Two #KindleFire #Giveaways and a book recommendation.

A competition for you, as I’m busy in child party-planning chaos!

M T McGuire Authorholic

Just a quick post to give everyone the heads up on a couple of giveaways. The prize in both is a lovely Kindle Fire. Oh yeh. The first is the freekindlegiveaway.com ‘Discover’ Giveaway and this week we are mostly discovering, Science Fiction! Sqeee! (including my book)

To quote the site: ‘This Giveaway is a DREAM for the true Bookworms who participate! Not only do you get a chance to win a Kindle Fire OR a Gift Card/Paypal Cash…but everyone who enters will receive FREE books and special bookish offers!’

There are 20 other smashing science fiction authors taking part who will be discounting or giving away their books. They will get in touch with you after the giveaway has ended to let you know what discounts or freebies they are offering.

You can find the giveaway here:

http://www.freekindlegiveaway.com/discover-giveaway/

The second giveaway ties in with a new release. You will probably…

View original post 160 more words

Why I’m Giving Up Writing for Grown-Ups

Georgina the Giraffe says write for kids!

Georgina the Giraffe says write for kids!

I read recently on Sally Jenkins’ blog about a writing competition currently being promoted in the UK magazine, Good Housekeeping. 10k advance and a potential publishing deal, don’t mind if I do. The two categories are Crime/Thriller and Women’s Fiction.

Well, I thought, I’ve written Women’s Fiction before – my first novel, Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes, falls in that category, and it has a bunch of nice reviews. As I’m in my plot-hole mire with the latest children’s book, I thought it might be nice to write in a different genre for a while.

Being in my January sludge, I struggled for an idea (I need a character, a theme, and an ending to start writing these days). But Hubbie came up with a neat Fairy Tale reversal story, so I began playing around with that.

And that’s when the trouble started.

Write what you know is advice often given to wannabe authors. And, for women’s fiction, I always reach into myself for a character, as I feel that’s the best way I can empathise and understand motivations and so on.

But, as I researched my new character, I realised it was becoming some kind of therapy session for elements of my life I wish I could change. Enlightening as it was about my own past, it didn’t make for a great novel.

So scratch that, I thought, I’ll enter one of the two novels I’ve finished. Baby Blues is a bit long for a Women’s Fiction novel, and is actually doing okay on Amazon, so I turned to Class Act. It never flew. My two Goodreads giveaways resulted in awful reviews. Perfect for a rewrite, yes?

Then I re-read the reviews, and they sounded very similar to a review I got on Baby Blues recently. In essence, Okay writing, but I HATE the leading lady.

“…the way Rebecca’s character was written made her quite unbearable.”

Ah, yes, about that. I never loved the leading ladies in Baby Blues and Class Act all that much either. My love was always for the leading male, or a secondary character. And, with the distance of a few years, it’s obvious. In some way, they’re both me. And I don’t love me very often.

I have no idea what makes me likeable. Hubbie can’t tell me (not in a way that wouldn’t be better suited to 50 Shades) and I don’t really have close friends. I don’t know how to write an amazing leading lady because I don’t really know any.

Perhaps that is why I’m enjoying writing the kids’ books. If the characters are based on me (and I don’t know if they are), then they’re not deep enough – the stories aren’t long enough – for people to hate them. But more likely they’re based around traits I see in my kids, in the children at school, and from the books I read and love. They’re stories of bravery and daring and magic. My women’s novels are about the hardship of being a grown-up!

So I think I’ll walk gracefully away from the real world and leave the grown-up story writing to those who can create more sympathetic characters. Tempting as a 10k advance is, I’m not going to win a competition with a bunch of characters no one likes (when they’re meant to!)

I don’t mind. Give me magic ponies and talking cats any day.

Lying Dormant

Nothing Blooms All Year

Nothing Blooms All Year

There’s a phrase I’ve seen on Facebook recently (although a quick Google search has failed to produce an origin, so call it ‘anon’) that says, “Nothing in Nature Blooms All Year Round.”

