The Asylum – a review

The Asylum by John Harwood

There seems to be a theme, in a number of the books I’ve read, being that a woman’s confinement within an asylum has been part of some great conspiracy to, as I’ve noted before, silence them.

This is the kind of thing I’d love to study, and write a paper on. And I might just do that!

The Asylum — where do I start?
The Asylum, by John Harwood, is another great find in the “neo-Victorian” historical fiction genre. The characters, narrative, and atmosphere reeked of rich, Gothic elements. Just about every convention of the Gothic literary genre can be found in this novel.

The heroine of the novel, Georgina Ferrars, wakes up in Tregannon House (an asylum) with no memory of why or how she got there. Dr. Maynard Straker informs her that she came of her own free will, under the name of Lucy Ashton, but then suffered a seizure (causing her to lose her memory). Desperate for answers (and for someone to confirm her sanity), Georgina pleads with Dr. Straker to contact her only living relative, her uncle Josiah, so that he may identify her.

Now pay attention, dear readers, for one of our first Gothic conventions!

Her uncle swiftly responds, informing Dr. Straker that Georgina Ferrars is in fact at home with him, stating,

Your patient must be an imposter. (14)

Dun dun dunnn! Doppelgängers! I was just waiting for this line to come, “But if you’re there, then who’s…?” but sadly, it didn’t.

Now, I’ve mentioned a theme of silencing women — that is, I’ve found in my readings of “neo-Victorian” literature — by committing them. In The Asylum, there are a number of motives behind silencing Georgina Ferrars. The doppelgänger, of course, has her own motive — she wishes to take Georgina’s place. This was a very interesting, very different, kind of “silencing” for me to read in the genre. I haven’t as yet come across one like it, where the silencer or oppressor wasn’t a man. Though, in reading further, you will find there is a lot more to it than simply trying to take someone’s place, it soon becomes about erasing a person entirely. But, why would you want to erase the evidence of someone? I’ll leave that for you to figure out, because I assume you’ll go buy the book now.

The structure of the book was a little confusing, as the narrative moves through time, back and forth, but I took little issue with that. Each character and setting was so richly defined, I always knew which character was the focus (Georgina, Emily, and Rosina). The characters were all three-dimensional, and their desires and motivations believable. Save for one. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

It is certainly a difficult feat, creating such depth for most, if not all, the characters, considering a number of the characters and their actions are conveyed only through a series of letters. I wished there could have been more play on that; the notion of the unreliable narrator, because the reader finds the story, or series of stories, through the eyes of three different characters.

However, there were so many characters it was hard to keep up. I especially had difficulty figuring out the family trees.

I actually drew up a family tree to help me keep track. When I get the chance I’ll post it up.

Spoilers from here. Do not read further if you do not wish for the book to be spoiled. Well, who wishes for a book to be spoiled anyway?

And, it proved difficult even remembering Georgina’s and the doppelgänger’s identities. I don’t mean confusing them together, I mean, their names kept changing! (Draws in long breath) First it’s Georgina Ferrars. She admits herself to the asylum as Lucy Ashton, but it’s discovered the name is actually Lucia Ardent (and that ‘Lucy Ashton’ was just a disguise), except that Lucia Ardent is actually the name of the doppelgänger. Then, Georgina discovers her mother is not actually her mother, so instead of Ferrars, she’s actually a Mordaunt! So, she’s Georgina Mordaunt. (Releases breath).

My years of watching soap operas did help keep me up to date though 😉

The Asylum by John Harwood

I would have easily rated this book a Wuthering Heights, or Wormwood: A Drama of Paris, were it not for the ending. It wasn’t the type of ending that bothered me (though you know I have a particular love), it was the ‘bad guy’ spiel, the I’m-going-to-tell-you-everything-of-my-plans-because-I’m-going-to-kill-you-anyway-and-it’ll-be-of-little-consequence-should-I-do-so speech that every bad guy gives. It’s one of those cliches I could have done without, and it really bothered me after Harwood worked so hard to build this eerily beautiful and sublime Gothic atmosphere — one which won me over so easily.

