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I’ve been tagged for The Next Best Thing blog hop, by Australian photographer, artist and author  Keira McKenzie (thanks for that, Keira!).  For those of you who don’t know, The Next Best Thing is a meme which allows authors to showcase their latest work, so I’m taking the opportunity to highlight my forthcoming debut novel which will be published by Hadley Rille Books later this year.  For several years I've enjoyed a secret identity as endlessrarities on LJ, but in the publishing sphere, my pen name will be exactly the same as my professional name: Louise Turner

What is the working title of your book?
Fire And Sword


Where did the idea come from for the book?
Having worked in Scottish archaeology for twenty years now, I’m passionate about the country’s history and built heritage.  As someone who’d been writing fiction since my teens, it seemed natural to try and explore the past in a different way.  When I started reading historical fiction, I found myself increasingly disappointed by the way in which Scotland’s past was presented in a fictional setting, so I thought I’d try and write the kind of historical fiction set in Scotland that I actually wanted to read. 

What genre does your book fall under?
Fire and Sword is a historical novel, but of course the term ‘historical novel’ is a very broad one. I suppose it might best be described as a coming of age tale set against a background of political intrigue.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I started putting names to faces from a very early stage in the writing of this novel – I soon realized that this was the only way I could remember individuals amongst such a vast array of ‘characters’!  Though unfortunately most of the cast have aged in the intervening period since I first started writing it...

Marcus Gilbert would have been my first choice for the hero, John Sempill, with Richard E. Grant as Hugh Montgomerie.  The Earl of Lennox would have been Sean Connery, Ieuan Griffiths as James IV, and Kelly MacDonald as Margaret Colville.  And so on…

Unfortunately, I haven’t as yet found roles for veteran Scots actors Jimmy Cosmo, Bill Paterson or Denis Lawson, but it’s early days yet!!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When his father dies defending the murdered James III at the Battle of Sauchieburn in August 1488, John Sempill finds his inheritance threatened by a coalition of lords who covet his property and titles; to survive, John must win favour with the new king, but this means placing his trust in Hugh, Lord Montgomerie, a local magnate who has earned a reputation for treachery and deceit and who is himself a close kinsman of the men who want John ruined, or even dead...

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Fire and Sword will be published by Hadley Rille Books in late August or early September of this year.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The writing of Fire and Sword was a long, long process, which started back in the late 1990s.  The background research alone took years, and though I was already an experienced writer when I took this project on, it took several drafts before I found my ‘voice’.  Once that task was accomplished, the writing became much quicker, and much easier.  So the final version probably only took a couple of years to complete.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Oh, I really don’t know the answer to that one!  I’ve had two different beta-readers compare it to the works of Dorothy Dunnet, which I take to be something as an honour...  I’m inclined to think it’s in the same vein as Reay Tannahill’s work, i.e. historical fiction, set in Scotland, which is character-led rather than event-led and which comes across as more than a tableau or diorama where the characters are puppets driven by the course of Historical Events (with a capital ‘H’ and a capital ‘E’!) . 

As a writer, my main sources of inspiration in recent years have been C J Cherryh’s Union-Alliance Universe (which is, of course, science fiction), and Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety.  I’m inclined to think, though, that my prose style is more Ken Follett than Hilary Mantel, which again is probably something I shouldn’t really complain about!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration lay in real historical events.  In 1489, letters of fire and sword were issued by King James IV of Scotland to Sir John Sempill, justifying an assault he made in ‘times bygone’ on the Place of Duchal.  Sempill’s aggressive stance was itself provoked by ‘burnings, hardships and destruction’ carried out against Sempill himself, his family and tenants, by the Earl of Lennox and certain others, including Robert, Lord Lyle, whose principle seat was Duchal.

