Cake and Karate

Karate.jpg

Karate Exam

Once again I have had a heap of blog post ideas floating around my head, but life keeps getting in the way of me writing them down.

Typing, housework, birthday cakes, after school club forms, karate exams, a new book idea.

So this is just a quick update to keep the blog plodding along!

I passed my first karate exam last Saturday, and my son passed his latest grade easily this time too. Despite feeling for my little girl who I think regretted choosing not to Grade with us, I was very proud of us both, particularly my son. Even without his sister, he walked in with head high and 100% focus and breezed an exam I was sure he would fail. His drawing of his exam shows how much it meant to him.

On the flip side I didn’t do so well on my first Proofreading paper. I got a B- which doesn’t sound too bad until you know that I need a straight B to pass. It turns out I edit too much. Ahem.

Cake.jpg

Wobbly Cake

I made my son the requested Lego cake. It didn’t rise and was nowhere near the image my son picked out, but he liked it and it tastes great!

But oh my that lettering was far harder than it should be. Despite my many talents, manipulating fondant icing isn’t one of them!

I’m trying to make space for writing something new. Not that there is very much space at the moment between the school run, paid work, and party prep.

But I have an idea and that’s a start. I’ve challenged my husband to write something for the Chicken House competition (deadline December). Not sure if either of us will manage it, but the race is on.

Thankfully I’m at the ‘carrying an idea around in my mind and world building’ which is just as well. I don’t know if it’s the antibiotics (my ear infection came back and it’s definitely made me feel bleh – MTMcGuire I think you’re onto something!) or whether it’s an excited child getting out of bed at 5am yesterday, but I’m definitely a bit fuzzy. Writing a dystopian novel probably requires me to be a bit sharper.

In the meantime I’d better get back to typing and party prep. Who says SAHMs have it easy? ūüėÄ

June Journals #27 ~ Onwards and Upwards. Eventually

MargaretMorganKirk

Congratulations!

It’s taken me a few weeks¬†of randomly searching google, but I’ve finally discovered that the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition Winner has been announced – back on 6th June!

The competition rules said notification by 1st July, but I’ve been checking for ages. Nothing. You’d think there’d be an announcement or something.

Eventually, yesterday, I found an article on LBA Literary Agents‘ website – from 8th June – announcing the winner as Margaret Morton Kirk, author of the Scottish crime novel,¬†Shadow Man.

Well done!

I have no sour grapes. I knew winning, or even getting shortlisted, was hugely unlikely. But I’m a tad irritated at how hard it was to find the results.

That’s the bit I hate about competitions – the waiting. I could have spent June working on Refuge at Riley Road, getting it out there either as a self-published novel or to agents, instead of farting about feeling lost and listless. Or I could have wallowed and baked cakes. Oh wait, I sort of did that anyway!

Never mind. I have an answer finally, that’s the main thing.

Back to writing.

June Journals #9 ~ Unreasonable Terms & Unpaid Leave

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Knitted Jester

There’s this thing, when you’re an artist of any description, that people expect you to work for free, and sell it to you as ‘exposure’.

It’s an ongoing problem, a debate I won’t add much to that hasn’t already been said, except you wouldn’t call out a plumber and pay him in good reviews.

But I saw something today that made me a bit cross. On Bridget Whelan’s blog (and I don’t blame her at all for sharing this), I came across a competition being run by Gransnet (think Mumsnet for the over-50s).

Working with Independent Publishers Bobaloo Books, Gransnet are running a competition to find an unpublished author of a children’s book aimed at the 3 to 12 market.

My ears immediately prick up at ‘competition’ and ‘unpublished’ because usually self-published is okay.

And who wouldn’t jump at a chance to bypass the slush pile and go direct to a publishers?

