The Darker Side Of Fiction 2019

I can’t believe it has been a whole twelve months since I did my first signing event at #Darker17 .in other ways it also seems like a lifetime ago as I have gone on to do a  few more since then but #Darker will always have a special place in my heart and even if there comes a time when I am not on the invited authors list it is the one event I cannot imagine not attending now.

So #Darker18 is in a new venue and has a host of new authors I have not yet met as well as friendly faces that I am looking forward to seeing again.

The main thing to remember about signings is that it is not just about the books, it is your chance to meet other authors but also to meet and interact with the readers. To connect with them on a personal level and let them learn more about you, your books and how your mind works. Luckily, at #Darker18, there will be people as twisted as I am.

This year I already have a few pre-orders and I am really glad I came up with the idea of personalising them to the events, I have a pile of signed books and so far I remember meeting each other to get each one however in a few years that may be harder so I want to be sure that in ten years time if someone opens a book they pre-ordered from me they get a reminder of the day.

I have ordered one new piece of swag for this event and that is some magnetic bookmarks, I have one myself that I got years ago and they are perfect for using when on the move, these ones are for the Queen of Ages books and will only be available when you buy one of those books.

If you are in the UK and can travel to Peterborough there is still chance to get tickets to come and see me and the other authors at the event you can buy them here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-darker-side-of-fiction-author-event-2018-tickets-42628859065

Next week I will be talking more about the process of getting ready for a signing the whole issue of what to take how to get there and so much more.

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Read And Relax – The Book Lovers Subscription

A few weeks ago I told you about taking a chance and reaching out to a book subscription service, well now in a few days next months box launches including swag from yours truly!

So what is Read and Relax, well the best way to explain is to share their ethos from their own website…

Read and Relax is a new subscription site dedicated to keeping second-hand books alive.

The idea for Read And Relax came to me one afternoon whilst I was browsing the internet. I, probably much like yourself, was looking for a monthly book subscription. What I found were expensive offers (which contained more useless merchandise then books). If my book came with anything I would want it to be useful – I hoard enough as it is! As a teacher, I don’t have countless disposable income and therefore I began to reach the stage where I was going to give up – I just couldn’t get myself to part with that much money! That is when Read And Relax was born.

My vision  is to not only provide budget-friendly monthly boxes but to also save second-hand books from the tip hence  supporting a wide range of charities at the same time. As a thank you from me to you, parcels will also include a treat: sometimes this might be something to eat, other times it may be a delicious smelling candle, perhaps a mug to harvest that well deserved tea at the end of the day… to name just a few. Whatever it is, I promise that it will be useful and relaxing.

Alas, on such a budget, I cannot provide the latest book to my customers: but what I can do is hand-pick them novels from charity stores which match their genre preferences. Since starting this service my weekends, and quite happily, have been used to browse shops, read reviews and purchase literature for my followers. I, so far, have received a number of great reviews and just hope that this service is not only what I was looking for, but what you were looking for too. 

Together we can do three things: support charities, revive books and read!

So why does this project excite me, I want to sell my books? Simple, the reason I started writing was I love reading, I love stories and I love books, and now as a self-published author I strive to share my work with people who I think will love it. When you join this subscription service you get to choose the genres you would like to receive books in, maybe you chose the safe options you know you will like and risk the odd book you may have already read or you take a chance, chose an unknown genre. I think of this service a little like trusting a friend to pick your next book for you, and if you get a book you don’t like, you have only spent the same as you might have buying a new book but have the feel-good factor of knowing these books have been purchased from charity shops.

So what have I popped in the boxes, basically, if you subscribe and choose the targeted genres you will receive a swag bag from me similar to those I give away with purchases. However, I know not everyone always has the spare cash to take advantages of these orders  at that minute so what I am willing to do is if you subscribe at any point, either in the next couple of days, or during December, and would like to receive a belated swag pack for your next box if you contact Read and Relax I will make sure that I send extra bags to make sure everyone gets one.

So if you are interested in this great subscription service head over to Read and Relax or follow them on Instagram  

And just remember if you don’t want this subscription for yourself then maybe it could be the perfect gift for the book lover in your family. I am so excited to be working alongside this company and hope to get the opportunity to do so again at a later date.

#Darker Reflections – Part Three

I had a quick shower and washed my hair then removed the last traces of the days make up, then quickly applied the evening war paint and did my hair, then disaster. I had not tried my dress on with the bra I intended to wear with it and had not allowed for the v being deeper than the bra allowed for. I tried pinning the dress but it just wasn’t possible, luckily in one respect the bra I wore during the day did actually fit in the dress, unfortunately it did not offer a huge amount of support and the dress was a little looser around the chest than I remembered.

