Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes...

Well it all happened so suddenly!  One minute I was having a whinge about the traumas of self-publishing and the next I was receiving a contract offer from a publisher for my debut novel ‘The Apple Tree’.  How did that happen?  Well, promise you won’t laugh…?
Being a newbie to this publishing game, I started approaching review blogs asking them very politely if they would like to review my new contemporary romance – I touched upon that briefly in a former blog.  One of these ‘blogs’ turned out to be a site for a start-up publisher called ‘Inspired Romance Novels’.  A lovely lady named Joan agreed to accept my submission and read it.  Trust me to get it wrong, but who cares?  Joan liked the novel and offered me a contract!
Not only that but, by submitting to her site, I had unwittingly entered my novel into her ‘kick-off romance writing competition’ – which I subsequently won!  Since then the wonderful Joan has worked painstakingly with me to help me revamp my novel, find just the right cover art and prepare for its re-launch.
I’ve been so inspired and excited that I churned out my next novel in record time – true the idea was fully-formed in my mind – but ‘In Loving Hate’ (title still open to debate, by the way) was so much easier to write after that little confidence boost.
What I want to say to shy new writers (like me) is have faith in yourself.  Approach the review blogs after first making sure that your work fits their wanted list and don’t give up hope.  Joan was my fairy godmother – I hope you will find yours!

Excerpt from 'The Apple Tree'

