A Bed of Brambles teaser…

A Bed of Brambles teaser…

In case I haven’t teased you for long enough, here’s a sneaky extract from the new novel (no spoilers, I promise).

The rural lanes were familiar now, white painted signposts to places she knew, remembered landmarks. They crested the hill, the scenic approach, and their journey took them onto the Cotswolds Romantic Road, the route that didn’t pass the industrial estate or the council houses to the east of the village. Driving it after an absence, Hettie could see what the tourists saw, the contrast of chocolate-box houses and lush, picturesque landscape. She was lucky to call this place home.

Ahead to her right the village still slept in a leafy green hollow of clotted cream cottages and pantile roofs, with punchy chimney pots rising above their ridges. And off to the left, Draymere Estate, its dry-stone wall curving alongside the road, softened by the years and the tall grasses clustered at its base. The Hall wasn’t visible yet, as it would be if they drove on through the village. Alexander swung the car off the road at a break in the wall, the back entrance to the estate.

They passed her old cottage and the stable block. Hettie looked at the clock on the dashboard. It would be another hour before early stables and horses wanting their breakfasts. The thought made her smile, a reminder of snuggling down in her bed in that cottage, with time in hand before she had to get up.

‘What are you thinking?’

‘I’m thinking it’s good to be back.’

You might get another one next week,  but then I’ll be stymied for passages that don’t reveal too much of the plot (or need an adult rating) winking-emoji

I’m faffing with formatting this week…

I’m faffing with formatting this week…

I know I shouldn’t do it, not until the ultimate proofread is in the bag. The reason I know that is because I did the same thing with the last book: Formatted everything neatly, and then did it all again after I’d made changes to the manuscript.

The trouble is, every format (epub, mobi, pdf) has a different trick up its sleeve. And Word is the devil incarnate when it comes to mischief making. My opening lines have popped up in bold, in italics and several font sizes larger than the rest of the text. Blowed if I can work out why. I solved it by deleting the page and adding it back in again. (A new take on turning it off and turning it on again.)

My PDF is immaculate. Immaculate, but reversed.

formatting-brambles

What the hell is that about? Everything in the right place, but on the wrong page. So my extra-wide margins for binding have become extra-wide thumb rests, and the page numbers should be on the outside edge of the page. Back to the drawing board (heavy sigh).

My PC won’t save the downloads, according to my Kindle reader I’ve already got a copy. (‘Search Documents’ doesn’t agree.) And I’ve shot myself in the foot by writing two books with very similar names. After hours of this brain exercise, I’m not even sure I’ve uploaded the manuscripts which tally with their covers. I mean, A Bed of… Barley? Or Brambles? Who’s daft idea was that?

Luckily, it’s only a trial run. I’m honing my skills so that the real thing will be perfect.

But my brain cells are knackered now, so I’m off for a frosty walk and some blue sky thinking.

When you can’t see the wood for the trees

When you can’t see the wood for the trees

I am editing. Argh!

I’m deep in the thicket, with 100k words between me and the timber of my finished novel, and every one of them has to be tested to earn its place in the manuscript.

Do my characters have, well, character? Is the plot believable? Am I consistent with point of view? Have my scenes got structure and motivation. Shit…am I actually writing scenes at all?

If you thought that writing a novel was hard, try a substantive edit. I believe I could knock off 20k words in the time it takes to edit a paragraph (10k of those words will be cut later of course). I’m learning on the job, and I figure I always will be. There may be writers out there who find it a piece of cake (cliché) easy, and wield their cutting pen with stern, orderly (adjective+adverb) precision. Who get that perfect story arc and place their reactions/dilemmas with pin-point (you work it out) accuracy within it.

I’m not one of them (she sobbed, wept, cried, sighed SAID!). This is damn hard work, and right now I really can’t see the wood for the trees (yet another cliché slipped in there).

dialogue tagShow don't tellDogs point of view

But it’s also exciting. I’m writing, I’m learning, and learning is good isn’t it?

I’m off to find the path through this forest now.

A pat on the back for me

A pat on the back for me

I’m patting myself on the back this week, and CreateSpace is my new best friend. When I first first blogged about CreateSpace (Setting my manuscript free) just ten short months ago, visiting their website felt like arriving on an alien planet. The language was new and foreign, the terminology beyond confusing. Mercy, have I learnt a lot since then.  You know how London cabbies get an over-developed hippocampus from learning ‘The Knowledge’, well I think I’m developing one of my own. It might throb and give me a headache when I use it, but the great thing is that even a fusty, middle aged brain can rise to a new problem when you push it. So now I love CreateSpace. We’re communicating, and everyone knows the importance of that. It’s all a lot easier when you’ve learnt the language.

