Sunday, 30 April 2017

Really, if you can do it today... (warning - graphic black-eye content)

This week really hasn't gone as planned. Last Saturday I had a great day at the Self-Publishing conference. I had this weekend all planned out too. I have been busy the last few weekends so my hair appointment was already 2 weeks overdue and my roots were definitely in need of attention. My passport ran out a couple of months ago and I kept forgetting to go and get a new photo done. It seemed a good idea to have my hair done this weekend and follow it up with a new passport photo so I can get my new one ordered.

Things were going so well until Wednesday morning, when a trip and a fall changed everything. As I had my handbag in one hand and a cappuccino in the other, I didn't have a free hand to break my fall and my face hit the pavement first. Needless to say, the coffee didn't survive and neither did my nose. Pouring with blood, I wasn't sure how to stand up without getting blood all down me. Several nice Bristolians stopped to help me, and provided me with tissues and wet-wipes, while I tried to staunch the flow of blood, aware that there was swelling above my left eye. I wasn't quite sure what had happened and must have seemed very confused to my helpers. One very decisive helper phoned for an ambulance and I certainly wouldn't have been popular with the traffic that morning, as it was in a major through town route and they blocked the lane for a good 15 minutes.

The hospital checked me out and decided I didn't have concussion but may have a broken nose, so I have a follow up appointment this week just to see if any follow up treatment is required.

So, I had to cancel my hair appointment as I had too many aches and pains to sit through a 2 hour cut & colour and therefore, I am not looking my best.

 I normally look like this:

But I now look like this. Not the best look to have my passport photo done which will be with me for the next 10 years. I really don't think this would be accepted:

After all, just look at the state of those roots!

Should've renewed my passport when it first ran out!

And on top of that, I get a call to confirm a date for my first school visit to talk to a classroom of Year 8's about writing a book - not a good look to put in front of school children but I have until 25th May. Surely, I'll be healed by then. For now I'll be relying in lots of make-up and sunglasses.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dirty Dancing, Top Gun & Ghost & Carrie

Recently, I have found myself wondering where they years have gone. It's not unusual for me to find myself lost in a moment from 30 or 40 years ago, when my whole life was ahead of me and I had no idea where I was going.

I remember a line I heard years ago by a character, I think it was Blanche from Coronation Street. She said something like, I look in the mirror and see my mother looking back at me. Well, I feel I skipped a generation and when I look in the mirror I see my Grandmother looking back at me, only without the grey hair, my hairdresser sees to that. This thought brought a lovely memory of Grandma back to me. She was a small lady, 5 feet at a stretch and we had been out for lunch. After we'd finished eating she took her lipstick from her handbag and re-touched her lippy - no mirror. I was amazed and asked why she didn't use a mirror. 'I'm not tall enough to see my face in most mirrors in places other than home,' she said, 'so I have had to learn to put my lipstick on without using a mirror.' I think she would've been in her 70s, so she'd had plenty of years of practice. These days you go in places and there are mirrors of different heights, hand dryers at different levels and the world seems to have realised that we are not all the same height, but not when my Grandma was around. I remember buying her a compact mirror for her handbag. She loved it, but never used it.

This morning I woke with thoughts in my head of three of my favourite films from years ago and the line...'they don't make them like they used to...'

I have come to the conclusion that my era was the mid-70s to the end of the 80s. The films that stick in my mind and are my go-to films when I can't find anything else to watch, the music I choose to listen to when I have time to relax is all back in that time frame. I was lucky to be around at a time when films were in a new mode. The impact of seeing the effect the last few minutes of 'Carrie' had on an entire audience, seeing 'Jaws' and 'Close Encounters of a Third Kind' for the first time, these are huge plus points in my memories now. I have important friendships that were forged back in the 80's that are still as important to me now as they were then. I was recently asked the question while filling in a reference request for a friend, how long have you known this person and a quick calculation revealed it was over 30 years. Wow! I have one close friendship that has just clocked up 40 years and she is a very useful friend for reminding me of things I have forgotten about over the years, as her memory seems a lot sharper than mine. Either that, or she makes it up and I can't remember enough to say she's wrong.