Writing this novel was fun for me as both a writer, and as an archaeologist. During its creation, I was given an excellent opportunity to explore the background to these events, in a level of detail that ‘normal’ historical research could not possibly allow.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It often strikes me that the standard fare for historical novels set in medieval and early modern Scotland is either the Scots Wars of Independence (and the adventures of Wallace and Bruce in particular) or the trials and tribulations of Mary Queen of Scots. I like to think that Fire and Sword represents a rare departure from this norm, shedding light upon a piece of Scotland’s past which really doesn’t get much attention, namely the turbulent period which opened the reign of James IV, who achieved a lot before his premature death at Flodden and who could arguably be called Scotland’s first Renaissance King. Things were really quite exciting in the west of Scotland at this time. We had our fair share of movers and shakers who really haven’t been granted the publicity (or notoriety!) they deserved.

Oh, and for those of you out there who are familiar with the characters who played key roles in the reign of Mary Queen of Scots and are keen to get a bit more background to this period… Well, Fire and Sword gives you an unusual insight into the ancestors of Mary Queen of Scot’s consorts Darnley and Bothwell, as the two families were vying for supremacy even then, way back in the late 1480s…

Now, I tag these authors to answer these same questions next Wednesday:

  • The excellent Carol Lovekin, whose first novel The Gift of Weaving represents a contemporary novel of magic realism set in rural West Wales, and which has been described as 'Beautiful, wonderful, full of magic and life, scary, funny and truthful’, and whose LJ blog can be accessed at [livejournal.com profile] readthisandweep.
  • Up-and-coming writer of istorical fiction [livejournal.com profile] jandersoncoats  whose debut novel, The Wicked And the Just - a YA novel set in thirteenth century Wales and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - has received widespread acclaim since its publication in 2013.
  • Fellow archaeologist and Hadley Rille author [livejournal.com profile] kimberlywade,  whose 2010 novel Thrall, set in the early prehistoric period, has been positively reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly.
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The second draft of my 2nd novel is now completed, weighing in at 195,791 words.  A wee bit of pruning is on the cards, methinks - I want it down to around 175,000 words.  And I'm not quite sure that the ending is exactly how I want it just yet. Gads, I hate endings,  I hate beginnings, too, mind...

Anyway, I shall be backing it up pronto. And then I shall get it ready to print out a hard copy, so I can read it through and see what bits need extra work and see if there's glaring problems in the plot or parts that I've already slashed too much out of.

LJ is under maintenance now, so I'm going to quit while I'm ahead, I think.  Speak to you soon, everyone!
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£50 of Waterstones vouchers have been spent (£40 as a Christmas present from work - I'm sure The Boss hoped we'd get something useful and intellectual and archaeology-related, but... What the heck!  I spend a fortune on archaeology books the rest of the year, so...), and I did not return with Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies. It's coming out in paperback this coming May, so I understand, so another few months is hardly going to hurt me, is it?  I did bewail the situation to the shop assistant, however, who smiled sweetly and said, "Well, she won the Booker, didn't she?"

Hmmm, yes.  So once again I am left with a big Bring Up The Bodies shaped hole on my bookshelf.  Instead I snaffled what appears to be the entire Hilary Mantel back catalogue (with one or two exceptions) including Fludd, which was top of my list.  I'm not sure what I'll make of them.  I'm a big fan of Wolf Hall and A Place of Greater Safety, and I also really like Beyond Black, but I wasn't so keen on The Giant O'Brien.  I should give the latter a second airing, I know.

Lush had a sale on, which was lovely.  I think I've bought enough soap to supply the household until summer, and I will be furnished with lovely bath and shower stuff for months to come, which is good news considering I'll be out on site through much of the year. 

Last but not least was a consumables binge. Four reams of A4 paper (three recycled) and two Hewlett Packard XL printer cartridges.  I'm due the edits for my forthcoming novel any time now, and I'll be needing to print out the second draft of my second novel for review soon, too (nearly done!  Might even get it finished today!!) so I guess the paper won't go very far.  At least now these items will count as tax-deductable, which is a lovely thought!

