The Top Ten Facebook Crimes – Chapter Five

facebook userBook Number Three, Chapter Five

Chapter One – An Unexpected Start to a Sunday Morning

Chapter Two – Sleeping on Your Front

Chapter Three – Destination Obal B

Chapter Four – Half a Hot Dog in a Handbag

 

Sunday morning into the afternoon, somewhere in the city.

I appear to have turned into a Facebook bore.

I know, Facebook. Like, who would bother when you’ve got Twitter, and Instagram? I just used to go on it for the occasional nose, and maybe once or twice I posted a pic of me and various other people getting drunk, or one of Corky the cat doing his cute-sy stuff. I maybe posted something once or twice a month.

I never posted up inspirational quotes about love, friendship and/or fitness, or a bet that 97 percent of my friends would never share this earnest quote about cancer, or reply to a post with one word, and preferably a word that was flattering, that described me.

But now? Now I seem to do all the above. And yet at the same time, I have ten times the number of friends on Facebook I used to have and people keep sharing my shite. Those inspirational quotes seem to be very popular indeed, and my Facebook friends appear to love all those sickly pictures and videos of cute kids I keep posting.

And not one person has made a sarcastic comment about this: Celebrating our 20th year of marriage. Can’t believe we’ve been together and so happy for so long. Love you so much baby. You’re the best which was posted a week ago.

20th year? Well, that ties in with the dodgy wedding pic on the landing I guess. Continue reading

Writing Residencies: Alone With The Voices in My Head by Jackie Copleton

Ever wondered what a writers’ retreat is like? Me too…

Author Jackie Copleton (A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding, long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2016, a BBC Radio 2 book club pick and a Richard and Judy Book Club choice last year) kindly obliged me with this explanation…

Alone with the Voices in My Head

By Jackie Copleton

I’m just back from a two-week writing residency in rural Ireland in January, probably one not best suited to those who like the comfort of a street lamp or a café that hasn’t closed for winter. But I loved my stay at the Heinrich Böll Cottage – including all the solitary hours and one offer to marry me off to a neighbour who sold turf.

The ‘Secret’ of Writing Retreats

Jackie Copleton

The desk in the room where the Nobel prize winner Henrich Boll used to work – a bit intimidating at first!

The cottage had a fire but no internet or television and only one radio channel. By day three I already knew which presenter to avoid. Nightfall came at 5pm and unless I wanted to put on a luminescent safety jacket and walk ten-minutes in the dark to the nearest pub for human company, that radio was the only contact with the outside world. It was lonely but I wrote shedloads. I had little to do by way of an alternative. And therein may lie the ‘secret’ of a writing retreat.

The temptation to get the whip out and only write from dawn to dusk is understandable if you’ve forked out money on a tight budget for a self-funded stay and that voice in your head keeps asking, ‘Can you afford this? Is this whimsical self-indulgence? Why can’t you just write at home?’

However, a writing residency isn’t just about the words, it’s about space and time. The best lines, the plot breakthroughs, the aha moments of observations or dialogue often come when you’ve fallen in a bog or have run into an abandoned house to avoid the hail or you’re having a stand-off in the middle of the road with an annoyed looking tiny horse.

Flowing Words

wr-viewsDespite setting myself rough word targets a day, I also managed to get outside to walk, cycle and drive over Achill Island in County Mayo. I saw megalithic tombs, a deserted village, treacherous cliffs, rainbows and stars. And I suspect these spots of beauty, rather than chaining myself to a desk, were what helped me get the words out in a flow rather than a dribble.

I have no idea if what I’ve written is any good, but in a fit of enthusiasm I went from that funded solo retreat to a subsidised self-funded one with other artists at beautiful Cove Park in Argyll thinking I’ll push on and try to finish a first draft – but I’ve hit a tiny wall. I’m still writing but not in the flurry I experienced in Ireland.

As I type these words a couple wearing matching slippers are curled up on the sofa opposite me in front of a wood-burning stove at the main centre. They look the picture of domestic compatibility while my book and I appear to have had a small domestic. Our slippers are not matching but we are still talking to one another.

