The next big thing! Blog tag!

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This post is revisited!

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Dear all,

I was invited to be in a promotional blog tag by the very talented Jeri Walker-Bicketthttp://jeriwb.com/     The Next Big Thing originated from the SheWrites website and I’d just like to take this opportunity to say thank you very muchly to Jeri for tagging me and giving me the chance to chat about my work in progress. So, here goes, below are my answers to the questions.

 

What is the working title of your book? 

Poker Face II. The Puppet Master. I think! 😀

 

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

I was writing book 1 in the series and I was so into the characters that I had already started thinking about what else I wanted them to do with their literary lives. The books deal a bit with gang culture and the mafia and so there has always been so much scope for plot development.

 

What genre does your book fall under? 

It is supposed to be a YA thriller but adults have been enjoying it very much and I’m hoping I’ve kept the content tame enough for a YA market. We shall see!

 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

I have no idea but I would need me a handsome man in his forties (who looks pretty hot in a suit), a man in his early twenties (who also looks great smart but can carry of the cool shorts and bare feet image too) and a young woman in her teens who can go from feisty to cutey at the drop of a hat! 

 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Alessi and Danny find 18 year old Ruby Palmer after she suddenly goes missing, but they soon realise that the girl they’ve found isn’t quite the Ruby they once knew.

 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

Funnily enough on the day I am typing this I received a rejection from an agency, so I’d say I’m going indie all the way! It’s a good, fun ride with some fabulous supportive people. Being indie published is like being part of a community and I love it.  

 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

I was writing it at the same time as the first book and so, after only a few months of writing the first one, the second one was already drafted and ready for some MEGA editing!

 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

Personally I struggle to compare my work because no matter how fab the reviews there is always a little part of me that says ‘Yeah but it’s not really all that!’ I wish I could drop that little part of me over a bridge! Oh no, I’ve just thought! If that little part does happen to go mising I will be first in line for questioning now! Anyway, Poker Face has twice been compared to a much easier to read and digest version of John Grisham by two massive John Grisham fans because there are lots of twists, turns and edge of your seat thrills. It’s a pretty enjoyable read but it’s not too complicated. I don’t quite feel worthy enough of the Grisham tag! Ha ha 😀

 

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 

Book one and the vibrant characters that just seemed to fit so well and develop in book one kind of inspired me to write book two. Book one was inspired by an agent who I desperately wanted to secure at the time, who claimed to be looking for a ‘good legal thriller.’ She didn’t take my work but I am still seriously happy with how well received it’s been. I have a little fan base and I’m living a pretty good alternative version of ‘the dream!’

 

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

The series of Poker Face currently stands at four books and I am toying with a fifth. The thing I love most about the series is that I have kept the themes (although sometimes quite extreme or unrealistic for your everyday experiences) as realistic as possible and true to the issues and circumstances surrounding the characters. There are real life events, some very awkward and uncomfortable, but I wasn’t willing to pretend that these things don’t go on. In my opinion if I’m going to deal with an issue I needed to deal with it honestly or not deal with it at all. Characters get hurt, people suffer loses and strong bonds and relationships are formed. This book isn’t just about a bunch of gangsters shooting people up, it’s about a young girl with a trashy and abusive background finding a way forward in life, using the difficult hand she’s been dealt. She does it pretty good too.

All the best guys and I look forward to reading your work!

Jess x

  

OK the fab five that I have selected (minus the ones that have dropped out) are:-

 Victoria Pearson  (@vspearson) http://victoria-pearson.blogspot.com/

Julia Hughes  (@tinksaid) http://juliahughes.co.uk/

Charlie Plunkett  (@charlieplunkett) http://www.charlieplunkett.co.uk/

Victoria Grefer (details to follow)

Eileen Wharton (details to follow)

 

(Again, don’t ask me why these names are in different colours and some are underlined while others aren’t! I’m just surprised I actually managed to get another post up in the space of a week! Go me!) 

