Wednesday, the day of Wodin, the most powerful of the Norse gods. Who could feel secure on a Wodinsday? I guess I could just hang about to see if I could get selected as a Valkyrie since I’ve had rejections slips from the other big six publishing gods. But even more worrying is the pagan ordeal that lies ahead. Rather than diving down to collect dead warriors on my horse, all I have to do is meet the book buying public. They will be able to poke and question me. They will be able to mock my prose and ask me to expose my purple literary cellulite. Writing of love and passion in the warm air of France with a glass of wine, responding to the remembered thrill of new love and a view of a muscular sun bronzed young man forking his harvest is easy. Presenting my somewhat experienced and time washed persona to the masses is NOT. All the same, I have signed up to attend the Festival of Romance in the historic city of Bedford, UK. I just know I can do it….
The good news for all you scribes out there is that if you are not already a block busting mega stegosaurus you can enter their New Talent competition. Check out the details below.
New Talent Award aims to uncover romantic fiction authors of the future
The Festival of Romance is delighted to announce that the New Talent Award will run again this year. The industry judges are Georgina Hawtrey-Woore senior editor at Cornerstones, Random House and Diane Banks, literary agent at the Diane Banks Associates Literary Agency. The Festival of Romance New Talent Award aims to cast a spotlight on the authors of tomorrow and is open to all writers who have not yet had a book commercially published. Writers may submit the opening chapter (up to 3,500 words) of a romantic novel of any type by 30th September 2012. The winner and runners-up will be announced and presented with trophies at the gala Festival of Romance Awards on Friday 16th November 2012. There is a small entry fee to cover the award administration. Entrants may also gain a critique of their entry written by a professional novelist.
“As part of the Festival of Romance we want to help new writers with talent get their break into the commercial fiction world,” says Kate Allan, chief romantic at the Festival of Romance. “At the Festival of Romance in November we are running writing workshops, an industry conference and chance to meet publishers face to face as well as the New Talent Award. I’m delighted that Georgina Hawtrey-Woore and Diane Banks have agreed to judge this year’s entries.”
Winner of the 2011 New Talent Award Henriette Gyland subsequently garnered a book deal from publishers Choc Lit. Her debut novel Up Close will be published in December 2012.
Summertime and the living is easy. Oh yes – you can’t keep a good old hedonist down. Someone – take command, put away the sun, chain me to the desk, hide the oysters and the scent of roses on the Quai des Fleurs. Flatten the surf, sour the wine, give me guilt without guilty pleasure. I suppose I could see it all as research particularly when it’s the first Wednesday and time for the Insecure Writers Support Group.
Well, perhaps it will be cloudy tomorrow. If something does not intervene then this is how things will end, in the late warm air from the South, glass raised to the moon in the dark star stabbed sky.
There are mosquitoes, cellulite and sunburn of course. I think this is the path to tread back to work. I have been writing a fairy story in the way that hedonist romantics write – kinda in the head a bit. It will hit the page today I promise.
So, pretty insecure I guess and made even worse by the book I’m reading. It has galloped off like a full frontal sexy romance which had me considering what time I could get my man to bed. There’s only one problem – the author is a bloke, un homme, a guy. Yes, it looks like the old monopoly might be slipping away. Now THAT does make me feel insecure. Better double up on the wine and chocolate – just to get some extra passion in the mix. The book is “The Gaze” by Javier A. Robayo. I’ll just have to finish it and the sun is warm on the Terrasse. As soon as I’m feeling secure enough I’ll post a review. I think it will be hot.
Emma thinx: You get more sex out of a good book than there is in it.
Just as I was beginning to enjoy my sensation of free fall into sales invisibility, the strap of my purple leopard skin bra snagged on a branch sticking out from the canyon wall. It will not transform my bank imbalance but my mood is much lifted by a very unexpected event. I’m hoping that the bra strap will hold up for a while while I take in the view. I can’t say that I feel secure – but hey – nothing lasts for ever – not even the surreal. (I chose the colour to match my prose).
Imagine my joy a couple of days ago when “Knockout” received a gold medal as a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review list of Best Indie Books of 2012. At the helm of this publication is the redoubtable, prolific, gritty street fighting figure of Jeff Bennington. All previous setbacks are set at nought. From here the view is fantastic.
