Hello all, I mentioned on my last post that I was looking at changing the name of this blog and after what seems dozens of various options and at least as many variations of each option, I have settled on TheNovelAbode. … Continue reading
Hello all & welcome to 2016!
I know it’s been a while since I posted & I apologise for that, between a memorial, anniversary, 11 immediate family birthdays, Christmas & New Year, I’ve been run off my feet.
First things first.
St. Nicholas Day Workshop for PB & MG authors.
To my complete surprise, shock actually, not a single person sent in their first 150 words for the workshop – Yup – Not kidding!
a) feedback is crucial for improvement
b) there were two successful authors (in those categories) willing and able to offer feedback, authors who make a living out of their craft full-time.
c) the *pitch period* was just around the corner
d) and… although it was not advertised given it was going to be a bonus surprise, a well established, successful, award-winning publishing house editor, with more than 30 years experience in PB & MG, was also going to offer feedback… with the potential of actually requesting full manuscripts…
I am quite disappointed that no aspiring author in the PB/MG category thought a workshop might be of some value. But there it is – or rather could have been!
Anyway, moving right along.
– And on the same wavelength. #Nestpitch 2016.
Again another apology – I have success stories to post for #Nestpitch2015, however, for the reasons above, plus the authors who have been successful are currently extremely busy, there has been no time to ‘chat’ and let everyone know the good news – I promise this will come soon!
As for #Nestpitch 2016, I have made a decision and it has not been an easy one. After much consideration and deliberation I have decided to NOT run #Nestpitch2016
The main reason for this year Easter falls early, with Good Friday being March 25th.
Given 2-3 other pitching comps will be running either just before, during or just after this time period, and given the issues we had in 2015 with submission cross-over (and lost submissions), I feel that this is too much to ask from author’s, agents and from those of us behind the scenes.
I am planning to still run Post-it-Forward with Rhiann Wynn-Nolet (assuming people are interested) in early March as I feel this will help authors prepare for other pitching comps.
#Nestpitch is NOT dead, but rather in hiatus & will return in 2017 !
The lack of interest in the December workshop & the availability of some of my #Nestpitch Team Members contributed to my decision; however I also have a personal reason. After A LOT of thinking and re-thinking, I have decided to self publish my WF. This has not been an easy decision, especially given the number of agents who requested partials or fulls. However, because of the the subject matter & the genre & category, there were only about 25-30 agents who best matched my MS. I sent out (in total) 23 submissions. From those sent I received requests for seven partials and five fulls. Three of the fulls resulted in R&Rs, however those R&Rs did not result in offers. I knew if I did not get an agent offer by September 2015, the novel would not have a hope of being printed before the end of 2017. If you read point (iii) below you’ll understand why 2017 was the latest I wanted this story to be published.
I decided to try a handful of smaller publishers directly. I sent my MS to 7 and got an offer from a small publishing house. I was thrilled. But then something else happened. I’d seen/heard/read of several of my author friends who’d signed with smaller publishers… only to have the publishing house close. I am a supporter of small press – BIG TIME – but it concerned me nevertheless. And as it turned out, I too felt the sting of a small publisher fail – not for this MS but for another piece.
Just as I was in negotiations to sign, a small press contacted me – one who’d accepted a short story of mine (for an anthology) in Nov 2014. First they said it was to be printed in early 2015, then mid 2015, then late 2015… then in October 2015 I was advised the anthology was cancelled.
I considered this and what if the same thing happened to my novel? So I decided to go it alone – even as I knew this was perhaps the toughest, bravest and likely silliest course of action – even so, it felt *right for me.
Some of you know of this novel. Some of you have been BETAs for me. Those who don’t, I have made this decision because of the above and also because:
(i) I believe in the novel, the storyline & my skills
(ii) I have had enough encouragement and positive feedback from various agents to know that I am not kidding myself
(iii) Because of the subject matter (which, while mostly set in modern-day Melbourne Australia, also deals with the Russian Revolution & the murders of the Romanov’s – and the 100 year anniversary of their executions is July 2017), I believe now and this coming year, is the time to strike with this particular novel.
I have employed the services of Kate Foster & Lauren McKellar as editors. Kate & Lauren are authors in their own right and well established editors with a bank of authors they have worked with. Kate will edit it first in Jan-2016 and then Lauren in April 2016. I elected to have two editors because I feel the more eyes the better. In fact, I have already employed the services of two editors in the past. One with just the beginning of my MS and another to do a general read-through – I believe in professional eyes!