A Bed of Barley Straw, Edition 2 is about to hit the shelves (don’t get that confused with the sequel which won’t be released until early next year) This is an updated version of the original book, with a gorgeous new cover, courtesy of Jane (my other new best friend) at JD Smith Design

Draymere Hall Volume I

Edition two has been reformatted into a slightly smaller book by me, myself and I (hence the perpetually throbbing hippocampus). Published via CreateSpace with their easy to follow (this time around) step-by-step guide to publishing your novel, and their brilliant interior reviewer which shows you what the inside of your book will look like. I have fallen out with Microsoft Word a few times during the process. It’s a devil for deciding it knows better than I do and rearranging the entire manuscript because I added a full stop. But we got there, apart from this…

Screenshot_2015-11-06-20-58-49 (2)

…can you spot the amazing vanishing page number? Try as I might I can’t seem to resolve it (hippocampus pulsing). Next book – Scrivener here I come (when the brain has recovered, I don’t want that hippocampus exploding).

And talking of messy, the sequel – A Bed of Brambles – is still with my editor, and boy has she got her work cut out. I tell a great story, but I’m raw and lack finesse so a bloody good edit is essential. I love my editor, despite and because of her honesty. Her words may smart, but she is the one who will turn my masterpiece into a work of art. Here’s a visual to demonstrate. This is where I work, where my creative juices run free (a chaotic scene which I wouldn’t usually chose to share with you)

DSC_0266

and here’s what I’d like you to see…

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The edited version, you get me?

The devil makes work for idle typists

The devil makes work for idle typists

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but at the same time as I publish my sequel I’ll be re-publishing Barley Straw as a second edition.

There were a couple of things which led me to make that decision. The actual manuscript hasn’t been massively altered, some minor text changes and additional material that I either didn’t have or didn’t think to put in the first time around (author bio, chapter one of the sequel and a plug for the new book). Edition two will get a brand new cover which will sit nicely with the sequel (If you follow me on facebook or twitter you might have already seen my cover for the sequel A Bed of Brambles). The new cover for A Bed of Barley Straw in on my book page here…but it isn’t actually on the book yet and won’t be until I release edition two, so it shouldn’t be there. I was playing on WordPress and suddenly lo – there it was. Tech tinkering is a dangerous pastime for me. I ought to remove that cover (I don’t want to be accused of mis-selling, am I breaking any laws?) but in the meantime I’ve done even more tinkering, to build a book page with both of my books on it (ooh that sounds good) which is currently lounging in cyberspace on WordPress auto-save. I fear if I update anything I may launch the sequel by accident (and you may also notice that the heading on the page now reads my bookswith one poor friendless novel featured below it.)

Doing the second edition is a logistical nightmare. Four manuscripts to format and upload (2 x paperback, 2 x Kindle) along with their respective front matter/back matter and the right covers. I see the potential for cock-ups, and I promise I will embrace that potential. I’m fearful of losing sales and reviews on Barley during the change over, and right now I’ve got no idea when I should take edition one out of publication (I’ll ask my mates at ALLi, they’ll know the answer).

This week I’ve been reading Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard. Great book. Everything you need to know about self-publishing in an entertaining package which flows as sweetly as a novel. My copy is riddled with turned down corners to redirect me to the legion of useful tips (sorry Catherine Ryan Howard, but I was reading it in bed and I’d run out of tissue bookmarks). A lot of delicious lures back into techno-tinkering, don’t read it if you’re fighting a habit. Lord knows what you’ll see on my website next week. You may have noticed that, on Catherine’s advice, my blog has a new, more enticing name – welcome to Rustic Romance. Does it tempt you in?

I won’t tell you how many colour theme changes I’ve made this week. I’ve updated my header image too (my idea, not Catherine’s). Carried away by autumnal romance…pic taken out of the window of the tractor this morning while I was grass cutting (it’s a long climb down for a shorty, that’s my excuse. You can pick the blackberries from the cab too!)

My editor needs to send that manuscript back, and fast, to bury me so deep in edits that I haven’t got time to be led astray with this tinkering lark.

Interior layout – you what?

Interior layout – you what?

When I wrote my first novel I willingly handed over the interior layout of the both the paperback and eBook to CreateSpace. It cost me money of course, but my brain was reaching new-skill overload at the time, and frankly I felt beyond learning anything else.

