled psychic Alison. I then read Giving up the Ghost – a memoir, again a fascinating insight into her life. I'd thought mistakenly that I would love anything that she wrote, but discovered this not to be so. The Giant O'Brien is about a poverty stricken Irish giant who goes to London to earn a living by appearing as a freak and I found this story too depressing in its atmosphere and the story itself. I tried the multi award winning Wolf Hall which I found too confusing to continue reading after getting halfway. That said I'll probably love her next book.

So, a year of varied reading. How about you, have you read any good books lately?