PS if you click on the person’s name above it should (should) take you to their website/blog so you can find out a little more about them! Go oooooooooon, do it! 😀

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The difference between my vacuum cleaner and my book is that I WANT my vacuum cleaner to suck!

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Dear all,

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s been over a month and all that! I couldn’t even remember my password to get on here…but I promise I’ll sit on the naughty step later.

This week’s blog post is all about the phenomenon that is ‘The Review’. That tricky process whereby people answer the niggling questions in every indie author’s aching and caffeine overloaded head; Am I good enough to cut it? Do I make a good writer? Do I have potential? Am I getting it right?

It may or may not be news to some but, although I am generally quite a sociable and happy person, I feel like a fraud most of the time. I even felt like I was lying when I had to start completing forms declaring that I had dependents. I always feel like I’m telling fibs and I just don’t know why! I clearly have children and the state of my car is testament to that! I obtained a degree when I was twenty-six but I still hate having to produce the certificate of graduation in interviews. I worry they might scratch at the ink, hold it up to the light and then pass it under a UV ray, where they will suddenly exclaim, ‘But how? You left school with only two GCSEs!’ Out of all of my quirky, not quite fitting labels, it was publishing my debut novel, Poker Face, that felt like the biggest pork pie of them all! I still can’t look people in the eye and say it’s doing well!

I am a big analyser (or a petite analyser depending on how you want to look at it) and I’ve spent a great deal of time recently trying to work out this ‘fraud’ type aspect of my personality. I have concluded that the reason all of these things feel like a lie is because I can’t truly label myself as something until I know I have done it well. For example, in my opinion, a mum is someone who does more than just carry and give birth to a baby. The title encompasses a long term nurturing position and, until my children have become completely independent, I won’t know exactly what kind of mum I have been. All I know right now is that I desperately want to be a good one.

When it comes to the degree, I left school with only two qualifications and had to go back to college where they managed to drag another three GCSEs out of me. I later went on to do an A Level in law, which I failed (lots of tears around this time) and then had a chat with my local university. Because I was a mature student (don’t laugh, I can do mature) and had been working in a law firm for five years, they agreed to let me enrol.  I graduated three years later but I didn’t do it glowingly and I didn’t wow anyone with a string of first class essays along the way. Consequently, I ended up feeling like I wasn’t quite worthy and the qualification feels kind of alien. I’m waiting for the mother ship to come take it back!

The same can be applied to my writing. Writing 90,000 words and turning them into a book doesn’t make me feel like I can call myself an author. I need to know that my work does exactly what a book should do. I need someone to tell me ‘Jess, you’re not lying, you can write!’ (Shock horror, fancy that!) For me, reviews and ratings are the next best thing to having an agent or publisher who could give me that seal of approval my confidence really needs. My best reviews tell me that I may well be able to cut it in the big bad world of writing and publishing (note I say ‘may’ for I will never be so bold as to assume I ever will, even with my most fabarooney reviews and shiniest of stars). My most critical reviews fill my mind with dread and indecision and they are inclined to make my writing style reach for its blue and white patchwork security blanket!

I was chatting to someone the other day about how I am dreading the really crappy (technical term for a bad review) one star and the inevitable slating that will accompany it. However, people review for different reasons and individual tastes range widely. I know this, so, I have decided that I am going to approach that one star with the following analogy in mind:-

If I want to buy a new vacuum cleaner from Argos I pick three in my price range and then I check the customer reviews. They range from the five star, ‘This vacuum does exactly what you’d hope it would do and I’m very happy with my purchase,’ through to the gritty one star, ‘This might have sucked up but all of my cleaning paraphernalia is metallic red, always has been and always will be! I like red, I like metallic and I like shiny! However, this vacuum (if you can even call it a vacuum) is definitely not the metallic red vacuum illustrated in the picture IT! IS! PINK! And, to make matters worse, it isn’t even shiny…IT’S MATT! I am so not happy! More to the point I will never, I repeat NEVER, buy a vacuum from this manufacturer again. Oh, for the record, the suction was pretty good and it even managed to swallow up my metallic red duster without blocking. I am cross about this also, I loved that duster!’

