Friday, November 30, 2012

Infinite Sky in The Bookseller...

Infinite Sky was Editor's Pick in The Bookseller.

This is what they said: "Another strong debut with huge support in-house, this is a heartbreaking coming-of-age novel about a summer that changes everything. She's one to watch."

Also, Julia Eccleshare (Children's Editor of The Guardian) wrote this about the book on LoveReading4Kids:

"Shot through with danger as adolescence can be, this is a powerful coming of age novel which combines dark realities with optimism and naivety. When Iris’s mother takes off on a road trip, things at home begin to fall apart. The arrival of a family of travellers close by sets off a chain of events which leads to tragedy. But Iris sees Trick and his family differently; she knows he isn’t the boy his is made out to be. But, when everything spirals out of control, will she ever be able to feel the same about him? Beautifully written, this is a poignant story of young love from a talented new author."

There's still a couple of days left on the Goodreads Giveaway too. If you can't wait till February 14th, enter the competition there.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What early readers think of Infinite Sky...

I'm a  l i t t l e  excited today, as I just got a really lovely blurb from Keith Gray, award-winning writer of Creepers and Ostrich Boys.

He says this about Infinite Sky:

"I think a lot of people are going to be surprised that it's a debut novel from someone in their 20s - most of us writers probably need twice as many years and at least half a dozen books to get that good… So I hope it does brilliantly. I'll definitely be including it in my YA roundup for the Scotsman in the new year. Thanks again for sending it through and introducing me to a fantastic new author."

I also got a nice quote from Simmone Howell, award-winning writer of Notes From The Teenage Underground and Everything Beautiful:

"Infinite Sky is beautiful. It made me cry on the train! I love how the place and the 'natural world' is like a character and how it reads contemporary and classic at the same time. I love the romance - how it's more than a romance, really, and not at all sentimental or typical. I can't wait to see the reception it gets - I think there will be big love!"

Here's some things book bloggers and other early readers have been saying:

" to watch out for. [Infinite Sky] is the best type of real-life fiction for young adults, full of messy old emotions and small conflicts that sometimes lead to unexpected and devastating consequences. It felt so genuine as I was reading it, and Iris is one of the most believable characters I can remember ever encountering; I almost recognise her. - Sarah Watkins from And Then I Read A Book

"...I chose Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood, mostly because I'd been hearing wonderful things about it already.  And oh, it is a beautiful book.  It's got a lovely cover, and I really fell in love with the story and the characters.  I found myself crying my eyes out, and I do so love such an emotional story that is written incredibly well." - Michelle at Fluttering Butterflies

"Stunning book, inside and out." - Claire Wilson, literary agent at RCW

And finally, my editor, Venetia Gosling, says this:

"Infinite Sky is one of the books I’m most excited about publishing next year. Simply and beautifully written, it’s the heart-breaking story of the summer Iris experiences love and loss for the first time.When Iris’s mum leaves home, her brother, Sam, goes off the rails and her dad is left trying to hold it all together.  So when a family of travellers sets up camp illegally in front of their farm, it’s the catalyst for a stand-off that can only end in disaster.  But to 13-year-old Iris, it’s all an adventure.  She secretly strikes up a friendship with the gypsy boy, Trick, and discovers that home can be something as simple as a carved out circle in a field full of corn…Starting as it ends, with a funeral, Infinite Sky keeps us guessing about the identity of the boy Iris is left mourning – is it her tearaway brother, Sam, or Trick, her tentative new boyfriend?  The conclusion is devastating, and will make you cry. A stunning read from a really talented new author - whose writing reminds me of early Meg Rosoff and David Almond - this is a book to fall in love with. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did." 

Release date isn't until February 14th next year, but the book is available for pre-order on Amazon. There's an advanced reader copy giveaway at Good Reads too. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Infinite Sky Giveaway on Good Reads...

So, as promised, I am giving away an advanced copy of Infinite Sky on Good Reads.

All you have to do is visit Good Reads - register, if you're not already signed up - and click the Enter to Win button next to my book. That's it. The competition is open for a month.

Also, Michelle, over at Fluttering Butterflies is running a giveaway for a number of lovely-looking books, mine included. All you have to do is comment on her blog. I think the magic words are Pick me! But have a read, and check.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First ever book signing

Look! Here's me, yesterday, having a day that dreams are made of. I went to Simon and Schuster HQ to talk to my very talented editor about book two, meet the marvellous publicity team, and sign a table full of copies of Infinite Sky destined for key booksellers and journalists. Somehow, in all my years of dreaming, I hadn't thought about how I would sign them, so the first batch of books have my bank signature on.

