Reasons to Stay Positive

In a scary couple of weeks that has seen me and both of my adult children become ill with Coronavirus symptoms, I thought I would try to draw some positives out of the current situation.

While I appreciate that the position in the world right now is dire, I always find that positive thinking helps me to fight off anxiety and depression when I’m going through bad times. With concerns over mental health issues during the lockdown, I’m hoping that this post will also help other people to think of their own positives.

  1. Although there is a good chance that me and my two children may have had Coronavirus (due to the fact that my son has been in contact with Coronavirus patients) the good news is that we all displayed mild symptoms and we have all fully recovered.
  2. As a home worker I can still work and don’t have to face the additional worry of financial hardship.
  3. We are going to have one hell of a party when this is all over.
  4. If a similar situation should ever arise again in the future, hopefully the world will be more prepared and we may have such things in place as vaccines, testing and protective equipment.
  5. Even though I’m still working, I have a bit more time on my hands. It’s a refreshing change not to be constantly rushing around.
  6. The time spent on lockdown will give us all time to reflect on how we live our lives so that we can hopefully make changes for better in the future.
  7. Humanity is a wonderful thing. I believe that current events have brought out the human side in so many people and it’s great to hear tales of people offering support to one another.
  8. I have had the same bit of cash in my purse for about three weeks and not had to rush to the cashpoint.
  9. I’ve not had to fill the car with petrol either.
  10. Many people staying at home are reading more, which is a good thing for authors.
  11. We can all watch holiday programmes and plan for the wonderful trips we will make when everything is back to normal.
  12. I’ve not had to do any ironing because who sees (or even cares) what I look like at the moment.
  13. I am currently focusing on diet and exercise to build myself up in case I haven’t had the virus and also to look after my general wellbeing. I am not eating out, having takeaways or boozy nights out. The upshot of this, I hope, is weight loss.
  14. I’ve found some online software that enables me to have a virtual party with my friends – maybe I should put the weight loss on hold for the time being.

I know that not everybody can draw the same positives and that some people are suffering real heartache and hardship because of the Coronavirus. However, I’m hoping that many people are able to draw some positives out of the current situation and I hope this post helps.

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The Work and Social Impact of Coronavirus

Watching recent news and social media posts, it’s easy to get swallowed up by all the mass hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing down its effects but it’s sometimes best to stop, take a breather and try to take a more positive approach to what is happening.

I must admit that I succumbed to a bit of self-pity this morning. In recent weeks I lost my father and added to that is the fact that my children might not be able to make it home for Mother’s day because of the virus. As part of my coping mechanism when my father died I decided to get out and keep busy as much as I could knowing that I couldn’t afford to revisit the chronic depression I suffered when I lost my mother.

But, recent news announcements suggest that I would be irresponsible to go out any more than necessary and I don’t want to do anything that will place either me or other people at risk. I therefore thought that as a homeworker and asthmatic that lives predominantly alone I might be faced with weeks on end stuck at home feeling bored and depressed.

I think that when something catastrophic like this happens we all look at how it will affect us as individuals and how it will affect our loved ones. Most of us are innately self-interested but I think it pays to look outside of that sometimes. That is what I did this morning and I found that I can draw some positives out of my own situation, and I’m hoping that other people will be able to do so too. These are just my immediate thoughts about my own situation but I’m sure others will come to me:

  1. As a homeworker I don’t have to worry about not being able to work unlike a lot of bar, restaurant and other workers who will be faced with weeks of no pay or even redundancy. My heart goes out to them – it must be a really worrying time.
  2. With today’s technology it is easier than ever to keep in touch with people, not only by messaging but also by video link using the various apps available. I usually only do video calls with my children and partner but I’m considering extending this to other friends and family.
  3. I can do as many exercise classes as I want via You Tube on my TV – Step, Zumba, Tai Chi, the possibilities are endless. And exercise is a great way to lift mood because of those endorphins. I can even extend this to as many friends as I can fit in my lounge while keeping a safe distance and, because we’re all friends together, we could take whatever measures we wanted to protect ourselves without feeling self-conscious. (I’ve got a mental image of us wearing masks and latex gloves, carrying our own bottled water and disinfecting the door handles.) We might even have a laugh while we’re doing it.
  4. The weather is picking up so it’s a good time to get out in the garden – working or relaxing. There are so many things you can do including giving it a facelift by painting fences etc.
  5. It’s also good to go out for a walk or a bike ride if you have an outdoor area that isn’t too populated, for example, if you live near the countryside.
  6. I’m also looking at my diet, trying to eat healthily and take my vitamins to build up my immunity. As part of this I’m trying to cook more healthy meals that I can stock in my freezer.

These ideas have led me to think about other people and steps they could take to help themselves. If you’re facing reduced hours or redundancy then it might be an opportunity to focus on a skill that might prove lucrative in the future. I know the situation is grave at the moment but some good might come out of it in the long run. My own writing career started after I spent a period as a stay at home mum and decided on a complete career change. I can honestly say I’ve never looked back as I wasn’t very happy in my previous career.

