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.

________________________________________________________________________________________

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.”

***

You’ll find me in the Kitchen: 2013 365 Challenge #58

I'm still a Luddite when it comes to Twitter

I’m still a Luddite when it comes to Twitter

I had my first real-time conversation on Twitter today. It feels like some sort of milestone, albeit a tiny one for the Social-Media Minded. I freely confess to being a Luddite where twenty-first century technology and communication is concerned. I love my blog and following other blogs. I love my personal Facebook account for seeing pictures of my niece and nephews and all my friends’ kids, holidays, pets, news etc. But the more hazy world of Twitter has always frightened and befuddled me. I used it merely for following one or two famous people I liked or getting a more frequent fix of funny from the various parenting blogs I follow. Some days you NEED funny!

My son refusing to eat his dinner. So cute...

My son refusing to eat his dinner. So cute…

It’s only recently, following the advice of Kristen Lamb, Jonathan Gunson and others offering advice on building an author platform, that I’ve ventured further into Twitter. I started by following agents and publishers, looking for hints and tips and competitions. Then I followed other bloggers and authors to see what they were saying. Too many were flogging their book every which way which I didn’t like.

Kristen (and others) tell us to think of Twitter as a cocktail party. You chat, you mingle, you share gossip and occasionally you might discuss work but not too often.I treated it like I would a real party: I hid in the kitchen by myself and eavesdropped on others who always seemed to be having way more fun.

Amber trying to cheer her brother up

Amber trying to cheer her brother up

Then today, yay, someone replied to one of my random parenting observations and we exchanged conversation. We made a brief connection. And I understood what Twitter could be if there weren’t so many people talking rubbish and bragging about their pay-cheque (if that metaphor stretches that far?)

Recently I’ve been trying to think of ways to tweet more often; to pick up followers and build my author platform. (Jonathan Gunson is full of great advice on his Twitter feed and Facebook page). But the only post on my blog this month that received no likes was the one featuring my Dragon Wraiths book cover and offer code. It might be a coincidence but I’m taking the hint. I don’t want to be the obnoxious one at the party being pushy, trying to sell my stuff. I’d like to sell some books but not my soul so until I’ve figured out how to do one without the other you’ll find me lurking by the fridge supping my G&T.

BTW: my son was being uber cute at dinner getting all grumpy and refusing to eat his sausages. He ate them in the end but I had to take a couple of pictures, especially as I knew I had no others for today’s post!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

“How come you’re staying in a hostel then if you come from Cumbria?” Claire cupped her hands round her mug and inhaled the scent of freshly-ground coffee. She watched Maggie through the rising steam.

“Oh I don’t live here now. I met my husband at school and we moved south. I come back while the kids are away, to indulge in nostalgia and stock up on gingerbread.”

“By yourself?” Claire didn’t mean to be inquisitive but the words were out before she could swallow them.

Maggie just smiled and brushed a stray hair away from her face. “Oh yes. Steve hates it up here in the spring. Too soggy. He says it takes him a month to dry out. I like the weather. Sometimes it’s nice to walk with the mizzling rain on your face keeping you cool. There are fewer tourists at this time of year too. You saw how busy the shop was today: imagine what it’s like in August.”

“Did you actually live here in Grasmere?”

“No, our place was out on the hills. I liked to come here as a child and wander through the graveyard. You know Wordsworth is buried near the Gingerbread Shop? The place is flooded with daffodils at this time of year. It’s beautiful, we should go there.” Maggie moved in her seat as if ready to flee the café and wander amidst wild daffodils for the rest of the day.

Please, God, no. I think I had my fill of Wandering Lonely as a Cloud during A Level English. She didn’t want to offend Maggie so she nodded absently as if the suggestion had been rhetorical.

“Has the place changed much?” Claire decided distraction was the best way to take Maggie’s mind off a tramp over the heads of a load of dead people.

“Well the Gingerbread Shop hasn’t changed but then it’s been the same for 150 years. As for the rest of Grasmere, it’s all got a bit posh to be honest. Not the place I knew when I was young, that’s for sure.”

Maggie chatted about growing up in Cumbria, about other local landmarks and famous people; Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin.

