Awesome Indies Approved!

I don’t often use my blog to talk about my achievements when it comes to my writing – it’s usually my sounding board when things are going less well!

On this occasion however I have decided to change things up.

My debut novel The Flower Seller was released in June 2016. I worked hard to make The Flower Seller the best version of the book it could possibly be. As an indie author I was keen for my novel to stand out so I put a lot of thought and effort into how the cover would look and engaged a fabulous cover designer to assist. Step forward the wonderful Berni Stevens

I also made sure I didn’t stint when it came to the story inside the covers – I worked with an editor and a proof reader to make sure the book was as well presented as it could be.

It was at this stage of the process that I became aware of Awesome Indies. If you are unfamiliar with them here is a link to their site

Their Mission Statement as stated on their site is as follows:-

“Our editors award the Awesome Indies Badge of Approval to indie books that meet mainstream standards of quality. Readers buy our books safe in the knowledge that every one is a professional product. We are the unique voices of quality independent fiction.” Tahlia Newland, founder.

Their approval is the equivalent of a Kite Mark of quality.

Details of how to submit your novel for consideration are given below:-

I approached one of the AI Assessors, Debbie Young, to see if she would be willing to read and review The Flower Seller. She kindly agreed and you can read her review here:-

Having received the requisite level of review from Debbie, I was able to formally submit to Awesome Indies and see whether my novel could achieve the necessary second high scoring review.

I am proud to say that The Flower Seller has achieved that and has therefore been granted Awesome Indie Status. You can read the second review here:-

Whilst it is nice to be independent, it is still wonderful to be given the approval of your peers.

And I believe anything that can distinguish good quality, well produced indie books from those that are thrown on to the market with very little thought or care has to be a good thing for all writers and particularly for all readers. Don’t you agree?


Time to Write – Part Two

The thing about writing is you have to sit down and get it done. There are no shortcuts. Just you and the keyboard in harmony or despair – sometimes both in the same half an hour.

I have discovered the key to finding time to write is not to go looking for it in the first place. Your life will already be filled or else your natural instinct to want to relax will kick in. There is no free time to write. That is why you have to carve it out of your everyday routine. It is the only sustainable way to achieve your long term goals and call yourself a writer unless you have invented the ability to stretch time in which case call me.

Woodpecker by Andy courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

I happen to be a morning person. I love mornings! I am an early riser, the earlier the better. I love the solitude the new day brings when it is just me, my dog and a cup of tea as the world wakes up around me. I find writing early in the morning easy. Mentally, I get out of the way and just let the words flow. I do keep one eye on the clock because I have a forty-five minute window to make the magic happen. The reason I have a wonderful forty-five minute window? I get up early just to write.

It’s no good asking an evening person to do what I do. It would be like asking me to write good stuff at ten o’clock at night. It’s not going to happen.

Tired by Nick Harris courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

Once you know what suits your natural rhythms you will know the best time of day (or night) to write. Then you will need something to aim for – a set period of time or a word count target. I have both. I try for 1,000 words in my forty-five minute window.

If I have had a break from my morning routine I know that the first few mornings back in the saddle will take some adjusting to. I did this a couple of weeks ago – the first day I managed no more than 300 words, the second day it was 750. By the third day I had hit my stride. I didn’t beat myself up about not reaching the target on the first two days. I was simply pleased with the quality of what I wrote and the fact that I had SHOWED UP.

One Step at a Time by Kitt O’Malley courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

Sometimes writing is all about demonstrating your commitment to the project and in yourself as a writer. Showing up for a writing session, day after day, is what gets a book written. We can all hit a rich seam of creativity for a few hours at a time but it is the sheer slog that pushes a writer over the finish line.

So my tips for getting the writing done are simple:-

  1. Find the time of day or night that suits the rhythms of your body best and carve out writing time from it.
  2. Set yourself a realistic limit on time and/or word count for your writing sessions.
  3. Show up, day after day, week after week.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall short of your word count target, just be pleased you still showed up.
  5. If you break the routine of showing up, get back to it as soon as you can.
  6. When you reach a milestone in your work in progress choose a little treat for yourself.
  7. Keep showing up until the book is finished.

Before you know where you are, you will be ticking milestones off your list and your writing sessions will be incorporated into your days as if they have always been there.



Time to write?

One thing is guaranteed in life – there is never enough time.

Time by Alan Cleaver courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

To find time for all the things we have to do in life is bad enough. For a lot of writers the situation is even worse. Writing often isn’t the day job. Writing is the job we do after/before/around the day job. It may once have been a hobby but has become, often to our delight, another career. If you are an indie or hybrid author, you also have to balance all the business demands that have to be met. If you are not careful that delight can turn to overload and then panic which usually results in you being less productive and extremely stressed. Not the position you want to be in when you are trying to make your dreams come true.

Time by John Morgan courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

The work of a writer is labour intensive. The business side of it equally so. Most of us don’t have the luxury of employing staff or even have willing family or friends to whom we could farm out some duties. In any event, most writers are control freaks who even if offered competent help would probably turn it down in fear of what might happen if they relinquish the reins of control.

Control by Jennifer Peyton courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

When your one time hobby becomes a job, especially a second job, how do you ever find time for a new hobby that takes you out of yourself and gives you a chance to relax?

We are not designed to be Duracell bunnies, happily banging cymbals together without any down time. It may be sustainable for a short stretch of time but you cannot live like that for long without the cracks starting to show either in your health, your relationships or the fact you start making mistakes.