Noisy Distractions

That’s the thing: you can find the perfect location, a great set-up (solo or surrounded by inspiring other writers), have an action plan and the money saved but if you’re not feeling it, you might as well be at home doing the ironing or getting your tax returns completed, with Facebook, Netflix and Radio Four all providing a glorious noisy thrilling distraction until the words bubble to the surface.

However, if you get the opportunity, go for it. But remember to leave your chair at regular intervals – you’re collecting experiences not just writing about them.

dictionaryJackie’s book is available in all good book shops and from Amazon and other e-book outlets. You can keep up to date with her news on her website, jackiecopleton.com

(Top pic shows the paperback cover, while the bottom picture is the hardback.)

 

If You Love It, Review It

No doubt about it, we live in a review-driven world nowadays. Any small business owner will tell you how crucial reviews are. Once upon a time, they used to be about the testimonials you got customers to write for you. These were then displayed on your walls (pre-internet, kids!) or in your annual report.

Now? Who buys anything before reading the reviews first? From TripAdvisor to Yelp, Amazon to eBay, reviews help customers decide what they will spend their precious pennies on.

Recently, I wrote a piece we hope to include in a new Comely Bank Publishing (CBP) book. As there might be a spare page or two, CBP’s founder Gordon Lawrie and I thought, “waste not, want not. Let’s use the space to beg for reviews”. Here’s the piece…

Did you like this book? Why not review it?

Reviews are important for books, especially books published by small, independent publishers such as Comely Bank Publishing. Why? They help our books get found.

How do you choose a book to read? You might choose it because it’s prominently displayed, you’ve seen an advertisement for it, you know the author’s work or you’ve read a good review.

Small, independent publishers do not have the same market for budgeting as traditional publishing houses do. We can’t afford posters in railway stations or pages in magazines and we don’t get access to the same number of book stores.

However, sites such as Amazon, Kobo and GoodReads can level the playing field for independently-published novels. Book reviews act as “word of mouth” for shoppers online. They provide social proof that something is good – well, at least if your reviews are positive!

The more reviews a book has, the further up the rankings it moves. A book with a lot of reviews will come up quickly if a reader types in ‘Scottish novels’ or whatever genre to the search engine.

You don’t need to write a long or detailed review – just a couple of sentences will do.

Thank you!

 

35 Questions to Ask When Critiquing a Novel

Great advice here…

Rachel Poli

Are you beginning the editing stage of your novel? Did someone ask you to critique their novel or are you asking someone else to critique yours?

Here are 35 questions to ask yourself to dig deeper into that story.

Editing Checklist: 35 Questions to ask when Critiquing a Novel

1. Does the opening of the story hook you? Do you want to read more? Why or why not?
2. What are the conflicts (internal and external) in the story? Is a conflict known right away? What do you see as the central conflict of the story? (Thanks, Thomas Weaver!)
3. Are there too many conflicts happening in the book at once? Or is there not enough?
4. Are all the conflicts important to the story and help drive the plot forward?
5. Is the plot clear and believable from the beginning?
6. Is the plot interesting? Will the readers be able to relate to points in the book?
7. Is…

View original post 408 more words

Writing Resolutions 2017

RockyWriting-wise, 2016 was a productive year for me. I finished three books, re-wrote one and started two more.

When I finished my first book three years ago, I vowed I’d never write another one. It had been a long, drawn-out process. The second one was easier and the third easier than that. I hit upon a formula. You might argue it’s not good to be formulaic, but if it helps you write who cares?

It would be nice to sell books… I accepted a long time ago that writing books was never going to make me money, but supplementing my income would be terrific. There are plenty of self-published authors out there who give out free advice on how to make money from writing – Mark Dawson, Joanna Penn and the likes. Perhaps 2017 should be the year when I start taking and following their advice?

Another resolution is to stop abandoning books when I’ve finished them. When I eventually got round to revising book number three, I ended up enjoying the exercise. I got plenty of feedback from people and it proved very useful. It improved my writing too. I got rid of the long sentences, the too-frequent use of parentheses and I cut down on modifiers. Another basic I was getting wrong was repetition. Once that’s been pointed out, however, you become almost paranoid about it. I use the online thesaurus more too.