Between Edit#1 & #2 I will be re-reading and asking a few of my BETAs to re-read, and then again after Lauren is done, May will be spent re-reading. I have also employed the services of an awesome Melbourne Illustrator, with amazing talent and a wonderful reputation as an illustrator, for the cover – Sunshine Herbert.
I have purposely chosen an all Australian team, this was important to me, not only because of spelling/grammar/colloquial terminology, but also because these ladies will better conceptualise my images and therefore either offer better suggestions or make greater improvements. Plus, I do think it’s important to support local people wherever possible -we are a large country in mass and volume but small in numbers & we need to support each other.
I am planning to have the novel ready for a launch date in 29th September 2016 and instead of #Nestpitch2016, this year I will run a series of “my path to self publishing” blogs where I will discuss everything from BETAs, to covers, to marketing, costs, to preparing for failure as well as success. I have been given permission from Kate, Lauren & Sunshine to discuss fees in generalities (every job is different after all). The figures will be very strong guides and will offer excellent potential cost markers for those of you looking to follow the same route. I will also be posting links to their sites as well as sites for other professionals I have used and/or would be happy to recommend, both in Australia and the US.
I will begin the SERIES in Feb-2016 and will be as honest as I possibly can about time frames, financial costs, marketing strategies, editing and other services and so forth.
I am doing this because I feel:
(i) many people are turning to Self Publishing with unrealistic expectations
(ii) no real idea what the process is
(iii) not enough structure/planning
(iv) have a lack of professional people at their dispossal – rather than scammers
(v) no realistic concept of time-frames/time management
For example, I met with an aspiring author in September-2015 who was finishing her first novel. She intended to self publish it; and wanted it out before Christmas. As that stage only one BETA had read it and her *close friend was going to edit it. (Close friend is not and has never been an editor of any kind)
She had no marketing strategy, had never heard of Netgalley, or Smashwords, intended to use stock-standard free-clip-art for her front cover and wasn’t even sure what an ISBN was or why she needed one.
As for a marketing campaign and professional reviewers, she had no idea she needed to create a marketing strategy, saying “Doesn’t Amazon market it for me?” or who/what professional reviewers were and why they need to be sent pre-copies of a novel at least 3 months in advance.
I listened with interest and then proceeded to burst her bubble, while offering advice, connections, links etc. to people and sites that could/would help her. This is what got me thinking about writing a regular “my path to self publishing” blog post update – all the way up to and including the launch party.
For this reason, after this blog has been posted, and as of Feb 2016, I will be changing the name of this site. #Nestpitch is NOT dead, but rather in hiatus, even so, this blog has become so much more than the sum of one pitching comp. It has become a place to workshop, to read interviews with agents, authors, editors, to read reviews… and now it will be the place where I place my soul up to the Self Publishing God’s and hope I’m not too humbled into submission 😉
The new name eludes me for now. I’m attempting to be clever (because there are few things I am more vain about than my mind – truth!), but given I named my first cat Blackie (she was all black) and thought it was very clever, this new name could take a while. OK I was nine at the time, so perhaps that makes Blackie seem more witty – still if anyone has any suggestions – bring ‘em on!
And before I go, a quick note to remember David Bowie & Alan Rickman.
I had planned on posting this blog days ago, but those two deaths have had an impact on me; as I know they have had on so many, many of us, and I needed time to let their losses sink in…& be accepted by both my brain and my heart.
Farewell boys, I never knew you yet I loved you both! Messrs Rickman and Bowie were so much more than Snape & Ziggy, yet for many, these are the images which first form of these two wondrous talents.
Will we remember Ziggy Stardust & likely the oldest and coolest Emo ever – ALWAYS – RIP fella’s
Well, it’s been a while since I updated & there’s been a lot happening behind the scenes – but more on that later 🙂 Today I’m reviewing “Rich & Rare” – another from the Ford Street Publishing stable. I was … Continue reading
Hi All, While the #Nestpitch Teams work with their authors and prepare for the Agent Round I took some time out to interview a very special YA author and invited him to take a seat on my virtual coach for our … Continue reading
Today I have the very great pleasure of being part of the Cover Reveal of Stacey Trombley’s new novel NAKED. For those of you who don’t know Stacey, she is not only an awesome author, a great friend to aspiring … Continue reading
Given we are past the 1/2way mark of the first month of 2015, I thought it an ideal time to update everyone on upcoming competitions & workshops.
