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Words (and crumbs) between the sheets

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Have you considered writing in bed? I started doing it for the first time not long ago. Silly, because one of the most tempting points for this apartment for my husband and I was that I’d have my own office space, which has lately been collecting dust. We’re heading toward winter here in Australia, so leaping out of bed first thing has become a less than exhilarating prospect, and the situation isn’t helped at all by Tim making me coffee in bed every morning. So after a binge session of Married At First Sight left the laptop by my bed overnight, I woke up one morning and decided to put some words down before hitting the shower.

And WOW. Did I ever put words down! Yes, I’m almost finished the second book in the Crimson Lake series, so for me, I always write faster and harder toward the end. But by writing in bed first thing in the morning I’m putting down 2-3k per day, about half of them in that morning session. I have some theories about why writing in bed is so good. Allow me to speculate.

  1. The bed is a private and intimate space, so perhaps there’s a corner of my brain that says – Hey, we’re safe here. This is where we relax, this is where our secrets are kept. Maybe the inner-sanctum type nature of the bedroom space in the household works against those inhibiting influences that hold back the words.
  2. This is not a place of ‘work’ – although I’m hearing men on my bad reality TV shows laughingly calling the bed the ‘workbench’ lately. Whoever came up with that is a douschebag. There’s no hint of work-like feelings between the sheets in the rudie-nudie or in your teddy-bear pyjamas, whichever you prefer, so I think this is helping the scenes come rolling in.
  3. Temperature control – Hello comfort! In what other occupation do you get to bring your doona and pillows with you? (Professional horror movie sleep-over attendee? Why isn’t that a job?).
  4. ‘Bonus’ time – anything you get done even before you shower and brush your teeth in the morning is ‘bonus’, right? It doesn’t count toward your planned achievements for the day because your day hasn’t even started yet! This is why people who work out in the early morning hours are so smug. Well, GUESS WHAT. Write in bed and you can claim all the smuggery of over-achieving early risers without the sheer insanity of hitting the gym in the morning.
  5. ‘Creative naps’ – Inspiration-encouraging napping is the right and privilege of all writers. And look at this – you’re already all set up for it! Genius.

Of course, I there are downsides to writing in bed. You’re going to need snacks and coffee, and you will have crumbs between the sheets – there’s no avoiding it, crumbs and sheets love each other. I do not recommend that collaborative novels be written in bed, unless of course you’re one of those weird couples who collaborate on novels. The five women who make up Alice Campion might have a difficult time. But overall, a real winner, at least for me. Try it some time! Happy snuggling everybody!

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Candice Fox on ABC’s The Mix

Check me out on ABCNews24’s The Mix with my buddy Michael Robotham and James Valentine. We come on about halfway through the episode. Funny times! If these guys think I’m a ‘sick puppy’, they don’t know the half of it.

Click here to play video

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What I learned from visiting the sites of murder

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I’ve spent the last month driving up the east coast of the US on my honeymoon, and in that time I’ve managed to visit the sites of four infamous and brutal murders.

Don’t be too shocked. That’s not even the weirdest thing I’ve ever done.

For the true crime nuts among you, (and I know there are a few), I thought I’d write a little bit down about what visiting those places was like and the feeling they have left me with. Because I guess all us crime freaks imagine ourselves getting some kind of strange pleasure or satisfaction out of being in a place where something that intrigues us so deeply occurred. I was drawn to these places as though by animal instinct, and approached them with my heart thumping. But what did I really expect to find?

I guess in some ridiculous corner of my mind I imagined that if I could actually physically go to where Hae Min Lee of Serial was buried, for example, I’d find answers as to who killed her. That there’d be some soiled confession letter buried under the log itself, or a symbol carved into a tree, or a wispy shred of fabric that defied every police search, every curious websleuth who trudged that rugged path before me. Something that eluded even the family of Hae herself, who had surely been there themselves to see where she had been laid to rest by her killer. Predictably, and sadly, there was none. I guess you (and I) both knew that deep down. Such a find wouldn’t hold water even in the realms of the worst fiction.

I guess I also wondered if by going to the site of this terrible loss if I might be able to feel some of it more tangibly, and with some further legitimacy. That I might somehow become worthy of the sadness I feel for these strangers. These families I have never met and these victims, some of whom were born and died before I was even born. Because I do feel sad, but I don’t feel like I deserve to. I don’t feel like I’ve earned it. And I can’t think of a way to do that. This seemed like a pretty good shot.