All the same, a few insecurities remain. I’m 82% through Stephen Woodfin’s epic novel “Next Best Hope”. This is scary stuff – not just because it’s a great book, but because it might be true one day. I do wish I read more quickly. I am gonna do a review – I really am.
Emma thinx: There are winners, losers and gravity.
It’s that first insecure Wednesday. Things should be OK this month because I woke up shortly after midnight yesterday morning and before I said anything else I uttered the magic word “RABBITS”. I know that some folk say white rabbits but I believe that this weakens the spell. Of course some of you will have no idea of what I talking about. I hesitate to use the word superstition because that makes it all seem kinda – well – nuts. An old English custom of saying “rabbits” on the first day of the month was drilled into me by my mother. If at some point during the next four weeks I dropped some china or failed an exam (regular events) she would sigh and shake her head resignedly saying “It’s you own fault – you didn’t say your rabbits.” All I could do then was to cling on – expecting to fall at each hurdle until the next 1st of the month. As the broken china, failed exams, missed buses, lost boyfriends and publishers rejection slips piled up in the hallways of my life, I guess I often forgot to say “rabbits”.
When I had my own little bunnies I decided that I would never impose this type of insecurity on them. That was until my ex husband bought the first pair of baby shoes and put them on the table. I had to divorce him to clear the curse although for years he clung on by saying “Good morning Sir” to the magpies just to please me. Believe it or not when we split up, the removal men dropped my mirror but I told them to pack it with his stuff so that he would take the bad luck with him.
So, having said the magic word I clicked on my Amazon KDP account to see if the new month brown bar of doom had disappeared. As you will recognise comrades, my sense of personal worth is linked to my sales figures. As the new month arrives the counters return to zero and there is just this brown nihilistic line. (Ooooh – I’ve been trying to get that intellectual word into something for years!) 1st of May – 0004 hours, a sale was made. I slept secure. By morning two books had been returned. The brown line had gone – but I am less than nothing. As I drove my bus around the town there was not a single magpie to greet to lift my gloom. A seagull dumped his entire bowel contents onto my windscreen and I shouted at it to F*** off. When I got home I had made some sales. Yes – that old mystic seagull oath never fails.
It’s all a load of tosh isn’t it. My wonderful partner works and works to help me and he has never thrown salt or said rhymes to spiders. He tells me that more effort means more success. He’s a kinda business type. I know he’s right. That’s why I’ve doubled up on my lottery tickets.
Emma thinx: You can make your own luck, but the ready meals taste the same.
I have that first Wednesday insecure feeling. Looking back on previous insecure posts I see that I have rambled on about broken love affairs whilst trees fell around my ears. Just imagine – I thought I knew something about insecurity. Until a few days ago I knew nothing. That was when I could stand up and support myself on two legs. That was before the Red Cross issued me with a wheelchair and crutches. Being a believer in determinism I have to accept that since my birth and the first design concepts of the Brittany ferry “Bretagne”, I had been hurtling towards a moment of destiny. Ahead of us lay a starry night, our traditional Earth moving kiss on the deck as Angleterre slipped away to the north and a hairy Frenchman in orange overalls spraying water with a hose. As we crossed the heli-pad my leg folded under me with an agonising pop. As I lay felled by the French like Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar, I began to wonder how the crew of the rescue helicopter would be able to reach me on the treacherous gloss painted skid pan deck. I guess they carry a good supply of crutches. I knew that my Easter at home in France was not to be. Gilles cajoled and dragged me to the cabin and we summoned the nurse. She found the solitary ship’s ice pack.
On arrival in France my leg resembled a black blue and green mottled snake that had swallowed a football. Our home lay 300 miles to the south and I could not bend my leg. We decided to keep me on ice in the cabin (they pickled Nelson in Brandy – but I did not think that Brittany Ferries would supply a barrel) and go back to the UK where we live a few minutes from the port. As a Brit I can get medical attention in the UK without complication and a long stay in a hospital miles from any home lacked appeal.
If you really want to feel insecure – plonk yourself in a wheelchair as a captive patient. The following afternoon as we approached the shores of Britain, Gilles decided to take me out for a spin. Watching paralympic sport on TV had obviously inspired him into some kinda wheelchair sprint fantasy accompanied by Formula One racing car noises. He’ll make someone a lovely husband when he grows up. He does the same tricks with supermarket trolleys. You do realise just how tough it is for folks in wheelchairs. All manner of lumps and gulleys become hazards. With my leg straight out in front of me like a lance I felt like a jousting knight on a runaway horse. At the self service restaurant a chef tapped rather impatiently on his steel pots of vegetables demanding to know which I wanted. I would have told him but my eyes were about level with the tray track. “Does she like beans?” he asked Gilles.
