Monday, 31 October 2011

A Rosy by any other name would smell so sweet

To pen name or not to pen name – that is the question. 

Okay, enough of the adapted- Shakespearean quotations. 

My name is VERY common – and too far down the alphabet list so this year I entered New Voices with a pseudonym, Rosy Gilmore. Rosy to fit in with my twitter name @yrosered, Gilmore because I want to live in Stars Hollow (DON'T JUDGE ME).

 I love social media and am pretty active already Tweeting, Facebooking and blogging. Only that is all under my real name; if I am going to have a pen name then do I need to start building up that online presence now?
But, on the other hand, social media is pretty time consuming, having a dual identity will mean double the time. More blogging, tweeting equals less time to write. There isn't much point having a great internet identity if I don't actually produce anything.
Also if I ever do achieve my dream and get a contract with M&B the editors will have their own views about pen names – if they don't like Rosy Gilmore all that extra tweeting will be wasted!

On the other hand mixing personal and professional personas can get tricky. A couple of Harlequin authors were tweeting about the forthcoming presidential election – or rather their intentions not to tweet about it because their viewpoint was bound to conflict with half their readerships' political leanings. Wise words and very good advice, only I take my politics very seriously indeed, my Twitter timeline a bizarre mixture of political types and romance writers plus anyone else that interests and amuses me. I don't want to alienate or upset any potential readers but neither do I want to stop tweeting about things that inspire me, about the things that make me ME..

The truth is all this is a long way away, I need to have some interest in my writing first – then I'll worry about what name I am going to use!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Old favourites & new ways

Today I submitted my New Writer's Scheme book to M&B (eek). When I first submitted The Terrible Historical only four years ago I had to print out my three chapters and synopsis and send it, a big fat chunky parcel. I felt like Jo March or Anne Shirley toting my manuscript down to the post office. Today I simply attached a couple of documents and pressed send. Easy.

Publishing, communications, marketing, even the way I buy and read books has changed so much in such a short time. I am an ex bookseller, I worked for two major chains, one of which still exists. And I loved it, surrounded by books all day, organising events at night, meeting authors, some of whom were lovely, a few even took pity on us poor, badly paid, enthusiastic booksellers and took us out for beers afterwards.

I still love bookshops and have the logo, décor and look of my dream children's bookshop very clear in my head. Shame I have no capital to make it a reality. And yet I buy most of my books online.

Do you remember when the only way to find a much-loved out of print book was to trawl second hand book shops, that feeling of excitement when you found the book you were looking for? I have a hardback copy of Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, found in a book-stuffed shop in Scarborough long before the Vintage re-release. I collected Antonia Forest's fabulous Marlow family books at library sales and charity shops; I still remember the heart stopping moment I found Peter's Room on a market stall in Beverley. Now, of course, the excellent Girl's Gone By have republished the whole series along with many other children's classics.

I still adore a good second hand book shop but am much more likely to google a title, a list of shops and websites springs up making it easy to find the book I need. I loved an Australian book, Playing Beattie Bow, and when my husband suggested calling our daughter Abigail my mind flashed straight back to this time travelling tale and it's loner of a heroine. Of course Abigail is also the name of a Georgette Heyer heroine (Black Sheep) so a win-win (her second middle name is Anne, with an 'E' natch after my favourite literary heroine). I've always wanted to get a copy of Playing Beattie Bow but it is now out of print. Three clicks on Amazon, however and a second hand copy was despatched that evening.

The same night I remembered another teen favourite. I didn't know the title or author (any other ex-booksellers out there rolling their eyes?) but I did remember that it was a young adult romance set in Ancient Egypt. I put those words in a search engine and immediately a list came up, first book was Mara, Daughter of the Nile. Another click and £3 later and its on its way.
The kindle has also revolutionised my book buying, I love lying in bed at 9pm and just buying a book to read there and then. I still love paperbacks, hardbacks, the smell and feel but with a small house and a LOT of books there's no shortage of tactile reading experiences. It can be TOO easy to buy with a kindle though, not only do I spend far more money than I used to but occasionally I make mistakes and buy the wrong book completely, that doesn't happen with paperbacks!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Doubt Crows

Yesterday I had a bad attack of the doubt crows.

