Cornwall, coke in jars and controversial queens

This week, I…

Spent time in Cornwall

Mum and I had family business down south. Britain may be a small island, but travelling there from our part of the world isn’t easy. For me, it involved a half-hour walk, one hour and twenty minutes on the train, 15 minutes on a tram, one and a half hours on a plane and another two hours in a car until we arrived at the marvellously named London Apprentice village. The best bit of the journey? The car part from Exeter, driving on the road that passes alongside Dartmoor. Wild country and fabulous skies—folks, that bit of sky they use in the BBC Poldark production is representative. We drove into the sunset and talked about anything and everything.

Emma Baird mega breakfastOn the way back, my mum and I stopped off at a truckers caff for lunch, Tanya’s. We opted for the mega breakfast, pictured here. And this is the receptacle (below) they used for my diet coke. I want one. Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s pictures cover the place, and the tables are littered with pretty tea-sets. Not your typical truckers’ caff—though I’d hate to stereotype a trucker. Perhaps he or she raises a dainty wee finger as they sip their tea. And tucks into a mega breakfast of bacon, sausages and a couple of fried eggs whilst reading the meaningful quotes on the walls.

Made pickled eggs

I adore eggs. Poached, fried, scrambled, omelette-d or, my favourite, hard-boiled and mashed with mayonnaise, they are brilliant in any form. So far, I’ve given the pickled egg a wide body swerve. Then, I ate one in a gastro pub that had been pickled with beetroot. And I cursed my younger self. This form of the egg could have been part of my life eons ago. What a waste.

Reflected on the force for the good that is the worldwide web

Yeah, yeah—social media pressures, Twitter trolls and fake news aside, when you add up the pros and cons the scales tip in the balance of favour for the internet. I’ve met so many wonderful people online—and later in person too. Lately, I’ve benefited hugely from two online connections. I wrote a book, Highland Fling, and one of those connections—an editor with many years’ experience—volunteered to be a beta reader. He devoted far more time to my project than he should have done, exfoliating his way through my book so the rough scrubbing reveals a far more polished piece.

I posted the book on Wattpad and a reader stumbled across it. She made suggestions for improvement. My book featured a graphic designer and my reader was—a graphic designer. My book included a New Zealand character and my reader was—from New Zealand. Bear in mind that my following on Wattpad is pitifully small. The odds I attract someone who a) comments and makes useful comments, b) has experiences that relate to what I’m writing about are stacked against me. Oh universe, thank you for your kindness.

Watched a critically acclaimed film

Not. The reviews of Mary Queen of Scots have been… mixed, to put it kindly. I saw it and read the user reviews on IMDB afterwards. An awful lot of people didn’t like the colour-blind casting. The predictability of the ‘PC gone mad’ type statements depressed me. Professional critics didn’t touch on this, thank goodness—slagging off the pace and disjointed story instead. Me? Bits of it appealed (and Saoirse* Ronan steals every scene), but as a whole—ho hum. If you love scenery, cinematography and costume, though, you will be in heaven. I thought of Dartmoor and the journey I’d made with Mum and the tumultuous times our wee island has experienced in the last two thousand years.

And yet despite the doom and gloom we have now—Brexit, climate change, the rise of the far right that threatens the freedom of us all and the weird isolationism promoted as the answer to all our woes—I love my life. I’m thankful for aspects of it every day. I do my best to limit the damage I do to our beautiful planet** so I can pass on what I can in good conscience to whoever comes after me, and the little things bring me joy:

  • Pickled eggs
  • A lovely review
  • A sunset that holds your gaze too long
  • An actress who invokes a massive girl crush
  • The kindness of strangers I’ve never met.

Blessed.

*for the love of God, can anyone tell me how you pronounce the name?

**apart from the diet coke consumption, Millennials and Gen Z, I am SORRY about that.

And a Happy New Year to Y’all…

Way, way back at the start of the year, I wrote my resolutions as folks tend to do in January, many of them appealing because there was no immediate need to do them. As the year hurtled on, I tried to cram them in so I could tick them off and my successes were 50/50.

Look for work elsewhere

MASSIVE TICK. I’ve been freelancing for more than five years now and while my job satisfaction  and happiness levels have soared in that time, copy-writing doesn’t pay well. This year, I took on a part-time job at the University of Glasgow. It turns out that academia is the nicest environment to work in. Steady money, incredibly nice people and I still have my freedom. Win-win.