I found the site of the infamous log behind which Hae Min Lee was found in Leakin Park, Baltimore, by following the instructions here. My husband parked the car at the nearby rest stop and walked back through the park with me, a little embarrassed as we ducked off the path by the side of the road and made out way into the bramble. It was tangly but not terribly dense in there, which is something Sarah Koenig was right about in Serial – you could still clearly see the road and the cars going by from 127 feet into the bush. Tim and I were a little confused as to which log we were looking for, but used pictures from Google to narrow it down from two potentials to one. I sat there, expecting something, looking at the leaf-littered earth at my feet, the place where she had lain. My husband stood nearby looking at the creek, probably wondering who the hell he married. I think he gets my weird desire to visit the places from traumatic stories to a certain point. He does it himself. We trudged around Boston making note of the sites of scenes from his favourite Spenser novels. So there.

But, granted, he might not have understood completely when I got my phone out and played ‘All My Life’ by K-Ci and Jo-Jo for Hae. Ok, Ok, Ok, I know how weird that sounds. But hear me out. I don’t know if there are ghosts or spirits or whatever the hell floating around in the universe, and I’m not prepared to completely reject the idea just yet (I’ve seen some shit, ok?). And I’ve never been given a really good guide. I spent most of my high school science classes quietly lighting things on fire at the back of the room. And my mother’s interpretation of Catholicism somehow includes reincarnation (and mermaids!). I have no grasp on the afterlife or whatever the hell happens in it.

But I figured that if even the tiniest part of Hae was around there somewhere, I knew she liked the song, and I thought it was unlikely she’d heard it in a long, long time. Because as I sat there listening and waiting for whatever might come, I realised how incredibly lonely a place this was. Yes, the road was just nearby. People, too. We’d even passed a group of school kids and teachers doing a nature walk by the bridge not a half a kilometre away. But the place where Hae was buried was closed in on all sides by thin green forest, making a sort of timeless bubble. I felt sick to think that she might have lain here forever, had she not been found, so close to life, but so completely detached from it. And even though she had been found here, there was not a thing to mark that horrible consequence. No shrine. No stone marker. Not so much as a cardboard ‘DON DID IT!’ sign pinned to a tree, which I would have put money on being the first indication that we were in the right place. Just an old, rain-soaked wooly rug someone had dumped (I checked it for bodies) and liquor bottles scattered here and there throughout the brush (there was one brandy bottle, but not the same as the brand mentioned in Serial). If some tiny part of Hae resides in this place so full of, and empty of clues, she has nothing but the sound of the slowly wandering creek to latch on to. In Hae’s diary, which Sarah read on Serial, she wrote that she was so excited Adnan danced to ‘All My Life’ with her instead of Stephanie at their prom. I wondered if playing it might help her, if she was there, return to a happier time. I know it’s weird. I’m weird. Get over it.

If the absence of any marker of the loss of Hae Min Lee at her burial site surprised me, it didn’t prepare me for the lack of, and sometimes deliberate erasing, of evidence from the three other sites I visited. Tim and I used our GPS and some co-ordinance obtained online and stopped on the side of a featureless stretch of parkway at Oak Beach, Long Island, where the bodies of ten people were found. Most of them were prostitutes working off CraigsList, but one was an Asian man in women’s clothing, and one was a toddler. Standing far out on the edge of the marshland where crab boats rocked back and forth, we could see a single white cross, but there was no way of knowing if it was related to the finding of the remains of these women (and one man and one child). The bramble at the side of the road was impenetrable. Whoever the killer was, he (or she) likely pulled up to the side of the road along this parkway at various spots and dragged or threw the bodies of his victims in, as each was found less that ten feet from the asphalt, some wrapped in burlap. The Long Island serial killer, sometimes known as the Gilgo Beach killer or the Craigslist Ripper, is still out there.

In LA, we drove along the private and leafy Cielo Drive looking for number 10050, where the glamorous Sharon Tate and the friends and employees with her that night lost their lives at the hands of the Manson family. The residents of Cielo Drive have obviously become tired of the ghost rides and celebrity murder tours roaring up and down their street, as they’ve done a good job of scrambling the house numbers. Tate and Polanski’s house is gone, and there’s no way of really telling where it stood. Walls of desert peppered with harsh plants creep up on each side of the street between the mansions, and a lone security guard loiters in someone’s doorway looking bored.