“I went to Brantwood,” Claire chipped in, feeling the same gratification she did when a question came up on University Challenge that she knew the answer to. “I bumped into an old school friend.” A frown pulled her face down before she felt it and forced her skin smooth.

“That’s the thing about staying in hostels, travelling around. You always bump into people you know in the most random places. I stayed in a hostel in New Zealand once and met a lad I knew from University. The hostel was out in the sticks, only ten beds in the place. We had to shoo sheep out the kitchen. You wouldn’t believe it if you read it in a novel.”

Claire nodded and was about to comment when her phone buzzed. The half-eaten scone from earlier dropped to the bottom of her stomach and her ears rang with rushing blood.

“Are you okay, you look pale?” Maggie reached a hand across the table and Claire jumped at her touch. “Was that your phone? Don’t mind me, you answer it.” Maggie sat back in her chair and gazed away as if giving Claire as much privacy as the busy café afforded.

She nearly dropped the phone as she picked it off the table and unlocked it. The buzz wasn’t a text message as she’d hoped but notification of an email. Claire was about to put the phone back next to her coffee cup when she noticed who the email was from.

What does he want?

Glancing up at Maggie she could see she was absorbed with her own thoughts. Claire quickly loaded her email and clicked open.

Claire, I need to see you. Are you still at Grasmere? Can you stay another night? J

“The cheek of him!” Claire only realised how loud she had spoken when the couple at the next table turned round. Her face flushed oven-hot and she dropped her head so her hair would shield her.

“I take it that wasn’t about your sister?” Maggie looked amused at Claire’s outburst.

“No, just some annoying bloke I met in Kielder. Being all cryptic and commanding.”

“Oh?” Maggie raised an eyebrow and dimples appeared in her cheeks.

Claire felt herself bristling at the expression, then she laughed. It felt good, like a spin class after a tricky board meeting. “It’s not romantic, if that’s what you mean. He’s a friend, as much as anyone is when you’ve known them a week or two. But he’s the most mysterious bloke. I wonder what he wants? Probably to cadge a lift somewhere. I’m pretty certain that’s the only reason he befriended me in the first place.”

“People make friends on the road for all sorts of reasons. The same as there are all sorts of reasons why people are on the road.” Her face grew distant and Claire wondered for the first time if Maggie had told her the truth about why she was travelling alone.

Honestly, I thought this was a simple work assignment. It’s starting to feel like an episode of Days of Our Lives.

She inhaled the scent of fresh coffee and banana bread and sat back in her chair. The sound of happy chattering and the splash of cars driving on rain-drenched roads outside the window wrapped around her like strands of pulsing life.

Still, it beats working for a living.

***

Finally at Fifty! 2013 365 Challenge #50

Humpty Dumpty basking in the sun in our garden

Humpty Dumpty basking in the sun in our garden

I can’t believe I have reached day fifty of my 365 challenge. There were days I didn’t think I’d get through the first month. Now I’m 42,000 words and fifty days in.

I am beginning to see a pattern between my mood and the posts, with the daily installments getting darker and duller recently as the cold/cough/flu thing that’s been dragging me down continues. I’m finally starting to feel better today – the sun has shone since Friday, I’ve had some time home alone and it feels like Winter might finally be on its way out.

Definitely time for a more light-hearted post. If I can remember how! Back in the beginning I wrote a post about Writing Funny and I haven’t found any more answers since then.

Tthe sun is shining outside the window, hurrah!

The sun is shining outside the window, hurrah!

My main question is why people like the posts they do: is it because of the Claire installment or my daily diary/diatribe?

My last post was reblogged (thank you allaboutmanners) and I wouldn’t have said either section was particularly entertaining. I guess it’s like the whole head-shot debacle (see previous post). We will never know what it is others see in us/our photos/our writing and it will always be something different to what we see ourselves.

I guess the trick is either not to care or to find Beta readers (or life’s equivalent) who share our world view! Thankfully my husband is mine. He wrote me a gorgeous email to pick me up from my head-shot funk. And he has rooted for Claire since the beginning (largely because he fancies her). He’s a few posts behind though, since started his job searching in earnest. Maybe that’s why I wonder what it is people are drawn to when they follow WriterMummy.

