COUNTDOWN TO THE BOOK LAUNCH

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The book launch is certainly a rich source of over-angst for the pre-pub worrywort. With only a month to go, I’m asking myself:

Why do so many people want to come? 

Lovely of them of course, but it’s beginning to feel like a p-p-p-party. Listen, I’ve spent years at my desk – no, in bed – writing and redrafting this novel; I barely remember how to answer a phone, let alone mingle. Go easy on me.

What sort of an author goes into shock on being asked ‘so what’s your book about?’

Well of course I know what it’s about; it’s like asking a tree about the flavour of its sap. The trouble is, like a tree, I appear to be unable to form the words to describe it. I used to have occasional clarity on this, but being constantly tested by well-meaning friends has reduced me to a manic ‘dunnofuckoff.’ [Cuts out and Sellotapes blurb for fastening to forehead].

Pen poised to sign a book for a friend I’ve known for ten years, will I forget their name?

Probably. If I suddenly dash to the loo with phone (to look through hundreds of emails), it’s you – and I’m really sorry. I’m currently involved in two parallel worlds (that of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter and my 3-generational WIP); I’m all named out. What’s in a name? You know I love you.

Should I waste any more time Googling lighthouse-themed blouses and jewellery? Or consider any jewellery at all, other than a string of beads given to me Christmas c.1995? Crucially, is there time, finally… to learn how to blow-dry my hair?

Probably not.