Suddenly that one star isn’t really quite so bad. Personally that’s exactly the kind of vacuum cleaner I’m looking for!

Thanks for reading and take care from me guys.

Jess 😀 x

In-security Blankets! Blog post revisited :-)

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Hello and dear all,

A strange thing happened to me the other day, I received a letter. “What’s strange about that?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s strange for two reasons (1) because since having children I no longer receive post addressed to me. It’s like I no longer exist. I went into labour over eight years ago and was simultaneously made to disappear from society. My identity was changed, even my name was swapped for the more general label of ‘Mummy’ but the other reason this letter was strange, numero (2), is that it was from an agent and I hadn’t even made a submission! “Yeah fair enough that is strange,” you agree.

When I opened up the envelope I discovered that they did indeed have my work and now I was really confused. I hadn’t sent out submissions in ages, what was it all about? I looked on my ‘List of Agents’ prepared way back when (organised or what!) and this particular one was recorded as having been sent out on 9th September 2011. It had taken eight months YES EIGHT to receive a reply. This is a record as far as submission go for me. I’ve waited over six months before and I thought that was pushing it! In fairness it was a really lovely worded letter but it was still a rejection and, more importantly, a rejection I felt I hadn’t opened myself up for because I’d written off ever receiving a response.

When I finally realised what had happened (basically they said it had been with lots of agents while they tried to come to a decision about whether it would work for them or not. I read between the lines and concluded they had popped it in a drawer instead of the bin in error and had just discovered it) I was okay. I said to myself “Well, that’s fine, it’s not going to be for everyone is it? I’ve changed the story quite a lot since then anyway and I’ve published it myself. Lots of people have loved it so it really doesn’t matter. No need for upset or negativity. It’s all still good.” However, the next day I didn’t feel quite so good and it was playing on my mind. I’ve continued to get things done since then and have even managed to meet with the Team Young Adult Librarian to set up and facilitate an adult writing group, which is fantastic news. I am preparing advertising for the Waterstones, Hatfield signing event and I am mentally packing for our fast approaching holiday. As far as I was concerned, I’d pretty much moved on from the unsettling incident.

Then, last night, I had a dream. I was standing in a park (don’t ask me why) and the sun was shining (even less likely). A woman came up to me holding an envelope.

“I have your submission here,” she told me, holding it up for me to see and then sliding out the the contents.

“Are you going to read it in front of me?” I asked feeling nervous and horribly vulnerable.

“Well…that’s my job,” she smiled and then she did just that. When the painful wait was over she smiled again and said. “Well done. I like it! Now send me the whole thing and mark the envelope ‘Entertainment’ .That will ensure it gets to me and makes it through the filtering process.” The dream is slightly sketchy here but I’m pretty sure some dancing and screaming was involved. “And I absolutely love this!” she suddenly exclaimed. “This is the best thing I’ve ever read. I want much more of this. Well done you!”

I wondered what could have excited her so much and reached forward to take the document she was beaming all over (and continuing to love like you wouldn’t believe!) She let me have  a look and when I cast my eyes over it a cold rock formed in my stomach. The document she had pulled out from my submission and had quoted as ‘The best bit about the whole thing’ was actually someone else’s. It had been caught up with mine…and I had no choice but to be honest.

“That’s not mine,” I told her sadly. She frowned and glanced over it again as if that might miraculously change the minor embarrassing point. But, even after looking again, the dream reality was that this piece of work was not mine, it was better than mine…much, much better than mine.

“Oh, well, never mind,” she told me like she felt sorry for me. “I must find who it belongs to though because I REALLY want to represent this author! This is going places! This is rare! This is…”

THIS IS where I woke myself up because she was getting on my sodding nerves now! I mean even in a dream, how bitchy can you get???