We took the car to 875 South Bundy Drive and found that there remains some scattered pieces of the scene burned on my mind of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman’s murders. Those peach-coloured tiles are still there, but the famous gateway has been blocked off and turned to the side, where a tall wooden gate guards the residence within. The house number hides behind the fronds of a potted palm, and the garden on either side of the doorway has been allowed to grow over, sheltering the dark space that so many remember from those awful photos.

In the end, I found no clues, and I felt no more justified for the sadness I feel over all these lost lives. And because I don’t feel like I’ve earned my grief for them, the guilt of a ‘gawker’ haunts me. Because surely I’m not the first to have come to these places and closed my eyes and breathed the air, tried to understand what happened, how it might have been interrupted.

As we turned and headed back toward Redondo Beach I posed a hypothetical to my husband. If I could have made a video of one of the killer’s lives after the murders and showed it to them, what did he think they would have done? I asked him to imagine that somehow, for example, I could take snippets of a greying and bloated OJ Simpson in prison coveralls and cuffs at his kidnapping trial, and splice it with pictures of Nicole’s crime scene. If I could have cut in images from the murder and civil trials, the aftermath, the strangely behaved and lonely OJ devoid of friends. If I could have showed him OJ not as the star but as the murderer who got away. What if I could have taken this short video from a future that may never have been and showed it to OJ himself back in time, if I could have put it in his hands just as he was getting in his Bronco that night, just as he pulling out and turning to drive to Nicole’s condo.

Would seeing what was to come change his actions? Or is killer rage just killer rage? Is fate, fate? Were these people meant to die?

Are monsters just monsters, no matter what you try to do to stop them?

Tim didn’t know. I don’t think I do, either. We drove on through LA toward the airport, and left these scarred and barren places behind.

Come and see me at the SWF!

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A Novel in a Year: Stage Five, Validation

 

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I’m 15.5k into my novel for this year, so I downed my tools and showed it around. I did this for no other reason than that I needed compliments, validation, a literary hug and push onward up the hill by a friendly hand. Sounds needy? It is. Deal with it.

Fifteen to twenty thousand words isn’t much for someone to read – it took Tim about twenty minutes, and my agent came back to me overnight. I wasn’t looking for a meticulous summation and reader’s report, and neither gave me that. Both said they felt compelled, hooked, and that’s all you really want out of the first little chunk of a novel. Both had cautionary advice about a couple of points. But I feel spurred on now. It’s a lonely and worrying business, this, and I feel like 100,000 words is too far to wander without knowing what I’m doing has any merit.

If you’re not writing crime fiction, the 15-20k mark might be an inappropriate time to stick your head up. At this point in most crime novels, however, you’ve got (should have) essential things in place for your validator to comment on. The case has been sketched out. The protagonist has been introduced. There had been a juicy catalyst on the first page to hook the tired, underpaid slush-pile scourer or one day, the wandering bookstore reader (hopefully). It’s also a good time for the validator to take a stab in the dark and tell you what they think’ll happen next (if they guess right, you should change it up). So 15-20k works for me for these reasons.

But how far is too far, and how far is not far enough to stop and get some much needed praise or criticism? It’s difficult to say. In the non-fiction world, editors will be able to tell you a book has no merit right off the bat, before you’ve written a single word, and you’ll go away with no writing time ‘wasted’ (although, no writing is ever wasted. See other posts for my opinion on that). In the fiction world, however, it’s near impossible to tell someone their idea is great or terrible if they haven’t written anything. I have writers tell me their ideas a lot, and some of them sound really whacked. But I never tell them their idea has no merit. I do this for three reasons; one, because it’s brave to tell someone (particularly a published author) your book idea to their face, and I don’t think I could ever bring myself to respond badly to someone’s face (I’m a coward). Two, because I’m not a publisher, and I don’t know what the hell publishers are going to take at any given time. And three, because a verbal explanation of a book idea over a couple of drinks is no way to judge a book. I’m thinking of The Great Gatsby. ‘Guy throws parties all the time because he wants his chick back. She turns up. There’s a car accident. Something about eggs.’

The only time sharing an idea with zero words written has worked for me, is when I told my brother about my idea for a novel about a kid who goes missing on a plane, and her mother has to both find the kid AND convince the passengers/flight attendants that there even was a kid in the first place. Turns out this not my stroke of genius at all, but a movie called ‘Flight Plan’, starring Jodie Foster. Godfuckingdamnit.