Except…

Thankfully, I always read the small print (to make sure self-published is okay) and frankly I’m disgusted. From the terms and conditions I read this:

By entering this competition you hereby (a) unconditionally and irrevocably grant and assign to Bobaloo books throughout the world in all languages all copyright and rights in the nature of copyright and all other rights in your entry, together with full title guarantee and all rights of action to the same belonging or accrued and shall hold the same to Bobaloo Books for the full period of copyright and all extensions and renewals thereof and thereafter; (b) waive all moral rights as defined by sections 77-83 of the Copyrights Designs and Patents Act 1988 or any similar laws of any jurisdiction; (c) warrant you have the power to grant the rights herein stated, that your entry is original to you, does not infringe copyright, moral rights or the rights or licence of any other third person/entity, has never been published anywhere in the world, does not contain anything libellous, in breach of confidence, inaccurate or in any other way contrary to law and any recipes or formulas are not in any way injurious or harmful; and (d) indemnify and keep Bobaloo Books harmless against all loss, risk, cost, damages, claims, liabilities and expense occasioned to Bobaloo Books in consequence of any breach of these warranties or arising out of any claim alleging that your entry constitutes in any way a breach of these warranties.

I mean, WTF Bobaloo? I hadn’t heard of you before, but I sure have now. I’m no lawyer, and I’ve never been fortunate enough to have a contract with a publisher, but even I can see that not only does this give the author¬†zero rights, it even puts the onus on them¬†to make sure their¬†work is in no way libellous or inaccurate. How on earth does an author do that? They’d have to take out liability insurance before entering, just to be safe.

Not cool.

Compare this to the Chicken House Times Fiction Competition Ts & Cs:

7. There will be one prize winner. […]¬†the prize is the offer of a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House (which shall be subject to negotiation and completion between Chicken House and the winner. If the negotiations between the parties fail, then the winner will receive the alternative prize set out below).¬†[…]

8. Entrants retain all rights to their entries, except in the case of the winner to whom a publishing contract will be offered (as referred to in term 7 above). The winner will retain the copyright to the work and shall exclusively license worldwide publishing rights of the entry to Chicken House Publishing Limited on completion of the publishing contract. The publishing contract with the winner will be in line with industry standards for a debut children’s novel with a Royalty Advance of £10,000 from Chicken House and will include full volume rights including Film & TV. The winner will also receive an offer of representation from a leading literary agent.

Now isn’t that nice? An offer of Royalties and a negotiated contract on ‘license’ – not a handing over of all copyright. No one expects to be in a brilliant negotiating position with a first novel selected through a competition (rather than hotly contested by several interested agents) but at least it all sounds fair and reasonable.

I made a decision a long time ago that I’d rather retain copyright to my writing¬†and remain anonymous and poor, than hand it over willy-nilly on a chance of fame and fortune.

Anyway, there went my chance of a productive day, so aside from an hour of study in the morning, I took the day off.

I didn’t intend to take the whole day, but I starting watching Les Mis√©rables without realising it was three hours long! I did at least complete most of the knitting for my son’s jester. Now I just have to sew it all together.

Gulp.

And if I’m going to be an unpaid author, I’d rather it was unpaid leave, knitting and watching an awesome movie, than writing a book for someone else to claim!

Looking For the Window

Sunny Skegness

Sunny Skegness

So another door closes, as the longlist for the Chicken House competition was announced last week and I wasn’t on it. I didn’t expect to be, of course, but while there’s silence, there’s hope. And now I am looking for the open window, because if you don’t keep hoping, keep trying, what’s the point?

Having spent the holiday knocked out with Flu, struggling to be up for the children for our annual caravan holiday on the East Coast, the last thing I feel like doing now is fighting. But the more books I write, the more I can believe I am an author. I just need to find the outlet.

My latest plan (crazy scheme?) is to do an editing and proofreading course. If I can make some money perhaps I can afford an illustrator. With decent pictures, I would be much happier self-publishing my children’s books. Like I say, more a crazy scheme than a plan, but if nothing else I’ll get better at editing my own books.

In the mean time, the kids are at sports camp for two days, so I can try and find order in a house full of builders, start conquering the feral ironing, and get myself better for the fight. Pass the spinnach.