But ah, I may have the perfect solution to my social ineptitude, lack of conceptual focus, memory and style: LIGHTHOUSE CUPCAKES.

~~~~~

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter launches 5th April, 2018 – despite the above – and is available here:

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-lighthouse-keepers-daughter,cherry-radford-9781911583646

or here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1911583646/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520067668&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=cherry+radford&dpPl=1&dpID=51yBWY3XBwL&ref=plSrch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY POTHOLED PATH TO PUBLICATION

IMG_0172Looking at my smug mug on Urbane Publications’ shiny new website, I’m sparing a thought for unpublished writers out there who’d like to stick pins in me. A pitchfork, even. I’ve been lucky, I know. I’m sorry. But it might help you to know that my path to publication has been long, muddy and potholed.

 

The first blow was almost my last: my story was rejected by a pony magazine. Okay, I was ten, but the page of reasons for my rejection — no doubt intended to be helpful – made me turn to the recorder and then piano, flute…

 

I didn’t write again for about thirty years – by then on my second career, as a post-doc research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital. I still secretly wanted to write a novel, so I took an Open College of the Arts course and started keeping a diary, but couldn’t come up with an idea.

 

Years later, I finally got an inspiration, and after two months of mulling, made a start (in the middle of an international conference). Unbelievably, the novel wrote itself in six months. I was an author after all! Euphoria!

 

Hm. Until I sent Men Dancing off to a literary consultant and was told yes, well done, but now start again with a different novel. Apparently, my female protagonist was too old (at 42, ffs) and unlikeable. An RNA report agreed. After a few sulky days I started re-writing, making her thirty-bloody-nine and a bit nicer. 

 

Then it was time to hit The Writers’ Yearbook, submitting to the three agents that seemed best suited to my novel. A further ten. The whole effing book. Subs were nearly all postal in those days; my desk became a one-woman sorting office – and soon had a heaped tray of ‘not quite right for us’ letters. Then two agents asked for the full MS and considered it for four months (one sending agonising updates about ‘just having a second/third read’ etc.), but both decided to clear their desks for the holidays and sent painfully synchronised rejection letters a couple of days before Christmas. 

 

It was time to hit the Yearbook pages of lovely little publishers accepting non-agented subs. But they too are swamped with hopefuls, and turned me down. Except a self-pub outfit that also had a ‘conventional’ publishing arm – that they were offering me. I grabbed it with both hands.

 

The company was friendly, the editing light but good. I wasn’t going to be a bestseller – or even a seller at all, other than on Amazon and in the local Waterstones – but at least I was being published. Well, sort of. I had to pay them a fee for having my novel at the London Book Fair. Then for including it in their brochure… Soon, all my royalties were used to pay for this and that – particularly when second novel Flamenco Baby came out. Then the royalties became delayed. No, they stopped. I was so busy researching for a new novel  and doing promo for Flamenco Baby in Spain, that I only once queried it. Then they went very quiet… and bust. I never saw any sales figures or royalties for Flamenco Baby. Another self-publishing company valiantly scooped up most of the floundering authors – and then went bust themselves.

 

But hey, I’d finished another novel, so what did I care? I went bounding off to the Winchester Writers’ Festival with The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter and had a glowing response from a commissioning editor who wanted to see it once I was agented, plus two requests for a full MS from agents! Wow! Ah but listen, people: beware the One-to-One bubble (see my post One-to-Ones, I’ve had a few…). One turned it down in 3 days, and the other… well, more than two years on, I’m still waiting to hear. 

 

So, it was back to those lovely indie publishers. One — over the course of a whole year – was interested, turned it down, invited re-sub after changes, then turned it down again. I splashed out on a literary consultancy report, revised, splashed out on another (Cornerstones & The Literary Consultancy – both recommended). It was a lot better, but still not quite fitting into a genre. Two years had now passed since I’d finished it, and — worst of all – I wasn’t coming up with any ideas for a new novel. I started to seriously question why I was pouring so much time, heart and money into it all this. 

 

Then a Twitter friend told me to submit to his publisher, Urbane Publications. Thinking they only published Crime, I’d not bothered them with my not-quite-women’s fiction – but I’d been wrong about that. I ordered some of their books and found wonderfully unusual, genre-bending stories; heard about the inclusive way they work with authors… this was where I wanted to be! I re-drafted and submitted. The wait was the most agonising I’d had during the nine years since I started writing. But it was a YES. Oh, the screams. 

 

I’m realistic, there are a lot of books out there and bigger publishers to compete with, but now I’m part of the Urbane family I can get on with what I want to do: read, write (new novel finally on the go), get books out there and support others whose work I admire.

 

My advice: Keep tramping that path, and one day you’ll find the right place to have your smug mug.

 

THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS DAUGHTER (Urbane Publications) will be published on 5th April, 2018.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighthouse-Keepers-Daughter-Cherry-Radford/dp/1911583646/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1516540213&sr=8-6&keywords=the+lighthouse+keeper%27s+daughter

 

TAX TIP FOR THE PRE-PUBLICATION AUTHOR

IMG_8740New living area, new publishing deal: time to find a new accountant. How do I do that? Maybe the way I picked the solicitors: Googling those in walking distance and selecting on architectural / pink-painted appeal.

But the names of the accountancy firms springing up on the map suggest further filtering is needed. I’m looking at companies called TaxAssist (too on the nose), Advanta (did two letters fall off their signboard?), Breeze (it won’t be, for an arithmophobic author), and Savoir Faire (oh bog off). Decided to be a normal person for a moment and call them about fees. I got a lot of piece-of-string answers, including one from an accountant who charges by the hour but had a very unfortunate stutter.

Eventually I spoke to a gem at a company with a flat fee, Victorian stucco, and generous free advice on the phone.

Talking to an accountant about the publication of my novel in April 2018, my pre-publication presumptuousness reached a whole new level. But here’s my tax tip for the signed author waiting to be published: did you know that expenses for your pre-published writing can be set against non-writing earnings for the same year? Maybe I’m the last to know. But yup, the cost of notebooks, a book about childhood in the 1950s, a ticket for a paddle steamer etc. etc. will be reducing tax for my science research and piano teaching work. Crazy but cracking news. Talk to an accountant!

ONE-TO-ONES, I’VE HAD A FEW…

Clip Art Graphic of a Lime Green Guy Character

One-to-ones, I’ve had a few, but then again… who can resist the chances to “pitch your work to industry gate keepers!” in a writing festival package? Although you might wish you had resisted, after a weekend of looking at your watch through interesting talks so that you leave them in time (factoring in a nervous pee) for your appointments, and letting other potentially instructive sessions flow past you while you sit there in post-one-to-one bewilderment.

Perhaps I just made bad choices, but I never got much out of literary speed-dating. I have no issue with agents that just didn’t like what I was doing – even the one whose way of imparting this was to spend 10 minutes arguing that a principal ballet dancer wouldn’t travel standard class in a train. I also forgive the two agents (in the same afternoon) that used half of my allocated time to go for a pee. But the one that was so full of praise and excitement that I looked over my shoulder to see if they were speaking to someone else, asked for the full manuscript, and then never replied to any emails…

It’s a tricky pairing: the agent is keen for good festival feedback, doesn’t want any awkwardness, and would like to give constructive feedback – if she can remember enough about your sub (and control her bladder). But the author with a finished novel may not be too receptive to drastic suggestions made after a possibly cursory look at a small sample, and, let’s face it, really just wants to be asked for a full MS.

It’s probably better to have these meetings at an early, more pliable stage of your novel. Or hone your manuscript with a writing group and a good literary consultancy, then do carefully crafted online subs to the RIGHT agents and publishers.

Exactly two years on (and still not having heard from the ecstatic agent), I’m pinch-myself happy to be a signed author with the wonderful Urbane Publications. I can now be one of those smug so-and-so’s who can go to a writing festival without any need to miss anything – my eight years of running the one-to-one gauntlet are over!

 

TWITTERHOLICS ATWONYMOUS: ARE YOU ADDICTED TO TWITTER?

IMG_7274Apparently Twitter is harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol. As a non-smoking teetotaller, I wouldn’t know, but Jesus Twesus, am I using up my addiction allowance on it.

Six years ago I was dragged onto it by my first publisher, with my book cover’s sassy salsa dancer as a profile but a Twitter name that sounds like furniture polish. I dithered – until I realised that Twitter could feed me flamenco and ballet news, lighthouses, Sorolla paintings and so on. Then something else happened: I started to meet some wonderful tweeps – in fact, friendship with a Twitter amigo inspired my new novel.

Great, but far too often these days I’m off down that bloody Twitter hole having Adtwentures in Twonderland when I should be elsewhere. Am I addicted? Are you? Let’s take a test.

 

1.TWIVIALITY

How often do you tweet complete drivel? Anything to get your atwention fix.

Almost Daily          Score 2

Sometimes             Score 1

Never                      Score 0

Examples from @CherryRad:

‘Sandwich choices on plane: ham and cheese, bacon and cheese L  #Queasyjet’

‘Have decided that people with that iPhone whistling ring tone are complete [anchor emoji] kers’

‘Aaaaa-TCHOOO!’

 

2. INATWENTIVENESS

How often are you on Twitter when loved ones are with you in the room or needing you elsewhere?

Almost Daily            Score 4

Sometimes               Score 2

Never                        Score 0

Example from @CherryRad:

I’ve left a teenager waiting to be picked up at a freezing station while I finished a gripping twonversation – but I did then send him an exquisitely emojied tweet to tell him I was on my way.

 

3. TWIMEWASTING

How often does time on Twitter stop you finishing a chapter, going for a run etc.

Almost Daily            Score 4

Sometimes             Score 2

Never                     Score 0

Example from @CherryRad:

Too often there’s an extra hour in bed while I catch up with Twitter. This morning for example, instead of getting on with a blog post – so I changed topic and decided to shame myself on here.

 