I felt the ‘bad guy’ spiel undermined all of that (the atmosphere, story, plot, etc), and cheapened it, really, to the point that I groaned loudly when reading it. And it didn’t seem plausible that Dr. Straker was the big bad — I warned there’d be spoilers! He seemed suspicious and guilty of something, yes — perhaps in not being completely honest with Georgina — but it was rather elaborate the explanation behind all the incidents, behaviour, etc. One key example is the explanation behind Georgina’s seizure and subsequent memory loss at the beginning of the novel. I honestly groaned and rolled my eyes upon the revelation. I didn’t like it, but to Harwood’s credit, I never believed Dr. Straker when he said Georgina had a seizure — it was all too convenient that she couldn’t remember why she was at the asylum in the first place. I didn’t trust Dr. Straker even then, but it didn’t develop; there wasn’t enough to justify his actions at the end.

Really, to me, the ‘bad guy’ spiel seemed to come across as a clunky means of tying up loose ends (or answering questions the reader may have had), and creating a convenient justification for actions, and whatnot, unexplained. But, I guess, that is pretty much the motive of a ‘bad guy’ spiel, isn’t it? Why else would you have one?

And so that leads me to the other reason I decided on a lower rating — it just was not believable to me that Dr. Straker was the big bad, especially when considering the story and plot. His motives were minuscule and, frankly, I did not understand them. It was essentially a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde moment, except there was no build up to it — it was completely unexpected, and not in a good way. At least, not in my opinion.

One of Georgina’s greatest villains in the novel — the doppelgänger — becomes a meek shell of a person who doesn’t completely own her actions. Instead, this grand villain becomes the epitome of the Canadian never-ending apology…

Kate Beaton Canadian stereotype funIt seemed a little convenient for Georgina to be able to face her daemon finally (who had a mountain of motive, mind you), and forgive her so easily. Let’s recap though.

The doppelgänger (and main villain of the piece), Lucia Ardent, knows that Georgina has been falsely committed — it is revealed she is the one who sends the telegram, on “behalf” of the uncle. She is aware that Georgina has been trapped roughly five months in that damned asylum. She always had ill intentions, as she confesses at the end of the novel. And so, I simply cannot grasp Georgina’s ability to forgive so readily. In fact, Georgina decides that she will help keep Lucia out of prison for her crime.

Is it merely because there was a greater evil at work? That they had a common enemy in the end?

If I could go back in time, I’d tell past Cadence, “Stop about 80-90% in. You won’t like the ending.” Still, you guys know what I’m like. I like tragedies, I like sad or open endings, and I like the absence of ‘bad guy’ spiels.

BUT, revelation after revelation, this book was full of surprises and kept me on my toes. Despite the semi-predictable love elements to the story (even the one of a taboo nature!), there weren’t a lot of instances of me going, “Well, I knew that was going to happen!”

Again, the atmosphere and characters were rich and well-defined, and I’m always a fan of a bit of epistolary writing — another lovely Gothic element!

If I had stopped 80-90% in, I would have rated The AsylumWormwood: A Drama of Paris, or even a Wuthering Heights, but because I read to the very ending, I had to change my rating. So, instead…

I rate this book a Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

The scale:
10. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
9. Wormwood: A Drama of Paris – Marie Corelli
8. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
7. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
5. Fox in Socks – Dr. Seuss
4. The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown
3. The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger
2. Dune – Frank Herbert
1. Fallen – Lauren Kate
0. 50 Shades of Grey – E. L. James

Read more about the scale here

 


Image credits: Kate Beaton

Hardwood, John. The Asylum. Mariner Books: Boston and New York, 2013. Print.
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Florence & Giles – a review

Florence and Giles by John Harding

Florence & Giles, by John Harding is unlike anything I’ve read before. Sure, I’ve seen the Gothic elements before, but I’m talking about the language. At first I was like, “Jeez, there seems to be a few errors.” then I was like, “Have I forgotten English?” then I realised, “Ah!” and then it was like, “Holy shit! I love this!”

