How long, oh Literary Agent, how long?

I haven’t written my blog for quite a while. I’ve just checked and it was 24th February 2021, so about 6 months ago, and before that it was 11 months. Basically, I have little to say because not much has happened, which is really the subject of this blog. In May 2020 I managed to get a literary agent, much to my joy. She said she really liked the first book of a historical trilogy, A Teller of Tales.

However, 15 months later she still hasn’t found a publisher. It’s not her fault – what with Covid and publishers seemingly only being interested in writers who have a “name”.

She now also has the second book, A Keeper of Tales, (was called Untold Tales), which she has had since February. I have asked her on a number of occasions if we should go to plan B (whatever that is) but she has always said that she still has publishers to contact and it is a slow process but not to worry. I am trying not to.

I am in the process of writing the third book, A Seeker of Tales, but am finding it hard to get into the writing habit, partly because I am going through a fairly lengthy moving process but mainly because I am not very motivated. Why spend hours on writing a novel that may never see the light of day? But no! I have a good story to tell and the rejections on the first book have actually been very positive and I still think the books are good.

I have submitted the first two novels to competitions in the hope that if they win, or are even long or short-listed, then that may interest publishers.

So, my question to myself is, how long do I wait before going to Plan B – and what is Plan B anyway? Is it to try and find a publisher myself – but if my literary agent can’t find one then I’m unlikely to. Or is it self-publishing, which I have avoided like the plague and I really, really don’t want to go down that path.

Ah, well. Here’s another fairytale from the first book that I am rather fond of.

There was once a King whose beloved wife had died giving birth to their only child, a daughter whom the King could not bear to name. The King knew he needed someone to bring the child up as a Princess so he put an advertisement into the local paper asking for nannies.

The first girl he interviewed was very pretty with an oval face and long, black hair and long, black eyelashes that she fluttered at the King. She was tall and willowy and as dainty as dainty could be and the King was quite convinced that she had wheels rather than feet under her layered, taffeta skirts.

‘And what will you teach my daughter?’

‘Oh, your Majesty, I will teach the Princess to dance so that she is always the belle of the ball. She will be able to pirouette, skip, twirl and glide. She will know how to dance the cotillions, reels, waltzes and quadrilles and she will never be without a dancing partner.’

‘Can you teach her anything else?’

‘Dancing will be enough for her to ensnare and marry a Prince, and surely that is all you want for her? And I will always be happy to teach you to dance, your Majesty, and to be on hand to help you to entertain.’ She fluttered her long, black eyelashes again and gave the most spectacular curtsey and the King said he would let her know, although he realised he didn’t know her name.

The next girl was very pretty with a round face and long, golden hair and long, golden eyelashes that she fluttered at the King. She was tall and dressed in a black and white dress that showed off her impressive bosom and she trilled as she walked.

‘And what will you teach my daughter?’

‘Oh, your Majesty, I will teach the Princess to sing and play the pianoforte so that she is always the main attraction at every musical evening. It will be as if she was a pupil of Bach, Mozart and Haydn themselves and she will sing a Scottish and Irish ballad as if she had been born in those distant lands.’

‘Can you teach her anything else?’

‘Music will be enough for her to ensnare and marry a Prince, and surely that is all you want for her? And I will always be happy to teach you to sing and play the pianoforte, your Majesty, and to be on hand to help you to entertain.’ She fluttered her long, golden eyelashes again and gave the most flamboyant curtsey and the King said he would let her know, although he realised he didn’t know her name.

The next girl was very pretty with a heart-shaped face and long, auburn hair and long, auburn eyelashes that she fluttered at the King. She was tall and had long fingers and a dress of all the colours of the rainbow.

‘And what will you teach my daughter?’

‘Oh, your Majesty, I will teach the Princess all about art and to paint like one of the masters. She will capture each petal of one of the roses plucked from your garden, each whisker on one of your favourite hounds, each hair on the head of your majesty. Everyone will be amazed and say that they have never seen anything so life-like.’

‘Can you teach her anything else?’

‘Art will be enough for her to ensnare and marry a Prince, and surely that is all you want for her? And I will always be happy to teach you to paint, your majesty, and to be on hand to help you to entertain.’ She fluttered her long, auburn eyelashes again and made the most exuberant curtsey and the King said he would let her know, although he realised he didn’t know her name.

By now, the King was very tired and really didn’t want to have to face yet another simpering maid, but he was a King after all and had to rise above such feelings, so he asked for the last one to be brought to him.

She was, well, what was she? Scruffy certainly and she might have been pretty if she had washed the mud off her face. Her hair looked like straw, my goodness, it was straw peeping out from under her slightly askew bonnet. The King did not notice whether she had long eyelashes for he was mesmerised by her blue eyes that pierced him as if he was a butterfly pinned to the wall. He felt unaccountably nervous.

‘Er, and what will you teach my daughter?’

‘Does your daughter not have a name?’ The King sadly shook his head. ‘Then the first thing I will do is to name her so that she knows who she is. Do you like the name Flora?’ The King suddenly realised that he loved the name and nodded his head.

‘Just so you know, my name is Marigold.’ She surprised the King by stepping up to him unbidden and firmly shaking his hand. ‘And I will teach Princess Flora where the worms live and where the stars go in the daytime.’

‘And what else?’ He felt a little braver.

‘I will teach Princess Flora how to feed a motherless lamb and what tadpoles grow into.’

‘What about dancing?’

‘Princess Flora will study the bluebells and the snowdrops, the foxgloves and the lilies of the valley and when they dance in the breeze, so will she.’

‘And what about singing?’

‘Princess Flora will befriend the birds and when the robin twitters and the blackbird chirrups, when the blue-tit whistles and the little wren flutes, then so will she.’

‘And what about art?’ The King felt he had to ask.

‘Princess Flora will learn very early on that God is the one and only artist and that it is sacrilege to even try and copy Him. No person can better the colours of Nature; flowers should be left to grow, not torn from mother earth to die in an ugly vase.’

The King felt inexplicably ashamed. ‘And will she learn to be a suitable wife for a Prince?’

Marigold tilted her head and looked at the King with a disappointed expression. ‘I think the question should be whether there is a Prince who will make a suitable husband for the Princess Flora, don’t you?’

The King realised that, yes, that is the question he should be asking. He also realised he didn’t know where worms lived or where the stars went in the daytime. ‘Can you teach me all these things?’

Marigold smiled. ‘Of course I can, your Majesty. As long as you are happy to get up and come outside as soon as the sun stretches her rays, whatever the weather is; as long as you don’t mind lying in the mud waiting for the worms to peep out;  as long as you don’t mind climbing a tree to put a fledgling bird back after he has fallen out of the nest; as long as you are content to take your shoes and socks off and dangle your toes in a river and listen to it as it tells you of its life.’

The King looked at Marigold and Marigold looked at him. Marigold did not flutter her eyelashes, which, the King noticed, were long and brown; Marigold did not make any sort of curtsey but stood upright and the King did not think he had ever seen a girl so beautiful.

‘When can you start, Marigold?’

The King and Princess Flora learned together and when the King died, as Kings invariably do, he was quite happy to hand over his kingdom to his daughter, knowing that she would reign with patience, love and respect. Princess Flora had not married for she had not yet found a Prince whom would make her a suitable husband. Neither had the King remarried. What? You expected him to marry Marigold? The girl with the muddy face and straw in her hair? Don’t be ridiculous, that sort of thing only happens in fairytales!

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