And tomorrow morning I'm horse-riding. Which will be very nice indeed.  Unless the lurgy doesn't release its grip - I'm still coughing and spluttering like the dying heroine of a certain Puccini opera...
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Christmas Day has been and gone, and it's kind of back to business as usual.  We went out on a two hour walk this morning, and then I did some writing.  I edited 2300 words of Novel #2 - I'm on the last chapter now, so while I'm a wee bit behind (wanted it done before Christmas) at least I'm moving in the right direction at last.  Tomorrow, I will hopefully have finished it.

I've got a few photos from the Lakes to post, and some from today's walk, but it's been difficult to get round to doing things over the last couple of days.  And tomorrow I'm going into town, which means I can spend the Waterstones voucher we were given at work.  I think I'm going to have to indulge in Bring Up The Bodies - hardback or not - as I think I've waited long enough not. 

Hope you've had a good holiday, everyone - to those of you out there burdened with lurgies (I know there are some!) get well soon!
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Tonight, I was supposed to be attending the writers' group, but one regular's got the flu, another one's got an unhappy printer, and it's horribly cold out there.  I'm supposed to be going out on site tomorrow (the horror!!) to record two openings that have been re-opened in the Ayrshire castle I wound up doing a small excavation on in the summer.

I shall work on my writing instead - thankfully, my publisher [livejournal.com profile] ericreynoldshas helped give me just the inspiration I need by sharing this, celebrating 7 years of Hadley Rille Books in a two minute video highlighting its authors and their works:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q7UwTZSdDQ


I've tried to get this embedded properly, but alas, my IT capabilities have tripped and fallen at the first hurdle.  Do check ir out - the artwork's lovely!!

Have an enjoyable evening, everyone!!
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It's been several centuries since the Collegiate Church of Castle Semple fell into disuse - it was no doubt a casualty of the Reformation, which was a shame, since it must have performed a valuable secondary function of educating the locals. Lord John's determination to support education perhaps explains why a number of late 16th century Sempills were renowned for their skills in writing poetry.  Arguably the most famous of these was Robert Semple, who penned the original version of the Robert Burns classic, Auld Lang Syne - his poetry is featured in the collected works of the Sempill poets, which can be viewed on-line here:-

http://archive.org/details/poemsofsempillso01semp

The Semples eventually sold their estate to the McDowall family, who were nouveau riche family who made their money from the trading of sugar and slaves.  Thankfully, the church was retained as a landscape feature - indeed it was still in use recently as a mausoleum for some of the local gentry.

This view of the church clearly shows how it was originally subdivided into two storeys - I wonder if this would have functioned as a laird's loft, where the Sempill lords could attend services without having to mingle with their estate workers:-

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Perhaps the most remarkable part of the church is, however, John, 1st Lord Sempill's tomb:-

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It marks the resting place of Lord John and his second wife, Margaret Crichton of Ruthvendeny, but whether Lord John actually made it here is open to question.  He died in battle, and the chances are that his body wound up dumped in a mass grave somewhere in Northumberland.  The presence of the tomb also causes much head-scratching.  The assumption is that it postdates his death in 1513, but the chances are he started making plans for it and perhaps even constructing it before he died.  He lost his first wife while the church was being built, and this may have sparked off an acknowledgement of his own mortality.

There is no effigy - instead, the shelf within the tomb (which is located in the north wall of the chancel, near the altar) would have functioned as an Easter Sepulchre.  The consecrated host would be placed within this space in Good Friday, representing the body of Christ waiting for the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.  This meant that the incumbents within the tomb would be granted maximum spiritual brownie points.

It's not wearing well, unfortunately.  19th century drawings show the inscriptions and the sculpture very clear, but even over the last decade or so we've seen a deterioration in the quality.  It clearly isn't deemed sufficiently high in quality to merit protection, which is unfortunate, because it's an unusual survival round here, and a focus of local interest and affection.