Excerpt: The Apple Tree

Copyright 2011 Lynette Sofras

“Ah yes,” Sonya cooed.  “We hear you’ve already met our Nicko.”
Nicholas extended his hand to her for the second time that day.  She noticed his well-manicured and scrubbed nails.  Definitely an artist’s hands, she thought.
“Yes, Mr Masserman very kindly showed me around the garden center this afternoon...” She stopped suddenly, fearing she may have said the wrong thing and jeopardized his job.  Nicholas only smiled. 
“It’s Nicholas,” he corrected.  “Nick, if you prefer.”
But not Nicko, thank goodness.
He helped himself to a drink before gracefully folding his lean frame into a rather low armchair placed at an angle to her chair.  Robert began to fire questions about his garden center and whether Nicholas had omitted anything from his tour.  She was able to reassure him unequivocally on both scores and Robert appeared satisfied at last while Nicholas laughed at the compliment.
“And I hear you’re a doctor like your sister and father.  Genius must run in your family.” Sonya once again took the lead.  Nicholas raised his eyebrows—it was his turn to be impressed—as Sonya continued.  “What an exciting life you must lead.”
“Far from it, I assure you,” Julie said with a self-deprecating laugh that bore no trace of humor.
“And I don’t believe you. I mean, you’ve just returned from Saudi Arabia.  How can that compare with our humdrum little lives?”  Sonya persisted.
A sinking sensation dragged at her insides.  She didn’t want to think about the past year, in fact, it was the last subject she wanted to discuss with anyone right now.  From whichever angle she viewed it, it reminded her of her failure. 
Saudi had been Simon’s idea.  With his own future success guaranteed, a break in Saudi suited him and Julie had viewed it as an escape route and jumped at the move.  Too quickly.  She believed it would be a place with space to breathe, to recoup, to discover herself and re-evaluate her future.  But it had been nothing like that.  As much as Simon enjoyed his life there, she hated it.  Yet another mistake.
She shifted her unhappy gaze to her hands, which still held her glass of vodka and tonic.  A cube of ice cracked and splintered into smaller lumps, which proceeded to chase each other around the glass. How odd.  It wasn’t until the liquid sloshed that she realized her hand shook.  With surprisingly good timing, Nicholas pulled a small drinks table between their seats and set his own glass down, as if to demonstrate how it should be done.  At the same time, he politely asked which part of Saudi, as if it was of no real consequence.
She looked straight into his eyes.  “It was near Riyadh, and to tell the truth, I was pretty unhappy there.  I’m very glad to be back in England.”
“Sonya comes from Australia, originally,” he said in reply before Sonya could speak again. “And like all Aussies who travel, she’s done the seven continents and seen all the wonders of the modern world.” His accent became more mock-antipodean with every word.  Sonya was the first to convulse. “But you ask her and she’ll tell you what she’s always telling us.  There’s nowhere like dear old England anywhere else in the world, possums.”  This last was uttered in a perfect Dame Edna mimic and somehow, in the general merriment that followed, the subject of Saudi Arabia was sidelined and forgotten.
From that time on, it was an evening of almost undiluted hilarity and enjoyment.  Julie finally stopped resisting the magnetic pull of Nicholas’s proximity when she realized with thrilling clarity at some point in the evening that the attraction was almost certainly mutual.  Every time she moved her head, they made eye contact and with each fresh little smile they exchanged, another layer of resistance peeled away. 
But the conversation over dinner left her feeling uncomfortable and guilty, threatening to spoil her pleasant evening.  The topic was marriage—Sonya and Bob’s wedding in the autumn. And as sometimes happens, given the idiosyncrasies of human nature, the subject of marriage pretty soon turned to its opposite state—divorce, which drew from Nicholas such a powerful polemic as to render Julie breathless with surprise.  Not so, Sonya, who was evidently familiar with Nicholas’s views on divorce.
“We all know your views on that subject, Nicko,” she said amid peals of laughter and then turned to Julie and said in an exaggerated stage whisper, “For such an enlightened, twenty-first century bloke, he’s more old-fashioned than my grandfather!” Then addressing the table in general, “But you need have no fears on my account, Nicko.  When Roberto takes me for his wife, he’ll be stuck with me for the rest of his life.”
Julie looked down at her plate, experiencing a sudden stab of irrational dislike for Sonya.  How could the woman be so gauche?  And where did this irritating, seemingly-affectionate, pseudo-Italian habit of rounding off everyone’s name with an “o” fit in to things?  Before the evening was out, she might have to respond to the name Julio!  And why was Sonya so self-deprecating, as if she could barely believe her luck in finding a man to marry her?  But as these thoughts coursed through her brain, Julie felt ashamed.  The reason for her irritation stemmed from her own feelings and a vague, uneasy sensation of guilt.
She looked up and caught Nicholas’s eye, not too difficult to do by this stage!  “As one in three marriages end in divorce,  statistically that means if we all get married, then one of us around this table will end up divorced.”
“Not if you marry Nicky,”  Sonya pointed out with a whoop of delight that almost crucified Julie with embarrassment.  Robert and Sonya had to support each other through their mirth.  When she was able to raise her eyes again, Julie saw Nicholas trying to hide his own amusement as he watched her struggle to justify her views.  Dig, dig, digWill I ever get out of this hole?
“You seem to have very strong views on divorce,” she accused.
“I certainly do.  The rising divorce statistics you referred to reflect all that’s bad about our disposable society, in my opinion.  It’s the root of all the social and economic problems of our day...” A mock groan from Sonya interrupted his words.
“Not the rubber gloves brigade,” she teased.
“And the lowering of standards caused by cheap fashions which allow people to slip in and out of marriage like disposable knickers.” Robert put in.
Shocked and mystified by the banter, Julie looked on silently.   Nicholas sat back watching the little charade unfold as though he had heard it all before.
“People shouldn’t be allowed just to slip in and out of marriage,” Sonya said.
“As they do a set of clothes,” added Robert.
“Like rubber gloves.”
“Or disposable knickers.”
Such people ought never to be allowed to marry in the first place,” they chorused in unison.
Nicholas clapped, halting the performance.  To Julie’s relief, he did not appear annoyed by this friendly mockery of his beliefs.  If someone had attacked Simon’s views in such a the speculation broke off, for she was unable to imagine how Simon might have responded.  She turned to Nicholas. “Surely you allow for human error?  Sometimes people simply make mistakes.”
Nicholas shook his head.  “One should never make mistakes ‘simply’.  But most people are too shallow and impatient to give sufficient consideration to the real meaning of the marriage contract and as soon as they encounter difficulties, off they run to consult their solicitors.  Which accounts for the appalling divorce statistics in this country, the breakdown of family life and decline in moral values.”
“Nick hates solicitors.” Sonya gave a wink. “And not just because they are all so filthy rich.”
Nick’s friends have to consult the Masserman Marriage Manifesto before contemplating wedlock,” Robert added. “I don’t recommend it.  By the time you’re through reading it, you’re too old for marriage anyway.  He keeps adding clauses, you see, so it’s impossible to finish it.”
“Then really it’s marriage itself that you’re against?”  Julie asked. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Cat's Tale

So this thing here then that they spend all day playing with when they think I’m sleeping is supposed to be something special, is it?  I hear the word ‘mouse’ and my whiskers instantly start twitching but my nose tells me a different story.  They don’t fool me.  I’ve had a good look all around and sneezed for half an hour from the fluff behind the box thing, but there are definitely no mice hiding behind this glowing wall.

There’s a funny looking thing in front of it though which looks like it could be good for a game but there’s no real mileage in it for me.  I have to do all the work while it just sits there saying ‘click’.  Can’t say I’m impressed.  Most of the time it just crouches, watching bubbles bounce around in front of it.  Damn bubbles!  I wouldn’t mind bumping off a few of those too but they hide behind another one of those walls, just like those twittering bird creatures.