At the end of the day I had three choices to hide in my room for the rest of the evening, to wear the outfit I had worn during the day and look completely out of place or to bite the bullet and hope the dress stayed in place.

I reached the bar and was glad to see others totally glammed up as well, I was complemented on my dress numerous times and started to feel more relaxed. There was a photographer there as there was at Leeds last year but these were far better in that they set up a backdrop instead of just a white screen and we all piled in for a group photo.

It seemed like we had barely been to the bar before the doors opened and there was a call for us to be seated, this was where I got really nervous, I had no idea who I would be sat with but I could not have asked for a better group, the whole table chatted, swapped stories and generally laughed our way through a delicious meal.

By the time the food was cleared several people left for and early night, it had been a long day already but I am thrilled I managed to hang on another hour or so and join the others on the dance floor, while carefully ensuring I didn’t fall out of my dress. In truth, there is only this photo that ended up a little risqué taken by the delightful Chris Turnbull, let me say it did cause a few comments when he tagged me in it and it appeared on my FB page and although the photo looks like I am barely in the dress let me assure you it really was angle the photo was taken at.

After hitting the dance floor and a lot of photos where you can see us all becoming increasingly dishevelled by our exploits I decided to call it a night exhilarated but exhausted. The smile still plastered across my face.

The journey home was even worse than the one going, trains cancelled the ones after packed, I was pleased to at least have a travelling companion in one of the lovely ladies, Nadia, who I had met previously at the Leeds ticket launch. When I eventually reached home I was shattered by still on a high from the whole weekend.

The high remained in place as I spent the next couple of days catching up on all the tags and notifications, it remained right up until Wednesday when I was forced to return to reality and the day job, it was a determined crash back down to earth.

For a day or two I really felt quite despondent, but then began to think about the overall experience, the fact is if anything that slump has made me even more determined to be able to quit the day job and make a career from writing. I could not have asked for a better experience for my first signing event, I have made so many new friends and know that I can handle anything thrown at me now. Yes, I made a few mistakes in terms of budgeting for the event, leaving things until the last minute but I have learnt so much from this experience and would highly recommend other authors to take a chance and get involved in these types of events, roll on March when we get to do it all over again in Leeds.

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#Darker Reflections – Part Two

The alarm goes off at half six and it feels like I have barely slept, I am not sure which emotion dominates, excitement or fear. I get my make-up on and get dressed, I had debated staying in bed longer and doing my hair and make-up after breakfast but I was glad I chose the order I did, partly as I was awake anyway but also because it allowed longer chatting over breakfast with the authors and bloggers I had met the previous night. It was reassuring to know that I was not the only one feeling nervous, even authors who had done these events before got nervous.

After returning to my room to grab my stuff I headed to the room to get my first look at it and to set up. It was suddenly very real and I have to confess I felt a little sick.

I found my table, due to someone else not being able to attend I found myself with a full table instead of half which although I loved having a full table was a little daunting, I had not brought much with me in terms of table decorations because I had not expected to have as much space so I spread the stuff out I had as best I could and put out a few extra bits. I was set up early enough to allow me to wander around, pick up my pre-orders and say hello to authors I had not met the night before, I regret to say I did not meet everyone but I do look forward to putting this right at later events, I would hope that many will be at Leeds and Darker next year, though of course at this time I have no idea if I will be attending as an author or a reader.

It was almost time for the doors to open and nerves got the better of me and I had to run to the loo, that was a slight mistake as it meant I saw the queues of people waiting to go in which did nothing to quiet my fears.

Back at the table the doors opened and I sat waiting, and waiting, and waiting. It seemed like forever even though it was not that long. The layout of the room meant that I was on what would be classed as the return leg, but the reality was people were also doing exactly what I had done myself, heading to get their pre-orders first.

Rachel and Jo had done an amazing job of organising everything, each author had found a goodie bag at their table and now the people entering were receiving theirs but they were also receiving a laminated sheet, the idea behind this was that they then got all the authors to sign it to be entered into a draw, it meant as the day went by more and more people stopped by the table some to just get a signature but most stopped to chat and to find out more about me and my books. They did not buy books but as I had put the Kindle version of Ascension up for free for the weekend it seemed quite a few went away and grabbed themselves a free copy, hopefully including the bloggers and book reviewers I met.

These types of events are not really geared towards sales especially for new authors, it really is more about networking, making contacts with other authors and readers as well as meeting people who run book blogs and review groups. These people are priceless for an author because if they like you and respect you they will share you everywhere, and the provide something that you can’t buy, genuine good will and support.