The wonderful Phil Earle having a tiny sleep.

There is lots of excitement about Infinite Sky in-house, and it was lovely to sign copies for members of the team, even if I was too bedazzled to know what to write (or to recall what I wrote). There was much talk of crying on public transport while reading my book, which is one of my favourite things to hear. Bus, tube or train, I don't mind, so long as the tears are falling.

We made a short video and a podcast about Infinite Sky and how it came to be, and I read a short extract. I will post these things here when they are ready. Also, I was really pleased to find out that the book will be on sale at The Clothes Show next month, so, you know, go there and buy it.

I will be giving away another copy soon, through Good Reads. So if you're not already registered there, sign up, and add it to your Want to Read list in preparation.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Infinite Sky prize draw winner!

The prize draw is here! And the winner is...

...Matt Imrie! 

Like 100% of you, he chose the correct answer to the question: What is the title of my book? And so I shall post Infinite Sky out to him on the morrow.

Thanks for all the replies.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

ARC giveaway!

Hello friends,

I have received some Advanced Reader Copies of my book. In the industry, we call them ARCs. Now you're in the know.

Which do you prefer: the lovely book or the lovely bed sheet? I'm undecided.

I'm giving one away. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is answer this question:

What is my book called?

A. The Infinite Possibilities of the Ether
B. Infinite Things to do with a Sky-y Day!
C. Infinite Sky

Leave your answer as a comment below or tweet it to me (@cjflood_author) and on the 10 October I will select a winner using entirely automated means. (Names on bits of paper in a sock.)

(N.b. So I can actually contact you, it is best if you follow my blog - just click 'Join this sit'. That way I can send you a message to let you know if you are the winner, and get your address, etc. Alternatively, you can leave a contact detail - but you probably won't want to do that - or check back here in two weeks and we'll work something out.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The cover for INFINITE SKY...

I'm really happy to show you the cover for Infinite Sky, six months before it arrives in book shops. Release date is 14th February 2013.

Blurb from the Simon and Schuster website:

"A truly beautiful book about the summer that changed one girl's life. As her mum leaves home, Travellers set up camp in the family's field, her older brother goes off the rails and she falls in love for the very first time. Opening with a funeral, Iris is mourning the boy in the casket - but who is it? Sam, her tearaway brother, or Trick, her tentative boyfriend? Over one long hot summer, we find out just how their three lives were turned upside-down."

Thanks to Frances Castle (illustrator) and Nick Stearn (designer) for all their hard work, as well as to everyone at Simon and Schuster who was involved. I think it is beautiful.

What do you think? Would you pick up this book?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

To plot or not to plot, that is the question. Or that is a question.

INFINITE SKY began almost entirely without a plot. It also took over two years to write, which is quite a long time for what is a fairly slight novel. I don't think this is a coincidence. Those first few months of writing were a sort of blind exploration, done in the company of other writers on an MA at the University of East Anglia, and pretty much none of that blind exploration made it into the final draft. Which isn't to say it wasn't useful.

Second time round, everything was different. This unwritten book was already sold. It had a deadline. Cue panic on a never-before-seen-scale. Not knowing any better, I began the blind exploration again. My head was empty after letting go of the first book, but I thought I had no time to waste. I must get started!

In six months I wrote 70,000 words, none of which will make it into the book. I shifted protagonist three times! This was hard to accept at first. All those words becoming instantly back story or background? But how could I have found my lovely protagonist without the flailing? Not by plotting, I'm sure.

It seemed like total chaos, and was uncomfortable to go through to say the least, but all the characters I dicovered in this period have made it into the book. Sometimes two or three characters have been merged into one as recommended by the talented storytellers at Pixar but they made it. What's more, they are all very different, due to being essentially from different books. And in the end, I couldn't be happier with the protagonist I discovered last. I am so excited to tell you her story.

So far, so good. But. Book three, I plan to spend a good few months reading and living and refilling Inspiration Central before I begin. Then blind flailing can commence. Because it seems to be important. It forms the background of the story, and gives you a whole host of characters and histories and themes to get confused about over the next months. But perhaps 70,000 words is a little excessive.

All of this is not to say I don't plot at all. I just plot late, or when I'm stuck. When there seem tooooo many threads to ever make a coherent story I turn to drawing diagrams and trying to visualise said threads outside my tiny head. I use a mixture of plotting and making it up as I go along, but with the emphasis on the latter.

How about you? Are you a plotter or a blind explorer? Is it even possible to be strictly one thing or the other? Like everything else in life, I suspect not.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to fundraise with your writing...