…for a girl my age I am very well worded. Exceeding well worded, to speak plain. But because of the strict views of my uncle regarding the education of females, I have hidden my eloquence, under-a-bushelled it, and kept any but the simplest forms of expression bridewelled within my brain. (5)

Florence is a girl who has been banned from reading. “Banned from reading?” I hear you say. “Bollocks to that!” You’re damn right, and Florence does not accept this rule of ‘illiteracy’ implemented by her uncle. While her younger brother, Giles, is sent off to school, Florence whiles away her days by sneaking into the library to read. From The Monk, by Matthew Lewis (yeah, I know what you’re thinking — and she’s only a young girl!) to The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins, The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe, and Jane Eyre, by you-know-who, it is clear that this 12-year-old is more cultured than me! Yeah, yeah, they’re on my TBR list, I assure you. Well, I’ve started The Mysteries of Udolpho… but anyway, back to the review.

When you read this book you see, hear, and feel her invented language. It’s very beautiful, and pleasing to the senses, in my opinion at least. This was another “Holy shit!” moment (it’s a long quote, because I loved it so much):

All I awared was that she neglected Giles, in whom she had less interest than in brushing her hair and mirroring her looks; I innocented her true nature and when she tragicked upon the lake I near drowned myself in a lake of my own tears, it so upset me. I thought her merely foolish and I guilted I had so despised her almost as much as I guilted that I did not save her, even though it impossibled me to do so, and kept thinking ‘if only I had this’ and ‘if only I had that,’ even though all these things would nothing have availed. (72)

I really wanted to add the entire block of text, as I found it so mesmerising, but it is indeed quite long as is. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but please calm down. I definitely would not consider this a spoiler. This particular scene is mentioned in the blurb. I merely wanted to give you a taste of the beauty of this novel; of Harding’s story, and of Florence’s words.

Florence and Giles by John Harding

So, the story
As you know, Florence is pretty well trapped inside a mansion with nothing to occupy her time. She is encouraged to take up embroidery (as many of her sex are encouraged to do), instead she uses the opportunity to hide her books beneath her work, and sneak a read whenever possible.

I have to say, as I side note, I am just loving reading all these books about women who defy their oppressors. Though, as you know (and from my reading of other works of the genre), most of those women are seen as a disgrace to their sex and are committed to asylums, to “cure” their waywardness. Or silenced, as I’ve discussed in other posts. In any case, they have been enjoyable reads, and quite empowering too! And, in reading these types of books, I am compelled to write a short essay on why “neo-Victorian” literature is becoming a means of conveying female empowerment.

Sorry, no more distractions
Florence also finds a kind of safe haven where she can read for hours without disruption. I’d honestly love something like that; a place, like Florence’s, where it’s difficult for others to access. I’m thinking something like a hidden room behind a book case! Sigh! Damn my wandering mind.

When Giles gets kicked out of school, Florence feels a sense of respite — they’re finally back together. But their bliss is short-lived when, after the death of their governess, a second one arrives, who completely overshadows the first in evilness. For while the first (Miss Whitaker) “unlibraried” Florence and the second (Miss Taylor) actually re-instated her librariedness (now I just made that one up!), Miss Taylor’s true motives soon become clear. To Florence, she is a spectre who wishes to do Giles harm. This (Part Two of the novel) is where the Gothic conventions are really thrown in your face. You cannot help but wonder if Miss Taylor truly is the evil spectre (of a vendetta-fuelled Miss Whitaker) as Florence imagines, or if her actions are misunderstood, and that Florence merely creates an enemy in her for she fears losing her brother — it is one thing to be lonely by yourself, and entirely another thing to be lonely because your brother has been stolen away by the affectionate hand of a stranger. In either case, I was hypnotised by every aspect of the novel, and scrupulously analysed every word, every action, because I was looking for clues, and even the tiniest moment was significant. For this reason, the book deserves at least a second read through — I want to take in each moment again, with the wonderment of hindsight on my side!

A love interest?
Yeah, there’s a bit of that going on. Theo Van Hoosier dotes on Florence, and even writes her terrible poetry in his attempt to win her. Still, terrible poetry is kind of sweet, if you like the guy (or girl). Their relationship sort of reminds me of the relationship between Eleanor and Mr. Ashwood (Henry) in my historical fiction, Eleanor. It’s a relationship that’s one…um… no, it’s probably best I don’t divulge any more.

