Twee Tales

I have a new book out.

TWEE TALES  is a collection of 12 published, broadcast and brand new short stories. The cover photograph, a wraparound and one of mine, was taken at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Buy it now, from Lulu, for just £3.39 and get FREE UK shipping by quoting WHOASHIPPINGUK at the checkout before 31 January.

Thank you.

EDIT: Now also available on Kindle – in the UK, Europe and US. (29 Jan)

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Busy week ahead (lists alert)

WARNING: Possibly not for the faint-hearted …

I’ve not been very well again this week, waking up last Friday morning with quite a sore throat that got steadily worse as the week progressed. I think it’s because I came into contact with someone with children – not that children are bad for me or anything, but they are contagious if there’s something going around at school, and as I don’t have contagious children at school to help build my immunity, I catch the first thing that crosses my path.

So it’s been a week of hot, restless nights, late lie-ins, temperatures, feeling sorry for myself. And I’ve not managed all the work I promised myself. Saying that, I have done quite a lot.

  • I’ve been proofing a novel for a new client
  • I’ve been proofing a book for already-boss
  • I’ve written and submitted a reader’s letter
  • I’ve written and submitted a markets article
  • I’ve submitted Night Crawler to a self-publishing competition
  • I carried out an errand of mercy for a musician friend
  • I’ve planned 3 short stories and written the first drafts of 2 of them
  • I’ve uploaded the gig list for February

On top of all of this I was set a challenge by a writing friend to add just one extra thing to my to-do list today. I really didn’t think I’d have time, but as I was stirring this morning, an idea occurred to me, and then another, and then another …

So, this morning I’ve:

  • Printed off 6 short stories that were doing nothing. I’m going to sit and read through them, see if they can be improved, then I’m going to send at least 3 of them out.
  • Printed off a 60-word flash that won a comp yonks ago to see if it can be polished and sent out.
  • Printed off a very old RTE – still in courier font – that I’m going to see if I can polish and send out.
  • Selected 9 published or broadcast short stories and opened an anthology document. I’m going to choose 3 of the unpublished stories to go with it and start thinking Lulu/Kindle with that.

I usually look forward to a nice, relaxing weekend, but I may have to do my supermarket shopping this evening. Then it’s all systems go.

  • Tomorrow afternoon I have a Ramblers meeting in Bolsover.
  • Tomorrow evening I have to deliver a friend’s guitar to him in Doncaster.
  • On Sunday it’s parents’ day, so a run out to Birmingham.
  • On Monday I’m at the dentist. (shudder)
  • On Tuesday I have an appointment in town.
  • On Wednesday I’m due in Leicester for an optician’s appointment.
  • On Thursday … I think I’m just working …
  • On Friday morning I have an appointment in town.
  • On Friday afternoon I have a hair appointment.

Just how am I supposed to get anything done?

Have a great weekend.

Guest: Sarah England

I’m delighted to welcome friend and fellow Seriously Serious Scribe Sarah England to Baggins Bottom as she launches her new novel, EXPECTED, and tells us how she came to write it.

Long before I became a fiction writer I had another life. A life of nursing, pharmaceutical sales and various other pursuits – one of which was, for a brief time, injecting collagen into people’s faces. Ouch!

I also had a failed marriage and a life experience catalogue bursting with traumatic incidents, which were either going to scar me for life and leave me as a bitter and twisted troll living in the roots of a tree or – a fiction writer. I chose the latter.

First I had to learn my craft. Easy, I thought. Anyone can be a writer. Okay – 2 years later I was exposing my first fabulous tome to an agent at a writers’ conference. “Hmm,” said she (talking of trolls, weren’t we?). “This is incredibly boring.”

First lesson – I wasn’t interesting. Yes, I left in tears – of course I did – my ego had just been crushed. But I did finally see that writing wasn’t easy. Actually it was very, very hard – because not only did you have to have a way with words but you also had to have a story to tell, and you had to entertain the reader. I decided to start again – this time with short stories.

