Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Days off...? Weekends...? What are they?

Someone asked me the other week whether I had plans for the weekend. I assume he was asking whether I would be going out for the day or doing something other than sitting at my desk, editing or working.

It struck me (when I had no answer for him) that since I started working for myself, I've broken the working time directive (48 hours week) on an almost weekly basis! Of course, many people say that it's not work if you love it, and generally, I do love it (though not always). But I probably should allow myself some days off, right? I mean, I hit burnout just before I left working at the university, so I know what it's like and have no desire to go through that again.

But I find it almost impossible to take a day off. I have other caring responsibilities that take up some of my days of the week, which means that writing has to fit in around that. And often, just as I think I'm on top of everything, another caring issue comes up and I end up behind schedule again. Don't get me wrong, I don't in any way resent the caring responsibilities I have, but they do have a tendency to fry any plans I make. November sounded like a long month until I added up how many days I actually had available to edit in, and it turned out to be about 12 if I took any of the weekends off.

Which is why The Wrong Kind of Clouds isn't launched yet. I need to proof-read the Kindle and paperback versions (well, I need to proof-read one of them and check the formatting on both as the text is the same) and do the last checks of the cover, and then it's good to go. But I'm also neck-deep in editing book 7 (Trilogy #2) and I'm on more of a deadline with that in some ways. Oh, and I have book 6 (Trilogy #1) back from Fiona (my editor) ready for final tweaks and I haven't even managed to open that file and look at it. At some point soon, I need to contact the cover designers to get the ball rolling on covers for the trilogy (and I have a discount that runs out at the end of November, so need to get a wriggle on to use it!).

So, until I feel like I'm not juggling four books at once (note to self, don't ever do this again!) weekends and days off might be a novelty. I'm trying hard to take breaks and time away from my desk, but in many ways, it only makes me feel more stressed, as then I have less time in which to finish stuff. But I do also recognise that was exactly how I felt before I burned out and had to take more than six months off work, 4 years ago.

How does everyone else balance this??

Tuesday, 12 November 2019


A year ago, my Mum wanted to get out of the house more and see new people. She's always been a great knitter, so I persuaded her to go to a Knit and Natter group in a local church. She went, on the condition I went with her.

All well and good. But I couldn't knit.

I do cross-stitch and embroidery, so I took some cross-stitch with me and Mum took some knitting. All the other people there were lovely and didn't seem to mind the fact I couldn't knit, so I did my cross-stitch and for many months, that was that - Mum knitted, I cross-stitched and we both nattered.

But, most of the people were knitting for charity - hats or scarves or blankets - and I felt guilty that, although my cross-stitch pieces would get sold at a table of work sale and the proceeds go to charity, I wasn't really contributing much. It takes a LONG time to cross-stitch things! It also struck me that there was a wealth of knowledge around the table - knitting (in a variety of styles - "English" versus "Continental" and so on), crocheting etc. and that I should take advantage and learn some new skills.

So, I learned to knit! Now, you might wonder why it's taken me so long to master this, but the honest answer is, I could never work out if I was right- or left-handed at it. I'm neither-handed, in life generally. I mostly write with my right (though can write with my left, and did so exclusively for two years when I had RSI in the right), but do a whole heap of other things left-handed. When I learned to knit before, I got very confused over which needle went through the stitch and which way I should do it all (and frequently switched from right- to left-handed mid-row). I still have to concentrate quite hard! My first few attempts at knitting this time around weren't all that brilliant!

I expected I would just knit simple things at Knit and Natter, but to be honest, it's been a bit of a saviour for me over the last few weeks. I'm still deep in editing, and with the work involved in re-releasing The Wrong Kind of Clouds, and when I get to the end of a long day, it's been relaxing to be creative in a different way and do something that makes me think about something other than writing/editing (or Brexit!). I'm doing blanket squares (some might be more square than others, but hey!), though the rate at which I'm managing to do them, the blanket won't be ready until next winter. I've also ordered a second lot of wool, to do a second blanket!

The writing/editing load should ease soon. I'm hoping to sign off on book 1 of the trilogy soon, and re-release The Wrong Kind of Clouds, so I'll only really be juggling two books (plus the new one that wants to be written, but that's a different matter). I'll keep on knitting though!

What does everyone else do to unwind at the end of the day?

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Kindle Unlimited or not?

NOT how it's getting printed!!
I need your help and advice, guys. At the moment, Lies That Poison is only available via Amazon. Technically it can be ordered in any bookshop, but practically, I know this is unlikely to happen. One of the reasons for the Amazon exclusivity is because I'm on a vertical learning curve and I only wanted to sort out one format (Kindle) rather than other formats as well. Likewise, the 'getting it printed by IngramSpark' aspect seemed as if it would not be a good cost/benefit ratio - both in terms of how much time it would take me to get it ready, and the cost to get physical copies to me/stores in comparison with the amount of sales I would make. I believe that the number of physical copies sold anywhere other than Amazon (whether that was a bricks and mortar store or me taking books to a book festival or whatever) would be small.

