Dragon Wraiths Dreaming: 2013 365 Challenge #53

New cover design for Dragon Wraiths - almost ebook ready

New cover design for Dragon Wraiths – almost ebook ready

I had an unscheduled filling in my tooth this morning so have spent my nursery day curled up on the sofa feeling pathetic. My dentist is 38 weeks pregnant and will be off for six months so she offered to fill the hole she discovered at my routine check up right then. Unfortunately I had breakfast early today (woke at 5.30am when the baby alarm went off because son’s bedroom was so cold) and the numbing injection gave me the shakes. Bless them they were rushing round trying to find me a glucose tablet. Note to self: eat fewer sweeties! (I eat all the ones the kids get in party bags and don’t like. You know, the sticky ones that you don’t want them eating anyway because they’re so bad for their teeth!)

Actually I’ve put my need to huddle under a blanket to good use by working on formatting Dragon Wraiths for self-publishing. I have had long debates about whether to self-publish it or not and in the end I ran out of reasons not to. I still want an agent and a publisher’s deal but in the meantime I may as well see if anyone actually wants to read it! Besides, I had a lot of fun working on the front cover. It isn’t perfect but better than my previous two designs.

The need to do the marketing has put me off in the past but if I’m not worried about it being an overnight success there is no pressure. If it sells a few copies great. If people borrow it from the libraries (I’ve set it as free to libraries) and are moved to leave feedback, well that will be marvellous. If nothing else it is all great formatting practice. Who knows, I might end up making my money earning $40 a time editing books for Smashwords (although I can think of easier ways to make $40!)

Anyway, as a result of my early start, aching jaw and editing frenzy, today’s post is likely to be another short one rather than my normal meaty nursery-day fare. I want to write some witty banter between Beth, Chloe and Josh for Claire to witness but I can’t recall any Canadian and Irish idioms so I may not manage it. I find it really hard writing dialogue in any other ‘tone’ than my own middle-class-white-English.

[Apropos nothing it turns out there’s a new Rolls Royce called a Wraith. Better than the Microsoft Office 365 that keeps appearing in my suggested related articles list!]

Update: Dragon Wraiths is now live, hurrah! Anyone interested in reading it can download it free for the next week, using the following promotion code:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/287131

Promotional price: $0.00
Coupon Code: NM53X
Expires: February 28, 2013

You have to sign up to Smashwords to download it I think but you can read the 20% sample without logging in.

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“Come on Claire, keep up.”

Claire glared at the V-shape of people in front of her as Beth, Chloe and Josh powered across the lake. Training hadn’t been so bad and Claire had been thrilled with how quickly she had mastered the art of propelling the craft strapped to her hips. Her bubble of happiness quickly deflated when they reached the open water and her so-called companions left her rocking gently in their wake.

Refusing to capsize through trying to catch up, Claire concentrated on getting her technique right and on ignoring the blisters forming across the pads of her palms.

“That’s it Claire, great, you’re getting the hang of it. For a first-timer you’re doing brilliantly.”

Claire turned to smile at the instructor and her paddle stuck in some weed. It wrenched sideways, nearly tipping her out of her kayak.

Eyes forward, Claire. Josh will pee his pants laughing if you take a dip in this freezing pond.

“This is grand!” Beth’s voice floated back across the water as she and Chloe prodded at each other with their paddles, each trying to put the other in the lake.

“Your friends seem a right craic, how long have you been travelling together?”

Claire looked back carefully, trying to locate the source of the new voice without tipping herself over.

“I’m not travelling with them. As far as I can tell they all met yesterday on the bus over from Keswick. I met Josh last week a bit further north.”

“Really? They seem like buddies from way back. That’s travelling for you, I guess.” The man deftly paddled forward until he was alongside Claire’s red kayak. He waved a salute and said, “name’s Charlie.”

“Claire.” She nodded in return and tried not to clash her paddle against his.

The void of conversation yawned between them, demanding to be filled. She didn’t feel like chatting but it was obvious that the man wanted to talk and, besides, Josh and the girls were too far ahead for anything but a bellowed exchange of words. She groped for something to say.

“Are you travelling with friends?”

“Nah I’m going solo. Just a month or three before I head back to Ireland to find a job. It aint easy right now, specially not in Dublin. Thought I’d have a bit o’ fun before I have to get me hands dirty.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a chef. Or leastways that’s what I’m trained fer. What I’ll be doing back in Dublin is anyone’s guess.”

