Monday 30 January 2012

The challenge sign-up is here!

It's time to sign up to this amazing blogging challenge. Can you write a post for every letter of the alphabet? Do you want to try? If so, click on the logo and do it - go on, you know you want to!

I've done it. It's my first time, so I'm not quite sure how I'll manage -  seeing as though, less than 2 years into my blog, I don't have a schedule for posting and tend to just do a random splurge of thoughts whenever I want. I'm really looking forward to it, and to discovering lots of new blogs and bloggers!

In other news: I survived January! It helped that I was able to distract myself by planning a birthday meal for my mum, which we all enjoyed last night, even though the table was booked absurdly early because it was a school night, and we were the only people in quite a large pub. We were having so much fun, we didn't even notice that until we left!

I'm awaiting the final edits for Cat and the Dreamer, and seeing the cover for the first time. I've pretty much finished a trilogy of novellas, which I'm hoping will be ready for submission in a couple of weeks - it only really needs a last read-through for those silly mistakes that always creep in. I'm still hoping I can make one of the stories longer as it's come in at under 10,000 words.

And, finally, I've retrieved the folder with my novel inside from the bottom of a pile to the top of it, in the hope that I'll feel inspired to read it soon - and therefore be inspired to have a good redraft with my trusty red pen.

Happy February!

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Liebster Award

The lovely ladies at Thinking Through Our Fingers have awarded me with the Liebster Award! Thank you so much. This is actually the third time I've had this award, but I've made lots of new bloggy friends, so I'm going to pass on the award to five people that I haven't awarded in the past. The people I nominate need to have less than 200 followers.

Rek at A Chronicle of Dreams who pops around with great advice, and has the most beautiful blog.

Rachel at Writing on the Wall who has four children and a day job AND still finds time to write and blog.

Marta Szemik's Blog who seems to know just what to say!

Erm... I think most of the other bloggers I'd nominate have either got more than 200 followers, or I've given them an award in the past. So, because I've got myself all confused going backwards and forwards through their blogs and my posts - and because my hand is starting to seize up after some heavy duty indoor rowing earlier - I'm going to stop at three. Enjoy!

Saturday 21 January 2012

In need of some inspiration

Recently I've been having a bit of a block with writing anything new. I've even stopped reading my novel, which two months ago I was aching to get back from my readers. What's going on? January, that's what!

I hoped it wouldn't happen to me this year. But even with the weather being not entirely horrible, and even with the sun shining and feeling half-way warm on my skin (admittedly while wearing a thick winter jacket, gloves and a scarf) I'm still feeling uninspired and overly-tired. Even my gym workouts aren't having the same effect. All because its January.

So, here are some pictures from the end of my road to get that January feeling out of my system!

Monday 16 January 2012

3001 and a few other things

I've just had my 3001st page view! Thank you to everyone who follows me, or who has stopped by occasionally through the Insecure Writers Support Group. It's been fun meeting you all, and your advice and support have been invaluable.

If you're one of those observant types, you might have noticed a new page at the top of this blog. My novella has its own page. It doesn't say much at the moment, but... well, I was bored, and I realised I'd superstitiously not mentioned its name. So now I have: it's called 'Cat and the Dreamer'. I hope the title stays - especially now I've announced it - because I really like it.

I'd like to drawn your attention to a blog challenge for April. The Blogging from A-Z April Challenge does exactly what it says on the tin. You post each day, inspired by the letters of the alphabet. Even though the challenge doesn't start for a few months, the blog is buzzing with lots of hints and tips for taking part, and also some pre-challenges which unfortunately I'll be too busy to take part in. You can sign up from the end of January, and the organisers are trying to exceed the 1300 blogger count of last year.

I'm already coming up with themes and ideas!

And I've just signed up to this blogfest, I'll Tumble 4 Ya! where you have to confess/celebrate your 80s crush. If you're too young, think of people who are still around today - an example given is Jon Bon Jovi (ooh yeah!)

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Marketing yourself

There's a self-publisher living close to me. I know this, because yesterday I came home to find a bookmark-sized card on my doormat announcing his new novel. I thought this was a pretty nifty piece of advertising, because it made me check out the web site as soon as I was online.