Even today, the tomb can be a curious focus of attention.  I've seen it stashed with the empty cans and bottles of someone's 'cairry-oot', but on the day J visited it to try and take photos for the website, he found this:-

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If you look closely, you'll find that it's dedicated to animal victims of war.

I don't know if it was meant to be there, and I'm not even sure that Lord John would approve, but I find it rather poignant and lovely.





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And now an introduction to a personal favourite of mine.  It's one of my local monuments, built in 1504 by John, 1st Lord Sempill, who just so happens to be the hero of my forthcoming novel Fire And Sword which will be hitting the shelves in the summer of 2013 (not too long to wait now, woo hoo!!!).

It was built in 1504, and as well as providing a place of worship for Lord John and his family, it also functioned as a 'sang schule' (or song school) for the sons of local families, who would learn basic skills in reading, writing (presumably in Scots and Latin) and also in music. Particular reference is given to polyphony, which was coming into vogue at the time as epitomised by the work of the wonderful Robert Carver, who was active in the court of King James IV:-


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The foundation charters of this church still survive, giving a detailed insight into the duties of the resident clergy and giving strict guidelines regarding their moral behaviour. A clergyman would be dismissed, for example, for frasternising with prositutes...

The church itself is very much an example of local vernacular architecture.  It gets a very bad write-up from the esteemed building historian Professor Richard Fawcett, who implied that it was architecturally illiterate.  Okay, so maybe it's not exactly splendid late Gothic with elaborate tracery and carving to-diefor?  Well, it's ours, so please don't knock it.  And hey, for a humble lord who wasn't exactly in the same league as the Douglases and the Sinclairs and the other wealthy donors who funded the building of elaborate churches at this time, it's not a bad effort.  Considering Renfrewshire and Ayrshire were pretty much like the Wild West when it was built, it was a brave attempt by Lord John to even try and shine the light of civilisation in a world where feuding and violence was still rife.


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It's unclear whether the apsidal east end was part of the original build, or added after the death of Lord John, whose memorial tomb we''ll see later in the week.  The windows are all built to slightly different designs, which is odd, and which adds to the general impression of architectural chaos.  I like to imagine that the patron, faced with the terrible choice of deciding which form of window to use, couldn't decide and just opted for one of each!  
 

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The other puzzle is why such a minor lord chose to build such an edifice in the first place. A former colleague once said that collegiate churches were built for one of three reasons: 1) the patron was particularly devout; 2) the patron had done something dubious and feared he'd p****d off either God, or the church, or 3) the patron was trying to appear wealthy and powerful by showing his neighbours he had the financial ability to construct and run such an instituion.

In this case?  Local legend has it that Lord John managed to offend the Bishop of Glasgow, the beautifully and appropriately named Bishop Blacader (who managed to die on board ship in the Mediterranean while travelling on a pilgrimage to the middle east). 

As for the truth?  Who knows?  Though I've found plenty of possible explanations in the course of writing this novel, I must admit!
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Hoorah!  My conference requirements for 2012 are now over, and I can now concentrate on being a writer again!!

I didn't really learn much that was new today, but it was a great refresher course which put various disparate bits of knowledge together that I've accumulated over the past couple of decades (!).  The conference was held in the Burrell Collection, hosted by Glasgow Archaeological Society and dedicated to The Clyde.  It was mainly modern in its subject matter - with much said about the improvement of the river, and the history of the mercantile and industrial centres on its banks - Glasgow, Greenock, Port Glasgow, but there were a couple of papers on earlier aspects, such as crannogs.

I had my writer's hat on for one particular paper dedicated to Dumbarton Castle, which features in Novel #2.  Guess I'll have to do a bit of rewriting now, as it doesn't seem to be laid out the way I'd anticipated.  Ah, well.  These things are sent to try us. 