Author services

At the start of the year, I planned to offer more author services, but ended up not doing as much of this work as I did in 2017. Ah well. It was a busy year.

Publish four books

Half tick – I published two, Artists Town and Ten Little Stars. And wrote three, which all need tonnes of tidying up. Writing successes this year included having one of my books on Wattpad long-listed for the Wattys2018, a competition that had more than 150,000 entries. When you’re an indie publisher, it’s nice to have that external validation of your writing. I also did #NaNoWriMo, writing 50,000 words in 30 days, which was hugely enjoyable and fulfilling.

Sell directly

I did do it this year, via an event at the local library where I sold books, but I haven’t done enough to push that part of my author business – partly because it feels a little pointless. Selling directly doesn’t count towards book rankings, and they are so important for overall sales. Still, it’s back on the list for next year.

Ongoing development

TICK. This year, I did an author event with the amazing Caron Allan, which was far more fun than we expected. That, I decided, counted as my ‘run a workshop’ plan set out at the beginning of the year. I continue to listen to podcasts, read blogs and work at developing my writing skills. Next year, I’ll concentrate on the further development of the marketing ones.

Happy New Year to you all – and thanks for reading.

 

90s Fiction and Sweeties Worth Stealing

pick and mix sweeties

Gimme, gimme, gimme

Ah, Woolworth’s – cheap make-up, vinyl singles and the mighty pick ‘n’ mix. I mourn your passing… In the ’80s and early ’90s any teenager worth their salt knew the layout of their local Woolworth’s like the back of their hand, if only to have an idea of the less risky places in store to shoplift. Or maybe that was just the folks I hung about with.

I’m on the Woolworth’s nostalgia trip because Artists Town, my coming of age tale featuring a type 1 diabetic heroine (so only a teensy bit autobiographical, right?) is now available on Kobo, Apple Books, Scribd et al. To give you a flavour of what’s the book’s like, here is an extract. It’s the early 1990s—so no mobile phones!—and teenage Daisy and her new best friend have just cycled ten miles to a nearby town which holds the promise of the afore-mentioned store… 

Artists Town

Daisy’s legs weren’t co-operating with her brain. They didn’t seem to want to obey the ‘stand up’ command, trying to fold under her instead. She grasped the shelf, the movement causing Katrina to look up.

What’s wi’ you?”

When Daisy didn’t respond at once, Katrina stopped what she was doing and grabbed her arm. “Oh! This is what your mum told me about!”

She sounded excited, but also far away. Daisy felt sweat gathering on her top lip and trickling down her back and the sides of her torso. Gross.

Kat—Kit-Kat! Kitty…” What was her bloody name, what was the name she said Daisy should call her? She tried to remember. The name began with a ‘K’, she was sure, but the rest of it flickered out of reach.

Katrina took hold of Daisy’s arm and pushed her gently down to the floor. “Dextrosol, Daisy?”

Daisy shook her head. “Not, not…no hypo,” she said, her chin slumping onto her chest. Katrina crouched beside her and began to rifle through her jeans pockets and the backpack.

Finding nothing, she stood up. “Stay here. I’ll be right back!”

Their actions had attracted the attention of two older ladies nearby. “Do you think she’s drunk?” one asked the other, pointing at Daisy.

Not…no…” Daisy muttered. It must have come out louder and angrier than she thought, as woman number one took her friend’s arm, and they both hurried away, shooting Daisy a dirty look over their shoulders.

Katrina was back, holding handfuls of pick and mix. “I didn’t know what to get to you, so I just went for the ones covered in sugar,” she said, kneeling next to Daisy. She’d picked cola bottles, jelly babies, shoestrings, bonbons and fizzy chips.

Not…no…”

Shut up!” Katrina said, pushing a cola bottle into Daisy’s mouth. “You’re hypo. Eat. Your mum said sometimes you don’t know when you’re low.”

By the time she’d forced the third cola bottle into Daisy, the shop’s manager had appeared. He’d brought a security guard with him too. Continue reading

Ten Little Stars by Emma Baird

Ten Little Stars – A Freebie for You

Ten Little Stars by Emma Baird

Your incentive to join my mailing list.

While I try to figure out how to add an email sign up pop-up to my website (it a) has to be free, and b) incredibly easy to do) this week’s blog is an invitation to you, dear reader, to join my mailing list.

