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Writers are used to rejection. (Here’s a collection of woe-is-me turned wow stories. There’s  this, or even this one are all relevant to the great wheel of rejection) Where ever a writer might be on the career scale, best seller or new to the market there is still rejection. It comes with the job. The story might be brilliant but just doesn’t fit an editor’s requirement; the novel might require more attention to point of view, or it’s on the wrong slush pile.

It’s a gated flow system, which often loops on itself. (It’s something they don’t tell you in workshops or courses.) Getting to acceptance generally involves: Gate one: Drafts. Gate two: Edits.  Gate three: Does it fit? Gate four: Will it sell?  Gates five onward once you get the contract. Yes, there are more beyond signing with a publisher or agent. For every gate you get past you realise your work is improving, but in balance the drop is harder. As more join the chorus of support for your work you allow yourself to believe a little more – even as you know there still might be a ‘no’ in the system.

For the past year I’ve had such a project. It’s been fun working in a world which eventually stumbled over something beyond my control. I’ve grown as a writer because of it, and it’s the main reason why my blog has been so quiet.

Whenever a rejection comes it raises demons: self-doubt, anger, frustration. Every writer has answers for these demImage of a demon, red beast with fangs and spines.oralising monsters. So close, yet so far. My demons have been busy this last month going above expectation with unhelpful advice and distractions. It takes a while for the doubt to die. But it does. Answers come if you know that you have done the work. It allows you to understand that some rejections are outside of your influence. Knowing that there are other authors out there who have mourned their own losses makes you realise it is not the end.

It’s not wasted; no work is ever wasted.  No matter how good the work and how many promises are made. Sometimes the answer is still no. My demons have become tolerated strays, and I know what to feed them to get them to shut the hell up.

These types of setbacks are part of the learning curve, yet they really do blindside you. Get used to it. Life’s not fair. Opportunity doesn’t knock in publishing. Sometimes you have to kick its door down, figuratively of course.

When I’m working on my own writing I find it difficult to read within my preferred genre. For me one of the biggest advantages of SFF is, while there’s a good dose of imagination and future thought in it, the genre still has a healthy dose of day to day life. People still have relationships, crimes are still committed, mysteries still happen, so I’m able to read other stuff too.

On the search for something outside Fantasy and Science Fiction I pottered across town to catch Nick Quantrill launching his latest crime novel, The Dead Can’t Talk. It wasn’t so much as it being a local author which drew me to the novel, more that one of Hull’s most iconical buildings featured in it. The Lord Line Building not only means something to the thousands of people involved in the fishing and shipping industries, but just like the Humber Bridge, a child knows the landmark. Everyone knows they’re home when they pass Lord Line just off the A63. The people of Hull have adopted it as their own.

An Event to Remember.

Nick gave his book a proper send off into the big wide world, yes the expected gathering of chairs were there, and right comfy ones they were too. More were brought in to accommodate the crowd. York band, Bull brought the music. Helen Cadbury prompted questions relevant to the genre they both share. Much like Hull, the launch blended all the things Hull folk hold dear, friendship and fun, to create a great festival feel.

For a book.

Not too many days later. In the university library I attended a more composed launch of Daphne Glazer’s The Hendersons. A quite room, the white walls prepared for the next art display. Tea and coffee as well as finger foods awaited the guests, perfect for a composed book rich in characterisation. While I knew nothing of the Sheffield locale nor its history in which her book was set, it still transported listeners from the modern austere surrounds. Elegance and the unique mix of art and books found in Hull University’s Brymor Library merged with Daphne’s ability to inspire and enthuse. Her audience was entirely different from Nick’s, but just as engaged and curious about the novel, the author’s writing processes and inspirations. An extravagant launch and minimum expense in a city known for its grit, but I’m still waiting for the butler to offer Ferrero Roche to everyone.

Is It Worth All That Hassle?

Both launches saw book sales, of course. That’s the point of it, isn’t it? Marketing?

Or.  Is it a celebration of work, hours of effort and editing, wrangling with submission processes and book cover choices? Why shouldn’t it be a party that reflects the author’s individuality as much as the product?

Alcohol often flows at these events, but both authors were keeping a clear head – for the readings at least. Slurring your paragraphs doesn’t sound all that professional after all! Neither launch appeared to take the authors outside their comfort zones. I believe it added to the atmosphere, which in turn made their events successful. The authors enjoyed the experience on the whole.