Please note: this is NOT a complete list, but rather a few competitions I know work and are run by extraordinary women with exceptional writing credibility & gianormous hearts.
Description: Writing comp with agents requesting pages/material
Hosted By: Michelle Hauck & Amy Trueblood
Submission open: 26th Jan 2015
Where to find info:
Description: A pitch + first 250 Workshop (lottery-style)
Hosted By: Abby Annis assisted by Angelica R. Jackson
Submission open: Right now! Lottery closes Friday, Jan 23rd at 11:59 pm EST.
Where to find info:
Description: Writing comp with agents requesting pages/material
Hosted By: Brenda Drake
Submission open: 20th Feb 2015
Where to find info:
Description: 35-word pitch Workshop
Hosted By: Nikola Vukoja & Rhiann Wynn-Nolet
Submission open: Date to be confirmed, will be between mid-Feb to early March, please follow this site & Rhiann’s blog for updates
Where to find info: Please look over 2014 info sheet, (https://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/35-word-pitch-clinic-is-now-open-for-business/)
2015 Post-It-Forward info will be posted soon.
Description: Writing comp with agents requesting pages/material
Hosted By: Nikola Vukoja
Submission Window Opens April Fools Day (April 1st 2015)
10pm Aust. Eastern Standard Time
7am USA New York Time
12 noon London UK Time
Submission Window Closes Good Friday (April 3rd 2015)
10pm Aust. Eastern Standard Time
7am USA New York Time
12 noon London UK Time
Info to follow closer to the date. Please note, there will be some changes. Please refer to this post update: https://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/nestpitch-2015-st-nicholas-day/ for a general overview
And also please note that Nestpitch 2015 WILL NOT be accepting Picture Books. We are planning something for Picture Books (& possibly MG) in December 2015.
Before Christmas I mentioned on my Facebook Page that I was reading an international best seller which had been awarded two prestigious awards & how I could not comprehend either the awards or the best seller status. I also promised that, when done, aside from getting around to posting my review on both Amazon & Goodreads, I wanted to fully explain my intended rating (1-star) here. Since then, I’ve also received 1x 1-star review for a piece of (short) non-fiction I wrote.
Given I was about to do the same to another author, I thought I’d not only explain my 1-star rating, but also discuss how I felt about my own 1-star review.
So here we go!
I should say from the get-go I’m expecting some negative backlash for my 1-star rating on Geraldine Brooks’ “People of the Book” novel. I’m expecting it because:
(i) people who are likely better qualified than me have raved about this book
(ii) this novel has won two awards
(iii) this novel is a best seller
(iv) it was written by a female author (not enough of us truly) with the main character being an Australian (again not nearly enough novels see the light of day with Aussie characters) and being a woman.
(v) I’m sure I am about to break some unwritten law about not supporting female Australian authors who write about Australia and have Australian main characters
Firstly, let me say, this is the FIRST time I have ever given ANY novel a 1-star review & I did not take this decision lightly, however, if I am to be honest in my reviews then I cannot be swayed by popular opinion.
Without giving the entire novel away, in order to demonstrate my issues, I will give a brief synopsis of the novel.
The main character, Hanna, is an Australian who was born and raised in an elite area of Sydney, attending the best schools (etc). Her mother is a world renowned neurosurgeon who lectures around the world (mostly US) in between doing the most complex surgery and saving lives. Hanna has double honours degrees in chemistry & ancient Near Eastern languages, a Masters in chemistry & a PhD in fine art conservation. She too is among the top in her field (she restores old manuscripts and saves pieces of historical and archaeological significance) and travels all over the world to do her work, write papers, give lectures etc. She is an only child and (almost until the end) she has no idea who her father is. Additionally, the relationship between mother and daughter is strained to say the least.
Hanna is given an assignment in Bosnia, just after the War of Independence, to save a magnificent Jewish document. She intends to not only restore this treasure but to try and work out where it has been (it’s over five hundred years old) and how it has survived so long in such war-torn and religiously and politically unstable climates.
Basically this book had everything I love in a book. It had a female main character. It had links to Australia. It was written by a female author. It had lots and lots of history, much of which touched on my own Croatian history. And it wasn’t the standard “girl-meets-boy” yadda yadda (they don’t appeal to me & therefore I neither read nor review them). In other words I was super excited to read this.
That excitement dwindled from Chapter #1 – onward.
