Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Honest” by Ava Bloomfield

Humbled ain’t the word, folks. Shucks. I’m speechless. Really, truly, thank you, Liis, for giving me such an astonishingly good start. Book bloggers are the future. ❤

Cover to Cover

Source: Goodreads

Where to start…First, let me thank Ava for handing over her book, her hard work and her baby of sorts just so I could read and review. Now, let me explain why I was struggling whether to give 4 or 5 stars as the rating. I went with my gut in the end. I wanted to give it 4 stars because it was so mentally disturbing, but for the same reason of being mentally disturbing I had to give it 5 stars. It well and truly worked. The message was delivered, point taken and mark made! My mind was reeling from the overwhelming try to deal with “What if it was real?”… “It could be real”… “Oh my god, how would anyone survive this pain?”
For a highly empathic person this book will offer an emotional roller-coaster ride and not through fields of unicorns and fluffy bunny rabbits…

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Cover Reveal: LEAP!

Wahooo!

Did you have a good Christmas and New Year? We at the Bloomfield household did!

In fact my year has started off rather well. Not only did my invoice for my last month of 2014 look *fantastic* considering I had a whole 2 weeks off, plus time off for Christmassy-related stuff, but I also just ordered a new cover this weekend and it’s ALREADY HERE.

Yes! That’s right! Those ugly MS-Paint place-holder covers are almost totally gone. I wish I’d never bothered with them in the first place but I couldn’t resist. I  was too excited to get the books up on Goodreads.

So once again I found myself shopping at Goonwrite.com, by far the best value for money I’ve ever come across for covers, and amazing quality too. I ordered my cover on Friday night – paid for two, in fact, because you get a discount and the dude is happy to keep a “credit” on file for you so that you can browse his new range of covers as and when they come in – and found it in my inbox this morning.

Is that amazing service or is that amazing? Hot-dawg.

I don’t know why I’m talking like that. I’m British. Must be all that sparkly customer servicey stuff I’ve been blathering on about. 😉

Without further waffling, here’s the sexy cover for LEAP!

Leap - High Resolution

Leap was such a tough one to find a cover for. I wanted it to have a retro-feel without being too camp, and most of all it needed to feel like a modern novel about the past, as opposed to a novel stuck in the past. Kat is definitely a modern 17 year old, despite its settings in 1997 and 1979, and the cover needed to reflect that.

There’s also the love-story elements and the concept of a girl being caught between two places; both in terms of time-period and in her personal life. She’s at a crossroads physically, emotionally, mentally – the whole shabang. Remember being 17? Yeah, that!

So it took a LOT of thinking outside the box to try and figure out how to pull all those elements together. It took me forever to actually stumble upon this cover, which I think is just perfect. It’s moody, it’s reflective, it’s contemporary, and it’s even complete with retro-looking clothes – almost fancy-dress style, which is perfect – and the model looks really rock ‘n’ roll. I particularly love her hair-do; it gives the impression of belonging to two styles and two eras, right? Get it?!

Another thing I loved about the model is she’s such an individual. Kat definitely prides herself on being a smart cookie who lives her life a little on the edge. She’s an A-grade student from a council flat in Peckham, who befriends a pair of punks from 1979 and sits in the loos with them smoking and drinking tins of Party Four. *Believe* me when I tell you how tough that was to personify visually.

You’re beginning to understand why I chose a stupid picture of a record player for the place-holder cover, right? Riiiight.

So there we have it. I hope you love the cover as much as I do, and here’s hoping it inspires more readers to click the ol’ “to read” button on Goodreads! That is, when I add it, of course. Gosh. I wasn’t born for administrative jobs, I can tell you that for nothing, duckies.

Ciao,

Ava

My decision to self-publish

This is a hard blog post to write.

Years ago, when I was about 17, I decided that I was going to follow my original dream of becoming an author – or at least a part-time author while I pursued the ever-elusive “career”. There weren’t many “careers” for girls like me, who hate long office hours, databases, spreadsheets and, worst of all, people. I didn’t want to play bullshit-bingo all my life with someone who took their middle-management job far too seriously.

And it wasn’t until about March of this year that I discovered I didn’t have to. It took months to build up trust with the company and get my invoices up to graduate wages, but all that hard work was worth it. So the career thing looks like it won’t be so bad after all.

