Monday, 31 October 2016

Big Family Solidarity

Over the course of my book-publishing jolly, I’ve come across various crowd-funding campaigns by authors, hoping to finance their work with the help of the general public.  I’ve kept my own costs reasonably low, so it’s not been something I’ve felt the need to embark on personally.   (Sadly this means there’ll be no hardbacks available from me.  Soz.)

But from the opposing side of the creative cause, I do like being given the chance to throw my loose change into someone’s project/life work, now and then.  Aside from supporting actual charity, it’s as good a place for my spare cash to go.  Definitely better than Candy Crush lives, anyway.

This week I got a mysterious package though the post.  It contained a t-shirt, a tea towel, a DVD and a badge - clearly the perks from donating to a Kick Starter campaign.  The trouble was, this was for a comedian I only know via Twitter (I’ve literally no idea what the catchphrase on the T shirt is referring to) and was pledged whilst I was drunk.  A while back, I woke up to an email thanking me for my generous donation of the previous night.   Ouch.

As we speak, however, I am soberly watching another Kick Starter clock up the dough - Caitlin and Caroline Moran’s sitcom, Raised By Wolves.   It is slowly racking up, with another 20 days to make their target, and I really hope they do. There are many reasons to love this, but for me it is the realistic depiction of a large family that makes me laugh loudest.

I don’t know if it is the ease of over-sharing with the period talk, the crowded bunk beds that house more bodies than they were designed for, or the constant lack of space and privacy that make me feel the most nostalgic.   But it is spot on, and a rare example of my being able to relate to a TV family.   As well as that, there are the excellently drawn characters, a LOL-fest of a script, and the exceptional Rebekah Staton as matriarch, Della.

So as the next three weeks pass by, I shall keep the faith that this particular family is kept alive by the kindness of strangers.  Because otherwise it’s down to The Cosby Show to represent, and we just can’t go there anymore.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Lull of Kintyre? (Struggling for puns tbh)

Morning Campers, (*amend time of day as applicable*).

As I type, I have the slightest smidge of a hangover.   I am not, however, seeking pity or sympathy.  I love a good all-day headache when it means I've had an excellent previous evening of fun.  I shall stay pyjama-ed up and filled with tea 'til sundown, and tomorrow I'll be perky and shiny once more.

But mid-week, beer-soaked evenings are rare these days.  This one came about because my old college mate suggested it and yet in terms of timing, it was perfect.  I am currently experiencing a brief lull in the book-creating process so can have the odd late night and fuzzy head with no worries.

The good news is, this lull is not because of a lack of creative juices or an 'I can't do it, it's too hard' lull.  I have had ALL of those lulls in the past and I know it isn't that.  Instead, I am in the happy position of having to wait for some people to get back to me about things they are doing.  I LOVE this.  For the past few years I've typed away at my desk with no one else being involved.   Now, people are involved.  Actual people.  Somehow it legitimises everything.  Hurrah.

The other exciting thing that has happened since my last update is that I now own ten ISBN numbers.  I OWN NUMBERS.  GET ME.  A giddy gasp of excitement escaped my lips when I got the email.  Another legitimising and pleasing moment.  

For the rest of the week, I have little jobs to fill my lull.  I need a blurb for the outside back cover, an author biography for the inside back cover, and a photo.  A photo of me.  I have taken and deleted approximately 1039557395 already, and not seen one that makes me look three stone thinner.  I shall keep fighting the good fight.

In other news, and as a parting gift to you all, here is what I had for tea a few nights ago. It was lovely.  As you were.

Friday, 14 October 2016

My version of fluffy kittens...

Hey you,

In the midst of my online headaches last week, I clean forgot to include any hyperlinks or pictures to jazz up the proceedings.  I can only apologise.

So this week, for your reading pleasure I am bombarding you with all manner of multi-media excitements to enrich your day.  They are mainly pointless, in no particular order, and possibly quite annoying.  You’re welcome.

1.  My Writers' and Artists' Yearbook stash
Occupational hazard, but excellent for any flower pressers out there.

2.  Exciting link #1

I start the day with a cup of tea and the Guardian crossword.  Definitely not the cryptic one, though.  My brain doesn’t seem to be wired for such things.  

