Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30th

Well, none of my suggested titles seems to have set off any fireworks, so it's back to the drawing board. If it were a question of drawing, it would be easier. Speaking of which, I had to extract a promise from my publishers that there would be no tacky pictures of kilted men on the front of this book.  No images of Fabio-type muscle men (Fabio the model, not the cook) dragging a high-heeled damsel off the front cover.     My idea for the cover would be more one of the landscape around the area of Dunadd, something tasteful, full of longing, which is what I hope the book is. But the title eludes me. It's waiting out there in the misty bracken, but out of sight, like a Haggis.
My editor at S&S is working on my manuscript as I speak and wants to return in next week with suggestions via a Word programme called "Track Changes." Being a computer half-wit, I don't know how to work this programme, but I will learn. Learning (like greatness - pace Shakespeare) will be foisted upon me. How about "Time Track" for a title? Signing off until next Friday....

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23rd
Here is a list of possible titles for my book that was called "Dunadd."

1. A Matter of Time
2. Dream Time
3. Walking Shadow (Shakespeare...Life's but a...)
4. Timespell (as in Godspell, meaning a tale)
5. Time and Tide (...wait for no man...Chaucer)
6. Shades of Time
7. Veil of Time
8. Passage of Time
9. Parallel Lives

My favourite is "Parallel Lives," even though I already have a book called "Parallel Lines (not yet published.)  Somewhere along the line, I was asked to change the title of that other book, and so I could switch it again to "Blue Horse," which is okay, since it is about a Lakotah chief called by that name. So, I am juggling. Story-telling is about juggling anyway - keeping those balls up in the air. I wonder, though, why I like stories so much better than watching men throw balls around or keep saucers spinning on rods. Watching those performers drives me absolutely bonkers, while hearing a good story is about as good as it gets.  Someone could unravel that conundrum for me and let me know.
I do like titles that take a a few words from a longer literary phrase: "The Sound and the Fury, comes from the same quote as title number 3......Life's but a walking shadow....full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  "All creatures great and small," ( from the hymn"All Things Bright and Beautiful," which is sung more in Britain, I think) is a fantastic title. "Grapes of Wrath," a favourite book of mine, has a pretty silly title, I think.  
Anyway, the long and the short of it is, you have to be flexible about titles and not get wedded to one. Like the dog gate in the back of my car, it probably won't get used.  And it's sort of like rock band names - you could just imagine Robert Plant saying to his mum and dad, "I joined this band and we're going to call ourselves Led Zepplin." Or "Mott the Hoople," or even  "The Beatles." (Knowing what impact that last group was going to have on the world, it seems like they should have had a name with a little more gravitas.)  The friends and family of these people must have secretly wondered what they were thinking choosing band names that looked like sinking as fast as that lead zepplin.
Truth is, the title doesn't matter that much. "I know Why the Caged Bird Sings," is a mouthful, so is "To Kill A Mocking Bird," but both are very good books. Led Zepplin did okay with their name. Because the book is either loved or not, and if it is, the title takes on a whole new meaning.
My editor at Simon and Schuster is Abby Zidle. She will get the final word on the title of my book, or her committee will. In the meantime, I wait.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March 18th

First editorial note from New York: Change the title. Well, I should have seen that one coming - it's happened before.  So, the title was "Dunadd," because, as I say I have written quite  a few novels, and I was hoping to be able to name some of those (and future ones) after place names around where I grew up. The novel is set at Dunadd Fort in Argyll, but it involves time travel.  The best I have come up with is   "Parallel Lives." If anyone wants to go to my website at

