Posted in Goals, Musings, Writing

Summer Blues

This is the first year in a long time that I’ve started the summer without much of a change in routine – because I’m no longer in full-time education. At school and uni there is the stress of the impending exams and the hibernation period building up to it, but studying part-time and working part-time means submitting the final assessment and back to work. Perhaps it feels anti-climactic because I wasn’t under so much stress that I didn’t get the wave of relief when it was lifted.

Regardless, with me being me, I’d already set up a plan of Summer Study in order to catch up/get ahead of the second year of work after they released the assessment requirements for next year. It’s what I do, and it’s exciting that I am able to plan ahead and buy myself more time to work on the assignments, but I had to admit that I was burnt out. In academia, it’s too easy to keep pushing through tiredness, bad-moods, and pain, and often we commend ourselves for the all-nighters and the lack of decent meals in place of study snacks – but it’s neither healthy or sustainable! So we need to have a break. For me, that happily meant taking on extra shifts at work and throwing myself into my new responsibilities in my role – admitting and being aware that I am capable of doing the job, and wouldn’t have been given the chance if I hadn’t had the potential to do well.

I’ve been tired, but a good tired. An earned tiredness. To fall into a dreamless sleep and get up the next morning to do it all over again – and it’s this practice that builds experience. Thanks to that, and living at home, I’ve been eating less but better food – actual meals – and being on my feet and often walking home from work means that I’ve been losing weight and building muscle. I may not have time to always go to the gym, but even when I had all the time in the world I often didn’t have the motivation to go – now it’s part of what I do.

In my downtime the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to finish Assassin’s Creed Origins. I got it upon its release last October as an early birthday present, but then fell away from it for a few months as I juggled working and studying. However, at E3 it was announced that the next AC game would be released this October (AC Odyssey) and set in Ancient Greece, as a chance to see the era from the Greek point-of-view to contrast Origins Egyptian POV. Well what can I say? It’s pulling all my nerdy interests together in one package, my inner classics and archaeology nerds are glomping my video gaming nerd in thanks as I hover over the pre-order button on PSN! I’m excited, in case you can’t tell. Plus, finally you are able to play as a female assassin from start to finish without affecting the gameplay. I’ve loved all the characters since the beginning of the franchise but I’m glad they’ve finally given up on the ‘female characters are too difficult to render’ thing.

I usually get a bit blue around the holidays, probably had too much chill time and I’m in desperate need of structure and projects! Speaking of which, I’ve been blocking and plotting out a revamp of an old book I started when I was 15. It’s YA, topical, set in Glasgow but set in a high school which I haven’t attended for 12 years and most of my original draft featured things about livejournal, msn messenger, and people buying CDs from shops.

I’m late to the Camp Nano game this month but I’m hoping to draft some of the first book for this new series over July but I’ll probably need to update my high school knowledge, anyone willing to help me with this? (Must have attended high school within the last 3 years).

This should be fun.

e x

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Posted in University, work, Writing

Tumbleweed

I know things have been quite here for a few weeks, but everything all hit at once; the final assessment for uni, getting ill, birthdays, and working.

Everything has been going well though, I spent little pockets of free time in May to work on my assessment so I didn’t have to rush much at the last minute ( just the commentary, which is horrendous) and I managed to get some last minute feedback on my chapters which was stellar and just a few typos. I’m feeling good about it! Just have to wait until the 17th of July to get my overall results for this first year, so I’m waiting until then to apply for second year. Also still waiting on SAAS because this year they decided to confuse themselves and not properly read my application before halting it… and an eleven minute conversation (six minutes on hold) only got me as far as sending a query to SAAS which they promised to get back to me about within 28 days -_-

I caught another stomach bug (4th in a year!) and was laid up for a few days while still trying to pull off mum’s birthday – I managed it and I’ve survived but honestly the whole weekend is something of a blur. But mum loved all the presents I gave her and how I decorated the living room with balloons and banners and made such a fuss over her. Great treat for a 60th… even if no one else believes her age!

In other news, now that uni has finished until October I’m using the summer to catch up for second year. We’ve been given the reading list that will be used so I have time to work my way through it (some books I’ve already read) and the tutor also gave us an assessment break-down for the year. There will be six assessments and the End of Module assessment of 15,000 words. I used and developed a novel throughout this year which will be book 1 of my novel series. However, as I jumped around a lot with chapters and sections for the assessments, my plan is to use the summer to finish book 1 and to start book 2 for my assessments for year 2. PLAN! So far, I’ve not had a lot of time to work on book 1 so my collated word count at the moment is just shy of 10k words, need to times that by 8 to get my expected word count. Then, I’ll be self-publishing though KDP and onward and upward!

Better get back to writing now, tight schedule!

e x

Posted in Goals, Writing

15 Minute Everything!

I’ve had this one in my drafts for about a month. Mostly because I started it then lost momentum – but it works!

Trying to get myself back into it again, as I seriously got so much different work done. I lasted about a week and a bit… just breaking everything I needed to/wanted to do into 15 minute blocks. I had my list of important things and after I’d done a 15 minute block, I’d colour in the box. Yes I included nap time…

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I also used the Forest app to time myself, plus upon completing 15 minutes without looking at my phone, I grew a wee tree!