So ‘zero words written’ is too soon to get validation. But the end of the novel is too late, too, I think. Only because it would be a pretty self-assured badass who could go for a whole year (minimum) without telling or showing anyone anything about their work as it progresses. Maybe, by the end of it, this kind of grouch-pouch might have written the best thing since sliced bread. But I kind of feel like that’s sad and unnecessary, and the sort of thing those brooding cashmere-turtlenecked, mustachioed writers who are rude to the debuts at writer’s festivals might do. You can just hear them, can’t you. Eh! I don’t need validation! Validation is for little girls with self-esteem problems! Mmmmm, yairs! *discards cigarette with a flourish*

Don’t be an asshole. Don’t run the whole marathon without water, just because you can. You’re not a machine. Take a sip. It won’t kill you.

Who should you choose as your validator? I chose Tim and my agent, because they know how to criticize me gently without any bullshit. That should really be the guideline, if you ask me. Your mum shouldn’t be your validator. She’d let you go down the wrong path if it made you happy. Admit it.

Your validator should be someone who you know is tough enough to say ‘I hate this character/plot point’ if need be, but someone deep enough and caring enough to give you more detailed feedback if you ask for it/share their suggestions. They should also be someone you KNOW will not tear your work to shreds because they’re jealous of you, or because they think doing so will impress you with how much they know about the science of narrative, even if there’s nothing wrong with what you’ve written. Beware of other writers and editors. Someone who reads a lot of your genre, or is into the same stuff as you are, might be best.

So anyway, onward I go, with a little more spring in my step. Happy writing, everyone.

Job description

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Here are some things I’ve done this week as a full-time author that people probably don’t know the job involves. I think there are two schools of thought on what I do – one involves swanning around at parties with other authors discussing Tolstoy and now and then pattering the keys. The other involves lying around on the couch all day drinking scotch, and now and then pattering the keys. In reality I do a whole lot of diverse stuff! (And now and then patter the keys.) Like this:

  1. I just agonized for ten minutes over whether a character was wearing a button-up shirt or a t-shirt across multiple chapters. I had no idea what I’d initially imagined, and an editor pointed out the inconsistency. You can’t grab a button-up shirt by the bottom and press it to your mouth to stem a bleeding lip, the way you can with a t-shirt (exposing washboard abs? Mmm.)
  2. This morning I saw the real estate agent in for an inspection (working from home win!) and she caught me in an email exchange with my publisher about death by poisons and viruses. The email on the big screen discussed ‘knocking off’ extra victims to up tension mid-plot.
  3. I received some new author photos, which I forwarded on to someone in Queensland who’s writing a magazine article about my JP collaboration.
  4. I picked up a true crime book I’d ordered. Gotta keep up the research! (Tax-claim win). I also received the debut novel of another author I’m appearing on a panel with on Friday.
  5. An audiobook company sent me some sound files of the actors auditioning to narrate my first novel. I gave my two cents on who I thought sounded better.
  6. A copyedit of two of my upcoming works came in. I had a quick squiz at one, approved the deletions and additions and then sent it back. The other, bigger one I’m kind of ignoring until I feel the motivation.
  7. I failed, again, to fill in some foreign tax forms. Why don’t I have a printer?
  8. I procrastinated. I think you must know there’s a whole bunch of it involved in this, but what I hear mostly is that us authors do it with housework. In reality there is a whole world of ways to do it that are more convincing to the self of their importance. Getting fit, for example. Long hours spent at the gym give me the righteous power of physical and mental health! I’ve gotta take care of my body and mind so I can power out those books forever, right?
  9. I saw my physio about my tight, hunchy shoulders. Desk height matters, writers.
  10. I wrote this blog post (procrastination win).
  11. I sent thank you tweets/facebook messages to kind reviewers.
  12. I added an ‘appearances’ page to this website. Although there’s only one appearance in there right now, I’ve got a whole bunch coming up that I haven’t got the deets for yet, so this can be where they live.
  13. I posted promos for my appearance in Melbourne this Friday night. (Come along! Don’t make me beg you! Details on the brand spanking new appearances page!).
  14. Bought scotch.