“Is there not much work in catering?” Claire listened to her words and wanted to Eskimo-roll into the lake. No wonder the others have buggered off. Could you be any more boring?

If her new friend found her question obvious or dull he was either too polite or too shocked to let on.

“There’s not much work of any sort. Times is hard. Not a great time to be looking for paid employment.”

Claire shivered beneath her waterproofs. I hope that doesn’t apply to me. Her head was already full of images of starting a new job since her arrival at the activity centre with Josh and his mini-harem. Claire wasn’t sure how much more adrenalin-seeking, or rubbing shoulders with strangers, she could willingly do, no matter how much she wanted not to fail.

“What is it you do?” The man threw out the question between puffs as he paddled to keep up with Claire who had veering off to the left.

“I work in… marketing.” She hoped he hadn’t notice the tiny hesitation. Lord only knows what it is I do these days?

As often happened when Claire told someone in a vocational career what she did for a living, the man’s face went blank. His lips opened and shut slightly as he sought something interesting to say in response.

“That’s nice.”

Claire chuckled under her breath and held her paddle aloft as a wake from a passing boat rocked the kayak. I guess no one knows what people in marketing actually do, least of all people in marketing. Play with pretty pictures and read papers, I think that’s the general consensus. What about kayaking across a freezing lake in the north of England, or dangling from a tree suspended by a rope and harness? Abseiling down a waterfall? Sharing a room with five other women, some of whom have only a passing relationship with shower gel. Are they things I can puff-off on my CV?

The sound of splashing shook Claire from her reverie and she looked up just in time to get a face-full of water from Josh’s paddle as he swung round beside her.

“Thanks. As if I wasn’t cold enough.”

“Lighten up cranky, what’s eating you? You’ve been chillier than a penguin’s arse since we pitched up yesterday. If you really wanted to ditch me you should have headed to Liverpool like you said.”

“Would that be better? Am I cramping your style?”

“Ha, it’d take more than a jealous Sheila to cramp my style.”

“Jealous? I’m not jealous. If you choose to hook up with every woman under the age of fifty that passes your way that’s no concern of mine.”

Claire dipped her paddle in the water and pushed her craft forwards, concentrating on her technique so Josh had nothing else to sneer at. The sun shone overhead but didn’t penetrate the waterproof and life-jacket she was bundled in. Claire lowered her head and pictured the mug of hot chocolate waiting for her when they returned to the activity centre.

Josh paddled alongside her in silence for a few minutes before clucking his tongue and digging his paddle in deep. He was soon several lengths ahead and the sound of his laughter mingled with Chloe and Beth’s as the three of them splashed each other like naughty schoolchildren.

***

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…

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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.

***

Kindle Delight and 2013 365 Challenge #33

My book on kindle (front cover needs some work)

My book on kindle (front cover needs some work)

I finally published something on Kindle! Okay it’s only the same stuff as is available here on the blog, but I still got to go through the self-publishing process at last. It was surprisingly easy although I haven’t proof-read the final product properly yet and I need to tweak the front cover. (I changed the dimensions of the front cover in ten minutes on the PC this morning while up to the eyeballs in cold and it doesn’t look right – I think I have the height to width ratio wrong).

The best bit was watching my husband type my name into Amazon and find my book. Worryingly, over on Goodreads, it seems I have written several other books including one about ancient egypt (!) so I need to investigate that some more. As I don’t intend to promote this book except as a tool on the blog for people to catch up, it can probably wait.

Next priority (apart from writing Claire’s next exploit) is to get this first volume onto Smashwords so I can offer it for free. I did Kindle because I thought I could offer it for free that way – I should have read the small print. You can only offer books free on Kindle through their Select programme (5 days free every 3 months I think it is) and then you can’t offer it anywhere else in any format. I thought they may not like that all the content is freely available on the blog so couldn’t sign up to that.

Unfortunately, having had a sneaky peak at the style guide for Smashwords I think I’ve got some reformatting work to do to get it right. I have to say formatting for Kindle, once I’d worked out what I wanted to do, was actually pretty simple. I had to take my 3AD Publishing logo out because that didn’t look right but other than that it seems to be doing what it needs to do. I’m just sorry that it’s not free. 77p or $0.99 isn’t a lot of money but then 27k words of first draft isn’t a lot of book!

