Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Brighton here I come.

I had finshed reading the letter from the publisher, and then read it again, then again.

It was a start, now I had to take the next step.

Bookguild publishing are not one of the super large international publishing houses, but they are established and looked the part. I had reserched them on the internet before I had approached them. I looked not only at all the good information I could find, but I also looked for any bad news about them too.

You can find out more about a company by the negative comments people make than you can by the postive comments all companies will put out. No company is going to say we are here to rip you off, or give your terrible service, no, they will always promise the earth while trying to get your money.

If you go into your laptop and search out negative comments about a company or service you want, and you get flooded by pages of results then you know you need to keep away from them.

With Bookguild I couldn't find any negative comments what so ever. No tales of people being let down, taken for a ride, or basicly being ripped off, nothing, nothing at all.

I knew the next thing I would have to do was to make a visit to Bookguild's head office in Brighton, not only to check it out, but also becasue my sister lives there and I had always promised to visit.

There was also a third reason. I needed a short break away from the wife, or to put it straight she more likely needed a break from me.  We had been under each others feet for months. I had kept myself busy with my voluntary work, going up the gym to help with my recovery from my crippling spine injury, and had been doing my share of the house work, looking after the children (plus my blog three days a week), but still there needed to be some space for us to breath.

She had already spent a weekend in London with her best friend and enjoyed every minute of it, and I must say I enjoyed having the freedom at home to do with the children what I wanted to do. Also on her returrn it felt as if she had been away for three months and not three days, and as the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. The follwing week it felt as if we had only just met and fallen in Love.

My sister was more than happy to put me up and the wife was happy to see the back of me. I made contact with the Bookguild and arranged a meeting for a Friday afternoon, thus leaving me free for a weekend in Brighton after I had finished.

I booked a return train ticket and all was set.

There was a fourth reason I wanted to go, and that reason will be explained this Friday.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Yes or No?

I pulled out the letter.

It was from a publishing house.

It was printed on nice quality paper with a full colour logo. It wasn't the normal standard reply you get with a rejection letter. The single page black on white pre-prepared print. Dear ( your name hand written in blue ink) then followed by kindly, but deadly words. Thank you for your submission but it doesn't quite fit our portfoilio, etc, etc.

This felt different before I had even started to read the text. It was from a company called Bookguild publishing based in Brighton.

My eyes went to the first line.

Dear Mark
We thoroughly enjoyed Frenzy. This is a compelling novel, written with a deft hand as you gradually lead the reader and Daniel to discoveries about the reality if his world. The set up of this world is excellent: vivid and credible, and the perfect background to Daniel's flight from the Over-seers. You maintain a swift pace throughout the narrative and keep tension levels high at all the right momemts.

The letter went on and so did the speed of my heart.

I started to jump about the kitchen, clapping my hands in joy. It took about ten minutes for me to calm down so I made myself a cup of tea, and settled down to read the remaining part of the letter.

This was just the start of another path I was to take. At this stage there are no contracts, no big money cheques, no nothing, just the inital first step, but, and it was a very big but, it was a step in the right direction.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Another rejection? Maybe, mayby not!

It was now sixteen months since I had handed in my notice, gave up a secure job, and risked every thing to write my manuscript, with the final hope of one day getting it published.

It had been a very hard sixteen monhts, not only with having to live on the poverty line, but also with all the many various rejections I had received on the way.

Now I was hanging-around once again waiting for some news. Anything, even a rejection is better than not hearing anything at all. Alway-hanging-around can be dreadfull. Not knowing is the worst feeling of all. When you get turned down at least you can move on to the next stage. Not knowing just leaves you in limbo, in no-mans land, at the gates of hell.

Normally it can take up to six months to hear back from an agent or publisher you have approached, and this is what I had set my sights on before I expected to get any reply from the publishing companies I had sent my final finished manuscript to.

Then I had a surprise! After two weeks an envelope came through the letterbox.

I picked it up. It looked different. It wasn't an a A4 self-addressed envelope (with postage) which I had sent off with my initial approach letter, plus sample chapters. It had a postage paid stamp in the name of one of the publishers I had only just approached.

It felt different as I picked it up off the floor.

I felt excited, but scared at the same time. I was near to the point where I couldn't take anymore rejections. Life had been hard lately, not just with the money but also with my wife. She had been prepared to back me, but only up to a point, and that point had been reached,

If there was no further progress then I had one simple choice, give up and go back to work full time. Back to the rat race. Back to fifty to sixty hour working weeks, earning much needed money, but giving up on my dream.

