Archive for the ‘ Inspiration – The Weird and the Unknown ’ Category

Was King Arthur Real? King or Giant? The Facts as I See Them

Picture of Arthur looking for the holy grail

‘Arthur’, courtesy of Hartwig HKD under the Creative Commons 2.0 no deriv license available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The Who, What, Where and Why of King Arthur is a convoluted tale but I will attempt to break it down to the basics.

The Who

“King Arthur” is billed as the King of ancient Albion* and Arthur, supposedly, fought the Anglo-Saxon invaders. There are legends of him as a man, leader and fantastical creature which have filtered down to us today. These follow two strands: the man, and the giant.

For those interested in Etymology, the true meaning of ‘Arthur’ is unknown but there have been some estimations:

The Celtic ‘artos’ means ‘bear’, ‘viros’ is ‘man’ and ‘rigos’, ‘king’. There is also an uncommon Roman surname ‘Artorius’ in the running. In addition, the old Welsh ‘gwr’ means ‘hero’, which could be combined with the Celtic ‘Artos’.

Whatever the origins, Arthur is now a reasonably common name. If even some of the predicted origins are correct, it also has an amazing meaning! ‘Bear hero’, ‘bear king’…or he could be a wayward descendent of the Romans (not quite so interesting).

In the Cotswolds, I grew up with tales that Arthur was buried within a hill in the countryside, ready to rise to England’s defence, should we face attack again. The question is, where would that attack be coming from? What species would be coming at Britain, swords out?

The meaning of Arthur which carries most weight with me, lies in the concept of Arthur as a hero, battling ferocious beasts.

Now, why would I say that?

*(the name for England and Scotland before the Romans changed it to Britannia and eventually it became Britain / The United Kingdom).

The What

geometric image of arthur with foreign calligraphy writing

‘Parsifal’, courtesy of Hartwig HKD and used under the CC 2.0 no deriv license available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Arthur: The King?

Is King Arthur really a King? Or, is Arthur a fixture in British folklore? Historians have argued it and said there is no definitive proof he was a King, especially as he was not listed in any known Kings lists of the time and had no direct contemporary mention under his name. In fact, the monk Gildas in The Ruin and Conquest of Britain gave a different person’s name as Briton’s leader: Ambrosius Aurelianus.

This man shares many similarities with the commonly told tale of Arthur, fighting in and winning a big battle against the Anglo-Saxons during the 5th Century. However, it is a quantum leap from Arthur to Ambrosius, even if spelling conventions back then were a little ropey.

There is no mention of Arthur’s court, round table, Merlin or Guinevere in some of the oldest tales. Instead, we have something quite different.

Snippets allude to a soldier with no parallel. For example, in ‘Y Goddin’, Arthur is referred to indirectly, with warriors being described as good but ‘no Arthur’.

It is generally accepted that Geoffrey of Monmouth (in the 12th Century), concocted the tale of King Arthur because the Celts needed a hero (and he was probably bored) but, this is not an end to the folklore and the magic.

unicorn running from stonehenge

‘open your mind, courtesy of danijela dannie under the CC 2.0 generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Arthur: The Giant?

On looking into historical references to Arthur, a representation is found that does not portray him as King. Instead, he is a folkloric, heroic leader. In these descriptions, he’s a figure far more on the edge of society than a regal representative.

He is described as ‘the leader of a band of heroes who live outside society, whose main world is one of magical animals, giants, and other wonderful happenings, located in the wild parts of the landscape’.

(By very definition, I do not think a King – at least, a good one with actual followers – could live outside society).

Or, even more fantastically, as:

‘above all else…a defender of his country against every kind of danger, both internal and external: a slayer of giants and witches, a hunter of monstrous animals — giant boars, a savage cat monster, a winged serpent (or dragon)’

Who wouldn’t want to know this guy? He’d sure as anything be less likely to snub you than a King would.

To me, this is far more interesting than the dry tale of yet another King. Fantasy and legend has had its share of Kings, Queens, bastards of a prince once removed, and so on. History is far more interesting when it has a unique twist.

A suggestion of a world still populated with fantastical, magical animals and creatures, gives me the space to imagine a Britain of the Dark Ages where Science was not yet real and magic and superstition still had their foundations in society. One could even imagine, perhaps, that these things were real, an age ago.

Why

Yes, I’m aware this is out of ‘strict’ order, but it’s more interesting this way, promise.