And because I can’t help being cryptic, I must say, I do wonder about this line though…

My heart hopelessed a bird-in-a-cage flutter. (107)

And damn the beauty of it! Damn Florence and damn John Harding!

The ending
You guys know how picky I am with endings, but this novel’s ending… oh my god! I loved it. It was brilliant. Though I had an inkling of what was to come, Florence really came to life at the end, and I did not expect that. Her true nature — all the dark, macabre parts — was so thrilling to read. It was simply survival; her need to protect her brother (but perhaps she was influenced by her literature as well?), and I drank it up so easily. I loved her dark side.

Of course, I will not spoil it, I just had to tell you how much I loved Florence’s callous nature. It was beautiful, in a way. In a macabre way, haha! I told my partner about one particularly dark scene and how I loved it so much, and would possibly do the same were I in her position, and I was met with a face stricken with horror. Hmm… maybe I shouldn’t have said that!

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Florence & Giles has certainly convinced me to get cracking into The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James — another in my TBR bookcase, and a book which inspired Harding’s novel — and I will absolutely have to get myself a copy of Harding’s novel, The Girl Who Couldn’t Read.

Oh my god! I just went to my study and found that I already have a copy of it, haha! I will get into it asap. But, has that ever happened to you? You buy a book then realise you already have a copy? I have two copies of The Last Man, two of Jane Eyre, two of Beloved, and probably a lot more double-ups than that. Jeez!

Anyway, Florence & Giles was an amazing read, and I will absolutely be reading through it again soon. I highly recommend this book if you’ve read any of the works or authors that Florence has read, such as Radcliffe, Lewis, Collins, Brontë, Coleridge, Poe, Shakespeare, Scott, Austen, Whitman, Longfellow, Trollope, Eliot, Wordsworth, Dickens, Keats (though not sure about The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon). But I’d say, particularly, Gothic horror.

N.B.: There are some theories about this book; about the characters, their origins (Miss Taylor, for example appears seemingly from nowhere), their actions (whether they were just, for instance), and I am a little uncertain myself, I confess. I have my own theories, and I would love to hear yours. So, drop me a line if you wish to chat all things Florence & Giles.

I rate this book a Wuthering Heights.

The scale:
10. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
9. Wormwood: A Drama of Paris – Marie Corelli
8. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
7. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
5. Fox in Socks – Dr. Seuss
4. The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown
3. The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger
2. Dune – Frank Herbert
1. Fallen – Lauren Kate
0. 50 Shades of Grey – E. L. James

Read more about the scale here

 


Harding, John. Florence & Giles. Blue Door: London, 2010. Print.

An unintentional review post on Wildthorn

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

All of my books have arrived in the mail. Woo! I can’t wait to crack into them!

I recently finished reading Wildthorn, by Jane Eagland. It was amazing! But, I will speak (write?) more of that in a minute. I just started Florence and Giles, by John Harding. It was so difficult to choose (from those above), but I wanted to go with something not so terribly close to Wildthorn, in terms of plot or story, as it would possibly all bleed together, and I haven’t had any breaks from reading. So, a different story will have to be the break. It is hard though, as I have obviously chosen a particular type of novel I am after for the comps. I might consider straying away for a wee while, after Florence and Giles — either a break entirely, or temporarily move on to another genre — before my brain implodes.

But firstly, I want to talk about Wildthorn.
I haven’t read a book so remarkably rich in detail, so powerful, and with a plot and story so gut-wrenchingly beautiful yet painful, in a very long time. It was full of twists — some I could see coming, though most I could not — scandals, secret and forbidden loves, betrayal (like, I-want-to-punch-that-person-in-the-face betrayal), as well as I-want-to-punch-that-person-in-the-face-again loss and sadness. I was also very fond of the language, style, and tone of the novel. And, the research that went into this book? The detail of the asylum, the “treatments”, the characterisation of the doctors and patients — just wow!