This weekend will mostly be survival as husband now has the awful cold too. We have a couple of kids parties to go to and have promised our daughter we will take her swimming on Sunday so she can try out the “it really swims” doll grandma and grandpa bought her for her birthday. That should nicely fill the time until Monday (and how lovely is it that, for the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to getting to work on a Monday morning!)

Now, where did I leave Claire…

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

“God I’m so sorry.” Claire flushed as she grabbed Josh’s knee instead of the gear stick for the second time.

“No worries.”

Even in the dark she could sense his lewd grin. Blood flushed to her face and she turned to concentrate on the road ahead. She was still searching her whirling brain for a safe topic of conversation when Josh spoke again.

“Claire?”

The serious tone made her glance towards him, trying to see his expression in the dark. She couldn’t and had to twist her head back quickly to concentrate on avoiding an on-coming lorry.

“Yes?”

“Can I read your blog?”

Whatever Claire had thought Josh was going to say that wasn’t it.

“Oh. Sure of course if you want to. You can read it now if you like, there’s not exactly much going on out the window.” It was dusk and the weak Skoda headlights were picking out only the road ahead. The sky was a beautiful deep blue behind them but ahead a mass of storm clouds loomed on the horizon. Claire reached behind her and retrieved her iPad from the pocket of the rucksack.

“Go to the notes section, you’ll see the drafts there.” It could probably wait until they got to the hostel but Claire was eager for a second opinion. So far there had been no likes or comments on her posts and only a few visits. She knew she wasn’t trying as hard as she could to engage on Twitter and Facebook but she was still a little disappointed there wasn’t more response.

Josh stared at the black rectangle in front of him as if it was alien technology. “Um, how do I turn it on?”

Claire held back a laugh. I guess iPads don’t come your way every day when you’re on the road all the time. She conveniently forgot that, until Michael had given this one to her for Christmas, she hadn’t known how to turn one on either. She reached over in the dark, careful to touch only the iPad, pressed the button then swiped the screen. She described the icon he needed to tap and eventually he was immersed in her writing.

The breath seemed to stick in Claire’s throat as she listened to the silence. Eventually, after far longer than it should have taken to read a few thousand words, Josh raised his head and gazed out the window.

“Well?”

“Very informative.” Josh’s voice fell leaden into the waiting silence.

“You don’t like them?” Claire fought an unexpected desire to weep.

“There’s nothing to like or not like. It reads like a website.”

“Well, that’s what it’s meant to be.” Claire could hear her voice rising in the dark and fought to keep it level. “The brief was to write about the YHA’s 200 hostels and how they promote a healthy lifestyle. So that’s what I’ve done. All the information is there.”

“Yes, information. That’s the word. It’s just information. There’s no heart.”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“How many followers have you got? How many likes? I know this is the first week but how many people have visited your page?”

Claire found herself surprised at Josh’s knowledge of blogging terminology. She couldn’t find any words to respond.

“I’m sorry, I’ve offended you.” Josh’s voice was soft.

“No,” Claire forced out a laugh. “It takes more than that to offend me. I’m sorry you don’t like it.”

“It’s not that. I think what you’re doing is amazing. I write a blog for the folks back home when I get near a computer and it’s tough thinking of what to write. And it’s not my job.”

That explains how he knows more than I do. She found herself wanting to read his blog, to read about his life on the road.

“Maybe you could guest post on my blog, share your experience of travelling?”

“I can. But this is your blog. You need to write your story. People can go to the YHA website to find out opening times and local attractions. People want colour and texture. Write about hiking the Pennines in the snow. Write about falling off your bike and trashing your trousers. Talk about picking up hitchhikers and seeing the stars.”

“I’m not sure that’s what Coca Cola really want.” And I don’t want the world sharing my humiliations thank you very much.

“Bollocks. They want advertising. That’s all they want. They don’t care how they get it.”

“They will if it portrays their brand in a negative way.”

Josh laughed. “How is it negative that a girl from the city who hadn’t ridden a bike since she was a kid felt so alive the first time she freewheeled down a hillside that she thought she could fly?” There was something in his voice that Claire couldn’t quite place. It made her feel like melted marshmallow in a mug of hot chocolate.

She thought about sharing that part of her adventure on the blog. I guess it can’t do any harm. What does it matter if I humiliate myself? It isn’t my name on the blog anyway and no one I know is going to read it. Especially not Michael. She shook her head at the traitorous words. Michael, will you sod off out of my mind. It’s over and that’s the end of it.