The writing was always going to be a problem. I desperately wanted to  be traditionally published. My first published story – and a few after – was some wannabe-horror tripe that was picked up by a small press who have since gone right out of business. Later, I wrote “romance” (eerr…actually begins with an E) under a pen-name and sold my first story for £50. A while later, I sold another to Harper Collins for £75.

By that point, though, I’d spent three years getting my degree (an arts degree, of course) which I achieved highly in, but I still hadn’t got that publishing deal.

“Why not ME?” I thought. “There are women my age selling books. What’s up with that?”

Unfortunately, it took a long time to realise that the recession had put a LOT of companies in the red. Or is it in the black? Red? Black? Oh, I don’t know. I told you I was crap with spreadsheety stuff. They were firmly up shit creek, anyway, so the good old days of Stephen King getting hundreds of dollars for short stories, and the days when publishers built-up writers over the course of years, finally pooffed out all together. Today, you have to be an instant best-seller, and if you’re not, you’ll never get another book deal unless you’re very, very lucky.

To discover this was devastating. It took a lot of wishful thinking and a ton of rejections to realise that none of this was my fault. My novels are fine. They aren’t crap. The quality of a concept or the writing itself matters less and less in today’s world, and unless you’re already famous, you need to have SOMETHING to pull out the hat to make yourself a desirable writer for publishers.

I don’t know what some of these people do; I really don’t. I don’t know what gets them the golden ticket. But I do know that their rights are restricted more than they were in the good old days, the advances small if not non-existent, and that feeling of a freshly printed novel in their hands wiped away by “ebook-first”. Sales, too, aren’t always guaranteed. Many massive publishing companies – appearing successful – have been bought out.

So even for those brilliant Charlie Buckets, the golden ticket wasn’t a promise. It was just a chance, and if you don’t make it, then your golden ticket won’t even get you a Snickers at the vending machine.

Self-publishing, for a long time, was considered vanity-press – the last attempts of the failures and the terrible writers and the arrogant sods who think everyone should understand their genius. Some people today still think that, because even when ebooks became big, it took  a long time for authors to see it as a viable option.

But then they did. We saw people like Jackie Collins deciding to self-publish. We saw people making  great, steady sales of their work. We saw people become millionaires. We saw people getting picked up by great publishing houses for good deals like the old days.

We’re still seeing that. Even weirder, people are reading self-published work. They aren’t just assuming that the stories must be terrible. Why? Because things have changed.

I used to think very, very negatively about self-publishing. I vowed never to let myself make that “last attempt of the failure”, and I was always terrified that one day, I would. Except I’m not terrified any more.

If the only benefit of getting a publishing deal, today – assuming you’re publishing Joe Bloggs’ debut – is a thorough editing, a pretty cover and…that’s it, then what do self-publishers have to lose?

“You lose first publishing rights. It becomes a re-print that no agent or publisher will touch,’ says the Literary Agent.

Well, they would say that. Self-publishers cut out the middle man. But the fact remains that self-published authors who make great sales are probably around the same ratio as traditionally-published people who make great sales. JUST  because you get a “book deal” doesn’t mean you’re going to sell well.

And as we’ve seen with both smaller presses and the big 5, that BIG BREAK won’t stop them from kicking you to the curb when their funds run out, or your book sells poorly. Some of those authors will get better deals; some will use the platform to further themselves. Many will go traditional AND self-publish. Most will just go back to being “un-published”.

Un-published, after all that?
Back in the day, authors always sold badly. They were unknown. It took time to build them up. Today, it appears, there is no time. It’s make or break, as they say.

So it’s taken a lot of thought, and a lot of observation, to realise that nothing is crystal clear any more, and as much as people insist that you must “choose your path”, there still is no straight path. It doesn’t exist. However much the “experts” protests, we, the writers, are in the driving seat. We are allowed to go exploring. Why wait at the bus stop for a bus that went out of service yonks ago?

Many, many traditionally published authors are weighing up their options today. Many of them like to do both the traditional thing and the self-publishing thing. Why shouldn’t they? It’s their work. Writers needn’t be so f-ing grateful all the time. We’re not slaves.