I’d like to finish those two books I started last year. I’m a third of the way through one, but the other one needs more thought. I know what happens at the beginning and the end. The middle’s a bit tricky. Most writers probably recognise that issue. You know where you’re going – getting there is the tricky bit.

Anyway, Happy New Year! Here’s to your health and happiness in 2017.

More Adventures on Wattpad

editingIf I’d hoped to discover a whole new set of fans on Wattpad frothing for my every update, I was sadly mistaken…

Ah well! My experiences on the online storytelling community site were interesting nonetheless. My few readers – we’re talking single figures here – appear to be loyal. You can look at engagement on Wattpad, seeing how much of a chapter gets read. Those dear readers of mine read all my chapters in the main so at least I’m doing something right

I uploaded other stories and they still read on. They read everything quickly too.

As an experiment and because vampire stuff is popular on Wattpad, I thought I’d do a vampire story, Unnatural Appetites. I’m uploading it live, so to speak. I post up chapters when I do them. To do that, I needed to write a detailed synopsis first plotting out the first, second and third act. That was a useful exercise. I’ve done synopsis (synopsii?) before, but not this way. I change it as I go along. Most writers are familiar with a situation or character that seemingly pops up from nowhere when you are writing.

What am I doing wrong? I haven’t bothered following anyone else, apart from the people who follow me. Actively going after followers would help increase my readers. It’s the universal law of social media politeness. You follow me, I follow you back.

[Unless I’m on Twitter and you’re one of those self-publishing marketing companies. Or my nutter radar starts vibrating.]

One person did contact me to tell me she loved my writing and couldn’t believe I had so few followers. Some years ago, a writer friend of mine (Gordon Lawrie: Four Old Geezers and a Valkyrie) you really cherish those comments and it’s gratifying when people make an effort to tell you they enjoy what you write. Too true!

It’s early days. I have the patience of a vampire starved of blood for five days let loose in a shopping mall the day before Christmas. (Thought I’d better use a vampire metaphor there to tie in with Unnatural Appetites.) I need to stop myself logging onto Wattpad more than once a day to see what my figures are. Yes, I know. Lame.

Anyway, who knows what might happen? The Wattpad community might discover a liking for plus-size vampire X-certified romance – I went deep niche – or they might start commenting on my other stuff, helping put it up the Wattpad ranking system.

As others have commented here, I might look at Write On instead. Writers have found this more useful, as the feedback can be thoughtful and constructive. I’ll keep you updated.

 

 

Storyworks Monthly Issue One: A Review

Storyworks Monthly #1Storyworks Monthly #1 by Stephen J Carter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Storyworks Monthly is an ambitious work. The author states at the outset that he wants to offer a cross-section of his writing, fiction and non-fiction, in multiple genres and story lengths. He’s modelled it on Smith’s Monthly and notes with amazement (as do I) that pulp fiction writers often produced upwards of one million words a year.
Storyworks Monthly is a collection of well-written and well-crafted short stories, novellas and the first part of a science fiction novel. The novella, Ship of Remnants, was far and away my favourite. The pacing was superb and I hope the author takes this story further, developing it into a full-length novel. There’s plenty of scope for that. There was also story about a retired Roman general that I enjoyed. Again, I felt this was a story and a character I wanted to know more about.
Stephen concludes with advice about writing, which is very useful for the aspiring novelist. He concentrates on how to structure a plot, starting with what you do at the beginning and taking popular films as his examples.
All and all an interesting and informative read.
Please note: I received a review copy.

View all my reviews

Wattpad – Advice for Writers

wattpadDo any of you use Wattpad? Wattpad, if you’re not familiar with it, is an online storytelling community where people post stories, articles, fan fiction and more.

You create an account and upload stories via the website or the app. Wattpad has 16.9 million unique visitors every month and an average of 30 minutes spent reading. It’s an interesting experience for an author because Wattpad breaks down the information for you. The site will tell you how many reads you get and, crucially, the percentage of a chapter that is read.