One of the best things that has happened since I got my book deal is being able to help raise money for charities using my writing skills. Sometimes it can all be a bit self-absorbed and lonesome, writing full time. Necessarily, you spend a long time wandering the hinterlands of your own imagination. It's pretty marvellous when someone (real) outside of the hinterland asks you to do something to help, and you can say yes.

A couple of months ago, I offered a critique as part of a package to raise money for Pens For Paws, which is an online auction with writers, artists, and others from the publishing community to raise funds for Fat Kitty City, a no-kill, cage-free cat sanctuary in El Dorado Hills that also rescues dogs (as foster homes allow). It's a great charity, and I was so pleased to be able to help fundraise for it.

This month I am offering two 5000 words crits as part of a package to raise money for Crits For Water, which is an online auction with authors, agents and editors offering critiques of manuscript extracts and query letters to fundraise for charity: water. My fellow Lucky 13 author, Erin Bowman, is also offering a 5000 word crit. Bidding starts today, so please go and have a look!

Friday, May 18, 2012

How to Survive your First Author Event...

This Tuesday, I went to Chesterfield Library to read the opening chapters of Infinite Sky. Emma Pass (fellow Lucky 13) read from ACID and Helen Mort read from her upcoming pamphlet, Division Street too. We then answered questions about writing and our books from another Derbyshire writer, River Wolton.

River, Emma, me, Helen, and various unidentified back of the heads.

I was nervous about this event. Not only was it was the first time I'd answered questions in front of an audience, it was also the first time I'd read in front of my dad and his partner. It didn't help that I forgot my story (first time I have ever done it!) and had to print it on arrival. Or that I arrived late, due to casually assuming Chesterfield was just up the road rather than Actually Checking A Map.Or that my dad arrived even later due to having the same genetic disposition towards this terrible habit as me. (I hold him responsible as the Creator.)

I always feel I have too many arms right about this point.

Guess what? There was no need to worry! The audience was warm, my fellow panel members were fascinating, and most important of all: I knew all the answers to the questions! They were in my head, put together after years of experience. No need to revise at all! Also, my dad didn't walk out during my reading, or throw eggs at me. Really it was relief all round.

"Yeah, so basically I just sit at a desk and make stuff up."

It was lovely to see River, Emma and Helen again, and Ali Betteridge who set the whole thing up as part of Derbyshire Literature Festival. (Which continues until May 20, so it's not too late to have a look.) I look forward to returning to Chesterfield Library to read from Infinite Sky when it comes out in February.

Do you get nervous about reading in public? Would it scare you to have your dad in the audience? I love to hear from you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

How to edit your first book...

Yes, everyone, hurray to the power of a hundred, I got my edits! Another exciting moment in the journey to publishing my first book. (Will it be in your house? Certainly. I will creep in and put it there.)

And so will she. She's on my payroll.

So, editing. It's a strange process. I sold the book in September, and after thinking about it almost 24 hours a day for the two years up to that point, I'd pretty much put it aside. My thoughts, naturally, had turned to the second book. And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, without any warning at all, I have to work on that other thing again?

This actually turns out to be a marvellous system. Almost as if it had been tried and tested over centuries. For the first time in years I can actually SEE THE BOOK!

She can see it too!

I can hear phoney bits, and bits where I'm trying to be hard to be literary (hurl) and creaky plot directing. In fact, so far I've enjoyed editing a lot. That's not to say I haven't also played an extraordinary amount of table tennis, washed everything I own and rearranged my bedroom, but overall, editing good!

It helped that the edit was light. This unnerved me initially. I was hoping my lovely editor might magic my book into SKELLIG or JUNK but I've come to terms with the notion that this is better. This means the writing must be pretty solid. The revisions I did with my agent, and all that other stuff, before any publishers saw it is paying off.

So, anyway, yes. Editing good! I have come up with ways to deepen elements of the story, complexified characters and deleted sentences trying a little too hard. I have no doubt that when the book comes out there will be things I want to change, but that is the nature of having an imagination. It doesn't give up.

How do you feel about editing your work? Do you dread it? And how do you cope with hearing feedback? Maybe editing is your favourite part of the writing process? I would love to hear from you.

Friday, April 6, 2012

How I got My Agent

Thought it was about time I wrote up my How I Got My Agent story. As all writers know, getting an agent is an enormous milestone. It means someone believes in you and your book and your writing enough that they are willing to work for you to get your book out there. It validates you as a writer, plus you get to say things like, "My agent has my manuscript at the moment' or perhaps, 'My agent called today'. It doesn't really matter what you say so long as those two keywords are in the sentence. Even 'my agent thinks my new haircut makes me look like a pervert' has a certain ring to it. It can also brighten up otherwise dull information, i.e. 'My agent shops predominantly at the Co-op.'

