Breaking the Rules and the See-Saw of Self Doubt: 2013 365 Challenge #88

My new YA cover

My new YA cover

Well, here it is. My new cover. Apologies to everyone bored to the back teeth of my self-publishing adventures. I have to make sure this blog is about my writing as well as my parenting journey!

Actually today has been a watershed sort of day in my personal journey as an author. I’ve been oscillating between hope and doubt since breakfast. First off I flexed the credit card and bought this gorgeous photograph – isn’t it stunning? Oh to take a picture like that. It reminds me of a bit in Baby Blues, when Helen takes an amazing photograph that leaves everyone stunned. It’s hard to imagine how one image can have that impact until you see one.

I asked the photographer if he had a vertical version better suited to a book cover (the original of this one is horizontal) and he sent me another from the shoot. It wasn’t the same at all. The expression was more sulky than vulnerable, as if the model was saying, get me out of this damn rain, I’m cold. So I had to work with this horizontal one and create a ‘rainy’ background for it to sit on.

That was my high (working with beautiful photographs is like a drug).

My low came after reading a post on Catherine, Caffeinated‘s blog, by an editor, about why you must have an editor if you intend to self publish. I posted a comment along the lines that I just plain can’t afford one and her response was, well then you mustn’t self-publish. I’ve thought that before and I don’t blame her for saying it. However if I listen to that advice I’m back to querying agents and wondering everyday if I’m meant to be an author. It took the edge off my excitement about the new cover. Especially as hubbie confessed to hating the type font of my novel (I do too, so that’s okay) and to finding another typo. I’m sure the manuscript is littered with them and I do intend to have another run through with fresh eyes. Only now I’m scared to look in case there are hundreds!

Sneak Preview of 200SH March Cover

Sneak Preview of March Cover

My see-saw of self-doubt tipped upwards again with a lovely comment on my blog from someone who is also self-publishing (albeit with the use of a professional editor!). She stopped by to tell me not to be disheartened by Catherine’s comments and that people will forgive a badly edited book for a good story. Well, they did with Twilight so I know that’s true.

I’ve ended the day somewhat level on my see-saw. I know I’m breaking the rules by self-publishing without paying for the services of an editor or proof-reader and without going through my manuscript again the minute someone spotted a typo.

I will do. One day.

But if I wait for the right time I might never get anything done because by the time the kids have started school, or left home, or whenever is a good time to focus, I will have talked myself out of doing it. I have a short attention span and a small amount of self-belief so I have to carpe diem.

There’s been a song floating round my head for weeks (hubbie has it on his ipod playlist I think) and I heard it on the radio today while working on my front cover. It sums up where I am nicely:

You’ve got the words to change a nation
but you’re biting your tongue
You’ve spent a life time stuck in silence
afraid you’ll say something wrong
If no one ever hears it how we gonna learn your song?
So come on, come on

I don’t think my words will change a nation but I do so love Emeli Sandé’s song and I love the concept of Our Version of Events. Everyone has an opinion on the right way of doing things – be it writing, parenting or anything else. Our job is to discover our version of events and stick to that.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire looked up at the hills towering either side, blocking out the sun. Bloody typical. It was almost spring-like back at the hostel. I could be sitting in the lounge ignoring the awful floor covering, reading my book and drinking tea. An image of the scene she’d left behind floated into her mind: Fiona and Josh entwined on the sofa, chatting to baby Lily, while Sophie and Lucas played snap on the bright blue carpet. Even though she was pretty certain the domestic bliss had lasted approximately five minutes before one of the children was screaming or sobbing, the sight had still left an odd taste in her mouth. I’m better off out of it. A morning spent in the Hall grounds with Josh’s kids was sufficient to convince her peace was rare and fleeting.

I certainly didn’t need to come out on a five-mile-hike to escape. Although I guess I do need something for the blog. I can’t coast on the concussion excuse forever.

Her rough research had suggested a walk along Wolfscote and Beresford Dales would be picturesque and easy-going. Unfortunately the website’s estimate of a two-hour circuit hadn’t allowed for the snow. The path was hidden and she had slipped several times on the crunchy ice-crystals that had formed in the heart of the dale.

