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.

 

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’?!

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.

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.

 

Artists Town by Emma Baird

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…