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On the Advisability of Optimization . . .

Frankfurt Book FestivalWhen I’m slaving away over a hot manuscript, I don’t like the constant interruptions of email, so I have come to an agreement with myself (that I keep to at least forty per cent of the time): when I am editing, I check email once an hour. Even that’s a bit of an imposition (and it’s one of the reasons I get most editing done in the evenings, when everyone else has settled down to watch twenty-seven episodes of the fifty-third series of Get That Foul-Mouthed Shouty Person in the Tacky Designer Gear Out of The Kitchen of the Littlest Sister’s Grandly Designed House Boat Bake-Off  II). Anyway, that’s my rule and I stick to it enough that sometimes I can even achieve the 50-page-a-day target I set myself*.

It’s always a little aggravating, then, when I discover I’ve broken my concentration for an email that has as its subject line:

May we drop by during the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014?

You have all shared the pain of my back-to-back Frankfurt schedule before now, and as Nicola stood in so brilliantly for me last year when I was felled by a lupus flare, you know it’s not just me; every editor and rights exec attending the book fair is completely booked up and entirely focused on selling the rights to their wonderful authors/ finding amazing new authors for their burgeoning lists in easy-to-digest half-hour slots.

This year the Frankfurt Book Fair opens on October 8 – which is 16 days away (ARGH! Breathe deeply. Okay, better now . . .) – and my first appointment is about an hour after I arrive in that fair city. At least that one is in a bar! And the first meeting scheduled this year was actually booked on the last day of the London Book Fair. Which was in April.

So 16 days before the biggest book fair in my calendar, someone thinks I’m going to have time for them to ‘drop by’.

Sweet.

I should just have stopped there, but unfortunately, I did actually open the email. Not only does someone want to ‘drop by’, they want to ‘identify opportunities in the e-book market space where we can jointly work together†’.

Now maybe I’m just aggravated because this is the thirty-seventh such email this month offering to ‘optimize my IT operational cost, and achieve my business goals’ and I’m getting bored of typing the words ‘all my production needs – including my digital needs – are handled by Quercus/Hodder and Hachette UK’.

On Friday I was offered:

the kind appointment at Frankfurt book Fair 2014 to take our business forward mutually.

(Do I give Brownie points for use of colour as well as bold and an entertaining font, I wonder? Perhaps not . . .)

On Thursday, after the initial query email got my aforementioned terse but polite and entirely factual response, I got this virtually by return:

As spoken to you, if you could meet us on any day convenient to you.
If you like our proposition (Indian Pricing & Quality), we can move forward.

And on Wednesday my favourite was:

we are working with  Top university presses & publishers for their publishing , e-learning requirements in a larger way.

And did I mention these latter three all offer proof-reading services too? Oh joy!

But I get even more aggravated when my politely worked ‘thanks but no thanks’ email immediately elicits a ‘Yes, but you don’t understand what we can offer you’ response. @LitAgentDrury has taught me an invaluable coping mechanism here (but as I am not sure this is a suitable use for such high-powered toys I have instead taken Option B and ticked ‘This is Spam’ and ‘DELETE!DELETE!DELETE!). It’s the adult way.

I know they have a job to do, and probably if I were offering those services I too would be emailing for appointments. But here is what I would do: I would (a) find out who in the company deals with what I’m offering, and (b) contact them six months before the book fair and (c) give them an example of why my service is much better than anyone else’s. Oh, and I would make sure my initial email was literate and properly spelled and punctuated (especially if offering proof-reading and copy-editing). I would not (a) email everyone in the company and hope someone responds, (b) pepper my email with exciting and emotive phrases like take our business forward mutually and work together for a mutually beneficial business future and We service the world’s largest Children’s Book publisher (although I suspect he didn’t mean it in that way) and (c) I would never ever ask someone if they are having a great day!

So having got that off my chest, and secure in the knowledge that Nicola has pretty well filled my Frankfurt diary anyway, I am returning to my scorching hot manuscript: you will be delighted to know that Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoat’s Lament is everything I’d hoped it would be! And I have more treats in store: Naomi Foyle’s Rook’s Song, the next part in Astra’s story, and A Cold Silence, Ali Littlewood’s follow-up to her Richard & Judy hit A Cold Season, have been delivered, and I have the first chunk of the final part of Clancy’s story, Peter Liney’s In Constant Fear, ready to read too.

You’ll forgive me if I ignore you all for the next few days . . .

Quick questions with: Alison Littlewood!

Did you always dream of becoming a writer? And if so, has it turned out to be how you always imagined it?

