Thursday, 30 January 2014

Your chance to nobble a freebie!

If you haven't already taken advantage of the fact that Love is in the Air is currently FREE to download for Kindle, you've only got today and tomorrow left! Offer runs until the 31st January.

It's a collection of short stories on the theme of lurve and rrromance, and I promise that my own contribution, St Valentine's Day Massacre, is not as gory as it sounds...

Check it out here.

If you leave it too late to take advantage of the freebie, then give yourself a pat on the back because all profits from sales of this book are donated to the charity Diabetes UK.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Ivy House gig

I did it! My first ever event as an author! In London! On a stage! It was an amazing experience...

I didn't feel nervous to start with - too busy taking money on the door and catching up with folks I'd met before and introducing myself to those I knew only through digital channels. Bought myself a pint of Rosie's Pig cloudy cider, and determined not to drink too much before my slot...

L to R: Debi Alper, Sophie Wellstood, Sally Swingewood, Helen Hardy
and Andrew James at the SfH table
 Folk started rolling in...the music began at 8, and we were off.

Dan Maitland (3rd from left) and the band, jazzing things up.
As 9.30 got closer, I could feel myself zoning out, focusing on the book I was gripping.

Up on stage, I'd asked for a stool, because I always feel happiest reading to kids when I'm sat in a chair; I figured that even though my audience was a bit older than what I'm used to, I may as well make myself comfortable.

So I started reading...

My heart tried to jump out of my chest, which tightened in response. Part of me was wondering whether there'd be any implications for the hole in my heart (discovered a couple of years back) whilst still focussing on the words. At one point, the room started swimming and I had to slide my foot to the floor to anchor myself. I tried to remember everything I'd been told about reading in public; Go slower than you think you ought to. Add emphasis. Really speak the dialogue. Look up ocassionally to make contact with the listeners.

I think it went OK. I have dim recollections of a sea of half-lit faces and the sound of my voice...followed by a smattering of applause.

Bit blurry - but me, doing the eye contact thing.

Only when I got back to my seat did the shakes start. That's when I decided it was definitely time for Rosie's Pig.
I look as relieved as I felt...
There are other things which made the event so memorable for me...and I'm not just talking about the Words and Music.

* Sally, who put me up on her sofabed with lots of lovely handmade quilts to keep me toasty warm, and her cat, who came in to see me about 6.30am to demand breakfast!
* Spike, my cameraman for the evening.
* the sense of belonging and commitment to this wonderful project, and doing it all on the day after the SfH community had been recognised as Heroes by Shelter.
* seeing the London city skyline lit up in white and red lights when I arrived at Nunhead, and sitting over the River Thames on Blackfriar's Bridge.
* how quiet London is at night.

Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat - even in several very thumpy ones! I feel a lot more like a 'real' author now...

Monday, 27 January 2014

Today's the day!

Tonight, I'm going to be reading an extract of Homeland, my contribution to the Stories for Homes anthology. (I blogged about it last week, when I first saw a picture of the stage at the Ivy House Pub.)

This morning, I've run round like a headless chicken; sorting out tonight's dinner for the rest of the family, leaving reminders about broken bike lights and misplaced buffs, making sure I have phone numbers for my London contact, checking I've got the book to read from (durr!) and oh yeah - packing stuff for an overnighter!

The family seem OK with me going; Mr Squidge wished me well and gave me an extra hug this morning as he left for work at 7am. The kids...'Oh yeah - see you tomorrow for orchestra,' J said as she disappeared down the drive. T just gave me a backwards wave as he cycled off. Well, it's not cool to hug your mum, is it?

My first author reading is still a special moment, and while part of me continues to dream impossible dreams (I'll be discovered! Signed up for a book deal! Famous!) the three of them are doing their bit to keep me grounded.

Anyway - musn't chat for much longer. I've an audience to prepare for!

*starts practising. Again*

'Councilman Tartris slammed his fist on his saddle. "We will go no further into this wasteland, my lady..." '

PS. If you want to know why he's so adamant, buy the book!

(On an entirely different subject - from today, 27th Jan, until the 31st Jan, you can get Love is in the Air FREE! Get yourself loved up ready for Valentine's Day!)

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A blast from the past.

A while back, Mr Squidge was given a suitcase full of family photos dating back to the turn of the last century. It inspired me to do a bit of rooting into both of our family trees, as my hubbie's family are originally from Germany.

