Tuesday, November 28, 2006

49,935 Words

It's been a tough couple of weeks, writing-wise. The mysterious J and his offer have vanished as suddenly and unexpectedly as they appeared. In addition, my brother and I had been, for several weeks, developing an idea for a free website on which unpublished writers could post samples of their work for peer review and (hopefully) the attention of agents and publishers. I read in Saturday's Guardian that someone has beaten us to it: see thefrontline.com. Maybe there's cyberspace enough for two such sites? I don't know, but for the moment we're abandoning the idea. Perhaps we'll feel differently after a fuller investigation of this new site - perhaps it is sufficiently different from what we had planned to do. All in all though: a depressing time.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

47,760 Words

Hi, I'd love to share with you some feedback I received through my homepage recently (linked somewhere on your right); I don't think it needs any further comment from me, except perhaps to say that it made me laugh.

Visitor Enquiry from : yorkshirewriter.co.uk
at 11/11/2006 10:34:38 AMEST.
Contact Name : Halford Haorsey
Company Name : HH promotion
Street :
City :
State :
Zip :
Country : uk
Telephone :
Fax :
Email : justinhjohnson@*********.com
your text is promising but is more in the legue of $55/$1000.
It is esy to get dipirited a a novice but don'y give up. Try to join a
local writers group or even start one.
If I can give you one real tip it is."remember English is an art form
before you use it take a test". When you leave High Schoolget some live
experience under your belt before you try to write again young man.
Best regards, Halfor Haorsey senior.

I swear it's genuine! I only blanked out the sender's email address for privacy. I'll admit my punctuation is a little wobbly, but any mis-spellings are more likely to be due to over-zealous typing than a genuine inability to spell the word.


P.S. Still no response from J, and he's been getting more negative feedback on Ebay too. I don't hold out much hope.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

46,936 Words

I take it back. I will go to sleep believing that the offer is genuine and all is well. He's just been busy, that's all.



I've decided, once and for all, to set the book squarely in Leicester. After all, it's set during the period in which I lived there, so it'll be more accurate. Also, as I said before, there are fewer books already set there (see Rod Duncan's Leicester crime trilogy - all the b's). I still have good contacts within Leicester Libraries too, so I can probably wangle some free mutually beneficial publicity out of them.


46,935 Words

48 hours and no response from J. I've tried everything I can think of and I'm getting worried now. I know it's not a long time but for a writer, getting that first book published is such a crisis point: you build your hopes up and they're dashed - your skin thickens a little, you build them up again, more cautiously this time, and again - shot down. Then someone approaches you with an offer and the initial reaction is disbelief - denial. It's a joke, it's got to be. Someone's just having a laugh at your expense or they got you confused with someone else. Then you begin to think it might really happen. Then you check his Ebay profile and discover that he's currently auctioning Iraqi dinar, 10,000 at a time (provenance unknown). Maybe I'm being naive but if that's completely legal it still doesn't sound ethical to me. All that money for reconstruction was stolen, billions of dollars' worth, some in US, some in gold and some in dinar, and here it is being traded on Ebay. He's by no means the only one selling it - not by a long shot, but I can't help feeling that something isn't quite right. I still hope I'm wrong, and that everything will come up roses in the end. I feel like someone's pathetic ex-girlfriend who just won't stop calling.

Yours, in pieces,

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

46,203 Words

Not much progress I know, I've been doing some reformatting and fiddling around with the place names. In my head, the story takes place mostly in Leicester, with a bit of Leeds thrown in (these being the two cities in which I have lived longest) and so I blended them together to create a fictional city. Then I read an article about the importance, for the readers, of being able to place a book geographically. Sometimes it's a city you live in or have visited, sometimes it's a more exotic location that you associate with a holiday, etc. I agree with this completely. I have read locationless books and enjoyed them but they aren't as memorable as books like The Bull from the Sea (read on the island of Poros), Hunting Mr Heartbreak (read in Arizona), Tender is the Night (read shortly after returning from a budget weekend in Paris) or any very English novel, such as I Capture the Castle. Crime fiction seems particularly to rely on it's geography - the city becomes a central character in itself. Leeds has both Frost and Dalziel & Pascoe, Edinburgh has Rebus and Skinner. I don't want to tie my book to Leicester, mainly because many of the characters are amalgamations of real people, or people I have met but renamed and exaggerated out of all recognition - or at least this has been my intention. If I set the book in Leicester, it would be just my luck to find some old schoolmate popping out of the woodwork with some bogus claim, saying I've defamed them or whatever it might be. You're so vain... as the old song goes. If I tie the book to Leeds I invite unfavourable comparisons with well-established 'Tecs like the above. It's a dilemma but I think I've plumped for Leeds in the end - after all, I know it better.

On another tack, I've had an interesting response to my Ebay listing: an internet entrepreneur (for want of a better description), let's call him J, has contacted me to say he's planning to set up a small press of his own and would be interested in publishing my novel. This is no self-publishing offer either (they are ten-a-penny), he will meet all production, advertising and promotional costs and give me 50% royalties. Sounds great doesn't it? I mean it's not a £10K advance but it's definitely not to be sniffed at. Unfortunately I couldn't reply because the auction ended and Ebay blocks you from responding to questions after the time has run out. I re-listed but it made no difference and J hadn't included his email address so I had to Google him. I found several references to him, in various capacities: web-hosting, website design, advertising, even setting up his own charity (something I tried to do once, but that's another story). So it seems he's genuine, although I have some reservations about the no. of typos in his website and the old adage jack of all trades, master of none did come to mind. All I can say is that I hope (I hope, I hope, I hope...) that I am wrong, and that this offer is kosher, and that a year from now I will be opening a crisp new paperback full of my own words.

I wonder too how much research he's done into small presses. I understand that there is an Association of Small Presses (or somesuch) now in existence, and that some will qualify for help or funding from the Arts Council. I know that they can also get help from their local authority LDO in many cases, with publicity, etc. I hope I can manage to find J again, somewhere in cyberspace and ask him all these questions. All in all, it's been a mixed up kind of day.