Claire looked out the window as the Sat Nav warned her she was nearing her destination. All she could see was a square of tarmac on the side of the road and some buildings set back behind a line of trees.

“Looks like we’re here.”

She pulled into the car park, glad to have an excuse to finish the conversation. They dragged their bags from the back seat and went in together to check in. All Claire wanted to do was find a quiet corner, get out her iPad, and write.

***

Gosh February – 2013 365 Challenge #32

First pass at a cover for the YHA Novel (image is a bit small as I only had a couple of istockphoto credits left)

First pass at a cover for the Novel

I can’t believe it’s February already! Where did January go? Unfortunately I’ve entered the new month with a stinking cold. It’s been threatening all day but finally wrapped itself around me as we went to fetch the kids from nursery.

I have been making cards and mini paintings for the gallery today as well as trying to pull together January’s Claire instalments into an ebook. Unfortunately it looks like I won’t be able to offer the ebook for free but I’m still investigating how it all works for kindle: despite reading a dozen blogs on the subject I’m still a complete newbie when it comes to e-publishing!

I have found a cheap image for my front cover (unfortunately the image is tiny as I only had 2 istockphoto credits left so I’ve had to rescale it for the Kindle cover. Definitely work in progress) and I’m pummeling my brain for a better title than “two-hundred steps home” but nothing has come forward yet – suggestions gratefully received!

New mini paintings for the Valentines Display at Art in the Heart

New mini paintings for the Valentines Display at Art in the Heart

I had hoped to finish the ebook ready for anyone who wants to catch up from the beginning but doesn’t want to wade through 31 posts but it seems my word document has lost some formatting so I need to re-read it from the beginning. That’s going to be frustrating because I don’t intend to edit the posts at this stage (aside from any missed typos). I want to keep it true to the blog for now. I’m going to have to sit on my hands as I’ve already found one continuity error (on Day 7 I write about the street light shining through Claire’s window but later I say she has blackout blinds). There are bound to be others.

Anyway I need to fight this cold off for half an hour more and write something about Claire’s next experience…

P.S. My husband took the kids for two hours this morning so I’ve got some sort of version of the January e-book going through Kindle review process although I haven’t yet written anything for the post. I have thirty minutes to my 10am deadline and husband and kids are at the end of their tolerance so might be another short one today!)

________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Ow!”

“Stop being such a girl.”

“I am a girl and that hurts!”

Josh looked up at Claire and shook his head. “What possessed you to take your hands off the handlebars anyway? You said you hadn’t been on a bike since you were a nipper.”

Claire lowered her head so her hair fell over her face. “I felt like I was flying. I wanted to sit up and feel the wind in my face.”

“Dingbat! Only the pros take their hands off on a cross-country track.” Josh dabbed at the blood pouring from beneath Claire’s ripped trousers.

“Oh look at my GAP jeans, they’re ruined.” Claire’s wail at the state of her clothes was louder than the cry of pain as Josh picked gravel from the wound.

“Nothing a patch won’t fix.”

“I am not putting a patch on my jeans. I might be reduced to sleeping in a bunk-bed and driving a rust bucket but I am not walking round with patches on my clothes.”

“Find yourself a Thrifty then. What do you call them here? A charity shop. That’s where most of my stuff comes from.”

Claire shuddered at the thought of wearing something already used and abused by someone else. It might be time to dip into my wages again. I couldn’t do this backpacking thing for real. She vowed to find a Mountain Warehouse or whatever at the next decent-sized town she came to. I’ll be buggered if I’m going to wreck my good clothes for Carl’s sake.

Josh applied a plaster to Claire’s knee and wiped her other scrapes and grazes with an antiseptic wipe.

“You’re pretty handy at that first aid thing,” Claire said. “I can’t stomach the sight of blood, even my own.”

“I used to work in a hospital back in Oz.” Josh’s voice was closed, preventing Claire from asking the questions that pushed at her lips.

“So, what’s your plan for the rest of the day, Planning Lady?” He looked up brightly at her and then pushed himself to his feet to sit down next to her at the table.

“Move on to the next hostel. If I leave now I’ll be there before reception closes.”

“What is the next hostel?” Josh picked at some dirt under his nails.

“Well, the nearest one is a bunkhouse and I’ve decided to leave those until the summer – I have to come back for Wooler anyway – so I’m going on to Once Brewed.”