However, I think in this case, the author is missing a trick. The web site is a single page on the printer's site. And it's pretty basic. It gives the briefest of blurbs and ways to buy. It does link to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Again, unfortunately, another trick missed. The Twitter account is the printer's account, not the author's; and the same with LinkedIn. The Facebook account is the author's private account, so there's no information unless you befriend him. If you list Facebook, then you should at least make it public, or set up a completely new page for your novel.

I was particularly interested in this because soon I'm going to have to think of my own marketing ploys, and I realised how easy it is to not go the full hog. It sounds easy, I suppose, when you're thinking about all the things you could do, but actually getting around to doing them takes time. It's also easy to fall into the trap of thinking your work will speak for itself which hopefully for this author it will - but before that, readers have to know that this work is out there. The bookmark drop was good for my area, but how far out did he go?

I'm lucky that I have this blog, with a good selection of followers. I'm thinking about the design of a dedicated page here, and also a new page on Facebook. I'm not on Twitter, and I think signing up just to say 'buy my book' wouldn't go down well, so I'm probably not going to follow that route. After that, though, I'm stumped. What else can I do?

Like I said, the bookmark drop is a fantastic idea, but sadly someone beat me to it.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Nudging Fate

I believe in Fate. Totally and absolutely. I've always known I was going to be a writer, for example. If I hadn't had that certain knowledge, I think I'd probably have given up by now and be spending far more time down the gym and in the pub. But knowing it would happen has kept me writing.

Sometimes, however, Fate needs a bit of a nudge. I have to get really depressed about not having a short story published for a year, before I get an email saying I'm being published. The very morning I mentioned to Hubby that money was tight over January, he got a phone call for a block of work.

And, after I splurged my insecurity about not hearing from my publisher last Wednesday, today I received the first edits!

So, thanks to everyone who commented and gave such wonderful advice - you were absolutely right!

It was a strange feeling looking at my story with all these marks that I hadn't made. With the stories I've had published, they've been printed as is - I've had totally control and totally responsibility.

I had a quick read-through this morning, before getting down to actually working on it later today, and it took me half an hour! And that's only for 83 pages. I can't even begin to work out how you'd edit and proof a novel-length piece of work.

I've realised that I over-use commas - they've been deleted all over the place - and my maths is bad. In one scene, there's a difficult sum. And, even after using a fractions calculator twice, I got the answer wrong. How embarrassing!

So wish me luck! I'm diving in...

Thursday 5 January 2012

A Kindle request

I've just downloaded the Kindle app onto my laptop. I know, I know... it's taken a long time, but I've finally joined the 21st century.

Now, whenever I've read blogs mentioning Kindle releases, I've nodded politely and offered congratulations, but I've not been that interested because I've known I wouldn't be able to access them. Well, now I can...

What I'd really love is for you to tempt me to buy your book. I obviously can't promise to buy everything - however much I'd love to - because it's January and my wallet is suffering from Christmas lethargy.

Over to you...

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Waiting... waiting... waiting...

The same subject that had me so secure last month, is the one making me insecure this month.

Yes, I signed a contract to have my novella published. Yes, I emailed it off. Yes, Thanksgiving and Christmas have got in the way, and yes I understand that to publish an ebook takes a lot less time and effort.

But, I have heard nothing from the publisher, at all! 

I've been writing and submitting work for a very long time. Although I've had limited success, I pride myself on being professional. I know that I shouldn't send off manuscripts accompanied by my kids crayon drawings as a suggested book cover. I know I shouldn't include an A4 page of quotes from friends and family saying how much they loved my story. And  I know that I shouldn't send hourly emails to check the contract arrived (I didn't - I sent one after a couple of weeks and got a reply).

But now what?

Should I send another email asking when I should expect the first proofs? Should I wait a little bit longer because, after all, Thanksgiving and Christmas are big holidays close together in the US? Should I wail and eat lots of chocolate, convinced that I've made a fool of myself by telling everyone I was going to be published when I'm not, not ever, not ever ever?

What would you do?

Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop members

Monday 2 January 2012

And now for something COMPLETELY different

I was lurking around Facebook a couple of days ago, and one of the fitness magazines I'm friends with mentioned that today is National Diet Day. So, in true writerly style, I googled it... and found no mention whatsoever. Alas, my (very latent) non-fiction writing brain had already kicked in and thought of a good post. So, whether it is or isn't a national day to start your diet, here's what I'd write about it....

As some of you may be aware, I'm a fitness instructor in real life. (In fact, as I mentioned it in my last post, I'll be a bit upset if you don't - lol!) As such, whenever I read, hear, see things about diets, I cringe. I HATE that word, indeed the whole concept of dieting so much!

The basic idea of going on a diet means that you'll be restricting your calories, probably to an extent that it will be unsustainable and you'll feel like you've failed and feel bad about yourself. And when you decide to come off the diet, you'll eat the way you ate before. Now, forgive me for being blunt, but the way you ate before is the reason you went on a diet in the first place.

The physiology of our wonderful bodies goes back to cavemen times, when food was abundant for months and then scarce for long periods.

Lots of food = lots of eating = lots of podgy cavemen!

Winter = no food = starvation mode = bodies restrict how many calories they need by slowing their metabolic rate and reducing the amount of muscle they hold (using the muscle as a dense energy source) = cavemen living until the next crop of food, albeit a bit skinnier now.

Finally, because their metabolic rate had slowed during the lean times (meaning they didn't need so many calories per day to exist) when they ate properly once more, they put the weight back on because they were now technically over-eating, plus a bit more for good measure in case the next famine was longer. For our cavemen ancestors, this saved their lives.

These days, we don't have this feast/famine cycle, but we mimic it by going on drastic diets.

So, I have some top tips:

1) Although you need to be aware of the calories you're eating, counting every single one smacks of being on a diet, and I don't want you to think you are. Instead, start by making simple changes. If you always have three pieces of toast and jam for breakfast, have two. Maybe consider swapping the jam for a 100% fruit spread (sharper taste, possibly acquired). If you eat cereal, consider weighing out the size portion suggested on the box for a couple of days (people always over-estimate a cereal portion!) Try to do this with every meal. And add vegetables to everything. Try for 5 portions of veg a day and 2 portions of fruit.

2) There's nothing evil about snacking. But if you snack on Snickers and cake, the calories mount up. Good snacks, for both morning and afternoon, could be yoghurt, fruit, a couple of spoons of cottage cheese, nuts.

3) On the subject of nuts, they are not a bad food. Although they are high in fat, the fat is the good monosaturated sort. They are also high in protein. Between the fat and the protein, nuts will keep you full-up for longer.

4) And on the subject of protein filling you up, try to have some at every meal: yoghurt, cottage cheese, meat, fish, nuts and seeds, pulses (tinned are easy to use, but try to avoid ones packed in salted water).

5) Fat is not the enemy: sugar is. Fat fills you up: sugar makes you crave more. Avoid low fat food. (My particular bug-bear is low fat yoghurt. Youghurt is not a high fat food, but they still make a low fat version, and to maintain the taste and bulk of the original, they fill it with sugar! No, this is very wrong!) Some of the Weight Watchers cakes are up to 50% sugar!

5) Enjoy your food. More than that, really, really ENJOY your food. Focus on every mouthful, eat slowly, consider the taste, the feel, the smell. And listen to your body when it tells you it's full.

6) Increase your activity levels. (This is where I'm going to repeat all the advice you instinctively know.) Walk to the local shops (carrying the bags home sort of counts as weight-training... ish), take a brisk walk at lunch time, use the stairs, dance around the kitchen while waiting for the kettle to boil (oh... just me?), take the kids to the park and join in - swing, slide, playing frisbee and football, have a race on the balance beams.

7) To increase fitness rather than just increase calorie expenditure, you need to raise your heart-rate, you need to get warm and sweaty, and not be able to hold a full conversation - cycling, jogging, brisk walking up steep hills, workout videos or classes, joining a gym. But that's a whole other topic!

So that's my very brief and not-at-all comprehensive way to make small changes that will hopefully help to break the dieting habit. I don't suppose I've written anything that's not available (and better articulated) elsewhere, but it's my first try at non-fiction writing, so if I try it again I'll have something to improve on.

Thanks for reading. Comments appreciated on both the style and the content. Advice available if I've struck a chord!