Magic, rednecks, and good old-fashioned sugar

February 22, 2009 at 5:09 pm (1)

I’m not sure if this is a new genre or if I’ve been missing out all these years, but I’m currently quite taken with what I’ve dubbed ‘hometown magic realism’.  Think The Magic Toyshop set in Alabama.  Sarah Addison Allen, Alice Hoffman, Joshilyn Jackson to some extent, though there’s no actual magic, and now Tiffany Baker.  All set in small, usually Southern, American towns, with a thrilling vein of magic, these novels are simply beautiful stories.

Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen must have been my most gifted books of last year – I gave them to practicall every girl I knew.  Not hugely literary, I grant you, but both novels were so warm and gorgeous that I (nearly visibly) glowed for days after reading them.  I loved the way reality and magic co-existed so easily that you were never sure which was which.  If you take anything away from this blog, let it be this – read this author!

I’m now reading a proof of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker.  I hope that the proof jacket is the final jacket, because it’s beautiful.  The novel isn’t quite up to SAA’s standard, but I’m only 100 pages in, so I’m perfectly prepared to be proved wrong.

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Get a clue!

February 11, 2009 at 8:02 pm (1)

Okay, so I recognise that those trying to get in an on the publishing industry might not know the finer details, but phone calls like this make me want to bash my head with the receiver.

random man: Hello.  I’ve just written a book – what’s the next step?

me: Well, the best thing to do is look into getting a literary agent.

rm: I don’t really want to do that.

me: I know that it seems like a roundabout route, but that’s the best way to do it.  A literary agent will submit your manuscript to publishers and do all the legwork for you.

rm: But I rather send it directly to an editor.

me: Well, you could do that, but unfortunately we can’t guarantee that it’ll get read.

rm: Why not?

me: Well, unsolicited manuscripts get set aside and the pile only tends to get read every so often.

rm: But an editor will read it?

me: Not necessarily.  I’m sure that you know that editors are very busy.  Unsolicited manuscripts are usually read by lesser experienced staff.

rm: And how long will it be before it’s read?

me: I can’t really give you a time.  Those manuscripts aren’t really prioritised.

rm: So, like one month?  Six weeks?

me: As I said, I can’t really give you a timeline.  It could be a month, it could be six months.  I really think that looking for a literary agent is the best way to go.  There’s a book called the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook that will be really useful for you.

rm: I have that book.  That’s where I got your number.

me: Fair enough.  There’s a comprehensive list of agents in there, too.

rm: Yeah, I don’t think I’ll get an agent; I’ll send it to you.  Who should I address it to?

Argh!  I work in the industry, random man, I know what I’m talking about.  You may think that your novel is so amazing that it’ll shine through or that you’re being intensely clever by attempting to bypass the middle man, but it ain’t going to happen!  Slush pile novels do get picked up occasionally, it’s true, and it’s definitely hard getting an agent, but that’s the way it is.  I’m not being mean or negative, I’m trying to help!

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Success and happiness

February 10, 2009 at 5:00 pm (1)

Come summer, it’ll have been five years since I graduated.  Five years.  Okay, so I spent the next three years after graduation at university as well, so I only technically left education two years ago, but there’s no getting away from the fact that I’m edging towards my late twenties and the optimism of university is becoming a nostalgic glow.  I’m not feeling the doom and gloom, though – we’re all still young and smart, we can still do anything that we put our minds to and some of my friends have been doing just that.  I have friends from my class with literary agents, with recording contracts, and a friend with a volume of poetry coming out in April (if verse is your thing, keep an eye out for Michael McKimm – he’s pretty darn good).

As for me, I’ve been in the publishing industry for nearly 18 months, I’ve got more words of a novel than I ever have before, and I’m about to start my own freelance copywriting business (more on that later).  It’s all looking rosy.  True, setting my heart on the arts means that there’s always going to be a money issue, but if piles o’ cash was my goal, I’d have chosen a different career path.  In this boring climate of economic downturn, I’m happy to have my job and my new business plans will hopefully provide the challenge I’ve been itching for.  I think that I’m recapturing a little bit of that undergrad optimism…

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Still undecided…

February 5, 2009 at 8:55 pm (Reading) (, )

I’ve just finished New Moon, so I think it’s safe to say that I’m going to stick it out and read the whole Twilight series.  One book is curiosity, two is in for the long haul, especially as there’s only two more installments left.  The weird thing is, I don’t like them.  I know that they’re YA, but that’s no excuse for the poor writing quality, obvious plots, and bad dialogue.  In fact, it’s insulting to both teenagers and authors to excuse them that way.  Edward is disgustingly condescending and Bella is just plain stupid.  So, why am I compelled to read the whole series?  I guess, firstly, annoying as they are, they’re easy tube-reading.  Secondly, well, I’m a total Buffy addict – what’s not to love about vampires and a girl in love with one.  Bella Swan is no Buffy Summers, for sure, but the comparison’s there.  Is that enough of an excuse?  Hmm…

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