To her right the river Dove gushed along, swollen and grey from the melting snow water. On the internet pictures the brook had sparkled in summer sunshine. You’d think an Advertising Director would be trained not to believe everything she sees, especially online.

The footpath snaked through tightly packed hills, making Claire feel like she was walking between a giant pair of breasts.  Lovely. Josh will piss himself when I tell him. He’ll be gutted he didn’t come. Then she remembered Fiona’s expression as she announced her afternoon plans, and her smile dropped away. Josh had glanced at his wife and met a blank stare, as if she had decided not to influence her husband’s decisions. Claire hadn’t been so lucky. The woman had flashed her a micro-glance that had slapped her across the face. It wasn’t necessary. I wouldn’t have let him come. Wandering around with a single man is one thing, but hiking alone with a married man – even one who is just a friend – isn’t my style.

Lost in her thoughts, Claire didn’t realise she had left Wolfscote Dale and entered Beresford Dale until she saw the looming pile of limestone ahead of her. Ah, the Celestial Twins. Look like lumps of rock to me. The Twins didn’t seem as impressive as they had in the pictures. Claire guessed it was because they blended into the dirty-grey snow lying thickly on the Dale floor.

She took some snaps of the edifice for the blog, before hurrying on along the path. The valley narrowed, enclosing her like a rumpled duvet, until she was striding along a gorge. Despite the blue sky and hints of invisible sunshine, the gorge was lost in shadow. Claire felt the air temperature drop even lower, but sighed with relief as the blasting wind fell away. It wasn’t late but it felt oppressive in the gorge and Claire was glad when the footbridge came into sight.

She stood at the edge of the bridge, listening to the roar of the river beneath her. The water was only inches from the bridge, although the planks were still dry. I wonder how low the water is normally and how long before the bridge is complete submerged. As if she feared that might happen imminently, Claire forced herself to plant one boot on the wood and then another. Closing her ears to the thunderous noise, she scuttled as fast as she could across the bridge and only breathed when her boots landed in snow again.

At last the valley opened out and the sun twinkled on the horizon, dazzling Claire’s eyes even though it no longer held any warmth. The field stretched ahead of Claire and she realised she had no idea which way to go. In the dales and the gorge the path had been obvious, despite being mostly buried by snow. Now, out in the open, there were no obvious markers to follow and no footsteps to show the way.

Fear tightened in Claire’s chest until her ribs ached. She tried to keep calm but memories of the mugging tugged at her mind and wound up her pulse. Great. I’m lost. The hostel is only a mile or so away. I can almost taste my cuppa and feel the warmth of the wood burner. She shook her hands in an attempt to bring life back into them. Her fingers tingled with the loss of sensation caused by the wind penetrating her flimsy gloves. Mental note to buy some fleece-lined gloves at the next opportunity.

Claire fumbled through her pockets for her new phone, praying there was signal. Eventually, with nerveless hands and thudding head, she managed to load up her satnav system and find out what direction would take her to the village.

I hope the drive to Cambridgeshire tomorrow is easier than this, or I’m going to be late to collect my niece. And Ruth will kill me.

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Addicted to Artwork: 2013 365 Challenge #60

I need to learn to finish a book before I design the cover! :)

I need to learn to finish a book before I design the cover! 🙂

Okay so I really need to either a) start a business designing cheap book covers for people or b) remove Adobe Photoshop from my PC.

I spent a precious hour today trying to find the right image for my next self-publishing adventure – even though I haven’t finished proof-reading/editing the final draft yet. It was originally called Pictures of Love (and I did a cover for it, with a picture of a camera). But I decided it didn’t sell itself or its genre properly in the tiny image you get on Kindle.

I decided to come up with a more genre-appropriate title and book cover. I settled on Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes although I’m not sure that’s brilliant either. My original concept for the cover was to have it as an illustration, with a picture of a teddy or rattle and some nice white shoes… Then I discovered illustrations are expensive to buy (and book covers designers are even more expensive when you’re starting out and have no budget.) I tried to create it myself but after spending an hour photographing my son’s teddy and trying to Photoshop it next to an image of wedding shoes I gave up. Maybe I’m not a book cover designer after all (unless you want a nice stock photo with some lettering on it – good at that!)