I remember the run up to the film Ghost being released, I was so desperate to go and see it. I dragged my then husband and a close friend along with me and I think they were expecting a horror movie, not a romance. I totally loved it. Dirty Dancing and Top Gun were also key films for me from those years, going to the cinema held such excitement for me then. Now, I usually wait for the DVD release.

I now get it when my Grandma used to start a sentence with, 'In my day...' and I would roll my eyes as another story of her youth would begin. I wonder what she would make of the world today.

I seem to have begun to realise that what I took for granted 30 years ago was to be the memories I would look back on with fondness, a time when everything was possible and I had forever ahead of me.  

I still have ambitions to achieve, I am not on the scrap heap yet, but I have started to find myself spending more time thinking about those times and wishing I had appreciated them more rather than just taking them for granted.

Oh boy, I think I'm finally growing old.

Ah, Happy Days!

Monday, 24 April 2017

World Book Night Giveaway

Being totally book motivated after the Self-publishing conference in Leicester, I decided to do a random book giveaway at Weston seafront in support of World Book Night. 

World Book Night is aimed at encouraging people to read books they wouldn't normally read or to encourage people who don't normally read to give it a go.

World Book Night is a national celebration of reading and books which takes place on 23 April every year. Books are given out across the UK with a focus on reaching those who don’t regularly read, and are gifted through organisations including prisons, libraries, colleges, hospitals, care homes and homeless shelters, as well as by passionate individuals who give out their own books within their communities.
World Book Night is run by The Reading Agency, a national charity that inspires people to become confident and enthusiastic readers.
So, I signed a few of my books with best wishes for a Happy World Book Night 2017 and set off for the seafront. Before I had left the car-park I saw a mum and 2 boys of the right age walking towards me so I asked if they would like a copy of my book as a World Book Night gift. Mum looked a little taken aback, but after opening the cover and seeing the message I'd written on the inside seemed happy enough and accepted the book and thanked me.

I managed to give a further couple away to people on the promenade and then came across a lovely couple who were sat enjoying a cuppa. They were visiting from Cheltenham, as far as I can remember, and we had a lovely chat. They seemed genuinely interested in my book and happily took a copy. As retired school teachers, they were very knowledgeable about the Great Plague (probably know more than I do despite all my research) and so I am hopeful they enjoy reading it.

On my way back to the car, having given away a couple more, I saw a group of Scout leaders chatting in the car-park. I hesitated before interrupting the group, but decided in for a penny in for a pound, they were definitely the kind of people who could use my book so were perfect for a giveaway. I think my 'elevator pitch' is working well. I can sum up my book in about 20 seconds, and grab someone's interest to the extent they will listen to me some more. Again, I was aware of not keeping them too long, but I think I left them genuinely interested in taking a copy and using/reading it.

I may be a new author but I am determined not to be an unknown author. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

A Day With Like Minded People

Book writing can be a lonely pastime, so any opportunity to mix with like-minded people is worth considering. Several weeks ago I decided to attend the Self-Publisher Conference in Leicester, and today was the day. In the last couple of weeks I have been chatting to some others on Twitter that were attending, and today gave us an opportunity to meet.

The day has been really informative and the hours flew by. It started with a workshop on PR, and it was quite encouraging to see how much of their content I was already doing, but there were a couple of good ideas I hadn't thought about. This was followed by a session on building a market. Marion Molteno had some really useful insight into identifying your target customer and then consider options to access them. It was really useful to split in to smaller groups and work with others to share ideas. 

A bit of networking over lunch and unexpectedly selling a couple of books (still an amazing feeling) I got to the workshop about going in to schools. My initial plan was in the ball park, but Angela Fisher had lots of good ideas on how to plan a visit, and how to continue to build on the relationship with the school. Now, I feel so much more confident about my up coming school visit, even if it still feels a massive challenge.

After the day's conference ended, there was a chance to chat with other delegates about what they had got from the day before setting off for the long drive home. I'm still always happy to catch my first glimpse of Weston as I come over the hill on the M5, and tonight I was just in time to see the sunset.

