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

 

 

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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.

 

Book Covers, Fish and Chips and More…

This week in pictures…

Three runners cross the start line at the Paisley 10k

Put your hands in the air just like you just don’t care… (I’m on the right).

Completed the Paisley 10k. With a slower time than I did for the 10k I ran at the start of June (1.03 as opposed to 1 hour 58 seconds), HOW, HOW, HOW? (#Emails organisers to double check they measured the route right#) Weirdly, I felt much more comfortable than I did back in June as the day was a lot cooler and the course flatter. Hey ho!

And still a feeling at the end of it akin to “Feck! For the half-marathon next month, I’ll have to do all this again and then some…”

fish and chips McMAte fish and chips to celebrate. Well, battered fish and mushy peas, anyway. My Fitbit told me the run used up 590 calories. Usually, I’m a low-carb gal, but my glycogen-starved muscles shrieked carbs loudly by the end of my run. And battered fish expertly cooked and doused in salt and malt vinegar is a glorious thing. McMonagles claims to be the world’s first sail-thru fish and chip restaurant.

AT VERSIONSSorted out the cover for Artists Town, my forthcoming book. It’s beautiful, hmm? Jennifer Underwood did the cover for me. Now, to decide on a release date and hope it recoups its costs. And persuades people to buy some of my other books.

fruit and nutBought some fruit and nut. Not that I’m going to eat it…* This week marked the eighth anniversary of my dad’s death and one of his favourite things to eat was Cadbury’s fruit and nut.

As food is often one of the things that brings us together – as family, as couples, as friends, as neighbours – it has always seemed appropriate for my family and I to mark the occasion this way. My sister and her kids did it with sausages, beans and mash.

a ginger and white cat sitting on a window sill Welcomed a new part-time resident. Meet Mr Biggles, whose ‘home’ if you can ever call one place a cat’s home, is two doors up from us. Of late, he’s taken to spending increasing amounts of time Chez Baird-Birnie.

His official residence contains two adults, one other cat, three kids and a dog, so perhaps he likes the peace and quiet of our house?

How’s your week been? And where the best place for fish and chips near you?

 

*Well, a weak moment might happen at some point later next week…

 

The Girl Who Swapped summer sale

The Girl Who Swapped – 99p or 99c

 

The Girl Who Swapped Kindle cover

Bespoke book cover art example from coverness.com

For one week only, you can buy The Girl Who Swapped for a mere 99p on Amazon.co.uk or 99 cents* on Amazon.com

Do you love chick lit or humorous fiction that makes you chuckle? The Girl Who Swapped introduces you to Lottie and Charlotte who’ve woken up in the wrong bodies and miles away from home.

How do they get back to their ‘real’ lives, and where those real lives so fantastic in the first place?

The Girl Who Swapped – Sale

Via champagne-soaked parties, tempting tall, dark and handsome strangers and an ego-maniac Hollywood star, join the rollercoaster ride as our heroines hurtle through their new lives as they try to find their ways home.

If you like your reading light, frothy and fun, The Girl Who Swapped is a great summer read** and the Kindle version won’t take up precious room in your suitcase.

A fabulous read. Couldn’t put it down
Great story, well written with engaging characters
A real page turner

feebee on Amazon

Buy the book on Amazon.com here, or Amazon.co.uk here. It’s on sale at the discounted price from 8-15th August. 

*Seven or eight years ago, 99 cents would have been a bargain compared to the 99p price, but the pound’s so weak these days, there’s not much in it.

**Bleurgh. Blowing my own trumpet makes me feel like I need to take hot shower and scrub everything HARD.

Finishing books and making cakes

This week I’ve…

a golf-themed birthday cake made by Emma BairdMade cakes! The man in my life turned 50 this week, so I made him a golf themed cake—mainly because the decoration didn’t seem too complicated. Green icing*, a golf figurine and some golf ball wafers equals job done.

I’m not a talented baker. It requires precision whereas my first instinct when I look at any recipe is to wonder what would happen if I switch one ingredient for another and double up the cheese quantity specified.

Cake tins

Then there’s that whole cake tin thing, where every single recipe for cake appears to use a different-sized tin. True. Do proper bakers have room in their kitchens for a dedicated cake tin cupboard stacked from top to bottom with tins of varying sizes? Luckily, I found this handy conversion calculator on CakeBaker which gives you ingredient quantities for your size of tin.

I made a Madeira cake as that’s one recommendation for celebration cakes—sturdy and minimal crumble, apparently. The filling inside is home-made lemon curd (see this super easy microwave recipe here) and the cake’s iced with lemon butter cream and topped with green fondant paste.

Taking to the hills

Did my first trail run. Pounding the pavements can get awfy boring after a while, so I ventured up into the hills behind my house this week. It’s seriously hilly, but the deal was I could walk in places just like proper trail runners do. Another added bonus is that you don’t take in lungfuls of exhaust fumes.

Trail running is supposed to benefit your training regime as you use different muscles and it gives your brain more of a challenge as you tackle varying terrain.