You think a book is just printed words right? So did I until CreateSpace started asking awkward questions. Trim size and font were just the beginning. There were fleuron (or dividers) to be selected to decorate white space between the scenes. Front matter, back matter, dedications. Page numbers (If you glance at the book nearest to you, you will see that the numbers don’t start on the very first page, but when they do begin, they still start at number 1. An issue I’m currently wrestling with on my Word document.) I’m jumping ahead. I forgot to mention headers and footers (different on odd and even pages). Blank pages falling in the right places, and margins? Don’t get me started. Gutter width for binding (so you don’t bind the beginning of every sentence), weird and accidental formatting in your manuscript which throws the entire layout . Dropped capitals on the first sentence of the chapter, paragraph indents…I could go on.

It was highbrow stuff for a newbie techno-stresser, so I paid CreateSpace and they did a beautiful, stress-free job.

My second manuscript is currently being edited, and I’m thumb twiddling. I want to be getting on with the re-writes and publishing the book. The cover is ready and waiting. I could make a start on book three. Or I could try to save myself a few quid by learning how to format this one for print myself.

First step for me, in all matters self-publishing related, head for the Alliance of Independent Authors to see what advice they’re offering. I threw a question out on the ALLI members’ Facebook forum, to lots of other indie authors who will have faced this decision. Answers ranged from “do it yourself – it’s not rocket science” (gulp) to “I use this company.” There was a mention of HTML, which sent me into a tail-spin, a lot of reassurance that it is a learnable skill, and a fair few £ signs evident when I researched outsourcing (many variables but the lowest quote was £130 and the highest £450). Time to get learning I think.

I armed myself with Jessica Bell’s Self-Publish your Book (A Quick and Easy Step by Step guide) and a couple of free-to-download templates (one which came with the book and one from CreateSpace because they will be my publishing platform), brewed a strong coffee and settled down for a morning of frustration.

But glory be – the book really is quick and easy! So quick and easy that I decided I needed to make it more complicated by adding a few frills of my own. I’m a sucker for punishment, but I’m almost there. CreateSpace have a very useful online ‘interior reviewer’ which allowed me to upload the formatted Word doc and see the result. A few nips and tucks required, but better than I expected. Mysteriously an entire chapter has developed bullet points (I wasn’t aware I had bulleted any part of the document), and I’m still wrestling with those page numbers, headers and footers. But all in all I think I’ve earned a pat on the back, and saved myself a few quid in the process.

Just the formatting of the eBook to learn now. Maybe I’ll leave that for another week.

Improper use of the English language

Improper use of the English language

Too long since my last post here, because my head is firmly wedged into editing which I find can be even more all consuming than the actual writing is. Third pass on the draft manuscript and I may be changing the same words backwards and forwards but I’m also still finding typos. How do they hide so craftily? I changed the font style and size for this read through, and found five obvious errors in the first couple of paragraphs. Incredible given the number of times I have already read it, and scary to think how many more I might (will) be missing.

The error rate decreased as I moved on through the manuscript,  but this could simply be the result of my anticipatory brain adjusting to the new font. Should I change the font every two paragraphs? Phew! I ought to read it on an e-reader next, but I’ve already forgotten the formatting skills which would allow me to covert the Word document. I do remember that it took me a bloody long time to learn those skills the first time around.

Of course I wrote the words, so I know what they’re going to say. And that provides the eye to brain translator with a very efficient ‘ignore and correct’ reflex which is nigh on impossible to override. That’s my psuedo-science excuse anyway. Unfortunately the reflex doesn’t work on the reader who doesn’t know what’s coming next. I know this because as a reader myself typos and errors in other’s books are glaringly obvious (although I don’t scoff at them quite as much now as I once might have done, nervous empathy stops me.)

Note to self; first draft may be a brain dump, but next time at least try to brain dump with grammar.

It will actually be a huge relief to pass the manuscript on the professionals. The editors, beta readers and proofreaders who know what they’re doing. Me, I really just like telling stories. Having said that I know that I will be protective of my work, and overly defensive about any suggested changes. Foolish, because I loved how the editing shaped and sharpened A Bed of Barley Straw, taking my jumbles of impassioned phrases and tightening them up to form a proper (or should that be improper) novel.

I’m really excited about the cover design for the new book, which is looking gorgeous. (Reveal shortly!) Having a cover makes me believe that the book is actually going to happen (in a way that writing 100k words strangely didn’t.)

Oh the vagaries of the human mind. If there are any typos or grammatical errors in this post, kindly forgive them. I am all edited out (and I know that’s not proper use of the English language.)