#selfpubconf definitely a good day for anyone considering going down the self-publishing route. Now, I have a mountain of information to process and put in to action. Tomorrow's going to be a busy day.


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Readers' Favorite

Yes, I know that's not how we spell favourite, but this is from an American based site, so it's ok. 

I thought it was time I took the plunge and had a review carried out by a book review website. I was ready for the worst, but was pleased with the review I received. 


Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers' Favorite
A normal day for Brandy and Brinkley in their garden in Nottinghamshire, England, changes quickly. Brandy and Brinkley, spaniel brothers who live comfortably with Grampy, meet Jed. He installs a new doggy door and gives each dog a new collar. Running through the door, they suddenly are in London, in the middle of the Black Plague in 1665. Soon, the dogs discover they are named King Charles’ Spaniels as they live in his palace. London is a dangerous place to be in this era, with the plague killing thousands of residents, multitudes of frightening rats, ferocious street dogs, and crowded streets. Author Brindy Wilcox describes many harrowing scenes in the children’s book, Through Time to London, as these two loving dogs devise a plan to find their way home to the twenty-first century. Jed appears to the dogs in London too, explaining the magical powers of the doggy door. 

In this children’s book, geared for the older elementary-school student, a great deal of history is imparted within the adventurous story of two adorable spaniels. Their observations and experiences will keep a child engaged in learning about the terrible plagues of the seventeenth century. The skillful writing style of the author has encased real facts in an engaging and educational format. In the fictional work, Through Time to London, author Brindy Wilcox presents tragic events in a format acceptable to children. There is some information that can be difficult to read, such as dead-carts where the newly-deceased are transported from their homes. The book ends with a promise of more adventures with Brandy and Brinkley, time-traveling to another era in history.
And she gave me 4 stars.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Self-publishing Conference - Leicester 22nd April 2017

I have to admit to some excitement at the forth-coming conference. This week I received an email about registration, times etc and this:

In the hospitality area at the venue, there will be a dedicated table for delegates to put information about books they have published, or are currently publishing. For example, you are welcome to bring a copy of the book, or some business cards, Advanced Information sheets, or Press Releases for other delegates to look at.

Yes, yes, yes... I have all those.

Book: check

Business Card: check

Advanced Information Sheet: check

Press release: check

Guess which I'll be taking along with me...


 All of them!

Monday, 3 April 2017

A Boy Made From Blocks - Keith Stuart

Well, I have to say this book was a wonderful read. I don't normally get emotional over a book, but this one definitely had me almost in tears at the end. I say almost because I did manage to control myself, after all I was in a public place enjoying a bit of warm sunshine with my lunchtime sandwiches over looking the docks at Bristol city centre. The emotion conveyed in the writing for this little boy's achievement was wonderful.

It's a fictional story but uses the author's personal knowledge of having a son on the autism spectrum. For anyone who has direct knowledge of the difficulties autism can create in a family, this story will strike a chord so many times. I can so relate to the issues surrounding times when there is too much noise, or where routines are changed and the challenges of getting somewhere on time. 

It brought back memories of a time when we were in Scotland for a family funeral. My younger brother was maybe about 12 at the time, and we were in a holiday flat above a pub. He had been up and down the stairs taking bags and cases in without a problem when the landlady came up and warned us to be aware that the banister that could wobble a bit. That was all it took to stop him going down the stairs. When asked what he wanted to do he would reply that he wanted to go home. We explained that to go home he needed to go down the stairs to the car. He was adamant he would not go down the stairs. This conversation was repeated a number of times. It took about half an hour and a lot of persuasion before we finally convinced him that it was ok. 

This book was such an easy read too, as there was no lecturing, no labouring of a point, just the telling of family relationships put under pressure from normal day to day life. 

I absolutely loved this book. Definitely 10/10 from me.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sometimes, timing is everything

Following an initial enquiry, it is now official - I am going to be doing a school visit to chat with Y8 kids about my book. Yikes! This will be my first school visit and I want to get it right as I hope it will be the first of many.