Going Beyond The Fear.

Through the fear of no one turning up or the nightmare of standing in front of lots of people book launches are often a side thought or organised because of expectation. It might require a little bit of money too. Generally speaking book launches involve people staring at a writer, posing questions the author might not want to answer, as well as the author reading from the book in question. For those reasons many authors preferring a quiet life dislike promotion and the public process. Something I do understand.

Seeing readers gathered to support you as an author however can be a huge encouragement. Online book launches offer a shield from some of face to face engagement, but for me I’m more likely to remember a commitment to attend in person.

Being Different Isn’t A Bad Thing.

If anything, the last few weeks have shown me that a book launch is no different than a story. An author’s talent and creativity can be found in the pages just as much as it can in a launch.

Like a story, a book launch can be anything you want it to be. By being different in your approach a book can stand out from the crowd and last in a reader’s memory.

It’s not a wedding, there’s no need go beyond your budget. A little bit of planning can win you a fan or convert an undecided reader. It will give you a celebration you deserve as opposed to many sleepless nights.


This week, I bring you a guest post from Jo Zebedee author of the upcoming Abendau’s Heir from Tickety Boo Press.

The lady has been through some trials despite/as well as getting that publishing contract. We authors fixate on goals, on getting up that “career ladder.” Perhaps it’s not so simple as climbing up to the next rung?


Abendau’s Heir

Abendau’s Heir available from Tickety Boo Press.

I blogged a while ago about the excitement of getting an agent and getting off the query-mill. But what happens when the other side of the coin happens, and an agent and you decide to part ways? I thought I’d capture it here, on Millymollymo’s blog, because we’ve talked a few times about how I deal with rejection and, generally, keep going like some sort of force I can’t control.

So, here goes. How I lost my agent. Something that happens more often than we perhaps think, through market reasons, and circumstances, and just bad luck. In my case, the process was amicable and professional, and was about the need to find the right agent, which made the whole thing a little easier.

Now, I’m going to put my hands up and say I could have approached things differently, early on. That maybe I made a wrong choice in terms of what I did with my manuscript at the agent-seeking time. But I don’t like that term, wrong choice – I made the choice that seemed right at the time. I’ve learned loads since and I think, perhaps, I would make a different choice now. A more confident choice. But, frankly, at the first-agent seeking stage we writers aren’t quite rational. It’s the holy grail, the be-all-and-end-all, the first validation we need. That sends a lot of common sense hurtling out the window.

First, though – let’s look at the connundrum that is my writing. I don’t fit into a neat box. I’d like to be able to sit down, flex my fingers and say, right here we go, I’ll write another space opera. I’d end up writing a fantasy, instead – I am, in fact – just because my mind is contrary like that. In terms of a range of writing, I do fantasy, science fiction, the odd little bit of horror. I write for adults and new adults, and some of my characters are young adults. In short, I straddle a lot of definable, easy to market areas into a zone that’s not just so easy to define.

With my second book, the one-wot-got-me-an-agent it was written to be a cross-over. More accurately, the two people who turned up in my head were a 30-odd year old police officer and the 15 year old boy he arrested for xenocide. I’d like to say one of them agreed to sit down and shut up and let the other tell the story, but they didn’t want to. And it was difficult for them to – each knew their part of the story, and each added their own voice.

So, I ended up subbing a book which was neither adult nor young adult and feedback quickly told me I had to choose. I chose to turn it into a Young Adult book and focus on the teen storyline. This is, perhaps, where I made the wrong choice (but the only place I did, I think). The older voice was the one I was more confident writing and, crucially, held the tension when the story went quiet in the middle. He was also the character I probably held more of a candle for (always hard to know, though – I love all my characters.)

I rewrote the book into a young adult book, and I got an agent. A wonderful agent, with great editorial knowledge and guidance, who I get on well with. In the meantime I sold my adult space opera trilogy to a small publisher, changing my market focus a little. And then I presented my next book. The characters aren’t quite adult, and they’re not quite young adult. And the story isn’t quite fantasy, or contemporary, and there might be a bit of romance in there. In short, I did it again…

At which point my agent was the one to say that maybe I needed someone different, who could rep all my work. Which, with distance, I’ve found I agree with. In fact, it’s something I should have seen at that early I-must-get-an-agent-stage (I did say writers are often a bit crazy then, didn’t I?)