Bracing stuff!

Wattpad success stories include Lily Carmine, whose book The Lost Boys clocked up an impressive 33 million reads. She eventually landed a deal with Random House UK thanks to an editor who’d read her book on Wattpad.

Standoutbooks offers the following advice for authors wanting to publish on Wattpad:

Upload a whole book, not a half-written one. If you get engagement, it’s best to make the most of it. You can’t upload chapters regularly if they’re not yet written.

Be prepared to give your book away for free. If there are only one or two chapters uploaded, this will irritate readers.

Remember it’s social media. Respond to comments. Follow other people. Use the comments to send messages to your readers, telling them of other books to come and suchlike.

Be aware of the audience. Most Wattpad users are teenagers and 20-somethings. The genres that do best on Wattpad are science fiction, young adult and fantasy.

I began to upload a story recently, uploading a chapter or two a day. My readership is very small, but it’s loyal. Unknown American readers are reading the book. They read every chapter, which is gratifying. I feel duty-bound to keep posting because they’ve done so. I plan to upload a YA/fantasy novel next, seeing as those genres seem to be the most successful.

Artists Town

kbtI’m trying a brand new project – Artists Town. If you’re about to read this, be warned: it contains swear words.

“It’s called the Artists’ Town.”

He used his special voice, the “family, listen carefully; I’m going to tell you interesting information” tone.

Daisy wondered how her mother put up with it. She’d only had to endure it for the last ten years (if you didn’t count ages 0-5 when presumably she didn’t take account of such things). Mum, on the other hand, must have listened to him drone on for the last 17 years.

Urgh.

She glanced out of the car window. The scenery hadn’t improved. Trees, fields, grass, water. Times 20. It had looked the same for the last two hours. Where were the Golden Arches, the glass-fronted towers, the railway tracks and the mass of traffic that made up her usual familiar and comforting views?

Toby, luckily for him, had fallen asleep at Carlisle. His head lolled, sometimes to the side, sometimes falling onto her shoulder. When it did that, she shrugged it off as quickly as possible.

Mum turned in her seat now, her expression concerned and probing. She hated that.

“Daisy, do you want to do a blood test love? We haven’t done one since this morning.”

We? What’s this we thing – I don’t see you stabbing your finger to get it to bleed.

“I’m fine,” she did her best to make her voice sound neutral. Too aggressive and her mum would insist she test, convinced she knew better than her daughter. Too flat, the same thing.

You couldn’t bloody win when it came to sodding blood tests. Forgive the over statement. Bloody was the most appropriate adverb.

The car had stopped outside a terraced house, its exterior displaying a sign; Vacancies. Enquire within.

“Inquire.”

“What’s that love?”

They had all exited the car, Toby shaken grumpily awake. They stood in the street, the four of them, looking up at the sign: Braemar Quality B&B.

Vacancies. Enquire within.

Quality was an optimistic description, Daisy reckoned. The place was tiny – the windows meanly small and draped with dirty looking lace curtains. One curtain twitched now and the front door (red paint, flaking) swung open.

“Aye?”

The woman crossed her arms.

“Mrs Burnett?” Her dad embarrassed her all the time. Now he was doing it again. He said Mrs Burnett like… Oooh, Missis Burrrnettt. The woman looked scornfully at him throughout.

“That’s me.” She stamped her feet on the mat, wiping them back and forth several times.

“We’re the Williamsons. We’re booked in for two nights?”

“C’mon in. You’re early.”

Daisy’s dad turned to face them and smiled widely, encouragingly. He followed Mrs Burnett into her B&B and everyone else traipsed upstairs, Mrs Burnett droning on about when they could expect breakfast and what it comprised of.

“I will do you a Scottish cooked breakfast. If you ask the night before. One sausage, one rasher of bacon, one egg, beans and toast. Otherwise, cereal and fruit.”

Daisy grimaced and then stopped abruptly. A teenage girl lounged against the wall in the hallway, her expression louche.

“Enquire/inquire?” She grinned. “You fucking snotty wee cow.”

Daisy, insulated from her own rudeness most of the time, grinned back.