All Seeing Eye by Freeforms: Ideas for the Dragon Wraiths Cover

All Seeing Eye by Freeforms: Ideas for the Dragon Wraiths Cover

The flipside to reaching Day Fifty is that I’m ready for a new challenge. I have the attention span of a two-year-old and like to keep moving on. I don’t mean giving up the daily blog, I can’t do that. But I do need a new something.So I’m investigating trying to self-publish Dragon Wraiths. I’ve always dismissed the idea because the text relies on using several fonts and that isn’t very ebook friendly.

My challenge is to see if Smashwords will accept it as is and, if not, how it can be altered. Of course what I’ve actually done is spent the day looking at stock images of dragons for the front cover. You can take the girl out of marketing and design but you can’t take the need to create pretty pictures out of the girl! 🙂

Anyway, enough ramble. On to today’s post…

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Claire swallowed a yawn and commanded her eyelids not to close. The words washed over her, refusing to enter either ears or brain. If the smiling volunteer in front of her had requested one single fact from the short video Claire would have had to admit defeat.

Besides, who cares? I learned enough about Ruskin at Uni to last a lifetime.

She glanced round at the other avid viewers wondering if they, too, were just waiting for the moving pictures to finish. Her fellow tourists included a retired couple and a gaggle of students with their Tutor.

 I wonder if they’re Art, Science or Architecture boffs? She looked at them with a mixture of sympathy and envy. As long as they’re not in front of me when it comes to queuing for coffee I don’t especially care.

Claire gazed surreptitiously out the window, not wanting to be berated for her lack of attention but in dire need of something to stave off sleep. The restless night, coupled with an early start, was taking its toll. Maybe this wasn’t such a smart plan. At least if I’d been dangling by a rope 18m up I’d be wide awake.

Her early-morning internet trawl for ideas had thrown up only three options: kayaking around Coniston, Go-Ape, and a wander through John Ruskin’s pad. She’d decided to risk a short kayak on the morrow, when the forecast was for warmer weather. Go-Ape had been immediately dismissed. I’ve done enough monkeying around for this week. Maybe I’ll swing by later in my Lakes tour. She sniggered at her own puns and then decided she should stop before she went completely bananas

At last the video ended. Claire was free to meander round the old house and lose herself in the splendour of an earlier era. A soporific calm descended as she settled into the slow tread of the gallery viewer. It reminded her of college field trips and lazy Sundays.

This isn’t particularly thrilling blog copy but who cares. I’ll write something lyrical about the view. She glanced out the window at the lake, pewter-dark beneath cloudy skies. Hmm maybe not. She smiled. Despite the overcast day she felt at peace.

“Claire? Claire Carleton?”

Her tranquillity was shattered by the screech of estuary vowels.

“ Blinkin ’ell it is you. What’re you doing up ’ere in the arse-end of nowhere?”

Claire turned, heat radiating from her face. Please, no. I’ll do anything. Let it not be her. She raised her eyes slowly, as if allowing the universe ample opportunity to correct this terrible mistake. Her gaze took in sensible black shoes, tights, black skirt, and her heart lurched optimistically. Cherie would never wear such normal attire. Her head lifted to face the owner of the dreaded voice and hope died. Grinning cheerfully from atop a steward’s shirt and jacket was the face she knew and loathed.

“Hello Cherie, how lovely to see you. I hardly expected to see anyone I knew working here in the back of beyond or however it was you so eloquently put it.”

“I’m just helping out me ma for a week, she was left stranded by one of her staff.”

“Your mother works here?”

Claire had never met Cherie’s mother and had always assumed they were cut from the same cloth.

“Yeah she came up ’ere when pop died, couldn’t wait to leave Essex. Always said she’d made a mistake marrying ’im.” Claire looked over her shoulder as Cherie’s strident voice echoed around the room.

“Is she here? Won’t she be upset to hear you talking about her?”

“Nah she’ll be in the office. Besides we’re always ribbing her for her la-di-da ways.”