Earlier this week, he came back from his dad's with a black wooden trunk. Inside was a complete set of early twentieth century photographic equipment...including recipes for developing solutions, hundreds of glass plates, and an early bellows camera - probably pre-1900's from what little bit of research we've done.

There are also hundreds of glass slide and cellulose negatives.

We've found out how to 'develop' them (scan with the silver nitrate face up, then use Microsoft Office Paint to invert the colours - hey presto, the negative images turn positive!) and so I'm working through scanning them all.

Some I recognise - Pappa and Nanna in the late 1920's; possibly some of Mr Squidge's Dad as a young boy; Ludwig, who came over from Germany in the very late 1800's...and then there are others that must be around 1911. Everyone's dressed in their Sunday best, so I'm wondering if it was for the coronation.

Here are just a few...

A pair of flapper girls, all dolled up. 

Not sure about these children. They might be the first four of Coral's five children, 
Alex, Bernard, John and Nancy

Haircut and a beer...?

Pappa and Nanna, probably late 1920's, as they were married in 1930. 

Family Hetzel, again 1920's or very early 1930's.

Fred * Ludwig Jnr * Coral * Nig (Philip)* Bob (Albert, Mr. Squidge's paternal grandfather)
Hannah * Sarah (nee Webb) * Ludwig Snr * Henrietta * Florence

A bit of guesswork going on with the ladies - the only ones I know for sure are Coral and Sarah...

There are loads more to scan and invert. I wonder who else we might find? 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Another milestone for the Scribbles...

Logged on this morning to discover that, at some point this morning, the 10,000th  pageview happened on the Scribbles! And no - I haven't miscounted the number of zeros! Ten. Thousand. Hits.

Please excuse me while I do a happy dance around the lounge! *lunatic happy dancing ensues*

I don't really pay that much attention to the numbers...if I see a spike after I've posted, that's a Good Thing, because maybe, just maybe, someone out in the big wide world is reading what I've written. I'm fairly certain that a lot of so-called hits are generated by engines and never result in any real traffic, although I know from comments and responses received here, on the Cloud, and Facebook, that there are quite a few of you who do stick around...

I just thought this was a bloomin' big milestone and wanted to share.

Monday, 20 January 2014

This time next week...

I'm so excited to be going to London next Monday for a Stories for Homes event! It's an evening of live music and readings at the Ivy House pub in Nunhead. A lot of the music is being provided by fellow authors, and there's a guest slot by trombone poetry too. If the mood takes us, there might even be a singalong - who knows? The ingenious thing about this event is that, with a live internet connection available, entry is £3, or order a copy of the book! Doors open at 7.30pm and the entertainment starts at 8pm - if you're there, do introduce yourself!

The fact that I'm going to be taking part in the entertainment and reading from my own story, on a stage with red velvet curtains and gold trim (yep - this is really what it looks like!) is both exciting and very, very scary at this moment in time!

I've never been to a 'proper' reading before, let alone read at one. I've read aloud, sure - lessons at church, stories to the kids at home and at school - and having done Am-Dram and delivered trainings years ago, the thought of standing up in front of people to deliver doesn't really phase me.

But this time, it's my words I'm reading. That's a whole new level of "Eeek!"

I've been practising; timed the reading to last nine minutes and, with a little bit of editing 'cos I didn't feel I could do one section of dialogue justice, stop at a not too unsuitable point. Funny thing was, as I practised, I could feel myself slipping into an Am-Dram type persona - Katherine, The Author - because the real Katherine, the one who sits on the settee typing words into the laptop and dreaming impossible dreams of published novels, just doesn't believe at the moment that this is all happening.

Perhaps, by next Monday evening, the real Katherine will feel brave enough to attend and read...wish me luck!

Friday, 17 January 2014

I've been Zumba'd

I'm not what you'd call a keep-fit fanatic.

I suppose if I do 'exercise', it's because it gets me from A to B, not because I actually want to do exercise, if you see what I mean? So, I'll walk into town, rather than drive...cycle occasionally...take the stairs rather than the lift. I do own a pair of trainers, but I only wear them when I'm gardening.

The thought of doing exercise for exercise's sake just turns me right off. I used to do Pilates - had done it for over ten years and really enjoyed it - but my Pilates instructor retired last Easter, and I haven't looked too hard for a replacement class.