Chapter #1 was so long-winded, with so much exposition (unnecessary exposition) that I ended up skipping ½ of it. Funny thing was (or perhaps not so funny), when I started Chapter #2, I found I’d missed NOTHING.
I should add that the novel is over 400 pages. That in itself was not an issue, I have read books in the 700+ pages and devoured them, but this dragged on, and on, and on, and on. There are three chapters that are (each) over 50 pages – no break. I found myself skipping page after page and getting more and more disillusioned. What’s worse is, when the author stopped waxing on and on with mind-numbing details that added nothing to the pace, there were some truly brilliant parts. Some of the pages brought me to tears – literally. This is what made it difficult to simply stop. Because there was brilliance beyond words, I kept going, hungry for more pages and passages like this. Sadly there was not enough greatness to out way the mundane & unnecessary.
Let me start listing my biggest hang-ups.
As I mentioned, the MC was from a well-to-do part of Sydney, yet, on occasion, she’d use terms which, as someone who has lived her entire life in the CBD (or near) parts of Melbourne, I’ve only heard used by Steve – The Crocodile Hunter – Irwin or the fictional character Mick “Crocodile” Dundee (is it a crocodile thing?). Now, don’t get me wrong, some people, especially in the country and even more so in the outback, do say G’day, but not city people (and that’s far from the worst of it – Bonza and other utterly cliché words were used throughout), and certainly not by someone with a doctorate, with a mother who sent her to the finest private schools (etc). But even this I was willing to overlook, some marketing ploy perhaps, except then the author goes ahead and uses American English. Words like TRAVELLED became TRAVELED (one L) and everything had a “Z” in place of an “S” – even her mentioning her honours degrees, the word honours has no “U” – any degree she got in Australia would 100% have the U. This sort of inconsistency DRIVES ME CRAZY. I found myself saying out loud things like “oh please!” referring to some of her language and rolling my eyes at USA English. Again, I have no issue with USA English, but this is AN AUSTRALIAN AUTHOR writing about AN AUSTRALIAN MAIN CHARACTER, one who has finished a hell of a lot of schooling IN AUSTRALIA. Franking it was annoying.
This is a biggie for me. If you’re going to write a historical novel, then please oh please check your facts. There are so many minor historical inaccuracies I could list, but I don’t want this to be a 10-page blog-post, so I’m going to identify two of them.
a) The author refers to the Habsburg Empire. That’s fine. Except she calls them HAPSBURG – with a “P” not the correct B. Now, I should say that the surname is often written as a P, incorrectly, and the Habsburgs accepted both spelling forms (this came about because of a miss-spelling centuries ago & has remained), however the correct spelling is with a B. Given the MC is supposed to be this big-shot PhD, a specialist in her field, someone who details with history and antiquities and parchments and documents, (the MC even did her residency in Vienna FFS!), one would think she’d KNOW how to spell the name correctly, after all I and 1000s of other people do.
b) Still in reference to the Habsburgs, the MC gives us a history lesson on the final stages of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, explaining that it included parts of Croatia, Bosnia & Serbia. Correct. But then she goes on to say that this ended in 1908. INCORRECT. How do I know this? Simple. Once upon a time Croatia was 3-4 times the size it is now, covering what is now Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and parts of Serbia. (If you don’t believe me google the First King of Croatia King Tomislav & you’ll find he was crowned in Bosnia – part of Croatia – & you’ll also see reference to The Battle of the Bosnian Highlands in the 10th century) In the middle ages, most of Croatia, Bosnia & Serbia were ruled by the Habsburgs (from Vienna), up until (almost) the end of 1911. How can I be so sure? Easy. My grandmother on my mother’s side was born in 1911 in Croatia and my grandfather on my father’s side was born in Bosnia, also in 1911. Their birth certificates stated: Nationality: Croat Citizenship: Austrian. 1911 Ms. Brooks – why did your people not check their facts? Frankly it’s insulting.
