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. 

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Murder, Mayhem and Indie Publishing

Dear lady, this month thou shalt stand up in front of people and attempt to inform and entertain… Not much of a tall order is it?

Up there on this year’s to-do list, which always includes something along the lines of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, was’do a workshop/book event’. As someone who’d rather have a tooth pulled out sans anesthetic than stand up in front of an audience*, this is a biggie. I’ve published four books so far and this is my first ‘launch’.

Night and Day by Caron AllanTo ease the experience, I bullied roped in another writer to join me and billed it as a Q and A session. Given that most people think they have a book in them, why not appeal to that audience by positioning our event as an exploration of the world of indie publishing? And unlike me, my author chum makes decent money from her books. Who better to treat the audience to her wisdom?

Here’s the billing: Ever wondered if you could make it as an author? The internet, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and more have made it ridiculously easy to self-publish, and the quality of books available in this sphere is better than ever, thanks to the wide range of self-publishing services now available.

Self-published authors Emma Baird and Caron Allan discuss Caron’s books, and her writing and publishing process from start to finish. Do you need beta readers? And what are beta readers, anyway? How do you typeset a book? What’s the best way to edit your work, and what free online tools are available for authors?

The discussion will address these and other questions, and we’ll also be happy to take any questions you want to ask.

Caron Allan is the author of the Friendship Can Be Murder trilogy and the Dottie Manderson mysteries. Her latest book, Scotch Mist, came out this year, and The Last Perfect Summer of Richard Dawlish is scheduled for publication early next year.

Caron published her first book in 2012, and her books have gone on to sell tens of thousands of copies and providing her with a full-time income. She lives in Derbyshire with her husband and three cats.

Emma Baird is a freelance copywriter and has four books to her name—Katie and the Deelans, The Diabetes Diet , The Girl Who Swapped and Artists Town**. She lives in Dumbarton with her husband—and yes, a cat.

Our event takes place on 19 November, kicking off Book Week Scotland.

 

*It’s in one of West Dunbartonshire Council’s local libraries. The audience will be small select.

**About to be five. Ten Little Stars, a collection of short stories, is out now.

 

 

A Wee Trip Down 90s Memory Lane

Shift dresses, heroin chic and Brit pop—do you fancy a wee trip down 90s memory lane?

Thanks to the Friends revival on Netflix* and shows such as Derry Girls, the 90s are enjoying a moment. I’m grateful as I’ve just written a book set in the early 90s, and I’m hoping that fondness for the decade will spill over and translate itself into sales.

In the meantime, let’s do a list of terrific 90s things…

Jolly memorable lyrics – it’s the curse of age to look back on the era when you were young and think that’s when the best music occurred. I don’t. I promise I’ve sung along to George Ezra’s Shotgun all summer as it’s so darn catchy. But remembering those 90s songs to conjure up the world as it was then brought back some powerful memories.

My favourite 90s lyrics include:

So move away, Jimmy Blue, before your small, small town turns around and swallows you.

Del Amitri

Wake up the dawn and ask her why? A dreamer dreams she never dies.

Oasis

I feel stupid and contagious. Here we are now, entertain us.

Nirvana

Ever seen a young girl growing old? Trying to make herself a bride.

The Stereophonics

Zephyr in the sky at night I wonder. Do my tears of mourning sink beneath the sun?

Madonna

I could go on, but we’d be here all day. And just to keep things challenging for you, I’ve not specified the song…

Kate Moss—the world’s coolest super-model, and the woman for whom the term heroin chic was coined. Those cheekbones! Those elbows sharp enough to injure a person!

The shift dress – see above for the woman who won the top prize for styling out appearing in public in what looks like your nightie.

Blur versus Oasis—yes, you were meant to choose a team and stick with it. I weighed up Damon Albarn’s gorgeousness versus Liam’s singing technique (I defy you to watch what he does with a microphone and not end up hot and bothered) and came down slightly in favour of Oasis.

Double denim. It was a thing. Match your jacket to your trousers for effortless style. Even better, do a Brittany and Justin and wear it together. No-one will laugh or think it’s naff. Oh no, they won’t.

Madonna. That coffee table book**. The Erotica album every young 90s woman bought and left lying around, even when singing along to Hanky-Panky felt problematic. The pointy-bra you wished you had the confidence to wear.

Artists Town is out now. You can buy it here (UK) and here (US).

*Many of us in the UK will argue Friends never went away; cf Comedy Central and Gold Friends groundhog day.

**Nowadays, she writes kids’ books. My 90s self rolls her eyes.

Ten Little Stars and Half-Marathon Recovery

This week, I’m…

Recovering from the Glasgow half-marathon

Ladies and gents, I did it. It wasn’t fast, and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but yours truly stumbled across the finishing line two hours and fourteen minutes after setting off.