A Novel in a Year, Stage Three: Paralysis

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Well, it’s hit. Or, if you’ve been following my canon metaphor, I’VE hit. I fired, and blurted out those first 5000 words joyously, and then paused to do some editing work on something which is due much sooner. Lo and behold, the editorial process has made me feel like an awful, untalented writer who’s going nowhere. My muse has died. I’m suffering inspirational asphyxiation. My magic feather has been seared to dust by the fires of indecision.

Well magic feathers, muses and convenient moments of inspiration are all bullshit, so don’t panic.

My experience of the editorial process from my publisher and the copywriting process from my editor is gentle. They pose questions rather than telling me straight out that there are flaws in the narrative. Is this too repetitive? Is this the best word here? They make sure to tell me when they love pieces of the work. But still, I feel emotionally ruined. I think it’s an ‘artistic person’ thing. I’ve seen the slightest criticisms take on the momentum of Mac trucks and lay even the most seasoned writers flat. If you think there are authors out there who don’t mind criticism, or ‘take it in their stride’, or ‘cherish’ it, seeing it as ‘an opportunity for improvement’, what you’re really seeing is DIRTY FILTHY BARE-FACED LIARS. The most proud of these amazing creatures will reserve their true hurt for the solitary late night hours, staring at the ceiling, imagining themselves responding to said criticism in witty cutting interviews on Sunrise. The slightly less proud (like me) will reserve their whining and sulking for their spouses. And everyone else will happily moan in public.

What’ll I do to snap myself out of this criticism-induced creative paralysis? Finish the edit. When the edit is done and all those awful little comment bubbles have gone away, I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off and continue on the new novel. If it’s not criticism and self-doubt, but instead a lack of ideas or a lack of what you think is ‘inspiration’ that’s got you stumped, go back through my blog posts to one of my first, called ‘Over the Wall’, where I deal with writer’s block.

So my word count is 5k or so, and my momentum has dropped to zero. Because I’ve got some experience at this game, I’m not worried, and I’m NOT thinking of writing something else. That’s the temptation trap for the newbie writer at this point – you think you’ve come to a halt this early because the idea isn’t strong enough. Don’t be the writer who had drawers full of unfinished projects. There will always be greener grass, and better ideas, just over there. Take what it is you like about the sexy new idea that’s trying to seduce you, and integrate it into the current project, or have the confidence in your own mental skills to know that idea won’t float away into the ether before you’re done with what you’re working on.

Back to the edit! *slumps dejectedly over desk* Urgh. Bleurgh. Gurgh. Someone kill me.

Should you write that book?

 

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If you know someone who is always talking about writing a book, or you’re the one who’s always talking about it, the below set of answers and explanations is for you. The new year is coming. It’s your fucking time. So sit up, shut up, and listen up.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because I might not finish it.

Verdict: Bullshit.

Explanation: Jesus Christ, dude. The idea that you shouldn’t write that book you’ve been thinking about writing because you might not finish it is total bullshit. You ever not started eating a gigantic chicken schnitzel because you thought you might not finish it? No. You have a go at a massive pub schnitzel because you’ve been thinking about it, and you’re hungry, and not finishing really doesn’t have any personal consequences for you. Now, I know there’s a difference – if you start and don’t finish a novel you’ll feel like a failure. People who hear about you giving up might think you’re a failure, too, which would be worse.

But you know what? Fear of failure permeates life. It’s what stops people from going for that promotion, asking that girl out, or taking up parkour. And there’s only one thing you get from abiding fear of failure: disappointment. You didn’t try, so you didn’t fail, but you’re left with the life-long wonder of what might have been. Is disappointment any different to failure? Not by much. So stop being such a fucking pussy and start that schnitzel. I mean book.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because I don’t know how to plot.

Verdict: Bullshit.

Explanation: You don’t need to know how to plot to write a novel. I’m hearing all your past English teachers gasp in horror (even the dead ones). Well shut up, bitches. You really don’t need to be one of those people with thousands of little coloured Post-It notes and exercise books full of chicken scratch to be a writer. You can be a totally authentic writer without a beat-up leather sachel and a chip on your shoulder, too. You can actually just sit down at the computer and wing it. Granted, you might not get very far. You might have to stop constantly and get yourself out of dead ends you’ve written yourself into, and what you end up writing might be a too-long, wandering piece of crap (see below ‘Because what I write might be crap’). But what a great way to learn how to plot for your next novel, or to discover, in fact, that you are one of those writers who flies by the seat of their pants and writes brilliant shit. Fire out of the cannon. See where you land. If it’s right next to the cannon, in a heap, go back to the cannon and try again for fucksake.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because I don’t have time.