Crazy September and Blurb Take Two

Crazy September and Blurb Take Two

Harvest is over, the kids are back at school, and the world gets back from their holidays ready to hit autumn with refreshed vim and vigour.

September has been a crazy month for me so far. Ending the year’s farming accounts, FINISHING THE FIRST DRAFT OF MY MANUSCRIPT FOR BOOK TWO, and moving on to the hard miles; edits, rewrites, loose ends. Covers to be designed (two of them because A Bed of Barley Straw is also getting a makeover), ISBNs to be purchased and allocated. Tag lines, blurbs, synopsis (the latter of which I think should have been written before the novel, but hey I’m still a rookie accidental rebel). Formatting, uploads and tracked changes lurk ominously in my future, with the threat of highlighting all the skills I have forgotten since writing book one.

Today I’m working on the blurbs for both of my books, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Do the words catch your interest and draw you in? Do they leave you wanting to know more? Leave a comment or email me – writersamrussell@gmail.com (You can also drop me a line there if you would like to be added to my email list for updates on the release).

Here’s where I’m at…all critiques welcome (steady GG)

A BED OF BARLEY STRAW

You can bury the past, but can you ever forget it? Hettie Redfern has no time for men, other than for the most basic of needs. She has learnt from experience that her career is more rewarding, that horses are more trustworthy and her are dogs easier to love.

 So when Alexander Melton returns to Draymere Hall, where Hettie manages the stables, she quickly works out that despite his drop-dead good looks, his arrogance and manners leave a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to stop Hettie desiring him.

 Proud, judgemental, downright rude at times, Alexander uses women for his own careless pleasure and rarely gives them a second thought. So how has Hettie Redfern got under his skin? A dangerous and idiotic obsession, given her reputation.

A clash of characters, a physical attraction too strong to resist. History unravelling in a perfect storm of frustrated passion.

 

THE SEQUEL

(There is a working title but you’re not getting it yet. I do learn from some of my mistakes)

Hettie and Alexander are back at Draymere Hall, and it was never going to be a conventional love story, no hearts and flowers here.

Proud, passionate, wilful; they are alike in so many ways. That has to be a good thing doesn’t it? Or it could be very bad…they both carry scars, and old wounds have a habit of bringing new pain.

 Their bodies know what they want, and that attraction pulls them together. Hearts and minds can be thorny, less easy to satisfy. One thing is certain, together or apart their lives will move on. Alexander and Hettie’s clashes of passion and spirit will only be part of the story. 

New beginnings which give you the chance to make things right. Or the chance to make the same mistakes all over again.

Thank you for reading.

My rookie efforts at experimental, almost zero budget, Marketing

My rookie efforts at experimental, almost zero budget, Marketing

I have been dabbling in marketing over the last few weeks, without a budget, although I did fork out just shy of thirty quid on Facebook in April. And three pounds 49 pence on postage… Facebook – Page Promotion and Boosted Posts I love that you can target Facebook boosts to a specific audience, and the fact that it only costs you if a person actually connects with your post. FB allows you to set your daily budget and the duration of the boost, so right from the get go you know absolutely what your maximum spend will be. Great user tools, and targeting too, what more could you ask for! Results and connections are charted for you. I saw an increase in page likes and in activity on all the posts I boosted. FB also tells you which of your (un-boosted) posts are amusing people, so you can make informed choices about what to promote. What you cannot do is work out if all this activity translates to actual book sales. I console myself with the belief that any PR carrying the name of my book is valuable, even if it does not directly translate to financial returns! As the author of rural romance, featuring horses and dogs. I targeted my post at women who like books, romance, dogs and horses. Which feels pretty specific. As I have yet to complete my ‘Facebook Ads training’ I could well be missing a trick. Amazon Giveaway Unfortunately only in the USA – a US address is a requirement of entry (Amazon’s idea, not mine) but as America knows little about me yet, I thought this was worth a bash. I offered three free copies of my paperback (you have to have a physical book – or a physical something- to participate in this) and ticked ‘follow me on twitter’ as one of the entry requirements. You decide the ‘lucky number’ who will win a book, e.g. every 30th entrant or every 1000th. I over-estimated the potential number of entrants and set my number too high. Consequently I only gave away one book in the end. Amazon despatches the book themselves and charges you the retail cost plus postage, so prize giving is delightfully easy (I had to pay £10 to despatch a book to the USA after my Goodreads Giveaway). You can promote the giveaway on twitter with the #AmazonGiveaway tag. Result – an increase in twitter followers, potentially people who actually read books, although probably those that just enjoy giveaways! Cheap Handouts for my upcoming signing An easy one this, I ordered 100 free business cards from Vistaprint, replacing the business name with the name of my book, and adding my tag line where the legend should have been. I’m quite pleased with the result (see below) and I have something to give to those attending my book signing. Total spend £3.49 (on postage) and I now carry a few in my handbag to distribute to anyone who shows a glimmer of interest. P.S. I got a voucher from Visa Print this morning, offering £10 off my next order, which I am about to use to create a poster for the book signing. I think I’m in profit.

