I did an annual update for 2015 and 2014, so in that grand tradition, here’s the 2016 edition.
So, did anything interesting happen this year? Let’s take a look.
The Wreck of the Argyll
This book started the year on the shortlist for the Great War Dundee Children’s Book Prize, and to my utter amazement, it went on to win. I then worked with ace editor Helen Sedgwick from Cargo Publishing to lick the book into shape, and on September 25th it was launched at an event in Dundee, followed by a talk at the Wigtown Book Festival.
Dream come true. Achievement unlocked. Item ticked on the bucket list. Getting this book published was all these things and more.
But winning a competition is a bit of a shortcut into the world of publication, and it’s a shortcut that (in this case) leads to a dead end, which will require a bit of back-tracking. If I’d gone down the standard route to publication, there would be a clear route forward. As it stands, I’ve got no agent, no publication deal, and no ongoing relationship with a publisher (Cargo doesn’t actually exist any more – their back list was bought by fellow Glasgow independent publisher Freight, who seem a bit selective about which Cargo books they choose to acknowledge – there’s no listing for my book on their website). Which, in a lot of ways, means I’m in exactly the same position as I was last year.
Also, I’m yet to see my book in an actual bookshop. Apparently Waterstone’s in Dundee stocks it now (although they didn’t on launch day when I was in Dundee), and they did have it in the festival tent at Wigtown (which is sort of a bookshop), but when I handed in a copy to my local Leicester branch of Waterstone’s to see if they’d be interesting in stocking a local author (I’ve lived in Leicester since 1993, and my partner was actually one of the initial booksellers when Waterstone’s opened in The Shires) they never got back to me – they probably needed the space for Zoella tote bags or board games. Not that I’m bitter!
I’ve still got an ambition to walk into a bookshop and see a book I’ve written on the shelves. Maybe some day.
My Dragon Has No Nose
Written specifically for the Kelpies prize, and didn’t get anywhere. Shelved.
The Chimney Rabbit/The Chimney Rabbit and the Underground Mice/Tales of the Ancient Rabbits/The Panopticon Papers
The rabbit books (including the rebranded version of Tales that became Panopticon) have been shelved after racking up 42 rejections between them. Definitely flawed early works!
The Dragon on the Tower
I did a complete re-write of this book in 2015, as I wasn’t particularly happy with it. The new version is much better, I think – it brings out all the elements that I messed up by trying to be too subtle, and has a much streamlined final act. It’s currently making the rounds of agents, but if I’d thought that being able to put “published author” in the covering letter would make any difference, I was sadly deluded! Of the small number of agents to whom I’ve sent the sample, one sent a form rejection within a few days, while the other agents have been sitting on it for over two months – a fair bit longer than the median time, according to my spreadsheet. [Update: Apparently Anne Clark doesn’t send out rejections any more, so as it has been over four weeks without a response, I can assume that she’s not interested. Two down!]
If I don’t get a nibble from this batch of submissions, I’m going to shelve it.
Murder at Eaglecrest
A first draft of a sequel to The Wreck of the Argyll. Needs work, but I’ve no plans for this at present. I have had several people (including the fab Hubbabubba reading group in Dundee, and author Jeremy de Quidt) enquire about the future adventures of Nancy and Jamie, so fingers crossed this will eventually see the light of day. No idea how I’m going to make that happen, though.
I had a short story accepted for publication by Shoreline of Infinity magazine, which should see print sometime in 2016. I’ve also written a couple of other stories, which are currently under consideration. It’s helpful to keep my hand in between novel projects, and it’s a welcome break from my usual style of writing. I let myself use semi-colons in my short stories, for a start.
I plan to write some more short stories in 2016.
I’ve had a book published, and that’s fantastic. But it’s not the start of anything, and doesn’t seem to have given me much of a leg-up so far in terms of continuing to get published. If The Dragon on the Tower strikes out with this batch of agent submissions, I don’t actually have anything else I’d feel comfortable sending out – unfortunately The Wreck of the Argyll is my best work, and that’s no use for attracting an agent, because that ship (ha!) has sailed.
So the plan for 2016 is to start from scratch, if necessary. I’ll need to start writing something new, but to be honest I’m in no hurry to go through the whole depressing agent submission grind. It’s not good for my mental well-being. I think I’ll concentrate on writing for myself.