Verdict: Bullshit.

Explanation: Lemme ask you something – are you actually dying? If you seriously are going to be dead in three months, then ok. You probably don’t have time. But are you trying to tell me that you don’t have a spare hour a week for the next ten years? Because even if that’s all you could seriously give it, you’d still get a novel done in that time. Don’t give me that ‘I’ve got kids’ crap. JK had kids. Oh! Oh! I’ve got two jobs? No. Not a valid excuse. Stephen King had two jobs when he was writing Carrie. Get up half an hour earlier than you are right now. Write in bed. Buy an ultra-soft keyboard so you can type and not wake your fourteen sleeping babies. Put off cleaning your shower. I don’t care. If you want time, you’ll make time.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because what I write might be crap.

Verdict: Such bullshit.

Explanation: Most first books are crap. My first book was absolute garbage – an assortment of pre-teen drivel that I’m so glad no longer exists (I hope). In fact, my second and third books were probably also crap, but not as bad as the first. And that’s because, with every book I wrote, I learned something from the people who read them. Rather than crying in my room for three weeks because what I’d written turned out to be crap (there was probably a little of that, I’ll admit), I took the criticism and adjusted my process for the next work. Here’s the secret: The only way you can tell you’re any good is by having people read your actual stuff. The ACTUAL STUFF on ACTUAL PAPER. If you do not try, you will not improve. Hoping to try something and magically not be crap at it IS WHAT CHILDREN DO. Grow up, and have a fucking go.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: No.

Excuse: Because I probably won’t get published.

Verdict: Bullshiiiiiiiiit.

Explanation: Maybe you’ll get published first time, right off the bat. If this happens, fuck you. You will get no respect from your fellow authors, (especially me). Because most authors have several dozen rejections under their belt. Your inspirational ‘journey to becoming an author’ article in the Herald will be terribly scant if you walk right into that club, Bub.

Maybe (more likely) you’ll submit your novel and then you’ll cower on the ground while every publisher in the country hurls rejection letters at you, until finally you pass out, completely buried in paper and self-loathing, like some fat hoarder the police won’t find until her corpse starts to smell. Maybe, like me, you’ll spend a decade writing books and sending them out and watching as the weeks and months roll by, your heart fluttering as now and then an email pops up with a publisher’s name on it, only to click it open, fingers shaking, and spot that terrible word ‘Unfortunately’ before you see anything else. Maybe you’ll keep a spreadsheet of all these publishers, and one by one you’ll cross them off, until it’s official – not a single publisher in the entire nation thinks your work is good enough for print (even those brand new one-person indie publishers who presumably know nothing about the business and are willing to take a chance on newbies. Nope, they think you’re shithouse, too). Maybe you’ll resentfully wander bookshops looking at the displays, exhausted by the rolling trends – boy wizards, vampires, bondage, vampire bondage, vampire wizards, wizard bondage, teenage girls fighting for their lives in mazes, on virtual battlegrounds, in space. Girls on trains, kicking hornets nests, missing, in love, lost, girls fucking everywhere. Maybe you’ll have to report to all your friends (because they won’t stop asking) that in fact you’ve given up on that book and your only hope is to write another. But you won’t bother confessing that you’re so downtrodden by this defeat that starting another book feels like going back into the ring with Rousey after she’s just put your nose through the back of your skull.

Well, you know what? See above, about being a fucking pussy. If you’re being rejected, it’s because you had something to submit. You wrote a fucking book. If no one likes your book, fuck them. If your friends are smug at your rejection, fuck them, too! Tell them that when their book gets submitted and is being considered for oh wait they haven’t written a book that’s right because they’re creative as shit.

Smile, and nod, and know how good it’s going to be when you write the book that makes it through (or edit the current one until it does). Think about the girls who gave you shit in high school trying to friend you on Facebook now because they saw you in the newspaper talking about your multi-book deal (this has been happening to me a bit lately, and it’s so incredibly awesome. They’re all ‘so proud’). Fuck those girls! Friendship status: DENIED, bitch.

Question: Should I write that book?

Answer: Yes.

Excuse: Nothing.

Verdict: Perfect.

Foxbooks is GO!