 This from the girl who spent ten years at a public school and still can’t pronounce the letter H?

Cherie looked Claire up and down and her grin widened. “You’re looking a bit rough. Times ’ard is they?”

Claire gritted her teeth and then forced them to relax into a smile. “I’m on a special assignment for Coca Cola. I’m an Advertising Director.” She squared her shoulders before swearing silently. Damn, she did it again. How does she do that to me? She could see by Cherie’s sparkling eyes that the woman had achieved her intention of winding Claire up.

She hasn’t seen me for, what, a decade and her first aim is to antagonise me? Silly cow.

Unwelcome flashbacks from school filled the space between them. Claire looked around for a neutral topic, not wanting to get into a fight and ruin her serenity. Her eyes alighted on a poster with a Ruskin quote on it.

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

The appropriateness of it made her laugh out loud, remembering her trudge across the snowy Pennines and the scramble through hail to reach the top of Skiddaw. No such thing as bad weather? Right.

“Still larfing at me then, Claire? You always did fink you were better than me; lording it over us when your folks are nah better than mine.”

Claire flushed with shock at the bitter words hurled from frost-pink lips that no longer smiled.

“Me laugh at you? I spent my whole school life trying to stay away from your vicious tongue. I’m surprised you can stand upright with that chip balanced on your shoulder. Not that it’s any business of yours but I was laughing at the Ruskin quote.” Claire indicated the poster to her right.

“Still trying to get one over on me aren’t yer? Laugh at this dry old trout’s stuff? Now I know yer talking bollocks. I’ve never read such a steamin’ pile of  poo in me life.” Cherie shook her head as if Claire’s words had merely confirmed her dislike. She threw one more spiked look at her erstwhile school companion and stomped from the room.

Claire stood motionless as the footsteps receded, unsure whether to laugh or weep. She became aware of shakes coursing through her body and a loud hammering in her chest. She nodded an apologetic farewell to Ruskin’s room and headed for the café.

I need caffeine.

***

Laundry Baskets and Nene Valley Living: 2013 365 Challenge #45

Wriggly Worms - the many usages of a laundry basket #1

Wriggly Worms – the many usages of a laundry basket #1

I had some exciting news today. Our local free magazine – Nene Valley Living – has agreed to publish an ‘interview with author Amanda Martin’ that I wrote for them, focusing on the daily blog and the free Two-Hundred Steps Home ebook. The editor apologised that they wouldn’t be able to pay me for the feature (I had no expectation of payment, so was highly amused) as they don’t have much editorial budget. When I had stopped laughing I emailed back and said That’s okay, it’s the promotion that’s key. Hopefully I’ll be in the April or May edition, so watch this space. My first successful piece of marketing – hurrah!

I have decided that I need to get a professional photograph of me taken however, as the editor would like a headshot and the best I have is one I cropped from me heavily pregnant with my second child. I rarely wear make up these days and my hair is only straight on the annual event of a hair cut. Even though the feature is about ‘WriterMummy’ it would be nice to look vaguely professional!

Scary Monsters - the many uses of a laundry basket #2

Scary Monsters – uses of a laundry basket #2

It’s snowing here again. Not the 3 feet of snow my sister has had in Boston, more like a third of an inch, but it it freezing and I confess to being a bit tired of winter now. It’s hard to take the kids out when it’s cold as the whole time is spent putting hats and gloves back on and rubbing life back into frozen fingers. Friends came over and we turned the house into an indoor park with play tent, football goal and building blocks. Their favourite toy? Some old laundry baskets I have which turned them into wriggly worms and scary monsters. Bless.

Think Claire might get out in some more clement weather today just because I feel the need for it. Never mind that it’s probably never sunny in the Lake District in March, I think some poetic licence is called for.

Update. I decided to set Claire a little challenge instead, courtesy of a Youtube video I came across while researching Windermere. She’ll have to go hiking in the sun tomorrow.

______________________________________________________________________________________

“Your turn Claire.”

