Thursday, 23 March 2017

The day after...

Yesterday, there was a terrorist incident in London. It resulted in loss of life, severe injuries, much distress and enormous disruption.

As news reports came in, I was struck particularly by the image of paramedics working just as hard to save the life of the man who'd caused the incident as those attempting to save the life of the policeman fatally injured by the same man.

And that is what is sticking with me this morning.

It would have been easy to say the attacker didn't deserve the help, to leave him while others were prioritised for treatment. But that didn't happen.

And THAT is what makes me think that there are glimmers of hope in the darkness.

Because there ARE people who ignore the hate and violence and still do their best for their fellow men. There ARE people who will run towards the danger instead of away. There ARE those who will not jump on the labelling bandwagon and tar groups of people with the same brush because of the actions of an individual. And there ARE people showing love and compassion and living their lives as normally as possible in London today, to show unity and strength against those who would have us living in fearful, disrupted societies both here and abroad.

My prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives - yes, even the attacker. They are with the emergency services who lost a colleague and did all they could to administer aid in, and control, the situation they were faced with. And they are with the ordinary folk of London who have to go to work as normal this morning.


Image obtained via http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-39364096

Monday, 13 March 2017

Put your best foot forward...

I've an excuse for being a bit quiet on the blog recently - the next round of edits arrived for Kingstone, so I've been working through them to make sure Bink have the completed and polished version in plenty of time for publication in June.

I've still been scribbling, though: I've entered a couple of competitions with some flash and a couple of short stories I've written for other things (I don't usually go for comps as they can be very expensive, but these are local and somewhat cheaper than usual) and I've been scribbling with NIBS.

Last month's theme for NIBS was feet.

We kicked off with a description of a walk, and there were plenty to go on... A favourite walk on the parade at Wells-next-to-Sea; a walk in shared silence with a family member; favourite moments from walks with the dog; a walk to school, and a list of sayings which involve walking - like 'a walk in the park', 'walk this way', Ministry of Silly Walks' and so on.

Then we had some story openers, choosing one from the following:
One more step...
Her feet were killing her...
There was something on her shoe...
The floorboards creaked under her feet...
The bloody footprints led to the basement door...

I chose 'one more step' and wrote a rather fractured piece about a rogue muck raker robot that had its 'head' knocked off by a farmer... I know. Bananas!

And then we turned to pictures for our final task. You know the saying, 'If you want to understand a man, you have to walk a mile in his shoes'? I thought it'd be a good idea to find some photos of different shoes and we could write about either the people who they belonged to, or the shoes themselves.

However, in my quest for something a bit different to farmer's boots or slippers or stilettos, I typed in 'Ridiculous shoes'.

Oh. Boy.

I found centaur feet shoes. Rattlesnake cowboy boots. Winged biker boots. And then I found a pair of crocodile shoes. So here's my short story for you to enjoy...


Crocodile Shoes.

The advert seemed innocent enough.

One pair crocodile shoes. Worn once. Size 7. £15. Collection only.

Crocodile costs. You've seen those designer bags...hundreds of pounds, if not thousands. And here's a pair of shoes going for less than twenty quid? Fashionistas like me know a bargain when they see it. I whipped the card off the noticeboard and rang the number as soon as I got home.

"Yes, we've still got them. Cash only. Bartock's Shoes. Midden Way. Behind the Post Office, you can't miss us."

The windows were streaked with grime and plastered inside with brown paper and flattened out shoe box lids. I pushed the door open and walked in.

"I've come to collect the crocodile shoes."

"Oh yes. Money?"

I counted out three plastic fivers.

A wooden shoe box - wooden? - was thrust into my hands, and I was outside and on the pavement before I could say "thank you", propelled by hands that felt even keener than my own.

"But - " I turned back.

The open sign flicked to closed.

I trudged home in the rain, clutching my bargain to my chest, resisting the urge to peek. The wait would only increase the pleasure...

Inside at last, I prised the lid loose, shut my eyes and held my breath as I slipped my hand inside.

Snap!

I screamed and snatched my hand back, staring in disbelief at three fingers and two bloody stumps.

Crocodile shoes. They weren't kidding, were they?

Saturday, 4 March 2017

ARCs and POD

One of the disadvantages, I think, of being published using POD - Print on Demand - for physical copies is that it is very difficult to get ARCs - Advance Reader Copies - to the reader before publication for early reviews. (POD is also a beetle when it comes to planning a launch party, especially when you can't guarantee when the copies will arrive...but that might be the subject of another blog! There are advantages to POD of course - for example you don't have to stockpile large amounts of books in your spare room...)

