While I Slept – My Novel and Superstition

while i slept novel otherworld fantasy

1383461209nfki7 by archbob on morguefile

I found a book in a local charity shop over the weekend. It was quite a treasure for a writer: “A Pocket Guide to Superstitions” by Steve Roud. It made me think about how I could develop the social culture of the Otherworld in my novel’s final edit.

 

I had been thinking about how to develop and resolve a few issues with the Otherworld because the creatures there can live a very long time and yet have lost all knowledge of where the entrances to our human world are. Perhaps it has been so long they have forgotten the exact location and, as a colleague at work suggested, these portals have become more of a myth, lost to time? After all, most the creatures in this book are not the scholarly, writing type. Most of them tend to die early in power plays, too.

 

Roud’s book, since I started reading it yesterday, has given me a few ideas. He describes superstition being a result of believing luck to be a very real influence on one’s life – both bad and good. I was thinking the creatures in my Otherworld of While I Slept could have superstitions, much more like the old ways of our culture in the UK – refusing to walk under ladders and salting the windows, leaving food out for the fairies…

 
 

Here’s a peek into the Otherworld of While I Slept currently…

 
 

All manner of Fae creatures, from Piskies and Giants to Succubi and cat spirits, live in a world connected to our own (thus, the Otherworld). This world has towns villages and cities just like our own. One of their major trading posts connects to the Cotswolds, UK. The creatures live within a walled city which is full of large, bedouin style tents.

 

They have many strange and magical crafts. They can create fabric which has moving, life-like designs. Fabric which spits like fire when you get close but isn’t hot to touch or fabric which sparkles like a jewel but is soft. They also have a black market after dark where they sell, buy and trade the humans that were left in their world when the rifts to our world closed long ago…

 

These creatures do not have the same morals we do. They have no problems coupling up cross gender or cross species. Their whole culture revolves around power and dominance. Whoever is most violent or scary, generally wins the riches. It is somewhat similar to the courts of Shakespeare, only much more medieval and violence is much closer to the surface, as is sexuality.

 

Half breeds are looked down upon but not by everyone. Only those who feel the need to feel superior and elite. After all, if those half breeds are as strong as their counterparts, they deserve just as much respect. In a weird way the Otherworld is both more and less equal than our own.

 

It is an incredibly fun world to write about. Flinging out the mainstays of our morals and culture has been a blast and I think, after this content edit has been handed over, I’m going to enjoy threading in even more new cultural values and superstitions.

 

It stands to reason, after all, that creatures who live in a world where magical things are real, would have more superstitions and mystical cures (some of which I’m sure would work!) than the rest of us, out here in the bland human world where science is king.

Editing out the Chaff – While I Slept

14108984543z07r by hotblack on morguefile

 

A few days ago I had that magical moment I was looking for.

I found an editor for my fantasy novel While I Slept that’s good at what I’m bad at spotting: plot holes, character inconsistencies, unrealistic reactions…

 

That’s what I always view as a good editor-writer relationship – something complementary rather than complimentary, needlessly critical or hacking.

 

Every writer knows what they want for their manuscript and their style of writing. I didn’t want an editor that would slash away my voice and implant their own style, or someone who would make “improvements” that I viewed as deteriorations. A writer has to be careful whose advice to take with their writing. It is true what is said: not all suggestions are going to improve what you already have.

 

For now, I’m grinning like an idiot and really looking forward to finding out what my editor has got to say about the book as it stands. As someone on the other side of the planet (the USA), she has no reason to say my book is good if it isn’t and has no reason to be scared away from saying something critical.

 

In effect, she will be my first reader who is a complete stranger to myself and that’s exciting. I haven’t experimented in showing my writing to strangers since my early, early attempts at writing on www.fictionpress.com (I was on the site before it split into fan fiction and fiction).

 

I am also getting a brilliant editor at a fraction of the cost a lot of established websites will charge and this way I can ensure I am not getting a package deal but an individual deal, catering to my specific needs. I’m sure there are benefits to the larger companies and they will have a lot of experience but for a book of my length (around 97K words), I’d be looking at £500-£700 which, to me, feels like robbery.

 

I’m happy with my editor and the price we settled for, a fraction of the cost of larger companies but still a decent remuneration for the task at hand. I loved her sample edit and the suggestions she made were very insightful so I only see good things ahead for the edit, and the future of my novel.

 

My next blog post will be focusing a little more on my novel, letting you know a little more about what it’s all about as it has been a long time since I last did a sneak preview. Until then!

 

Holly Ice

1404341641ezt58 by ttronslien on morguefile

The Cliff of “Oh god, I’m not good enough”

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picture by deegolden on morguefile

 

I’d not realised until last night how close I’d been to stepping off the writerly cliff of “but I can’t”.