What’s interesting, too, is that the writing industry is the only creative industry where it’s still frowned upon to go it alone. How much sense does that make?! Do musicians wait for the big break with their guitars locked in their bedrooms, or do they get out there, do some gigs, hand out flyers, and publish their own tapes?

What about artists? Do they only give their art to family and friends, or do they get on Facebook and Deviantart, hand out flyers, and show the world their art? Do they hide away or do they start selling? In fact, I think artists accepted indie writers way before most writers did. Self-publishing is a platform for artists too. “Indie” is no longer a dirty word for writers.

How else would anybody see what you can do?

Writers have always had to let their novels die on their hard drives, because if the BIG DEAL doesn’t come, then they’re worse than pond scum. Well, I think we all know that things are different now. Self-publishing is a viable option.

I think it was Amanda Hocking that changed my mind. NOT her sales – I’m aware that was a phenomenon, and I think she is too. But she did say something about the guy from Blink182 – she posted a video of it – and how their band started out. His advice was to never wait for the magic hand to come down, pluck you out, and make it all happen for you.

You have to show people what you can do. A handful of agents glancing over your cover letter just won’t cut it.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve thought over it long and hard, and I am no longer going to do the self-pitying thing. I won’t do it. I won’t spend my life pining over the magic hand.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still like traditional publishing. That doesn’t mean I don’t want an agent. I’m still waiting for my turn. But that turn will never come unless I get my work out there. At the end of the day, I’d rather people were reading my work – even if only a couple ever pick up my books – than let them die on the hard drive.

The negative-thinking-pitfall is not one I’ll go tumbling into again. It’s unproductive and it only damages me. Do I deserve to be damaged? No.

Getting my work out there will at least showcase what I can do. Maybe it’ll get me that agent on day, or that traditional deal. I sincerely hope so. I’m just not pining any more. I am awarding myself some respect. If people can do start-up magazines and artists can showcase their art, and musicians can busk and sell their CDs and do their gigs, then writers can show off their books. Simple as.

I am an artist like any other, and I’m going to make my  little corner of the world shine.

So, folks – watch this space. I have one ebook just about ready to go, and the other three to follow. My plan is to get them all up at once, because multiple books, I believe – from my research – makes people take a second glance.

I’ll be documenting my journey here and explaining my various reasons for doing this, or that, or the other.

I’ll be doing it my way after all. Yippee!

‘Beyond’ in editorial & the perks of being self-employed

Howdy-ho, folks.

You know, there’s something to be said for  being a teenager. Remember when it was acceptable to sleep until midday with one hoof out the covers? As an adult, I became aware of the fact that it wasn’t “acceptable” to be lazy any more. Well, it was whilst I was a student, of course, but by the time you enter the world of work, it becomes less a sign of being a care-free, albeit slobbish teenager, and more of being a lazy disgrace.

So, despite an illness I have which slows my metabolism to rock-bottom and used to make me sleep for England through sheer exhaustion, I try to make sure I’m up and at ’em at a reasonable time in the morning. The perks of being self-employed, however, make this “acceptable” waking time somewhere between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. – not the ghastly 6 a.m.-7 a.m. of everyone else. I have no train to catch, no suit or uniform to wiggle into – I need only wake up, eat something, and waddle over to my couch with my laptop.

It is a beautiful way of working. EVERYONE should get to work like this. It saves money for the company and, believe it or not, I’m actually way more productive than I would be in a boring office.

My best friend, however, pointed out that she’s not good with distractions, and being around her TV, her books, her games, the shops – you name it, she’d stray to it. I argued she wouldn’t if she had deadlines, like me, but she insisted that she’d only take longer to do the job and therefore do a *poor* job of it. So I can see where she’s coming from, totally.

Now, why am I bringing up this particular topic? Well, it’s not to boast, although it could be seen that way. I bring it up because last night, I couldn’t switch my brain off at all. I laid awake for hours thinking of babies, of houses, of weddings, of money, of all *seemingly* nice and wholesome stuff. Except if that stuff requires money  – and it does, in shed-loads – then it actually becomes a point of anxiety, not excitement. I simply couldn’t stop thinking about the mundanities and expense of the future.

