Sunday 31 January 2010

Quiet reflections

It is a time for quiet reflections. Not the calm and serene ones because the smooth waters are interrupted by drops making ripples.

One of the most gentle of gentlemen died unexpectedly. For many years his unassuming, affable influence permeated from behind his raised newspaper like the wreaths of smoke that drifted above his invisible head.

I'd sit and watch his slippered foot bounce to the rhythm of a lilting Irish melody, and wait. He knew I was there. He would wait, until I began to fidget. Slowly he would lower one corner of the broadsheet newspaper, his defence against the pack who had invaded the quiet world he and my aunt inhabited, and grin. His round face was one great smile.

He, to me, was the other way to be - composed and tranquil - I didn't know what it was he had when I was small - fifth of eight, with six brothers (three younger and three older) all still living at home - but I knew he had something I didn't see anywhere else, envied him, I loved him.

Uncle Sean, I hope all the traditional Irish greetings were true for you.

You are missed.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

a tiny query *shush!

Dear Agent

I am seeking representation for NEAR EDGWARE, a YA paranormal romance complete at 72,200 words.

Sixteen year old Jess Trainer does not understand Caleb Ridgeway. He alternates between interest and the cold shoulder. She could manage her emotions if he did not give her reasons to hope, but this on-off attraction drives her to the brink of stalker status.

Aware that the insular Ridgeway brothers have unique abilities, she suspects this why Caleb says their relationship cannot develop. When she finds out he is part of a pack rather than a family she is plunged into the seething war of attrition being fought in the woodland between those born human and those born were. Caleb is so traumatised after an attack Jess fears he will never recover. Can Jess help him back to reality, back to a time before the pain, back to her love?

Thank you for your time and consideration. I would be happy to send you the synopsis and first three chapters.


Elaine Smith

Then I had an amputation to perform. Dr Anne said it was necessary and she had a lot of second opinions.




Dad parked infront of the white, stone entrance. Even there I could see things had changed. On the new school crest a beast stood on two legs. With sharp teeth and raised claws, it glared down at the visitors to school.

I scanned the familiar, red brick building as I walked around the car to join Dad, "It looks different... larger than I remembered. Have I shrunk?"

Dad put his hand on my shoulder as we stepped into the reception area. He pressed the buzzer, and my arm, while we waited.

The secretary wove between the desks towards us, her expression was brighter that the "Welcome to Woodford College" banner on the wall.

"Hello, I'm Simon Trainer. This is my daughter, Jess. We're here to see the Headteacher."

She picked up a pen and tapped it on the diary, "Mr McIntyre is in his office. I'll let him know you've arrived. Please, push the green button and I'll let you in."

We sat beside the office and watched her hurry down the brown tiled corridor. I smoothed the fabric of my trousers over my knees, made sure my toe tapping was invisible inside my shoes.

"Mr McIntyre will see you now," whispered the assistant when she arrived back beside us.

Glancing at Dad I saw him narrow his eyes and straighten his shoulders, "It'll be fine."

We followed the secretary into a room dominated by a long, curved desk. Our view of the new Headteacher was limited to a glimpse of his mid-brown hair, and the jacket of a charcoal suit, as Mr McIntyre turned to reach into a low drawer in the filing cabinet behind his chair. I watched his chest expand as he drew in a deep breath before he swivelled back around.

Sunday 24 January 2010

I might be 2,940 to him but he is first to me

Slightly side tracked from my work, I accidently logged into my Twitter account.
I found my ninety-first follower.
I clicked to see who was selling me something I didn't want
and guess what?
You never will, so I'll tell you -
it was like this -
(oops - I've already done that part) -
my ninety-one is number one...
my first ever Poet Laureate!
No, friggin' way!
Yes, friggin' way!
I've got my very own Poet Laureate on the line,
well, page.
See, I'm not greedy, other people might want a brace
of Poets Laureate to chase
And now I've thought of it
stalking Poets with the monicer Laureate is apppealing
but that will have to wait
'cos I'm a bit psyched:
I might be 2,900 and-what-ever to him
but, he's number one to me!
Drop by any time you like
I'm cool
No gushing here.
Just me
and little poetry.

International Reader for the UNs Dialogue between Citizens etc
can pop by for poetry, or tea, any time he likes!

Still writing revisions of the Query letter

This is still long :( Can you spot any obvious things to cut?

