Archive for the ‘USA’ Tag

New York State of Mind

We had the opportunity for a few days in New York City, in June of this year. Hubby and I love NYC and often gravitate back there. This was our sixth trip to NYC in ten years.

Me by Belvedere Castle

No matter how often we go, we always seem to find something new. We love Central Park and always pay a visit – in fact we got engaged in Central Park, in 2003. But the park is so huge we are forever discovering hidden corners. On this trip we discovered the Alice in Wonderland statue. We knew it was there – we’ve just never been able to find it. We also discovered a rather interesting building – Belvedere Castle.

We visited the Metropolitan Museum, which we’ve been to once before, but it’s such a massive museum it’s impossible to see the whole thing in one trip. So there were plenty of exhibits we missed the first time around.

We were quite lucky with the weather, and took a walk down to the marina on what turned out to be a lovely sunny day. We decided to take the speedboat ride around the tip of Manhattan – a half hour trip. The speedboat was called “The Beast”. We were warned we would get wet. We did. Still, it was great fun, and fortunately the weather was so warm it didn’t take long to dry out afterwards.

Alice in Wonderland statue

Another place in New York we love is the charming Greenwich Village, which has such an old-style British feel. We found a nice British theme pub there called GMT. It even served British cider, something that’s hard to get hold of in the States. We liked it so much we went back the following evening, to have another drink there before going for dinner.

The second time we were in New York, in March 2001, we had no idea that the pictures we took from the World Trade Center would be the last time we’d get to do it. The next time we went, in September 2002, Ground Zero had been cleared but it was heartbreaking to see this big hole in the middle of Manhatten where such an iconic landmark used to be.

In our subsequent visits, we’ve followed the progress of the building project that is taking place on the site of Ground Zero. The project is nearly complete now, with several buildings going up on the site. The tallest building is the last to be completed, and it’s nearly done. We learned that the buildings are to be formally opened on 11 September this year – on the tenth anniversary of Twin Towers coming down.

Me and my publisher, Renee

The highlight of our New York trip for me, far and away, was the moment I got to meet my publisher at Lyrical Press, Renee. Knowing that she was based in New York, we had arranged to meet while I was there. I was very excited about this – after all, to an author, the publisher is a Very Important Person. What never occurred to me is that she was just as excited about meeting me – a publisher considers her authors to be Very Important People, too.

We met for lunch and had a marvellous time, and took a picture to commemorate the occasion.

All too soon our visit to New York came to an end and we had to go back home again. I hope it won’t be too long before we are once again able to visit this most vibrant and exciting city.

Manhatten skyline, as of June 2011


British Vs. American

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

DEATH SCENE has been out only a couple of weeks, and I will have no idea, until July’s royalty statement arrives, how many copies it sold in its first month of release. I know I’ve had a few sales, because the colleagues and family members who have bought it have started to report back.

One of the most consistent comments I’ve had so far from my British readers is that all the American spellings are annoying. It is true that Brits get annoyed by ‘Americanisms’ (as this article on the BBC site today demonstrates!). But my publishers are American, so house style dictates American spellings. It does, however, demonstrate that although the UK and the US both officially speak English, anyone who’s experienced both knows that American English and British English are, in fact, two entirely separate languages.

DEATH SCENE racked up 31 rejections before being accepted by Lyrical Press. I sent it to agents in America and the UK, and to small press publishers that accepted unsolicted manuscripts on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of the rejections were generic, but some of them had personalised notes. The most common reason from UK agents for turning it down was that contemporary amateur sleuths do not sell in the UK.

Many UK publishers seem to feel that the British reading public want gritty crime thrillers or historical ‘whodunnits’ featuring amateur sleuths. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant – publishers will buy what they think will sell.

It has dawned on me, however, that Shara might fare better in America than in Britain. Amateur sleuths remain fairly popular there. Whereas the only amateur sleuths in books written by British writers I can think of are all set somewhere in the past.

And there is the added bonus that Shara, as a Canadian living in Britain, offers her perspective on the differences between North America and the UK. Hopefully people who don’t live in Britain will connect with that.

At this early stage, I still have no idea how DEATH SCENE will do. But if Shara does prove to be more popular with Americans than Brits, I will see that as a blessing in disguise. It might give hubby and I an excuse to plan that road trip across the States we’ve always talked about doing.

Adventures at the IRS

Since I signed my contract with Lyrical Press, I’ve been aware of the fact I have to get an IT1N number. This is a tax thing – it has to do with my being a non-US resident being paid by a US company.

I’ve been stressing about this for a while, as I was getting conflicting information about how to go about getting one. After a while, I came to the conclusion that the best way of applying, as I had no desire to send my passport off to America, was to take the completed form – and my passport – down to the IRS UK office at the American Embassy in London. But I couldn’t make an appointment – it’s a drop-in service. Suspecting I’d have to queue, I made arrangements to take a morning off work to do this. The American Embassy isn’t a long walk from the office, and I hoped I’d be done by lunch time.

I set off early this morning, with passport, birth certificate, completed form and publishing contract. This last was an afterthought, but it occurred to me they might want some evidence as to why I need an IT1N number. I’d also remembered to leave my mobile phone at home, having been forewarned that if you carry one you’re not allowed entry into the Embassy.

I arrived so early there was time for a coffee and breakfast muffin in Starbucks on Oxford Street, and I was still at the Embassy by 8:30am. I asked for the IRS Office. The polite security man told me they were closed until 9, and to please come back then. I expressed concern about wanting to get in the queue early. He said there would be no queue – the Embassy was closed today, but the IRS Office was open, and I would be able to walk straight in at 9am.

How to kill half an hour? I wondered. I’d just had coffee; I thought it would be unwise to have any more. There was probably a lack of public toilet facilities in the American Embassy. I decided to go back to Oxford Street to see if anything opened at 8:30. I got lost on the way – my sense of direction is pretty abysmal. On my wanderings, though, I passed a lot of very posh residences – you have to pretty well-to-do to afford property in London’s West End. I allowed myself a fantasy or two about being a successful enough writer to be able to buy a Georgian Town House in the fashionable part of London. With a private library.

Eventually I found my way back to Oxford Street, but as I suspected most shops were still closed. Boots was open, and I thought about buying toiletries while I waited, but I thought that if the American Embassy doesn’t like people entering the premises with mobile phones, they might be equally unhappy about small bottles filled with liquid or cream.

Returning back to the Embassy at the allocated time, I had to produce my passport, have my hand bag x-rayed, and walk through one of those body scanners they have at the airport.

But I must have passed all the tests because they let me in, and I found my way to the IRS Office, where a very nice American man helped me with my application. The passport was enough to prove evidence of my ‘foreign-ness’ and my identity, and the publishing contract sufficient evidence to provide a reason for my application (just as well I took it – things would have been rather more complicated had I not). The application was all done and dusted in 20 minutes, I was at my desk by 9:45 and didn’t need to take a morning off after all.

However, I apparently have to wait four months for my IT1N certificate to arrive in the post. But so relieved am I to have the application sorted, I don’t mind the wait.