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It is a great method, like many available (the pomodoro method is 25 minutes) it’s really about finding out what works best for yourself. I sometimes found 25 minutes to be too much and the 15 minutes was often plenty, but I’ll probably go back to experimenting, maybe do 20 minute sessions instead.

The point is to make you more productive. Regardless of the set time, it gives you the chance to do all the things we convince ourselves we don’t have time for… even 15 minutes a day at something can bring vast changes. That’s why sites like duolingo and memrise are so popular, a ten minute session everyday can help increase your vocabulary or knowledge of a language quicker than dusting off the grammar books once a week. (I’m not hating on grammar books, I promise!)

My challenge was inspired in part by Forest, mentioned above, the vast number of interests I have (without the time to dedicate to them) and this book:

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She has effectively lifted the bullshit layer off what we all believe writing to be about: hours of slaving over a computer/notepad; isolating oneself from the world; doing absolutely nothing else in life but struggling over the next chapter/line/paragraph. None of this works in today’s world. We don’t have time to forgo work just to keep writing, or give up social time or family time to write – it’s better to find a quick bubble of time and write SOMETHING done, because something is better than nothing.

It’s exactly what I’m doing right now, I have a little time before I need to go out and I checked my list of blogs to do and decided to crack on with this one!

The more time spent talking about doing something, the less time you are actually doing it. In the last couple of days alone, I have managed to fit in a couple of workouts (at home), schedule several blog posts ahead, start my assessment/revision of my novel, and set up my author account on KDP! I may not have been tracking it or growing trees each time, but it all counts so long as I just keep swimming!

e x

 

Posted in Books, Outings, Writing

Amazon Academy KDP Year 2

As I announced a few weeks ago, Amazon Academy was returning to Scotland for a second year, and bringing the Author Academy along again!

March 17th was a perfect day for the event (not least because I was on a holiday from work, but I’d submitted my third assessment a few days prior), the sun was scorching from first thing in the morning – and it was dry! Well, ish.

The event was held at the SECC out by Finneston in Glasgow, so while it wasn’t quite the schlep to Edinburgh like last year, it still takes me about an hour on the bus to get out to that end of town, plus there’s a bit of an underestimated walk through the tunnel to the conference centre.

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The SECC and the Armadillo

I got there in plenty of time, and was quickly regretting the bundle of coats, though it was raining a little just as I exited the tunnel and had to charge into the main building. There was a little time of waiting around, unlike in Edinburgh where we were welcomed early with seats, this was standing around the main foyer. It didn’t matter too much, soon they let us in, and the event staff were far more vigilant about arrivals this year – each person’s name had to be checked off on a phone/tablet list of guests.

Somewhat akin to last year, I was misdirected. I don’t know if there is something magical that happens when I speak and no one hears what I’ve actually said, or simply if the workers themselves forgot that the Author Academy was an equal yet separate event. So there was a snafu with checking off my name, involving me clarifying to a second person that it was the Author Academy I’d signed up for. I got checked off, but still wasn’t given a name tag, and the first person instructed me to go right into the main hall. Hmm.

Arrived in the main hall area where they were serving coffee and FRUIT?! I’m sorry, as healthy as they were trying to make us, can you imagine how awkward it would be networking and meeting new people while trying to peel a tangerine or talk with a banana in your mouth? Alas, I asked in this room for my name tag and lo and behold, there wasn’t one. A girl with horrendously high-heels shuffled to the far end of the tables to get me a blank one and I was faced with a handwritten name tag for the second year. I asked someone else where the Author event was taking place and it was way back through the main entrance and around… blah blah blah.

I was about to go hunting when a nice lady came up to me to chat; M, she’d heard me talking about the KDP and we quickly struck up a convo about writing, travelling, and writing about travelling (she’s a travel writer and photographer) and before I knew it, the coffee break was over and it was time to head to our conference room.

Can you guess what happened? As we were being herded along another corridor, I was called out by security for not having a GREEN badge on (I knew it was wrong!) but he insisted that I go get the right badge before he’d let me through. Argh! Thus it involved more frantic displays of power from the event staff as I found my right badge with my name and they are yelling at me that I need to be checked in (“I’m ALREADY CHECKED IN!!”) And whoosh! Back through the right door. M and I sat against the back wall of the room as it was fairly stuffy and we didn’t want to be sardine squish in the centre seats. I sighed. Already exhausted and very uncomfortable, plus all the drama meant I hadn’t gotten any coffee at all… Le sigh.

Beyond that, the talks were good, much the same as last year but with a few updates: paperback printing has done fairly well (not a lot of money in it for the writers, but some customers prefer to have the option) and proof and author copies are now available to purchase at cost price.

There were a few familiar faces from last year, Steven A. McKay and Linda Gillard who were joined this year by L.J. Ross and Barry Hutchison all introduced by Darren Hardy, the head of KDP. The whole panel were wonderful and gave plenty of great advice for getting started (Just write!) and while discussing the merits to publishing with Kindle Direct Publishing, they were very sincere that it’s so easy and with 70% royalties you’d be mad to even attempt traditional publishing. Barry gave a great example of this, he thought he’d hit the motherload when Asda wanted to bulk purchase his books to go into their stores, 10,000 copies no less – until six months later when he received the royalty cheque for a measly £200 (£0.02 a copy)!