So anyway, this is my attempt. I like the image but I’m not entirely sure it goes with the title (the image seems quite serious, which fits the book to some extent, but the title sounds like Chick Lit). I need to tweak the lettering too, as it disappears into the shadows at the bottom.

The more I try and get my head around marketing the more impressed I am with people like Nicola May and Susan Buchanan. Their covers are eye-catching and they have a distinct brand. Incidentally three of Nicola’s books are free today (I discovered on Twitter – see, I’m learning how to use it at last!) so go and grab them for kindle if they sound like your cup of tea. I haven’t actually read any books by either author – I came across them on Twitter only this week – but they do look my kind of read.

Of course all this self-publishing stuff came today because I uploaded the second volume of Claire’s exploits onto Smashwords. I can’t believe I’m at 50,000 words including today’s post. I can see how addicted self-publishing can be and how tempting it is to put a book out before it’s ready. If I didn’t know that Pictures of Love/Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes needs a good polish I’d be formatting it for Kindle as we speak! And as for the three other manuscripts languishing on my laptop, when am I going to get back to those? The more I go down this writing path the more I have utter appreciation for the skills and talents of others! It’s not a journey for the faint-hearted.

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Claire peered through the windscreen at the blue sign and swore. It was time to edge her way between the rows of traffic, to change lane and leave the motorway. Gritting her teeth Claire tried to see her mirrors through the lashing rain and cursed when she realised the wake of a passing lorry had pushed them out of position. She muttered a quick prayer and squeezed between two dirt-encrusted HGVs, wincing at the sound of horns as the rear one was forced to apply his brakes.

Her hands were shaking by the time she reached the exit and her temples ached. I’ve only been gone a couple of weeks. How can you forget how to drive like a normal human being in that time? Stupid car. I’d have been fine in my Audi.

She drove the familiar route into the city, relieved that the rain was beginning to stop. Even at midday the sky was dark, casting a gloomy light across the buildings and cars around her. Landmarks loaded with memories whisked past the window like luggage on a carousel. She exhaled. Not really the homecoming of the prodigal Marketing Director.

“Why the sigh?”

Claire looked at her passenger and gave a small shrug. “I didn’t think I’d be back so soon. Well, actually I did, but I thought it would be because Carl had changed his mind about trying to sack me or because I was booked on a flight to the Maldives, or…” She stopped.

Josh raised an eyebrow but she didn’t accept his invitation to elaborate. She wasn’t the one with explanations owing.

As the rain eased Claire was able to take some of her attention from staying on the road and apply it to the prickly problem sitting in her passenger seat.

“So, when are you going to tell me what this is really all about?”

Claire threw the words out there knowing they would fall on sterile soil. She’d tried to prise information out of Josh the night before, without success. Instead he’d introduced himself to Maggie and retreated back behind the backpacker persona. It had been the same at breakfast and during the two-hour rain-drenched journey to Manchester.

“Tell me why I am ferrying your arse to the airport to meet your wife when you won’t give me a damn thing.”

Josh hitched up his cheekiest smile and fluttered his eyelashes. “Because I’m a handsome Aussie bloke and you’re a swell Sheila who can’t resist me.”

Claire fought the grin but it crept across her face in betrayal.

“Ah ha see! No chick can withstand my charm.”

“And how are you going to explain that to Fiona?” Claire pictured their near kiss at the Observatory, thought about Beth and Chloe, and the anger returned.

“Your poor wife”, she bit out the words. “And children, I’m sure you mentioned children before you invoked your own Official Secrets Act.”

The smile dissolved from Josh’s face. Claire thought he was going to defend himself but he turned to look out the window. As she negotiated the busy streets into her home town she tried to ignore the growing tension. Do I push it or let him explain in his own time?

