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

 

 

F-ein-tastic!: 2013 365 Challenge #247

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

Mind-Numbing Paperwork

Hurrah! I got my EIN number today.

After a year of telling myself “I will call tomorrow” and never quite managing it, my “fax them instead” plan worked a charm. Just as they said it would, it only took four business days for my EIN to arrive by fax to my inbox.

Cue BIG GRINS!

For anyone else like me, who hates having to phone anyone, or who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on hold to an international phone number, here is a rough idea of what I did to get my number.

1. Read Catherine, Caffeinated’s blog post on applying for an EIN (especially read the bit at the top *Read this first* and the comments). Even if you’re going to fax rather than phone, this will still make sure you know all the answers to the questions needed to complete the SS-4 Form.

2. Download the SS-4 form (or here) AND the notes. You need to read the notes, although don’t be daunted. On page three of the SS-4 there is a chart titled “Do I need an EIN?”

Point 8 on this chart, where it says IF the applicant … Is a foreign person needing an EIN to comply with IRS withholding regulations AND Needs an EIN to complete a Form W-8 (…) explains which parts of the form need to be completed. These are: Lines 1-5b, 7a-b (SSN or ITIN optional), 8a, 8b-c (if applicable), 9a, 9b (if applicable), 10, and 18. 

3. Use the notes on Catherine, Caffeinated’s post, together with the Instructions Form, to help you understand what information is required for each of these sections. Heed the advice to fill everything out in full (no abbreviations). I completed my form in Adobe Photoshop, because I have it, and because there was no way I could fit my address legibly in the teeny tiny box by hand. It probably isn’t necessary but it certainly helps if you can type the form.

4. Ensure you have included a fax number for yourself in the bottom right-hand corner, and fax to this number:

International Revenue Service Center
Attn: EIN International Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Fax-TIN: (1) 859-669-5987
 

4a. If (like me) you don’t have a fax machine, there are plenty of online companies who can convert a scanned document into a fax and send it for you. I used efax, signing up for their free 30 day trial (provided I remember to cancel it tomorrow!) They allowed me to choose my own local fax number and emailed me the response from the IRS. You do have to give your credit card details so make sure you cancel it within the 30 days.

5. Once you get your magic EIN number back, you need to complete the W-8BEN Forms for Amazon and Smashwords (if you have your EIN you can ignore most of the advice on the Smashwords page about the W7 form).

Again, Catherine Caffeinated’s blog has details on how to do this (although the postal address for Smashwords is out of date, so it’s worth double checking the information. The latest one is below.)

Amazon now have an automated system – the tax interview – whereby you complete your W-8BEN Form online. It’s worth doing this first, so you can copy their information to complete the Smashwords form (which has to be posted to this address:).

Postal mail us a printed, signed copy of your W8BEN form to:

Smashwords, Inc.
Attn:  Tax Compliance Dept.
PO Box 11817
Bainbridge Island, WA   USA  98110

NOTE: You have to include your Smashwords screen name (ie for me it’s writermummy) and account email address on the form before you post it to them.

6. Sell some books, happy in the knowledge that (in a month or two) you will no longer lose 30% of your income to the IRS.

Caveat: This is my experience of the process. I didn’t take many notes and I found it all quite straightforward, particularly after reading ALL of the Catherine Caffeinated post, including comments. If you have anything extra to add, or your experience was different in any way, please let me know in the comments below.

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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. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire felt a tap on her arm. Prising her eyes open, she stared blearily to her left. Josh peered at her with a sheepish grin on his face.

“Sorry, did I wake you?”

“No.” Claire yawned. She glanced to her right, but the seat was empty. Feeling slightly betrayed that Bethan had left her to her fate, Claire turned back to Josh.

“Yes, it’s just us.” His smile was too knowing, and Claire flushed at being caught. She already suspected that Josh had seen through her blatant attempts to avoid being alone with him, both at dinner the night before, and during the wait for the ferry that morning.