So, Arthur is on the scene with otherworldly creatures, battling in the defence of Briton. Why?

Well, folklore suggests Arthur and his relatives were themselves giants, or could at least alter their height. So, they’d fit right in! Who better to fight a supernatural hoard than a friendly giant? (Cue B.F.G. anyone? Ah – the memories.)

Even the equivalent of Guinevere in the older tales, Gwenhwyfar, has magical leanings. There was a popular folk tune in Wales:

Gwenhwyfar ferch Ogrfan Gawr

Drwg yn fechan, gwaeth yn fawr.

“Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Ogrfan Gawr,

Bad when little, worse when great.”

(Now, this one reminds me of the hulk!)

Where

broken cliff face with open hole to sea

‘Not so square view to sea’, courtesy of francois schnell under the CC 2.0 generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Arthur’s resting place is a tricky subject. He was here, then there, then somewhere else again. Some claims were likely for monetary gain, others had false information and some, admittedly, have a certain Romance. The TLDR version is that no one can agree. So, until he pops up out the ground, he’ll keep us guessing!

Summing Up

I love history, especially when there is an aspect of the unknown and the paranormal, two of my very favourite subjects. I love to think we as a race don’t know everything and that there is a possibility the magical still exists, somewhere we’ve not found/seen it yet. I, for one, refuse to kill a fairy. It is, after all, impossible to disprove a negative and there is still so much to be discovered.

Research

I did a lot of research on this topic a while back, when laying the foundations for my fantasy-crime novel While I Slept, which has since turned into ‘The Riftkeeper Series’, based around what would happen if Arthur (a fantasy soldier rather than a King) awoke in the modern day and all the supernatural creatures of his time re-entered our lives simultaneously. In short: few good things.

Sources, Sites and Further Reading

Early Mentions in History

http://www.britannia.com/history/docs/stanzas.html

The Man-giant and Gwenhwyfar

http://www.celtnet.org.uk/gods_g/gwenhwyfar.html

http://www.arthuriana.co.uk/n&q/figures.htm

http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_four_arthur.html

http://www.history.co.uk/shows/king-arthurs-round-table-revealed/articles/the-real-king-Arthur

http://www.caerleon.net/history/arthur/page2.htm

http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/was-king-arthur-a-real-person

http://www.britainexpress.com/History/King_Arthur.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/anglo_saxons/arthur_01.shtml

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/history/top-10-clues-to-the-real-king-arthur-2024729.html

Etymology of the name

http://www.behindthename.com/name/Arthur

http://mons-graupius.co.uk/index.php/linguistic/96-etymology-of-the-name-Arthur

http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Arthur

Writing Prompts: Using the News

Ever thought the news is all doom and gloom? Good. For me, at least, doom and gloom is easier to write about than rainbows and, since my last short story was partly inspired by a news article, I thought I’d collect some good ones here for people to peruse and get some ideas from. This is the first that caught my attention:

London’s Weird Fog

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This looks like something out of a horror movie and the commotion leaves lots of room for a murder to take place, shady political deals or an abandoned baby to be dropped off on a doorstep. Have a read and see what you come up with or scroll down for more ideas.

Soldier controls bionic arm with his brain

(That one is just pretty cool).

Cold tolerant cockroaches 

Because every alien invasion is brought to mind. Also, it reminds me I can change the living quarters of any animal and see how that would effect life and whether a story comes out of it. Black cats are said to be in Britain’s countryside, wolves once lived in Britain and wild boars. Even if I don’t supplant the geography of these creatures, I could turn back time to see more of them/alternate history it.

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The other thing you can do is search for news in any country which takes your fancy. I’m going to go for Portugal here because I find their culture interesting and they seem fairly liberal with their relaxed drug laws.

I found they have 280 new farmers setting up every month

This is interesting, as if the world has gone back a few generations or become more green.  Either way, it brings a different setting in Portugal in terms of villages, countryside and towns that could have characters injected into them. Those old countryside bickerings and family rows could be hosted here.

If you’ve been inspired by any news stories lately, let me know about them and how they helped. (Of course, sometimes news stories are more research after the idea than inspiration but it’s all useful).

Until next time!

Holly Ice

Creative Juice

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Growing up, I read a lot but I also drew a lot from around year 4 (8 years old). I studied, copied, coloured, erased. Art was more my life than words and now that has reversed.

