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.

 

 

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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.

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.

 

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…

 

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.