Somewhere, there’s a window open, waiting for me to squeeze through and find my way forward. Let’s hope it’s not raining out there.

The Finish Line or the Starting Post?

Ready for posting

Ready for posting

It’s the last day of this four-week term and somehow, through illness and doubt, computer disaster and credit card fraud (you have no idea how many passwords you have until you decide to change them all), I have a completed entry to send to Good Housekeeping.

It was touch and go. I’ve been distracted by excellent novels (I read Divergent and Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, in two or three long sittings this weekend) and trying to declutter the house. I’ve been distracted by failing to repaint the playroom, and by wishing I’d asked the decorator to put our wallpaper poster a foot to the left.

I’ve been collating things for a domestic violence charity (research for the novel has been a cold dose of reality) and emptying the loft for the builders. Well, hubbie’s been doing that – I’ve been trying not to intervene and protect stuff from being thrown away.

And somehow, I dragged out a 70,000 word first draft. Definitely a first draft, especially as I was aiming for 80,000, and reading Divergent has shown me how much emotion is missing from my work. But the competition only calls for 5,000 words and a synopsis, so a first draft is fine.

Should have gone right to the window...

Should have gone right to the window…

But sending submissions – the 1,000 word synopsis that brutally reduces all that work into a few hard facts – the last proofread, and then just one more – the 100-word bio (do I talk about me or my books?!) – All this is like the years studying for an exam, the weeks revising, and then the two hours you are judged on. It is too much and never enough.

The biggest question is, when I send my submission off, will it be an end or a beginning? I hover between optimism and pessimism: someone has to win, but it really isn’t likely to be me. And I won’t know either way for months.

And until then, there’s the wait.

But it’s the Easter holidays, it’s Spring, the new bathroom is coming. I still have Allegiant to read.

Today is definitely a beginning.

Road Closed Ahead

Flooded Roads Everywhere

Flooded Roads Everywhere

This month I have been writing my first novel using a detailed plan. I am halfway through and I thought I’d share how it’s going.

As I discussed in my last post it took me a long time to get started, although that was partly due to the nature of the story. Ironically the ‘hard’ scenes have been the easiest to write, in as much as they’re the heart and soul of the story. I can get swept up in the emotion, however horrible, and the words flow.

Harder has been the overall narrative. Writing from a plan is a little too left-brain for me. I am analysing my writing too much (groaning over how many times I use ‘then’ or start sentences with characters’ names or pronouns.)

According to a quote I found on the internet, “Left brain thinking is verbal and analytical. Right brain is non-verbal and intuitive, using pictures rather than words.” (Ucmas.ca)

That should mean left-brain is great for writing, right? Not for me. Oh, I probably have fewer continuity errors, virtually no typos and spelling mistakes, and near-perfect grammar. But the story has no flow and no imagery. It’s all words and clich√©d descriptions of emotions.

I know, a book is generally made up of words! But I realised on my last quick scan that there is no description after the first page. I mean none. No sounds, smells, sights, room descriptions, setting, weather. Just dialogue and action in a vacuum. That can all be added of course, but I write better prose subconsciously, so it’s more risky to have to add it during edits.

The other problem is that, even though I have drifted from my original plan to some extent, I am still lost without my cards.

I came on the school run today without them. I usually write for an hour in a coffee shop and then head home. I knew what scene I was due to write. All good. Except I’m stranded in town due to flooding, and I’m stuck.

Spending the whole day in a coffee shop should mean I can bang out five thousand words. But I don’t know what comes next. I’m 30,000 words from the climax scenes and I can’t remember how I planned to get there!

On a positive note, however, I do seem to be mostly on track with Snyder’s Beat Sheet, even if I’ve ignored half the scenes and all the word-count estimates. And it was useful, during the 20,000 word dip (that NaNoers might recognise) to be able to look at the next card and keep on plodding on.