I made the big decision during A Level (16-18 years old) that I was better at writing than I ever was at art. Writing began to take over from when I was 13 and continued. Sure, I drew constantly during my A level years and I have sketchbooks worth of art but the image in my head never matched up to what I could draw and that frustrated me too much.

The last few days I’ve had dreams about artwork and dreams about poetry and writing. Maybe this means I can do both or maybe it just means I need to do something creative. Either way, it’s difficult. Without practicing art, my hand is not as skilled as it was before. The lines are sketchier, less well shaped or defined.

The same thing can happen with writing if I take a break, short or long. I’ve been told that there’s only so much creative juice to be had and this is true. Any artist or writer can tell you that after that creative feeling has gone, if you press on and try to draw or write something else, it will usually not be of the same level as the first piece.

I never thought 3 and a half years would have so much impact upon my drawing but I’ve seen friends who’ve continued along that path surpass my talent. Now, I don’t often get ideas in a format which translates well to art and I wonder where I got all these old ideas from.

I’m wondering if it’d be best to try to keep my art up, alongside my writing. After all, the more ways ideas can come to me and form in my head, the better, surely? All artists need to keep an open mind to inspiration, at least.

Does anyone else have any experience of this? I’d love to hear your words of wisdom or despair.

Holly Ice

Simple Photographs – Inspiration & Character

When you see a photograph online on tumblr or deviantart or flickr etc what is your reaction to it? You may scroll up, view it again, but then what? I’ve found if I can’t look away from it more than once, the best thing to do is save it to my computer. Why? Because it interests me. Something in it has a spark I like looking at, that intrigues me, and that’s what I need in my writing, too.

It’s not just portraits that have this reaction for me but landscapes, too. I’ve done a similar post to this before but I’m going to really focus on character here and an exercise for getting stories off the ground from nowhere.

Here’s 3 portraits from my collection:

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3_kerryport1

3_hannah-port1

My character exercise would be to look closely at each of these portraits. What drew me to them? Why did it? What personality traits are here? Where can I imagine them being and not being? Who might be their love interest, their age, they occupation?

Ex: Portrait one I see a young girl – twenties – who is acting shy but smiling, happy, probably a bubbly type who occasionally backs into herself. She has tattoos so perhaps has a good sense of self or an adventurous side. I could see her in a coffee shop, a bar, a skate park. Her smile holds sweetness, like she may be in love. What does this give me? Either a character or a love story.

Portrait two I see an older women – late twenties, early thirties – clothing style more vintage, perhaps eastern. Appears cultured but perhaps snobby. Is posed to paint but not really into it, or passionate with her work. Perfectly groomed, everything placed just so. Either married or chronically single. Perhaps an older time or a sophisticated elite. Seems european – Berlin, Paris, Moscow etc.

Portrait three is in a different century. Twenties or thirties. There is longing here and perhaps fear. A need to be connected with, to get help. A loneliness or a plight is implied. She is like a wilted flower – pale, innocent and yet with make up she seems to have seen some of the world and be worse for it. There is a sad story here.

These may not give me a whole story but, as you can see, they can give me a place to start or a character to begin brainstorming around. Sometimes I might never use any of these portraits for a story but they are there on my computer just in case their character comes back to me and works in a story or in case they speak to me with a story that must be written.

Hope this helps!

Holly Ice

When Being Stuck is a Relief (writer’s block)

It has been too long since I last did a writing exercise so here we are…

Non themed anthology submissions or any submission without a theme gives me a blank.

I know for some people this is liberating but for me it is the opposite. Where do I begin? There is no spark to get me going on something new.
If I’m aiming to submit an old piece, this is fine. Not so fine if I’m starting from scratch.

So, what if nothing comes to mind, no ideas, no inspiration, nada?

I go back to secondary and primary school ideas.

Grab access to a random book title generator such as this or a better example you may have found.
Then look at the results. I got:

  1. Swollen Souls
  2. The Vacant Dream
  3. Dreaming of Someone
  4. The Moons’s Wizards
  5. The Boy of the Husband
  6. Boy in the Silk

Okay, so no.5 is useless as it makes no grammatical sense but the rest are okay.

I would then brainstorm the rest of these titles and see if I came up with a topic, story or character which interests me. Anything I get out of these titles can be renamed under a new title, something more fitting of the result.

No.1 For instance could be a demon story or a story about what happens to overweight men and women beyond the grave.