“Would you like to take a walk? We’re just entering the sound, and the scenery is breathtaking.”

Even though the ferry barely felt like it was moving – in strong contrast to her experience two days before – Claire didn’t feel like going on deck. But something about Josh’s expression told her he would pester her until she gave in, so she nodded and hoped it would be too noisy outside for conversation.

Josh led her through a heavy door, holding it open for her with a flourish. She smiled at his antics but it didn’t alleviate the lead weight tugging at her chest. As much as she was enjoying spending time with Josh, she found his behaviour unnerving: he watched her constantly, even when he was talking to someone else. It was more like being stalked by Neal than having her friend back.

I miss the old Josh.

With another yawn, Claire inhaled the fresh morning air and agreed that it was indeed beautiful. The grass-coated cliffs rose either side of them, forming a narrow tunnel for the ferry to chug through. The scenery had an other-world feel to it: too large, too green, too perfect. She felt like a mouse drifting along the riverbank on a leaf.

Josh leant on the railings, his face into the wind. She went to stand beside him and, for a moment, they contemplated the view in companionable silence.

“Claire–”

She winced, then changed it to, “Hmmm?”

“I never got a chance to tell you yesterday about why I came. The truth is, I’m thinking of leaving Fiona.”

Claire gasped. She couldn’t help it. Whatever she had imagined he might say; that hadn’t been it.

Stupid girl. It should have been obvious: the lingering glances, his coming all this way to see you.

She tried to analyse her reaction to his announcement. Wasn’t that what she wanted? Josh, free from Fiona and hers for the taking? Except somehow she didn’t want it anymore. The Josh she loved was a faithful, loving man, not someone who would walk out on his wife and children.

“Why?”

Josh released a sigh. “It’s too damn hard, that’s why. All she has time for these days is the kids. They come first in everything. We barely talk anymore, never mind, well …”

“But Lily’s only a baby; surely it will get easier when she’s a bit older.”

“Fiona said that after Lucas and Sophie and then Lily came along. She’ll probably want another one, as soon as Lily doesn’t need her 24-7. It feels like her way of avoiding being with me: having more and more babies.”

“I thought you loved the children.”

Josh ran his hands through his hair. “I do. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great kids. And Fiona. But a man has needs, you know? Oh not just the obvious ones.”

He turned to face her, and the bitterness in his expression made her catch her breath.

“Just once I’d like her to ask about my day, instead of handing me the baby so she can grab a shower or go to bed. I feel like we’re co-workers on a rolling twelve-hour shift pattern. I don’t remember the last time we had an uninterrupted conversation.”

Claire thought back to her time caring for Sky. She’d felt like that with only one child to look after, she couldn’t imagine what it must be like with three. And, even though her first reaction was to call Josh a selfish bastard for not being more supportive of Fiona, she had to admit he probably had a point. When they’d all been together in the hostel, Fiona’s attention had been consumed by the children.

“Shouldn’t you be talking to Fiona about this, not me?”

Josh hung his head and rubbed his hand around the back of his neck. It was the gesture of a beaten man. “I’ve tried. She gets all emotional: either accusing me of being selfish or telling me to clear off and find someone else to see to my needs because she’s too busy.”

Claire’s ears buzzed as she tried to think. She didn’t want to be having this conversation. Was she meant to be the someone else? Josh’s pain was her pain, but part of her could see how childish he was being. Parenthood was hard: you took the good with the bad.

If I were Fiona, I’d probably tell him to sod off, too.

Not knowing what to say, Claire absentmindedly rubbed his shoulder in support. As if the physical contact was all the permission he needed, Josh turned to her and seized her face with his hands. He kissed her, hard, his stubble grazing her face. Not like the soft brush of the lips of their first embrace.

She didn’t respond but, unlike the last time, Josh didn’t pull away. After several painful moments, Claire pushed at his chest and he broke free, panting.

