Monday 1 June 2020

While The Sun Shines

Hello, dear readers!

And welcome to the post that very nearly wasn’t.

This isn’t because of any health concerns, Covid based or otherwise. It’s not due to a sudden outbreak of activity either, as I remain almost dressed up with nowhere to go (I’m wearing pants. Be grateful).

No, the reason for the close call is far more mundane, and will form one of the threads I’d like to pull on in this week’s offering.

It has, you see, been sunny.
Summer Loving
Now for those of you in the U.K. this will come as no shock unless you’re a night-worker, or a vampire, or both. All it takes is a cheeky peak through the curtain on a morning to realise the traditional covering of dark and brooding clouds, intermittent rain, and temperatures which hover around the barely acceptable, have been thrust aside. For the moment we seem to be enjoying something remarkably close to summer.

For those of you reading from further afield the above descent into sarcasm might seem strange, perhaps unwarranted, but believe me, it isn’t. Blue skies, warm weather and that strange glowing object in the sky are virtual strangers to us brits for most of the year. Being the good little Britainer that I am, I have therefore rushed out to the back garden, reading, quaffing copious amounts of Pepsi Max, and allowing the sun’s rays to roast my pale and uninteresting skin a slightly healthier colour, before the inevitable cloud cover resumes. It’s a hard life, but someone has to do it.

It’s meant that, as my priorities shifted, my time spent doing more usual things has taken a hit.

Growing Pains
Admittedly, these 'more usual things’ entail nothing amazing. As I mentioned, I’ve nowhere to go so writing, editing on behalf of my Critique Partner, and doing some housework is about as exciting as it gets. All of it has value, but none of it would have afforded me the learning opportunities the back garden offered.

To be clear, I’m not talking about gardening. The Chelsea Flower Show may have inspired some, but speaking as someone who once killed a cactus, I have as much enthusiasm as I have knowledge when it comes to the horticultural arts. No, the learning I mean is more on a literary bent.

Buy The Book
The book I’ve most probably written is with a brand new Critique Partner who is, as we speak, running the rule over such things as plot, characterisation, grammar, and punctuation. Hopefully, with her guidance and advice I can knock the rough pile of clay into a true work of art, or at least something I can sell (is there a difference?)

This is not to say I’ve been idle on the book front. I’ve indulged in some editing myself, by way of quid pro quo. I’ve polished my query letter and even knocked up a new draft of my synopsis. I’ve also done some reading. 

It is customary, you see, that when a prospective author such as myself contacts a literary agent, to include the aforementioned query letter. This is a one-to-two-page document highlighting the book’s main ‘hook’ and selling points. It’s a bit like the blurb on the back of any novel; a ‘come-buy-me’ letter if you like, and it should also include comp titles.

Out With The Old
You can probably work this one out for yourself. When a busy agent or publisher gets a query she or he wants to know quickly what they’re dealing with. A good way to do this is to include other books in the same genre or style as yours. Now, although I have chosen to write an urban fantasy novel, based mainly on my love of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, the film The Sting, and the seminal television show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, all these influences are a little on the extremely old side.

Literary Agents live in the now, you see. They have their fingers on the pulse of the publishing world. They know what’s hot, and what’s not. Dredging up influences twenty-year-old and older therefore butters no parsnips with them. As my only reasonably recent brush with the genre was Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files (and everyone comps Dresden Files), I needed fresh names to drop, and I needed them quick. Luckily Amazon are still delivering books.

Pen Names
I bought two. I'll probably buy more, but so far I have the names Craig Schaefer and Caitlin Kittredge to fall back on. Both these authors, based on the short story anthology which made up half my purchase, reflect aspects of what I’m at least trying to do, one in style, and one in setting. It’s a start, and it avoids agents' eyes glazing over when they read Jim Butcher’s name for the umpteenth time.

So yeah, reading in the backyard as a productive and valuable use of my time, who’da thunk it? The sun is shining again today, so I think I’ll busy myself with some more of the same this afternoon and see if Kim Harrison deserves a place on my little list.

Like I said, it’s a hard life.

Until next time…

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