No.2 Could be about an empty house or a character who has lost their life’s purpose, their hobby losing to their hated career. It could even be about someone with no purpose or a drug addict who has no care for the future.

No.3 The obvious choice is a romance but this could also be a weird symbiotic connection between twins or mother and child or pet and human etc.

No.4 Sounds like a stereotypical fantasy story but then it could just be the title of a kid’s favourite bedtime story.

and No.6 could be an abandoned child, left in silk – a mystery of sorts as this indicates a wealthy background. Or it could be a young market trader in a foreign country.

 

All possibilities, themes and genres are open with these titles. Let the random words speak to you and tease you out of that writer’s block. I know  I’m going to if I come face to face with it again. It’s better than beating myself up over not writing until my brain refuses to work at anything any more.

Hope this helps some of you! I’ll be thinking of more writing prompts and exercises over the next few weeks.

Until then!

Holly Ice

Why I Continue to Believe the Unbelievable and a Link to a Give Away

fantasy, latyrx, deviantart,

This piece was created by Latyrx and here is a link to his lovely gallery on deviantart: http://latyrx.deviantart.com/gallery/

 

 

Fantasy is, in essence, the enchantment of something unreal becoming real in fiction. Thing is, even in real life, I keep an open mind to the “impossible”.

I like to think many things thought of as impossible can instead be unknown or undiscovered.

There is a basis for this. New species are found or reorganised every couple or years and weird things happen all the time.

Now, for instance, I am glaring at my computer case because both my HDDs have SATA and power cables connected but only one shows up under my computer and my DVD drive is nowhere to be found – yet worked fine before windows 8 arrived.

But there are more interesting things than irritating machines to be looked at.

Strange News is a great site I found recently. It is the stuff of sci-fi. 

Here you can find “Particle Personality Disorder”, “Satanic Sacrifice” and “Atomic Clocks”. These are real life stories collected from the strange corners of the world.

I still have a lot more to delve into on this site but it satisfies a need in me to find something unreal which could become real or detected, in some years. After all, faeries and new dimensions could well be real, just out of our current reach.

I’d rather believe that than think what is now is all there is. Wouldn’t you?

 

Added Bonus:

A review site I follow (Long and Short Reviews) is having a give away tomorrow. 
Their anniversary is coming up so there is many goodies to be won and some great reviews to read. Check it out!

LASR, Long and Short Reviews, Give away

The picture links to where the give away will be happening tomorrow morning, American time. 

 

Thanks for reading and I hope I’ve found some sites you might find as interesting as I do. Keep believing in the impossible!

 

Holly Ice

 

A Story About a Shoe

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This is pretty much what it looks like. On holiday in Latvia, on two occasions, I saw a shoe bereft of its partner. In both cases, these shoes were heels and left standing as if someone walked right out of them. Any girl should know this is odd: even really drunk, there is a rather large discrepancy between a heeled foot and an unheeled foot.

My father and I actually stared at this shoe for a good ten minutes, wondering what could have happened to the owner and one of these musings got me an idea for a story to submit to the hgwells festival competition for 2013. I started the story yesterday and intend to finish up the last little bits today.

Goes to show: inspiration is anywhere and within the most unlikely of objects.

If you have a weird event that inspired a story, let me know! Let’s see how weird it gets.

Hope all are well.

Holly Ice

The Perfect Writing Retreat

love books i pinterest I author den writing author's

We all need a little down time now and again. Since I’m between finishing books, this seemed like a good time for a fun post. I’m sure many writers, including myself, have dreamed about the perfect place to write. I’m working on getting it right.

So far I have two ideas. Either a castle home with a secret doorway behind a bookcase – this then leads to a keypad which opens another door with my comfy lair orrrr something like a treehouse with electricity, no leaks, carpet, furniture, internet, and the sound of rain on the roof in bad weather. Both are appropriate for me :).

Of course, being a student in the rather ugly city of Stoke, I have neither of these. I’ve made do with a collection of what-could-bes. Here’s a couple of my favourites:

author's den writing retreattreehouse tree house writing den author's retreatmagical writing retreat writer's author's den tree house treehouse tree-house wendy beautiful

I hope these give you some ideas for where you would most love to write (and doesn’t cause you to procrastinate too much). Of course, writing can happen almost anywhere (at least it can for those of us who don’t mind too much noise/run around with headphones and a music player).

