Posted in Health, life

Happy New Year! 2019!

Best wishes to all for the new year, I hope it started well and the resolutions haven’t been scrapped already!

I had such plans for starting 2019, being super organised, eating well, sleeping well, and getting a ton of work completed early. But I got ill on Boxing Day… and I’ve been out of it since then.

It began with a sore throat I assumed was related to the bottle of prosecco on Christmas day, but I’d ate loads of dinner so I shouldn’t have felt badly. Then I became worse as the time went on, achy, headaches, fever, shivers, and the dreaded sinus attack. I’ve also spent the last six days not being able to smell or taste anything, which makes eating chore-like and definitely not fun. I even resorted to eating Jalapeños out of the jar, but unable to smell nor taste them.

I seem to finally be a bit better today insofar as I can sort of taste again, but my energy levels have plummeted, I tried to organise some books and paperwork, then had to lie down for a half an hour feeling woozy.

I don’t do ill well. If something afflicts me from the neck down, I’m okay because I can still use my head and get on with other work or study; but getting a cold or a sinus infection ruins everything… All I’ve been able to do is read and nap a lot.

Just wanted to check in with you all, I hope everyone else is staying healthy, we’ve got some year ahead of us!

e x

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Posted in life, Outings, wine, work

My 30th Birthday

It’s never a birthday around here without a dose of drama chucked into the mix.

Normally, I never really plan anything for my birthday other than going out for dinner, but this year, since it was a special level-up, I wanted to do something FUN – so I made my parents go bowling with me.

Step back, rewind. 

A few weeks before my birthday, I’d been getting terrible pain in my right shoulder. It was getting worse as the days wore on, not helped by how physically intensive my job was. The pain was running across my neck and down into my fingers which were going numb and aching… a trip to the doctor afforded me with a ton of Ibuprofen and Co-codamol and a sick-line. First time for everything, I guess. 

Time off helped greatly, a weight lifted from my shoulders (huh!) and it quickly dawned on me that things needed to change. Walking 3-miles home in the dark after 11pm at night stopped being fun after the first few goes. Taxis are too expensive and too hard to come by during the festive season and my soul was in pain.

I start my new job this weekend, had my induction last week, and it’ll keep me going for the next few months while I make some serious decisions. Although, given today’s Brexit revelations we might all be dead in a few months anyway.

Back to the birthday, we had the first celebration and bowling the day before my birthday and it was great! Even though I was desperately sleep deprived and my right shoulder still aching, my left worked enough to allow me to win both games – mum even came second, beating dad!

I had a quick nap before getting up to get ready for the evening meal with the fam and my old roommate. Finally I had someone to share a bottle of prosecco with! I received a ton of lovely, thoughtful (and useful) gifts to motivate me in my new chapter.

Martini Espresso to end the night

It was a great birthday overall and I’m quite happy  that I’m now ‘in my thirties’ even though I still have no idea what I’m doing… and that I had to stay up until 4am the morning after my birthday finishing my Master’s assignment!

e x

P.S. that’s my cake in the Featured Image… Gluten, Wheat, and Dairy free cake (the donuts were from Gregg’s ^_^

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

Posted in Fitness, Food, Japanese, Late Nights, Outings

Fun day off

Woke up early yesterday thanks to all the drilling works right outside my window from 9am!

I arrived at the gym for about 12pm and got stuck in right away, I did 31 minutes on the rowing machine which I haven’t done for a few years; walked for 20 minutes on the treadmill and did loads of Lat Pull Downs and variations. After that I went to Caffe Nero and got my favourite Soya steamer with Cinnamon syrup, a perfect winter drink and a bit protein hit. Yum.

Later I met Padre in town and I was craving sushi so we went to Ichiban, of course! Followed that by an impromptu trip to Tim Hortons for timbits (see above) and a cappuccino in Waterstones while staring at all the books I want.

Naturally we meandered back up town and ended up in Molly Malone’s – seriously go, the food is great and cheap and the atmosphere is so chill. I debated what to drink but chose the small bottle of Prosecco, it was only £4.99 and I got about three small flutes out of it! Bazinga!

It was a great day/night out just to hang without rushing around or stressing about work. Now I’ve just had a Timbits breakfast and a big coffee (see below)

coffeeandtimbits

I’m staying inside today because the rain is bucketing down and my muscles are aching. Ended up doing nearly 12k steps last night and had some chippy chips as a reward.

I’ve been watching Suits this afternoon. Tis awesome.

Off to have a Slim Fast and get some writing done!

e x