Back on the Madcap Trolley!


I’m redoing Madcap Library, my series of fantastical stories set in an imaginary library, featuring a sloth with a speed addiction, book hunters, a library pirate, ninjas, book owls and whatever other madness crossed my mind…

The wonderful Hannah Botma did images for me, and I’d honestly forgotten how much I loved these stories and characters! I’m just formatting books 1 and 2, and then I have book 3 to finish – which is going to be ridiculous amounts of fun.

I’m doing a short story, too, so keep an eye out over the next week or two for all of the madness!


On liking what you’re selling

sloth ML-1I realised this morning, whilst walking along a damp footpath, that I didn’t actually feel proud or happy with something I’ve been trying to submit to agents.

I started writing the Madcap Library stories for me; they were amusing, using sketches of characters based on things in my Library, odd people, weird situations that were crazy enough to be funny. I didn’t really have an audience in mind beyond ‘children’ and anyone who likes silly stories!

Then my illustrator and I were asked, about a year ago, to submit a proposal for a picture story using one of the characters (the Sloth) for 3-5 year olds. I admit I struggled to adapt the stories, but I wrote some new ones, adapted some old ones, picked out three…and I thought I’d done ok so we sent them off. We didn’t hear back (I know publishers are busy, but…) and so Hannah suggested submitting to other agents and publishers. I did some work and started pulling together lists, and got in the last month I’ve got rejections from the first two agents we submitted to. Well, keep trying, eh?

Well…no. It occured to me, on the aforementioned path, that I don’t actually like the stories I’m submitting. I’m not happy with them. I’m not confident in what I’m trying to sell.

I wrote the stories because I was asked to, and I don’t even think they’re right. They aren’t stories for 3-4 year olds – 6-7 at best, but probably older! I don’t want to write simplified stories. That isn’t me. I want to write the stories that are in my head for this character; I want a book with illustrations, not a picture book. There is always a degree of working to your market, yes. But when I’m struggling with what I’m writing, when I don’t like the product, when I haven’t got any passion in what I’m trying to pitch…

So I’m shelving the stories for a second time; I’m going back to the original concepts and I’m going to let them play. I’m going to be honest to myself about who the stories are written for and what I want to put in them. And hopefully, after that, I’ll be proud of what I’m trying to pitch to the outside world.

Feedback and progress

A wonderful friend of mine read the first three Greensky books when she visited me during the week. It was both nerve-wracking and wonderful – she went through them so fast! But she was squeaking while reading – I got “I ship them!” and “ahhhh they got together!” and “spotted another one!” and “their bond is SO weird!”…I was just sitting and laughing, because it was so wonderful to hear the comments that usually I wouldn’t get! She liked it, which is brilliant, and I was so proud and pleased. It’s the best feeling when someone likes a story and characters and world that you love – and Toru’s her favourite, which is wonderful as he’s mine too 🙂

It’s also lovely to be able to talk about the future of a series with someone – and to have “I want to see more of…” and “Are we going to see…” comments, then be able to say “Well yes, in the next book!”. It’s nice to know that I have looked at things that people want to read, and that the stories I’m telling are ones that people want to know about! So that’s wonderful too.

And the progress is on Madcap Library, of all things – although I really need to separate it, as technically it’s the Sloth. A publisher’s been interested in the Sloth as a stand-alone, and Hannah and I sent over some stories and sketches. Our contact wants to see the story with the Sloth as a stand-alone character (probably with Matilda as well, though), and so I’ve got to amend that and then let Hannah do some sketches. So that’s really exciting!

Madcap Library: a halt

I recently received some feedback from a publisher on the Madcap Library stories, and I wanted to put a bit of my reaction here.

I admit, it wasn’t nice feedback – actually, that’s unfair. It was very constructive, and it did have a lot of good points, but it was quite hard to read. The jist is that I need to work on my plots; I need simpler storylines; there are too many characters; the Library’s quite hard to understand; and none of the stories are really suitable for conversion to a picture book or for younger readers – all of which is quite true. Once I’d got past my automatic angry defence of my writing, I was able to admit that the feedback was right – and write a very nice thank-you letter to the lady who took time to give me her thoughts!

However, the problem is that I’ve known all of the above for a little while, and simply haven’t had the time – or brainspace – to rewrite. I was also recently given some ideas on Sloth stories by the wonderful Sir Sam, and although they all spark something, I just haven’t been able to get the words out. It’s as if there’s a block in my head preventing anything from being translated onto the page.

So, essentially, I’m taking a break from Madcap Library. I want – and need! – to rewrite old stories and write new stories. For the moment, there’s so much going on that, for a variety of reasons, I simply can’t do that. It’s frustrating as I want to spend time on it, but I think I need to formally shelve it for the sake of my sanity until – well, likely Christmas, I suspect.

I’ll still continue with other work; I’ve got to work out what I want to write for Nano 2014 (probably Heights & Horizons) and I also still have Desert Sands going round in my head. But the Sloth on rollerblades has temporarily been halted.