The worst thing about the doubt crows is they don't just attack one insecurity, they swoop down and peck at everything.
They told me:
  1.  I am wasting my time writing
  2. I take on too much, writing takes up too much time
  3. I am a Bad Mother
Interestingly they said I was a Bad Mother for over scheduling activities for the 8 year old AND for neglecting her to write.

Contradictory doubt crows.

They picked apart every worry I have about work, finance and life in general.
And once they start it's hard to banish them.

Every published author I know still gets attacked by the doubt crows. This week there has been a series of inspirational blogs by lots of Harlequin M&B writers to help New Voices entrants battle their demons.

Barbara T Wallace chronicled her fifteen year path to publication, Maisey Yates reassured us that she didn't win a competition either, Jessica Hart told us about books she wrote that didn't make it to publication and Donna Alward gave us a much needed talking to.

I banished the evil birds (for now) with the wise words and sympathy of my on-line writing friends and then met up with friends for pasta and just a little bit of wine. This morning my husband took the daughter to school allowing me a much needed and very rare sleep-in.

Today it all seems much better. Sometimes we all need to allow ourselves a little bit of wallowing, just not too much! 

Also the second chapters were uploaded yesterday. There is a huge amount of exciting talent out there.  I was pleased to see that my favourite from the first round produced a fantastic second chapter. I'm rooting for Charlotte Phillips' Honeymoon with a Stranger. How about you?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Post storm

Looking back at all this, when I am (hopefully) a published author with several books under my belt, I will probably find the New Voices frenzy funny.Remembering the constant, desperate checking of emails. The hope I was clinging to long after I knew the finalists must have been emailed. Reading the list on my tiny phone screen whilst watching my daughter swing round some parallel bars and choking back shameful tears.
Yep, one day this will be funny.
Today, not so funny, but not so desperately terrible either. No, I didn't win, or even come close. But now I have time to edit my finished novel, editing I am doing with the guidance of my NWS report written by an established M&B author who loved it. And when that's finished and submitted - submitted not through the slush pile but through NWS which is a brilliant opportunity - then I have Minty and Luca's story waiting to be written.
So really I am very lucky.

I hope the 1046 disappointed entrants are also looking at the positives. Rejection is hard, even (especially) when it's the third, fourth, fifth time around. Harder even, people tell you you're close, that they love your voice. There's a lot further to fall when you know you are almost there. But if you give up, say 'It's not fair', whine, complain and don't grow then you weren't ready to be a published writer after all.
Because if I've learnt anything over the last year it's this (well, along with lots of crafty bits and pieces that would ruin this post so I'll conveniently ignore them): It doesn't get any easier being published. You still have to write, submit, get feedback you don't want to hear and cope with 1* reviews on websites. Are you ready for that? Am I ready for that?

There's only one way to find out. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep learning.
And don't give up.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Calm before the storm

Right now the editors at Romance HQ are drinking their 20th coffee of the day, munching on pizza and donuts and arguing the respective merits of over 1000 entries. 
Yes - over 1000. Over 200 more than last year. 400 entries were submitted in the last weekend alone, entrants nervously polishing right up to the last second following the example of last year's winner, Leah Ashton, who famously submitted late. The top 20 will be announced on Thursday, early evening if they follow last year's pattern.
One entry amongst those 1000 is mine
I have had some lovely comments and for a while (a brief while) I was riding high at the top of the rankings - only to fall as the rosebombers came out in force. How old and experienced we second-timers felt remembering the exact same dramatic ratings fall last year.
I wanted to be calmer this year, for it to matter less especially as I am halfway through editing Summer Fling, an actual finished book I plan to submit very, very soon. But I find I do care. I want to final and yet there are so very many accomplished entries, so many deserving finalists.
Luckily this year I have support, not just my long-suffering husband, but lovely, fabulous fellow writers who offer advice, ears to rant in, keen eyes to spot mistakes - both typos and glaring plot holes and who tell me that I will do it, maybe not this story, maybe not this competition but one day. Thank you, you all know who you are, I would have given up long ago without you. x