Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Do you need a professional book cover?

Yes. You do.

[Maybe I should leave this as possibly the shortest blog post ever, but that's not stunningly helpful!]

I have a number of writer friends. Some of them are traditionally published, some are indie-published. Even those who are 'doing it all themself' are rarely actually doing that, and rightly so. They've hired editors and cover designers and quite probably a number of other people in the process of getting their book out there. As an indie, you have to shoulder a lot of stuff that traditional publishers do for you, but always get an editor. And unless you're a graphic designer or do book covers for a living, leave it to the professionals!


Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Focus and planning...

Not far off what my planning sessions look like!
Man alive, I have a shed-load of stuff to try and do in the next three months! I think (think) I've drawn up a plan that will let me shift the work without it killing me, but it's really made me consider how I maintain focus when I have a gazillion different things to be thinking about. All too often I feel so overwhelmed that I do nothing, and then feel even more overwhelmed, and annoyed with myself for not getting stuff done.

When I'm writing, although I feel busy, I'm busy on one kind of thing, really - the book. This quarter though, I have a lot of very different things I need to focus on. How do I deal with that?

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Oops... another book is waving at me

Action shot!
Taken on the hills above Ullapool
In the cold. And rain.
I knew it would... I went on holiday! Though, frankly, I need a new book brewing like I need a hole in my head. But, if I had to choose between having no ideas and having too many ideas, I would always choose the latter!

At the moment, the ideas are parked in notebooks. The book that's brewing is a development of the ideas I had a year ago (while sitting on a train, coming back from seeing my good friend Jackie McLean).

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Interview with Sandra Ireland

Sandra Ireland
This week, I am delighted to welcome back to the blog, the amazing Sandra Ireland. I've known Sandra since we were both 'Spotlighters' at Bloody Scotland in 2016 and since then, Sandra has gone from strength to strength. It is no lie to say that I adore her books and can't wait to read her latest, The Unmaking of Ellie Rook.

The Unmaking of Ellie Rook
A single phone call from halfway across the world is all it takes to bring her home . . . ‘Ellie, something bad has happened.’

Desperate to escape her ‘kid from the scrapyard’ reputation, Ellie Rook has forged a new life for herself abroad, but tragedy strikes when her mother, Imelda, falls from a notorious waterfall. Here, according to local legend, the warrior queen Finella jumped to her death after killing a king. In the wake of her mother’s disappearance, Ellie is forced to confront some disturbing truths about the family she left behind and the woman she has become. Can a long-dead queen hold the key to Ellie’s survival? And how far will she go to right a wrong?

The Unmaking of Ellie Rook is your third published novel. How has your writing method changed since the first novel? Do you plan more? Do you plan less? What lessons about writing have you learned over the three books?
I think the learning process only starts when you’re faced with the copy edits! It’s a bit like learning to drive a car, the journey really begins once you’ve passed your test and are ‘let loose’ on the open road. Novel-writing is a bit like that - there’s no substitute for practical experience, and you just have to pick things up as you go along. The process definitely gets easier, mainly because you understand what NOT to do! Planning the chronology beforehand is a must - I was forever getting bogged down in difficulties of timing. Be realistic about how long it will take your character to get somewhere, and make note of the time of day. Don’t have someone arriving at a destination in daylight if they only set off at 8pm! I’ve got a lot better at doing suspense, by withholding information and playing up the reactions and emotions of the characters.

Your characters and settings are always so vividly drawn, that I feel as if I’ve just looked in on their lives, and that they were all going along, minding their own business, long before I peeked in, and will carry on after the book has finished. How do you make it all so real? Do you make a lot of notes on each character or place? Or does it all come naturally (in which case, I may just have to hate you a tiny bit!)?

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Update on trying to reduce my plastic use...

A while ago, I talked about how I was cutting down on plastics where possible and trying to move to plastic-free products. I'm still muddling along, trying to do my best... Today I want to share my successes and fails.

Let's do successes first.

1. Tea
I drink a gazillion cups of tea a year. I don't drink coffee. I use a teapot with a stainless steel inner (London Pottery Teapot) and loose tea. Finding plastic-free decaffeinated loose tea has been an uphill battle that I've not yet won, but I've gone for the least plastic to tea ratio I can in buying a 1 kg pack of Taylors of Harrogate tea. This gets decanted into airtight storage jars and I send the wrapper to be recycled via Walkers crisps (as it's the same construction). Not perfect. In an ideal world, I would be able to buy the tea wrapped in paper, but there's nowhere near here that does that. I buy Tesco's Scottish Blend loose leaf tea and it comes in a cardboard and paper pack - no silver paper/silver plastic bag around the tea. I suspect that there are more teabags available plastic-free than when I started doing this, but I've got used to making my tea like this and the used leaves are thrown on the garden so get incorporated into the soil.

2. Soap
About a year ago, I started to use soaps made by Friendly Soap Ltd. Not only are their soaps amazing, they're also vegan (if that matters to you), not tested on animals, are biodegradable, contain no palm oil... essentially, they tick all the right boxes, and their prices are sensible! I love them for my skin (but you'll see a fail a bit later in the post...)

3. Loo rolls
I'm still buying my loo rolls from Who Gives a Crap - I like the company ethos and the fact that 50% of their profits go to charities involved with clean water and sanitation. I've moved from the recycled paper loo rolls to the bamboo ones - partly because the bamboo is nicer, but also because I read that some recycled paper can get contaminated with plastic if it's not sorted properly and I was concerned that I was flushing microplstics into the water system.

If you'd like to try Who Gives a Crap, you can get £5 off your first order by following this link: https://www.talkable.com/x/seofIR You could get 48 rolls of the bamboo toilet paper for £35 with free delivery using the link. Of course, they also do tissues and kitchen roll and stuff too!

Okay, so what's not worked?

1. Shampoo bar
I desperately wanted this to work, but I don't know if it's the soap, my hair or the water where we live, but it just turns my hair to straw. I used the Friendly Soap bar and I know others have sworn by it and have great responses, but not me. In fairness, I haven't tried any other brands. In the past, I used Lush, but they are so heavily scented and there's something in them that makes my eczema flare up. I'll keep trying, but that was not a success.

2. Grocery Shopping
We've definitely cut back - using our own paper bags and buying loose fruit and veg - but it's absolutely impossible to be completely plastic-free with the shops we have available here. What's worse, is that the plastic used is often non-recyclable too. I'm trying to console myself that at least we're cutting back and also have been putting pressure on the supermarkets to reduce their plastic (emails, customer satisfaction surveys, online protests etc.). But it's still a fail...

What tips do you have to help cut plastic use? I'm desperate to reduce my footprint on the planet!