The bridge stretched ahead of her like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. She glanced down, half expecting to see a rushing torrent fifty feet below. Instead there was just a car park at a distance of less than fifteen feet. She searched for her Skoda in the distance then looked back down at the ground. It was a mistake. The bile rose in her throat before sinking down to churn up her stomach. She dragged her eyes back to the structure in front of her.

Dammit I knew this was a stupid idea. The bridge hadn’t appeared that wide when she’d driven underneath it. Now it might as well span the Niagara Falls. Tentatively Claire put one foot on the first of the planks and the whole structure shook as if a force seven earthquake had just hit Windermere. Claire quickly pulled her leg back and retreated inside the tower. She could feel several pairs of eyes on her, willing her on. Behind her a lad sniggered.

Claire inhaled, put one foot on the plank, then another. Willing herself on she gripped the ropes until they tore at her hands and forced herself to cross the bridge. Her heart swooped like a released bird as she reached the tree trunk and wrapped her arms around it.

I did it. I crossed it. She pirouetted round the tree-trunk, surveying the rest of the course.

The next challenge was another bridge. Okay, I can do that now. Except this one didn’t have any ropes to hold onto. You have to be kidding. What? I’m meant to walk across it just balancing? I’m not a circus freak. Claire wished she could have watched the person in front do it, but they were already out of sight further down the course. Claire wrapped her hands around her rope harness and pulled, making sure it would hold. Then she closed her eyes and put her foot on the structure. It tipped sideways, throwing her stomach to the ground.

“Bollocks.” The word slipped out and Claire looked round to make sure the person coming up behind her hadn’t heard. She saw a petit figure bouncing across the bridge and was faced with the prospect of sharing a small platform with a bouncy child or running across a few pieces of wood stretched between two ropes. As the sound of giggling came nearer Claire swallowed, urging her legs to move. It was no good. Her feet were glued to the platform. No matter how many curses she yelled inside the cavern of her mind her feet refused to move.

Eventually a voice permeated the greyness.

“Hey, lady?”

Claire turned to locate the source and her gaze met a pair of clear blue eyes peering up at her from beneath a giant helmet. It looked like a cheeky beetle. The child was younger than Sky. Who lets a five-year-old up here? Claire grimaced at the girl, not trusting herself to speak.

“It’s your turn lady. It’s okay. I did this twice already, it’s easy peasy. Besides, you can’t fall.” She leaned sideways until the rope at her waist went tight then took her feet off the platform.

“Don’t do that!” Claire’s voice was probably only audible to dogs. The girl laughed and swung herself back onto the platform. She grinned at Claire, then raised an eyebrow as if to say Go on!

Claire looked at the grinning eyes and felt her cheeks redden. I will not be shown up by a child. She turned, inhaled, and ran. Her body slammed into the next tree trunk and she felt the bark graze her cheek. As her heart rate slowed to a mere gallop Claire turned to watch the child hoping gracefully across the rope structure. It made her feel ancient.

She conquered a free step to a small plank, then contemplated a snarl of ropes that linked her tree to the next.

I’m not a spider or a rat. How does this work?

Reaching out, Claire took hold of the rope, hoping she didn’t get tangled or, worse still, break a nail. I’m glad Josh isn’t here. I can just imagine the grief he would be giving me right now. That’s if he wasn’t standing underneath passing comment on my derriere.

The next crossing looked like a stretched-out clothes dryer, the kind her gran used to put ginormous grey knickers on in the utility room. It felt as stable as a deckchair when she put her weight on it.

Slowly, carefully, Claire crept round the course, all the while trying to stay ahead of the girl, as much to avoid the patronising encouragement as the excessive bouncing.

At last she reached the end of the course, only then realising she was on a different tree to the one connected to the Indiana Jones bridge.

How do I get down?

Claire stood on the platform and looked over at the tower where she started. Then she noticed a small sign next to her. Zip wire? Oh no. How did I miss that?

“Go on lady, just step off. It isn’t scary.” Claire turned to see the beetle girl standing next to her on the platform. “I wish I could do the big zip wire but I’m too little.”