On the goals list I set for 2018 way, way back in January of this year, I wrote ‘mailing list’. This, the gurus of self-publishing who all sell far more books than I do, promise me is a must-have. You can promote directly to readers, it doesn’t depend on a pigging algorithm which could change any second (a la Facebook, a la Amazon) and it is still the best return on investment when it comes to marketing, even though three billion things have happened since emails first arrived on the planet.

Apart from bull-dozing my family into handing over their email addresses (and I won’t even bother asking on the premise they’re unlikely to report me to the Information Commissioner for breaking the GDPR rules*), this will not be an extensive list. But you’ve got to start somewhere. And I’m keen to get to the end of the year and say, “Well, EB, you ticked off a lot of the stuff on that list. Round of applause and a glass of fizzy wine for you.”

Ten Little Stars

One is also supposed to offer an incentive to join the list, a freebie the price you pay to someone to hand over their precious email address. Sadly, my killer white chocolate and raspberry cake isn’t the kind of thing I can hand out this way. A pity, because that cake is the bomb. Instead, my freebie is Ten Little Stars, an e-book collection of short stories. Some of them focus on characters who exist in my books and add back story to give you a better picture of them. Others are ones I entered into competitions—one’s a winner and the other was highly commended.

Another thing I promise is that I’ll keep the content less sales and more chatty. No-one likes sales bombardment or bombardment by emails. I unsubscribe rapidly whenever whatever mailing list I’ve signed up for—wine, self-publishing and cats all feature—gets a little too enthusiastic with their postings.

So, if you’d like to join my mailing list in return for a free collection of short stories, email me at pinkglitterpubs@gmail.com. As I’m not yet ready to embrace auto-responders, I’ll be emailing you back to say thanks individually, so it might take a little longer than usual. If you want it, I’m happy to hand over the recipe for that cake so you too can embrace its delightful deliciousness.

And of course, the usual rules apply. I promise not to sell your address on, I’ll use it only for the purpose of sending out MY newsletter and I will guard your address as carefully as I take care of my beloved and incredibly spoiled cat. Promise, cross my heart and hope to die.

Thank you!

*Here’s hoping, hmm—or Christmas will be very awkward. 

Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone and #NaNoWriMo

This week…

Emma Baird and Caron AllanCaron Allan and I took a giant step outside our comfort zones this week when we did an event at Dalmuir Library—Murder, Mayhem and Indie Publishing*.

It involved, urgh, public speaking and honestly I’d rather go to the dentist than speak in front of people. Because I was reading from our books, Night and Day and Artists Town, I had to take my glasses off to do so which meant I got to avoid looking at people and gauging their reactions. You know, ‘Jeez, this is dead boring and that woman cannae act’ sort of thing. Or, ‘Crap. I thought I’d signed up for the Graham Macrae Burnet talk. When can I escape?’

In the end, it turned out to be… enjoyable. We’d formatted the evening as a Q and A session and I skillfully made sure I asked most of the questions, forcing Caron to do a lot of talking. What surprised me was how interested the audience were. One of the best feelings you get as an author is when a stranger reads, and hopefully likes, your book. Grateful as you are to family members, loyal husbands and friends who buy it, strangers have no emotional connection to you. They fancied the sound of your book and they’re under no obligation to say, “that was good!”

The same goes for questions. Our small but select audience seemed genuinely interested in what it’s like to write a book and what we do during that process. I’d anticipated having to plant questions but it wasn’t needed in the end and the event organiser had to step in to bring the questioning to an end so folks could get on with the serious business of teas and cakes.

Thanks to West Dunbartonshire Council Libraries and Cultural Services, everyone who attended (we had guests who came all the way from Edinburgh) and Sandy for doing his fair share of ferrying us to and fro.

Next year Derby where Caron lives!

On another writing note, I completed #NaNoWriMo on Friday, notching up my 50,000 words. Forcing myself to write every day proved interesting. Some days were dead easy; others the words had to be dragged out of me. It meant taking my laptop on train journeys and banging out the words while I ate lunch or dinner at times. The book isn’t finished. I’m struggling with the end and the further on I got, the more I realised I hadn’t got the structure quite right so it will need a major overhaul once I’ve finished. Still, it’s done and pre the official deadline on the 30th too.

Did you step out of your comfort zone this week? And if so, what did it involve and did you get a rush of adrenaline once you’d finished?

*If Caron’s the one writing murder stories, does that make me ‘mayhem’?!

Five Things You Learn from #NaNoWriMo

Emma Baird on NaNoWriMoWhat do you learn about yourself if you decide to embark on a fool-hardy challenge such as committing to writing 50,000 words in a month?