This is not my agent.

But, I digress.

I remember before I had an agent how badly I wanted one. I hoped that doing an MA at UEA (the University of East Anglia) would be a good step towards getting one, and fortunately enough for me, it was. I remember being thoroughly prepared not to get one, as our tutor Andrew Cowan, frequently talked cheerfully about our terrible odds. When the agents turned up for the series of meetings UEA arranged, I sat at the back mostly, hating myself for not being able to remember that agents and publishers are only the same species as me and talk to them as such. I ate a lot of sandwiches on these occasions, and drank a lot of wine.

Actual photo of me back then.

The problem was, I still couldn't sum up my book in a single sentence. I could only ramble incoherently about Irish Travellers and mothers who leave their children and cornfields. After a couple of embarrassing attempts to be a normally functioning social animal I stopped interactions and merely ate sandwiches, drank wine and escaped for frequent cigarettes.

It was different when Catherine Clarke and Caroline Wood from Felicity Bryan Associates came to talk to us though. Light shone through the windows and I heard this high pitched, almost choral AAAAAAAH sound ringing magnificent in my ears. Not really. It was different though. They were joined by agents from Aitken Alexander Associates, and the whole presentation was less intimidating somehow. The different agents knew each other and seemed to get on.

When Catherine talked about How I Live Now, one of my favourite books of all time, I made up my mind to speak to her. The sandwiches would wait! And so they did. I introduced myself and told her that I loved her client's writing, especially that book, and we had a conversation. I talked a bit about my main character, Iris, and why I enjoyed writing characters of that age, and it was all quite nice and normal.

I remember that I didn't know how to end the conversation politely, and so I kept asking questions like some kind of infinitely curious monster, and finally Catherine politely excused herself, and I thought Nooooo, I trapped her! I made her answer questions about the male to female ratio of her list that even I myself, the unstoppable asker, was not especially interested in!

But she gave me her card before she left, and invited me to send my work when it was ready. And afterwards Giles Foden said that she had mentioned me to him. I was so excited. She represented Meg Rosoff and David Almond! She had mentioned me! I had a business card in my sweaty little hands!

Me, then.
It was a stressful time in general, the last few months of the course. My work wasn't going well and there were all these opportunities that I didn't feel ready for. The Creative Writing anthologies were sent around to literary agencies, and people started getting emails from interested parties. Some students signed with agents before we'd even handed in our dissertations. Our meet ups for drinks became ever more tense as news got around who was being contacted by who, and who wasn't. I felt sick every time somebody else got an agent. Happy for them, but sick. I wasn't going to be one of the lucky ones. I knew it.

And then something really exciting happened. After the anthology launch in London, at which I saw Caroline Wood from Felicity Bryan, I got an email from Catherine saying that Caroline had loved my work and called it the stand out piece of the night, and that she would love to see what I had, whether it was finished or not. I was dizzy with excitement! But now I couldn't send anything because I was going into the UEA agent mentoring scheme.

At the end of the MA, those without representation were assigned agent mentors for six months. This was a fantastic opportunity, and I was assigned an excellent agent who really got my work and what I was trying to do. When the scheme finished and it was ok to send work to other agents I was worried. What if Catherine didn't remember asking to see it? What if my story couldn't hold her interest after those opening chapters? Or, my most common and unfounded fear, what if she had just signed somebody else with a book exactly like mine?

Within a day of sending it she got back to me. Lovely prompt person! She'd loved it and invited me to London. I wish I'd taped our conversation as I was so nervous and excited I don't remember much of it. I know I drank Earl Grey, and we talked about Berlin and some kind of dancing, maybe Tango? It was a bit like one of those job interviews where you think you've got the job but it hasn't been said explicitly and so you're still on your best, most hopeful behaviour.

And then, Catherine said she would be delighted to represent me, and I remember saying I'd think about it for some reason, even though really it was a dream, and I left all giddy and fizzing. It still makes my stomach ripple when I think about it. I emailed her as soon as I got home and said yes, and it was the first thing I thought of before going to sleep and after I woke up for days and days and days.

It really is the greatest and strangest thing that I have an agent (and a book deal! But I'll write that story later)... For so many years, I felt I was hardly getting anywhere with my writing, and it seemed that suddenly my luck had changed. Perhaps not so surprising as my work improved a lot over the year at UEA since I had so much more time to put into it.