It’s been echoing in my head for the past few weeks because, hey, January.

I don’t do January well.

All the hubbub and frantic organisation (and, let’s be honest, shopping and gift wrapping – my two favourite pastimes) of November and December are replaced by the guilt of January.

There is shopping in January too, as it’s my daughter’s birthday, but that is overlaid with the guilt of how much I spent at Christmas. Add to that exhaustion after the holidays, erratic sleep patterns from having a lark daughter and an owl husband and son, and I’m quite frankly a wreck.

I’ve written before  (more than once!) about the January blues. I beat myself up that I can’t start writing the minute the children return to school. I become low.

This year has been no different. Except I’ve been playing Minecraft instead of mooching on Facebook. Same screen, different brain-dead.

And then that phrase: Nothing blooms all year round. It’s like a ray of winter sunshine in my head. Perhaps it’s okay that I sleep during the day, or hit the sack at 8pm (or both), hardly seeing my husband at all. Perhaps it’s okay that my mind is like sludge, and I crawled through 7,000 words of a new novel, (that’s 70%, as it’s a Chapter Book) and then realised the plot had a hole to end all gaping plot disasters.

Perhaps it’s okay just to think of myself as dormant, awaiting the spring sunshine to bring me back to life. The fact that I’ve written virtually the same post for the last two years shows it isn’t me being rubbish. Not really.

It’s just January.

Life Is Like A Pile of Laundry

A white polar bear is boring

A white polar bear is boring

I spent New Year’s Day conquering the worst of my feral laundry mountain. The five loads of muddy clothes and pyjamas and the three-foot high ironing basket. It wasn’t so bad. I watched the Cinderella DVD my gorgeous daughter asked Father Christmas to bring for me (unbeknownst to me). I had an excuse not to fall asleep on the sofa or play yet another board game or strain my thumbs mining for diamonds.

We had a mooching home-based Christmas this year, full of TV, Minecraft, and colouring. Trapped in by the endless rain, it’s been unexciting, but restful.

I jokingly put on Facebook today that I was starting the year as it would go on – fighting an endless losing battle with dirty clothes. A relative said, ‘oh no,’ I should be curled on the sofa with a Bailies and a mince pie.

There have been plenty of both this holiday – I’m quite proud of my mince-pie belly. I hosted Christmas Day and made a dozen mince pies, forgetting (or not) that I’m the only one who likes them. And we won’t even mention the giant Christmas Cake I’m eating single-handed, accompanied by endless slices of apple and cheese.

Christmas colouring

Christmas colouring

It occurred to me, as I contemplated my remaining one-foot high ironing basket and the two feet of folded clothes on the tumble-dryer this evening, that laundry is a good analogy for life. I live for the day I’ll reach the bottom of the washing hamper or the ironing basket, but the only way it would happen would be if I was alone. My perfect laundry-life can’t ever exist, unless we all live naked or not at all.

We spend so much time in life waiting for the perfect – perfect job, perfect house (or even vaguely tidy kitchen table), perfect car, husband, kids. The day the kids listen or put their shoes on at first time of asking. The book deal, best seller, movie rights (that might just be me!), the perfect night’s sleep or skinny body.

This January we’ll beat ourselves up with resolutions to become the perfect us. Because then, just maybe, we’ll find perfect happiness.

But it’s a con.

We’ll never find – and keep – the perfect, just as I’ll never ever finish the laundry. Because life isn’t static. Perfection is for a moment only. To aim for anything else is to invite a life of disappointment. If we strive for the thing to make us happy, we’ll miss happy in the striving.

Still in Christmas PJs

Still in Christmas PJs

It isn’t reaching the perfect empty laundry basket that made me happy today – I didn’t get close. What made me happy was the doing. Watching a lovely movie with my kids while bringing order to chaos. Achieving something. Working hard. Getting stuck in.