Of course, that does mean that I am feeding the behemoth that is Amazon and not supporting local physical bookstores. (Mind you, my local independent bookstore was so vile to me when I asked them if they would stock my books, that I don't actually mind that so much!) My local Waterstones have been helpful - both in helping with launches and with stocking physical copies of my books in the past. They may be less so when the Amazon-printed books say that they're printed by Amazon on the back page. I'll need to see. But again, the level of sales via them will be small and the cost of getting them printed and shipped via IngramSpark may not be worth it.

So, at the moment, Lies That Poison is only available from Amazon, which brings me to another quandary... Kindle Unlimited or not?

It is on Kindle Unlimited (KU) at the moment, so I get paid for the number of pages read when people borrow it. I went for that, because my royalties statements from Joffe Books always indicated that I made more money via KU than sales of physical copies (even in those halcyon 6 months when I actually got decent royalties). But what I need help with is some market research. For those of you with Kindle Unlimited, do you tend to still buy books, or just use the KU feature? If a book wasn't part of KU, would you buy it or would you skip it? (I'm talking about books by authors like me... obviously people may buy books by famous authors if they're not on KU, but that's different, I think).

I'm trying to work out whether to keep the book in KU after its 90 days or not. At the moment, sales and income from KU are similar, with maybe KU having a slight edge. My fear is that if I pulled it from KU, I would miss out, because people would tend to just find another 'free' book instead, rather than buying it. But, I'm a scientist, so I'd quite like to make a decision based on data, not just supposition.

So, my question to you all is: if you see a book (by an unknown author) is not available on KU, and the blurb interested you, would you buy it anyway? Or would you think that there are a gazillion books available via KU and find one of them instead (I do see that there is a filter button on Amazon  to limit searches to include only KU books)?

Thank you in advance! If you could let me know in the comments, that would be brilliant.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The Wrong Kind of Clouds

[a.k.a. The Call...]

I'm in the middle of going back over this book, ready to re-publish it and I'm irritated all over again by the 'copy-editor' that Joffe Books used!

I'm in the process of producing a 'core file' that will be the basis of the paperback version and the e-book version. It's an unformatted copy of the manuscript. The formatting is then added either in Word (for the paperback) or Kindle Create for the e-book version. But in order to have a core text, I've been comparing the 'final' version I sent back to Joffe Books, with the version they sent back for approval after their American 'copy-editor' had looked at it (the '' are because I'm not convinced she had any copy-editing qualifications).

She drove me up the wall then, and the comments she made then and what she did to the ms are driving me up the wall now! For a number of reasons, but primarily:

a) she didn't always use track changes
b) her grasp of vocabulary (and grammar) was limited
c) she introduced a whole load of errors and inconsistencies that my amazing editor (Gillian Holmes) and I had removed/sorted.

Not always tracking changes... really? I mean, that's bad enough, but she made changes that introduced grammatical errors! But, they weren't immediately obvious, because track changes was off (or she'd made the change and accepted it before sending the file back to me). I spotted most of them before Joffe published it, but as I'm going back through the ms now, I realise I didn't spot them all.

Her grasp of vocabulary... I'm not going to bore you with details of the kinds of things she didn't know, but if I wasn't sure of a word, I'd look it up in a dictionary, rather than 'correct' it to another (incorrect!) word. And if I did change something, I'd have track changes on so the other writer could see!

The errors/inconsistencies. Some of these were major. Some of them were trivial but very annoying (like, what happened to ellipses... Joffe style was to have them as: dot-non-breaking space-dot-non-breaking space-dot. No, I don't know why they couldn't just be the ellipses symbol, but, that was their house-style. Anyway, she changed some of the non-breaking spaces to regular spaces, but crucially, not all of them so that a find and replace now wouldn't find them all!).

As it turns out, most of these are not major issues, but only because I have a previous version of the ms - as it was before all these errors and horrors were introduced. If I hadn't got that, I'd be tearing my hair out. Anyway, it shouldn't be long before I have the paperback and e-book versions up on Amazon.

Keep you all posted!

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

NaNoWriMo and Page One

It's almost November and so some people will be attempting the annual NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month, where participants write 50,000 words of a novel, in November.

For those who like (or hate) maths, that's 50K words in 30 days, or 1,667 words per day, every day. If you take one day a week off (5 days off over November) that makes it 2,000 words per day.