ARE YOU A TWITTERHOLIC?

Score 0-3/10:          No. You have admirable control / dodgy internet access

Score 4-6/10:          Tweetering on the brink of addiction. Careful.

Score 7-10/10:        Twitterholic. Have a tword with yourself.

Where are you? I’m at 6. Phew.

Ah. But I just did a Google search and found a long list of signs of Twitterholicism – including: You still think adding “Tw” to words is clever. #Twuck.

WHEN CAN I READ YOUR NOVELS, MUM?

IMG_7162My sons have recently asked when they can read my novels. For years I’d say ‘when you’re older’ and re-check that copies were out of reach – but the boys are now eighteen and twenty-three. We’ve moved, and the novels are on the bookshelf these days. OK, they might not think of looking there, but they could have downloaded one for less than a bus ticket. Why do they need my permission? They seldom want it for anything else.

I don’t expect them to read my women’s fiction; I’ve got girlfriends who haven’t, it’s alright. I’m just intrigued by their hesitation. Possible reasons for it:

  1. It’s ew to read Mum writing about romantic stuff (likely)
  2. I’ve told them that they’ll see traces of themselves in the young characters (but hopefully be amused/chuffed)
  3. They resent the time I spent writing the damn things

I can’t rule out the last one.  How do you combine the selflessness of motherhood with the selfish drive to get down that story in your head? The need to be positive for them, with the need to be in touch with your insecurities for the sake of your writing? It hasn’t been easy. Nor for many fathers either, I imagine.

It’s Mother’s Day, and I never feel I really deserve it. But the boys seem to have turned out OK – and usually bring authorial-quality chocolate.

HOW TO MEET THE IDEA FOR YOUR NEXT NOVEL

NOVEL IDEA

I’m off to see a ballet superstar perform – with the anxiety of an ex-alcoholic before a hen night. You see, I used to have an obsession with ballet. OK, ballet men. Straight, gay, macho hispanic, sensitive blonde, hyper bendy redhead, shorty with enormous jumps – all of them really. That ravishing fusion of athleticism and art, of virility and gentleness… Covent Garden was a pricey place to be fixated – but it was ultimately worth it: I got the idea for my first novel (MEN DANCING) there, and had great fun writing (and researching) it.

Eight years and three books on, I’m anxiously waiting to meet an idea for my next one. It’ll happen. I know it. Don’t I? Uff. WHEN?! The search is beginning to feel like my forcedly cheerful years without a boyfriend – in which pals arranged a series of dire blind dates (e.g. to a guy with the surname Tree, I ask you) and told me to get out more. I’m currently on a series of dates with background reading books, and getting out to lots of windy locations. Getting closer and enjoying myself, but heaven help me, I recently found myself singing along to Michael Buble’s I Just Haven’t Met You Yet

In the past I’ve been fired up by a Spanish musical genre, empathy for a childless friend, a city, a group of Twittermates, even an Edwardian navigational aid… Jeez, I’d happily fall in love with a post box, if it could inspire me to stop sitting around sharing Facebook videos of piano-playing cats and start opening my writing notebook. 

But I’ve got a date with my old flame BalletMan, and who knows, sitting on the train, just when I’m not looking for it, an idea might tap me on the shoulder. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

LINKEDIN: ONE HOOK UP TOO MANY?

linkedinTapping on my mobile half asleep one night, I must have hooked up with LinkedIn. The next day, I couldn’t believe I’d given in to this smug monster, and quickly reached for a Morning After Unsubscribe. But the trouble is that you have to log on to bog off, SlinkIn to SlinkOut, kiss before leaving – and I couldn’t remember my bloody password.

So years passed, with daily Linkvitations in my Inbox reminding me not to wander onto the internet while under the influence of Ovaltine. I fervently hoped it would all somehow go away.

But something’s happened: I’ve now got a Proper Publishing Deal, and need to be on everything. Including LinkedIn, which, Google promises me, will increase my Search Engine Rankings. Since I don’t know my current ones – or what the hell these actually are – this will be difficult to prove.  It’s also supposed to increase my connections – but I can do that on Twitter, with more fun and less waffle. To be honest, at the moment I’m only really after a few more readers for my new blog – and the hopefully swift and simple pacification of scores of unanswered Linked friends.

So after a few hours LockedIn, what can I tell you? Well, it’s blue, which is nice. Easier to navigate than Goodreads – but then so is the Strait of Magellan. And… well, nothing really, all the same faces, and the people who I wish were on Twitter aren’t in here either. Hackles started to rise with the profile page, which, despite the encouragements (‘Cherry, your Summary is looking good!’) insists on boxing your life into its own peculiar linxpectations.  For example, apparently I don’t live in Eastbourne but in ‘Holywell, E. Sussex’ – which is great, but basically just a section of the beach. As for my living in two countries – even though surely this is relevant professionally – no way was this allowed. But the true horror is the ENDORSING. Visiting pages of people I know and hoping to encourage, I’m soon going: ‘WTF? When was she ever a Fiction Writer? He’s a Director there? My arse…’ Then I see that somebody has endorsed me for Short Stories – something she can’t possibly vouch for unless she’s had secret and ill-advised access to my ‘Cherry – Junior Sch.’ box file. Or maybe this is actually her suggestion, after trying one of my novels. Who knows what people are trying to say on here? Or what they do when they’re off it. There are some great posts (presumably also available elsewhere), but it mostly feels a bit pushy and shouty. I know, I know, I’ll give it a little longer – and please, tell me I’m wrong – but at the moment it feels like one hook up too many.