It’s a cliché that life is the journey not the destination, but clichés are born in truth. Running will make you happy; striving for the perfect body probably won’t. Writing and creating will bring satisfaction;, longing to be the next J K Rowling will not.

So this year my resolution, as I approach my Zero Fs Forties, is to remember happiness is there for me to grab every day, not to strive for in a futile quest for perfection.

And there will always be ironing, but that’s okay, because it means life is moving on.

The Book I Wrote In a Month

Meet Esmerelda Smudge

Meet Esmerelda Smudge

This is a post about how NOT to self-publish – experts like Kristen Lamb and Catherine Howard should look away now.

My last post was all about how I wrote a first draft in four or five days, in response to finding out my Chicken House novel was a bit pants.

I came up with the idea of a girl called Esmerelda Smudge (in tribute to Esmerelda Weatherwax from the Discworld novels). I sketched out the character and most of the plot during a 30-min dog walk, and wrote 20,000 words over the next few days.

That was on 12th November.

On 17th November I sent my tweaked draft to an editor I’ve used before, who I love because she writes Children’s Fiction and has kids too. She edited Dragon Wraiths for the competition last year, and her insights were super helpful. Plus she charges proofreading rates! It’s Christmas, I don’t have much money to spare. I also sent Alfie Stanton The Half-Baked Hero to her (the ‘pants’ book) so I could work out from her comments which one to enter in the competition.

On 27th November (because, did I mention, she’s awesome?) my editor sent back the annotated manuscript, with excellent comments on character arc, dialogue, research and all that good stuff. I made the changes that week, while waiting to hear back about Alfie Stanton.

On 4th December I got back Alfie Stanton, with the view that – with some hard work on dialogue – it should be my Chicken House entry. So, being me, I ignored those edits and decided to publish Esmerelda instead!

My purchased iStock Image

My purchased iStock Image

I purchased a great set of composite artwork from iStockphoto for the princely sum of £8.40 and set about turning it into a passable cover design. Did I mention money is tight at Christmas? I bought the image because I knew I could cut and paste and adobe photoshop the hair to make three images of the same girl doing different things, things that Esme does in the novel.

I used an existing novel template (Moon Pony) that was already set up for CreateSpace to create my print document, just dropping the novel into place. I uploaded the files to CreateSpace on 9th December.

Yesterday, one month after first dreaming up Esmerelda Smudge, I ordered a print copy. And so did someone else! Don’t know who, which means I made my first sale. :)

This is obviously NOT how to self publish. I have several things that made this a smooth process: practice (I’ve written and published six children’s books this year), a willing and wonderful editor, and the urgency of a competition deadline.

The final cover doesn’t look quite right on the print copy and my new one doesn’t seem to have uploaded, although sometimes there is a lag on Amazon and the printed version will be fine.

Did I mention this is how NOT to do it – a proof version should always be printed before setting a book live. But the proof versions for me come from overseas and can take ages to arrive. So it’s quicker and cheaper to set it live and order my own copy. Except no one is meant to buy one in the mean time! :)

I spent a total of £51.99 including ordering a print copy. I won’t even make that amount back in sales unless something miraculous happens. But I released a fun, sweet, heartwarming story into the world for the price of a meal out for two.

For me, that’s how to self-publish!

You can find the kindle version of my book here for the bargain price of £1.98 (I haven’t checked the formatting on that either, that’s my next job, but hey it’s not expensive!)

Merry Christmas

 

 

My Mini NaNoWriMo

Latest incarnation of Alfie

Latest incarnation of Alfie

I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo this year. I am desperately trying to get an entry together for the Chicken House/Times Children’s Fiction competition, so I’m all about the red pen, not the free-flowing first draft.

Except.

I gave the latest version of my Alfie Stanton manuscript to my husband, waiting for applause, or at least constructive feedback and got … Nothing.

