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North Sea 6: 8 – 14 October

You know sometimes you feel like you shouldn’t have got out of bed? Well, I’m starting to think I shouldn’t get into bed in the first place. Thanks for the sympathy and suggestions over the pulled muscle in my neck last week. I was all set to write about how it was finally better now—but I had a relapse last night, so it’s back to sciatica of the neck. I have all the mobility of Batman in his body armour, and every movement is so slow it feels like the rest of the world is on time lapse.

It really wasn’t my weekend. How frustrating is this? Harper Collins, the publishers, having seen the success of Amazon’s kindle self-publishing boom, have just held an open call for unpublished fantasy manuscripts that they can publish as e-books. (It’s a bit of a cheat, really—you don’t get an advance, just royalties on copies sold, like Amazon, so in fact it’s basically self-publishing under the Harper Collins brand; but since you benefit from their marketing and promotion, it’s still definitely worth having a go.)

The window for submissions was advertised as being from the 1st to 14th October. So I’ve been beavering away, getting a couple of manuscripts ready, writing synopses, and “query letters”. Today—Sunday the 14th—I went to upload them, only to find that Harper Collins had closed the website at midnight on the 13th.

I can’t really complain—it was ambiguous, and anyway my teachers always told me that my habit of leaving everything to the last minute would come back to bite me—but all the same I can’t help feeling a shade dischuffed. (As the guy from Airplane almost said, looks like I picked the wrong year to give up chocolate!)

So it’s only going to be a short blog this week, partly because of all that wasted effort, and also because Margaret’s off on her travels again, to London and Edinburgh, and I have to figure out how to work the blog controls again. (Apologies for the ropey photos this week, too—it’s just me and my trusty iPhone, I’m afraid—and you’ll have to wait till Margaret’s back midweek before you’ll be able to click on the photos to enlarge them.)

I’m another couple of inches further on with the gansey. I know it looks like I’m knitting a “top hat cosy” (I should have gone into design, all these brilliant ideas), but you can see the pattern starting to emerge properly now. I had been concerned that the zigzag might disappear into the background, or be too thin, but it stands out quite distinctly. (Remember, this pattern section will only go as far up the body as the underarm gussets.)

Rainbow over Wick

At least I’ve found a way to knit which doesn’t involve too much discomfort in my neck, though it does involve a sort of slumped posture rather like the Hunchback of Notre Dame lining up a tricky shot at pool, or a crash test dummy. (And anyway, since I keep doing the damage yawning in my sleep I’ve decided I need more interesting dreams…)

12 comments to North Sea 6: 8 – 14 October

  • Hello from a new reader. Sorry to hear of the relapse – hope things improve quickly and definitively soon. The gansey’s looking lovely despite all the inconvenience you’ve had knitting it.

    Thanks for writing such informative (and entertaining) pieces about ganseys. My order of yarn for my first gansey has just arrived, and I can’t wait to get started…

  • Freyalyn

    Did you not email HC pointing out that their deadline was ambiguously worded? I would. Anyway, that work won’t be wasted, I’m sure it’ll be handy at some point to have the stories all nicely edited.

  • Gordon

    Hi Katie,

    Good to hear from you and thanks for the kind words! Best of luck with your own project, and please let us know how you get on.

    With all good wishes,

  • Gordon

    Hello Freyalyn,

    Yes, I dropped them a courteous email—but looking at their website, it seems I’m not alone: the comments section is filled with seething frustrated would-be published writers, so I don’t think they’ve heard the last of this…

    (And yes, at least I have a proper synopsis or two now!)


  • Gracie

    Freyalyn (love that name) is right! Don’t let this go – and don’t expect anything by email. Do a little research on the HC company online – locate the person who handles new publishing, call directly, briefly explain the date issue and mail your work anyway. If you need to leave a message, be sweet as honey and blessedly brief. Do they really want to shoot themselves in the foot for a date glitch? Your writing could be the bestseller they turned away. Don’t let it go. When you mail your material, they won’t throw it out, unopened. They will read at least the first paragraph. If you’ve caught them, they’ll read the next. I had an old literary agent friend, so I heard a little of how it worked. They will feel inconvenienced by the lack of electronica, but they won’t blindly trash it.


  • Gordon

    Hi Gracie,

    Well, I have a file of 40-odd rejection letters from the publishing industry which tells me that the kind of stuff I write isn’t what they’re looking for, so I must admit to being rather fatalistic about the whole thing. The average publisher or agent gets in the region of 200 unsolicited manuscripts a month, so Lord knows how many they’ll have received from an open invitation like this! Thousands, certainly, and then you get lost in the grain sof sand on the beach.

    On the other hand, I still get to write what I like and publish it on Amazon, so I’m no worse off than I was before. And I have my third book coming out at the end of the month. Who knows? Maybe this will be the one that breaks through…


  • Gracie


    Oh dear. I’m sorry. 200 is not too shabby competitively though. I thought it would be thousands. Yes, you have Amazon and the best wishes of all here in Gansey Nation.


  • Gordon

    Thanks, Gracie—in fact it’s no secret that I was going to give up writing altogether a while back, on the assumption that if it got such a comprehensive thumbs-down from the publishing trade, it was probably without value. It was only the kindness and positive comments from some readers after I posted one as a download on this blog that persuaded me to give the Amazon route a try. Since then, I’ve had nearly 2,500 downloads of my books since May—so I’m quite happy.


  • =Tamar

    Have you had a dentist check you for temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)? Neck pain can be one of the symptoms. Meanwhile, there are shaped pillows to support your head and neck; one of them might be helpful. Or you could try tying up your jaw like Marley’s Ghost.

    Top-hat cosies could be a winner with the steampunk crowd; winter is coming, and those hats aren’t nearly snug enough to be warm.

  • Gordon

    Hi Tamar,

    Thanks for suggestion – I always knew something was out of joint in my life. The thing I’ve pulled is around the side/back of the neck, a supporting strut of some kind.

    Are top hats back in fashion? I do possess one from my morris dancing days, but it’s nap is rather disgraceful, and would get me thrown out of all the best clubs!


  • =Tamar

    Heck, yeah, the steam punk folks love top hats. The worn nap is not a problem either, as their characters tend to be adventurous and the hat is likely to be blown off by the wind in the high altitude balloon.

    I believe that the fact that you can pull a neck muscle in your sleep may be one of the symptoms of TMD, as the joint must be in an incorrect condition for that to happen. It might at least be a contributing factor, and the fancy name gets attention faster than just saying you have a stiff neck. Besides, you seem to be among the least stiff-necked people online, so the ailment is out of character.

  • Gordon

    Thanks for the compliment, Tamar! Sigh. You know you’re getting old when your doctor no longer has to look you up on his computer but remembers you from last week…

    One of these days (when I’m feeling brave) I’ll post some archive pics of me in my morris dancing prime, top hat and bells and all!


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