3.  Current notebook on the go
I have several thousand notebooks (ish) but this one is full of publishing information.

4.  Exciting link #2
Let me introduce you to Sporcle - the best brain break there is.  I can nail all the countries of the world in about eleven minutes.  I am an excellent procrastinator.

5.  A present from last Christmas 
Personalised pencil case, natch.

6.  Exciting link #3

This is the only cake you'll ever need.  I don’t even eat cake, but I know that this is true.

7.  Shakespeare insult magnets
It's important to keep yourself grounded.  

8.  Exciting link #4

Breaking news, but this was last night's tea.  I missed out all the ingredients apart from gnocchi, mozzarella, passata and spinach.  It worked.

9.  Never Forget
I will mourn the death of Borders forever.  RIP,  GBNF, YOLO.

10.  Exciting link #5

And finally to Hygge - my favourite non-directly-translatable word, of all the non-directly-translatable words.  I find it is more than possible to spend large parts of the day saving pictures of cosy Danish winter scenes onto a Pinterest board. I’m sure this is what our Grandparents fought for. 

Happy a great day, folks.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

3-2-1- HEADACHE.

Until recently I had a lovely user-friendly Word document of a manuscript.  It was just over 81,000 words long, and 311 pages.   That’s the extent of the technical aspects I knew - word count and pages.   I could also tell you the character number if I had wanted to.  An in-depth knowledge, or so I thought.

A few weeks into the self-publishing ride, and I have to know so much more than this.  The Bond learning curve has risen sharply - no longer a curve, but more the trajectory of a space mission in the aftermath of 3, 2, 1, BLAST OFF.

My recent Google searches include…

  •     Why does Amazon want my tax ID?
  •       Why is the last line centred on my book template?
  •       Do eBooks needs ISBN numbers?
  •       What goes in the place of publisher?
  •       How can I see page breaks in word?
  •       Why isn’t series 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix yet?

Clearly, all pressing queries.
I don’t think I have ever Googled so much for information.  I have also found out, via reading up on copyright law, that Google aren’t best pleased when they are used as a verb, rather than a company name.  So my previous sentence should read ‘I don’t think I have ever searched so much for information, using the popular search engine, Google.’  It’s all a bit of a minefield.

What is marvellous, however, is how much information there is online to help.  Obviously some queries are easy to answer because the answer is simple if you know it.  The Internet told me to click the pilcrow button at the top of my Word Doc, and all non-printing characters are now visible.  This is important so I can spot wasted gaps, empty pages and whether I have inserted a page break that leads to an odd or even page.  (Important for the final layout of the book). 

Other queries are harder to sort, and take me to page after page of conflicting advice.  I find myself reading pages of writer’s forums, where lively conversations from two years ago give me the gist of an answer, before I click on something more up to date that discredits it all.  And don’t get me started on how much information I have digested regarding tax law, before realising I am on a US website and it means diddly squat here.

In spite of all this however, things are moving along.  I have moved on from my Word Doc, and have a definite layout that is compatible with the printer and eBook distributer I have chosen.   I have a lovely font, cool chapter headings, and it all looks so much more real now.  I have also started chatting to a designer for the cover.  All in all, things are rocking and rolling.  I just wish Netflix would get a move on with Drag Race now. 


Monday, 3 October 2016

For the Win...

On Twitter the other day, I did something that I usually try and avoid.

You know when you’re scrolling down your timeline, and something amusing or clever jumps out, and before you know it you’ve retweeted it?  It’s actually a quote or a headline from a much longer article but you haven’t read the whole thing, just retweeted it to the world without checking that the rest of the content is something you’d want to share?  We’ve all been there.  Haven’t we?  Ah, maybe just me then.

I am usually much better at policing my Twitter output.  I tend to share things that make me think, make me laugh or articulate a view of my own in a far more eloquent way than I can manage.   But I always read the whole article and I mostly check out who I’m retweeting too.  Yet in this case, I forgot.

It was because the 140 characters posted with this particular link, hit home immediately.  It didn’t matter what the rest said, because it had me at it’s equivalent of hello.  So enough build up, here is what I read that grabbed me…

“Writing a book is like telling a joke and having to wait two years to find out if it is funny.”