Wildthorn Jane Eagland

Much like my Eleanor, the heroine of Wildthorn, Louisa Cosgrove, craves a life off the path which has been already laid for her. Her desire to become a doctor is relentlessly and mercilessly crushed by external forces; namely her family, who does nothing but try and rid her of her unfeminine qualities, and her unfeminine dream.

Most of the book explores the consequences of a nineteenth-century woman choosing to defy the societal expectations of her sex. A vindictive plot against her stifles her dream, if only physically, for she is incarcerated in an asylum, Wildthorn Hall, for her crimes against not only her sex, but her family — an unruly woman, seeking a career reserved solely for men, would bring shame to the family.

Louisa is the kickarse heroine we need. She’s not going to go out and start beating up baddies, but her knowledge of the scientific world, for instance, makes me want to be just like her — I think contemporary women would absolutely idolise her. In fact, you could say, she’s just like Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: independent, intelligent, and is possessed by a desire to harness the dark arts. Well, not quite, but in the Victorian period, a woman’s fascination with such unrefined or masculine things, was just as sinful.

Eagland never stopped surprising me. I’d think I had something figured out, but then I’d be blown away with revelation after revelation.

For instance, Louisa was committed under the name Lucy Childs. Of course, I started off believing it to be some conspiracy. It’s absolutely something that could have happened in nineteenth-century England. Women were committed for all manner of absurd reasons, and it wasn’t difficult to make a woman seem crazy — a woman wanting to be anything other than what was expected of her, is enough for her to be deemed mad — so, I believed her to be honest about her identity, but then I was soon convinced that perhaps her incarceration really was done for her benefit. Perhaps whoever was responsible did really care for her well-being. Of course, I quickly dismissed that idea too, for surely they would have at least considered the rest cure to such a horrible alternative. Yet, the asylum is the ideal place to silence a person — a woman.

Once you delve deeper, you start to doubt yourself, and you start to fear that you would have been committed, had you lived in Victorian England.

This should be enough to scare you from ever attempting time travel.

Reasons for admission

Solving the puzzle of who was responsible for Louisa’s imprisonment had me devouring page after page. It was impossible to put this book down, save for sleep. And, I never stopped hoping for her to make it out of there alive. I wanted her to make it out, she had to. I wasn’t going to accept otherwise. Of course, I won’t divulge whether she did or not. You’ll have to find out yourself 😉

My only qualm is with the ending. It wasn’t satisfying for me, but as you know, I’m very particular about endings!

There are a lot of similarities between Wildthorn and Eleanor, which I am happy to see. I think Wildthorn will make a fantastic addition to my comps list for when I submit to agents and publishers.

Be sure to get yourself a copy, and tell your friends. Wildthorn is a must read!

I rate this book a Wuthering Heights.

The scale:
10. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
9. Wormwood: A Drama of Paris – Marie Corelli
8. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
7. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
5. Fox in Socks – Dr. Seuss
4. The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown
3. The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger
2. Dune – Frank Herbert
1. Fallen – Lauren Kate
0. 50 Shades of Grey – E. L. James

Read more about the scale here

Anyway…
I didn’t actually mean for this post to turn into a review like that, I just had a lot to say about the book. I probably have a lot more to say, but maybe I’ll save that until later.

What was I actually going to talk about? I can’t remember. You know what, fine. This can be a review post, haha!

Comps, cover letters, editors, agents

I know I gave you guys an update last week, but it feels like it has been months. Maybe it’s because I just keep forgetting to tell you about all the awesome stuff that’s been happening. Such as… historical fiction writer, Fiona Mountain, is now following me on Twitter!!!

Cadence twitter Fiona Mountain follower

If you remember, I recently mentioned how much I loved her novel, Rebel Heiress (also known as Lady of the Butterflies), so I was gushing when I saw my Twitter notifications!

Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

Firstly, let’s get this out of the way…
Despite still being sick, I feel so much better this week. To all those concerned, it’s okay, don’t worry. My blood test results came back — all negative.