But after seeing endless views of Dumbarton Castle from land, from sea, and from the air,  there's no excuse for my not returning to those missing pages of MS I've been bewailing over the last couple of weeks, because - you've guessed it!!- they feature none other than Dumbarton Castle!!!

Must put nose to grindstone... Must put nose to grindstone....
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I've just returned from the second of my three conference outings for the autumn season.  Today's offering was the autumn meeting of the Finds Research Group, a research body dedicated to small finds of the historic period. The FRG normally has its meetings down south in Englandshire (i.e. well out of the reach of Yours Truly) but today it was having an unusual foray north of the border in Edinburgh.

It was certainly well worth the trip.  The papers were all very interesting, in a day conference devoted entirely to Precious Metals.

My highlights had to be the two papers on Early Historic & Viking silver: Firstly, Martin Goldberg gave a fascinating talk on the Early Historic & Viking Use & Manufacture of Roman to Viking Silver, which demonstrated how metallurgical analysis can establish the relative dates of Early Historic & Viking artefacts by the nature and percentages of impurities in the metal - Roman silver is higher quality, and less debased, and as it gets recycled through the years, more base metal gets added, hence more impurities appear.  Goldberg's presentation was followed by another equally absorbing paper by Alice Blackwell, who presented a paper on New Research on the Norrie's Law Hoard. This identified the presence of three 19th century fakes amongst the original Pictish hoard, again isolating them by using metallurgical analysis.  One of the interesting observation made by Goldberg was how the English warrior elites of this period favour gold & garnet, while the Pictish/Viking elites of the north make more extensive use of silver and enamel.

Honourable mention must also go to David Caldwell for his engaging lecture on that magnificent artefact of medieval Scots origin, the Bute Mazer - here's a link for what can only be described as an over-sized quaich with real attitude!!

http://www.nms.ac.uk/our_collections/highlights/bute_or_bannatyne_mazer.aspx

Caldwell was somewhat scathing of the abilities of the goldsmith, who's thought to have been based in the West of Scotland.  He pointed out that the lion looked like it was wearing a knitted balaclava, then compared it to the man-in-a-lion-suit that features in that classic comedy sketch, Scott of the Sahara by Monty Python.

Oh dear.  I'll never be able to look at the Bute Mazer in the same way again. Conversely, I'll never look at Scott of the Sahara the same way, either!!!

And now I'm signing off.  Last night's Book Signing was for the launch of The Healing of Luther Grove by Barry Gornell.  Again, it was a fascinating insight into how it;s done - this particular event featured a useful question & answer session, but how I could possibly fit this in to a similar event is a trickier task to accomplish...
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Photobucket has decided (temporarily, I hope!) that it does not like the White Horse of Uffington, so I'm stuck for photos today, I fear...

It's been a curious day.  Since the morning was pleasantly autumnal, I went out cycling with J. We took to the cycle track, and since we're creatures of habit, we ended up in Lochwinnoch at our usual cafe. And it was there that I bumped into one of our respected local poets, Betty Mackellar...

I had two reasons to talk to Betty today,  She writes poetry in Scots, often covering local history and wildlife, and not surprisingly the Sempills figure frequently in her work.  We first met at a Semple Society gathering: I was giving readings from my novel while she was there as the resident Semple poet!

There have many times through the years when we've met up in the cafe. Betty invariably asks me about the novel, and until now I've had to bewail an endless litany of frustration/tribulation/angst.  Each time, Betty has been quick to pat me on the back and offer me her sympathy, before giving me encouragement and telling me that I must not give up, because I've come too far to turn back now.

Today, of course, I had good news.  When I told her that Fire and Sword was going to be published next year, she was genuinely delighted.  But I had another reason to collar her, because I've recently managed get the strangest of all possible airings for one of her poems...