I took it through to the kitchen and sat down at the table. I looked at it and then slowly with my finger ripped the top of it open.

I pulled the letter out.

What did it say?

Was it another rejection letter?

Would my beating heart be let down once again?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The reply

I had almost forgot about it. The sesson I had attended with various other unpublished people arranged through the local writer's organisation. At the time I didn't know the short conversation I had with the visiting editor during the break, while the others took time out to take in lunch, would change my manuscript with only the use of one simple word.

It was his reply!

For £50 I got more than I expected. It was two pages of review. he thought the story had potential with minor editions recommend, but for one!

The editor stated I should change the title of book. He said the story sounded as if it was a book for children; when in fact it was for young adults of both sexes, and could also be enjoyed by adults who are young at heart, and enjoyed fast pace adventure fiction.

There was a problem because I was at first not going to use my name. In fact I wanted it to be published as "by the unknown author" to give it some mystery.

Then I was going to use the lead charactor's name as the author, again just to give it mystery, and also because I didn't think it had been done before.

The first title I gave the book when I started was "Daniel Jones and The Quest for the Golden Shield."
Then I shortend it to the "The Quest for the Golden Shield, by Daniel Jones."

For the third time I changed it to "The Quest for the Golden Shield."

The chap suggested I use a more dramatic title that matched the story line, like "Frenzy."

I liked it. I liked it a lot, so I changed the title to Frenzy.

That led to another problem. Should I use my real name?

I took advice from someone I trused who said straight away without hesitation, yes.

The final manuscript became Frenzy by Mark King.

yes it's true my name is Mark King.

Over the next few months the story would become FRENY  (a Daniel Jones Story) by Mark King to seperate it from all the other books or plays that had Frenzy in their titles.

I now had the full package. A well writen fast pace story line with a great title ( and charactors) plus some potential publishing houses to approach.

So over the next week I sent by post or email my completed master-piece.

As is the case, all you are then doing in this situation is; always-hanging-around.

Would this be the time when I make the break-through?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Not today

The schools have been closed for a week because of the snow, and along with the family having a nasty bug which has laid everyone low I just can't get in the mood for some jokes today.

I should be greatful rearly because the snow we get is nothing like you can get in America, Russia, Canada or the parts of Europe where the Alps mountains pass through, but after two weeks off for Christmas I just want things to get back to normal.

So on Wednesday It will be back to normal as far as my story goes. I will carry on were I left off with how the letter that popped through my letter box was to change the path of my potential book.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The snow keeps coming

The snow keeps falling, with the school closed for the last three days, and everyone at home down a nasty cold bug time can drag. More snow is coming and I know by next week, just like christmas, I will be glad to see the back of it.

Always-hanging-around that's all you do as you wait for other people, but with the editor's copy it came back quicker than I had expected. With this level of service you will get two copies of your manuscript. The first copy will show all the changes (marked in a bright colour) which you can then except or change back, and the other will be the finished article.

I read through the whole manuscript and changed back a few of things but mostly I was happy with what had been done, and as I read the story through for a second time I know new I had something that would be good enough to at least give me a sporting chance of interesting a publishing house.

I had completed my internet reserch and had found four companies I would approach with my final manucsript, but before I approached them something came through my letter box which was to change everything, and which I spent the whole week agonising over.

It was a two page letter.

Some times in life a course of action you took at the time doesn't seem, at the time, to have any bearing on your life, until at some point in the future you suddenly know that the action which you are about to take is directly connected to that course of action you took in the past.

Like the film, sliding doors, just a simple choice can end up making a big change on what path your life will take.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Take it easy

I was awaiting the return of my manuscript with the final corrections from the writer's service, and there wasn't much I could do but take it easy.

The cronic pain I had been suffering was now gone and I was off the pain killers. I was still seeing the chiropractor, but now only once every two weeks. It had been hard finding the money, and at times I was tempted to give in and go to the doctors so they could put me under the knife, but I was glad I had stuck it out. I knew two other poeple who had suffered the same problem and had had surgery. Both only recoverd for a year at most before they were both back were they started, in cronic pain as their operation hadn't cured the problem. In fact one of them had gone through surgery a second time, and come out worse, and was now looking at a third, and very dangerous operation to cut some nerves in their spine.

The sun was out and I was now able to ride a bike, so I took the time to cycle with my children to school. I was still completing my two days of voluntary work, and was now helping Dangerous John every Friday down the pub as he had been inspired, and started to write his own novel, in the same way he had helped me.

For the first time in my life I was taking it easy. I didn't have the money now, but somehow the less money I had the better my life balance became, although my wife would disagree.