As any author will tell you, it's reviews and recommendation that seem to help most in terms of creating interest in a particular title, and once you get so many reviews on something like Amazon, the book can gain a momentum it would not otherwise have had.

To try to get a few reviews in the past, I've offered giveaways on Goodreads. However, out of the seven copies of three books I've sent out on giveaways, only ONE recipient has ever bothered to post a review in return. (I only ever did the giveaways because I understood that if you were lucky enough to 'win' a copy, it was sent on the understanding that it was in exchange for an honest review. Not in my experience, unfortunately. Maybe I need to include a note in the next lot to remind the reader?)

On Amazon, the majority of reviews I've received for StarMark were only placed after I'd plucked up enough courage to ask the person who contacted me to say how much they enjoyed the book, to post one - but always stressing that if they didn't want to, that was fine! (Have to add that some of the reviews have been left by people I don't know, so they aren't all 'friend' reviews...)

With Kingstone coming out this summer, I've been thinking of how I can improve things. (Yes, I will probably do a giveaway on Goodreads - but that can only be done once I've got the physical copies to give! ie, after publication.)



I did have one idea. Remember my visit to Stamford High School last month? Where I met the Book Club? We talked about Kingstone as part of the Q&A session, and the girls sounded very keen to read the book and asked if they could get hold of it early. I said I would see what I could do.

Because of the limitations placed by POD, I plumped for sending them a pdf copy of the first-edit version of the book. I checked it with Bink first of course, to make sure I wasn't doing anything uncontractual. And the pdf was sent out on the understanding that it wasn't the final version (there are still some tweaks to be made) and with a request not to let anyone else outside of Book Club read it (don't want to affect potential sales!). In exchange, I asked for their reviews and thoughts on the story.
The first review is already in from speedy-reader Hazel, who apparently read Kingstone in one sitting. In her words:

"It's so gripping, I couldn't put it down!" 

"Hooray!" says Squidge.

So it seems like this might be a good way of getting ARCs to readers, whilst relying on POD for printed copies. But doing this has left me with more questions than answers. Like;

Will any serious book reviewers or bloggers take a pdf version rather than a kosher paperback?

Will Amazon allow advance reviews to be posted before publication? (I don't think they do, to prevent...what was the expression? Puppeteering or something like that? Where the author and their mates post only good stuff to big up a book?)

Can you post an ARC review on Goodreads before publication?

Is there anyone reading this blog who is a book blogger or reviewer or librarian and would give an honest review in exchange for an ARC copy of Kingstone?

I think there's a bit more research to do to answer all of these, but in the meantime I know I have one happy reader, at least.

(Seriously - if you are reading this and you are a book blogger or reviewer or librarian with a fondness for children's books, message me! And if you're not one of those but fancy getting your hands on Kingstone as soon as it's published, advance orders are being taken on Amazon right now...)

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A bit of knitting...

If you're a regular reader of the Scribbles, you'll know I like to knit. Indeed, I have even used my prolific sock knitting as an analogy for writing, which you can read here.

I've recently gone off socks...not because I have so many (which I do; they are SO toasty, I wear almost exclusively hand knitted socks now) but because a new wool shop has opened in town.

Knotty Knits and Kreative Krafts is a lovely shop just outside of the town centre which not only has a huge range of lovely wool, they also offer gifts and crafting courses. I've been all enthused again for knitting bigger projects, although I have to be careful that knitting doesn't take over too much from the writing...

In recent weeks, I've knitted myself a sequinned shrug and almost finished a rainbow gilet. I say almost finished, because the rainbow wool I used has proven so popular, the supplier is struggling to keep up with demand...

Anyway, saw a pattern for a poncho and some beautiful self-striping wool so I've rather naughtily started a new project before finishing the old one. (That used to be how my mum got us to finish a project in the past; we could buy some of the wool for what we wanted to knit next, but we weren't allowed to start it until we'd finished the one we were working on. Certainly used to get my needles clicking even faster...)


Can't wait to get going on this...and to see what it's like to wear a poncho!

The weird thing is that this new shop brings back so many memories of The Wool Shop and Boons, the places I bought my wool from in my early years of knitting. 

Mrs Matthews ran The Wool Shop with her sister. It was a tiny place, probably only about 8' square, with a counter running round two sides of the room and a window that let hardly any light in because like every other wall, it was full of cubbyholes stuffed with wool. The counter was a glass one, with drawers, so you could see everything in them. There was a massive stack of pattern books, too, which we'd spend ages leafing through. The best moment was when you'd finally decided what you wanted and she would have to open one of the new big bags of wool to take out the however many balls of 25g you needed and wrote your name on the turned-round label to save the lot until you'd got further into your pattern. Hours, I spent in that shop, choosing the wools and patterns. I was devastated when it closed.