The poem in question is my own personal favourite. Called 'Ghaists' (i.e. Ghosts!), it's about the cycle-track in Lochwinnoch which as you can imagine, is a favourite haunt of mine - if you'll pardon the pun!  Another poetically-minded acquaintance of mine, Tracey Patrick, has recently been trying to raise funds towards the publication of her poetry magazine 'Earthlove' by getting people to sponsor her for reciting poems at - wait for it!! - the top of a Munro!!  So in a flash of inspiration, I decided to sponsor a reading of 'Ghaists' because it seemed like a suitably atmospheric contribution to a collection of poems recited by another Scots poet in the great wild Scots landscape.

The story of this escapade has been an epic tale in itself, and one which unfortunately is not without tragedy, as Tracy herself explains in a blog entry she's written for the Scottish Book Trust:-

http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/blog/rewrite/2012/07/tracy-patrick-the-great-heights-of-performance-poetry

As you can probably imagine, the blowy tops of Munros are not a place well-suited to the recital of poems, but Tracey gives it her best shot nonetheless.  Here's the batch of poems which include 'Ghaists', which is a truly lovely poem which - when read by someone who can speak their Scots properly and flawlessly (i.e. not a Sassenach like myself!!) - is truly lyrical and a beautiful introduction to the Scots dialect/language.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-ysG6jSl9A&feature=relmfu

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Okay, so now it's official!!

Here's the announcement on Facebook, which I hope [livejournal.com profile] ericreynolds of Hadley Rille Books won't mind me copy & pasting for your info!

'Just signed a contract with Louise Turner to publish her historical novel FIRE AND SWORD, set in 1488-1489 Scotland.'

Ooh, this is very exciting!!!!  Very exciting indeed!!! 

You will, of course be kept informed of progress...

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It's a nice feeling, getting your writing 'career' kick-started back into action, but it's not without its problems..

Trouble is, I now have two WIP's on the go simultaneously.  I know which is the more important of the two: the big kick-ass historical which serves as the follow-up to the work that's now in the pipeline.

Getting this back on track sounds like a gargantuan task, but it's not really.  I've got 50 pages typed up from a 600 page (double-spaced!!) MS, so I've still got a massive amount to go.  But I'm plodding patiently along, aiming to tick off a chapter a night (4-8 pages, usually), the aim being to get it ready for final submission by summer of 2013.  After about page 150 or thereabouts, I'll need to be editing a bit more, but we're talking about the slash-and-burn stuff here, and I sometimes find that this is easier when I'm not concentrating over-hard on the work-at-hand.  Okay, so I'll need to revise it another time with a clearer head to make sure I haven't cut out anything crucial, and I've already flagged up one or two very minor issues which I'll need to sort out before it's done, but I'm damned lucky in that I've already got most of the really hard work behind me.

The only trouble is that I'm really deeply embroiled in a third novel which needs a heck of a lot of work to get it right and which really shouldn't be a priority right now.  I've always had trouble juggling projects, at least when it comes to writing fiction.  Somehow, I can get fiction and non-fiction projects to feed off each other in a symbiotic way, but when I get so wrapped up in my characters I really want to spend all my writing time with them, and I don't want to get diverted. 

A brief break from #3 seems in order, but the problem is that there are a few loose ends that I need to tidy up before I can put it on hiatus, and as a result, I'm really having problems jumping between the two.  Thankfully, it's the more important of the two that's really grabbing my attention, but with time at a premium, it's getting frustrating.

Does anypne else out there have this problem?  Or are the rest of you quite comfortably at hopping from one WIP to another without so much as a hiccup?

Anyway, it's off to the Writers' Group tonight.  I'm still working on #3 as far as this is concerned, but I'm becoming increasingly aware that I'm not putting as much effort into it as I would like to.  As problems go, it's not exactly earth-shattering.  In fact, it's a very enviable position to be in.

But it's still a wee bit annoying....

[P.S. You will note that my writing mood can inevitably be divined by what I'm listening to.  Novel #1= Dead Can Dance - Aeon; Novel #2=Clannad - Anam; and Novel #3=Elbow (take your pick, really) or Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum.  Since today's earworm comes from Clannad, it's self-evident what has captured my attention...]
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Okay, so maybe it's time to go public - sort of...