As always, I’m on twitter: Holly Ice
And more of the pictures I like can be found here

Have a great day and feel free to share your ideas below!

Charity Shop Treasures

This Tuesday just gone me and a few of my house mates travelled into town for ‘CharityShopShopping!’ as I love to enthuse.

Of course, I found some clothes: 2 dresses, and 3 tops, but the major find was the books.

Here’s a little pic:

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(As when I first pick them  up off the shelves, I find it hard to stop hoarding them to my chest. I just can’t let go – partly ’cause it usually means they all fall to the floor with a thunk. Currently they’re in a haphazard pile on my bed, awaiting a read). Maybe someone with a good editing programme can turn this into an inspirational wallpaper of some sorts/illustrate over the top.

I think I found a good mix of crime and fantasy, even a great book on dream symbolism. Most people may think that a little odd, but it’s going to be really useful when I try to create worlds and new cultures. They have to have symbolism come from somewhere! The avenues open to us in books on the occult and fantasy are almost limitless. Then there’s real life to boot – superstitions, looks, fashion, taboos, food…

Here’s a list of the books and their authors. I think I picked most up for around £1.

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  1. ‘The Lovely Bones’ – Alice Sebold (Have heard it’s a good book and intend to do my own research). 
  2. ‘The Mermaids Singing’ – Val McDermid (A serial killer crime book. The blurb caught me: ‘You always remember the first time. Isn’t that what they say about sex? How much more true it is of murder…’)
  3. ‘The Calling’ – Inger Ash Wolfe (First found the author’s name interesting and the grimy cover pretty cool. Then I was interested by a handicapped detective and a body with a ‘mouth moulded into a strangely meaningful shape’).
  4. ‘Three Great Novels – The lost years – Let it Bleed, Black & Blue, The Hanging Garden’ – Ian Rankin. (Three novels in one. How could I resist? Also I’ve read Rankin’s books in a holiday destination’s bookcase and rather enjoyed them so needed more).
  5. ‘Blue Moon’ – Alyson Noel. (Looked familiar. Turns out I’ve probably read this particular novel in the series in ebook format but I don’t remember the plot that well so no worries. Onward reading!)
  6. ‘Ink Exchange’ – Melissa Marr. (Not going to lie – this really was a case of a stunning cover. Then  I looked on the back and eyes and wings pulled me forward. It sounds like a dark tale full of mystery. Can’t wait to get to it!)
  7. ‘The Complete book of Dreams’ – Edwin Raphael. (A great reference book to add to my home library as I build my writer’s den. It looks good from what I’ve looked up so far although a skunk was woefully absent, as was sex. Interesting.)
  8. ‘Advent’ – James Treadwell. (Okay so I bought this book online but it WAS in the charity shop as well when I went out. This is the one I’m reading at the moment. Again, it has a great cover but, more than that, is represented by the Janklow and Nesbit agency and I met one of their agents at the London Book Fair. Also, it just sounded like my kind of read. Magic is on the loose, people see things that aren’t there and cannot conform to the modern day).

Needless to say, my backpack was rather heavy after buying all this! Very much worth it though.
Once I’ve given these a good read I’ll be sure to report back on their contents.

If you know of any great books then please message me, especially if these are great writing references. I need more of those!

Also, if you like fantasy or crime, I’m currently writing a novel which is a blend of both. I’m toying with the title ‘While I Slept’.
My next post will have snippets of the text and some character info most likely but if you want to keep on top of my progress then I’m recording it on twitter almost daily: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

Hope you are all well and reading/writing to your heart’s content.

The Suits and the Birds – London Book Fair 2013

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So, this is London. I was actually pleasantly surprised. Having never been to London before, it’s amazing how side streets can actually be quiet. In my room at the hostel I could even hear birds singing! Astounding.

Anyway, on to business. The London Book Fair 2013 was my first book fair. I was shocked to see so many suits! For a creative industry, it has a huge number of corporate bodies, busy grey and black bees on their way to one deal or another. It was a maze of exhibits with unfriendly faces and money people. There wasn’t too much colour, creativity or jeans until I reached the author lounge – my haven.

As other writers have tried to suggest, some authors obviously had no idea this is an “industry to industry” event. However, the other view I’ve picked up on in the media, that all/most writers attending are self published, is incorrect.