She looked up at him, eyes wide. His expression was wild and it scared her. Then he seemed to control his features and smiled the lopsided grin that tightened round her heart like a fist.

“Sorry. Can’t blame a man for trying.”

He turned back to face the sea, as if nothing had happened. Claire stood motionless, except for the trembling in her limbs, her mind a jumble of thoughts and feelings.

Ah, crap.

***

Should Books ever be Free? 2013 365 Challenge #239

The Inflatable Slide

The Inflatable Slide

There’s an ongoing debate amongst self-published authors (potentially all authors but I can only speak for Indies) about the merits of making an ebook cheap or even free for a short period of time.

For an unknown author, making use of something like the KDP Select Program, with its five free days every three months, can be a great way to get your name out there.

Even if no one reads your book after they’ve downloaded it for free – and I’m sure the majority don’t (I only ready about 10% of those I download for free) – the giveaways increase your Amazon rankings and make you appear in the ‘also bought’ section at the bottom.

The more relaxed Bouncy Castle

The more relaxed Bouncy Castle

Whether this gives you sales you wouldn’t have achieved anyway, with self-belief and patience (not traits I have in abundance), is possibly debatable, but I know I wouldn’t have sold 7 copies in Germany this month if I hadn’t appeared on some German website during my last free promo. Dragon Wraiths reached No 1 in Fantasy during the three-day promotional period and it boosted sales tremendously, if only for a short time.

The effect of the other element – pricing cheaply – is harder to grasp. Authors like Amanda Hocking have made their fortune with a 99c price point, but only through lots and lots of hard work, promotion and through writing lots of books.

Equally I have heard compelling arguments to say pricing too cheap can affect people’s perspective of your credibility as an author. It’s hard to utilise free alongside low pricing, as the KDP Select Program prevents you from pricing as low as 99c, so I have little direct experience of a low price point.

In another dog show

In another dog show

Therefore these are not questions I have answers to. Catherine, Caffeinated has a great post on why Indie authors need to price low, even though she also wrote the post above about why you should charge as much as you can. If she does’t know the answer, with her wealth of experience, I’m certainly unlikely to figure it out. I imagine it is different for every author, book and personality type (ie how much patience is on offer).

The reason it popped into my head today was due to a trip to our local village fete. The kids wanted to go on the bouncy castle and the inflatable slide. The castle was £2 for as long as they liked. The slide was £1.50 for three goes.

Most parents and kids came away from the busy bouncy castle feeling happy that they’d received value for money. We all came away from the half-empty inflatable slide, and the miserable lady ushering the kids off after their three goes, feeling grumpy and hard done by.

Our Young Handler, 4th place

Our Young Handler, 4th place

Just because the castle man was giving away more, it didn’t devalue the experience. I suspect he made more money even though the kids were on the castle for ages for their two quid: there’s nothing like a castle full of giggling bouncing children to entice others to have a go. No one went on the inflatable slide twice, they just went elsewhere.

Part of being an author is about building a brand. If you give your book for free, so what? It means people have a chance to read your book who probably wouldn’t otherwise. If people like what they read they’ll come back for more, even if it isn’t free. If they don’t like it, you’ve lost nothing. Yes you get bad reviews but you get those anyway (or I certainly do)!

Anyway, these are just my thoughts! What are your views on cheap and free? Does it make you think the book won’t be worth reading, or does it encourage you to discover new authors?

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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. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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It surprised Claire how much more fun it was wandering around a museum with someone else, particularly someone knowledgeable who also had a sense of humour. Bethan proved herself well versed in the history of the country and the Maoris, adding snippets of information and reducing the amount of sign-reading Claire had to do.

The Te Papa museum was vast, with everything from Maori dancing to space exploration. Claire’s feet throbbed and her mind swirled with the myriad of information crammed into it. And it was free! When she thought about the money she’d spent on tours and experiences since arriving in the country, and here was this amazing facility at no cost. Even so, it was definitely time for a break, before her legs dropped off.