The girl gestured at the top of the tower ahead of them. Two stories above where they had started three people were standing on a deck. Claire watched them step off and slide gracefully away into the distance. That doesn’t look so bad. Oh, come on Claire, this is the only thing between you and a cup of tea. Swallowing down the sick taste in her mouth, Claire set her sight on the tower and stepped off the platform. She dropped before the rope took hold and sweat pricked at her forehead.

And then it was over.

“Well done Claire. So are you up for the triple-zip?” Claire stared at the earnest face in front of her and laughed so hard her ribs hurt.

“Sorry,” she said eventually, wiping water from her eyes. “Maybe one day. If you’d told me last week I’d be swinging around fifteen feet off the ground I would have said you were nuts.”

A whisper at the back of Claire’s mind said Climb the stairs. You know you want to. Get the ultimate shot for the blog. Make Josh proud. Claire looked at the corner where the steps led to the next floor. She took one step, then two. Then she shrugged out of the harness and headed back to terra firma.

***

Marketing Time-line for Self-Publishing

Image representing Lulu as depicted in CrunchBaseWhile I wait (im)patiently for feedback from my beta readers I have been worrying about Marketing.

[As an aside, I have had one comment so far, from my mum, and her feedback was – it’s not as good as your last book (the one that was rejected from Mills & Boon). That’s filled me with confidence.]

I find the marketing of my book far more daunting than anything else I’ve done so far. I’ve talked before about how rubbish I am at selling myself and this includes trying to engage on social media. I am self-conscious even writing on other people’s blogs or twitter feeds (twitter still baffles me) and when I browse around people’s sites, whether on Facebook or Pinterest, I get distracted and forget why I am there.

I have searched around on the internet for advice, but it has been difficult to find a cohesive plan for things you can and should do to help market your book. Until I recently found this great post on the Lulu blog, with a timeline of things to do before you publish.

It starts 12 weeks before launch, so I’m way behind if I want to do all these things before publishing Pictures of Love in August. That said, as I haven’t had any beta reader feedback yet, I don’t know if August is still feasible. If I have a complete re-write to do, on top of finishing Dragon Wraiths by September, it is likely I will have to push back the release date.

I was going to summarise the Lulu post and include the best bits here, but as it is all very useful, I have posted the complete text below. I’m off to work out what I can do in the couple of hours a week I find time to do marketing!

Please let me know how you get on and any other ideas you have to get your book noticed.

The Post:

On Lulu’s blog there’s been a lot of talk about the “how” of marketing (Pinterest, Blogging, Twitter, writing a press release, video chat, etc.) but little focus on the “when,” which is an equally important component of a successful book marketing campaign.

Here are some general guidelines you can follow compiled in a simple marketing timeline to help you plan:

10–12 weeks out: Do your research. Find appropriate blogs and media outlets that might want to review your book and compile a list of media contacts. Come up with a list of friends who can help spread the announcement of your publication and ask each one personally for support. When you reach out to contacts, offer them a free copy of your book and ask for pre-publication quotes to be used in your book’s detail page at various online retailers.

*Expert tip: Make the first chapter of your book available for free for anyone who might want to review your book or include it in a news article. You can do this by creating a free eBook on Lulu.com that includes just the first chapter of your book as well as contact details for press inquiries.

8–10 weeks out: Draft your press release and any announcement emails you’re planning on sending out. Make sure to re-read them numerous times and get friends or family to proof them for you. Ensure that if you’ve not already done so, your Facebook page, Twitter and Pinterest account, and blog include up-to-date info on your upcoming book. Be sure that every update, post, announcement and release includes a direct link to where readers can pre-order your book. (You can use a URL shortener like bit.ly if you like). Now’s a great time to do a cover reveal on social media — unless, that is, you’re planning to work with a blogger for an exclusive reveal on someone else’s site.

6–8 weeks out: Send your press release and start pitching bloggers. This is also a good time to formally announce the release of your book online. When doing so, consider including a question on Twitter and Facebook to encourage engagement and make sure to provide a link where readers can pre-order your book. We know you already know, but double-check that landing page to make sure that your cover image, title, description and reviews are all up-to-date and grammatically correct.