So when I awoke this morning feeling totally refreshed, you can imagine my surprise. Well, that soon left me when I saw the clock. It was 11.58 a.m.

I had, in fact, slept like a teenager. It was beautiful.

Turns out I’d mumbled something about not getting to sleep to my boyfriend, who was just leaving for work, and he must have switched the alarm off. Utter, utter bliss.

There were no knocks on the door, no phone-calls – not even any work in my inbox. I was left to sleep, and I hadn’t slept that long since I was a student. You know what? Screw adulthood. Sleep is good for everyone. Work to live, don’t live to work, as they say.

Mm-mmm.

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So in other news, my new novel, “Beyond”, has gone through two sets of edits with me, and another with my partner – an editor by profession, as luck would have it. So now that it’s taken a roughly good shape, I’ve passed it on to the awesome Dayna of Secret Lives of Fiction Lovers. She’s offered her services for free, ladies and gents, despite the fact that she has qualifications in proofreading and a backlog of edited novels under her belt.

She has been paid in the past, even though she was only seeking to expand her CV at this point, so I’m naturally incredibly grateful that she has offered to do this totally free of charge. I hope I help some way towards Dayna reaching her goal of working in the industry – oh, and I hope my novel isn’t so terrible that she gets bored and wants to sling it out the window ASAP. I have *assured* her that she isn’t obliged to continue working on it if it makes her wince. Aren’t I nice?

I will be looking for BETA READERS, so watch this space or message me on twitter. I’ll be giving books away like hot cakes – whether they’ll taste like hot cakes or steaming piles of dung, however, remains to be seen.

Leave a comment? I love comments.

Toodles!

Thrift Shop/Charity Shop/Bootsale Haul

Hullo thar!

So one of my hobbies is, basically, buying old things.

Yeurp, I’m one of those retro/vintage junkies who can’t help collecting bits and pieces from the past. Mostly, I’m into furniture and kitchen pieces, rather than, say, fashion and jewellery. I’ve never considered myself much of a canvas so I prefer to fill my flat with second-hand things and surround myself with interesting pieces rather than necessarily be a walking clothes rack.

Thrift shopping is THE best fun in the world, if you do it right. Too many people, in my humble opinion, abuse the fine art of bargain hunting by waltzing into an “antique shop” or “vintage store” and paying whopping prices. Granted, if you can afford it, go for it – but where’s the fun in paying full price? Personally, I always avoid shops like that – if they know the beauty of what they have, they’ll charge for it – and they’ll undoubtedly charge too much. 

For me, the real fun is hunting for bargains, and finding hidden gems. The best places to go are good old fashioned charity shops – or thrift stores in the USA – second hand shops and bootsales/yard sales. Ebay and Etsy are all good, but remember, if it’s really special then the chances are the seller will have reserves, or the buyers will bid the price right up.

I’ve got hundreds of vintage things – recently, I developed a crazy passion for Chance Glass, and I can’t seem to get enough of it. Pics will come!

But for now, I’ll post a few pictures of some of my most recent buys, just to give you guys a little glimpse into my life. 

pricekensington

I recently bought these from a bootsale on a windy Sunday morning, and I was so excited to bring them home. I’ve seen all of these things up for whopping prices before – I’ve seen poorer examples of the sewing box selling for £18-£26, for instance.

The Price Kensington cookie jar is actually something I used to think was hideous – it was a jar I seemed to see in every house harping back to my childhood, and I couldn’t seem to get away from them. Then, for some reason, I decided they were a timeless piece – even though they’re undoubtedly the junky brick-a-brac of their day. Timeless or not, I fell in love with it, and I needed it in my life. I paid £3.

The “fashion shape” gravy boat is just the most beautiful thing, and the picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s 1950s and I use it every chance I get. I paid £2 for it.

The sewing box was amidst a bunch of old tools and other junk on some guy’s table. He sold it to me for just £2.

The plate rack now holds my beautiful J&G Meakin bowls and plates – a dinner service that I’m still building up – and I think I paid £1.50 for it.

