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Back from Harrogate

Many people will know that about Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival held in Harrogate, and I was there this last weekend gone.

I have to say it was just wonderful!

Originally I had booked to go up on the Thursday and come back on the Sunday, but that meant missing Creative Thursday as it’s a 5 to 7 hour drive (traffic dependant). I mentioned this and my darling hubby said, okay then, he had the Wednesday off anyway, so we could go Wednesday and I could attend Thursday. As it was 1 July at that point, I didn’t think that there would be any places available for Creative Thursday. Thus, without getting my hopes up, I went on the internet and I checked. There were! So I booked one ticket. Then began the fun and games to extend the hotel stay.

The point is, it all worked out in my favour, which was a bit of a surprise. Things don’t usually go that well for me.

So, I attended Creative Thursday, which was really interesting. A panel of established authors lead by Mari Hannah talked about how to approach writing as a profession and gave tips on how to pitch, very useful tips. Vaseem Khan talked about writing the outside your own cultural background. And Greg and Kate Mosse talked about plot structure. They were all great sessions. What also makes it good is the people that you meet and get chatting to during the day, other writers also there to learn, as well as the established writers, all of whom are happy to help.

What I didn’t know, was that the end of Creative Thursday is the Dragons’ Pen, when attendees can pitch their work to agents and publishers. You put your name in a hat; then names are drawn by no less an author than Mark Billingham, and then you have two minutes to pitch your novel to the Dragons. By sheer luck, he picked my name!

So I gave my pitch, trembling all the way through. I remembered what they had said in the morning, to breathe and talk at about half the speed you think you should. I remembered the recommendation to cite other authors/books that are related to your own book. And I did all that. I even did it within the time given. Mark suggested I could have waffled for another 35 seconds, but I responded I don’t waffle in my books, so I couldn’t in a pitch. Don’t know it that did me any good, but I try to keep it true.

Upshot of this is that three of the four asked to see my work! Woo hoo! I was on cloud nine! So with such a good foot in the door, that’s what I’ve now done. I know there are no guarantees, but I have a chance I would never have had had I not gone to Creative Thursday. I just hope now that they like the full book enough to take me on. Or that at least one of them does!

This really is a case of good luck, or alignment of stars or whatever cosmic power you want to believe in. I was lucky to get the extra day in Harrogate. I was lucky to get on Creative Thursday course. I was lucky Mark Billingham pulled my name. I was lucky I have a good book to pitch. I was lucky that three people were interested enough to want to see it. I was lucky.

I’ve also worked damn hard to get that book right – as you’ll see from the previous blog because that book is the one I pitched. I also worked hard on the day on that pitch, tweaking it right up to the last minute, so it said everything it needed to say. Because I will always remember the quote from Samuel Goldwyn “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Just to balance the sweet news, here’s a touch of sour. I was also told by one individual that they are the only one who reads my blog. So to the rest, if you’re not reading, I don’t know what you’re doing here. Still, I see the numbers, and I appreciate all who follow my ramblings. Thank you all for reading.

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Hopefully

Okay, reaction to the rejection over.  Big girl pants on and behaving myself today.

After my wobble, I tripped over an older log of mine, this one: Getting an agent – some more ideas.  So I read it. You know what, when I’m not an emotional cripple, I actually can talk some sense.  

As a result, yesterday evening, after I’d finished working, I sat down with “The Writers and Artist Yearbook” (admittedly from 2019, but that’s new enough), and went through looking for other possible agents. I checked their websites to ensure that they were open to submissions and if so, what they wanted in a submission – not all agents want the same thing so there’s no point in sending the same thing to everyone.

I also had a bit of a chat about things with a couple of friends who were helpful with suggestions about agents they know and who cast a quick eye over my submission prep. I then spent this morning revising and polishing my pitch, synopsis and first 50 pages.  And more importantly, I’ve submitted to another agent. 