Alright, fans. It’s not very pretty. It has no logo. I’m still learning to use it – but it IS alive. My new business venture, Foxbooks is off the ground and hovering nervously. All your manuscript assessment needs in one place right here:

Foxbooks

What are you waiting for? Go and have a look!

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Fated

People are often curious to know how HADES happened. It was not, in any way, a straightforward journey from page to print, and therefore like all perilous journeys, its path was full of lessons and surprises. The first and most critical lesson I learned from trying to get HADES into print was not to go around trumpeting my success until contracts were exchanged and money in my hand. And even then, I wouldn’t advise it. Wait until the book is in your hands. That’s the only certainty you have in this game.

 

The first time I read those magnificent words, ‘Yes, I would like to publish you,’ they were in an email not from my current publisher, Random House Australia, but from HADES’s original publisher in the UK. I will not name this publisher, because I’m not sure it’s really fair. I was so angry and blinded at the time, that I didn’t ask for all the details in what occurred in my first publishing deal. There might very well have been legitimate reasons for what happened happening. I hold no resentment, and I wish this tiny publisher all the best in the future. The indie publishing game is often a dire and thankless one, and what happened I’m sure is a familiar story to people who deal with these ambitious little companies.

 

Basically, I was on my fifth novel with no success in the publishing game. This was around 2011. A one-man publisher in the UK offered to publish me in print and in digital form in both Australia and the UK. I told everyone I knew. I told people I didn’t know. I was in tears with excitement all the time. I was planning my book launch from the first day. I printed out my acceptance email and framed it. I was drunk with visions of opening a package and finally holding my first words in print.

 

The year and a half long wait to see myself published flew by. We were editing the manuscript together over email. I became quite close to my publisher and regularly chatted with him on Facebook chat about family dramas, both his and mine, books and authors we loved. I fended off contant interrogation from confused friends over when my book would be published as it was again and again pushed back. These things take time, I would say. He’s one man doing an entire company’s job. I knew my publisher had a busy work and family life outside of his publishing hobby.

I was willing to wait as long as it took.

 

After waiting six months for our cover designer to emerge from the mist into which she apparently descended, (with me resisting the urge to simply have my graphic designer step-mother do the job over a weekend), my publisher emailed to tell me he didn’t have the money to put me in print anymore. He’d overspent on a local literary festival. He could still publish me in eBook form.

 

It’s hard to describe how this felt. I was ‘crushed’, yes, but it was a private hurt, a thing so devastating I didn’t dare seek comfort from anyone on it. It happened at exactly the wrong time. I’d just separated from my husband in the most awful and heartbreaking way a relationship can come to an end; suddenly, inexplicably, shockingly. At the time, I was sleeping on my parents’ living room floor. My cat was traumatised. I was so mad. White-hot mad. The only reason I hadn’t published myself in eBook form a year and a half earlier was because I wanted to see the book on paper. I wanted, at least once, to hold my book in my hands. I withdrew from the relationship with my publisher. I hadn’t been contracted, and my publisher accepted my, rather coldly worded, withdrawal.

 

It sounds silly now, but I was actually deeply humiliated by the failure of this little book deal. I guess deep down inside, after the first couple of push-backs of the publication date, I was in doubt that the book would be published. The publisher had only put one book out in print before. But friends were introducing me to other people as an ‘up and coming author’ with an ‘international book deal’ and I was too embarrassed to correct them. When the book was laid out fully, I was encouraged, but then we stalled. When I finally got the cancellation email, I sort of knew before I opened it what it was going to say.

 

HADES found print, finally, with Australia’s largest publishing house, Random House. I did open the box, smell the fresh ink and paper, cut my book out of the plastic and hold it lovingly to my chest. I have an unapologetic affection for books in print. I got to see my first tattered and well-loved copy of HADES the other day in the hands of a man walking down the street, so used to seeing it brand new and sparkling on book shelves in stores.

 

I am profoundly lucky that my original publisher did not publish HADES.

 

He stalled me, effectively stopping me from publishing it myself with my doomed publishing deal, and kept the book off the market until the exact moment I arrived in Sydney, where I would find my new boss, who would recommend me to the woman who would become my agent, who would then find me my publisher. I don’t know if you believe in fate, but this example, this crushing, failed opportunity was so perfectly that old door closing so that a window can open, that I had to share it with you. Rejection is never, never a waste. Don’t despair, and don’t count your chickens. Just keep knocking, keep on knocking, until it’s your time to be let inside.

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