Anyway, it has given me a very hopeful outlook for aspiring writers. I published my first story when I was twenty-one. Eight years ago. And kept toiling away at it over the years. The thing is not to give up. Keep working and writing, even when you feel like you're barely treading water. Keep trying to improve and looking for opportunities and it shall be yours.

Or if it shall not, you will, at least, not hate yourself for not trying. Which is just as important in the end.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to push up your daily word count...

So, a couple of months ago, fellow Lucky13 member L. R. Giles sent us an email recommending this article: How I went from writing 2,000 words to 10,000 words a day.

It is a great article, and I read it enthusiastically, hoping to increase my comparitively low word count. At the time, I was writing only a guaranteed 700 words of fiction a day. Unbelievably low for somebody who claims to be a professional writer. 

In the article, its author, Rachel Aaron talks in detail about her theory that KNOWLEDGE (know what you're writing before you write it) + ENTHUSIASM (get excited about what you're writing) + TIME (track productivity and evaluate) = LOADS OF WRITING.

Since reading the post, I've been tracking my own productivity and evaluating it. I've been trying to find a writing routine that works for me. Findings so far?

  • Mondays are always productive
  • If I write a lot one day, I often can't think what to write the next
  • Once writing, it's best to stay writing for as long as possible as interruptions (including making pancakes, reading, watching films, listening to the radio, the dreaded, ignoble, wonderful Internet) tend to be permanent
  • Working from home for too many days in a row leads to increased napping and guitar playing
  • Working in pyjamas for too many consecutive days can lower self-esteem and increase risk of napping
  • If I don't write first thing, I don't write at all
I've also been reading the wonderful On Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande (1934). She, too, advises observing ourselves in order to find out under what circumstances and in what environments we write best. It was partly down to her that I found out the above things. I also discovered this, my favourite discovery by far:
It has to be carefully chosen music, and every song must fit, but then, it is the perfect - and easily the most enjoyable - way to write. I wrote 3,000 words during one listen to Radiohead's The Bends this week. This discovery is one of the highlights of my life as a writer so far. I have always thought music a distraction, because I get too into it, I get caught up in my own emotions and nostalgia. But when perfectly chosen for the scene and characters, it is magic.

So, how have these findings improved my wordcount? From typically 700 words in a sitting, I'm now writing about 3,000 in the same amount of time: between one and two hours. It still isn't every day, but that's because I still don't have a concrete plot for my novel. I'm getting to know my characters and discovering themes (there are too many competing at the moment) and working out setting.

Once I have the plot sorted I feel sure, in a way I never have before, that I will be able to write 3,000 words a day. At least. I feel certain, by continuing to pay attention to my own writing habits, and how various factors effect these, I will be able to write more than that.

So, how about you? What is your typical daily word count? How do you write best? Do you think you could ever get to the point of writing 10,000 words a day? Would you even want to?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The house that I grew up in...

I grew up (from age 8 anyway) in the best house in the world. It's called Brook Farm and I love it more than all the other houses. Seeing as how I'm now a technical genius and can upload photos from my camera to my computer (I know, I'm incredible!) I thought I'd show it to you.

Nice, isn't it?

My first novel, Infinite Sky, is set in this magnificent ramshackle place. In the book it's called Silverweed Farm. To give you an idea of how cold this beloved house is in the winter, here's a photo of my bedroom window a few mornings ago. The ice is on the inside. That's right: where I am.

Leggings + pyjama bottoms + two jumpers + a hoody = still really f***ing cold actually

And talking of the book, I have my first author event coming up. It's at the 2012 Derbyshire Literature Festival. I will take part in a Q and A session with fellow YA author and Lucky 13, Emma Pass, whose debut novel ACID is out in early 2013 from Random House Children's Books, and poet Helen Mort, whose debut poetry collection Division Street is being published by Chatto and Windus, also in 2013. Recent Derbyshire Poet Laureate River Wolton will chair the event, so come and see us! Hear what we have to say...

And to continue the grand tradition, here too are some of my fairly inane Paris diaries. With pictures.

13 Janvier

J'aime ca ici! Is that how you say I love it here? I love it here! Eating carrot salad and taboulah in the park overlooking Notre Dame and having thoughts. I saw a scabby pigeon and my heart bled and I saw an even scabbier man and my heart bled even more. He shuffled head down, clasping a baguette like a microphone that he dribbled down. I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was terrible.

I've been writing in the library at Shakespeare and Co. It's the perfect place to work (I also sometimes sleep in here). There was no need for all that traipsing yesterday. My shift in the shop was great: the books, the smell, the people that come in to look at the books and smell the smell. I love all of it!

Shakespeare and Company's sexy library