“Enough! Don’t you ever stop?” Claire stood with her hands on her hips as Bethan tried to drag her outside to see the ponds.

“We’ve only seen about half. Come on, wus, don’t stop now. What else is there to do? It’s tipping it down outside.”

Claire smiled at the strangely English colloquialisms coming from the Asian face in an America accent. Bethan’s history intrigued her, not least because she hadn’t shared a single thing about herself apart from the stay in the States.

“A coffee, please? Just a coffee break. I need caffeine.”

“It’s not good for you, you know? Much better to drink fruit juice or, better still, water.”

Claire pulled a face. “I wouldn’t live longer, it would just feel like it. Okay, I’ll have a latte and you can drink green tea.”

It was her turn to drag Bethan, as she towed the girl towards the coffee shop. It was crowded, like the whole museum, and Claire sincerely hoped they would find a seat.

Trust me to be in the capital on a bank holiday weekend. Why couldn’t I have been in river valley or somewhere else devoid of people? Rain or no rain, I might have to brave the Cook Strait crossing tomorrow.

As if reading her mind, it was Bethan’s first question when they eventually found a seat. ”When will you get back on the bus? Are you taking the ferry or flying to the South Island?”

“Ferry, I guess. Whichever is cheaper.”

“I wouldn’t fancy flying in this weather. It’s a nasty crossing on a good day.”

“You sound like you’ve done it before?” Claire sipped at her coffee and felt the warmth and caffeine spread through her body.

“I have. This is my second tour of the country. I did it all too quickly the first time round.” She blushed and Claire wondered what the story was. She raised an eyebrow, inviting confidences, but Bethan only shook her head and laughed.

“Are you staying in Wellington for a while?”

Bethan smiled, seemingly glad of the change of subject. “I should. I need to work. Funds are running low again, and it will be easier to find a job here in the city.” She frowned. “I’d rather not, though. One city is pretty much the same as another after a while. I miss the mountains.”

Remembering something Mitch had said, Claire asked, “Couldn’t you get work at one of the ski resorts, or down in Queenstown?”

Bethan shook her head. “I don’t ski. Besides …” She hesitated and Claire again suspected there was a story there.

Maybe she’ll feel able to tell me later.

It felt good to have some female company, to gossip – even if it was a bit one sided. Claire had told Bethan about Carl and Michael, work and Kim. Something about the way the girl actively listened made Claire share her life history with her.

Sitting with Bethan, laughing at silly things that they had seen or done during the morning, Claire felt a pang of sadness. It felt like old times with Kim. She wondered if she would ever have them again.

***

Learning to be Brave: 2013 365 Challenge #220

Picking strawberries

Picking strawberries

One of the benefits of parenting is learning to be brave. Yesterday I touched a moth (ugh!) as I had to remove it from a trampoline and flick it into the grass. I hate moths. Ever since I left the light on and window open in my bedroom as a child, and went up at bedtime to find the ceiling plastered with giant moths (I grew up in the country) I have hated them. But, being brave for my children, I must deal with my fears.

This is especially appropriate after reading a post on Rinelle’s blog yesterday, about applying for an EIN number as an indie author.

This is probably only of interest to self-published writers, but there is a great article on Catherine, Caffeinated’s blog about how to get this holy-grail number (needed to stop Amazon.com withholding 30% of profits in tax).

Where are those juicy strawberries?

Where are those juicy strawberries?

I haven’t made any money from my books yet. Certainly not enough to go through the pain of calling the US to get an EIN number. I’ve had Catherine’s helpful article flagged in my inbox FOR A YEAR. Making that call has been on my to-do list for 12 months!

I hate phoning people that much.

In the UK, the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – in charge of tax etc in this country) have a phrase that says, “Tax doesn’t need to be taxing.” But it is. I always fill out my tax return at the 11th hour, even though, these days, there are no earnings and no tax to pay. The idea of calling the IRS and trying to get something out of them fills me with quiet horror.

