Opening the Box

Just a random poem from me today. This one was first published in the anthology Leaving, published by Hammond House last year.

 Opening the Box
 Even when you left,
 I kept some pieces of you:
 words and crosses scribbled
 on thin card; images 
 of smiles and sunshine,
 small gifts from another time
 now too painful to look at,
 too precious to lose.
 I made a box for them: square,
 solid, secured with a lock.
 In the box, they were safe,
 they were harmless – 
 that lacquered wood lid
 had the power of forgetting.
 If they burned or fermented 
 it stayed in the box. 
 Until yesterday, 
 seeing your face in the street.
 That look, like the turn of a key
 and that sound, in the silence
 of your box – and mine – 
 of the drawers sliding open,
 the clatter of relics
 strewn out on the ground. 

Let’s Get Published

Today I am delighted to host a guest piece by Val Penny. Val is best known for her ‘Hunter’s’ series of crime novels set in Edinburgh, but today she is sharing the introduction to her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published. Take it away, Val! ….

Many people say anybody can write a book.  Most of these individuals have never tried to write one. Alternatively, it is often said that everybody has a book inside of them. That is simply not true. This is repeated and belittles the achievements of authors.

In truth, it is a very hard thing to write a book. Most people never attempt it, fewer still succeed in getting published. But if you have written a novel, or novella, or perhaps compiled a collection of short stories, poems or flash fiction, this book may help you with the next step. It is primarily intended for authors of fiction who have completed a draft of their novel and who are now looking to prepare it for submission to agents or publishers.

Of course, it may also aid poets, short story writers and authors of non-fiction. It is designed to facilitate authors in maximising their success when submitting work to agents or publishers. It is to help authors consider their priorities and preferences for getting work into print and identify the agents and/or publishers they want to approach. It should also assist with editing their manuscript fully prior to submission and preparing their submission package to give them the best chance of success. 

Writing a novel is hard work.

Completing even the first rough draft of a novel can take months or even years, particularly if you are trying to fit your writing in amongst work or other commitments. It is definitely a marathon, not a sprint and requires dedication and persistence. The American writer Richard Bach who is widely known as the author of some of the 1970s’ biggest sellers, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull once said,

‘A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit’.

If you have finished the first draft of your novel and, like all writers, you now want it to reach the widest possible readership. It has to be published so that other people can read your book and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Getting your book published is likely to be even harder work than writing it. We have all heard the stories of the multiple rejections received by now best-selling authors including Kathryn Stockett who wrote The Help, also Stephen King’s bestselling novel, Carrie, was rejected over thirty times and even J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels were rejected on numerous occasions before Bloomsbury took a chance on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. No matter how good your book might be, to get it published you will need the same level of determination, resilience, hard work and careful planning that you harnessed to write it. Nevertheless, there is good news. There are now more routes to publication than ever before. Have a look and see which one suits you best – Let’s Get Published!

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Darkstroke. The fifth book in the series, Hunter’s Secret, was published in 2020 as was her first nonfiction book, Let’s Get Published.

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Looking Forward …

Well, what a year that was! It began with me turning 60, followed shortly afterwards by the death of my Mum on 13 January. Oh well, at least it’s got to get better after this, I thought …

However, I don’t think there is much point in raking over the awfulness of 2020, or the fact that the Covid crisis seems, right now, to be worse than ever. It was what it was, and it is what it is. Nor do I want to speculate about when we are finally going to emerge from all this – I’ve done so in the past, and been disappointed. But I do want to look forward, and I’m going to take the risky step of talking about some things I want to achieve this year.

My first priority is to get my novel Going Down in Flames – about a woman’s relationship with her father as he loses his memory – published. This has been rumbling on for a long time now. It’s been drafted, edited, sent to some agents, redrafted and edited again more than once. I was very confident in the concept and the characters, but something about the structure of it wasn’t quite working. I put it aside for a while and worked on other things, but last year I decided I had to get rid of the bloody thing. After a final edit with the aid of beta readers and some professional advice, I am now happy with the novel in its current form, and am determined to get it in print. It is with a publisher as we speak – I hope they like it! If not, there will be others.

I’d also like to make some progress with my slow-burning sci-fi project. Having published a first story from it last year (“Delving” in the Darkness anthology – I want to publish at least one more this year. Other than that, I’ll be continuing to seek to get poems published in magazines and anthologies, and placed in competitions, after a reasonably successful year in 2020 (about the only good thing about that year!). I may even look to get a second poetry collection (after Sea Without A Shore in 2019) published – but I’m not going to commit to that yet – it depends on what else happens. Finally, by the end of the year. I want to have started work on another novel. I’m not sure what that novel will be yet, but I have a few ideas.

So there it is! I’ve set out my stall for 2021. The good news is that none of this is dependent on the end of Covid or coming out of lockdown – indeed, maybe I’ll make better progress without the distractions of holidays or going out – but I’m not going to wish for that!

Finally, I’d like to wish all readers good luck in their own writing or other projects, and a safe, happy and ultimately positive year.