In a post dream state, and having had time to contemplate what it all means, I conclude that the experience was a manifestation of some serious insecurities. Basically my sub-conscious is asking, am I good enough to cut it? I know there will always be people better than me (that’s life) but will I still be able to compete against that and hold my own? The dream I had last night was my ‘In-security blanket’. I might have left the old, tattered blue and white crochet one from my childhood days behind but, sadly, I replaced it with this other more resilient and less sympathetic one. It’s not cuddly, it’s not reassuring, it’s unlikely to get lost (no matter how hard I try) but it did give me a good reason for a blog post and that’s always a good thing!

Cheers guys and remember (unless you are some famous author having your books made into film right now) you’re not alone and if you’re struggling, I truly feel your pain! 🙂

Take care from me. Jess 🙂

Motivation and the final destination :-)

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Don’t worry it’s not about people being ticked off in horrendously gory accidents because they’ve witnessed Death’s Plan! 

I think it is important to always keep in mind your motivation for writing (or if you don’t write whatever else it is that you do). What drives you? That being said, I also think it’s important to strike a balance. Don’t just look at where you’re going, or hope to go, but keep an eye on where you’ve been also. Just like they teach in driving (but don’t spend too long doing it because it’s dangerous) it’s good practice to glance in your rear view mirror every now and then…and not just to check your lipstick or your teeth.

In writing terms where you have been is probably a strong factor in the desire you have to write, to share your story in whatever form that might be; fiction, fact, poetry, blog. I shall take my personal circumstances and use them to illustrate my point (I won’t get all weepy and melancholy, I promise). Apart from liberating me from my thoughts and feelings, my motivation for writing is to achieve better, to show people I can do something of value. I want to show that the uneducated girl that left school with nothing but two GCSE’s did have something to offer after all (huh imagine that if you can!) My big dream is that, with some hard work and commitment, I will one day attract an agent and publisher who will open doors to new and exciting opportunities for me and my novels. I hope that (before I grow old) I will be able to look back and see that I have really achieved.

It is possible to spend too much time looking back. If you do this you never progress and you sit like water in a rock pool. You are unable to foster and nurture new things because the environment (that is your mind) becomes too hostile for anything to thrive. It is also possible to spend so much time fantasising over what the future could hold (if only one of those blasted agents would say yes for a change, for example) that your life boils down to living for the next batch of rejection letters and taking them hard when they arrive. Suddenly they are the be-all and end-all. If all hopes and dreams pivot on that one momentous thing (a book deal) then nothing else matters and that’s quite sad really.

I am guilty of getting caught up in both, blaming past experiences for my lack of confidence, my fear of almost everything (other than staying indoors) and my dogged attempts at achieving what I know in my heart to be one of the most difficult things to attain. I do this so I can cruelly remind myself ‘I told you so. What were you thinking?’ But, to be fair, I could write the most fantastic novels in the world but if they don’t sit well with on an agent’s list it’s unlikely they will take it on. Anything short of a miracle (or nasty friction burn to the wrist) is going to make them change their minds.

I do regularly try to remind myself that if I look back over what I have done  and I dispose of the blinkers (installed shortly after discovering a passion for writing) I am able to see so much more. Success isn’t just about moving from A to B on the most direct route, it’s about learning to appreciate the value of the longer and more scenic one. This longer route detours whether we like it or not but it teaches us a lot about ourselves – our limits, our challenges and our ability to overcome obstacles. What mountains did you climb to get to where you are today? For some, achievement is about getting out of bed in the morning (and I’ve been there), for others it’s about making it through the day without a drink (I haven’t yet been there). Many find themselves desperately trying to attain enough calories to function while others are trying not to succumb to temptation. Confronting personal issues is an achievement in itself, sod the book deal! If you glance in the rear view mirror from time to time and find that you’ve overcome some pretty big hurdles then these should be recognised and congratulated too.

I think it’s important to have a plan. Pencil your enormous goal up ahead but consider what you have faced and might need to face to get there. Mark those things too because they deserve to be celebrated. Pin your plan to the wall (or maybe use blue tack, your plan your choice – though if you’re renting maybe just lean it up against the wall to protect your damage deposit). Now take a step back and admire the itinerary that will lead you to your final destination.

Thanks for reading guys & take care.

Jess 🙂 x