Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27th 2012

And in the  meantime, I have become a great aunt, which is not, I might add, a function of my great age.  In the other meantime  I have been moved to write two letters to the editor in our local Daily Nuisance. I thought I should write to my editor at Simon and Schuster and tell her to get a move on, otherwise the good citizens of my home town will be forced to read more of my attempts to challenge the status quo. I do my challenging with my tongue in my cheek, even though I have learned during my very long sojourn in America that people here don't always catch on to teasing. For some reason, they don't quite get it. I stopped myself from writing to my editor, because I realised that this hiatus is giving me lots of good time to work on the TV series, for which I have now written 54 pages. We now have a plan to put together the promo with a view to getting backers for the project, and then we will cull a pilot episode from what I have already written. The producer tells me you can make pretty good quality film on not very sophisticated cameras, and since we aren't paying the actors or the director, (or me), or a PR person we just took on today, we can go ahead even with little backing. I have just finished watching the second series of Downton Abby - what a tour de force that is. No wonder it has everyone enthralled. Maggie Smith has never been better. Despite the fact that there is a lot of deus ex machina, it teaches us would-be Jullian Fellowes that people will always be interested in well-drawn rounded characters and the writer should always guard against slotting cardboard cut-outs in any part of their story, from the main character down to the scullery maid. Make them real people or there is no point in putting them in at all. And then there's dramatic irony, which I don't do enough of, but who wasn't rooting for that  festering secret of Mary Crawley's to be out in the open? Your audience should always know something that at least some of the characters don't. That's the way I look on my writing career thus far - someone out there must know something that I don't. If you do, let me know.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20th

I finally got the first installment of my cheque this week together with a signed copy of my contract (signed by the publisher and myself.) It came from my agency who had taken off their slice, 15% which is standard. I don't begrudge it either. I wouldn't have any contract without the efforts of Esmond Harmsworth, who believed. He believed in the first novel, which didn't sell, and in this book, which did. So, he can take his cut and buy another fancy doorknob with it (someone, a passing editor, told me he has this fetish, and I won't question it.) As for my slice, it will go straight to the taxman for reasons I'd rather not go into. Suffice it to say that the auditors at the IRS are not nice people. I should summon up all my Celtic powers and stick a curse on them. Oh yeah, I already have.
But as for the timeline on the arrival of my payment: I gave the go-ahead on the publishing deal on January 30th, and I signed the actual contract in early April. The cheque came in a brown envelope on 16th April. I haven't heard from my editor at Simon and Schuster, presumably because she is busy with whatever it was that got be bumped temporarily. In the meantime, I am writing scenes for the TV series.
Nothing else to report except to note that authors at readings almost always advise up-and-coming writers to read, read, read, and I would like to qualify that by saying your should read good stuff, and read it often. Each time you read a really good book, you assimilate more about what makes that book good. I just finished "Cannery Row" again. I know I will read it again. For me Steinbeck is magic. I know I will read James Galvin's "The Meadow," again and again, and Paul Harding's "Tinkers." Apart from the sheer pleasure of reading these books, there is just so much to learn in there. Stopping to read a sentence over is like savouring that dissolving spoonful of Dulce De Leche ice cream as it trickles off the back of your tongue. It's one of those experiences that let you know there is a God.

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13th

I thought surely by now I would have something to show for another week's wait on the editor front, but it appears I have been bumped by something more pressing. My editor assures me I will be getting my notes "soon." The Jews have a great expression for times like these, "Oy Vey!" Anyway, not to sit idle, I have been working on a prospective TV series that is being put together by a local director called Kent Reed which is to be directed in actuality by Lewis Teague (of "Jewel Of The Nile" fame.) There's a bit of name-dropping for you. If you want another, I once had Christmas Eve dinner with Melanie Griffiths and Antonio Banderas ("Hello, I'm Antonio." "So, you are." He liked my trifle, that's all I can say. I didn't get to sit at table with them, but at the next table. They're friends of a neighbour of mine - a very unlikely connection, if you saw my neighbourhood. But I did get to make a dessert, and, being a good Scot, I think that trifle is the best of desserts. Antonio thought so, too. It's the European connection.) That's all the name-dropping I can do, except that I once was the B-act for Dougie MacLean, Scottish singer. He sang a song about the Lewis Chessmen, and I went away and wrote a novel about them. You have to watch what you say around me.
Anyway, way off the subject. The TV series is to be called "Ute City." I had breakfast with the two gentlemen involved, and we shook hands. No money was exchanged, and speaking of which, I still haven't received my advance from my agency, though I know they have it and are carving it up. It's fun writing scripts, much harder to write novels. Dialogue is always fun. I'm a people watcher, so put two people in a room, and I pretty much know what they will say. It's the interaction between people that is so interesting, the relationships, the way people handle themselves beside others, the shields they put up, the things they say without saying them.  I know all this because I make a point of studying it. In public, I don't say much. I must feel that others watch me as closely as I watch them.

Friday, April 6, 2012

April 6th
Blogging is new to me, but even for a neophyte, I can tell that this blog is rather dull.  Because writing and publishing is basically about waiting. When you're in writing mode, you have to do a lot of listening. It's not so much driving the train full steam ahead as listening for the sound of wheels on the tracks. Now that I am not writing, I am at the mercy of the marketing machine (no criticism - thank God it is there) and so I am waiting, waiting currently for the editor's notes, so that I can take another swipe at the text. She says she is almost finished. So, it's a lot of thumb twiddling and not much excitement for now.
In the meantime, I had a local reading of another of my books last Saturday. I am itching to re-write yet another of my books. I went on Tuesday to hear Kathryn Stockett who wrote the best-seller "The Help." She had sixty rejections from agents, so many of what I had, too: "Thank you for the opportunity to read your novel "The Help," [Duntrune, Dunadd, Hazel...] While there is much to commend about your book, I am afraid I just did not fall in love with the story." I think at that stage, the worst thing is fearing what the people you know must think.."Well, she says she's a writer, but no one else seems to think so." "Why is she spending all that time pretending to be something she is not?" Coupled with this is the parrot on your own shoulder: "It's never going to happen." "You're being delusional." "You're just not made of the right stuff." The doubts pour in, especially if you have a cynical (or two) member of your own family. Their silence seems to say it all. Isn't it terrible how we do this to ourselves? After sixty rejections, you have to be pretty convinced that God himself has spoken to you and told you that you will be published. Nothing short of that will keep you ploughing ahead. In Kathryn Stockett's case, it was the sixty-first agent. She said, "I'm sure she just felt sorry for me." In my case, it was...I don't know, because I stopped stuffing that big brown envelope with rejection slips. I think I ritually burned them, because it felt like too much bad energy to have around. I take that back about God: what keeps you going on is that you have no choice. You write for your sanity's sake. I'm not quite sure what my excuse is for sticking with the marketing end, except that the prize is glittering, just out of sight, but there's a glow up ahead.