I mentioned some Very Exciting Things coming up in the near future, and now I think it's time to elaborate. 

Long term followers of this blog will no doubt remember that every so often, I have had angsting sessions about a historical novel-in-limbo.  Well, I'm delighted to report that things are finally moving on this front.  It's been a long hard struggle, but publication is at last on the cards!

Since this was my first proper attempt at a novel, the teething pains have been immense.  I was lucky: I had connections in the publishing industry, and way back in the late ninetiess, I circulated an early draft for feedback and (I hoped) publication.  On reflection, I rushed into things too blindly.  The book was still in a fledgling state - it got knocked back, as usual, with very positive feedback (along the lines of 'nice plot, but not what we're looking for just now, and it's not quite there yet, either').  I tried a few more agents, with similar responses, so I gave up submitting the MS, and just spent ages rethinking it, rewriting it and generally making the narrative more brisk and taut.

In the meantime, I learned a whole lot more about the publishing industry, and the art of achieving that elusive first contract.  I joined the Paisley Writers' Group, and still regularly meet up with what has become a group of very enthusiastic and in many respects very talented beta-readers.  Above all, I learned the maxim that getting published is more to do with finding a compatible publisher than churning out something that just so happens to tick all the trendy boxes for what's popular at any given time.

It should be every writer's dream to find a solid, enthusiastic and hard-working editor who believes in their work and is determined to support it, and five years ago I thought I'd got exactly that. 

I was over the moon.  All the work I'd put into that novel was coming to fruition...

I was overwhelmed with euphoria.  Then...  Nothing...  The publisher remained enthusiastic and really supportive, but...  She was a sole trader whom real live just seemed to keep kicking in the teeth, time and time again.  I was urged to find a better deal, but...  It wasn't easy to break loose.  First of all, I believed passionately in what she was trying to achieve and I just kept kind of hoping things would improve.  And then...  Getting published isn't exactly like trying to catch a bus.  You can't just stand there with your hand out hoping something'll turn up in the end.  And it's a whole lot easier communicating with those in the publishing industry when you can write in your letter/e-mail that 'I've already had my first novel accepted and it's due to be published in the -ahem!- near future.'

In the mean time, I threw myself into writing a follow-up.  I finished it in first draft and started editing it, too.  I was really pleased with the result, but gradually, my enthusiasm faded.  In the end, it was like being aboard an abandoned ship with the sails shredded and the rudder snapped off.  You're kind of stuck there, You don't want to jump overboard, because you can't see land, or even spot any distant ships on the horizon.  And you're not entirely sure how good the lifeboats are, either.  The question is: how long do you wait until you just leap off and start swimming?

Well, I didn't jump.  I just held tight.  I suppose sensible folk would have chucked the dream of getting published and just got on their lives.  Or started writing something entirely different in an effort to break through with a different kind of book. I suppose I did a bit of both.  I resigned myself to being an archaeologist, first and foremost, and I started working on the MS of something which was completely unlike anything I'd worked on before.   But I still couldn't help hoping that some day, things would work out.

Eventually, circumstances turned out right.  I've been incredibly lucky: I've now found myself another editor who's just as enthusiastic about my work as the first one was.  The break with Publisher #1 was amicable - in fact, it probably took a load off my poor former-editor's already-sagging shoulders- and now things seem to be moving forward with extraordinary rapidity.

I'm not making any major announcements yet, not until it's truly 'official', though the contract's being sorted out as we speak and it's already open knowledge on my Facebook page.  It's a great feeling to think that in the end, all the trauma and the stress and the worry will have been worth it.  I'm five years behind schedule now, but hey, at least I HAVE a schedule.  My life is structured. I'm no longer aimlessly tapping away at the keyboard, in the hope that some-day-I'll-make-it-I-hope-or-I-might-as-well-chuck-it-and-then-oh-dear-my-life's-as-good-as-ended-anyway.  