Dear special Agent

The attraction sixteen-year-old, Jess Trainer, feels for Caleb Ridgeway is driving her to the brink of stalker-staus because his hands linger even while he is trying to push her away.

Jess abuses her position on the Year Book Committee to dissect the Ridgeway brother's files. In their previous school and the bizarre meanings of their full names she finds two possible reasons why Caleb and his brothers isolate themselves to the finges of all social circles . Given the choice between private-school snob and werewolf, the second option seems more desirable.

Their relationship plunges Jess into the seething war of attrition being fought in the woodland around Woodford between human hunters, once-human "werewolves" and those born Were. Jess finds this reality hard to stomach, she loves someone who is neither human nor wolf - he is Were.

It is Jess who runs to call back the others who were out on patrol and prevents a massacre when the pack are attacked by feral, once-human, Were.

In the aftermath of the attack, when only one of the feral Were escaped justice, Caleb is so traumatised the pack fear he may never recover. Despite the danger Caleb could kill her, or worse, Jess risks her humanity to help him remember the time before pain. She coaxes him back from the brink of madness, with her love.

I teach Year 6 children, coach football and the Chess Club; I also counsel children with behavioural difficulties.

My novel entitled NEAR EDGWARE is a YA paranormal romance set in a normal secondary school and the woodland, called the Weald, which surrounds the town of Woodford, near Edgware. It is complete in 72,200 words.

Many thanks for your time

Elaine A M Smith

As with my initials I would have to describe my writing as more Kelley Armstrong and less Stephenie Meyer.

I can't think how - or where - to put the comparative part - it is corny and trite currently but ... where does it go?

Saturday 23 January 2010

Hi! A warm welcome from less-than-sunny Watford


I've written a super-specific version of my Query letter, as per the instructions on the Public Query Slush Pile, but now I'm sitting on a mountain of post-it notes containing a few things I ought to be doing I can't face typing it out, again!

Monday 18 January 2010

Query letter?

NEXT STOP - The Public Query Slush Pile - it's time to get savaged over there!

Dear Agent

I have recently completed my 72,200-word YA paranormal romance entitled Near Edgware, and I hope you might consider representing me. My writing lulls with school-based settings and bites like a Kelley Armstrong.

Sixteen-year-old, Jess Trainer, has a lot in common with Caleb Ridgeway: the athletic skills, unusual senses and the feeling of being something different - a little apart from their peers. If her parents had told Jess their family secrets she might have understood why she is attracted to the boy who cannot let anyone see the other side of him.

Jess does not understand why Caleb fights to keep her at a distance when their classes, common interests and the almost addictive attraction makes being away from him unbearable. After spending time together Caleb's scent lingers on Jess' clothes, this brings out the worst kind of wolves still living in England. The sight of Caleb, and his protectors at work, is the solution to the puzzle she has been piecing together. Jess finds the reality hard to accept, but she realises she loves someone who is neither human nor wolf - he is Were .

Jess risks her life, and her humanity, to reach a traumatised Caleb after the pack is attacked. Only she can guide him back with her love.

This book can stand alone but it has series potential.

I am a teacher with the usual English qualifications and a less usual counselling one.

Thank you for your time,

Sunday 17 January 2010

Anne says, "Still, no!"

Anne says, "No. Not like that, like this..." She gave me enough frame to work with so I could improve my query - hook, line and...

Dear Literary Agent
My novel NEAR EDGWARE is a YA paranormal romance complete in 72,200 words.
Sixteen-year-old, Jess Trainer, has a lot in common with her classmate Caleb Ridgway: the athletic skills, unusual senses and the feeling of being something different - a little apart from their peers. If only her parents had told Jess their family secrets she might have understood why she is attracted to the boy who will not allow anyone to get to know the real him.
Jess does not understand why Caleb fights to keep his distance when their classes, common interests and an almost magnetic attraction keep pulling them together. His resistance crumbles and he trusts Jess with his heart. When his lingering scent puts Jess in danger, Caleb rescues her and his secret is revealed. Can Jess still love him when she knows he was born Were?
Jess becomes the Pack's protector when they are attacked. She risks her life, and humanity, to reach a traumatised Caleb, and guide him back to her love.
This book can stand alone but has series potential.

It is more specific and precise but what can I tell, I wrote the last twenty-two!
Thanks to Anne and Keren, what was long is now much shorter.
Donna - we are agreed - this is the Query - without the writer's biographical details

Please feel free to add your thoughts, I'm finding it incredibly helpful.