I always loved books, from a really early age. I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when I was five, and was addicted to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, even though they made me cry (or perhaps because of it). And I loved writing my own little books. When I got older, though, I just thought of writing as something other people did. It took me a good few years to get it into my head that I really needed to try it for myself – because deep down, the dream was still there. Now it’s within reach, it’s an absolute joy. I feel incredibly lucky.

 

 

Editor’s note: And don’t forget, you can follow Ali on:

Twitter @Ali__L
Facebook facebook.com/alison.littlewood.3?fref=ts
and her website www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk

You can also buy Path of Needles, Ali’s latest book, now!

Alison Littlewood on armedwithpens.com + Competition from Twisted Tales

I was recently flicking through Twitter, as you do, and noticed this wonderful twitter from a website called armedwithpens.com:

@armedwithpens why waiting for inspiration can damage your writing. Great piece from @Ali_L

So I immediately toddled along to their website, to discover that Ali has just written a guest blog for them, so I thought I’d steal a little bit of it. To see the rest, click here and head to armedwithpens.com.

‘Since writing A Cold Season, I’ve met a lot of people who’ve said “I’d like to write a novel – but I don’t know how to start.” The answer – that you start by getting started – is at once the most simple and the hardest thing to grasp.

A Cold Season was the first novel I submitted to a publisher, but it wasn’t the first one I drafted, or even the second. And just as with writing fiction in the first place, I thought about novel-writing for a long time before I got started. And did that help? Did the lightning bolt of inspiration strike and carry me through the next 80,000 words? No, of course it didn’t. It actually took plenty of hard graft and determination.

It also took a welcome boost from NANOWRIMO, or National Novel Writing Month, which essentially takes the premise that if you stick to writing a set word count every day, at the end of the month you’ll have the first draft of a novel. Probably not a very good first draft, but that was okay: I’d decided by then that all I wanted to do was to have done it. I’d started treating it, not as a potential magnum opus, but as a writing exercise; and furthermore one that, if it wasn’t very good, had only cost me a month.

One problem: where was the lightning flash? It hadn’t come yet. I had the determination, but no premise. No plot. Not even an inkling that one was forming in the back of my mind. So I ended up deciding what this January novel would be about on December 31.

Yes, I did type that right. I picked a storyline out of the air the day before I started – and then I just started. And it was pretty tough, especially the big-bit-in-the-middle, but I did it’

For those of you who like this little snippet of opinion from Alison, you may also be interested to know that Twisted Tales – promotors of 21st-century horror – are currently having a competition to win one of ten copies of A Cold Season over on their blog, simply by sending your name to the lovely people at Twisted Tales. To go over to it and see what it’s all about, click here.

And if that isn’t enough, they will also be holding two charity events in Lancaster and Liverpool today and tomorrow with guest speakers including: Graham Joyce, Alison Littlewood and Simon Kurt Unsworth. To read more about these events, you can click here for the Lancaster event and here for the event in Liverpool. And get yourself over there to hear some readings from these awesome horror writers.

Have a great weekend everyone!

 

A Cold Season: Fabulous Review

The lovely guys at top horror blog This is Horror have written a really amazing review of A Cold Season, Alison Littlewood’s chilling debut about a mother and her child in a remote snow-covered village.

If you were to break A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood down into a series of bullet points you would perhaps consider it to be a collection of well worn tropes and themes; small village cut off by unnatural elements? Check! Deeply religious, estranged father? Check! Sinister, unfriendly locals? Check! Scary, feral children? Check!

However whilst elements of the story are familiar the execution of the narrative and the quality of the prose help this debut novel to rise above these familiar components and provide the reader with a gripping and superbly paced book.

A Cold Season’s protagonist is Cass, a married mother whose soldier husband is missing in action, presumed dead. To combat their grief, and to start a new chapter in her life, she takes her son Ben to live in the picturesque village of Darnshaw, where she spent time as a child when her father was the local priest.

Not long after their arrival bad weather sets in and they find themselves cut off from the outside world and having to rely on a selection of local people for assistance.

Cass receives particular attention from Mr Remick, the stand-in head teacher at her son’s new school, attention that she does not find unwelcome.

As events spiral out of Cass’ control the elements take on an ever-increasing role as she is prevented from leaving Darnshaw and is forced to confront the evil present in the village and fight it for her son.

If you haven’t done so yet, have a look at our video preview:

Cold Season Tops the Waterstones Chart!

Alison Littlewood’s wonderfully wintry read A Cold Season is at the top of the Waterstones horror list!

Congratulations to Alison, it is truly a remarkable book.