WRITING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF… FLAMENCO

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OLÉ!  Flamenco Festival time again at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Seven years ago I was so astounded with it all that I went straight off to Granada to do a flamenco course and start a novel. I was writing real-time, being the character (well, within reason); it was crazy, but one hell of a buzz.

Back home I continued dance classes, and flamenco took over my iPod and car. I was (and still am) entranced by the complex rhythms, the excruciating beauty of those exotic chords, the sensuality of it all. It wasn’t just the music; I was taking on flamenco’s live-in-the-moment ways, where the only things to worry about were being fuera de compás (out of time) or being told no me dice nada (you’re not saying anything). I wrote flamenco: vaguely knowing where the story would go, but letting the characters do what the joder they liked with it – as long as they kept to pace.

Years passed, the book came out. I promoted it on a bilingual radio show in Madrid alongside a well-known flamenco guitarist, got invited to performances, started another novel with a flamenco guitarist in it…

If my head hadn’t been so stuck up my flamenco culo, I might have noticed that my tinpot publisher wasn’t responding and hadn’t paid me any royalties. None at all. It turned out that they were quietly going bust. (Future blog post: My Miserably Potholed Path to Publication).

But Flamenco Baby is still available, for hispanophiles who want to ‘gobble it up like a good plate of pulpo‘ (Amazon review). It’s even for sale at the wonderful Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival, where it was conceived. OLÉ!

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Sadler’s Wells Theatre, 2013 Photo: Carole Edrich

 

 

 

 

THE ALLURE OF THE LIGHTHOUSE

9C054EA5-45FC-4FFA-85F7-DAB85782E992Photo: Juan del Pozo

So what is it about lighthouses? I mean, it’s not just me, is it. I don’t think it’s the lighthouse’s popularity as a symbol of spiritual, physical and moral guidance, however much it delights me that my GP surgery is called The Lighthouse Practice. I get nearer to the answer when I watch the Beachy Head lighthouse flash out into the night; part of the attraction must be the childish love of a night-light.

Then you have to admire their permanence. They’re built like fortresses, unbelievably resistant to the horrors nature throws at them. On a tour in Jersey’s Corbière lighthouse I’ve jotted down ‘You can’t forget the sea, not for a moment. It resents the impudence of this impervious concrete structure.’ With few exceptions – notably the Eddystone lighthouse, now in its fourth edition – the sea has to put up with them.

So, comforting night-light and fortress – but I can get these from the Eastbourne seafront’s illuminations and Martello towers, without the same intake of breath. What else is it about lighthouses? The architecture, of course. Glistening white, candy-striped, tall or short: they are beautiful. Even the cliff-top Belle Tout, a grey squat little lighthouse only its mother could love, but stunning from a distance – and inside. Inside! How we all want to go inside. Imagine the cosy minimalist living, the view from the top! (In Part Two I’ll tell you where you can do this).

But architecture: why don’t I view the local statue of the Duke of Devonshire, or even the glorious Pier, with the same primitive adoration? Let’s take a look at a lighthouse. Hm. Remind you of anything? Particularly one with a couple of outbuildings round its base. Let’s face this head on: lighthouses are phallic. Are you with me on this? I hope so, because I’ve got my protagonist’s ex-husband visiting her converted lighthouse and saying ‘God, I didn’t realise you live in the actual shaft of this thing!’ – but now see there’s not a single lewd lighthouse comment on Google. Ah, unless you count the academics discussing the lighthouse theme in Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse – even though she herself skirted the issue with ‘I meant nothing by the lighthouse, but trusted that people would make it the deposit for their own emotions.’ They quickly move on to explain that the phallus-lighthouse represents the father’s authority in the traditional family.

There’s certainly no getting away from the masculinity of lighthouses and the profession; despite the famous story of Grace Darling, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter who heroically saved lives after a shipwreck in 1838, female keepers are vanishingly rare – and usually just taking over after the death of a lighthouse keeper husband.

Perhaps this manliness is part of the nostalgia: we picture the practical but gentlemanly lighthouse keeper on his watch, looking out from his lantern room, painstakingly ensuring (it was quite a palaver) that the light is always shone. A dependable man, mindful of the safety of unknown souls on passing ships. ‘A lighthouse doesn’t do anything,’ comments a modest keeper in Tony Parker’s book Lighthouse, ‘it’s just there if you need it.’ Since 1998, when the last of the UK’s lighthouses became automated, the keepers are sadly no longer needed. But mariners still need lighthouses, dotted round perilous parts of our coastline, as a visual back-up to satellite navigation. As beautiful symbols of humanity, strength, dependability and fatherhood – so do we.

My novel THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER is available from your local bookshop or online e.g.  here