Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Handmade shoes! And a rare day off.

I am approaching 50 and I have almost never had a pair of shoes that fitted me. I'm a UK size 7, due to having pointy toes (seriously, the top of my foot makes a triangle with my big toe as the apex), and my feet are very narrow (and even narrower at the heel).

I have a very clear memory of going shoe-shopping when I was little. I must have been seven, maybe eight. We'd gone to get shoes for the new school year. Mum and Dad had already had years of struggling to find shoes for me and probably dreaded having to go, but I was still excited at the prospect of new shoes. (This excitement has disappeared after decades of seeing lovely shoes in shop windows and them never fitting me).

The shoe-shop had one of those measuring machines where two plates came in from the sides to measure the width of your feet, while a beam of light progressed towards a line of width fittings: A B C D E F G.

The plates touched my feet. The light stopped way short of even reaching A and the shop assistant looked at me and said, "I'm sorry. We have nothing in the shop that will fit you." I was crushed. My sister, with her rectangular feet, hopped up. The light travelled merrily across to G and the shop assistant beamed with relief. "Oh, we have lots that will fit you."

I think any delight with shoe shopping stopped right then. Until last weekend, when I took a rare day off and went to see a wonderful woman called CJ Cobb who makes shoes!

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.