But, Easter is fast approaching and the school will be closed for 2 weeks holiday, so it now seems sensible to arrange it for after the Easter break. They close on... 

Friday 7th April 

and re-open on ...

Monday 24th April.

And I go to the Self-Publishing Conference in Leicester on Saturday 22nd April and the 3rd workshop I have booked is:
Session 3A. Inspiring in Schools: promoting your children’s book 

Inspiring in schools: promoting your children’s book

Angela Fish (Author)

This seminar focuses on preparation, delivery and follow-up for authors who want to engage with children in schools. It considers the management of expectations and, sometimes, disappointments, together with ways of maximising sales potential. The session also explores how schools can help authors during the writing process itself.

Now that's what I call brilliant timing.

I've just checked the website and all places are now full. I am so looking forward to the day. I hope to learn loads of new stuff as so far, I am self-taught and still managed to get my book out there. 


Saturday, 1 April 2017

A bookshop 10 miles away via Swansea - 170 mile round trip!

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to find a good, independent bookstore to visit, and hopefully become a regular at. I found Books on the Hill in Clevedon, which looked good on the internet and was only 10 miles away. I decided to watch out for any upcoming events and within days they had posted about a book signing to take place today.

Book signings are a good way to get to meet an author and, unless you are queuing round the tables, out of the door and down the high street to meet someone as fabulously famous as Sir Terry Pratchett, as I used to in my younger days when he was just plain Terry, it's a good time to have a chat about books, writing, reading or anything else like how sunny it may be today. Meeting someone with incredible fame normally restricts the chit-chat to 'who would you like it signing for?' with an equally short 'I'm such a huge fan of yours, please put it to...' by which time the person behind you is foot-tapping in the belief you have had more than your 15 seconds of allocated time.

Having entered the 1st April in my diary as my initial visit to Books on the Hill it, of course, didn't stay a clear day.

In a bid to use up the final holiday day before the end of the holiday year I suggested a day out to my partner. A mid-week day idea turned in to a let's make a long weekend of it Friday visit. And so, a little bit of creative thinking and we decided to take a drive to Swansea, a place neither of us has been to before, stay overnight in Porthcawl, another new place to us both and finally drive back via Barry Island (yes, you've guessed it - more newness) in time to meet the author, Joanne Hall, and visit the book store.

And the plan worked so well, (we even had time to sit and enjoy the sun at Barry Island watching the dogs having so much fun on the beach, and remembering the joy of getting two rather soggy & sandy dogs home in the car without ruining the upholstery,) we arrived in Cleveland with time to spare.

And it was an enjoyable half hour chatting with Joanne, who can apparently work on 3 books at the same time, which is 2 more than I can, I am definitely a one at a time writer, chatting with the people in the store and looking around at shelves that did not scream out with celebrity 'written' books, a pet peeve of mine at the moment, but more about that another time.

I happily bought a copy of Spark and Carousel, which she equally happily signed for me. Monday's train journey should see me making my acquaintance with the main characters as they head in to whatever mayhem Joanne has created for them. 

Spark and Carousel

 4.56  ·   Rating Details ·  25 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
Spark is a wanted man. On the run after causing the death of his mentor and wild with untamed magic, he arrives in Cape Carey where his latent talents make him the target of rival gangs. It is there that Carousel, a wire-walker and thief, takes him under her wing to guide him through the intrigues of the criminal underworld. But when Spark's magic cracks the world and releases demons from the hells beneath, two mages of his former order make it their mission to prevent his magic from spiralling out of control. They must find him before he falls into the clutches of those who would exploit his raw talent for their own gain, forcing Spark to confront a power he is not ready to handle. Meanwhile, a wealthy debutante learning magic in secret has her own plans for Spark and Carousel. But the sudden arrival of the mages throws her carefully laid plans into disarray and she unleashes a terrible evil onto the streets of the unsuspecting city—an evil only Spark’s magic can control. Everyone wants a piece of Spark, but all Spark wants is to rid himself of his talents forever. 

What a lovely couple of days to end the week with.