A year later and I had a short story published – I grinned all day. I’d done it. And I was hooked – for 5 more years I worked on short stories for magazines and anthologies, with now over 100 published. But – what about my fascinating anecdotes from my other life still waiting to be told? And that’s where EXPECTED came into being.

Looking at the whole picture from the lofty position of middle-age I realised that all my disappointments had come from expecting something else. And most of my tragic mistakes had come from other people expecting me to be someone I wasn’t.

However, along with tragedy, comedy is often juxtaposed and here was that first lesson I had learned – to entertain the reader. I’m an avid reader myself and soon lose interest if the writer is self-absorbed or trying to deceive me. So that’s what I concentrated on – making you, the reader, have a good time. EXPECTED was launched.

So, did the London agents all rush to my aid with publishing contracts? No they did not. I had hand-written letters saying they loved it, that they’d all had a good laugh – but the women’s commercial fiction market was really struggling and so … Well, and so I decided to publish it myself.

EXPECTED is now on Amazon Kindle ebooks – a free Kindle app and just £3.63 to download. You can download sample chapters for free to see if you like my girl, Sam, of course. Will you like her? Will you be entertained? I really hope so.

You can buy Sarah’s ebook here, from Amazon UK, or here, from Amazon US. And you can visit her at Sarah England.

I don’t work weekends …

… and considering I don’t work weekends, I had quite a productive one, work-wise.

True, I did the shopping and the usual household chores, and Saturday night we did all make it to a gig and we had a great time – this particular band never, ever disappoints. So we were all slightly gleeful when their lights failed to come on at the start, but that’s just spiteful …

On Sunday I had a brief lie-in but I’d set myself the task of clearing some long overdue reading. Before I could start that, though, I had to do something with the double gates at the back of my property.

They really haven’t been secured properly, despite my neighbour assuring the builder that he didn’t have to worry as he – the neighbour – would sort it out. Well, he’s made a right abortion of it, so I’ve re-called the builder and I’m going to get it done properly. I can’t afford for those gates to be smashed to bits every time we have a puff of wind.

In the end I propped them open. That seemed to work until the wind dropped much later, when they could be closed again, and builder man will be here tomorrow or Wednesday.

Then I got on with my new weekend chore, reading. As writers we should be reasonably well-read and as I was running out of time in the week …

  • I managed to shift 2 old Writing Magazines, 2 old Writers’ News (I separate them) and 2 old Writers’ Forums;
  • I selected a selection of “personal development” books for the book bag (including one on the window box allotment and an angel diary, both month by month, and various writing books);
  • I got back on track with the current novel I’m reading for pleasure (Northern Lights by Philip Pullman);
  • I scheduled in work for 2 short story competitions, 1 self-publishing competition, 2 short story submissions, and 2 article submissions;
  • and I updated the diary for the next 2 weeks.

For the following week in the diary I left gaps for Pen & Sword work and filled in the writing tasks around those. I’m glad I did that because this morning they sent me an email letting me know there’s another proof-reading job on its way and I was able to add it to the P&S allotted space without shifting anything else along.

I’m doing this and other proof-reading and editing work Monday to Thursday so that Fridays can be spent on admin. But as I also like articles, short stories and fillers/letters to “cool” overnight in between drafts, I needed to slot them in somewhere. So they are the last hour of the day and one hour in the evening.

Not bad for someone who doesn’t work at the weekends, eh?

Also this morning, over breakfast, I cleared another old Writers’ Forum magazine and was so irritated by something they’d put in reply to a reader’s letter that I immediately fired a reader’s letter off of my own. So before I even started work today, I’d submitted a reader’s letter – and via the mobile phone too.

Then I spent some time with Catch the Rainbow before writing this blog and playing a game while I ate. I’m about to do my daily competitions, while I’m at the pc, then I’ll take the dog for his imaginary walk, although I think I just missed a bit of a snow flurry. Boo!

When I get back I’m proof-reading a novel for a client, writing draft 2 of an article, and looking at a potential competition for Night Crawler. If it qualifies – it’s a self-publishing competition – and if it’s not raving expensive, I may enter.

