One Month, No Wine! (Part 2)

I kissed abstinence good-bye (get behind me, Satan!) mid-February. The six weeks were okay, but Lordy having wine in your life is three hundred times better.

The alcohol-free proponents promise all kinds of benefits, from better sleep to enhanced concentration. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t expected… well, nothing short of a MIRACLE, really.

Productivity. I write fiction when I’m under the influence. It often feels as if the booze allows creativity to surface. I have struggled to write so far this year, and that makes me sad. 😦 Long-term, I know I’m kidding myself if I think alcohol’s necessary for writing. Maybe I just hit a blank after an exceptionally busy writing streak last year.

Skin. I took pictures of my face every week to see if I could spot any difference. Again, for this one I expected to emerge from my alcohol-free cocoon with the skin of a… twenty-year-old. Or I would be demanding my money back. I didn’t notice any discernible difference. It did confirm, though, that I am a rotten photographer, and I’m exceptionally rubbish at selfie-taking.

Sleep. Ah, now that one I will give you. Oh, the sleeping I did in January! It was blissfully lovely. I’ve not yet managed my husband’s enviable fall-asleep speeds (roughly two minutes, whether he’s been drinking or not), but I do get to sleep more quickly and stay there. Bye-bye 3am wakefulness!

Weight loss. I didn’t weigh myself, but I did measure my waist before and after. Nada. It stayed the same. Big, fat HUH.

Moods. That, I grant you too. The mood elevator Emma Baird rides on every day glided up and down a few floors most days, instead of pinging to the top and performing sudden stomach through the mouth plunges to the bottom.

Money saving. Hibernation meant I didn’t spend money on nights out, or in. I did, however, put a fair bit of money behind the till at Holland & Barret stocking up on (snake oil) supplements as part of an overall health kick. I also bought a LOT of face creams.

New-found liking for chocolate. Argh, where did that come from?? Actually, it’s well documented. People who give up drink often turn to the sweet stuff instead. That’s why wine gums were invented, after all! Chocolate and a diabetic don’t make happy companions, especially one who favours the low-carb approach, so I’ll need to give my new-found friends the heave-ho asap.


#Amwriting Serials – The Alternative Answer

Indie authors know that writing serials are the way to capture a reader’s heart and hook them in. If they love your characters, they want to keep reading about them, right?

Most of the big names in both indie and traditional publishing know serials are essential for read-through, where the reader buys one book and then buys the others an author has written. It helps with e-books especially, as it bolsters earlier books and keeps them ‘fresh’ in rankings.

Crime fiction makes this process slightly easier, as you can use recurring characters – the crime solver – and slowly develop their character through the series, but still write a new story every time that focuses on one crime and how it is solved.

What if you feel a series is beyond you? Can stand-alone novels work as well to hook readers? One way of doing it is to give the bit part characters in the first book a starring role in another one. Your reader already knows your bit-parters, you’ve got that character’s backstory already, and you don’t need to worry about continuing a narrative arc over a series.

Marion Keyes has used this model for some of her fabulous books. Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, Angles, Anybody Out There, The Mystery of Mercy Close and Mammy Walsh’s A to Z of the Walsh Family are all separate and yet connected books about sisters (and their mother) and their different problems and how they solve them.

The ‘old’ reader knows a little bit about each sister from previous books and remembers; the new reader finds warm, likeable characters and relatable situations, and wants to read more.

I find plot structure and the narrative arc difficult enough as it is, which is why I don’t want to write a series. But the characters I’ve previously written about often scream for attention. I finished a book recently about a sixteen-year-old girl and her coming of age in a small Scottish town. I fell in love with the male character I wrote and decided he deserved his own story.

Heroine number one found her feet in the story, transitioning from one phase of her life to the next. The guy in my book didn’t, so I felt it was time for him to do some growing up all of his own. The second book was a breeze to write.

I’m now looking at the bit characters in the second book to find my next leading lady/gent. There’s Dee, a 30-something who might be interesting to look at twenty years later, or Lillian who’s loves interfering in other people’s lives as a way of distracting herself from her own issues. Or what about a real challenge – a transgender guy struggling to shake off the shackles of a hyper-masculine, working-class background?

The great thing about this model is that always lends itself to future stories. And you can indulge yourself by allowing readers to catch-up with previous protagonists and antagonists. You can undo the last happy ending, for example, or you can make sure an antagonist gets his or her just desserts at a later stage.

The possibilities are endless!



The Girl Who Swapped – In An E-Book Store Near You!

The Girl Who Swapped

Fancy a fizzy, frothy, flirty read? The Girl Who Swapped is now available on Kobo, Playster, Barnes & Noble, Tolino, iBooks and Amazon. (And others. I lost count.)

The clever people at Draft2Digital give you a universal book link (UBL, geddit?) that you can customise. I made mine as easy as I could –

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to wake up in a different body and country, The Girl Who Swapped will fill you in. There’s laughter, life lessons and a lot of champagne-fuelled flirting along the way.


One Month, No Wine!

Emma Baird

A writer friend and I signed up for the One Year No Beer challenge in January. Before you think us super-saintly, I’m duty-bound to point out that One Year No Beer offers different alcohol-free options – and most of them don’t last twelve months.