Those velvet curtains in the background were purchased for about £17 at a bootsale a year or more ago, before I moved in to my flat. They’re perfect for my huge Victorian windows, and believe me, buying curtains brand new for windows that size would’ve set me back over £100 easily.

chest

A few months ago I went through a “MUST HAVE G-PLAN 70s FURNITURE!” phase and decided I needed to give upcycling  a try after watching too much Kirsty Allsopp. I don’t think it’s a real G-plan chest, but one rainy day, when I set out to find a chest of drawers, I found it – what a weird stroke of luck. It was raining, too, so I didn’t hold out much hope, but there it was. I bought it for £7 and painted it myself. Not everbody’s colour tastes, but hey-ho.

That’s a fake PK cookie jar, btw, which I had before I found a genuine one. I now use it to hold tea bags along with my Sadler mexican coffee bean guy. That sweetie jar was given to me by my mum, the best thrifter in the west. It’s pretty old, but I’m not sure how old. Around 1940s, I think.

formica

This is my beloved yellow Formica table. It isn’t a dop-leaf, but it is beautiful and it is MIIIIINE, ALL MIIIINE! I found this at my favourite furniture shop, Sue Ryder, and it was up for £20. We happened to drive by and I noticed it outside, beckoning me. I knocked them down to £10 and took it home that minute.

You can’t see them very well, but those glasses are Dandy characters from 1989, which I bought from Fairhavens for £2.

kitchen

This is just a little shelf I found in Sue Ryder for £2 and painted white. Those mini casseroles were from my mum – she also gave me two larger ones and a massive crock – so I didn’t pay for those. The picnic tin is, I reckon, probably 1960s? It’s an amazing little bit of kit with a spring top. My mother also gave me that – or rather, like most things from my mum, I nicked it!

teacup

I have the whole set of this – it’s an absolutely gorgeous tea set. It’s either 50s or 60s, I’m guessing. I bought this at a bootsale, along with about five pieces of Chance glass nibbles-plates for £8 in total.

tunbridge

This is an absolutely beautiful Tunbridge cabinet that I bought from Sue Ryder for £45. It was £55, but I bought something else with it (to follow!) and managed to combine delivery charges with it, so that’s what it worked out as. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s empty here because I’d only just got it, but now it’s full of 50s pink elephant cocktail glasses and cake stands. I also have a 70s Expelair fan sitting on top because we’ve had so much heat this summer. This cabinet goes for a few hundred quid, so I got a major bargain. It even has a Formica top.

I bought  this when I was obsessed recently with getting myself a bar, like Delboy’s in Only Fools and Horses. I didn’t have space for one, but I DID have space for a cocktail cabinet. It even plugs in and lights up. I wanted a pineapple ice bucket for it, but my finacé drew the line, there, hahaha. I settled for a mini Crystal D’arques ice bucket bought for £2 at Fairhavens instead.

beresfordhicks

This is the corner cabinet I bought with the Tunbridge cocktail cabinet. It was £15, but I knocked them down to £10 and very cheekily asked if they could include postage in the price. I NEARLY got told to clear off – but the saleswoman went soft on me in the end. So, after haggling, I paid just £65 including delivery for what WOULD have cost me £80 if I’d paid the asking prices and the delivery.

I’d planned to paint this white, but decided that I loved the flame patterns in the wood.

Even better? On its arrival, I discovered it was actually a Beresford & Hicks cabinet. One of these, painted white – or “upcycled” – went for £180 on Ebay in MY TOWN! I just couldn’t believe my luck. It now holds my TAMS tea set, the tea set above, and most of my Chance glass in the cabinet section. On the shelves I have some kooky 50s ceramics. I adore it.

30stray

Lastly but certainly not least, I bought this lovely lot yesterday. It’s an art deco 1930s dressing table set, in the most beautiful design, “Kiralpo”, by Keeling & Co. I bought this at a bootsale for £4 and it now holds my junk jewellery and a silver vanity set, on my 1960s Louis-style dressing table, of course! I *think* it’s 1930s, but it actually could be earlier.

That little gold compact doesn’t have a makers mark that I can see. However, it is engraved with the initials “A V” and the date, 10. 4. 47. I’d love to know the story behind this, and I wished I’d asked the seller if he knew, but I got the impression he didn’t. It includes a mesh powder section with a spring-lid and a perfect mirror inside. The little powder-sponge is embroidered with the words “Angel face”, which was just too adorable not to buy. I paid £2 for it.