Boons, on the other hand, was a long, thin shop at the other end of town, with the longest counter I've ever seen. Downstairs was ladies tights and extendable bra straps and buttons and threads and stuff like that, but upstairs...wool. And knitted examples of jumpers and cardies stapled to the wall as you went up the stairs. They had a sort of landing area at the top of the stairs where all the pattern books were, and a couple of chairs so you could take your time. I didn't go there often, out of loyalty to Mrs Matthews...but I do remember going there for mohair wool for my rainbow jumper. I needed nine different colours, and it was a bit hit and miss trying to work out quantities because I was adapting a pattern that only needed a single colour...

Squidgeling J, dressed up for an 80's
themed day in said jumper! 

But even Boons shut, eventually.

I could still buy wool, of course. There are a couple of stalls on our market that sell a limited range, and one shop - although they tend to be known more for their wonderful fabrics than wool. But nowhere in the years since has ever really caught that 'wool shop' feel until now. I am so tempted every time I go into Knotty Knits, I am going to have to get a bigger wardrobe to store all my new jumpers, especially as on my visit today, I was shown a few of the summer patterns that are coming in, and the cottons that they can be knitted in... I really hope Knotty Knits are here to stay.

My fingers are itching. I'm off to knit a few rows!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Exclamationmarkitis

One hundred and eighty two.

That's how many exclamation marks I had written into a 51K novel. I know; I counted every single one.

Kingstone has been...well, not completely cured, but it certainly looks a lot healthier, thanks to Casey's brilliant editing at Bedazzled Ink. When I mailed her and said I seemed to be suffering from exclamationmarkitis, she said;

Many years ago when I worked for another publisher, the very first book I received to look at had already gone through editing and was in typeset. It was a little book and had hundreds of exclamation points. Nearly every spoken sentence ended in an exclamation point. The author was trying to emphasize bright and breezy dialogue between people on vacation... It read like everyone was constantly shouting at each other. Needless-to-say, it had to be completely re-edited.

It's tricky using exclamation points for anything other than actual shouting because once you start using it for emphasis, it's hard to keep it under control and the exclamation point loses its impact.

Believe me, after going through the edit and having to click the mouse five or six times for every exclamation mark I agreed to taking out (I did ask to leave a couple in), I think I was cured.

I also seem to have a secondary infection: semicolonitis. And a minor case of hyphenated no-ones.

Which only goes to show that an editor is worth their weight in gold for the polish they can bring to your manuscript...

But one hundred and eighty two. Sheesh.



Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Kingstone edits have arrived!

Delighted to say I'm working on the edits of Kingstone, which popped into my inbox this morning...

Even more delighted to say that, after getting about a third of the way through, there aren't humungous changes to be made - unlike with StarMark. Probably because StarMark had been written and revamped so many times over the years, it needed a thorough going over to bring the whole text together. Kingstone, on the other hand, feels like the text is all together from the off.

As the Bink team noted in their cover email - it's mainly nitpicking to sort out

Oh - and exclamationitis. Or maybe exclamationmarkitis. I seem to have peppered the text with an awful lot of them, and they've now been rooted out. A few essential ones have been left in, of course...



Don't forget that Kingstone is available to pre-order on Amazon, due for publication around July.

Friday, 17 February 2017

When your characters talk back

This morning, I had to get up early; the cat has taken to either scratching at or pushing things off of my bedside chest of drawers in an attempt to get his breakfast served if I'm not awake and his tummy's rumbling.

It was 7am, so not too bad. Although it IS half term and I'd have preferred a bit more of a lie-in, if I'm honest...

Anyway, cat fed, cup of tea made, couldn't go back to sleep, so I left Mr Squidge snoring, went downstairs and picked up the WIP.

I'd reached a bit of a sticky point a couple of days previously; resorted to post-it notes (other brands of sticky notes ARE available!) to try to map out the sequence of some key scenes. I thought this morning, as the house was quiet and there was no one else wanting the laptop, I'd try and write the next scene in the sequence.

Two new characters appeared to do what Zanni needed them to do, which was fine. However, one of them - Tia - said something and - POW!

LIGHTBULB MOMENT! 



This minor character, in one sentence, gave me a) the reason why none of the townspeople go into the crystal forest if they can avoid it and b) why my protagonist, Anton (and his dad) hate my main character, Zanni, so much. It's going to racket up the tension no end!

The downside is that there is now a lot of rewriting to do within the 17K words I've produced so far to make what Tia's revealed feel natural and real within what I've already written, but I will tackle that at a later date. For the moment, I just need to work this new information into the story from this point onwards and see how it shapes up...