Oh yes I’ve learnt the names all right.  Couldn’t fail to, as I hear them all day: ‘Look at the bubbles, Mia.’  ‘Look at the birds, Mia.’  And I say ‘I’m looking!  I’m looking, now open that damn wall-thing and let me get at ‘em!’ 

You’d think I could have trained them by now, but it’s not that easy. They're such slow learners.  Still, I try not to complain too much. After all they’re pretty good at their other duties, like keeping me provided with supplies of fresh food and drink as well as tasty little treats, which almost make me forget about the mice and the birds.  And they make sure I have plenty of warm, dry beds around so I can nap whenever and wherever I need.

Generally I find them respectful and willing to learn but they have one primitive habit I don’t think I'll ever manage to cure.  I expect it has something to do with them being clockwork.  They wind down at the same time every day and stop working for so long that I think their parts might seize up.  Ridiculous!  If they could learn to nap like me, they would function so much better.  Instead it’s left to me to make sure they don’t unwind so far that they stop working altogether.

And it’s that time now.  They’ve been wound down for hours.  Time for me to stop tormenting this silly plastic lump they call a mouse and staring at myself in this boring wall.  It’s time for me to do my bit and go and lure my best playmate out from its secret hiding place and raise hell on the stairs and passageways outside their doors until they start to take notice of me.  Too much sleep is bad for the body.  Frequent short naps – well spaced throughout the day – that’s the way to a happy, productive life.  You’d think they’d have got the message by now.  Slow learners!

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's In a Name?

You would think that a writer would have a good enough imagination not to be phased when it comes to finding a title for her magnum opus. Sadly, not in my case.  When it comes to ideas for stories, it’s standing room only inside my brain, but finding titles for those stories is an entirely different…well, story.

A title needs to stand out, to grab the attention of potential agents, publishers and readers.  It needs to inform, intrigue and entice and most of all, it needs to be relevant.  It shouldn’t be boring, mustn’t sound pretentious and can't afford to be instantly forgettable. So, we’re not asking much of it, are we?  

And is it any wonder that I develop something akin to stage fright when I have to come with a title?

I indulged in a little moan about this recently on Twitter.  No one seemed to be able to offer me the magic solution, sadly.  One Twit (sorry, Tweep) said he had the reverse problem, plenty of titles, no story ideas.  After reflection that did make me feel slightly better, though it didn’t solve my problem.

I mean, take my first novel: ‘The Apple Tree’.   I still cringe at just how unimaginative that sounds.  One sensitive soul asked me what the relevance of the title was and was clearly unimpressed to hear that the heroine had an old apple tree in her garden which seemed to represent her childhood triumphs and achievements.  It’s a minor character in the story, however, and tells nothing of the dramatic traumas the heroine undergoes as an adult.

My most significant novel (the one of which I’m still so possessive that I can’t yet send it out into the big wide world to try its fortune) still has its working title “Unworkers”.  In fact it’s lived with that for so long that I doubt I could bear to change it now.  A good friend kindly pointed out to me that I'd invented the word, which was meaningless.  Not to me, it’s not!  The work is women’s fiction (with a supernatural twist) and one of the characters explains its meaning in Chapter Two.  “Unworkers”, she claims are those “Unpaid, unvalued, unnoticed [women] ... we’re like those little elfin tailors, beavering away invisibly, putting the world to rights with our neat little patches while we put our own lives on hold for everyone else.”  Speaking as one of them, I think I invented a pretty good word…it remains to be seen whether it will work as a title, however.

And now my latest dilemma is to find a title for my current work – a romantic suspense.  This has lived – untitled – in my mind for so long that naming it now seems almost wrong!  But name it I must.  So I put on my oversized thinking cap and went to work.  The moment I stopped toying with ideas, one popped into my head.  ‘In Loving Hate’.  Now, why I had been thinking of Romeo and Juliet at that moment, I have no idea.  So I asked my chief critic and mentor (my son) what he thought of it – and he told me in his delightfully honest way.  ‘Don’t like it.  Too commercial and common.  It lacks sophistication.’  Well, I wonder how William would feel about that?  I asked my good friend and fellow writer, Deb what she thought and this was her response: 'I LOVE the title!!! It's short and powerful, intriguing, and catches the reader's attention.  And it has a Shakespeare connection'. Hmm...

So here is my question to any readers kind enough to respond.  To be or not to be: ‘In Loving Hate’?  

Oh, and if you have a secret for coming up with great titles, please share it!