After six months of doing not a lot, I've decided to get my butt in gear and do something active.


I figured that as I like to dance (at the Christmas party, once a year) and Zumba is based on dance moves, it won't feel like exercise. It'll be Fun.

Anyway, I bought myself some leggings (ditched the first pair I tried as they showed exactly why I needed to exercise...) and some lightweight trainers (which I hereby promise never to garden in) and toddled along this morning to the first of a five-week beginners class.

It wasn't as bad as I thought, if I'm honest. I managed to keep up with the steps until my arms had to get involved; at that point my co-ordination went completely out of the window. Next week, I may even break into a sweat if my arms and legs can be persuaded to work together.

But at least I kept going; I didn't collapse in a heap, I could still walk afterwards, and I felt strangely fired up all day.

I think I'll go back next week...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

When a character won't do what you want them to.

Yesterday, for the first time since I've begun to write seriously, a character took over my story.

Ani's decided to run away from the situation I've put her in. I was at the point of having her confide in her cousin so she had someone to help, but she was having none of it. She doesn't want to believe what's happening to her and she's scared; she's going to deal with it on her own. By running away.

I don't know yet whether she'll succeed.

I've read about other authors who reckon their characters tell the story and lead it in new directions. Quite frankly, I didn't believe it. I assumed it must be the author's own subconscious trying to alter the storyline.

Well, I believe it now.

And later today, I'm going to ask Ani what she wants to do next...

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The author-artist connection.

Yesterday, Laura and I got together to discuss tweaking some of the illustrations for Granny Rainbow.

Basically, the style of the pictures has changed as Laura's become more familiar with her graphics tablet; this means that earlier pictures are more 'sketchy' than later ones. It was something I hadn't realised myself until I put a certain little book together the other day, because seeing the pictures in situ made me look at them with fresh eyes. As we'd noticed the same thing independently, we talked about it and decided that the right thing to do was bring all the finished pieces to a more consistent style.

At the end of a couple of hours, we had agreed on which pictures we felt needed more work and found source materials to use as inspiration. Both of us are happy with what's been decided, even though Granny Rainbow's ultimate publication date may probably have to be set back slightly to allow time for the changes we're making.

It was huge fun. I got to play with the graphics tablet - although it was the weirdest thing, trying to draw something on a screen without looking at what my hand was doing! Made me realise how, when I draw anything, I'm constantly using what's already on the paper as a reference for where my hand goes next. I couldn't even write my name properly!

Anyway, just before I started writing this blog, I received the new, updated Granny Rainbow picture...

At first, I really wasn't sure about the change; I 'knew' what Granny looked like, and it wasn't this! But seeing a different version of the same character made me realise how much we imprint a picture onto our imaginations. Some might argue that I should let the reader imagine characters for themselves, instead of providing a picture of how Laura and I see them. That may well work for certain texts, but I think that pictures can add to the enjoyment of reading - even for adults.  

Personally, I think that when you do choose to add illustrations to support your text, you have a responsibility to make them fit your story - which means having a trusting relationship with your illustrator. In the wider world of publishing, authors very rarely get the opportunity to work so closely with an artist; if you're lucky enough to be taken on by a major publisher, it's often the publisher who decides on the illustrator, not you. It can be written into a contract that the author has more say, I believe, but not always.

I thank my lucky stars that Laura is so open to my gut feelings about the characters I've written - and that as a result, I can trust her to bring them to life on the page. Now that I'm more used to her, (Granny - not Laura!) I reckon this newer version of the title character has built on what was in the original. Nothing has been lost. She's just been...polished. And come up sparkling!

I think we've found a perfect author-artist connection.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

RIP Rainbow hat

You've probably realised, if you're a regular reader of this blog, that I like rainbows.

For somewhere in the region of 10/11 years, I have possessed a rainbow hat - one of those Peruvian knitted ones with earflaps. I love it. It is a blob of stripey rainbowness which brightens many a snowy/windy/freezing day and most importantly, keeps me warm.

New hat - March 03!
Not anymore. The bright colours are looking distinctly washed out and faded (I know you're not supposed to wear it in the rain, but hey! I didn't always have a brolly), there's a hole developing in the back seam, and it's stretched over the years so that the wind very definitely whistles under the earflaps.