Saturday 16 January 2010

Has it taken longer to write the pitch?

I struggle with the letter - you know the one that hardly matters - the one that sells both the writer and the writing to an agent.

I could talk for Britain about the Near Edgware concept, as over-enthusiastic as a labrador puppy, but distilling it into a pitch has taken longer than the time it took to throw the first draft at my computer!

This is the version I'm staking my career change on:

Dear Literary Agent (who I have researched properly to make sure this is not a waste of your time and mine also :s )

I would like to introduce you to my debut novel written for young adults, it has been well-received by teams of pre-teen and teenage Beta readers and others, who were considerably older, in my Writers' Circle.

Near Edgware is a paranormal romance complete in 72,200 words.

Sixteen-year-old, Jess Trainer has been away - out of everthing - for two years; her life on-hold while she was living in Guyana. Now she is back she just wants to run, word hard and socialise with her old friends. They welcome her back but she cannot shake the feeling she is looking at the life that should have been hers.

The re-named new-old-school with its blend of old and new facilties, familiar and new faces, reminds her of the last, difficult, year. Her understanding of alientation makes the three brothers who keep themselves apart fascinating. Where others see only the similarities, she sees the differences. Immune to his brothers, Jess knows that Caleb Ridgway attracts her attention with every sense she possesses.

Jess' determination to learn more about Caleb, and to provoke his interest pays off when he decides to trust Jess - not with his secret - but with is heart. From her first terrifying glimpse into the world of those born Were, Jess is offered choices. Caleb, his pack and its Alpha ensure she learns about their value system and way of life.

It is Jess who acts as the Weald Pack's protector when the are attacked by feral Were. The strength of their love means she can reach the traumatised Caleb when his pack, and bothers, believed he was lost.


If you love it or hate it please let me know. I can't guarantee not to cry tears of blood but I can always send it - and me - back to the drawing board. bahaha!

Friday 15 January 2010

So, to summarise...

Unlike small Indian girls, there is one hurdle in my life that actually makes me cry tears of blood. I would rather poke my eye than attempt to take the book concept and find the fifteen words that encapsulate it.

The problem is, before I typed the first word I plotted the "Big Picture." This is a sound and sensible writing technique. The complication is my global view covers the two academic years of Post-16 study - the Sixth Form (Lower and Upper) - Years 12 and 13. The two years are broken into six school terms and the summer holiday in between.

With a note book in one hand and sucking on a pencil I yelled at my resident expert - (all names have been altered to protect the innocent) - my Minnow became the first Beta Reader. The phrase, "No one would say that..." was worn out during the first drafting process. She also appointed herself as the official Anti-Cheese Monitor! My book is Dairy-lite!

"Oi! Minnow? Would it take a year to trap a boy who was, basically, interested in you?"

She snorted! (Badly brought up, probably.)

"Is he seeing someone else?"

"No! What kind of a boy do you think I'm about to invent here?"

"Then, no! A week is a long time in the Sixth Form."

This was the foundation I built my story upon.

I wrote termly plans (teacher in joke) very separate - different focuses - different books. Six or seven. I let the strands wind out through Jess' life and her motivations, then Caleb's, Jess' destiny, the issues that plague sub-cultures on the edges of society, and the past. I suddenly felt very Christine Feehan!


Jess Trainer

An athletic teenager, sees the public image others present as the mask they hide behind .

She wants to be accepted and loved.

She wants Caleb to let her into his world and trust her.

But secrecy, to him, means safety when unexpected danger stalks the woodlands.

Love can overcome any obstacle if you can see the individual as they truly are and love them for themselves.
My thanks to Randy Ingermanson who's on-line advice helped me to distill, if imperfectly, my WIP.
Which part of the writing process drives you to distraction?

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Procrastination is not the thief of time - that's me

Thinking about time.

I've spend hours this weekend reading. I do that, again. Finding a book I truly loved was a bad thing, for a while there.

This weekend was crazy. With more things on lists than I can remember having to work my way through for a long time, I was wandering around with a book in my hand looking for moments or minutes (or hours) to steal. I blamed Paul Hoffman while He-who-must-be-paid-attention-to blamed me. There were times this weekend when he reminded me of my mother - she used to pull that face too!

There used to be a lot of time for reading. (I wrote that and instantly decided it was a lie. Great, I'm lying to me too: - "I'll be down in a minute." or "I'm nearly at the end of the chapter!")