Once Brewed? That’s the name of a hostel? Awesome! Count me in!” He turned to face her, his face split in a grin.

Claire took in his expectant expression, like a dog sitting at the fridge. Oh crap he wants to come with me. What do I do? Claire had some notion that backpackers spent a lot of time hitchhiking but she hadn’t equated that with taking anyone along with her. Can I bear to travel with someone? What if I can’t get rid of him?

While her brain churned Josh sat staring, his eyes boring into the side of her face. Oh what the hell. I can always leave while he’s asleep. It might be nice to travel with someone who knows how this hostelling thing works. It’s not like we’ll have to share a room. Most of the dorms have been single-sex so far.

She turned to face Josh, grinning at the expression on his face. “Sure, why not? Can you be ready to leave in an hour?”

“You bet!” Josh jumped up and went to leave the room. He stopped at the door, walked briskly back to Claire and gave her a quick, odoriferous, peck on the cheek. “You’ve no idea how long I’ve been stuck in this damn place waiting for a lift out. You’re an angel!” He turned to leave again and Claire called out to him to wait. He turned anxiously.

“Josh? Take a shower.”

***

Quick post: A great article on why I’m trying the traditional route first.

Proposed book cover for my WIP

Proposed book cover for my self-published version of Pictures of Love

I’m taking a quick respite from my daily blogging of Claire’s exploits to share an article about self-publishing vs. taking the traditional route. A few people (my husband included) have started asking why I’ve decided not to self-publish Dragon Wraiths and maybe not even Pictures of Love. I’ve struggled to give a convincing answer. Then I was directed to a great article by Catherine Caffeinated as part of her Sunday Coffee Reads posts.

The article is by Chuck Wendig on his terribleminds blog. CAUTION: he does use rather strong language, so the post is not for the fainthearted (which is why I haven’t included it here).

This is the link to the post: What Flavour of Publishing will you Choose?

I’m not saying I think Dragon Wraiths will fly (excuse the pun) like his novel has, or that I’ll be seeing it at the cinema anytime choose. But wouldn’t that be cool? And how will I ever know, if I don’t try? It isn’t just about not wanting to do my own editing and marketing (although that’s part of it). It’s having a dream.

So, that’s it. I probably might as well buy lottery tickets, but it does happen for some people, right?

The Long Silence Explained

SylvesterIt occurred to me after I posted my essay on guilt yesterday that I forgot entirely to explain the long silence, despite putting that in my title. Making it a separate post possibly gives it too much weight, as if anything more than normal life has been going on in the last four weeks. It hasn’t. That said, there has been a convergence of events since the beginning of November, creating something like a maelstrom in my life. Some I’ve mentioned already – my husband being made redundant for example – but others happened amidst the whirlwind of NaNoWriMo and beyond.

NaNoWriMo in itself was a struggle this year. I learned a lot about myself as a writer and about the life of a Writer (with the capital letter firmly in place.) I didn’t start NaNo until several days into November because my brain was frozen after weeks of editing. Ideas don’t exactly spill out from my tired mind on the best of days but I had truly exhausted my imagination writing and editing Dragon Wraiths in nine months (ready for the Mslexia competition – more on that later). So in the end I opted to write up a story idea I had for NaNo back in 2010 (abandoned for something easier due to having a tiny baby to care for).

The idea excited me because it combined my favourite things – love stories and Georgette Heyer. The basic concept is a girl auditions to be an extra in a Georgette Heyer movie (based on the book Sylvester) but ends up being cast as the lead role despite having no acting experience. Various plots and dramas ensue and it ends with a love story.

But oh the writing was hard. I know next to nothing about making movies – not something that would normally daunt me, that’s what Google is for. But researching during NaNo is difficult as it breaks the flow. Then I realised I had no story arc, only character arcs, so I was writing into the dark. Again not something that normally bothers me, but this time (whether due to sleep deprivation, mental depletion or just a rubbish story idea) I drove into the dark to find only more dark.

nano_12_winner_detailI managed to limp over the 50k mark with two hours to go, but it was the greatest struggle and I was happy to abandon my half-written novel for Christmas Shopping on 1st December. Will I pick it up again? Hopefully one day. I began to understand my characters and get interested in the intrigue, but it is a draft that requires a complete rewrite so it’s likely to languish for a while. What did I learn? That maybe I’m not a Pantser writer after all. Perhaps, now and then, I need a better idea of where my story is going, other than that it will end with a happy ever after. I learned, too, about sitting down and just getting the words out. I had a week of no writing towards the end, leaving myself a 20k target for the last couple of days. I know I can write that much, but only when the ideas are flowing. This time I dragged myself along, like someone finishing a marathon long after the wall has been hit. And it was good. Good to know that I can write even when the ideas aren’t flowing, when the sleeping isn’t coming, and when I’m praying every day for my last novel to fly. Maybe I could make a career out of writing if I ever find an agent.