So, there we are. Those are just a few things I’ve bought recently, though I could talk for ever about all the other quirky bits and pieces I’ve filled my flat with. 

My obsession with old bits ‘n’ bobs definitely stems from my upbringing, because I think my mum and I share this sense of belonging amongst pre-loved things with plenty of history behind them. Growing up, I always joked that our house was like Steptoe and Son’s, but it looks like she’s passed the baton to me.

I remember buying a knitted owl for 10p at a church bootsale as a child, purely because the seller had asked me, “Do you want to take him home for 10p?” It was a hideous toy, but I felt so sorry for it that I couldn’t walk away. Somebody had loved him once, and, after all, the seller had said “him”. You can’t go around personifying inanimate objects and expect me not to become attached! You just can’t! 

And, thus, another thrifter was born.

Do you love thrifting? Let me know in the comments!

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In other news, I just returned from a gorgeous camping trip in Devon, and I miss the fresh air already. It’s back to my transcribing work tomorrow, and luckily I’d built up enough work before my week away to make up for the lost time. I’ve already gone and bought a gorgeous pair of pink wellies, so I shouldn’t imagine it’ll be long before me and my fiancé are off camping again. We’ve certainly caught the camping bug.

The Writer’s Own Slushpile

The hardest thing about being a novelist is learning that your first novel will probably be shit.

So will the second.

By the third, you might have learned a trick or two. You’ve read tons more books since the first and you have a new respect for pacing. The first novel gave you more confidence knocks than you ever thought you could handle, and by the second novel, you’ve finally realised that you really, really aren’t that special little snowflake. Going unpublished is something that DOES happen to you – not just everyone else. By the third, you realise that you’re writing because you love writing, and no matter what happens, that IS precious to you.

Even if it hurts to go unpublished yet again.

This road is long and you’re walking it with everyone else, pulling your manuscripts along in a little kiddy cart behind you. Some peoples’ piles are higher than yours. For others, their wheels are wobbling off. Some people have to keep re-attaching the handle because it just keeps slipping and the bolt never did fit properly.

Others are sick of dragging the cart around, so they think ‘Fuck this shit!’ and they flat-out boot it into a ravine and storm off without it. They’re going to focus on their day job because at least it pays.

 

I am on my seventh manuscript.

That’s not including the countless short stories I’ve written over the years since I decided, at age 18, that I was going to take this writing malarkey seriously. I sold a good few short stories to some terrible markets, for basically pennies, and most of those places ended up closing down on account of them being shite, and my stories being shite, and it all just being shite, really.

But later, I made some professional sales. I sold a short story to Mischief Books, a Harper Collins imprint, and was paid £75. For a 2,000 – 3,000 word short story, that wasn’t too bad.

But I wanted to be a novelist. I still do. And you know what? I am. I’m just unpublished so far, and that is NORMAL. I just have my very own slush pile to work through, and I am a very, very busy woman.

The problem with the slush pile is that you’ve got this backlog of work, which you’ll recall as being terrible one day and amazing on another. You’ll read snippets and burst with pride. You’ll read other snippets and wonder what the heck you were on about.

But mostly, you’ll still burst with pride. I do, and that’s what’s most confusing – because you’re forever left with this question in your mind: why not me?

There is never, ever any way of telling if you’re actually good at this stuff. There just isn’t. You can read as many novels as you like, and coo over Margaret Atwood and even accept that you’ll never, ever hold a candle to her – but it’ll  never reveal a single thing about yourself and your ability as a writer.

You have a slush pile, but you are no agent. You’re just a writer. You can’t see between the lines like they do.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

The worst part, of course, is ALWAYS the editing.

Right now, I’m working through my three YA novels (two of the others are the terrible first two novels; the third an adult Gothic horror; the fourth a novella) and it’s like staring at a mile-high  junk yard. Somewhere inside it are all the parts to build a Ferrari – except I don’t know what a Ferrari looks like under the bonnet, and I don’t know how the heck to build one anyway.

Doesn’t stop me wanting to drive one though, ’cause y’know…I reckon I’d look good in it.

That is a terrible, rubbish, awful analogy. I can’t even drive.

OH Christ, you get the picture. Use your imagination – you’re an author, aren’t you?! AREN’T YOU?!