About halfway across the English Channel the UK coastguard carried out a helicopter rescue exercise. Gilles wanted to offer me to the Captain as an authentic casualty. The red and white whirly-bird hovered above the ship while a guy dangled with a stretcher above the deck. Luckily he kept himself clipped on to his rope.
Eventually I was trundled back to the car deck and levered into the car. Some 23 hours after we had boarded the ferry we got off again at exactly the same point. I must say that all of the crew of the Brittany ferry Bretagne were kind and helpful – but I’m not so sure about the orange guy with the hose.
As for the future – well it looks a bit insecure on one leg. Much talk of quadriceps tendons and cartilage looks certain.
Emma thinx: If you’re hoping the Earth will move, find firm ground.
A while ago a lad on the bus was chatting to me about his girlfriend. The mere fact of having obtained such an asset positively changed his demeanour. Instead of his normal monosyllabic grunt and slouch he became a young gent. His acne receded and was transformed into vocabulary.
About ten days ago he did not come out to board the bus to go home. Unsympathetic teenagers grew restive in my mirror. I cranked up the music but that brought complaints from the headphone wearers. At the last minute he appeared being led by a teacher. His tear stained face was swollen. It was over. Over. Over, with that terrible brick wall finality of a dead hamster in the palm of a young hand and the rest of mortality. The vocabulary acne inversion flipped like the magnetic poles of the planet in history.
Yesterday, they got back together. Compasses started to work again. GPS systems stopped talking backwards. No one should feel insecure. It won’t last.
I’ve been giving away books on Amazon KDP. I am one of the more successful donors of the American literary world. However, in the UK, the natural sense of cool reserve and dissimulation prevents the accepting of gifts from strangers. I have the feeling that if I were to tour in my white Rolls Royce cabriolet throwing bank notes to the crowd, they would run after me handing them back. Probably I would get a ticket for littering.
blueprint for a question not yet asked
Then the unthinkable happened. I started to sell books. Maybe after all I was a writer. I exchanged my life and personality for sales figures. Some days I see myself as a pie chart, other days a block graph. Yesterday I had that corporate spreadsheet feeling. Personality and self image issues – surely not! As I looked out from my window yesterday into the cold clear dusk I saw a tree reflecting the direction of life, albeit very simplified.
Today sales dipped a little. A reviewer thought I should give up and drive a bus or something. The GPS is talking babble. I think I’m too old for acne. Insecure? Me?
Emma thinx: Whatever you’ve put in someone’s life today – they’re already passing it on.
You know that insecure feeling when you come downstairs after the party, slithering on a wine soaked crushed samosa that obviously missed the eloquent mouth of some unknown drunk, who at the time, was the wittiest and most flattering intellectual in the world? For a moment you gaze around wondering how cobwebs could possibly suspend so many popper streamers until you remember that the spiders have had several months of freedom to weave silk ropes that could catch an anchor chain. And all because the lady is a novelist and does not do dusting. She also does not do ironing or checking of sell by dates on mundane produce. How can a pickled onion be out of date? Who did not know that 2007 was a vintage premier cru champagne year for bloody pickles?
This is a long way to explain that I had a bit of a party and that I know my life is being sucked into a femaelstrom of microwaved Swedish meatballs. Apparently Edgar Allan Poe first introduced the masculine form of the word into literature. I must start to get a grip. I get up in the morning in my furry dressing gown and check my sales, my blog comments, my facebook likes, my triberr karma rating, my Amazon chart position, my twitter re-tweets and my Goodreads reviews. I am become Electro-Fem, a Joan of Story Arc, a Romantic Grovelist at the keyboard shrine. Then I put on my woolly pully and go out driving my bus. Good job all the other motorists don’t know that the huge vehicle in their rear view is being driven by a neurotic self doubting ego maniac on a cobweb and pickled onion literary guilt trip. This life would not have happened to Jane Austen.