Now to the important stuff
It seems things are progressing a lot more quickly now since finishing Eleanor. I’m further into my comparable works list, I’m taking a course on writing pitches and cover letters, Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers (by the lovely Natasha Lester, and hosted with the Australian Writers’ Centre), I’ve booked an editor (the one I was after, yay!) to start working on my manuscript in August, and I’m now on the search for an agent (the course name would have given that away!).

Cadence Tweets Natasha Lester AWC

If you are interested in the course, you can find more details here.

Yes, because I am so fickle and indecisive (you would have noticed this as you joined me on my journey as I wrote Eleanor — I moved from writing a novella to novel, from considering self-publishing to traditional, and now from unagented to agented… fingers crossed!), I am now on the lookout for an agent. There are a few I know of, and have been considering, so I will work on that while my manuscript is being edited.

I just want to make sure Eleanor has the best chance at publication.

To do this, I have to write a CV/cover letter (including a pitch). This is something that is really important, so I have to ensure I do it right — to sell myself, and Eleanor, as best I can.

Regarding the pitch
I’ve had my latest one critiqued by The Book Doctors (Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry). While I received mostly positive feedback, there is also a lot I need to work on still to perfect it. A pitch is around 200 words (maybe a bit more), and is basically similar to what you would find as the blurb on books (unfortunately, I haven’t updated mine yet — you’ll find the old one on the cover art). So, for this task I will be checking out a lot of blurbs, and looking at ways to write something clear and concise to illustrate the awesomeness that is Eleanor.

Eleanor by CadenceSo, that was the old one, as in the oldest one. Below is my latest one, with some changes.

“Eleanor Clarendon-Addams is no stranger to the macabre. For most of her life she has been consumed by her passion for human anatomy. And after the untimely death of her father, a revered anatomy professor, her ambition intensified. In her despair, she sees only one path, she desires only one thing: to continue her father’s work. But as she is confronted by the societal strangleholds of her sex, she finds the path to her dream laden with thorns. Her dream is declared unbecoming, unfeminine.

When Eleanor is banned from her father’s university by the newly-appointed professor, Dr. Hollioake, her goal of becoming an anatomist falls apart. She is left with a numb emptiness, and a longing she must silence. Her dream is dying.

Just when all seems lost, like-minded student Henry comes along and brings Eleanor from the precipice. He helps her find her way once again, and all reason and rationality that may have begun nesting in her mind vanish. A love begins.

Amidst the pressure of Victorian London society, and failed by her own sex, Eleanor’s dream is quickly becoming a nightmare. Caught between a world of body snatching and scandalous societies, her sister’s fall from grace, and a love she feels unworthy of, Eleanor verges on the brink of insanity.

So blinded by her passion and removed of any logic, she risks her sanity and her soul to keep her father’s memory alive, but soon discovers that to reach her dream she could lose so much more.”

What do you think? Would my blurb influence you to purchase Eleanor?

I’ve already noticed a number of differences in the advice I’ve received from The Book Doctors, and that offered by Natasha Lester in the course. The Book Doctors seemed to suggest authors should avoid writing rhetorical questions into their blurb/pitch, whereas Natasha Lester encourages it. I am inclined to agree with Natasha (as rhetorical questions are all over blurbs — I very rarely see a book without one), so I will put one back into my pitch.

Now, to comps
As you know, I’ve been working through my comps list, which is a list of novels that could be comparable to Eleanor — I pretty much have to read within the genre (and sometimes outside of) to find out. This list is something that will need to be included in the CV/cover letter for agents and publishers.

Dodger by Terry PratchettSince I was sick last week (I think this illness has been with me around two weeks now!), I struggled to finish Dodger. I failed to reach my deadline, which meant me having to start and finish reading The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein within four days. I did manage it though, haha!

I must say, I was a little disappointed with Dodger. I was expecting so much more. Apologies to Terry Pratchett fans! The plot and story weren’t really plausible in my opinion, and Dodger acted quite uncharacteristically, but as I’ve said before, it is a children’s book (a surprise considering some of the language!), so I can’t be too annoyed about that. And true to Oliver Twist style, there was an unbelievable happily ever after — which I despise. Well, not despise, but I do prefer tragedies (if that is still an apt term these days), or even the occasional open ending, because they are more realistic to me. A HEA with a marriage, for instance, makes me question what comes next. Surely a divorce, right? Since most marriages end in divorce? Anyway, maybe I’ll give myself some more time before I consider writing up a proper review of all these books I’ve been reading.