I have a confession to make: the novel that I finished, While I Slept, the one that I am trying to get an editor to bid on currently, has had a literary outing of sorts. I submitted it to two different agents back in June. Neither of them were mean. One I’d even met beforehand. She quite politely declined the book but it just puts a downer on the whole thing. It makes you think: but if they don’t like it, maybe no one will?

 

I was very quiet about these submissions because I didn’t want people checking back every few weeks and offering me dreaded pity. I wanted to deal with any rejection on my own and without others keeping tabs on response times and helping me get revved up about something which might not work out. Perhaps that was a bad idea, I don’t know.

 

Then last night I read this article. It made me remember what I’ve known all along; writers don’t get lucky overnight. We have to slog and send out dozens if not hundreds of submissions until we find an agent or publisher that wants to take our project on as their own. Professional and even best-selling authors have faced the same problem and had just as many pitfalls as me, if not more. I knew that, but almost forgot it when faced with rejection.

 

I suppose it’s a normal reaction but I realised I need to buck up. I’m going to get this novel edited and get my book sent out to more than two agents. I’ve got a list of eight at the moment that have said they like my genre and I have a similar number of publishers that don’t need an agent to be submitted to.

 

I’m still looking into self-pub options as well – especially into cover artists I really like the look of – but that’s a little ways off for action-ability yet, especially as I’m going to pay out for some objective editing from a stranger who will truly bring fresh, unbiased eyes on my work.

 

 

Here’s hoping it all works out!

Feel free to share your own stories with me on here or on twitter.

 

Holly Ice

Finding an Editor Worth Having

sw_Editing_N10_20130809_230442 Jppi on morguefile

by jppi from morguefile

I made another big step for me this week. I put the first 10 pages of my novel on a freelancing site – Elance – and asked for bids to edit the work. I’m after quality and reasonable pricing for content suggestions – character flaws, pacing, flow, plot holes etc and an accompanying list of commonly made mistakes would be nice.

It’s hard to find an editor that completely suits a writer and understands what is style and what needs fixing. It is also hard to find someone who doesn’t overprice editing. Writers don’t have that much money and an edit is a needed expense but not one that’s worth 2000$!! Even if you do have lots of experience, that’s internet robbery.

So far, it’s looking good. There have been a couple of good bids and at least one editor I have a really good feeling about. I just hope they’ll be – for me – that magical editor that works well with the author and is the trusted confidante they keep coming back to. Maybe that’s a dream but here’s hoping!

Let me know your editor horror stories and amazing matches. Give me an idea what to look out for – to avoid or go after. I have a few of my own ideas…

One of the editors bidding on my project ADDED IN adverbs and changed my style so the flow did not work anywhere near as well. Not someone I want working on my book.

A number of the bidders failed to read what I wanted and suggested a proofread or grammar and typo check when that is not the sole focus of what I’m looking for. Others endlessly quoted their “recommendations” and didn’t personalise their bid to me.

One prospective editor even suggested they have been a “prolific writer since they could hold a pen” and yet they have no job history on the site and no shown publishing credits.

If the public or your prospective audience (in this case, me) has never heard of you, it’s probably better not to call yourself prolific.

This leaves me with about four promising editors, including the one I have a good feeling about. My plan is to wait a little longer, see if anyone else bids, and make sure I have a firm idea of who to go with. A novel is a writer’s baby, after all.

The Self Publishing Question

 

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Picture by Dodgerton Skillhause (http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/870011)

I keep coming back to this question: is self publishing a better route to take?

Shopping for an agent is tiring, brings up tonnes of tabs on your screen and in the end you only end up finding a small handful that really might like what you do and you like what they do (at least, that’s what I’ve found of the fantasy genre).  You send your samples off, you wait, you hear back, usually not positively either. And what for?

Self-publishing gives the author a higher percentage of each sale but it does require a marketing mind. I don’t have a marketing mind but could I learn those tricks? I’ve read a lot on the topic of self publishing and it was a huge topic at the LBF (London Book Fair) 2013 but how many seminars does it take to learn how to do well? Can you learn how to do well? Probably not. A lot of the trade is luck and timing.

It is an agonising choice to make; to go it alone or to stick to traditional marketing teams for low profit?

I took the big step today (for me it seemed big) of contacting a cover artist whose work I adore for a rough cover quote, as well as an associate of hers who does photo shoots. This will give me some more information on the potential cost of sourcing a professional cover for a self published book that I would be happy with and give me an idea of how practical this approach might be for me and my needs.

In the mean time, I think I will send my sample off to the remaining agents on my list and leave it to fate; if the agents I chose don’t choose me back, I think I might just go it alone and risk my name on that scary big market out there.

Wish me luck!

(Any advice is also welcome).

 

Holly Ice

 

Horny Ancestor Ghosts and Weird Romances of the Living – Ghost Lover – Liza O’Connor

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Here’s a book review for you all. It’s been a while since the last one. I obtained a free copy in exchange for an honest review. It’s an exciting book, if not often wholly realistic. I would recommend it for some fun holiday reading or for the young adult audience (if you’re happy for the detailed sex scenes to be read!)