Anyway, the point of the blog – rejection. This was the ultimate rejection, no matter how kindly it was done, or how much I agree now. Hell, it hurt. I emailed my closest cps in a bit of a daze. I stared at my wip and wondered what the point of it was (not a thought that lasted long, that). And then, slowly, I let the word out. Like air out of a balloon – into corners I could face first.

 After a week or so, it stopped hurting. In fact, it stopped being such a big issue. And that, I think, was because I knew it was the right thing. I stopped working on the YA new thing I’d been plugging at (I’ll go back to it one day, I love it still, but not yet.) I was free to ask what did I want to write. It turns out, surprisingly, it’s another trilogy, this time a fantasy, steampunky, mash-up thing. And I don’t care if it has a market, because trying to write to a market didn’t work for me before.

But I do want an agent. I want a career at this gig and that means seeking someone to work with me, to advise me and keep me right. So I’m back querying, which should be soul destroying, right? This time, it isn’t. It’s just a process that will take its own course and time. It’s not the validation of who I am as a writer. I have a book coming out. Hell, I have a trilogy coming out. That’s the validation of me. Not how big a publisher it’s with, or how much money I get from it, but that it’s coming out and I’m proud of it. And that there will be many, many more from me in the future.

Jo Zebedee

Jo Zebedee

And that, in a nutshell, is how I keep going. By seeing it as a journey. A process, leading to a longer-term goal. Along the way there will be hurdles andd set backs but, somehow, they’re tied up in the bigger picture of what my writing means, and that’s less about the signs and trappings of what a writer is, and more about the picture of what I am.

Suddenly, it’s existential and not about how I lost my agent, but instead about how I found the writer I wanted to be again. That, surely, is the gift of a bit of time and space, and a good long, hard look at yourself. And, sadly – it’s often the rejections that give us the mirror to do that in.


Jo Zebedee’s first novel, Abendau’s Heir (book one of the Inheritance Trilogy) is out tomorrow (31st March) published by Tickety Boo Press. Aside from writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, Jo finds time to potter in the garden, endlessly pester her children and care for her pets.

To sample Jo’s writing talents, her short story Strong Arms To Hold is available to read free at Kraxon Magazine.

Or you can find her ramblings at her blog:

Lillian Bilocca

Lillian campaigned ‘strongly’ for better safety on boats coming out of Hull. She went head to head with ‘the’ industry giants, while everyone told her to mind her place.

I come from a town where the woman of the house didn’t take well to back chat, but gossip was expected – how else do you learn about what transpired the night before? A housewife was left to deal with the day to day while men were away at sea – after he had spent all his earnings in three days. She wasn’t afraid of standing up for herself while her husband worked solid for three or more months. But she had to get to that point in life, she had to fight for it, it didn’t just fall in her lap.

I am surrounded by and brought up in an environment that differs to what many call the norm for that time. If women didn’t step beyond the usual expectations of the time, the town would have come to a standstill.*

So my take on ‘strong female characters’ in fiction is somewhat warped. Especially within SFF.

While the fiction market wants to see more women with “strength” everyone’s idea of Strong Female Characters With Agency differs for this very reason. They want the fierce lioness because that’s where the action is. Action keeps the reader turning the pages after all. Page turning action sells books. Nobody likes a sob story, right?

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark

Sansa Stark – Game of Thrones.

Readers don’t want to be stuck in several dozen chapters of “how she learned to use a bow”. When we meet Katniss she already has a fire of self-awareness brought on by the poverty of her district. Sansa Stark is everything she is supposed to be when we are first introduced to her. The perfect little lady of the manor, seen and not heard.

Inner strength doesn’t usually come from being a yes person, insipid and cautious of rocking boats. Those characters have a purpose of their own.  Sansa is surrounded by decision makers and those of sound moral judgement (or if you prefer ‘stereotypical heroes of fantasy’) within Winterfell. So she has an understanding of what is perceived as right and wrong, and witnesses many wrongs as the Game of Thrones plots unravel around her. Yet she doesn’t have the power, or isn’t willing to risk her own place/neck, to do anything about it, she is not the kick-arse Scrappy-Doo that her sister Arya is. Sansa is the most unpopular female character in Game of Thrones because she is the stereotypical historical female. Because she is pushed from thing to thing, avoiding confrontation, and doing what she has been led to believe is expected and right of a person in her position.