Yes, folks I’m the sort who over-promises and under-delivers to herself all the time. What does November lack, I pondered, what with the part-time job going through its busiest month of the year, my freelance clients all ramping up the work they need and TV not helping by adding distractions to my life such as the premiere of Outlaw King* on Netflix and The Little Drummer Girl on the BBC?

Obviously, I should add writing a rom-com novel to the month’s to-do list, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

But NaNoWriMo has surprised me. Forcing yourself in front of your laptop every day as a blank page blinks at you and your fingers hover above the keyboard refusing to do anything has proved enlightening.

Here’s what I’ve got from the experience so far:

  1. A sense of perspective. Forcing yourself to write 2,000 plus words every single day makes my day job, copy writing, seem a dawdle. What, you want 500 words for your blog? Is that all? Easy-peasy.
  2. You have to tell your inner editor to jog on. Nothing to see here, dear. Come back some other time and tweak that sentence, copy and paste or add in the correct punctuation but at this moment in time YOU ARE NOT WELCOME.
  3. The inner editor isn’t invited but the inner geek pushes her to one side. The dashboard on the official NaNoWriMo website throws up figures that change every day. How many words you’ve written, numbers needed to finish on time, average length of each writing session etc. And if there’s anything I love, it’s personal data. The NaNoWriMo dashboard has just joined the Fitbit one as things I spend too long swooning over.
  4. The value of plotting. As anyone who has read my previous books can attest, I prefer throwing things at a book and seeing if they stick to working out what MIGHT happen in advance. This time I’ve outlined every chapter and am now a convert. Plot outlines work! Who knew?
  5. Abandon all social life all ye who enter here. Yup, that kind of writing schedule takes over your life. From taking your laptop on trains as you commute, to knocking back invites, switching the TV off at night and turning down offers to test out the offerings at a gastro-pub in Glasgow, my life is deadly dull. Temporarily, I hope. Otherwise, I’m not going to make a convincing writer in the future if I have no interesting life experiences to draw on.

And the biggest revelation of all? I’ve fallen back in love with writing. I’m head over heels. Before this, I was plodding my way through re-writing a book I’ve never liked. Ye gods, it was tedious. I’ve been forced to abandon it, and now switching on the laptop every day to fire off 2,000 words or so never feels like a chore. I look forward to it and at the end of every session, I know I can keep going if I want. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s heady.

It’s still early days. By week three, I’ll probably reach the bit where I hate the book, think it’s the worst thing anyone has ever had the misfortune to write or read and wish my characters would just sort themselves out with no help from me.

In the meantime, chapter 10 beckons…

#amwriting #nanowrimo

*I was forced to commit Netflix infidelity for the first time to watch the film but blimey it’s immense, ladies and gentlemen. The scenery will blow your socks off. 

Crete, Cats and #NaNoWriMo

This week I’m…

Drinking olive oil

olive oil picture taken by Emma Baird author of the diabetes dietWe’re back from a week in Crete, where it’s obligatory for any tour to talk about extra virgin olive oil and its many health benefits. The Cretans splish-splosh it on everything, so it’s not surprising they are the world’s biggest consumers of the stuff getting through an average 36 litres a year.

Because we’d opted for the hand-luggage only flight, we could only bring back a measly 100ml of the stuff but I promise my meals from now on will contain liberal amounts. As gastronomic destinations go in general, Crete is tremendous. I ate one of the best lamb dishes I’ve ever had—lamb kleftiko, a paper packet of tender meat oozing luscious thick gravy, and juices-soaked carrots and potatoes added in.

Recovering from mozzie bites

Seriously, did those little gits love me because I’ve got sweeter than usual blood? By the end of the week I’d counted 26 bites and my husband kept wrestling me, strait-jacket style, to stop me scratching them. If you ever want to experience the perfect definition of instant gratification—and why it isn’t worth it—get yourself a dozen or so mosquito bites and claw at them with long nails as soon as they begin to itch.

Result? Two seconds of relief and then bites that get infected.

A resident told us this year the island has suffered more than usual. The Cretans themselves were experiencing problems too. Chania’s newspaper says the problem has been caused by cutbacks in Government spraying programmes and in the past few years, the population has gone wild.

Contemplating cats

Emma Baird with catEvery bar and restaurant we went to had its own resident cat, who could spot a sucker miles away. Here is the picture for proof. Up they came, positioning themselves beside your chair and yowling furiously until you gave them a bit of whatever you were eating.