Glasgow’s half-marathon is popular as the course is flat (ish, not quite as my rose-tinted ten years ago experience recalled) and many people achieve personal bests. I was thankful for its flatness, but speed wasn’t coming into it. Glasgow joggers run the gamut of weather types in late September, and the day was no exception – overcast and cloudy at first, then bright sunshine, heavy rain half-way through and repeat.

The crowds turned out to cheer us on. Little kids high-fived as many runners as were willing (me, every time), witty signs read Good Luck Random Stranger! This is great practice for the zombie apocalypse, and someone who’d drawn the poo emoji and asked if anyone needed one yet…

Grateful thanks to my support crew—my husband, my mum and her partner Neil, who cheered me on at the start and the end.

Eating pasta

A race always means a reward meal—I opted for a protein, carb and fat overload in the form of Beef and Mac ‘n’ Cheese. You can buy this, but have you ever eaten a shop-bought mac ‘n’ cheese that made you sigh in contentment? No, I thought not. Most manufactured versions stint on the best bit, when the dish should be more a case of, would you like some pasta with your cheese?

To continue the celebration theme, I washed the lot down with a decent helping of pink Cava.

Writing short stories

Ten Little Stars by Emma BairdIn an attempt to the ‘game’ the Amazon system, I’m putting out a book of short stories a mere thirty days after publishing the last book…

I’m not sure what this achieves, except that I’ve seen it written about in ‘places’. My search history* is too vast to revisit anything unless I remember to do so an hour later, so heaven alone knows where I read that or if it’s even viable. But I have read it a few times so here goes!

Book marketing experts also bang on about the importance of the mailing list—*sighs*—and this book might end up being my freebie incentive. Sign up to my mailing list** and you too could be the proud owner of this free book, kind of thing.

I’ve served up a mix of vampire tales, modern love dilemmas and a bit of historical fiction. The book is available for pre-order here and here.

Making spicy stuff

This year’s chili crop will outlast us. Good people, we grew a lot of chilies this year as you can see. And I’ve already made the rookie mistake—gosh, aren’t they small, better put a few of them in YEOWCH—so it’s one or two per recipe max. Thankfully, they freeze. Our house is about to become Curry Central.

Dieting the cat

Cat emotional manipulation expertise 1. Emma determined to hold out on number of feeding intervals 0.

Freddie’s vet visit and vaccination beckons, and I’d like to escape the annual lecture on the size of him. He’s bordering on moggie obese. So, a few weeks of strict portion control, no treats and definitely no sly helpings of ham.

Yeah, good luck with that one.

 

*And VERY confusing for Google.

**Which will of course be 100 percent GDPR compliant.

Dating in the 90s

Like anything else, dating is subject to change over the years.

If you dated in the 1960s, like my mum, you’d do a lot of dancing mainly because it gave people a legit excuse to touch each other. Ditto dates to the cinema, which offered darkness as a cover for all kinds of shenanigans.

Thanks to an unfortunate predilection for the bad boys, I did a lot of dating in the 80s, 90s and noughties before stumbling on my husband in 2008 (praise be!). When I wrote Artists Town, which is sent in the early 1990s, it took me back down memory lane and the days of dating pre-mobile phones and the internet.

In those days, dear Millennials and Gen Z readers, here’s what we put up with…

  1. In the 80s, answer machines were only just coming in, so if someone wasn’t in their house you had to phone them a lot while your fevered imagination conjured up scenarios of said guy out with Dread Other Girl.
  2. Most people had landlines—one per house. Phoning your beau often meant getting past his mother. Excruciating, especially when said bad boy made her lie on his behalf, and you heard him in the room whispering that she was to tell you he was out/ill/dead.
  3. No-one Google stalked anyone before going out with them. All you had to go on was what they told you—or their reputation. (The badder, the better worked for me.)
  4. And no Google stalking a person meant their dodgy political views came as a nasty surprise six dates in.
  5. Swipe right/left took place in real life. You’d go to a party or a disco and eye up the girls/boys and see them doing the same back—no, no, not in a million years, wouldn’t touch her with my mate’s, okay if I don’t find anyone else by the end of the night, andYES.
  6. You were able to hang up on people. In theory that’s possible now, but that misses out on the satisfaction of slamming down a phone, leaving the other person listening to the pips. Bad boy enthusiasts needed to do that a lot.
  7. If you grew up in a small town, as I did, no-one owned up to gayness. They just left and headed for the big cities where more open-minded folks lived.
  8. To Netflix and chill, you had to go to Blockbuster’s and pick up a VHS tape or DVD. And if you wanted to watch a series together, YOU HAD TO WAIT A WEEK BETWEEN EACH EPISODE!*
  9. Dates meant punctuality. Without a mobile phone, letting someone know you were going to be late wasn’t an option.
  10. If you wanted nude pictures of your guy or girl, you took them with a Polaroid camera—an instant snap, which cut out the embarrassment of taking your film to be developed in Boots.