The cover I mocked-up for Dragon Wraiths to print a copy via Lulu

That brings me on to another event – Mslexia. My novel didn’t get shortlisted for the Children’s Novel competition but I did receive a very encouraging (group) response to suggest why. I was told that there were many strong novels written in the first person (like mine), many covering contemporary issues such as climate change (like mine), many with strong individual voices (hopefully like mine) and where there were two books covering the same topics only one was shortlisted. So maybe mine was just nearly good enough, rather than way off mark. Either way I believe in it, which is a first, and happily started sending query letters to agents the next day. The month before Christmas is probably not the time to be querying but I shall start again in the new year after reading through my newly acquired Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.

artintheheartThe other things that have been happening are that I have had some paintings accepted into the gallery Art in the Heart, despite my view that they would think them insufficiently arty (see earlier post). It was fun getting all my paintings out of the loft and choosing four to be displayed in January, alongside my miniatures and cards. It was nervewracking too, trying to narrow twenty paintings down to four, and writing an Artist’s Statement that was both interesting and honest. I still have much to do – getting new business cards and flyers and promoting the gallery through social media, as indicated in my contract, – but it was great to temper the disappointment of the Mslexia competition with a success.

www.amanda-martin.co.uk

I might have to expand my website – Author/Artist/Photographer/Mummy isn’t covering it all any more!

Finally I had a job interview last week for a Marketing Manager (although really a Marketing Director) role. I had to pull together a presentation with a day’s notice, and despite tears and tantrums (mine and the kids) I managed it. I was rather relieved not to get the job as it turned out I would be managing 8 staff – I find it hard enough managing two pre-schoolers – but it was wonderful to put my heels on again and remind myself that I used to be good once. It’s funny how, in this slash-slash generation, you can forget the lives you lived before. Funny, too, that Artist and Marketing Manager should both come back as Writer and Mummy were under pressure.

PublishingLogo2cmSo, where next? I have decided I need to try harder to start my own business, to use those brain cells that have been long dormant. I rather-jokingly came up with 3AD Publishing when I prepared Pictures of Love for self-publishing, so that I would have a publisher’s logo on the spine.

My husband has started 3AD Solutions to promote some of his Product Management ideas. I think it might be time to combine forces.

The cover I designed for my sister's book

The cover I designed for my sister’s book

I have enjoyed preparing texts to self-publish (I did one for my sister and her husband for Christmas, as well as several of my own) and I loved designing the front covers. There must be a market out there for those services!

Whatever happens, Writer/Mummy will continue, even if she morphs into Artist/Writer/Photographer/Mummy/Marketer/Designer/Editor.

Phew.

Bring on 2013!

Quick post – Lulu.com promotion

The Lulu discount code

I’m feeling very positive towards Lulu at the moment as they printed and delivered my last proof book in less than a week (it arrived only one day after my Mum’s birthday and the book was a last minute gift for her so I was doubly happy.) Therefore I’m willing to give Lulu a glowing recommendation and also to add that they’re currently offering 20% off anything on their site. The offer is valid until 16th November. This is the email I received from them:

For 5 days only, Lulu is offering you a chance to save 20% on your next purchase with coupon code SERENTIS. Visit Lulu to redeem your coupon code today. Offer expires 16 November at 11:59 PM.

How does this promotion work?
This promotion is good for anything on the Lulu.com website. Browse the site for your next remarkable read, use the savings to purchase copies of your own book, or purchase one of our other great products or services.

Create a photo book or calendar to share with family and friends:
It’s fast, easy, and fun to create. You can choose from a range of sizes, cover types and free professionally designed templates. Photo books and/or calendars are a great way to save and share your digital photographs instead of ordering photo prints. Convert your digital photo albums into beautiful, high quality printed works of art to keep, sell and share with friends and loved ones. Try your hand at publishing a photo book or calendar today.