My theory is that Cretan cats and cats in hotter countries are further along the evolutionary chain than those in the UK. They’ve lived alongside humans for far longer, and most of the ones we came across aren’t at all skittish around people. They are very noisy too. The cat’s miaow was developed to communicate with humans, but you don’t meet that many ‘talkative’ cats over here.

Unfortunately, part of the greater progress along the evolutionary chain is because they breed in vast quantities. We saw lots of kittens and young cats, and all kinds of amazing, unusual patterns. Again, in hot counties this is harder to control. Greece has suffered financially in recent years. There won’t be much money around for trap, neuter, release programmes.

Doing NaNoWriMo

For those of you outside the writing world, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual initiative encouraging writers to write the first draft of a novel or 50,000 words in one month. It sounds like a tall order, but if you break it down into 2,000 words a day every day, you’re in ‘eat that elephant one bite at a time’ territory.

My incentive is partly financial. I’m about to ditch Microsoft Word as I’m fed up of spending so much money on it every year when there are just as good freebies out there. Libre Office for example. And Scrivener is software specially created for writers, which you pay a one-off fee for. I’ve resisted it until now because I’m not keen on something that comes with a 45-minute tutorial. Manana never comes soon enough for me, so listening to that tutorial is a tall order. But Word isn’t great for working with long documents such as novels and I fancy Scrivener’s corkboard feature to help me plot.

How does this fit with NaNoWriMo? The folks that make Scrivener offer it at half-price if you complete NaNoWriMo. While on holiday, I outlined a plot using a one-page template I found online so in theory writing 2,000 words every day will be easier because I have an idea of what happens in each chapter instead of pantsing it.

Highland Fling book cover by Emma BairdI’m going to try my hand at a sweet romance, which will be a challenge for me. I’m filthy-mouthed (blame working in journalism and PR for that) so my novels tend to contain plenty of couthy language, the odd bit of sex and other adult themes. Sweet romance ‘rules’ mean no swearing, definitely no sex and the ‘climax’ is the kiss. Once that’s done, it’s game over. Sweet romance is HUGE in the indie publishing world and its top writers earn hundreds of thousands. As one writer put it, fans of ‘spicy’ romance, i.e. the sex stuff, will read sweet romance, whereas the opposite doesn’t usually apply.

Here are the first few paras:

“I didn’t mean to smash his heart into smithereens—and they were his words not mine—but if you want to make an omelette you have to crack a few eggs, don’t you?”

“Stop right there!” My best friend excels at bossiness. She gets up from the sofa and holds a hand out, traffic cop style.

“Do NOT mix up metaphors like that,” she begs. “Please. You’re hurting my ears.”

She’s a copywriter and very fussy about what people say in front of her. If you ever dare utter, do you know what I mean? at the end of a sentence, she jumps down your throat. No, I don’t know. That’s why you’re telling me. I cut that habit out after about the hundredth time she said it.

“Kelly!” I too am on the sofa in my about to be vacated home. I love this sofa too. It took me five visits to the SofasRUs (and all on the days when there were sofa sales so I wasted a lot of bank holidays) to find my perfect one. This is it. Dark red velvet, super squishy and big enough to fit four people, five if you know each other really well.

And tomorrow I say goodbye to this sofa. Just like I wave farewell to the coffee table I rescued from a junk yard, sanded down and varnished myself, the book shelves I built from flat packs accompanied by a lot of cursing, the laminated floorboards I laid one hot and sweaty weekend, the curtains…

Charlotte Amelia Richardson! My mother’s voice. This moping will not do. Kelly backs her up. Not in real life, but in my head; the two of them competing to see who can order me around the most.

Kelly rummages through her handbag and emerges with a large bar of chocolate that she waves triumphantly in front of me.

“Okay,” she says, “if you promise not to mix up any more metaphors and refrain from terrible clichés, I will break this bar in two and give you half.” She inspects the bar, checking the label. It’s the Oreo cookie one, tiny bits of biscuit crumb encased in thick slabs of chocolate.

“The much smaller half.”

I am not having that. I lurch forward and grab the bar from her hands, dancing away from her as she shrieks and tries to get it back. My fingers move fast, ripping through purple foil while Kelly howls, “No, no, no!” I jam it into my mouth, bite off a quarter and hand it back to her, tooth marks and all.

All’s fair in love and war, or love and chocolate, right?

You can read the rest of this chapter on Wattpad here. https://embed.wattpad.com/story/164480382

Wish me luck…