There are also opportunities to make money online. You could sell hand-crafted items on Etsy on unwanted items on Ebay, Amazon or Facebook marketplace. You might even have a skill that could make you money online via sites like Upwork, Guru and PPH or even by shouting about it on social media.

I have also been inspired by a couple of news items such as the one regarding the family of a Coronavirus victim in Manchester who have asked for no flowers at his funeral, just acts of kindness. Then there are the two ladies in Altrincham who are making sure that elderly and vulnerable people in their area are not left isolated or in need of shopping etc. This kind of community spirit is needed at a time like this.

Most of us can also draw comfort from the fact that the vast majority of people survive Coronavirus. Currently the mortality rate in the UK is just over 2%. Although it will be difficult for those affected, many of us can look forwards to a time when the virus is behind us and we have survived it.

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New Aria Contract

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve just signed a new three book contract with Aria at Head of Zeus. Again, it’s for a series of three books but I’ll probably extend the series to four books in the future. Although all of the books have a common background they will each tell a different story. Book one will introduce the characters and setting, and each subsequent book will focus on one of the characters’ own story.

I’m already making progress with the first book, which will be available next summer. In the meantime, Vendetta, book three in my Manchester trilogy is due to be published on 2nd October, and is currently available for pre-order from Amazon. If you haven’t yet bought your copy, here is the link: http://viewbook.at/VendettaMcr.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Sarah Ritherdon, Editorial Director at Aria. Sarah has worked closely with me virtually since I signed up with Aria for my previous contract. She is brilliantly supportive to work with and a great editor who is able to spot areas of my novels that can be improved and make useful suggestions. It was lovely to be able to put a face to the name.

During our meeting we discussed Aria’s plans for my writing career, as well as my ideas for future novels. Aria have some very exciting plans in terms of promoting my books and getting them into the hands of even more readers. In fact, as part of ongoing promotion, both Slur and Born Bad are currently on sale. Slur is available for 99p at the moment and Born bad at £1.87, giving readers a chance to try the first book in each of my trilogies at a bargain price. If you would like to take advantage of the sale price, here are the links:

Slur: http://getbook.at/Slur.

Born Bad: http://viewBook.at/BornBad.

I’m very excited to be working with Aria again, and will keep you updated regarding the publication of new books.

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My New Office

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time. It’s now eight months since I moved house and I’ve set up an office in the back of the house so I thought I’d share some pictures with you. The room is actually a small conservatory which was lovely and cosy in the winter but has been too hot in the current climate. Fortunately I’m on Google Drive so I’ve been able to upload my work to the cloud and work on my laptop in a cooler part of the house.

Although I’ve had blinds fitted to all the windows in the office and a screen guard to stop glare from the sun, what I really need is a roof blind. It’s on my list of things still to do/buy in my new home and I expect that by next summer I’ll be sorted. Then, if it’s still too hot I’ll probably add a small air conditioning unit. Apart from that the only other thing I want to change is to swap the large cabinet for a smaller one as it dominates the room at the moment. However, that would mean yet another clear out and I’ve had enough of those for the time being.

I’m one of those writers who is happiest having a separate area of the home where I can work uninterrupted. There is always so much to do when you move house but at least for now I’ve got a work space which is comfortable most of the time, and which has the potential to be a pleasant, self-contained work area in the future.

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My First Year with a Publisher

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since I signed my publishing contract with Aria Fiction at Head of Zeus. A lot has happened in that time and the year seems to have flown by. So, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to what is in store in the future.

Progress so Far

At the time of writing Born Bad is currently ranked 82 on Amazon UK out of over 5 million books, and for the last couple of weeks it has hovered around the 100 mark. The highest rank it has achieved so far was 58 on two occasions. It has also received some excellent reviews. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled as it has exceeded all my expectations.  

I am gaining a growing fan base which is wonderful to see. People are going on to read my other books as well as signing up to my mailing list and following me on social media.

At the moment I am polishing up book two so that I can send it to my publishers in a few weeks’ time, and it will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon.

What I’ve Learned

Working with a publisher means that there are lots of tight deadlines to meet. However, this is good for me as I am usually a massive procrastinator and it has made me become more self-disciplined with my writing routine.

It is wonderful to have the knowledge and support of a professional publisher which has been brilliant in terms of editing, marketing and promotion. Marketing encompasses a whole spectrum of activity from cover design to the book blurb and everything after that. At every stage it is specifically tailored to reach the target readership.

In terms of promotion, I have found that ads on large reader websites do work provided they are targeted, and this is one aspect in which my publishers have a wealth of knowledge and experience. A good publisher can also reach areas that I couldn’t have reached as an independent author e.g. the Amazon Summer Sale, which features only a few hundred books out of the millions available on Amazon UK.

Support

No matter what questions I have, my publishers are always on hand with help and advice. I am also connecting with other Aria authors who are a friendly, supportive bunch and I am discovering some great books that have been written by them. I still also keep in touch with some of my Indie author friends who have been very supportive over the years. 