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The Panellists: Linda Gillard, Barry Hutchison, Steven McKay, L.J. Ross and Darren Hardy

Linda spoke again about how she started as a traditionally published author yet after a couple of books the publisher complained that her work was mixing and crossing genres and could not possibly be sold – yet has become a bestseller on Kindle. Thankfully with Kindle as you are marketing your own work, there is less pressure to write to a specific singular genre. Additionally that was another thing Barry touched on, he had published a children’s book which coincidentally came out at the same time as a David Walliams book and the publisher put all their effort into promoting the latter’s book rather than Barry’s! Might as well DIY it all!

L.J. Ross was the one who surprised me the most, having only published her first book in January 2015 she is about to now publish her 8th book and has sold over 475,000 copies of her books via KDP! Her books are crime fiction set around her hometown area of Northumberland and have proved vastly popular, scaling the best seller lists in their genre and many features within mainstream newspapers. Plus she writes a new book in around 4 months… boy do I feel lazy.

There was a mid-morning coffee break which allowed for some more chat and mingling, then an hour for lunch served in the main hall. I had forgotten to message the venue before hand and was a bit concerned that there might not be anything for me to eat. At last year’s event I hadn’t known there would be lunch but the two options were salmon (which I like, but I can’t eat hot fish) and a pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese. I ate with trepidation last year, but since I’ve been completely dairy free for nearly a year now, I knew better than to attempt anything with dairy. Alas, my fears were unfounded as the caterers had provided a wide variety (about 5 different options) of food. They were served in tiny bowls, like ramekins, but I was just so thrilled at there being a vegan option, Spinach and Chickpea curry with rice (I’ve been hunting down the recipe to make this myself and I forgot to take a picture!). It was a mild, creamy curry sauce but with the right consistency I could tell it was definitely vegan, much like my vegan cheese sauce I make at home. As we had entered the hall, M noticed how many name tags still lay uncollected on the tables. I guess that is the problem with free events that people sign up and may not bother to turn up, missing out on all the free stuff allocated to them. Because there were so many no-shows, the catering staff had a ton of uneaten food still to punt, so were wandering around with trays asking if we wanted extras! I did, despite worrying about being polite in company, I couldn’t pretend that one tiny bowl had filled me… so a second was needed. (To be fair, I could have eaten ten!) The vegan desert option was fruit salad, of which I’m not always keen on the weirder fruits but I ate it anyway, still had room to fill.

We got chatting to another lady, much to my surprise I discovered she lives just down the road from me! Lunch flew by so quickly and it was time to go back for the last panel of the day. This was very much a recap of last year as well, dealing with the business side of things, creating a blog, running a newsletter and facebook group, getting the word out about your writing. The most important point made, however, was just to keep writing. Don’t get so bogged down in the business or promotion side of things that you have only one book to talk about – get more books written so ultimately the more you can earn and sell.

A great piece of advice was from L.J. Ross, who said that if you are writing a series, make sure that you have most of the second book done before putting the first book on sale, as fans will be chomping-at-the-bit to read more. It does make sense, including why so many readers are more invested in Kindle series, not having to wait two years on the publisher to hand out the sequel, instead getting it in a few months almost as soon as the author is finished polishing.

After the last panel, we were treated to another networking time, with complementary prosecco and Birra Morretti (vegan). I grabbed a glass of fizz and talked with a few girls I’d met earlier, passed out some business cards and looked at the selection of promo material on the tables.

Now I must point out, I was zonked even though it was barely even 3 in the afternoon, I’d been up since half-five and spent the whole day surrounded by huge crowds of people (far out of my comfort zone). I think the Prosecco hit me a little fast, I could feel my cheeks burning already… but then I noticed someone lying a few books on one of the tables and decided to do my nosy.

Someone swiped one copy right away and I felt bad pawing the only remaining copy, it was Wolf’s Head by one of the panellists, Steven, the first book in his Forest Lord series featuring Robin Hood!

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While I was deliberating to take the book or not, a lady sidled up to me and asked if I wanted it signed, I froze, then she told me, “I’m his mother!” That warranted a laugh, I can totally see my mum doing that in the future.

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So I got the chance to meet Steven, he signed my copy, I managed to speak in English the whole time (had been singing Italian songs on the bus on the way there), mentioned seeing him last year, thanked him for his time and discovered that he also did Creative Writing at the OU (small world, a sign perhaps?). Then the Prosecco and sleep deprivation had hit me too hard and it was time to call it a day on the event.

It was a scorching day when I left, too hot too quickly though, and I melted further on my way back up the tunnel to the bus stop.

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Pure Scorching!
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The Hydro

But you know what?

It was all totally worth it! Great fun, met knew people, didn’t spend a penny the whole day, and I left feeling bouncy and inspired. I have a plan!

Roll on Year 3!

e x