Ghost Lover by Liza O’Connor
Publisher: Possibly self-published, though the publisher used to be Lyrical Press.
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: 229 pages
Heat Level: Pretty spicy – some play by play love scenes thrown in – even one where a ghost sleeps with a living human!
Rating: 3 stars/5

Synopsis according to Amazon:

Two sexy English brothers.

One irresistible ghost.

Who would you choose as your lover?

 

Completely broke and with a criminal record to boot, Senna Smith is one day from eviction from her apartment when Brendon, her promiscuous roommate from London, suggests she go to England, marry him, and manage his fortune. With few other options, she agrees to an open marriage. But she’ll never, ever, have sex with him, knowing if she falls in love with him, he’ll break her heart.

 

As trustee of Brendon’s family fortune, there is no way Brendon’s older brother, Garrison Durran, is going to let him marry a self-professed American gold-digger. As Senna tries to embrace castle life and English society for Brendon’s sake, Gar discovers Senna is the perfect woman for him–beautiful and intelligent, kind and caring. Now, if she wasn’t already engaged to his brother…

 

The ancestral ghost of Durran Castle has to intervene if the Durran brothers have any chance of an heir. He can’t leave them to fix matters on their own. They are useless buggers when it comes to love. As counselor to Gar, matchmaker for Brendon, and lover to Senna, a ghost’s work is never done.

Ghost Lover is not a novel for those who value realism, and that does not mean there’s a lack of realism because there are ghosts in the story; it is the characters and situations in this book which defy reality rather than the paranormal characters which, if anything, are more magical realist interlopers.

Brendon and Gar are brothers; rich, upper class men based in the United Kingdom, and yet they act like over the top, ridiculously selfish, pre-pubescent boys who’ve never been taught manners. There is some reasoning for this, as they’ve had a terrible upbringing, but it was shock to find a romance novel with such immature and rude male protagonists.

The setting is also exaggerated and surreal as these brothers live in a huge house in the country, basically a mansion. Few of these still survive today and even fewer with rich, attractive brothers attached rather than an architecture-loving charity or grey-haired old men.

The plot follows the same route as the setting: Senna is willingly whisked away to the UK when she passively lets Brendon steal her money and not pay her back, with the condition if she marries him, she can have some of his trust fund. Many questions hit me at this point. Why would she trust him? Has he proved this trust fund exists? No. Why would she go with him then? The questions remain. Even later in the book, etiquette becomes a major concern and a large ball is hosted where Senna fails to make a great impression. For a modern day, contemporary romance, this does not reflect even the upper class within the UK that I live in. Balls are a very rare, special occurrence rather than everyday and the upper class are much more in line with the rest of the population than in previous decades.

Having said this, I was enamoured with Mr Finch, the ghost cat, and Lassier, the promiscuous orgasm-inducing ghost, ancestor to our boys Brendon and Gar. Lassier is the brains and the schemer behind the love interests the brothers eventually find and works behind the scenes to ensure a future generation for his family line, even if it means literally taking over his descendents’ bodies to do so. Mr Finch is a much warmer, cuddlier, and seemingly harmless purring cat who sometimes gets ticked off and throws papers to the floor but otherwise doesn’t really impact on the plot.

What surprises me with Ghost Lover, is that, despite all the inconsistencies in “norms” for the contemporary UK, despite the over the top, lacking in believability character traits and despite the slightly too perfect ending, I enjoyed reading it. It isn’t realistic and doesn’t appear to pretend to be. It’s a bit of pure fun where logic can remain suspended just long enough for the weird boy to get the equally strange girl.

 

You can buy this book if you fancy it on Amazon UK or Amazon USA 

and here is her personal website: Liza O’Connor’s website and extra character info on Ghost Lover.

 

Until next time!

Holly Ice

That “Top Secret” Book

 

A select few of you may have heard I have a story launching over Eastercon (Glasgow, at 6pm on 18th April 2014) with Newcon Press. I haven’t talked about it too much because the anthology was to be kept under wraps until show time.

That time is now here ;).

Ian Whates, our lovely editor, intends to sell two anthologies instead of one. This is because two streams of stories have arrived as a result of the original “Femme Fatale” theme.

My story “Trysting Antlers” is within “La Femme” along with eleven other magnificent writers but there is a second, dark anthology named “Noir” with a further thirteen stories. Both look amazing and I can’t wait to get to grips with the other authors’ stories myself.

I believe later Ian will announce a deal where you can get both anthologies in a limited edition package but I’ll leave the details for him to reveal first.

Later, I’ll try to entice you with sexy and dangerous story summaries but for now enjoy the covers.
(I’m the third name down on the La Femme back cover – eeeee!!)

 

Holly Ice

 

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