The good thing about that last point is that revenge porn wasn’t that much of a thing in ye olden days. Your disgruntled ex could only share the picture afterwards with his mates, instead of putting them online where millions could admire your tush, bush and boobs. If he wanted to send it to Readers Wives, that would involve putting the picture in an envelope, addressing it, buying a stamp and posting it—rather than clicking two buttons.

Artists Town is available here and here. Pic thanks to anime90210 on deviant art

 

 

*I know. I saw all 92 episodes of Mad Men in two months earlier this year, I look back at those days and wonder how I coped.

Kindle sample page of Artists Town by Emma Baird

No-one has ever punched anyone for me before…

Artists Town – book one of the Artist Books series – is out now. Set in the early 1990s, the story explores friendship, first love and the secrets we keep. Here’s a small extract…

a powder compact and make-up brushOutside the front of the shop, Daisy burst into laughter, the effort of it causing her to double up, hands on thighs.

“I can’t believe you punched that security guy! You nutter,” she stuttered, the words coming out in fits and bursts. Then, “No-one’s ever hit anyone for me before.”

Katrina smiled at that.

“Shall I give my cousin a call?” She pointed at their bikes. “Mebbe you shouldn’t cycle back. He can bring the work van. We can put the bikes in there.”

Daisy agreed, relieved at the prospect of not having to cycle back but dismayed at the thought of Katrina’s gorgeous cousin seeing her. She could feel sweat drying on her body, and she knew her face was scarlet.

Katrina must have seen something in her face. She held out a powder compact and a lip gloss. “Here you go. Put a bit of this on.”

“Where did you get that?” Daisy asked. The makeup looked suspiciously new, packaging still in place.

Taking her bike from where it lay against the wall, Katrina looked back at her and grinned.

“I nicked them when I took the sweets.”

Artists Town is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

 

 

Artists Town – pre-order now available

My life ticks off happiness boxes most of the time, but if you asked me to describe it to you, we’d manage three minutes of chit chat before you nodded off.

Yes, like most people my day-to-day existence is terribly ordinary. Don’t get me wrong, all over the world there are people who long for the privilege, safety and security of ordinariness, but all in all my life’s too dull to document.

Nevertheless, I let the odd bit of personal experience creep into what I write, though the joy of fiction is that you exaggerate, play fast and loose with timelines and recreate experiences. So, my new book Artists Town features a protagonist with type 1 diabetes. Here’s the bit where she’s diagnosed…*

 

Daisy’s life turned upside down. She had lost a stone in weeks, which was fantastic, but she’d felt tired and thirsty all the time. Not so fantastic.

Her mum attributed it to anorexia initially—rife among Daisy’s school friends, competitive under-eaters all—and began closely watching her daughter as she ate. Satisfied that Daisy was eating enough and not throwing it up or shitting it out afterwards, she took her to their GP.

He made her pee on a stick, announced she had type 1 diabetes and needed admittance to hospital as soon as possible.

Her mum started to cry. Daisy was none the wiser. “What is that?” she asked. Didn’t her nanna sometimes talk about her friend, Dot, who had diabetes and ate cakes even though her doctor told her not to?

“It’s a chronic health condition,” the doctor replied. “Your pancreas has stopped working. It’s not producing insulin. You need insulin to break down carbohydrates in food.”

Daisy still didn’t feel enlightened. “What’s the cure for it?”

The doctor sat back in his seat. “There’s no cure, I’m afraid.”

She spent a week in the hospital. Doctors, nurses and dieticians bombarded her with information. These are carbohydrates; this is an exchange. One exchange is an apple, one slice of bread or one scoop of mashed potatoes. NO SUGAR, okay? These are syringes. This is insulin. You need to give yourself injections in the morning and at night.

One very scary doctor told her in detail what would happen if she didn’t take care of herself.

“You will lose your eyesight. Your kidneys will pack up, and you will need dialysis. You will get liver disease. Your nerves will stop working properly, and you will live with pain. Your blood pressure will increase too much, and you will be at risk of a stroke or a heart attack.”

Eventually, Debbie told him to stop. Daisy was white-faced, recovering from the shock of yet another blood sample taken from her arm.

Life became a constant round of injections, measuring out food and always carrying glucose tablets with her. Anything that involved being away from the house was now fraught with danger, as far as her mum was concerned. In Debbie’s ideal world, Daisy reckoned she’d make sure her daughter never left the house, schooling and Vitamin D exposure be damned.

Artists Town is available for pre-order – on Amazon.co.uk and the American version.

 

*I was diagnosed at age nine, not 14, and I knew there wasn’t a cure because a boy in our town had been diagnosed with it some months before. And my mum didn’t confine me to the house.