And the faded version - today.
So today I bought a new one - from the same market stall holder I bought the rainbow one from, all those years ago!

The stall holder was quite proud that I was still wearing the original after so long - but unfortunately, he didn't have any rainbow striped ones to replace it with. The angst that caused! Could I manage without a rainbow hat? Bless the stall holder - he unpacked his entire stock of hats so I could try a few on and find a colour that I was happy with.

Grey with blue patterns - too washed out. Blue and turquoise - better, but didn't fit right.Green - not my colour. Pink - definitely not. It was like looking at a stranger in the mirror, I'd got so used to seeing myself with the rainbow one. Didn't like what I saw. and brown and turquoise - no...maybe...yes!

So I'm now the proud owner of a different coloured hat which fits snuggly buggly.

I might have to break it in at home first, though - like a pair of new shoes. Because the funny thing is, I paid for the new one, stuck it in my bag, and wore the rainbow one to walk home...

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

I made a book!

D'you remember, when you were a kid, you used to do things like - I dunno - make rose petal perfume? Design outfits for paper dolls? Write little books? (I realise these probably didn't apply to the fellas, but I'm sure they did something similar...)

Well yesterday, I made a book.

I'd printed out Granny Rainbow to check for typos and formatting errors - good job, as I found a few - but I printed four pages to a sheet of A4 to save paper. The layout master I've been using means that you get what will be the odd (ie right hand) page printed on the left of the sheet and what will be the even (left hand) page printed on the right. It doesn't make it easy to visualise the finished product, as you have to keep switching things in your head.

As I read through, I realised that if I folded the A4 sheet in half lengthwise, it mimicked the page as it would appear when finally printed. Then, I realised if I cut the sheet in half cross-ways, I'd have dinky little pages, the right way round! 

One bull-dog clip later, I had a miniature A6 version of my book in my hand...and it felt just like it did when I used to make tiny little illustrated books for my teddies.

My little book!
J picking up a few more typos for me...

A sneaky peek at Granny Rainbow and the little green man...
 In just a few short weeks, it'll be the full-sized version - but in the meantime, I'll make do with dinky-size...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The decorations are down...

Today, I took down all the Christmas decorations.

I find it a bitter-sweet moment every year; on the one hand I'm glad to get a bit of space back in the lounge when the tree goes outside, but the walls and shelves look awfully bare without the cards and decorations. There's also a distinct lack of sparkle - I find myself missing twinkling lights and glittering tinsel. Everywhere looks dull.

Following on from the glitz of December, January seems such a bleak month by comparison. And goodness knows, we've got terrible weather here in the UK that would make anybody feel depressed at the moment. My heart goes out to all those affected by flooding and tidal batterings. (Although there is a guilty little bit of me that is glad of the wind, because it means our wind turbine is generating lots of electricity.)

But the empty walls also made me think of a blank canvas; the year is stretching ahead in front of me, a thing of mystery and yet also twelve months with certain things already planned. My parents will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary; I will ski on a mountain for the first time; my daughter will sit her first GCSE exam, I'll visit the dentist in May and September, and my book will be published.

If I was thinking in writing terms, it would be like having a broad outline for a story. I'd know the rough shape of it - beginning, middle, end - and perhaps some of the events that get my characters from A to B. But until I started writing, I wouldn't know all the details that fit in-between. So it is with 2014.

I hope I manage to fill in the gaps and don't waste any of it.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

A website is born, a story takes shape and the last few pics are in...

Assuming all has gone according to plan...I've just launched a website! You can find it here - do have a look and let me know what you think...I've checked everything as much as I can, but there's bound to be a glitch or two somewhere, knowing my lack of teccy-ness.

And I've finally managed to put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard actually) for the first time this festive season to capture 400 or so words of a competition story I need to have completed by the 20th of the month. I've written a lot more than that in reality - but lists of things to do and thank you letters don't count towards wordcount...

Delighted too, that the last pictures are in for Granny Rainbow. That means I can stick them into the formatted text, get the last few tweaks done on the cover - and Granny's off to the printers! By the end of the month, I could be surrounded by rainbow-hued copies of my stories and Laura's pictures - exciting or what?

So my New Year's off and about yours?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing today, and whatever plans or resolutions you've made for the next twelve months...

Happy New Year to the readers of 
Squidge's Scribbles!