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  • Archive for May, 2014

    Step 27: Get Published


    2014 - 05.02

    I’m pretty sure I planned to have a book published at 30. That was definitely in a Life Plan somewhere. Quite a few, really. 

    I’ve missed that life goal, it seems, even though I’m sure I’m still only in my 20s really. The first book is mostly written but now it needs a staggering amount of re-writing, and this was the year I was going to do it but… this whole Audio Fitness Adventures thing kind of got going and…

    …well. I have not completed, much less published, a book by 30. It’s like in my head, my deepest self validation starts at Step 1: Get Published. Thing is, to get to that step, there a stupid number of previous steps and I don’t even want to tell you how many mistakes. So long story short (and the sequence of steps may one day appear as another blog post) I’m going to review that to Step 27: Get Published.

    Which I’ve finally bloody done.

    LE FEMME (NewCon Press)

    Front cover image: Pam Martin – Back cover image: Shaun Hodge

    And this is the story of how.

    It technically started with my friend Ian Whates getting in touch about a year ago – maybe more? – to ask to use some of my modelling shots for the covers of an anthology he was putting together. It really started when super comics writer Tony Lee dared me to wear the Slave Leia outfit at an SFX Weekender, and having rather reluctantly done so, I had my single best night of professional and geeky networking ever. And met, amongst many others, Ian, who I then bumped into at Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker launch and have been very happy Facebook and real life friends with since.

    Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 18.43.15

    Me and my first publisher – YAAAY IAN!!!

    Now there was a time, about 18 months ago, when it seemed I was more likely to get agented and published as a model than a writer. Which quietly wearied me – and then that didn’t happen either so the equilibrium of my total obscurity remained unchallenged.

    But Ian wanted some shots, and photographers Pam Martin and Shaun Hodge OK’d them and VOILA: I was to appear in print!

    Well.
    On the cover of someone else’s print.

    Quietly, I despaired.

    And then asked Ian whether – ‘long shot, no worries if not, totally understand if it’s utter unprintable bollocks’ – I could submit to the anthology. The theme was the Femme Fatale. I write several of those already and sometimes prance around pretending to be one on the weekends. I felt marginally qualified.

    He said yes, I could submit.

    But with the usual necessary disclaimers that he would not sympathy print me just because I was 31 and incapable of getting a book out in the public domain or short stories beyond my website. Not that I’ve tried the latter much mind you, to be fair. I write them, and then I hide them on my website, and might link to them once ever, when a new one goes up. Little secret for you: you can find them right here if you feel so inclined.

    No, for this, I had to write a decent story, one I couldn’t just sympathy beg my friends to read.

    So I pondered over whether to start a completely new story, or step into one of my existing works. This was 2013 and the theme of the year was to write stories from my larger projects in short form (my reasoning being that instead of saying ‘oh yes, I write stuff! But no, none of it is finished’ or ‘so do you read scripts for pleasure?’ I could say ‘oh yes, I write stuff! And you can read some of it here!‘).

    Vandal is my most obvious femme fatale, but the most interesting part of her life does rather require backstory, and I had a 4,000 word limit. So I ended up working with Soleil in the backstory to my TV series concept Life In Me and from an image taken by my friend John Henry:

    John Henry

    Adler vs Sherlock (poor Jez Hellion – but he had his vengeance) PHOTO: John Henry

    A few loyal friends have endured various drafts and forms of Life In Me being thrust somewhat desperately upon them, and while the story has its fans, it has its detractors as well. I will never forget one friend telling me to abandon the whole thing if I ever wanted to write something decent. I’ll never forget it because while reading that feedback, in an email on my phone, I became so distraught that I didn’t notice some bastard nick my purse on the bus home. I was already crying by the time I got off, checked my bag and discovered the theft. It took a while to get over that.

    Soleil's future on Earth - and a surprisingly accurate portrayal of how I felt after the feedback (PHOTO: David Long of Exposure Studios London)

    Soleil’s future on Earth – and a surprisingly accurate portrayal of how I felt after the feedback (PHOTO: David Long of Exposure Studios London, MODEL: Anita De Bouch )

    But Life in Me is what I largely spent my university years working on, what I wrote my first ever attempts at scripts for, and what kept me writing through my seven months in Italy by getting up at 4:30am to get the hour in before getting the kids up at 6. I wrote and shot a photo story for it with my photographer friend David Long, and I wrote and workshopped a ‘trailer’ for the series as an experimental piece of theatre for The Hospital Club a few years back (a truly, truly strange video does exist). I can leave it for a year and dive back in as though I never left – and I loved stepping into its backstory for the short story submission.

    An alternate vision of Soleil (PHOTO: David Long, Exposure Studios London)

    A vision of Soleil (PHOTO: David Long, Exposure Studios London)

    Only one person read it before I submitted it to Ian – and that’s rare for me, as I’m always bumming around for feedback, even though I’ve had to learn to toughen the hell up the last few years. But I submitted and didn’t hear anything back for months and forgot about it.

    Then Ian emailed, and there were some tense issues and a definite need for some editing between us but he liked it.

    He said: yes.

    Suddenly, I was going to be published! As both a writer and a model! And at the same time!

    I rejoiced!

    Then I realised that by announcing my first publication (at 31), I was also confessing to having my first publication at 31. Which really didn’t match those younger Life Plans.

    I despaired.
    Again.

    As is my fractious nature – I have a sunny disposition on all matters unless I have a pistol to hold to my own head and then damn I will take aim – I did indeed manage to make this first win into a fail. During the editing back-and-forths, some of which were taking place during my pre-burnout period at the start of this year, and when my self esteem and emotional resilience was precarious at best, I actually demanded Ian to tell me why he was even publishing it. WHY, IT’S CRAP!

    It really became a messy situation in my head, a success that just seemed to illustrate a larger failure, and the closer we got to print, the more I worried people would buy the book to support me having finally been published, but wouldn’t particularly enjoy the story. And then probably wouldn’t tell me they had bought it or mention that they had read it (knowing someone is planning to read your work, and then never hearing back, is like trauma to a writer, believe me).

    The good news is the anthology has stories from many considerably experienced and imaginative story tellers and I, so is totally worth your investment :)  It’s a steal on Kindle and also available in paperback and hardcover with signed author sheets, if you’d like to enjoy the covers. Or like signatures.

    Really should have practiced my scrawl first...

    Really should have practiced my scrawl first…

     

    I! Signed! Author sheets!

    I! Signed! Author sheets!

    Of the covers themselves, let it be said that the front cover was one of the first modelling pictures of me that didn’t involve weapons and a variation of the ‘I’m going to fuck you up’ face and was therefore quite the challenge for Pam Martin to capture, and the back cover makes me look elegant and like a dancer which is a bloody miracle on Shaun Hodge’s part.

    So I guess the concluding moral of the story is: dress up as Leia, get published a few years later*.

    Also, steal everyone else's steampunk weapons.

    Also, steal everyone else’s steampunk weapons.

    *though I am fairly sure there are faster and more conventional methods

     

    Buy LA FEMME on Kindle
    Buy LA FEMME in paperback on Amazon
    Buy LE FEMME in hardcover on Amazon
    Buy LA FEMME  from a small independent bookseller