“Are you the cool girl round here?”

The cool girl smirked, her mouth moving up, stopping and then tilting upwards once more.

“No.”

She leaned forward, the movement enabling her to whisper in Daisy’s ear. “You cannae be cool here. This place is a dump.”

Daisy wondered if she meant Braemar Quality B&B or the town itself.

Personally, Daisy thought “dump” could apply equally to both. The Quality B&B was no more impressive inside than it was out. It smelled of burnt toast and the hall carpet had dirty foot marks on it. Someone hadn’t wiped their feet properly. There were also lots of pictures of Scottie dogs, their cheeriness in complete contrast to their host.

And the town? Well, she’d only seen a bit of so far and none of it included a cinema, clothes shops or a McDonalds.

Cool girl said she wasn’t cool, but Daisy had an instinct for the cool girls. Mainly because she wasn’t one. How could she be – her mother hovering anxiously over her all the time? And being dragged along on family holidays at her age. Daisy wasn’t one of her school’s in-crowd.

She longed to be.

“What’s your name?”

Cool girl was back leaning against the wall, arms folded.

“What’s it tae you, posh girl?”

See, this is what cool girls did. Daisy answered questions straight, imbuing a questioner with automatic authority. And being called posh. That was the biggest insult, wasn’t it? Cool was never, ever posh.

Greatly daring, she gave cool girl the bird, pushing down on her forefinger hard to emphasise the gesture.

Cool girl grinned again.

“Katrina. Ma friends call me Kit-Kat. You can call me Katrina. And you? Lady something? Bo-peep?”

“Daisy. My friends call me Daisy. You can call me Your Royal Highness.”

Katrina laughed – the noise deep and dirty.

Mrs Burnett had reappeared at the top of the landing, her three guests peering over the banister at Katrina and Daisy.

“Kitty,” she said sharply. “You’ve no’ finished tidying up the back bedroom.”

The girl looked up and then back at Daisy, who raised her eyebrows.

“Lovely to meet you, Kitty,” emphasis on the word ‘Kitty’, the person in question responding with something only Daisy could see, a flip of the bird too,

She started up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Watching her go, Daisy admired her thin legs. She wore a printed dress, much shorter than Daisy would ever dare.

As Katrina/Kitty reached the landing, the old woman startled Daisy by ruffling the girl’s hair. “Hurry up, aye? And then you can go out.”

“Alright gran,” she responded.

So… Daisy liked building up stocks of information on people. To date – rude teenage girl, knows about inquire/enquire, name Katrina (likely), known as Kit-Kat (in her dreams), called Kitty by everyone (yup), helps at the B&B, the B&B owner is her granny.

“Come on up, Daisy!” Mum did her best not to make it sound like an order. “We’d better get all your stuff unpacked.”

Mrs Burnett looked at her first and then back at her mum. Daisy read her mind – what stuff? She’s only got a backpack on.

She contemplated flinging the rucksack up with the instruction: you unpack it then.

Best not to.

Upstairs, the décor was terrible. There were yet more Scottie dog pictures on the walls of the room she’d been allocated and several creepy china dogs on the mantelpiece above the fireplace. The wall paper print was enough to give her a headache and it clashed with the curtains and the carpet.

And, she was sharing with Toby, who’d already bagged the bed next to the window.

On the other hand, it was bigger than her room back home and it was right next to the B&B’s bathroom. Daisy usually needed to get up once or twice during the night to go to the loo. At home, this meant traipsing all the way downstairs.

Mum opened the door now. “Right, we’d better get lunch. We’re a bit later than usual. Are you okay?”

Daisy gave her the same “I’m fine” reply she’d delivered earlier – careful to avoid aggression or lethargy in her tone.

Downstairs, Dad was already telling Mrs Burnett how much he liked what he’d seen of the town so far. She looked bored.

“Mrs Burnett?” Her mum sounded anxious. “Is there somewhere near here we can get something to eat?”

Mrs Burnett glanced at the watch on her wrist and sighed.