I really need to finish this first draft by the end of term, especially if I want to enter the Good Housekeeping competition. Unfortunately the kids break up two weeks today (darn those early Easters) and even though I’ve written 45k words in two and a half weeks, it’s feeling like a huge challenge.

I guess I could just make a start on the climax scenes and plug the gap later. I prefer to write linear, but needs must!

And of course, there’s my final dilemma. In my plan someone may or may not die. I didn’t know during the planning process. I still don’t know. I hoped I would be clear when I got there. I guess once a pantser, always a pantser, even with a pretty set of index cards!

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.

The Book I Wrote In a Month

Meet Esmerelda Smudge

Meet Esmerelda Smudge

This is a post about how NOT to self-publish Рexperts 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. ūüôā

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! ūüôā

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

 

 

Five Hundred Followers

followed-blog-500-2x

Thank you!

I have reached a big milestone for me this week: five hundred followers.

I am always amazed when people want to subscribe to my random and sporadic blog and I am always so very very grateful.

A while ago I¬†said I would run a giveaway when I reached this point. Unfortunately January is a crazy month for me, so for now I’m giving my books away instead!

Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes isn’t eligible for a giveaway, but the price will be reduced through a countdown deal from 30th January through to 6th February.

Class Act and Dragon Wraiths will both be free from 29th January to 31st January. (Links Below)

Chase away those January Blues and curl up with a romance or fly with dragons on me this weekend!

Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes Link

Class Act Book Link

Dragon Wraiths Link

Writing Comps, Knitting and Farmville Frenzy

An impossible puzzle

An impossible puzzle

So another fortnight whizzes by and suddenly we’re in December. Thankfully, Christmas gift buying is under control and hubbie has a job for the new year (hurrah!)

For the last two weeks I’ve been caught up in competition entries, knitting projects and (in the last twenty-fours hours) farming. I think Farmville 2 could be the downfall of my writing career. This is the reason I don’t play computer games like the rest of my family – because I don’t know when to quit. I was farming until 2am this morning and my ‘just ten minutes’ at lunchtime stretched into two hours.

If you haven’t come across the Farmville app, it’s a little make-believe world where you grow and sell fruit and veg, and care for farm animals, to make money to buy more fields, livestock and work buildings. The children each have their own farm on the two ipads loosely known as mine but when they’re asleep or at school I can ‘just keep things moving’ (i.e. Take over for a few hours.) it’s beyond addictive. Even now the game is calling to me.

My son's (my!) farm

My son’s (my!) farm

The other distraction has been knitting. I’m making toys for the children for Christmas, including reading and following my first ever knitting pattern – this lovely Deramores fairy doll my friend showed me on Facebook. The pattern might be straightforward (if time consuming, with 38 pieces to knit) but the instructions on how to assemble it are clear as mud to me! It might just remain on the ironing board!

I have five or six concurrent projects, including making up my own (so far unsuccessful) Elsa doll – it’s no wonder my brain is full. Like anything I do, I run at it full pelt, knowing it will fizzle out and I’ll be left with crates of wool and bits of half-knitted toys (like my loft full of paintings). So far writing is the only creative endeavour that had endured. Hopefully that’s a good sign.

Christingles and Poorly kids

Christingles and Poorly kids

Needless to say, I didn’t get shortlisted for the ITV Be a Bestseller writing competiton. Not to worry, I’ve kept the dream alive by entering the Janklow and Nesbit / Mumsnet novel writing competition, so fingers crossed for January. At least the competitions are forcing me to tidy up my early chapters and think about my synopsis, even though Finding Lucy is only half finished.

And that’s it, aside from horrid colds that have swept the family, one member at a time, and the Christmas Fair (which required two decorated pringle pots, a chocolate donation, a bottle donation, raffle tickets to be sold, event tickets to be bought, and a Christingle charity candle to be filled with coins.) Unfortunately my daughter was too poorly for us to go to the Christingle service so I made the children one each so they didn’t miss out.

The tree is decorated, the chocolate advent calendars opened, the floor is covered in tinsel. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I hope all is calm and bright with you this festive season!