After a break for lunch we were off again and the day really did fly by, I want to give a special thank you to a lovely author called Helen Bright, I reviewed one of her books a few weeks ago, she was on the table next to me and was huge support during the day, I think if it hadn’t been for her I might have been tempted to just make a run for it before the doors opened.

One thing that really did surprise me was how hard it was to get people to take things, I really thought people would be grabbing handfuls of swag but instead I was constantly having to point it out to people and encourage them to take it, I also had far more left at the end of the day than I expected.

I have to say though at the end of the afternoon as I packed up I was struggling to contain the smile on my face, it really did make me realise just how much I want to make this my career and to be able to attend these things far more. I hauled my case packed with left over swag unsold books and my own purchases upstairs, realising I seemed to be going home with more than I had come with and wondering how I was going to get it all home, but that would have to wait for later I had an hour and a half to have a shower and get ready for the Ball.

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#Darker Reflections – Part One

I debated writing this post last week but decided I wanted to take the time to reflect upon all my experiences regarding #Darker and my first signing.

First, I have to say I had an amazing time, it was better than I could ever have imagined but I know you want to know a lot more than that so let’s start with a couple of days to go.

I message my friend Deb that is due to go with me checking what time we are meeting on Friday, she is upset, her boss has decided he needs her to fly to the Isle of Man on the Saturday for a big meeting, she goes into the office the next day but can’t change anything. I am gutted, it is too late to get anyone else to come so I put my ball ticket up for grabs on the Darker page, it gets snapped up straight away, I breathe a sigh of relief, at least I will have someone sat with me at the Ball, the relief only lasts twenty-four hours until it turns out she cannot attend either, everyone else either has plans or their own ticket. I am a little worried but don’t want my friend to worry, this was out of her control, and maybe it is like being thrown in at the deep end, after all there might not always be people available to come to these things with me every time.

I repack, originally, I had stuff in two cases but decide it will be easier to handle a case plus a holdall, it was a good job as you will find out shortly, though I do intend to get a bigger case with four wheels rather than the one I have. I will need to look into alternative travel options for future events, whether that is looking into paying someone to drive me or shipping things ahead of time, of course the best solution will be eventually to get a car.

I meet Deb for lunch and have the most ridiculous burger ever, I can’t even begin to get my mouth round it so attack it with a knife and fork, a good catch up later and we get my train tickets and Deb helps me to the train, it is rammed. They have cut the number of trains to Leeds and it seems the number of carriages, every seat is booked and there is barely room to stand and getting on with my luggage is tough but I just about manage, though after she has helped me there is not even room to turn round and wave. I get to Leeds and get the Peterborough train, I am lucky that I was there early and grab a seat but once again the train fill, thankfully the journey is shorter than I expected.

I jump in a taxi and we head out of the city centre and to the hotel. As I check in I see the first familiar face, I meet more people attending the event as I struggle to get my electronic door key to work, apparently there is a knack, I miss proper keys in hotels.

Once in the room I do a live FB video showing my accommodation for the weekend, my daughter points out to me afterwards that I say ermmm a lot during this, lesson learnt, I am okay filming a vlog where I have control over what I am going to say and know I can edit it but not so good at live off the cuff, this is something I need to work on.

I unpack and decide, that given the schedule for the day after, I will iron my clothes now before I go downstairs, it also allows for more chance of people arriving and there being someone I will know downstairs.

I eventually go downstairs around six and head into the bar, relief is overwhelming as I spot a couple of people I know straight away and join them, we spend the next hour chatting as more people join us until we decide to give the poor girls behind the bar orders for about twenty of us eating, dinner was okay nice but nothing special, I think that is the general consensus with one or two issues that are dealt with. Then Rachel and Jo arrive and come over to say hello, they briefly catch up with us we all discuss our journeys to the venue and then they disappear to start working on the room. The rest of us loiter in the bar area chatting and getting to know each other until around 10pm when we call it a night knowing tomorrow will be a long day.

It was so nerve racking meeting people you have only chatted to online but thankfully everyone turned out to be every bit as lovely as they seem in the virtual world.

I climb into bed with a smile on my face exhausted but excitement means that it is a rather restless night.

Getting Ready for Darker

A couple of weeks ago I talked clothes, but this week I want to talk travel.

In an ideal world I would have a car and travel to events would be simple, but at the minute I don’t. In my day to day life, I cannot afford to run a car just for the hell of it and cannot justify needing one badly enough to suck it up and manage the expense. This, of course, means travel to these events becomes more expensive.

The cheaper option is Megabus, for most locations it does involve travelling to Leeds to catch it but there is one huge problem with this method, you can only take one case and let’s face it you need a case just for the books and swag you are likely to be hauling there, and hopefully you will sell enough to fill it back up with books once you are there.