For those of you yet to read it here’s a quick synopsis:

Cass is building a new life for herself and her son Ben after the death of her husband Pete, returning to the village where she lived as a child. But their new home is not what she expected: the other flats are all empty, there’s strange graffiti on the walls, and the villagers are a bit odd.

And when an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm maroons the village, things get even harder. Ben is changing, he’s surly and aggressive and Cass’s only confidant is the smooth, charming Theodore Remick, the stand-in headmaster.

Not everyone approves of Cass’s growing closeness to Mr Remick, and it soon becomes obvious he’s not all he appears to be either. Cass realises this is not the first time her family have been targeted by Theodore Remick. But this time, the stakes are immeasurably higher…

Article from Fantasy-Faction.com

The publishers top picks for 2012 from the fantastic fantasy faction!

Here’s another look at the publishers choice for this year which should give you a quick insight into a few of the stunning titles we’ve got coming for you:

FANTASY BOOKS DUE IN 2012 – PUBLISHERS CHOICE

You’ve heard of: Gollancz, Tor, Voyager, Jo Fletcher, Solaris, Abaddon Books and Angry Robot, right? These are the publishing houses who are standing at the very forefront of our genre. Although rivals in a business sense, it is their combined dedication to bringing only the very highest level of fantasy novels to readers across our country that has seen Fantasy go from strength to strength in recent years.

When you look at how a book comes to market you come to realise the scale of what a publishing house does. Of course the writer creates the text, but the publishing house edits it, formats it, commissions cover art, decides what shelf it belongs on, picks a method to market it, negotiates with stores, organises signings and much, much more besides. What this means is that they build a huge bond with the books that they publish. When you begin meeting people within the industry you see that some of them seem to know the books as well as the authors!

Now, you may have seen Friday’s article where we looked ahead to our top 10 anticipated novels of 2012. The problem is though, we were just guessing. We haven’t seen the writing or spoken to the authors and we certainly haven’t been working busily away behind the scenes with them. Well, we know a few people who have… remember those publishing houses we mentioned earlier? Well, we approached each and every one of them and asked them: What exactly is it that you are looking forward to in 2012?

Not all of them could pick a ‘top 5′, but all of them came back with 5 titles that we as fantasy fans should watch out for. What we present to you today Fantasy Fans is without doubt the most comprehensive list of books you need to keep an eye out for. It is a list made by people who spend their days working in the industry surrounded by books. So simply; who better to tell you what you should be looking out for in 2012?

The answer of course is no one, so enjoy your read through of what publishers across the country are most looking forward to in 2012.

 

Jo-Fletcher-Books
 

‘Being asked to pick just five titles in a year that is stuffed full of brand new talent is like being asked to pick three of your five siblings to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to the moon: it’s a no-win situation. So the only possible way I can do this is to focus on brand-new authors and ask enormous forgiveness for the handful who were first published last year. Without that I would have had to beg for Fletcher’s Five to become Fletcher’s Thirteen, which might have more of a creepy ring to it, but doesn’t entirely fulfil the brief. So on the understanding that just because you’re not listed here doesn’t I don’t think every book on the Jo Fletcher Books list is just as wonderful, here are Fletcher’s Five for 2012′:

Jo-Feltcher-5

IRENICON BY AIDAN HARTE – APRIL

A fabulous alternate history: Pavane meets The Sopranos, with a hefty dose of Rimbaldi artefacts from Alias, Irenicon has all the fun of Renaissance Italy, but with a sinister dark dimension.

A COLD SEASON BY ALISON LITTLEWOOD – JANUARY

Fabulous novel from debut author Alison Littlewood. A cross between Rosemary¹s Baby and Dennis Wheatley, A Cold Season contains brilliant characterisation and chilling thrills.

THE CITY’S SON BY TOM POLLOCK – JUNE

The first in The Skyscraper Throne trilogy, this is the story of a hidden London that is perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and China Mieville. Dedicated and feisty this novel will appeal to everyone from YA and beyond.

MAGE’S BLOOD BY DAVID HAIR – JULY

This is the first in The Moontide Quartet and as David Hair’s YA fiction has already won him a devoted following in Australia, he is about to woo the world with this story of a world on the brink of cataclysm.

BLOOD’S PRIDE BY EVIE MANIERI – SEPTEMBER

This is an exciting new quest fantasy containing rich world-building, strong characterisation and a robust story that twists and turns to a tragic but satisfying conclusion.

To view the full article head on over to Fantasy Faction and take a look at the top picks for 2012 from all the publishers!

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