Sure, originally this event was purely business to business but in these digital times things are changing. The Author Lounge at the fair was packed for most seminars and workshops and many authors were getting a flavour for what is out there. I met a lot of people going into a new career and viewing the ley of the land as well as a few young novelists like myself looking for information and guidance.

I have to say, I think in the future this area shall have to be expanded. There was rarely enough room for everyone who wanted to watch the seminars! This must prove that authors, whether the business likes it or not, are becoming a bigger factor at the fair. Perhaps we need an entirely different area and perhaps not but a combination of self published authors and the curious is increasing attendance at the event.

I, for one, avoided the plethora of stands in Earls Court Hall 1, recognising that the people here didn’t really care about my concerns or questions as an author. Instead I attended a number of seminars over the three days and used my time to meet new people which was my original aim – publishers aren’t going to want to talk to lil ol’ me directly. They have agents for that.

Social Media – Tweet Tweet

I have learnt through the seminars that social media presence is of great significance to the business. It is free marketing and generates sales. Authors now need a brand, common themes across all their online presences, and they need to build an audience. The best way to do this, constantly repeated, was consistency. However, other tips included talking around the topic. Therefore, if you write books, then what would readers of your books like to know about? Fairytales? Mythology? Dreams? Love? Philosophy? Funny quotes? Cats?

That’s basically a ‘know your audience’ but also a caveat against the many who use social media to say: buymybook buymybook buymybook – that is, until we reach out to that beautiful ‘unfollow’ button and are released from the chant.

It also seems that reviews gain you an audience and a number of people through the industry ready to give you a pat on the back in return once you bring out your own books or poetry etc. Make the most of the contacts you’ve got! RT people to give them exposure, favourite tweets you like and share your friends’ successes.

This leads on to another key point that was made: interact! People don’t want a constant broadcast of what you’re up to and your thoughts, as interesting as you might be. This doesn’t promote you and your ideas to new audiences. Find people by the discover button in twitter that may be talking about things you like. Share interests with people, talk to them, and get discussions moving. This is a conversation, not a soapbox.

The danger in social media however, as the authors during the Authors on Social Media talk made clear, is complete immersion. Particularly for authors of longer works, we need to save some of our time for writing! We can’t market and market alone however we cannot write and write alone. Suggestions included limiting yourself to hour long windows 1-3 times a day or occasional peeks at the stream when a free minute appears.

Brand

I also attended a lecture on constructing author brand. Like it or not, we are a ‘tin of baked beans’. We have an image and we have a product to sell. To do this, we have to present ourselves as well as possible. This is the challenge. We were shown pictures of the book covers and photographs of Rick Riordan and Jilly Cooper. We worked on three words that described them and their brand. Then we had to pick three words for ourselves – nightmare!

We moved around the room, finding partners, and shared the three words we’d picked out of the air to get feedback. I chose ‘Dark/restrictions, relationships and the uknown’. One of my partners refined dark – he said that in my eyes when I talk about the unknown there is a danger or threat, a knowing older than my years. I found this interesting – the man certainly had insight! Most my stories have a lingering threat so it was in fact accurate. I then changed my three to Danger, The Unknown and Relationships. This is closer to my brand or ‘essence’ as us more creative types would prefer, but I still need to refine it.

I just have to keep in my head that this is only marketing. This is not my life, my whole worth as a human being. I am, as a granta speaker said, writing to communicate with someone not now but once they pick up the story. I am part of a magical exchange of worth and meaning. This marketing tripe is just how I get to people, how I can promote myself to affect people in as good a way as I’m able.

Self Publishing

A tricky subject. On going to the fair, I was mainly interested in the business and networking – finding more people that write and do things I like, people of ‘like mind’. I had thought, like three years ago, that self publishing was still badly looked upon by the business. I had thought self published authors stood little chance of getting a traditional deal. However, I was proved wrong.

It seems self publishing has become yet another filtering process for publishers, just like agents are. In fact, it could be said self publishing is a filtering process for agents! Stories high up in the popularity charts or those with great sell figures are often picked up on by agents/publishers and looked at more closely than they ever would have been if submitted without a ‘track record’ of sales.

This is obviously a great opportunity for new writers getting little attention. They can bring their stories closer to the top of the pile with proven interest. However, getting a book out as a hard copy through self publishing is likely to cost a few bob. I would have liked to, had I gone the self publishing route but on learning it costs from £200 to £25,000 I think I’ll avoid it!