Vistaprint card

Pinterest Having become absorbed by Pinterest when creating mood boards for my novel (otherwise known as procrastinating), I finally made the boards public. I find images a great way to stimulate writing, and as many of my readers have said that they would like to “step into the world of Draymere”, I decided it was time to share.

Bibury-Village bobs overlay

The cover image on my mood board “A Bed of Barley Straw – Draymere” offers a link to my book on Amazon. I have absolutely no idea if this will engage potential readers or not but I’m enjoying myself! It also spurred me on to create the mood board for the sequel (not public yet) which had the effect of breaking my writers block and delivered me back to the typewriter. Now that, I call a success.

Woah! What a week.

Woah! What a week.

An interesting week in my self-publishing journey. Much to excite. I am still writing my book talk for next month’s ‘book chat/signing/author interview’ (I must come up with a snappier name before we announce the event). The speech isn’t getting longer, but much like my manuscript it is undergoing a million edits.

A certain very good friend has agreed to read some passages from the book out loud. She reads beautifully and I fear I may squeak on the day (It is not meant to be a comedy act). Being the character that she is, when I told her that I would email the relevant passages, typed out and edited for profanities, she suggested she carry a little bell and ‘ding out’ the swear words. Comedy Store, here we come. I vetoed the idea on the grounds of nervous hysteria looming.

The first passage for reading was easy to select. Near the beginning of the story, so no spoilers here. Not involving too many characters to confuse those who have not read the book. No sex! I replaced the edgy swearing with milder words, but then another friend who is coming to support told me she would be bringing her grand-daughter along (3 years old). We may be re-visiting that bell.

The format of the event is broadly as follows:

  • Gin and tonic (that’s just for me, the rest get tea or coffee)
  • Hello (mustn’t forget that)
  • Speak about my journey to self-publishing
  • Reading (and bell-ringing?) by very good friend
  • Speak about the book
  • Second reading*
  • Host (and hopefully audience) Q&A session
  • Book signing and goodbye
  • Probably more gin.

*You will note that the second reading has an asterisk in place, because I am really struggling to find a second passage that meets the criteria of “no spoilers, no blue bits, not too many characters.” This book is fast, in more ways than one (and yes, that is a plug).

I put a post on Facebook asking readers for their favourite passages.  Great response, but few that met the rules. My friend wants to read a steamy scene but personally I think she is becoming obsessed with that bell. Replace “second reading” with “musical interlude”.

Other exciting events this week – I GOT THE BOOK ACCEPTED IN A LOCAL BOOKSTORE! I couldn’t be more thrilled, although I did have to beg and turn up the charm simultaneously. Not an easy thing to achieve. Two copies, but it’s a start. I am hoping that if I get the publicity for the book chat right, those two books will launch themselves off the shelves.

Wonderful ED, my home grown PR, is writing a local press release and the MAGAZINE IS OUT! Weirdly this has happened 6 days ahead of the date I am allowed to shout about it. I’m tempted to break rank here, but I am so humbly grateful for the great publicity I will rein myself in and abide by the rules. Besides, they were really nice people and a promise is a promise. Once again news of my ‘launch’ has reached me via social medial. Must be subscribers only, because I can’t find a copy anywhere (trust me, I have looked). A photograph of the article (depicting a very well turned out woman who resembles me a little) arrived via Facebook.

The final starburst to award this week, goes to the news that I have SOLD A BOOK IN AMERICA! My first transatlantic sale. In fact, I sold three. On the same day. Go figure. I have no idea why the US of A suddenly glimpsed across me. Or three of them did. The mysterious workings of the World Wide Wonderful web. I can’t figure it out, but I’m happy in my ignorance. Much as the tracking of this blog bemuses and fascinates me. Occasional readers from 18 Nations. A special “Hello!” to the Netherlands, Canada, Poland, and all of you World Wonderful readers. It’s great to be in touch.

PS America, check out #AmazonGiveaway  “A Bed of Barley Straw” for the chance to win a copy of my book.

So yes, an interesting week.