Now, I know a lot of people do this and find it useful, and/or an accomplishment. I am not one of them. I'm far too much of a planner to be able to write that much in such a short period of time. And I can tell you for free, that if I did manage to write 50K words in 30 days, they wouldn't be worth reading and I'd spend at least six months editing them into the equivalent of a first draft, so I might as well just spend 3-4 months on a first draft!

For those of you who are thinking of doing the challenge, I wish you all luck and hope that if you write the 50K you're happy, but that if you don't manage to do it, you don't feel bad. Either way, a plan may well help you keep those 50K both flowing and worth keeping, so let me show you a notebook I was given to review, recently. It's the Page One notebook, designed specifically for writers.

So, what's so special about it? Why is it for writers? And how will it help me through NaNoWriMo?

Well, the notebook has 192 pages, split into several sections: characters, plot, setting, scenes, notes, research... and for when the book is finished, a section for tracking submissions. It's actually very well designed. Some of the sections have a little structure to them - the character pages are particularly well thought out, with space to note various details and even include a picture (should you wish).

The other sections are largely free-form - space for notes with less structure, but it will keep all of your notes on one particular area all together. There's also a table of contents at the back so that you can quickly look up where you made the notes on x or y.

Will you write 50,000 words in November, just because you bought the notebook? No, of course not. You actually have to get your ass in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard to do that. But it may well help you write 50,000 words that won't need totally ripping apart and re-writing in December (and beyond).

As you may have guessed, I won't be doing NaNoWriMo (I'm eyebrow deep in editing and other stuff, even if I was otherwise inclined towards doing it), but I will be using the book for planning book 9, even if it takes me considerably longer than 30 days to write 50,000 words.

Anyone doing NaNoWriMo? Let me know how you get on?

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Swings, roundabouts and rollercoasters...

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that I didn't post anything last week. Mum had surgery on the 1st October and it's been a rollercoaster since then, with her recovery being slower than she wants (not difficult as her expectations are utterly unrealistic...). I ended up staying with her for longer than expected when she came out of hospital (with no internet).

That's the rollercoaster... As for the swings and roundabouts... well, my physiotherapist has allowed me to start running again. I went for one run (it was okay... hard work as I've lost a lot of fitness, but I survived). Then I had a long delay before the next run (as I was staying with Mum). And then, the next run was great, but I pulled my hip flexor while I was warming down! The Achilles (original injury) is fine, but now I'm hobbling about with a rubbish hip.

Ah well.

As for The Trilogy... the first book is back with Fiona (my editor) for a final read-through; the second book is due back from her soon for me to work on; I'm currently going through the draft of the third book, typing up the edits I finished back in June, ready to send to Fiona for the start of November for her to look at. October is looking busy, both on the editing front and with family responsibilities.

Onward and upwards!

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Still juggling too many things...

Okay, well, the ebook and the paperback of Lies That Poison are out. Woo hoo! One book out of the five that I was juggling is sorted. Just six months of solid work to go then...

That just leaves me:

  • finishing the editing of book 1 of the trilogy
  • typing up the edits of book 3 of the trilogy ready to send to Fiona (my editor)
  • doing the edits of book 2 of the trilogy as they come back from Fiona
  • getting The Call/The Wrong Kind of Clouds ready to publish
  • doing the edits of book 3 of the trilogy as they come back from Fiona
  • publishing the trilogy!

The current timetable looks like this:

  • End September/start of October - finish the book 1 edits and send back to Fiona for a last look
  • Start of October - go through the first tranche of edits of book 2 that have come back from Fiona and check I know what I'm doing with them
  • Middle-end October - type up the changes to book 3 of the trilogy
  • Beginning of November - send book 3 to Fiona
  • Also the beginning of November - sort of The Call/The Wrong Kind of Clouds and re-publish
  • November to early December - finish the edits of book 2 of the trilogy and send them back to Fiona for a last look
  • December - look at the first lot of book 3 edits back from Fiona
  • January - finish off the edits of book 3 and send them back to Fiona for a last look
  • February - get the trilogy ready to publish
  • March - publish!

So... not much then.

To try and unwind after long days (I seem incapable of actually taking a day off...), I've started knitting. I've done a lot of cross-stitch in the past and found that very relaxing, but the light isn't really good enough in an evening now to do that. I've been taking my mum to a 'Knit and Natter' group for about a year, but for most of that time, I've not known how to knit and did cross-stitch instead! Anyway, in the last couple of months, Mum's taught me how to knit (for the umpteenth time!) and I'm now knitting blanket squares for a blanket for me and hubby. I'm not terribly fast at knitting, so the blanket will probably only be ready for next winter! But, it's (hopefully) stopping me from burning out.