Monday, 1 April 2013

Lydia Bennet's new spring outfit, and my car crash, freelance, minefield life, by Valerie Laws


My comedy novel LYDIA BENNET’S BLOG has some very distinguished and generous fans to whom I'm very grateful but it has been hard to market, so here’s the new cover design, by Alison Richards at designstudio@aahprintersolutions.co.uk  and I think she’s done a grand job. I’m aiming for a surprising image which conveys the timeslip theme of the book. So very soon I’ll be unpublishing and relaunching the book. We shall see if her new dress gives Lydia a lift up the sales charts!


I'm a free lance, gimme funding or else!
Today is a special day of celebration for me. April 1st 2013 is the 27th anniversary of the car accident which disabled me, or as I choose to think of it, the day I survived a near death experience! I’ve always celebrated the day, usually with champagne, sometimes with a big party for my friends - I had a fabulous erm, bash on the 25th anniversary. Guests were quite tickled at being invited to a car crash party, complete with blown-up photo of me in hospital with metal spikes sticking out of three limbs, tastefully displayed above the home-cooked buffet and cocktails. Every day since the accident has been a bonus, though it’s not always easy to remember that when things go crappy. But setbacks are not only made to be overcome, they sometimes open the way to better things, or at least adventures you’d have missed otherwise. Similarly in my writing life, it’s been fits and starts, amazing bursts of success and notoriety, heartfelt recognition of my work, followed by a series of metaphorical road accidents as one big project or commission after another crashed and burned; sudden calls or emails from unexpected sources offering wonderful opportunities, one-line emails rejecting me from some fairly low-level job. Thus the freelance life! I like the image of the ‘free lance’, as if we are knights galloping round the countryside ready to tilt at foes and fight for right at the drop of chainmail trou.

So to further update you on my ‘multiple publishing disorder’: my second crime novel, THE OPERATOR is the sequel to THE ROTTING SPOT which is out in paperback with an independent publisher but on kindle as a self-pub indie. The new book’s progress seems to reflect the way things are going in publishing just now placing the Electric Author in a pole (or lance) position. The first book did well considering it’s with a small publisher - endorsed by two mega successful crime writers, won an award, shortlisted for another one, etc etc. This time I thought I’d have another go at the agent->big publisher route. Well, I’ve had three agents in the past who didn’t manage to sell my books, and I know my multi-genre approach isn’t too popular, but I had introductions to several agents via one of said crime megastars, agents who expressed themselves keen to see the book, in fact one of them approached me first. Net result, nothing. Not even a ‘no’. Just nothing going on for so long it’s clearly an implied rejection. Then a lovely rejection from another agent I tried, who loved the writing but couldn’t see how she could place either THE OPERATOR or LYDIA BENNET’S BLOG. Crime is a competitive market apparently. Anyway, there’s still one agent who seemed interested and hasn’t got back to me, could this be a possible yes or another ‘silent no’. In the meantime, I thought, I’ll submit it to smaller crime publishers. One after another, either they too won’t look without an agent or they’ve got ‘submissions closed until further notice’ or ‘our schedule is full for the foreseeable future’ on their websites. Another door closes. (My previous publisher is not publishing novels any more.)

So it’s beginning to look like THE OPERATOR will be another indie, and I don’t find myself too depressed about that. I’m already having ideas about the cover, and this time I may venture into the new formatting minefield of Createspace for the paperback.

Speaking of minefields... True to form I’m simultaneously trying to format ALL THAT LIVES, my latest poetry collection, for kindle. Poetry is not easy, and worse, my book features a form of my poetry installation film SLICING THE BRAIN’s version of the sequence THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING BRAIN, where words vanish from a poem as it dwindles, changing form and meaning to reflect the process of dementia. This piece has been widely praised and has moved many who have seen it in exhibitions in London, Newcastle, and a festival in Berlin. I’ve been in formatting hell trying to find ways to create whitespace between words, sometimes many spacebar beats long, which will not be lost or changed on kindle. I may have to learn yet another technique and embed screen grabs as jpegs... but this will now have to wait for Lydia’s relaunch! At the same time, someone has rustled my Quantum Sheep project and claimed the idea for their own... Why is life so complicated?!

But it is life, and very precious and precarious, so I shall grab my lance and ride off on my continuing adventure into Electricland. To battle, comrades! In this context if not elsewhere, we are not April Fools, we are survivors!

9 comments:

madwippitt said...

Very inspirational Valerie, thank you! Raising a celebratory glass of virtual champagne - and damn those sheep rustlers! Maybe you could have a virtual rustler-hanging?

Chris Longmuir said...

I've used Createspace and am quite pleased with the result. One thing I'm glad I did was to buy my own ISBN because that has left me free to have the books printed in the UK as well as with Createspace.

Stephanie Zia said...

That's wonderful - a virtual cheers from me too... One method that MIGHT work for your spacing problem is to type dots where you want the spaces to be, then colour them white. So the machinery recognises there's something there but doesn't actually show anything except spacing. It was a tip sent into me by Ian, a poet/reader of my How To book who'd been battling the same problem. It worked in the past for me when I used to load directly from Word/HTML, but not when I put the MS through Calibre, as I do today, to get a glitchproof Mobi file...

Dennis Hamley said...

Valerie, I recognised your car-crash experience and how every day since has been a bonus. I feel exactly the same about my triple heart bypass, the 30th anniversary of which I celebrate this October. One of the three best things which ever happened to me. - though not at the time.

Chris, tell me more. Does that mean that if you buy your own ISBNs you can market the Createspace editions separately from Amazon? Or that you can publish your own print editions under your own imprint separately? The second possibility is very interesting. It would mean that my dream of high quality limited editions plus general distribution is possible without breaking the bank completely.

Dennis Hamley said...

Valerie, I forgot to say. LBB's new cover is great. Let's hope it breaks the barrier. I've been dropping my view into the ears of a few people who might take notice that GCSE lit students should be given the book as the ideal approach to a literary genre they may not feel much affinity with. Perhaps I might soon find a wider audience.

Bill Kirton said...

An interesting account of some familiar experiences, Valerie. It makes me wonder whether agents are finding themselves in some sort of transitional phase where they're not sure of their role any more. Publishers are shifting their targets and shrinking their lists, writers are using the new ebook freedoms to make their own ways forward, so the previous link between the two needs to adapt.
Good luck with LBB. The cover certainly works well.

Lydia Bennet said...

Thank you all so much for your kind comments, support and virtual glass-raisings! The sheep rustling scandal goes on, the press are getting interested, while Yorkshire Sculpture Park have taken down all mentions of the offending project from their site. Watch this space...

Reb MacRath said...

Valerie, I hadn't known your own back story. But now that I do, I must say: you're not a survivor, you're a transcender. And I predict that your hot new cover's gonna turn the tide in sales. I can't help but wish you'd also added a skateboard...but the cover's 'rad' enough, as is. Cheers.

Lydia Bennet said...

Reb, thank you so much. perhaps the skateboard for the sequel!

piece on my rustled sheep today:

http://www.journallive.co.uk/north-east-news/todays-news/2013/04/02/artist-valerie-laws-wants-credit-for-sheep-poetry-61634-33099806/