I can see a future now, and I'm working steadily towards it.  As I mentioned earlier, I'd already written the follow-up to my novel, so now the time has now come to dust it down and polish it off.  Since I haven't read it for at least three years now, I've largely forgotten what I wrote in the first place, so I'm having great fun rediscovering it.  This is, I think, a good sign.  So far, I haven't cringed and gone 'Eooww. Did I REALLY think I'd get away with THAT?'  Life is now a series of goals and time schedules, with set tasks to be established each day/week.  I even have time set aside each night for  - shock, horror - recreation!!!

Life feels so much better this way, and I can't wait to see how all this progresses.  You will, of course, be kept fully informed...
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It's sunny!!  It's hot!!

Could summer actually be here???

Maybe that's too much to ask for, but I've just been running around like a mad thing and now I'm going out to the Writers' Group, so no post tonight, I fear!!

I shall be back tomorrow...
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Last night marked the end of an era.  David Cameron's cuts have finally made their mark on the library, and our Writers' Group has decided to call it a day there.

It's not that they didn't offer us facilities.  But we were required to share the library space with other users, which meant doing readings which might potentially have adult content in an area where children might be present.  Another disadvantage was a change in hours - from 7-9 to 6-8 - which would have had an impact on those of us who are gainfully employed.

So from next week on, we'll be joining the Bohemian cafe set and taking up residence in a local watering hole, which I'd told has plenty of space where we can find a bit of peace and quiet on a weekday evening.  David Cameron would be very proud of us - from becoming spongers off the state, we are transforming ourselves into a group which has a positive impact on the local economy through our purchases of coffee, soft drinks, etc.  I have no objection to this, per se.  I don't mind doing my bit for saving money in during difficult economic times. 

What concerns me more is how the role of the library is being gradually eroded - I'll now be using it less, and while our group numbers just a few die-hards, it's just one of several which have now been rendered homeless as a result of the evening closures.  The loss of these groups will cut visitor numbers, which will then strength the argument for cutting funding in the long term.  And so on, and so on.  The vicious circle continues...

One thing's certain.  We're determined to keep on going with the group, even though our numbers have dwindled.  It's a good opportunity to meet up with like-minded friends, and a good incentive to keep writing.  And perhaps things won't be too bad: sipping coffee during a reading might have distinct advantages!!

endlessrarities: (Default)
Last night marked the end of an era.  David Cameron's cuts have finally made their mark on the library, and our Writers' Group has decided to call it a day there.

It's not that they didn't offer us facilities.  But we were required to share the library space with other users, which meant doing readings which might potentially have adult content in an area where children might be present.  Another disadvantage was a change in hours - from 7-9 to 6-8 - which would have had an impact on those of us who are gainfully employed.

So from next week on, we'll be joining the Bohemian cafe set and taking up residence in a local watering hole, which I'd told has plenty of space where we can find a bit of peace and quiet on a weekday evening.  David Cameron would be very proud of us - from becoming spongers off the state, we are transforming ourselves into a group which has a positive impact on the local economy through our purchases of coffee, soft drinks, etc.  I have no objection to this, per se.  I don't mind doing my bit for saving money in during difficult economic times. 

What concerns me more is how the role of the library is being gradually eroded - I'll now be using it less, and while our group numbers just a few die-hards, it's just one of several which have now been rendered homeless as a result of the evening closures.  The loss of these groups will cut visitor numbers, which will then strength the argument for cutting funding in the long term.  And so on, and so on.  The vicious circle continues...

One thing's certain.  We're determined to keep on going with the group, even though our numbers have dwindled.  It's a good opportunity to meet up with like-minded friends, and a good incentive to keep writing.  And perhaps things won't be too bad: sipping coffee during a reading might have distinct advantages!!

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