4–6 weeks out: Start thinking about adding “flair” to your social media. Launch week-by-week book giveaways and poll your fans or create extra content (a book playlist, an author interview, etc.) to generate excitement. If you’ve created a video trailer, announce its premiere date on your blog and then post it about four weeks out. As the one-month mark approaches, follow-up with bloggers and other media outlets if you’ve not yet heard back from them.

2–4 weeks out: Post a teaser chapter to your blog — either all at once or split it up to tease out future buyers even longer. Announce winners of any giveaways or contests you’ve run and launch a final giveaway extravaganza (a book plus swag that relates to your book) to coincide with your book’s release date. Continue to make sure that that any good reviews and/or awards you receive are featured on your Lulu, Amazon, BN.com, etc. pages.

0–2 weeks out: You’re in the homestretch! Be prepared, if you’ve done your research right, to be doing blog interviews, updating social media frequently about not only the book, but your excitement, and featuring content and giveaways to celebrate! However, on the day your book goes on sale, give yourself a break. Leave the computer behind and enjoy a breakfast/lunch/dinner out. You deserve it.

Remember, just because your book is out doesn’t mean your marketing efforts end. Continue to look for larger news opportunities to tie your book to, update your social media outlets and blog on a regular basis so your community grows, and keep on top of awards you can submit your book for. More than anything, be creative, take risks, and, later on, hopefully reap the rewards.

Life, recycled

www.amanda-martin.co.ukBefore I decided to try my hand at writing, and discovered an overwhelming need to pen novels, I took various other paths to a creative future.

I worked in marketing, designing the horrible colourful mailing packs that arrive on your doormat, which you chuck in the bin. I worked in PR, writing the internal communications magazines and announcements that make you chuckle and shake your head in disbelief, when you get them from head office.

I went self-employed and tried to make money selling my abstract paintings. I took a study course with the Open University to improve my photography and tried to make that my next endeavour. I set up a small company, Daisy Chain Marketing, and built websites for small businesses.

Nothing really took off, mostly because they all required me to sell myself, and it turned out that was the one thing I was rubbish at.

When I found creative writing, and nanowrimo found me, my whole world changed. Writing was what I wanted to do. That self-selling part is still a sticking point, but in terms of time, I only have to worry about it at the end. I can write merrily for nine-months before I have to poke my head out my shell and worry about what to do with my work.

Having found writing, I then berated myself for not finding it sooner. All those years, pre-kids, when I was farting around trying to be an artist, a photographer, a marketer, I could have been writing novels.

What a waste.

Except it turns out not to have been a waste at all. Because I’m at the sticky end now: I am thinking about selling my first novel. And I am discovering that I can recycle all those old skills I learnt. Skills I didn’t know I had, or took for granted.

Need a book cover? Easy. Source an image online, using all the marketing sites from old. Need to put it in the right format? No worries. Use the adobe photoshop software from my photo-editing course. New website? A doddle. All that time building simple websites with Mr Site meant I could knock one up on a Saturday afternoon, while watching the kids build sandcastles in the garden. Need to send out a press release for the forthcoming publication of Pictures of Love? Not a problem. I have press release templates a-plenty.

Okay, so nothing looks quite as good as it would if I had paid a professional to do it. My front cover probably screams self-designed/self-published. My website is a bit sparse and basic (I don’t do html). The press release may well get consigned to the waste-paper basket. But it hasn’t cost me anything, and I have had a lot of fun.

And who knew those old redundant skills could be recycled so effectively?

Another by-product of my sporadic career is subject matter. In Pictures of Love, Helen wants to be a photographer. In The Real Gentleman, my leading lady has a painting exhibition. Sam, from In bonds of love, travels around New Zealand, and a chunk of Finding Lucy  is set at the kind of corporate events I used to help organise during my time in Internal Comms.

I guess write what you know is easier if what you know and what you’ve done covers a lot of ground. So, there you go, when I thought I was being flaky, I was actually building up a stock of experiences to write about later and a whole bunch of skills to promote it afterwards.

What skills from your former life have you found to be useful during your writing/publishing?

P.S. you can find my website at www.amanda-martin.co.uk. If it would be useful I would be happy to write a post about any or all of these ‘skills’, such as designing book covers or building easy websites.