Angry words bubbled beneath the surface as she recalled the events of the previous evening. Josh’s highhanded summons, his shock revelation. Finding out he had kids after his avowed dislike of ankle-biters. Forgot to mention he had some of his own. Finding out he was married. What about all the women he’s come on to, for Christ’s sake, and done lord-knows-what with? What about me? How am I meant to face his wife at the airport? Just because nothing happened. It might have done. If he’d tried again. Which he hadn’t. Now she thought about it she had never actually seen Josh embracing anyone.

“You’ll have to talk to me eventually. You asked me to help you create a believable story for Fiona. I can’t do that if I don’t know the plot, or the key characters and their motivations.” She let her words hang in the air as she followed her Sat Nav to the hostel. She passed bars and shops that beamed like pictures in a family album.

I’m not here. No one can know I’m here.

Claire averted her eyes and gripped the wheel until her knuckles went white.  A stab of sunlight broke through the clouds as she turned the car into a wide street bordered by three-story Georgian houses. Something sparkled ahead and Claire looked up to see the looming monstrosity of the Hilton Tower dominating the skyline. She was glad when the Sat Nav sent her right, down a cobbled street, and she spied the green triangle of the YHA.

Pulling into a parking space she cut the engine and sat with her hands resting on the steering wheel, waiting to see if Josh would say anything before they left the private cocoon of the car to join the cacophony of a busy city hostel.

She was about to open her door and get out when she heard Josh inhale and sensed he was about to break the silence.

His words fell between them like rocks.

“I don’t want to tell you. How can I?” The sharp edges of his voice rent the air. “How will you ever remain friends with me when I tell you I killed someone? I killed a child.”

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Making the goal visible: Self-Publishing, Book Covers and the Blurb

Proposed book cover for my WIP

I’ve read a few blogs recently on the topics of self-publishing, designing your own book cover and writing your book blurb.

It got me thinking.

Maybe what I need, to help me get to the end of my final revisions, is a nice visual goal. So I’ve wasted several days of precious writing time pulling together a book cover for either paper print or e-book publishing.

 I haven’t actually decided yet whether I am going to go down the self-publishing route or continue with the plan of applying to agents. I admit I still tend towards the latter, for two very important reasons.

1. I cannot afford to hire a professional editor, and I am terrified of publishing something full of grammatical or typing errors.

2. I am rubbish at self-promotion. I have set up various ventures in the past, all of which required me to sell my talents, and I know already that I’d rather pull out my own teeth.

I could add a third barrier, but it is one that should be surmountable, if I can get enough enthusiasm to do it, and that is the need to fill the gaping hole in my knowledge about social media. From everything I have read, promoting your book on social media sites and building up a following are both essential if you want to sell your book to more than family and friends. I can just about negotiate my way around Facebook, but even that is a challenge. I’m far too young to be such a Luddite, but there you are. I need the kids to grow a bit, so they can teach their old mum a few tricks!

I cannot describe how many hours it took me to find a photograph that encapsulated what I wanted to say about my novel. I wanted to catch the eye, to make sense of the title, but not give anything away about the plot. (I hate spoilers.) And I wanted to be able to afford it. The first image I fell in love with was about £80 for the size I needed, in case I have it printed. This one, thankfully, was considerably less. Thank you www.dreamstime.com

If you are interested in creating your own book cover, Keri Peardon has some very useful lessons on her blog: http://keripeardon.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/how-to-make-your-own-book-cover-lesson-5/. I use Photoshop Elements (currently on a free 30-day trial which would be plenty for getting your book cover done).

As for the blurb, I’m sure I will do a few more re-writes before I’m happy. It’s not an easy thing, getting someone interested in your story without giving any key plot points away (did I mention, I hate spoilers?) 

There has been an interesting discussion on blurb agony over on Keri Peardon’s fab blog. Definitely worth a look.

Anyway, diversionary activity over, time to get back to editing, with my lovely new book cover to inspire me (if I can just resist the urge to tweak the colours, layout, font, text, images….)

Other great links:

http://keripeardon.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/7-reasons-why-e-books-are-great/

http://catherineryanhoward.com/self-printing-home/self-printing-posts/ (Catherine is currently offering her book on self-publishing – The Best of Catherine – Caffeinatedfree on www.amazon.co.uk. Go check it out.)