This is good on the principle that each submission is one step closer to the agent who’s going to take me on.  But there’s still the awful wait of up to 3 months to hear possibly nothing if they aren’t interested.  But that’s the way with agents. All I can do is write my best work and present it, and in the manner of “Sweet Charity”, do my best to live hopefully ever after.

Sweet Charity (1969) - Film | cinema.de

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The Journey To Publication

When I was asked to write some blogs to promote Locked Up, I couldn’t think what to say, so I sent a couple of ideas to the publicist and asked if there was anything else she thought I could cover.  One of the ideas that came back was The Journey To Publication.

Now I have deliberately capitalised that, because that’s what it sounds like to me.  It’s like an epic line, like “I Am Spartacus!”  Like it should be said by that deep throated bloke who does all the film trailers; read the next bit in his voice to see what I mean.

It was a time of worry.  It was a time of nerves.  Would there be acceptance or rejection?  A book or an empty shelf?  It was – The Journey To Publication.

Do you hear it now?

Yeah, okay, I am being taking it to extremis, and should dial down the sarcasm seeing as the idea has turned into this blog. Yet the fact remains that it’s one of those things that we’ve all already read about, and probably written about. It felt a little old hat and not something I can bring anything new too. And even as I sit typing this up, I’m still not sure I’m saying anything that hasn’t been said a thousand times before.  Except maybe that speech above – am oddly proud of exercising my humour on that – you know what they say about little things pleasing little minds.

What you won’t have heard before is the actual story in Locked Up, that’s far more original, you really should go read that, that’s very engaging.

So here it is, my Journey To Publication.  I’ve always written, been receiving rejections since I was a teenager.  Largely gave up on myself as a writer because there were more immediate struggles – university, marriage, kids, life – but I never stopped writing.

Finally, the time came when I was ready to properly put myself and my writing out there again.  I’d been doing so kind of half-heartedly the whole time, and have the requisite drawer full of rejection slips to prove it, but at last I was ready to really go for it.

Guess what happened…

Nothing.

Just more rejection.

I finished Locked Up and thought, you know, this is really good, this should sell.  So I went to Winchester Writers Festival, meet with some agents.  Four of them.  Had all four ask to see the full manuscript.

Woo-hoo!  Right?

Right.  Yes – I got my agent.

He told me I’d have to be patient because getting published takes a long time.  And I was patient. For two years.  Not a dickie bird.  Not a hint, nor a whisper, not a whiff of interest.  Got some rather nice rejections, but they were still rejections and that’s never nice.  At the time the industry was going through some major changes, culling commissioning editors left right and centre, it’s still changing and that is likely to last a while.  The agent said that I probably wouldn’t get any luck until those commissioning agents were replaced.  The issue for me was that there was no guarantee that they would be replaced and I didn’t want to wait until I was in my fifties to get published.

It was time to take back control.

So I did.

I wrote to my agent, thanked him for his hard work and we politely parted company.  I sent my manuscript to Bloodhound Books and got a yes please in a few days.  Thank God I was sitting down when I read that email!  And I had to re-read a couple of times it to make sure it was saying what it was saying rather than just what I wanted it to say.  The point was, within a week of being told that nothing was likely to happen for ages – I had a publishing deal.

Hooray!!

(And for once that isn’t sarcasm)

Rejection got replaced with acceptance.  The shelf will stop being empty.

The worry and the nerves however, they are very much still here.  Yes, I’m getting published, Locked Up came out on September 7th. But now I have to find readers, I have to find all you lovely people out there, strangers I have never met, and persuade you too read my book.  I have to hope you’re like it – actually I hope you’ll love it, rave about it to a load of other readers who’ll also love it – and that makes me nervous.  If it helps, I do have some great recommendations from other crime writers:

 

Caro Ramsay, author of the Anderson and Costello series, says:

“Tense and claustrophobic, with a spine chilling denouement!”

 

Katherine John, author of “By Any Name”, recently made into a stunning Amazon Prime video, says this:

“A brilliant new and authentic voice in crime fiction – GB Williams knows how to tell a story and tell it well.”

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