I was surprised when I read in a national newspaper that our very limited income now meens we offically lived under the poverty line. In felt vert strange indeed because for me I was lucky, I had a wonderful wife and children, I had my family and frinds, my health and wealth, my lovely home plus I was following my dream.

I may be poor but I feel on a personal level I am one of the richest men in the world.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Joker's Monday

The snow is falling, it's a pity it didn't fall a couple of weeks ago because if it had it would have made Christmas. I don't know about you, but I like it when it snows, although like the christmas period, after two weeks of it I will have had enough, and will want it to stop.

Anyway as today is Monday I have a few jokes to cheer you up. Some of them may have lost their funny side in translation. It's great that no matter if you are German, Russian etc etc we all have a few christmas cracker jokes to share.

How do elephants spy on other elephants?
Wiyh an ele-scope.

Waiter, there's a thriller novel in my breakfast bowl?
Don't worry, Sir-it's part of the serial.

What does Harrison Ford feed his dog?
Indiana Bones.

How does Indianna Jones find things in the jungle?
With Radars of the Lost Ark.

What did one parachute jumper say to the other parachute jumper?
Two's company three's a cloud.

These are just a small collection of jokes and if you have any more you would like to share, please feel free to share them with the world. It never hurts to spread laughter about.

Friday, 11 January 2013

The writing frenzy

After my meeting with the agent I spent the first two weeks of May 2012 in a writing frenzy.

Although I hadn't been signed up as a client I had gained something very special, and that was knowledge. As with the editors report I had purchased on my earlier manuscript what seemed negative news at the time I turned around into a postive situation.

As a new writer you have to been open to all types of advice. Yes I know some people can write their first story and get a publishing deal, and an agent in one go (it doesn't happen to often), but these people will normally have had a good university education on some type of english degree course, and have friends with a friend in the industry who can give them a helping hand through the door.

For the average person who left school and went straight into work, then learnt from the university of life, it's not so straight forward. You have to except what people say about your story especially if it's negatvie news, or reviews. If you can and you don't give up trying to improve, then trying again, and again, then you will get somewhere.

By the end of May my final draft was finished, but I still needed some professional help to polish it off. I approached the internet company that had completed an editor's report for me, and had what is called an editor's copy completed. This is basicly where an editor will go through your whole story and make corrections for you in spelling, grammer and also tidy up sentences, plus make small changes when required.

I fully recommend you have this done as it just makes your manuscript look more professional when you submit it to publishers and agents. Also it's less work for them and thus less cost so they are more likely to give you a chance.

I emailed off my final draft to the Writer's Service, then as normal it was a case of always-hanging-around. Why I waited I plotted my next move and decided to give the agents a miss this time, and go direct to some publishers once again.

I spent this waiting time on the internet completing reserch of companies who may be interested in my type of story.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Big Meeting

So here it was, the big meeting! It was Saturday the 28th of April 2012 and I was going to an agents sesson run by the local writers organisation. The day was to start start at 10.00 with nine other people.

First there would be a talk with a top agent who had come all the way from London, on what the industry was looking for in author's, followed by a questions sesson, then followed by a one to one with the agent.

My hopes were high, very high; if my hopes where a kite it would have flown all the way to the sun. I had one advantage over the other people in that this agent had seen my whole manuscript, but only the first three chapters of the other writers.

I arrived at the very same time as the agent and nearly nocked him over with the door when I walked in as he stood in the porch way, taking off his coat. I introduced myself to him straight away. I knew his face from his twitter account which I had been following, but the way I tried to act so confident at the time, I think back-fired a bit.

He was still trying to take in his bearings and there I was shoving my hand into his like a long lost friend.

I was convinced that once we were alone he would be jumping at the chance to sign me on, in fact I was convinced that because he had had my manuscript for some time he would already have a publishing deal waiting for my signature.

I kept quite while he talked and during the questions section, and joined in the chit chat with the other hopefulls while one by one we were summond to an upstairs room for a private chat.

When it was my turn my heart rate exploded and as I walked up the stairs, it was beating so fast I started to sweat, by the time I walked into the room was my air of confidence was starting to show signs of straining.

I sat down next to the agent, he was polite and honust, but it was not what I was expecting. He said my story had potential, but I needed to make my mind up about one thing! What age group was I writing for? You see when I first planned out my story it was a childrens book, but as it progressed it became a book that adults could enjoy too. But as always there's a but, as the style changed my lead charactor hadn't. It was a miss-mass of two types and I had to decide which market I was aiming for.