So you are looking at at least one case plus a case or holdall for clothes this really leaves you with only one option the train. I looked at the options for railcards but as I am over 25 but not a pensioner no help there, there is a travelling with friends railcard which means you and a friend can get a reduction when travelling together but it has to be the same friend, so unless your PA attends every signing with you that doesn’t help either.

The only real option is to wait until around 12 weeks before the date you wish to travel and start stalking the trainline sites,  if you are lucky you might find a bargain but again you must be careful with this as well, if there are changeovers, check the time between trains, make sure you have time to lug those cases from one platform to another if required, make sure if one train is delayed that you can catch a later one and that you are not tied to one train having to cough up more on the day. Sometimes it will be cheaper to buy single tickets for different legs of the journey, you have to be prepared to research.

Before you start looking at train times you should also double check on your check in and check out times, you don’t want to arrive hours early and have to drag your cases around with you, you then weigh up if there are savings to be made whether they are more than the price of a cup of coffee while you wait around.

I know a lot of this is simply common sense but guess what when you get caught up in the excitement it is easy to forget the little things, maybe you drive and think these things don’t apply but it is worth still checking out trains from your area and the prices you might have to pay because sometimes fate is cruel and cars break down at times that you really don’t need them too.

Like every other aspect of treating your writing career like a business, you have to weigh up all the pros and cons, get the best value for money balanced with ease and convenience. Like the best boys scouts, the secret is to be prepared for every eventuality, personally I know I have made some huge mistakes in the way I have planned and budgeted for this signing but the important thing is I have learnt from them and I am looking forward to being able to let my hair down and enjoying #Darker.

Let’s Talk Clothes!

Okay so you are lucky enough to have got a place at a signing event, you have the books, the swag and are ready, so what is left? Well, what are you going to wear?

So the night do is usually easier, it is normally formal and many times has a theme to help you decide on your outfit this was me with my daughter at the Leeds Event last year…

But it can get expensive, as you start attending more events you will meet up with the same people numerous times which means you cannot invest in one little black dress and re-wear it.  On the other hand, unless the day job pays really well or you have hit the jackpot with a best-selling novel you probably don’t want to be buying new dresses every few months that you can only wear the once or at least only once for now and then put to be rotated in a wardrobe. So the alternative as I have been looking into is eBay,  as I mentioned on Sunday I have found it to be a treasure trove of dresses bought for weddings, cruises and other suave social occasions that one has the excuse to dress up for. Worn once or twice these end up going for a fraction of the price of the new dress, likewise new clothes with tags show up in abundance, I am guessing like some of the clothes in my wardrobe these are bought but don’t fit and kept with the intention of fitting them one day or they just don’t get round to returning them within the correct time frame.

However, it is not just the ball/evening dress you have to consider, let’s start with travelling, you obviously need something comfortable but also some thing that will make the right impression at the hotel when you show up, then the evening prior to the signing you will need to eat, probably meet a few of the other authors in the bar or just hang out with them.

Then the big one your signing outfit, now I am pretty sure smart casual is the standard, it has to be comfortable enough to wear all day and practical, you don’t want to wear linen and look all crumpled after five minutes. There is though a secondary consideration, and that is your brand, does the way you dress reflect your work and personality? I am not for one second suggesting fancy dress, but if you write medieval fantasy would your readers really expect to see you in a floral, floaty dress. just as you work to bring your image together in terms of covers complementing each other, business cards matching other PR materials then you want to present an image of yourself that will both stick and be engaging. In some ways, it seems to me that it is almost like creating your own personal work uniform, it is the clothing you wear to put you in author mode when you are public.

I have bright purple hair, or to be fair this week it is the end of a dye cycle so it is more a mix of lilac and grey, so I am not what you would consider to be conventional, however, being plus size I am also acutely aware that not all clothes suit me or look good on me,  I am also aware that some of the things I might like the idea of wearing would not fit with my writing. While I am not saying that you should role play your characters I do think common sense comes into play, I write medieval fantasy, wearing Steampunk style clothes would possibly send confusing messages even though I love the style.

So what am I going to wear? For me I think it is looking like trousers suits with shirts or blouses, I like the idea of the traditional tweedy look against my purple hair, it allows me to show my personality with my hair but the suit gives a level of professionalism, and, rather than go for plain black, the idea of the tweed or possibly brown pinstripe appeals because it is the twist on the expected.

Of course, I don’t rule out the thought that I am over thinking this, but for me, I like the idea of having separate mix and match type items for wearing to signings.