(google won't bring it up yet, but you can get there by putting in the full address) you can read a longer synopsis of the novel and pour in your suggestions - even from Russia, because my audience map  tells me I have a few readers over there! (Very cool, as Americans would say.) There is a "contact me" page on my website.
Having to change a title, especially if it has been your working title for a long time, can be tough. I was actually asked to change another of my titles by my agent. That one was called "Duntrune" (another place name!), and we changed it to "The Country Between Us." I like that new title, but I still always think of that book as "Duntrune" (in fact, that's the way I list it on the website.)
If you go to my website, you'll see that my agent's name is Esmond Harmsworth of Zachary, Shuster, Harmsworth in New York.  My only access to agents for years was through a local Writers Conference, and I trundled myself along every summer to talk to the few agents I had booked. It was a very slow process, and there are probably faster ways, but I wasn't free to travel around the country looking for literary agents, so I had to wait until they came to me. Lots of agents seemed interested, some very interested, but after a few months of back and forth it would come to nothing. And then, Esmond, bless his heart, uttered the immortal words, "Boy, you really know how to write," and we were off!  "How much of my novel do you want to read?" I wrote to him after the conference. "I want the lot!" he replied. Again, words a writer longs to hear. Esmond is a Brit, which I think has a lot to do with his being tuned into my writing. My books should really be published in Britain first, but the publishers I talked to over there seemed to be following the trend of opting for quirky books rather than "romantic" books  - I say "romantic," not in the Mills and Boon or Harlequin sense, but in that they are not hard-edged like "Trainspotting," or its ilk. I am one of those hopeless romantics in the way I see the world, and especially in the way I see my country.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13

Yesterday in a flurry of activity, my agent and I went through my contract, made corrections, returned it to the publisher, got the corrected contract, and I was oh so happy to sign my name four times and ship that off to the publisher. Yeah! There is something about a hard copy that just makes it all seem more real. Now I can frame it. Being a first time novelist, the percentages aren't great, but there will be no argument from me. I have waited so long to be published, they could pay me a penny (just so long as next time they pay me two.) I suppose there are some people who get into writing for the money, but they are not writing the kind of books I write.
As for my website, I thought it was up and running, but it is taking time to work its way through the system (so they tell me.) There's no point in giving out the address yet, because it won't come up when you google it. But when it does, I'll post the address and then the link between the blog and the website will be complete - so far, it's working website to blog but not the other way around. I will put in writing, though, that the novel I have just sold is about Scotland, ancient Scotland - around 735, to be precise. It is about time travel back to that pre-Christian era. I am not a "time traveller" sort of writer. I had wanted to write about this particular location in Scotland for a while, but didn't want to write pure historical fiction. Then when "The Time Traveller's Wife," came out to such acclaim, it seemed as though I had found my vehicle. Anyway, time is not what we once though it was. Not even theoretical physicists, who spend all their time thinking about this sort of thing, have the foggiest notion what time is. And when I began to research it, it seems that time travel is not ruled by Quantum Physics. In fact, a bunch of noodle heads, of the academic type, got together to try and prove that Einstein does in fact rule out the notion that time could be so plastic as to permit travel through it, and they couldn't do it. And as they (not the noodle heads, but the wizards) say, reality isn't just stranger than we think, but stranger than we can think. So, there.
I'll get the website up soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 8th
The imagination is a wonderful thing.  I had visions of my publishing contract arriving fast and urgent by Fedex. I pictured myself flying out to take it from the Fedex guy's hands, of ripping open the express envelope and puling out my glorious few page contract, then hanging it on the wall for all to see.  Well, the contract did arrive yesterday, but not by Fedex. It came by e-mail via my agent, seventeen pages of who can do this and say that, who gets what in the event of this or that (hey, I get 40 free copies - it's in the contract!) And this is only the first draft. It's exciting, though; it made a me smile. It made me think if only my dad could have lived to see this day....
Another exciting thing that happened yesterday was that I finally got my website up and quickly fired it off to everyone I knew. Then I sat down and read through it - sort of the wrong way around to do it, because I found typos and some writing I'm not that proud of. So, I'll work out the kinks and post the link here. Keep your eyes on this space.

Monday, March 5, 2012

March 5th

I always expect that at some point, something will catch fire and the publishing process will stop being bogged down and start moving fast. However, my editor had to get out from under other commitments before she started in on my book.  So I have been waiting to send in the latest version of my book, and now that I finally have got it to her, I am waiting to see what she says. Also, one month after the agreement to sign  with this publisher, I have seen neither hide nor hair of any contract, which makes me nervous. I was told it would take a while. Everything in publishing takes a while. As a writer I actually take less time writing than marketing and sales. In the meantime, I have been working on screenplays and getting together a reading of one of my other books. I am never idle.
But I was reading this morning on line about how difficult it is to have got this far on the publishing path, how many books are rejected, even once they get to agents, which is a feat in itself. I can't complain. I am at the mercy of the publishing house at this point, with their demands for world rights and all. I suppose being published posthumously isn't the end of the world. I jest. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in a nice meaty literary read, I am reading "Lime Creek," by Joe Henry. Lovely stuff. Real food, when you tire of confection.