In fact, with all the talk of marketing, numbers, audience, sales and the press, I’ve made one decision: I need an agent. I need someone who will support me as a young author and show me the business as a friend rather than a smiling shark eyeing the meat of my juicy story with pound signs in its eyes.

How to get published and How to get an agent

I talked to three people who gave me expert advice during the fair. Funnily enough, it was one person a day!

The first was Leila Dewji from Acorn Publishing. I told her I want to get into editing as a job but also want to get my novels out there.
She suggested that work experience and internships are the best method of getting into publishing

However, novels have two routes and in either its best that i write in series (readers like series as the world continues and publishers like them because they sell and retain an audience).
Route One: Self publish the first book in the series as an Ebook and promote the hell out of it. Get sales and then approach agents and publishers.
Route Two: Go the traditional route. Find an agent and let them negotiate a deal with publishers. This is, of course, a harder and longer route to take.

This is information from one conville and walsh’ reader:

I have the greatest respect for each and every author who submits to us, and I do read every submission. The process at Conville and Walsh is that out of two hundred submissions each month, I recommend between 6 and 10 for the agents to follow up. Out of this shortlist, perhaps two authors will be asked to submit their full manuscripts to the agents.
Of the authors who are asked to forward us their full manuscripts, possibly three to four a year will get through to publication.

Obviously, the gatekeepers to the publishing world don’t take on much of what they get!

This brings me on to what I was told at the ‘how to get an agent’ seminar:

  • Do exactly what they tell you do when when you submit. The right number of words/pages/cover letter/info etc
  • Make sure your spelling, grammar and punctuation is as good as you can make it and
  • Ensure your cover letter is specific to that organisation, perhaps mentioning why you feel they are a great fit for you and your book.
  • Always be polite and to the point.

I met two agents during my time at the fair. One by happy accident and one intentionally. I met Hellie Ogden from Janklow and Nesbit after hearing her talk during The Future of Literary Agents seminar. I told her about myself, the genre I write in, and how it seems, to my age group, that the industry is unapproachable, mostly closed off to new clients, particularly in fantasy and sci-fi as most in the UK won’t touch us with a barge pole.

Hellie was incredibly generous and kind towards me, offering to read my work once I’ve started on it ( I plan to write a novel this summer). I also noticed her mentioning to others in the queue to go ahead and send their stuff.

I take this to mean the industry is not closed to everyone! (Thank god). I intend, once my work is finished, to go ahead and send it out to agents. I’ve written novels before and been too put off by the closed nature of agents to send them anywhere, worrying about whether they’re perfect enough. The message at this seminar however was very clear: A good book will always get through.

So, that’s what I intend to write and send off: as good a book as I can create.

The other agent I met was on my last day. I attended the seminar How to get an agent and received a raffle ticket on entering. I was confused. Were we getting a prize? Was it chocolate? Oh, god, let it be chocolate! The seminar was very quick, covering all the main points within 15 minutes. I struggled to keep up! My hand was cramping across the page. I can only just read the scribbles I scrawled.

Then she stopped and said they’d be calling us up in groups of four to talk to agents and pitch our ideas.

What!

At that point, I understood the significance of the raffle tickets. It was better than chocolate!
I used the time till my number was called talking to the people around me and decided I was going to pitch the idea I intend to write my novel on over the summer.

I was partnered with Thomas Stofer for the pitch and he gave me some brilliant advice. It turns out my age group assessment for my audience was bang on ( I was chuffed I got something right!). He also suggested changing one of my characters from a male to a female and to definitely add the sub plot of romance I had considered before and dithered over. This was great market advice on his part (over 60% of book buyers are female and I needed to appeal to this audience).

It was a great high on which to begin the last day and, I have to say, I am inspired!

Final Thoughts

I’m very glad I went to this “industry to industry” event. I do see it changing in future years and becoming more welcoming towards authors as we gain more power in the market place. I feel London Book Fair is a brilliant place to meet other enthusiastic and impassioned people. I’ve received some great advice and now know some of the places I’ve been going wrong as well as what I’ve done right. It’s expert input on where I am and where I’m going.

I can’t wait to get there!

If you went to the London Book Fair as well let me know – we might even get on. Add me on twitter or follow me on here and direct me to your blog/twitter as well. I’m keen to meet more of you and create my own little online community of writers and lovers of writing.

For now, it’s time to get this book in progress!

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