So long as I’m done by 9pm – tea and bath too – I’m happy. I like to relax and wind down for the evening then, either in front of the telly or reading a book.

Right, well … back to it, missus.

Admin day

So, Fridays are the new admin days and, so far, i.e. this week, it seems to have worked.

I’m still very busy with proof-reading, with another book arriving this morning from lovely-already-boss.

I’ve been on the phone to my domestic energy provider. My current contract is up at the end of February so, armed with my latest meter readings, I negotiated a new contract with them. Aside from a small refund, I also get a £4 a month reduction on my monthly direct debit payment. That’s £48 over the year, plus the refund.

I’ve also been on the phone to my mobile phone company. I have the 20-texter for £20 with them (Three) but I also bought a £5 add-on for extra internet use. I needed this at the start of the year when I was out and about and at a day job. But now – and I should have done it sooner, I agree – I don’t use it as I have my own broadband. So that’s cancelled and saves £60 over the year, plus another very small refund.

And I’ve been on the phone to the tax man. It was quite ridiculous because I knew I’d owe them some tax for year 2010/2011, but this would be far outweighed by what they’d owe me for 2011/2012. However, I still had a £423 bill due to pay at the end of January. I called them and they agreed that I’d be due a massive refund on 2011/2012, but also when faced with either paying my mortgage or a tax bill I’d be given back anyway, they agreed to a deferral for 6 months. I’ll still have to pay it, but at least now it can come out of my refund.

As it’s Friday I also had invoices to raise (hurrah!), including an internal one for a letter I had published in that’s life! this week. They made it the star letter, AND they’ve already paid me. How amazing is that?

I’ve ordered a new toner cartridge for the laser printer. I’m going to be using it a lot more and the one I recently put in must have been on the wardrobe for too long as it’s faded on the one side.

Finally, I printed off some new stationery – invoices that don’t have my bank details on them for those that don’t need them.

So, I’m about to take the dog for a trot to the letterbox. While I’m out I’m setting the laptop to do a scan, and I have some cheques to pay into my bank account via the post office.

And then … it’s the weekend. I’m going out tomorrow night.

Have a good one.

Routine

So … we’re on 18 January already and I finally seem to have settled into a routine that works.

I’ve been a tad busy proof-reading a couple of rush-jobs but I delivered the second one of those yesterday and can breathe again. I have another 2 to do, which I’ll start next week, and I have a new client’s novel to proof-read as well, which I start today.

Yesterday I was also shown the editing software I should be able to use from a distance. They’ve been testing it and it seems to be working, so now they have to see if they can make it work externally. When they’ve done that, they’ll give me a link and a password and we’ll see if it works for me. As I’m the only external person using it, I’m the one that gets to test it.

Once everything is up and running I’ll probably start with 2 books per month, the first one should be with me by the end of this week. When they settle they’ll publish at least one historical novel a month but usually two, and they’re all mine.

I asked him for a turnaround and he said “Ooh, some time in August …”. He doesn’t know me very well yet – I need proper deadlines or I’ll literally leave it to 31 August. I can’t help it … So he said 2 – 4 weeks. However, of course I know now that they can really wait until August … I’m going to have to get over that.

So far this month I’ve had 5 non-fiction books come in to proof, 3 of which have been delivered. I may get another before the end of the month, but I don’t think 6 is the norm at all. But, 4 – 6 non-fictions and 1 – 2 fictions are handle-able, and once I get into a routine with that I’ll probably invoice once per month.

I am getting into a routine all around. I’ve decided that Monday – Thursday will mostly be proof-reading or editing, mostly for Pen & Sword, and Fridays (and Saturdays when necessary) will be admin, finances, article-writing and pitching.

Walking the dog after lunch is working too. It gives me a break and some fresh air in the middle of the day and I usually walk him to the letterbox or the post office at the same time.

Yesterday I got the urge to tidy up my “more books” page. Do bob along to have a look – the link’s here. I think the new look is more streamlined, looks quite attractive, and it’s easier to manage because I just add the next book at the top and the rest should just shuffle down. What do you think?