It takes some time for her to discover her strength through the vicious actions of others, and see others at Kings Landing wield a different and more manipulative type of power. Sansa Stark has the potential to become one of the more deceitful and manipulative women within Game of Thrones, using her projected simpering as a shield to work behind.

Sansa is well aware of what dangers lie in wait should she rock the boat, she has seen them all. She now knows how to cause waves that will capsize anything in her way, she doesn’t have to rock the boat she’s in.

When we meet Sioned she already has a sense of purpose and has a unique fire all her own.

When we meet Sioned she already has a sense of purpose and has a  fire all of her own.

You aren’t born with wisdom or strength. You have to have a reason to develop these attributes just as much as reason to learn a weapon skill. Arya’s spirit comes from her upbringing in a large family, being one of the younger Starks, playing with swords is more interesting than sewing to any child.

Not all ‘strength’ comes from a witty put-down, some well softened leather and a suitably placed hair swish!
Sure, they are fun. But I’ll take my Sioneds, Cats, and Trices just as much as the Sansas of the fictional worlds.** I’ll watch them grow, gain purpose, take no prisoners, and learn to bring all of their fiery independence to being.




*That is not to say a woman didn’t have her place, more the women in Hull knew how to fight their corner and work the system!

** Yes… I see the red head connection here… shh…! It’s a different ‘fiery women in fiction’ issue!


Nine Worlds happened this weekend, a convention for fans of anything ‘geek’. Games, comics, films, books and T.V. shows were all covered, spanning all age groups and geeky genres. Interesting and apropos academic panels merged well with the more traditional

Nine Worlds Logo

Nine Worlds, one very happy Yeti.

fan-based content. Panels and workshops covered making, creating, discussing, laughing, exploring and of course debating. It was ten times better than last year, a thing I didn’t think possible, so well done to all the brainpower and organising people that brought it together.

There will be plenty of coverage on the various media channels about what went on, why it is so different to what is already out there, and how amazing it all was… and amazing doesn’t do it justice.

Nonetheless, many will ask “Why, as a creative person, should I get out at all?” Literature Festivals, conventions, workshops. The stress of getting to them, the hassle of taking time off work, maybe even a bit of social anxiety are all real factors, but what you get is so very worth it.


  1.        Meet people & make friends.

At Nine Worlds I met people. Folk that don’t look at you like you’ve come out in a rash of green boils when you blab about your love of Supernatural Whovian crossover fiction. Again. Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Marvel? DC, Manga, Fanfic, card Games, Board Games? Yes. Even those that have the same love for that long forgotten T.V show, band or quirky colour of almost blue. You. Are. Not. Alone. Not at Nine Worlds. Likewise with various art Festivals I have been to (Eg: Lincoln Inspired, York Literature Festival, Hull Freedom Festival, Beverley Literature Festival.) The panels and events break the ice – if you want it breaking.



  1.        Learn stuff.

Who better to learn from than professionals who are actually working in the field you both love? A workshop panel on podcasting might well set your creativity loose in a different direction, just the thing for that story that keeps getting rejected. An editing workshop might help you hone the sentence structure, or plot knots.


  1.        Build on what you know.

Everyone knows something, (write what you know…right?) but at conventions you get to meet people that have been doing that something for a lot longer than you, and in many different ways. You might share a short cut or discover a pit fall before it finds you. You’ll become aware of stuff that’s just beginning to bubble up to the surface. The next cool thing tends to start in places just like this.


  1.        Party Hard.

Every genre has its ‘party’ thing… mostly involving some form of alcohol. Party into the night to music, sing-a-longs, gaming, cheese and wine at the dinner table,  or just a quiet drink among those that don’t worry about the dragon on your shoulder.


  1.        The Loot.
    Book Haul

    To Be Read.  My book shelves are laughing at me.

Even if you don’t count the knowledge as a “take away” from such things, the goodie bags are always excellent.

There were books, DVDs (OK, Van Helsing as a boobie prize in a trivia contest, but still), game trades, give-aways and launches. With so large a captive audience in one place the marketing departments go in all guns blazing.


After you’ve done the making friends, spent time on the learning and the building, who knows, it might be you on a panel soon.