In my opinion the quality of the finished product isn’t quite as good as CreateSpace (sorry Lulu, I still have to be honest, even if you’re in my good books) but, I have to say, on delivery and ease of use they win hands down. It took only hours to prepare and upload a pdf for the interior and exterior. No need to wait for approval. Delivered in less than a week and I think it cost me £16 for two 300-page books and that was without the 20% discount. Not bad!

So why not get your novel off your laptop and into your hands? Makes it easier to proof read and pass to Beta readers, and it’s the best morale-boosting exercise I’ve ever done!

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.

Pinteresting

Amanda Martin's Pinterest board for Pictures of LoveI’m always late.

I was late getting the kids to nursery this morning. We were late to a Christening yesterday, although, thankfully, so were the baby’s parents. I am always sliding into the chair at the doctors or the dentist hoping that they, too, are running late.

The thing I am usually proud of being late for is getting on a band wagon.

Who wants to jump on a band-wagon too quickly? 

Sometimes it’s because it’s a band wagon and I don’t want to climb on until rush hour has past and it’s a bit less noisy and smelly : I didn’t read any Harry Potter until the third book was out. I only saw Avatar last month and I’m resisting the urge to see what all the fuss is about with Fifty Shades of Grey.

Sometimes I’m late on a band wagon because I’m stupid. I don’t think something will work for me or I don’t see the point. Like Twitter and Pinterest. Now I’m still there with Twitter: I have an account and tweet occasionally (see, I know the terminology, just about) but I can’t get into it. I think maybe you need to be able to see it all the time on your phone or computer to make sense of it. My technology isn’t there yet. It leaves me feeling like the person arriving late at a party, who comes in mid-conversation and doesn’t understand the punch-line to a joke because they didn’t hear the beginning.

Pinterest though, now that’s a different matter. I originally dismissed Pinterest as not useful or relevant to me, although I enjoyed seeing my friends’ posts; links to lovely crafty things that I might have the time one day to do with my children. I hope. Then I read an article, sent to me by LinkedIn, about how photographs can help people engage with your brand. I don’t have a brand, but I am about to self-publish my first novel. So I thought I’d better see what Pinterest was all about.

And oh my how much do I love it?

I love photos anyway, photography being a former attempted-career. And I have always had scrapbooks for my novels (usually on my laptop but sometimes actual physical cut and paste ones.) For my first novel, Finding Lucy (currently unfinished because I inconveniently went into labour before completing the first draft) I have a giant scrapbook of pictures of the main characters, taken from stock photo sites. There are also biographies, timelines, star signs, pictures of their houses including floor plans for ease of writing scenes. It is my treasured possession.

I haven’t done a scrapbook for Pictures of Love, my current WIP, because if I get scissors or selotape out now, the kids are on me like ants on jam. So I have a file on my computer, full of photographs I took when I went to London to visit my locations in Fleet St, Earl’s Court and so on, as well as headshots of people I have found that look like my characters do in my head.

And now I can pin all those pictures in one place and carry it around with me anywhere I can get internet access. I can share it with my friends, show my beta readers what I think my characters look like and see if they agree.

I can put pictures on a site without worrying about copyright, as everything is sourced. [Update: it turns out this isn’t enough to stop you worrying about copyright. Since writing this post I have deleted most of the content from my Pinterest boards for fear of infringing someone’s copyright. I may be over-reacting, but better to be safe than sorry. You can read about someone who has learned this the hard way here and here (comment #76).]

And because everything is sourced I erase another problem – file location. For some of the images in my scrapbooks I wasn’t organised enough to keep internet URLs.

Idiot.

I have spent the last two days trying to track down all the images online (sorry family). And thankfully I have found most of them. My husband is not so lucky. I designed a fab (if I say so myself) front cover for his children’s novel Max and Shady, and got a copy printed for Christmas a couple of years ago. Only now he wants to publish it online and we can’t use the cover because we can’t find the image in order to purchase usage rights.

So Pinterest I thank you: for keeping me in tune with the zeitgeist, for giving me something fun to do while watching Euro 2012 (not that I need to worry about that so much now) and most of all for keeping me organised.

If you want to check out my Pinterest boards, to see what my sexy leading men (and women) look like, you can find them here.

Have you used Pinterest to plan out your novels or create your universes? How has it worked for you?

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.)