I mean, come on.  As soon as I read it, I thought,  ‘Yep, that is EXACTLY how it is.’  Hence my immediate retweet, and then my less immediate reading of the entire piece.  That sentence is in fact the opening line to an article by Hazel Gaynor entitled The Invisible Days.  In it, she explains how much of writing is done below the surface, invisibly.  Squeezed into slots in a real life that is filled with self-doubt and is distinctly non-glamorous.   Gaynor sums it up pretty damn well, but for me that opening line is key.

I began my book three years ago.  I had to wait for two years and two months for the first person to read it.  As more and more friends and family (I’m now up to twelve) read it and feedback to me, I am finally starting to find out whether the past three years were worth it - whether my joke was funny or not.  And that is hard.  It is hard not to have regular, daily moments of feeling on top, feeling like I am achieving marvellous things, feeling like each moment of the day has been won.  Finally hearing positive feedback is brilliant, but the nature of the beast is that it’s a long time coming.  And that is the binary opposite of my pre-writing existence.

In my previous life I was a Primary Teacher.  If you get me drunk I will regale with you with all the issues and criticisms I have with the education system in this country, and what needs to change to improve it.  The good news is, however, that when I look back over my teaching career, I have a never-ending supply of winning moments.  Despite a restrictive curriculum, an obsessive focus on test results, and the never-ending uncontrollable fear that OFSTED are close (Lordy, I’m not even tipsy and look at me!) my brain still prioritises the wins and has disregarded the negative times as unimportant.

I remember the plays and assemblies.  There were the ground-breaking 4NB productions of Henry V and Romeo and Juliet and the innovative 1NB production of Shampoozel  (an updated Rapunzel, where she was a hairdresser’s daughter obvs.)  These were times when shy children stood up and fought their fear, and lively children channelled their exuberance into an entertaining performance.  There was Science week when we turned white flowers blue with food dye in their water and made Mentos shoot out of a Coke bottle in the playground.  There was Roald Dahl week when we made Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake, and I watched an eight year old looked panic-stricken as he realised he’d added a teaspoon of flour instead of a tablespoon.  Then I cheered inside, as I silently watched the rest of the team do the maths, and work out that two more teaspoons would make up the tablespoon.   And I remember one boy that really struggled, finally spelling his name correctly with no letter reversals, and his beaming pride as he did a lap of honour throughout the school with his whiteboard.  Teachers high fived him and older kids patted him on the back as he showed off his now correctly written name.  There were a million moments that I remember that made me feel ace.  There were a million wins a day.

A reminder of my old life amidst the clutter of the new one

And so to writing.  Please don’t misunderstand me, I really love this.  I love that I have time for this level of self-indulgence, and I love the fact I no longer have to deal with all the educational issues I rant about when I am bladdered.  But to go from feeling useful and valuable in society as a teacher, to sitting home alone, making vague ideas in my head sound interesting to read on the page, is quite the leap.  And it is quite the leap to accept that I won’t feel super-duper clever and amazing several times a day.

The good news is, that it is a leap I think I have made quite well.  I have come to realise that the important thing is NOT to accept there will be no wins today but rather lower my expectation about what constitutes a win in the first place.   Finding the buzz in the little things tides you over between big achievements that will undoubtedly be there one day.  This is good advice for anyone, regardless of job, although I’m aware I’m starting to sound like a budget life coach here.  Sorry, I’ll stop preaching.  And yet, I feel I need to finish by sharing my recent wins with the world. 

First of all, I made the FITTEST hot and sour soup ever, yesterday.  I followed this recipe, but chucked in double the mushrooms, with some chicken and prawns.  I am still thinking about it today, and as Tina Fey showed us how to, several years ago, I high fived a million angels once I’d tasted it.  A clear win.  My next recent moment of personal celebration is that I found a top for a night out I am having soon.  This is no simple feat.  For me, a going-out top has to have some semblance of sleeves, be at least hip length, have stretch in it, no buttons due to gape-age (Can I patent that word?) and can’t be in a colour that could be described as pink, nude or pretty.   And yet despite these challenges, between myself and the Wallis concession in Liverpool One’s Debenhams, I managed it.  More or less.  Yay me, again.
The final win - one that I generally experience on a daily basis - is that I got up.  It is the first thing to cross off on my To Do list, and is usually the hardest.  I got up, I sat at my desk and I wrote some words.  It’s a small thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s undeserving of celebration.   Life Coach Bond, over and out.