Moved out of my comfort zone. On my list of ‘to do’s’ this year was to do a book event. As an introvert, I prefer hiding behind my laptop when book promoting. The arguments in favour include the ability to reach far more people and it’s much less time consuming/a better return on investment. Nevertheless, you don’t grow as a human unless you venture out of the places you find safe, so I approached my local library and asked if they’d be willing to run a Q&A event where I and another writer talk about our books, our writing processes and self-publishing.

And they said… YES.

Times and dates are still to be confirmed, but the event will take place during Scottish Book Week, 19-25th November. Yike-sy. More details to follow.

Beautiful biters

beautiful biters Finished a book—or the first draft of it, anyway. I’ve finally written ‘THE END’ (among the world’s most satisfying sentences to write) of Beautiful Biters. It started life as Beauty and the Vampires and then got a name change half-way through. It’s a story about a 16-year-old living side by side with vampires and doing make-up tutorials for them on YouTube as I wanted to give it a modern feel.

Now my least favourite part of writing begins; the rewriting bit. Ker-ist. I’d rather pluck my own eyeballs out. Or start another story so Beautiful Biters can meet the fate of all my other books—rusting away, forgotten and neglected, in the back of my hard drive.

Ate delicious Indian food. Sandy and I went out with his family to celebrate his half-century. The Dining Room is a local restaurant you’d be within your rights to describe as a “wee gem”. It’s tiny, so we were the biggest party in there and everyone joined in when we sang Happy Birthday. My go-to with Indian restaurants is saag paneer and Tarka dhal. Indian and Pakistani cuisines do amazing things to vegetables, and make the prospect of full-time vegetarianism do-able.

Tomorrow, to continue the birthday celebrations, we’re off to Edinburgh to see Brexit and eat in Sylvester’s. As it’s August, the place will be heaving. Unfortunately, I booked this excursion before realising the Scottish Premiership season starts this weekend and Rangers FC is to play Aberdeen on Sunday. I married a fervent footie fan and I fear my wee surprise won’t be greeted enthusiastically…

Ah well!

What highlights has your week brought? And what’s your favourite dish in an Indian restaurant?

*I say ‘not complicated’ but the air around me turned blue as I tried to fit that f*****g fondant paste on the cake.

Emma Baird picture of a laptop with the words 'back blogging'

Six Years of Blogging

Emma Baird picture of a laptop with the words 'back blogging'Congratulations me. This month marks my six-year blog anniversary. Six years of thinking up topics to write about, sometimes coming up with great ideas but most often opting for the lazy option, something I wrote for another platform.

I don’t have a huge following—just shy of 400—but I get good engagement, especially these days. It’s easy enough to like a blog post. You can do it without reading the article. People taking the time to read and then add their thoughts feels much more flattering.

And because I have such a small following, I don’t get negativity. Most of the comments people post are encouraging. Which is good. I’m your typical writer and my skin is wafer-thin.

My following increases steadily. At the moment, I appear to be getting one sign up a day. I’m a smarter blogger than I was when I first started up and I use some of the dark arts. I put my name into the alt text for the pictures I use. I set featured images and I craft my own excerpt. Liking and commenting on other blogs helps as does the intelligent use of tags.

I’ve got my posts automatically linked to most of my other social media platforms, so they appear on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter as soon as they come out.

The life of a blogger can be great fun. I started my working life in journalism and what former journalist wouldn’t want to be their own publisher and editor?

You also get to read amazing content from others. There are plenty of doozies out there and I often wonder what on earth bloggers are doing to get hundreds of likes and comments for badly written guff. On the whole, though, if you keep your own blog following small, you can afford to follow only the good ‘uns back.

This is a friendly community for the most part. I’m hugely grateful to all the folks who’ve read, liked and commented on my articles over the last six years. Thank YOU.

picture at Emma Baird of a piece of text with red editing marks

Writing and Editing Software

picture at Emma Baird of a piece of text with red editing marksI use writing software—ProWritingAid, which works out at $50 a year (about £37). Is it worth the price? Absolutely.

Like any automated system, ProWritingAid doesn’t work perfectly. To take full advantage, you need some background in English grammar so you know what to accept and what to reject. Before using ProWritingAid, I subscribed to Grammarly previously, which is more expensive and not that great.

Grammarly suggested peculiar things and the only lesson I ever learned was the comma splice. (Guilty, a lot of the time—and for those of you who’ve never heard of it, a comma splice is where you use a comma to connect two independent clauses. You should use either a semi-colon, split the sentence into two or use a conjunction.) Grammarly also wanted to put commas everywhere.

ProWritingAid runs lots of reports on your writing—a grammar check, a writing style check, clichés and redundancies, corporate wording, sticky sentences and more. My favourite one is the overused words check, which is when you realise how repetitive your writing is. The writing style report is useful because it highlights adverbs so you can cut down their use and picks up every time you start three sentences in a row with the same word.

What ProWritingAid doesn’t have, unlike Grammarly, is the option to add your own words to the dictionary. This means that if you keep using slang in dialogue, for instance, it keeps picking it up. And it works best if you only check small amounts of text at a time rather than running your whole novel through it.

Other than that, ProWritingAid has improved my writing. The software picks up my bad habits and drums them out of me. When you rethink and rewrite sentences it’s terrific writing practice.

*Please note—this post isn’t sponsored by ProWritingAid.