I knew then he wouldn't sign me as a client and as we shook hands, said our good byes and I walked down the stairs my heart started to cry with rejection once again. I went to the toilet to steady myself, and then had a final cup of coffee that had been kindly laid on for all the guests, but I couldn't hang around the place any longer, I needed to get some fresh air, so I left.

As I walked up the cobbled road back to my car I was suddenly struck by a great sense of joy. A very postive feeling which is hard to explain. I now knew what I had to do next! I had to redraft my manuscript once again, but this time with a clear head. My final book would now be for young adults that could be enjoyed by both sexes, and also adults who are young at heart, and love fast-pace fiction.

I couldn't wait for Monday morning when I could sit down at my laptop and start writing once again.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Joker's Monday

After another Christmas period eating and drinking too much it is with relief that all the decorations have now been put away for another year.

Now I look forward to what's to come in the next twelve months and I hope all of you are too. To help you on your way here are a few jokes pulled from the crackers during our christmas day feast.

What's furry and minty?
A Polo Bear.

How does Jack Frost get to work?
By icicles.

What kind of cough medicine does Dracula take?
Coffin medicine.

How do snails keep their shells shiny?
They use snail varnish.

Why was  Cinderella such a poor football player?
She kept running away from the ball.

What's brown and sneaks around the kitchen?
Mince spies.

Random facts
A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out.
An adult African elephant's trunk can be up to 2m long!
Scorpians are considered a delicacy in China.

I know the jokes are a bit naff but with good food, good drink, and good company they seemed quite funny at the time.

If you have any naff jokes of your own that you would like to share on the next Joker's corner then please email them to

Friday, 4 January 2013


Well done to all the winners in the five categories for this years Costa Awards. For the first time in history all five are female. Also well done to the winner of the Man Booker Award who was once again a women. If you add in the other big award for writing in the all female Orange Price and you will have a clean sweep of all the major writing prizes by women.

Men are left standing out in the cold. All these people deserve their awards no matter what their sex is because they are all good writers, but it does seem to prove a point I was trying to make in my blog called "The female advantage" posted on the 12/12/12.

Because women have worked so hard to gain an equal footing in publishing they now dominate in large parts of it. Is this now causing a female dominated circle in fiction? Are good male writers even getting on the first rung of the ladder because of their sex?

It seems to be happenning in other countries too, not just the u.k. In America, Germany, Canada, Austrlia, etc. Check it out in your own part of the world.

I noticed this trend when I first started to write and reserched in advance; who was who in the industry, both agents and publishers.

Nearly everyone was female and it did give me the idea of writing under a womens name just as women writers used male names in victorian times.

The other option I was going to do was to try and get published with no name, so no one would know what sex I was, what country I came from, the colour of my skin, or anything else about me, they would just buy the book because it was a good story with no prejudgements. The book was to be written by the unknown author.

Who knows I may even have done it!

Who Knows what my real name is!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Back to the future

Welcome to 2013. Now we have to head back to 2012 and pick up on the story, in fact we are now into April 2012, a very important month for me, but I didn't know it at the time. I had a meeting with  an agent organised through a local writers organisation, and I had also booked on to a second group sesson they had organised with people who worked in the publishing world.

I was so excited, I felt like a child in the first week of December who knew Christmas was only a couple of weeks away, but just couldn't wait for the big event. Everyday seemed to drag as if time had slowed down to half its normal pace.

Always hanging around; that's all you seem do. I was still completing two days of voluntary work, and I also was helping my friend Dangerous John on his new quest. He was now off work due to illness and our regular Friday afternoon meetings in the pub had stired a desire in him to write his own book. So now the roles were reversed as I would go through a different chapter of his every week (over a pint or two) and try to pick up on the week points then advise on how to improve them.

In the end the day came along for my first meeting with professionals, real editors, people who knew what was needed for an author to make it.

The day went well. There was a group of us sitting in a room and all we basicly did was to discuss, to ask, to talk and that was it, but I did something different from the rest. During the lunch break I approached one of the hosts and asked a simple question. If I sent him my manuscript how much would it cost me for him to read it and tell me what needs changing?

I thought it would costs hundreads but he simply said £50, so the deal was done. He gave me a contact address and asked me to send hin a hard copy only, and he would be in contact.

I thought all the other people in the group would have done the same! We were all in the same boat, all unpublished writers, all trying to get our foot on the first rung in publishing, all making the same mistakes, and needing all the advice we could get.

But no, as we all trudged out of the office I was the only one to have taken this chance!