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is another story. I instantly fell in love with it. It will definitely make my comps list. It’s similar to Eleanor in language, style, and theme. I will look at more of Peter Ackroyd’s works now, to see if there are other novels to be added to my list.

I am also considering Natasha Lester’s works as possible comps too.

Next on the comps list?
I will be starting Wildthorn, by Jane Eagland, which sounds like it will be another amazing read. My lovely, supportive brother bought it for me for my birthday, along with the next book on my comps list (which I will tell you about next week!).

And, oh my god! The cover of Wildthorn is so pretty and shiny!

Now, I realise this blog post is getting quite long, so I think I will end it here. If I can think of any other updates I may have missed, I’ll put them in the next blog post.

But, one last teaser?
Okay, my lovely graphic designer, Phoenix Johnson, is working with me on ideas for my next project — a novel about the Marquis de Sade. I’m still thinking about titles at the moment, and even the story and plot are still coming together in my head. The cover will simply be a mock-up/teaser to help me commit to the project during National Novel Writing Month, much like how the cover for Eleanor came to be. But we’re also working on ideas for my second novel, Wings of Malice. As soon as the covers are made, you guys will be the first to see them!

Thanks again for joining me. See you next week!

Eleanor – done and dusted-ish

TeamBeta has finished going through Eleanor, and I’ve received very positive comments! Yay!

Eleanor by Cadence

My beta team did an absolutely amazing job of going through Eleanor. I had no idea the amount of typos still left in the manuscript. It’s quite embarrassing actually, but since I’ve read it so many times, I have been left blind to a lot of errors. Sorry to say, I’m not perfect. I am so grateful for TeamBeta’s eye. And… knowing that I’ve made my beta team cry (and not from poor writing) is pretty awesome. Sorry, but I feed off their tears! Mwahahaa!

Editor
So, now that I’ve harvested enough souls through my betas’ tears, it’s time to consider an editor. I have contacted one today. Fingers crossed they agree to take on Eleanor.

Meanwhile, I’m still tackling my comps list. I’ll soon be moving on from Dodger, by Terry Pratchett to The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, by Peter Ackroyd. I would have liked to have Dodger finished by now, but I was quite ill last week. I’ve just now accrued a form of hives, which have spread all over my body. What fun!

Dodger has been an interesting read so far. It is not quite what I was expecting. I thought it would be more of a modern re-imagining of Oliver Twist, but it seems to be more of a prelude (possibly) to the events in Oliver Twist, focusing on Dodger’s life. I’m sure it will become clearer the further I delve into it. I am not too fond of some of the cameos, such as Charles Dickens himself, Sweeney Todd, and Benjamin Disraeli (though, that one addition seems to make a bit of sense at the very least). However, as I have been recently informed, Dodger is actually a children’s book (I had no idea. It could still very well work as a comp… maybe), so that may explain some of the choices made in the story/plot.

I am really looking forward to The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.

I might leave it there this week. My doctor wants me to have plenty of rest. I never say no to naps, so I might just do that now.

Birthday break!

I am writing this a little earlier than usual as I will be jetting off (via car) for a wee birthday break in a couple of days. Yes, I will be older and wiser, and maybe even a little depressed because I’m still in denial about the ’90s being so long ago.

Professor Farnsworth

I’m pretty sure the ’90s was only 10 years ago.

Anyway, let’s move on from my mid-life crisis to more pressing matters.

Comps
I have almost finished Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett. In fact, I should finish it this evening (as in Thursday… evening). I have really enjoyed it, and I am looking forward to the ending. Adora Belle Dearheart is, of course, my favourite character. She is the main reason I am using Going Postal as a comp. Both she and Eleanor share quite a number of qualities, and I feel that Adora is the best example I can give of how Eleanor’s character is portrayed. If you’re confused, it’s because I watched the TV mini-series/film adaptation first. So I was already a little familiar with Miss Dearheart before I started reading.