Today then is proof-reading a novel for the new client, updating the gig list, and I have a Ramblers’ meeting tonight. Well, I say “meeting” but we actually have a speaker so the regular meeting will take place next month. Because we have a visitor I’ll go along to show solidarity and make up the numbers.

Calm

With the “day job” pretty much sorted now, on Friday evening once I’d had tea (I treated myself to a Chinese because I hadn’t spent all of the previous week’s “pocket money”, and anyway, I thought I deserved a treat) and walked the dog, a sense of calm came over me. It was a nice feeling and one I’ve not felt for a short while.

Saturday was spent shopping and walking the dog and I decided on a whim, at about 9:15pm, that I was going out. There was a band playing in my closest pub that consists of some of my good FB friends, but I’d not seen this band before. So off I tootled, with a back-up plan in case they were rubbish, but they weren’t, I didn’t need the back-up, and I had a great time.

Sunday was a lazy day, but I did get out to have a coffee with a mate in a local garden centre.

This morning I was emailed the news that a letter I’d written to that’s life! magazine will appear in this week’s issue, no 4, dated 26 January, on sale in the UK this Thursday. It’s likely to be a rant, but it could also be a dream definition request.

Today and for most of this week I’m proof-reading again, and for much of next week too, although I also have 2 appointments in town tomorrow.

I’m full

It really has been a while coming but I think I can almost safely say now that I’m full, thanks.

I’ve been proof-reading a rush-job this week, which I finished at 3am this morning. I was in 2 minds whether to run it into town there and then, but decided to take it in later this morning instead after a sleep. I’m glad I did because it gave me a chance to have a good chat with my already-boss and a brief chat with my soon-to-be-other-boss (who’s actually already-boss’s boss as well …).

It also meant there was less chance of me crashing the car … I was very tired at 3am and my vision had dwindled to pin-points.

The good thing is we’re all on the same wavelength and I must be doing something right.

The better news is that “of the one book we’ll definitely be publishing every month you’ll be getting at least one of them per month to edit …” [beat]

Would you like to read that again? I’ll wait …

Ha ha ha, what he meant was, they’ll be publishing at least one book per month and already it’s mine to edit. When they publish more than one book a month, I’ll be getting that too. In fact, I’m getting all of the fiction, whether I want it or not. And if the fiction editing ever dries up in any one month, I’ve been promised a non-fiction too by my lovely already-boss to replace it.

And the even betterer news is that lovely already-boss is now going to send me as much proof-reading as I can take. He’s also going to try and re-direct some of the non-fiction editing to me anyway.

They asked if that would be enough work to give me a good, steady flow. I said yes, thank you. Very muchly. Ta.

Of course, I mustn’t get lazy, I have to still keep looking out for what other work I can do, as I hate to keep all of my eggs in one basket. But I really think that this is going to be the new day job, and what a day job, eh?

I currently have 3 more books in to proof for already-boss, plus a novel to proof for a new client. If new-client is happy with the work I do on this one, he has another 2 to send me.

So today … I have the next proof-reading job to start for already-boss and I have invoices to raise (hurrah!). I think I may have a bit of a relaxing weekend, though, if you don’t mind.

Have a good one.

Nicely busy

I’m pausing to write this while I take lunch, after which I’ll walk the dog before getting back to things.

This week, and probably the next few weeks, has been proof-reading. I already have 3 books in and another on the way, and this morning I was offered yet another.

Other good news this morning was that the distance editing package they’ve been waiting for should be up and running in the next week or so, and that means my editing work should start to come in towards the end of the month. They’ve also promised a steady flow after then.

All of this is excellent news and means I can probably re-register as self-employed once the money starts to flow in again. It’s still freelance, so it will still be hit and miss. But the editing pays a lot more than the proof-reading and both should keep me busy enough as well as the wolf well and truly from the door. And, of course, it means I won’t be available for a “proper job”.

Sorry it’s short and sweet, and for as long as I’m doing the same job every day I’ll probably shift down to 3 posts per week. I wouldn’t want to bore anyone with the same news day in day out. 🙂

What have you been up to?