Its main one is the three months no alcohol (which doesn’t scan half as well as one year no beer) as well as a yearly version and the more achievable 28 days programme. My brave friend opted for three months; I picked the one-month version.

Writing is notorious for attracting its share of hard drinkers. Most people can name a bloke, but female imbibers include Patricia Highsmith, Jean Rhys, Dorothy Parker and Elizabeth Bishop. French novelist and filmmaker Marguerite Duras wrote about being a real writer and a real alcoholic. She’d drink Cognac in the morning and then a glass of wine every hour, and she wrote afterwards, astonishing herself by how much she managed to write.

Would going teetotal for a while help with our productivity, my friend and I wondered? If you spend your evenings binge-watching Netflix (as we’ve been doing) and steering clear of Prosecco’s siren call, will that make us more creative, fingers moving over keyboards in double quick time? And concentration is supposed to get better too when you aren’t fighting the after-effects of toxins.

I’ve done the odd bit of writing accompanied by a glass of wine. It often helps with blocks. I’ve reached this bit of a book, and I’m stuck. The wine seems to fire off creative sparks. Writing without it has shown that I imagine things. The process isn’t just thanks to alcohol. As the marvellous Lee Childs once put it, truckers don’t get trucker block, do they? Stick yourself in front of a blank page and just BLEEDIN’ write.

Anyway, to keep my friend company I’ve extended my challenge to six weeks. I’ll tot up my word count then and let you know.


PS – I sincerely promise not to be evangelical and annoying about this. No prude like the reformed rake, as the saying goes. The same often applies to folks who give up smoking and/or drinking. I love wine. Just sayin’.

The Discreet Charm of Mary Maxwell-Hume

https://emmabaird.comNew in print is The Discreet Charm of Mary Maxwell-Hume by Gordon Lawrie.

Here’s the blurb – Mary Maxwell-Hume is an enigma. She earns a living as a piano teacher but also belongs to an obscure order of nuns. Their rules appear curious: although the sisters wear red habits occasionally, the order has a peculiar dress code. Nuns wear ‘only as much as is necessary to preserve due modesty’, plus liberal doses of Chanel no.5 perfume.

There’s the faintest hint that Mary might be a bit of a hustler, but she uses her sensual powers in such a way that nobody minds – except for the odious Theodore Plews of Lambert’s Auction House in Edinburgh. Anyway, who would dare suggest that a woman of God might not be all she seems?

Eventually, she engages a young police constable as her faithful assistant. Read on to see what ensues…

The book is published by Comely Bank Publishing, and you can buy directly from CBP here. There’s a limited time offer, where you can also get Gordon’s first book, Four Old Geezers and a Valkyrie for £8.99 (including postage). If you want the e-book, the storefront has links to (for Kindles) and versions (for every other e-reader).

Artists Town – Rewrite DONE #amwriting

Artists Town by Emma Baird

Drum roll – I finished rewriting something this week. Big deal, Ms B, you say, and I don’t blame you.

But regular readers and friends might know I LOATH rewriting. When I finish a book, I go off it very quickly. In the perfect world, it would rewrite itself, magically upload itself on Amazon, Kobo et al., and then, oh I dunno, sell? And sell in enough quantities to make money.

I gave myself a ticking off. Emma, I said, the magic fairies do not come along and do this for you. In came the carrot and stick. Restructure the novel – BOOM; you get a glass of wine. Fail to rewrite for an hour or so. WHACK – you’re not allowed to write anything new. (Writing new stuff is what I love doing.)

The carrot thing, unfortunately, ran out on 1st January as I signed up for one of those Dry January thingies, so that motivated me to rewrite faster.

Rewriting Artists Town kept presenting different issues. I changed my mind numerous times about the order of some chapters. A weird and wonderful crime that took place in the 1990s was my inspiration. When I did more research, I had to change quite a few things.

And then there were the bloody comma splices. My factual writing differs a lot from my creative writing style. It turns out I am forever putting independent clauses in one sentence. I’m not keen on semi-colons, and they shouldn’t be used too frequently anyway. I rewrote a lot of sentences as a result.

I end a lot of sentences with prepositions too*. I took them out where this would improve the prose, but left in a lot of them as otherwise the sentence didn’t sound natural.

But hey, at least I know what comma splices are now!

One rewrite does not a finished novel make. Improvements are still needed. And I have some factual stuff I need to check – police procedures relating to crimes committed in different jurisdictions. But the project is a lot further on that it was two months ago.

Here’s the blurb for the book, which I hope to publish later this year:

Fifteen-year-old Daisy has been dragged along on a family holiday in a small Scottish town against her will. But then, that’s what happens when you suddenly develop a chronic health condition. Your mum and dad take away all your freedom.

Still, the holiday has its compensations. There’s Katrina, resident ‘cool’ girl who decides to take Daisy under her wing. Katrina happens to have a gorgeous, older cousin who looks at Daisy in a certain way. Is this holiday about to change Daisy’s life for the better?

Escaping from London seems to have affected Daisy’s dad. He’s got some madcap schemes in mind, but just where is all the money for this coming from?

Set in 1990, Artists Town is a coming of age tale that explores friendship, first love, learning to be cool and navigating life’s challenges.


*See the wonderful Grammar Girl’s article on ending sentences with prepositions. She also does a weekly podcast which manages to make grammar easy to understand AND interesting.