Of course, Going Postal is still quite reminiscent of Victorian fiction, despite being set in the Discworld.

So, what’s coming next? I hear you ask. I have a few books I want to check out — I named a few last week including, The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd (I did want to start The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein next, but I won’t receive it for a while). However, as you know, I am very indecisive when it comes to… making decisions, so I thought I’d instead try and remain in the world of Terry Pratchett with Dodger. I thought I already had a copy of it lying around, but it seems I don’t. So, I need to somehow buy a copy between now and tomorrow, so I can ensure I keep to my deadline.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Dodger will make for a perfect comp, I believe (without having read it already!), and I’m certain it will be better than Oliver Twist (on which it’s based), because I really couldn’t stand that book! Hang on a sec…

Let the hate mail flow

There we go 😉

Look, I know I’m not the only person in the world to dislike Oliver Twist, so just calm down.

In other news…

Wings of Malice
I have been making great progress with Wings of Malice. I have set myself a daily goal for my edits, which will ensure I have a near-polished manuscript by the time National Novel Writing Month comes around, at which point I will once again abandon the project in order to start another 😉

National Novel Writing Month
As you may recall, I recently mentioned my project idea for this year’s NaNoWriMo. For the moment, I am still set on doing a piece on the Marquis de Sade. Though, I am still exploring other ideas as well. So far, I have planned for my edits of Wings of Malice to finish at the end of September. I will then spend October researching Sade (or at least refreshing my memory of what I learnt of him during university), and planning out the narrative. It will be an historical fiction piece, not nonfiction.

Anyway, I might leave it there, but please do join me next week for another update. There may just be some awesome news to reveal, and possibly some photos from my birthday trip. See you then!

Eleanor – Comps, cover letters, and courses

It’s getting to that stage where I will have to abandon my ‘noobness’ and start immersing myself fully into the world of post writing… stuff. For Eleanor’s sake. This will include building a platform (well, more so than I have), writing cover letters, reading comps, submitting to an editor, submitting to publishers, and I’m sure there are a tonne of other things I must do before I get promoted to ‘Competent Author’.

Comps
I have been continuing my read through of comparative works. My aim at the moment is to read one book a week. I’ve finished The House I Loved, by Tatiana de Rosnay, and now I’m onto Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett. I’m not certain what will be next on the list at this stage, but right now I’m considering The Goddess and the Thief (reminiscent of The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins) by Essie Fox — if you recall, I bought it fairly recently with my haul of Marie Corelli and Daphne du Maurier books. Also on the list is Beloved, by Toni Morrison, however, since it was published in 1987 it may not make for a good comp. I’m told that it is best to find recently published works. Not sure if this is a strict ‘rule’, still, I will try to stick to more recent neo-Victorian works.

In my search for modern retellings of Frankenstein, I happened upon The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, by Peter Ackroyd. It isn’t exactly the retelling I imagined (as is my understanding, at least), rather it is a story about Victor Frankenstein meeting Percy Bysshe Shelley, so of course, I immediately ordered it from Book Depository.

 

 

So, as you can see, I am accruing books faster than I am reading them and, of course, I have no room for them either. Seems a trip to IKEA for new bookcases is in order!

Cover letters
So, I have to start considering writing a cover letter for Eleanor, for when I submit to publishers. Problem is, I’ve never written one, and I don’t know how. From my understanding, it appears that I will have to discuss comps (which is why I am powering through so many books at the moment), or at least the marketability of Eleanor. But, never fear… because… (now, stay with me here)…

Courses
…I’ve happened upon a course — Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers — run by the Australian Writers’ Centre. I don’t usually enrol in courses like this, but I thought I’d give it a go. I was also excited to learn that Natasha Lester, author of If I Should Lose You and What is Left Over, After and former tutor of mine from Curtin University, is hosting the course. So, that was enough to win me over. I haven’t started the course yet, but fingers crossed I’ll find time this week, because…

and etc
… while all of this is happening (research and reading), I will be attempting to continue my work through Wings of Malice. I didn’t quite realise just how much it was I was undertaking until I wrote it all down just now!

Join me again next week for another update.