Future Plans

The second book in the trilogy will be published at the end of this year/beginning of next although it will be available for pre-order on Amazon long before that. The third and final book in the trilogy will be published next summer.

After that, I would love to work with Aria again provided we can agree terms. I have a lot of ideas for other crime novels which I am looking forward to writing in the future.

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Why do you Love Being an Author?

During a recent email chat with an author friend we were discussing how frustrated we become when other work pulls us away from writing our novels. I commented that it was probably because other work didn’t give us the same sense of satisfaction as writing novels. This led me to thinking – just what is it about being an author that is so satisfying? So I thought it would be interesting to try to pin down some of the reasons:

Escapism – When writing a novel you can escape into your own world which can be anything you want it to be. That does beg the question – why is my writing world full of violence, bad language and warped characters, and why does that give me so much satisfaction? Hmmm!

Creativity – I gain a sense of fulfilment in having created something from nothing and I’ve no doubt it’s the same for other authors. Your book is like your baby that you feel proud of and it gives you tSatisfied Readerhat special feeling of having nurtured it from start to finish. A lot of us are familiar with the buzz of holding the print version of our own book in our hands or seeing it on the shelf in our local book store or library.

Reader Satisfaction – It’s lovely to receive feedback from readers and know that somebody has enjoyed one of your books.

Organisation and Planning – In the (non-writing) world of work, good organisation was always one of my strengths and I think that both non-fiction and fiction books require good organisation skills. You have to be able to plan the chapters, and carefully interweave the main plot and sub-plots. Organisation and planning are also important in achieving a good balance with the pacing of a novel. Because of my organised nature I actually enjoy these challenges.

Kudos – If I’m honest it’s always flattering when people take an interest in what I do although I also get a little embarrassed sometimes. Even though there are increasing numbers of people publishing books, it still attracts a lot of attention when you say that you have written and published a book.Money Pile

Huge Potential for Financial Gain – Yes, there’s a golden carrot dangling on the end of that metaphorical piece of string. The trouble is, every time you try to grasp the carrot, somebody yanks the string and you find you’ve got a bit further to go until you reach your reward. But as long as we can see the carrot, we’ll keep trying to grab it.

I’m speaking for the majority of authors, of course. There are some who are already reaping large financial rewards, which provides further encouragement for the rest of us.

Now for the things I don’t love so much:

I don’t think I’m very good at the whole marketing and promotion thing. I’ve never been one for selling myself. I’d rather shy away and get on with my writing but I expect a lot of authors are like that, which is probably why we choose to do what we do.

TimeThe other negative aspect for me is that there aren’t enough hours in the day. This is another one that I often hear other authors complain about, especially independent authors. It would be wonderful if we could devote all of our working hours to writing and have somebody else take care of all the promotion, editing, proofreading and formatting etc. but for most of us that isn’t feasible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. What is it about being an author that you love or are there any aspects of being an author that you’re not so keen on?

Anyone fancy a carrot?

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Using Editing Software to Improve your Writing

At the moment I am immersed in the final edits for my debut novel “Slur” and I am using some editing software that an author friend recommended. I have found the software particularly useful so I thought that I would share my findings. The software that I am using is called Prowritingaid. I haven’t used any other editing software so I can’t comment on other products but this specific product offers a number of features.

Editing Software

The main problem that I wanted to address is that I suffer from adverbitis. By that I mean that I have a tendency to overuse adverbs. I also default into using the passive at times when it would be better to use the active especially for a crime thriller, which should be fast paced. I think this is probably down to the fact that I am used to proofreading student theses, which are written in a formal style in accordance with university requirements and therefore use the passive rather than the active. Unfortunately, if you are used to working in a particular style then it can become hard to break the habit. I therefore invested in Prowritingaid at my friend’s recommendation.

You can choose from six main styles of Creative, Academic, Business, General, Technical and Web Copy. Once you have set your preferred style you can then choose what you want to check for. I chose Writing Style Report, which flags up adverbs and use of the passive but you can also run a full analysis or various other checks such as repetition, overused words, consistency, plagiarism etc. depending on the writing style you are aiming for. In fact, there are a total of 23 Highlightingdifferent types of reports/checks to choose from.

Prowritingaid makes it easier than editing your work yourself because when you are working so close to your work you can fail to notice things. The software pinpoints instances in embarrassing, brilliant highlighting so you can’t fail to notice them, and at $35 per year it’s substantially cheaper than hiring an editor. It also means that you retain control over your work. I must admit that I cringed at the number of times I used ‘quickly’, ‘forcefully’, ‘really’, ‘slowly’ and ‘quietly’. I had also used more powerful adverbs such as ‘maliciously’ and ‘subconsciously’, which can make an impact if used sparingly, but overuse lessens their impact so a good trim was necessary to improve the quality of my work.

Another good thing about this software is that you can upload a sample of your work to the site to trial it before buying. Here’s the link if you want to give it a whirl: http://prowritingaid.com/. I’d like to add that I’m not being paid by the suppliers to write this blog post. I just wanted to share this useful discovery.