I read six books a week, most weeks, from the age of eleven. The other weeks were my favourites, the weeks when I read the same book six times. These were books that glittered with multi-faceted characters, fascinated with settings and enthralled with plots that twisted like the Serpentine - writers that made me care. I read by daylight, desklight, nightlight or streetlight depending on how many times I'd been caught reading at the wrong time ! Reading was more important than sleep.

Then work and autism took over my life and I was the servant of time. This time next year things will be different, or better or easier. I found that things were, generally, different, worse and bigger.

I only read in school holidays. (No sign or symbol equals how I feel about that, now.)

September last year I rebelled: I read in term time. I knew what this would mean, I'm not to be trusted around books. But the rebellion lacked revolutionary qualities. I felt radical. I moved into my partner's shrine to football, colonised half, and started to write. So the girl from the blue-collar, Irish-Catholic family with far too many brothers, who learned to read because the library was full of places that were somewhere other, decided to write.

The Thief of Time was not procrastination, it was me: I took time, made time, stole time, and wrote.

I took control of what I was reading - not with selections at the library or the bookshop - but letter by letter and word by word.

One year ago today I "finished writing" Near Edgware, then I learned how to write.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

NEAR EDGWARE Diary format?

Nathan Bransford has a competition!! I didn't even read what the "prize" was, it's a Bransford Blog competition, so - I'm in!

I started writing something entirely different but I was never happy with it. Great words - angsty and tortured - but I kept hearing Jess' voice, "Aren't I angsty enough for you?"
She had a point.
There were two places that stood out as being ripe for a diary entry. Day 1 - Jess bumps into Caleb and Day 19 - just before Jess' friends perform an intervention (the clothes, and make-up, Jess had decided to wear - to force Caleb to pay attention to her - had crossed the line marked "Decency".)

Changing the work into diary format took time - more time than I would have thought. I could feel the writing becoming all Jess, that was an odd realisation!

Hey, Diary
24 September - Wednesday

It’s me, Jess – not writing about Caleb again, because I said I was done with that, but I’m going to make such a fool of myself (I don’t mean here) and I don’t care. I slip out of focus and into daydreaming in school. I catch a glimpse of him, track him down... pounce. I imagine us together – in the stockroom, lunchroom, library, Headteacher’s office – my head says public places aren't too extreme, at all.
It's not that I'm a stalker, if Caleb isn't interested - he isn't interested. That’s life. But when he held my hand and rubbed circles on my wrist, I didn’t dream that look on his face. He wanted me. He cared. I know he did. He is interested.
So, why are their times when he pretends I don’t exist? One thing, or the other, would be... fine. Then, I’d know what to do–how to be–when he’s near. But, I see him looking when he thinks I’m concentrating on something else. (Like that happens, often.) I don’t get it. But why should I, when
I don’t even understand me? Something is driving me–pulling me–almost out of control. Attraction, maybe? I feel it somewhere in the space just below my stomach. I’m living... desperate.
Have to stop thinking this way, even if I can’t stop feeling it.
I’m going back into training. If I run more–run and swim and get a life–it’ll be a change from balancing on the never-knowing knife edge. Is this love? Hell, no! Love is easy like skipping in sunshine not the twisted mess I’m feeling now.
I keep thinking it’s all about his body–ripped and tanned, true–or that face, but it’s not. I know that better than anyone else because, if that’s it, I’ve got early birthday presents: my boy comes in a matching set and everyone says the Ridgeways look way-similar. I could, maybe, stretch to saying that I like his interfering brothers, but, I’m TOTALLY immune to them – this insanity is all Caleb.
So, if anyone asks, I’m never thinking about him again. Again!

Monday 4 January 2010

What can you do in 50 words?

We had some fun with mini-sagas in school. Are you up for the challenge? ALL you have to do is write a complete story within the 50 word limit.

Listening to The Blue Nile - Let's Go Out Tonight (in fact the whole of "Hats" - that kind of a day - Hi, to Paul Buchanan and hugs and kisses to Joannie.)


Cloud-like vapour billowed. Ronnie stumbled back into the corner, on adrenalin-clumsy feet. Sweat dripped from his brow. Steps beyond the door thudded louder than heartbeats.
What words could he say? He was responsible. All he could do was wait.
“Ronnie! Hot enough? That shower has a cold tap too!