The story is doomed. I started it two years ago, with a character called George. Resurrected it for Chicken House last year, but had the first chapter trashed by a children’s editor so shelved it and entered Dragon Wraiths instead. In fact, after being told by the editor that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be an author if I wouldn’t break my manuscript down to the smallest part, I nearly quit writing for good.

I don’t do ‘edit to death’. I find my work tends to get worse rather than better if I overthink it and let ‘analyst’ brain take the wheel. But anybody who’s anybody in the writing world will tell you to edit, edit, then edit some more. Even last year’s Chicken House winner gave that as her main piece of advice.

So this time I thought it was time to grow up and do it properly. I broke my manuscript down, looked at characters and themes, description, language, conflict. But mostly I got in a huge muddle and came to hate the story and everyone in it. The harder I tried, the flatter and duller my writing became.

It wasn’t a great surprise, then, when husband’s silence screamed, “this is shit!” although I thought it was just the first draft of anything that was meant to be that.

And do you know what, I think he’s probably right. By trying to be literary and funny and to incorporate all of Barry Cunningham’s advice, I broke my story.

What would once have killed me made me stronger. Seven days ago, I came up with a brand new character – Esmerelda Smudge. Six days ago I started writing, and two days ago I sent a 20,000-word lightly-edited brand new story to my (new) editor. 20k words in just over 4 days. That knocks the spots off NaNo.

Rough Cover

Rough Cover

Is it good enough to enter in the Chicken House competition? I’m not sure. I still think Alfie, for all his flaws, is more what they’re looking for, which is probably why I can’t quite get him right. My style has always been more mainstream than award-winning. But Esmerelda has a great story. I gave the first 14k words to hubbie to read, and he polished them off in an hour. Not that he’s the best judge, but at least he’s honest.

Maybe, instead of trying to follow all the advice, to force myself into a mold and mode of working that doesn’t fit, I should continue on my own deluded way. After all I wrote Two Hundred Steps Home that way and it’s proved popular. Dickens wrote in serial form – he can’t have analysed his story arc to death on every book.

And I do put in the work. When I’m drafting, my brain buzzes and sleep is scarce. I carry the story arc, character profiles, the motivation, the continuity and conflict and comedy, all around in my head and pour it into each chapter. But it’s written fast, with no time for fear. And, for me, it works.

Most of all, it produces books that I would choose to read. That at least is one piece of writing advice that I can follow!

 

Modern Parenting: Lying by Omission

The Bear Diary

The Bear Diary

We had the joy of a visit from the class bear this weekend: my son had a karate competition and wanted Spencer to come.

But you can’t take photos at karate, so it makes filling the precious diary slightly challenging.

I finally pinned my son down to complete the diary this evening, but it’s fair to say it was mostly a Mummy effort.

And it’s all lies. Well, not lies, but hardly a true reflection of our weekend. This is what it should really say:

“On Friday night Aaron got cross because Mummy wouldn’t help him with his Lego. On the way home he whined about not being allowed a snack, even though he’d had two cakes at the school bake sale. He forgot all about Spencer, and the bear would have slept with the dog if Mummy hadn’t taken him upstairs.

Saturday was torrential rain, and football was cancelled, so Spencer lay forgotten in bed while Aaron watched six hours of TV. Spencer ate more piada at lunch than Aaron did.

Spencer nearly missed the karate championships when Aaron was more interested in watching the end of his programme and hugging the dog goodbye. Aaron was first up at the competition and completely forgot his Kata. Aaron sulked because he didn’t win a trophy. Despite being super-brave and doing the group Kata, Aaron still didn’t win and did more sulking. Mummy lost her rag when he refused to get changed in the car.

Spencer had McDonalds for lunch. Mummy is desperately knitting a new scarf because his old one has been stretched to death being used as a karate belt.

Mummy printed the pictures, cut and stuck them and strong-armed Aaron into colouring a picture when he wanted to watch a fifth Power Rangers. Spencer will be glad to get back to school on Monday.”

Facebook, Blogging, and now the school bear’s diary: it’s all about how you spin the truth!