Oooh – I’m glad I got that lot off my chest. The party was on account of having some 3,000 folk reading my book Knockout! by Saturday. By the end of the weekend I had shifted 8,000 books. Of course, they were all free on Amazon’s grand KDP Select Adventure. My serious “mined from the sorrow of life” prize winning etc. short story Sub-Prime had shifted 328 copies. You know, I always bear in mind that I sell the Romance for 77 pence in the UK which is less than a candy bar. When it became free, there was an exponential increase in interest. And I bet you that someone who got it for nothing reviews it and says it is a soppy formula written load of sex, cops, robbers and slobbers. (Oooh, I love it!) I do hate it when people miss the point. As I hover on the publish button, Amazon have just started tweeting me as a “mover and shaker” and I’m still high in the rankings with sales increasing if anything. Does this make me feel secure? Of course not. See my thinx today. My future sense of security rests on the continued real sales. I think there might be a few bad hair-trigger days.
Somewhere in the fog of the party, an intellectual goatee beard type is reading the sell by date on my pickle jar and asking me what year it is. “Look”, I exclaim, “I’m an artist – how the hell should I know?”
Emma thinx: From the ground you see the mountain. From the peak you see the drop.
Actually I was feeling relatively secure as I sat down to write my blog. Then an 85 mph gust of wind hit a tree just to the right of my office window. Several tons of wood split from the trunk and destroyed my neighbour’s garage and a good portion of the house roof. The rest of the tree now leans towards my very position. Now, I’ve always maintained that any sense of security in this world is misplaced. We are helpless creatures of no account, clinging to our fragile capsule of individual conscious time. As dear old John Keats wrote for his own epitaph “Here lies one whose name was writ in water”. I’m OK with the water, but I wonder if I could have it 50/50 with a decent brandy? Of course, John Keats did not have the benefit of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. The course of English Literature could have been so very different…
Insecurity as a writer is of course another thing all together. I mean, who is not a writer? Any time I tell someone I’ve written a book I find that they have already written several or believe that they have a host of unwritten brilliant narratives ready to wow the Readerverse. So – who would bother with me? Um – well – there are always the critics.
When I first launched “Knockout” I came across a lady who offered to review books. Her verdict opened “I knew at once that I would hate this book.” All the same she carried on in what I can only assume was an orgy of masochistic self loathing. “The characters were unrealistic since no Police Inspector would just fall in love with some guy.” She followed it it with the suggestion that “The writer is clearly a foreigner with no idea of England. (I am a Londoner) Names of places in London are used as if it were a guide book.” The critic then turned to the matter of a restaurant menu which she felt was a poorly designed combination of dishes. Finally she declared that the character of a Police commander was “unrealistic since such a bombastic character would have been brought up before some kind of employment tribunal”. I thanked her for her kind efforts but some small part of me wanted to say that it was a Romance where rather larger than life characters behaved rather “Romantically” in a world of unsuitable menus and horrid bosses. I could also have said that the Police Commander was based on someone I knew and if anything, underestimated his odiousness. As a final salvo the lady opined that the choice of the name Freddie for the French/American male hero was a ridiculous pun on a sitcom character called “Freddie the Frog” of whom I had never heard.
The choice then was whether to accept all her criticisms and not publish or kinda stick to my self belief that, although not high art, it was not that bad. Perhaps some of you guys will let me know.
I think I’m in my 35th year of more or less continuous rejections. I suppose my confidence wavers as I wait for the letter. By now I feel utterly secure in my prediction of the outcome. I know there is a novel from 20 years ago possibly in a slush pile, still out there somewhere. Some rejections have become treasures. A famous poetry editor wrote back to me to say that my work was ghastly but that he loved my covering letter. I felt validated and secure. It was the only time. I have always taken comfort from the notion that all the GREATS were rejected, cut their ears off and ended up in a pauper’s grave. The only problem is that this is not true.
If I’m being serious I would say that all the years of rejections have never stopped me from trying and have convinced me that I’m unlikely to please any publisher/agent. This realisation is my freedom and I am secure in it. My good friend Oscar Sparrow, the poet, has recorded the supposed world’s worst poem. People get in touch with him just to say they love it. If you wanna hear the sweet sound of heroic failure here is a link. By the way, the “world’s worst” poet Theo Marzials was a huge success in his own life-time!
Emma thinx: The trouble with insecurities is that they tie you down.