a) The author makes an effort to use words (places, people, things) in foreign languages, primarily German, Croatian & Bosnian. Trouble is, she is not consistent. I have no issue with words being Anglo-fied, to allow the reader better ease to read them, but this author picks and chooses which words she will Anglo-fy. Some German words have “umlauts” others, which should have them, don’t. (an Umlaut is when there are dots over a vowel, eg: ä, ö, ü). Some German streets have the symbol “ß” while others, that should therefore also have them, don’t. It’s even worse with Croat, Serb & Bosnian words. For example I defy anyone from an Anglo-only background (who has not studied Slavic Languages) to correctly pronounce DŽEZVA or FILDŽAN (on page 68), the Ž is not pronounced as a Z, or any of the following letters: Š, Č, Ć, Đ – for example Đ makes a “kind” of J sound like in JACK but not exactly. Again, I don’t have an issue with this, EXCEPT that the Author chooses where she’ll use the spelling correctly and where she’ll put a C instead of a Č (which makes a CH sound) or she adds letters, like SH for the letter Š. On page 41 (for example) she spells the word RAKIJA (a very strong plum brandy) but then on other pages she spells it RAKIJAH – adding an H for no apparent reason. This inconsistency is not only frustrating for the reader (regardless of if you can’t pronounce the words or if you look at them and say “that’s wrong”) it’s unacceptable in an award winning, international best seller.
b) At one point the author refers to Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his death at Mayerling with his mistress, 17-year-old Baroness Marie Alexandrine von Vetsera, who the author refers to as MARY VETSERA and doesn’t even give Marie the title of BARONESS. Again, choose already? Either both have their correct names or neither, surely?
c) Throughout the novel, almost to the end, the MC whines at not knowing who her father is. Yet, she has all these degrees. She has access to files and documents that allow her to discover that a white hair came for a specific type of cat. She can tell a document is a forgery by simply looking at it, with her bare eyes, because of the size of the pores. She even has access to Scotland Yard DNA experts at one stage, but she cannot figure out who her father is? WTF?
Yes, it’s clear her mother is an indifferent “mother figure” and is disappointed her daughter did not follow her into medicine, but Oh My Frigging God! Get over yourself! The MC is well educated, well travelled, (double LL as I’m in Australia), a leader in her field. Not every mother is “motherly” some are simply not drawn that way. I am so over 1st world country characters whining “Woo is me” when they actually have nothing to whine about. Was she homeless? Living in a car? Was she fostered out as a child? Abandoned? Molested? No, no, no, no… this sort of “I blame mummy” character I expect in someone who is perhaps 15-20 years old, who doesn’t know what they want in life, who is still growing up and who DIDN’T get a wonderful start to life and an extraordinary education. It’s insulting to people who have really had to struggle to survive.
OK, so I’ve had my say; well almost. There are some exceptional parts in this novel. The mix of countries and cultures, the mix of Jewish, Muslim, Christian Orthodox and Catholic, the historical elements are all wonderful. The trouble is, a lot of it is swathed in dull, over-written, exposition ridden, historically inaccurate, culturally insulting blah, blah. If I was BETA reading this, I would have suggested cutting about 150 pages, correcting the inconsistencies, fixing the historical inaccurate parts and cutting the massive chapters into more bite-size pieces. I am sure I will be hanged, drawn & quartered for expressing these views, however, this is how I see it, take from it what you will & remember, this is but one persons view.
Right at the beginning, I mentioned I recently got a 1-star review for my own writing. The piece in question is a short non-fiction I wrote. I wrote & Self Published it because I wanted to start a conversation on my hypothesis. I did it all in a few days, wrote the words, did my research, designed my cover & published it. I added in the prefix that this was not intended to be anything more than an opening to a larger discussion.
My first review was a 1-star review. One of the issues was “a few spelling mistakes” which I am sure are true, (evidently I wrote SEE in place of SEA). The reviewer also seemed to have missed that I wrote this to start a discussion (another issue was it was just under 30-pages and apparently this was not long enough). Some of the comments were justified and some hit me hard.
My first reaction was: “Oh God, I’m so super stupid & shyte at this”
My second reaction was: “I need to get in touch with this reviewer and explain that they didn’t really ‘get’ what I was trying to achieve here and maybe if I explained…”
My third and final reaction was: “Oh what the hell, he/she didn’t like it, so what? Is there still food in the fridge? Is the power still on? Is the earth still rotating around the sun? YES, Great! Someone I don’t know read my words & isn’t that the ultimate objective of all writers? YES, 1000 times YES”
My point is, 1-star reviews are harsh, no matter what the reasoning, but they happen. Don’t NOT read something that interests you simply based on one or two bad reviews. I will never, for the life of me, understand how People of the Book became a best seller when I know so many authors who I consider to have written masterpieces in comparison; will never see the same level of success. Some may never even get published.
Life sucks sometimes, that’s just the way it is, but if your field is the arts, whatever the area, you have to be open to 1-star reviews. Accept and move on.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
When life gives you 1-star reviews, make a smiley face and write & read something else.