“Aye, well you’re a wee bit late for most places. They stop serving at 2 o’clock. Try the Gordon Arms and if no’, the chippie might still be open.”

She looked offended when Daisy’s mum grimaced at the mention of the chippie.

“Well,” Daisy’s dad clapped his hands together decisively. “I’m sure we’ll find something. Thanks so much for all your help Mrs Burnett.”

Mrs Burnett was back to staring at him scornfully. Even she knew the help she had offered so far had been shit.

“Well, see you later,” she opened the front door wide and shooed them out.

As they spilled out on the street, Daisy’s dad remembered to shout back – “Where is the Gordon Arms, Mrs Burnett?”

But the door had closed. They were obviously expected to find their own way there.

 

©Emma Baird 2016

 

Picture thanks to Artists Town.

 

The Proper Way to Squat

I’ve been writing about blokes again. See what you think…

Squat like a boss... or just like a Sumo wrestler.

Squat like a boss… or just like a Sumo wrestler*.

“Dinnae round your back like that when you squat Mrs A,” Nate Walker said the words automatically. He wasn’t paying his client full attention, mulling over what he needed to do to take his personal training business in a new direction.

“You’re still rounding, Mrs A.”

Mrs A, attempting to squat while holding onto a not insubstantial kettle bell, grimaced at him. “The weight you’ve given me is too heavy,” she panted. “That’s why my form’s gone out the window.”

Ah well, perhaps he really ought to concentrate on the woman who was paying him a hefty hourly fee. He folded his arms and shook his head. “C’mon. You can lift that nae bother. You managed it fine before Christmas.”

Mrs A – or Elizabeth Armstrong to give the woman her proper title – executed another poor form squat and put the kettle bell down. They were exercising in Nate’s Giffnock studio – the space he had just above the hairdressers in the high street. It wasn’t a massive amount of room, but then fitness didn’t need it as far as Nate was concerned. It only required imagination and judicious use of the space and equipment you had at hand.

His studio featured a sprung floor, a couple of treadmills, a rowing machine, a weights rack stacked with dumbbells, Swiss and bosu balls, and TRX suspension training bands. Ideally, he’d have liked a vibration plate as the fast vibrations intensified any exercise the user did on it, but with everything he had already, he could create inventive and effective routines.

From the way Mrs A was scowling at him now, she’d definitely agree that a lack of space didn’t mean that you got an easy time at his studio.

He supposed he’d better ask after her Christmas. She was his longest-standing client after all, and he remembered that she’d told him her husband Ronnie was planning to whisk her away somewhere for New Year.

“Did you get away for Hogmanay then?” he asked. Mrs A was married to one of the wealthiest men in Glasgow. Ronnie Armstrong owned property, as well as the majority shares in a huge building firm that had somehow come through the recession unscathed. The two of them enjoyed a lavish lifestyle that included a huge house nearby, regular trips abroad, race horse ownership, large cars, boats and all the other trappings of the wealthy. Nate supposed he was one of those other trappings. Mrs A was part of the rich Glasgow set who were on the boards or fundraising committees of various charities. Such membership meant lunches, dinners, balls and fashion shows where you booked a table and then spent the night bidding outrageous sums of money on tat such as signed Old Firm football shirts – or a block of sessions with the likes of Nate. Mrs A liked to be able to squeeze into her size 10 dresses for those events.

Relieved that he didn’t seem inclined to make her do any more torturous squats, she nodded. “Yes we did, and Christmas! We went ski-ing. Bloody marvellous. The McCluskeys joined us, and Avril and her husband of course.”

She said “Avril” casually, but Nate wasn’t fooled. Mrs A was a ferocious name-dropper. Avril was Avril Taylor, beloved daughter of Glasgow and now successful film actor married to an equally well-known Hollywood star.

“Avril’s going to be in town for a while actually,” Mrs A continued, watching him carefully. “She starts filming in this country in the next few months, would you believe. I s’pose she’ll need to get in shape for that.”

He knew what she was up to. She wanted him to beg, or be suitably grateful. “Oh god Mrs A – could you get me an introduction to her? Could you do that for me, please? Oh that would be so good.” Continue reading