After reading Rinelle’s post I decided to gird my loins, pluck up my courage, and make the call. I motivated myself by how great it would feel when I’d done it. How I could write a comment on Rinelle’s post thanking her for her encouragement. I could write a thank you comment on Catherine, Caffeinated’s post too. I could move forward and take this irritating thing off my perpetual to-do list.

Found one!

Found one!

I wrote out all the information I would need. I set up Skype on my iPad and found my headphones, ready to make the call (apparently you can be on hold for ages!). I loaded up the world clock, to see what time it was in Philadelphia, where I would be calling.

6am.

Bugger. I have to get the kids from preschool in twenty minutes. So, I won’t be making that phone call today, even though the adrenalin is still pumping and the knots in my stomach are still clenched tight. But I was nearly brave. That counts for something, right?

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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. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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As the bus stopped at yet another hostel to pick up passengers, Claire looked at the pack of papers the driver had shoved into her hand when she boarded. They included a check-in form for the hostel that evening, extra activities to add on, travel dates and so on. Claire groaned.

I have no idea. I just want to go back to sleep. It seemed that travelling by tour bus was a different beast to meandering around in her clapped-out Skoda.

I’m not used to people telling me what to do. Except Carl and Julia, of course, and they were easily ignored.

Claire tried to decide how many nights she wanted to stay at the first stop, Paihia. It looked like a pretty town, but she had a feeling now was not the time for long periods of idleness and solitude.

Best keep moving.

Forms completed, Claire rested her head against the juddering glass of the window and tried to find sleep.

*

She awoke to the hiss of brakes and the lurch of the coach coming to a halt. She looked around, trying to decide if they were finally there. They’d stopped so many times, to pick people up, or to allow for toilet breaks or breakfast, she didn’t want to get her hopes up. From the shuffling and clamour, she decided they had actually arrived.

Stifling a yawn, Claire gathered her things and joined the slow procession off the bus. She looked at the place she would call home for the night. It was a low-level building surrounded by palm trees. Over to her right she could see tree-covered hills, framed against a blue sky dotted with clouds. After the air-conditioned bus the air felt warm and smelt of the sea.

It felt bizarre, checking in with two-dozen other travellers. Her journey in the UK had been mostly solo and, though occasionally she might meet someone else at the reception desk, her check in had been swift and painless. Waiting in line for her turn, Claire listened to the bubbling conversation around her – happy teenagers planning their afternoon – and felt like a rock in a river, standing proud and alone above the noise.

From the chatter she discovered that the hostel had a rocking bar full of locals, a pool and a hot tub. Two girls behind her were giggling, assessing their chances of pulling fit Kiwi blokes during the evening barbeque, which came as part of their accommodation. Claire decided to make sure she had her book with her.

At last she was at the front, and discovered she was sleeping in an eight-bed dorm.

Thank god I decided just to stay the one night.

Claire took her key and wandered through the hostel, past a group of lads playing cards, and a bank of red sofas full of people ignoring the TV. Although the facilities were no different to the hostels she’d staying in at home, everything felt alien. Not unfriendly, exactly. But something made her skin prickle.

As she retrieved the things she would need for the afternoon, before stuffing her rucksack onto her bunk, Claire tried to put her finger on what felt wrong.

They’re all too young. That’s what it is. It feels like Fresher’s Week at uni, surrounded by people just released from the confines of home, looking for their next drink, shag or adventure.

The hostels back home had been mostly full of families, school groups, or couples. She’d met as many retired people travelling, alone or in pairs, as she had under-twenties.

I guess the UK isn’t really where people go for their gap year of fun before becoming proper grown-ups.

Beginning to understand where Mitch’s uncouth nickname for the green bus had come from, and conscious of a growing sense of homesickness, it was with a heavy heart that Claire left the hostel to go in search of lunch.

***

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.

***