Duracell Bunny by Skim Milk courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

We are all familiar with the timeless plot of many stories. You know how it goes – our hero/heroine finds themselves downtrodden and put upon, then has to find a way to improve their lot and achieve a happy ending. A lot of writers are living that plot but without the happy ending.

Next week I will share some of the tips I have adopted to help me get the work done but not lose my sanity along the way.

All writers deserve a happy ending to the work/life balance conundrum and there isn’t a one size fits all answer so I am keen to hear how you manage your writing time and what strategies you adopt when you feel your work/life balance getting out of control.


The Writer’s Waiting Game – Part Two

Waiting to discover the outcome of a submission to either an agent or a publisher is a nail biting time for all authors as I blogged about previously. This week my blog isn’t about the wait imposed upon you by others, it’s the wait you must impose upon yourself. This particularly applies to indie published authors and is by far the hardest wait of them all.

Too often writers succumb to a mad dash for publication. All that matters is getting the book out into the market place. It is as though the temptation becomes too much. But at what cost?

Wait by ScapeGOATofPIE courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

Depending on how they are working indie authors have no one to tell them whether a manuscript is ready. If you don’t have a critique group to fall back on trusting your own judgment can be a difficult thing.

Once the drafting and polishing are finished, I can understand the urge to put your work out there but too many indie authors are slapdash about editing. They make the mistake of thinking they know enough themselves to be both writer and editor or that asking a well read friend to read the manuscript will suffice.

Reading by Sebastien Wiertz courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

Some don’t see the point in wasting time in organising a proofread much less a professional one. There is a cost to hiring professionals but in the long run it is worth it. I hired both an editor and a proofreader. I also read the manuscript through several times during the process. I was amazed that the proofreader found errors (fortunately only a few) which the editor and I had missed. She also picked up a couple of niggles that had crept in during formatting.

Taking the time to get the book edited and proofread was, for me, worth it. I wouldn’t consider publishing a novel any other way. It’s an author’s shop window. Would you really want a half baked story full of spelling or grammatical errors on sale with your name on it? To do so risks losing fans who, with a bit more patience, you may have wowed with your fabulous book.

Publishing can be a crazy carousel ride but rush to publication too soon and everything you hoped to achieve will be undone at the outset.

Ignore the voice saying ‘Publish me. Publish me now!’ The extra time and effort you put in at this stage will reap rewards.

Indie authors are in the envious position amongst writers of having so much choice but don’t make the mistake of rushing things when there is absolutely no need. Put the extra time in and play the waiting game. I promise you, you will be pleased you did.

Clock by Clive Darra courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0




What puppies can teach writers

As some of you will know I recently welcomed a puppy into my life. A puppy + writing = zero productivity (in my experience so far!) so why would I suggest writers can learn anything from puppies?

My puppy is intrepid. She is stubborn. She is strong and she is determined.

These are all qualities we writers need by the bucket load.

Willow is also a problem solver. I screened off various parts of my garden to prevent her from getting into areas where she might get into difficulty. These naturally became the only parts of the garden she was interested in playing in. It was fascinating to watch as she quickly worked out various ways to scale walls, belly flop through trellises and jump through wicker hurdles. Personally I think she has been watching too much of the Olympics on TV! She thinks she’s a gymnast not a dachshund.

It is her absolute determination to overcome the obstacles put in front of her that has been so captivating. She would try the direct approach and when that didn’t work she would come at the problem from a new angle until she figured it out.

Barriers by Devin Stein courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

As writers we face a lot of obstacles. Some are common to all writers. Some are specific to trad published or indie published. One thing is for sure we have to be expert problem solvers. Leaving aside the complexities of managing characters and plot, finding your genre, finding your home, takes time.

We have to be prepared to travel down a lot of roads. We start out full of expectation but quickly discover we have either wandered into an impenetrable forest or wound up at a dead end. Time to retrace our steps and start over.

Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Close your Eyes and Surrender to your Darkest Dreams by MartinaK15 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

It’s the writers who keep trying to solve the puzzle, who are determined to figure out a way round or through the obstacles, that succeed.

It’s only natural to be frustrated when something you thought would be a slam dunk turns out not to be. It’s all grist to a writer’s mill. Just keep going.

3D Bright Idea by Chris Potter courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

So far as Willow is concerned all the barriers in the garden have now been removed. There was no point in keeping them. She was just too smart but above all her persistence paid off. I guess it’s why they call it dogged determination!

The Flower Seller Cover and Blurb
Have love and loyalty gone out of fashion? The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes available from Amazon now

Can anyone be an author?

In the broadest sense yes. With a bit thought, application and practice we can all write something of merit be it a Facebook post of a tweet. But it takes a certain type of person to be an author of books.

Typewriter by Sarah Scicluna courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

Essential qualities all authors must have:-

  1. Realism – it’s a tough world out there for writers.
  2. Optimism – someone, someday will see my potential.
  3. Pain management – it hurts to write (if you’re doing it properly), it hurts not to write (if you are driven to write).
Pain by Lien C. Lau courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

4. Levelheadedness – they love me, they love me not. Rejection can be death by a thousand cuts. Can you withstand that and come back writing?

5. The ability to daydream – Where do you think all those crazy ideas come from – even the ones that never make it to the page.

6. Dogged determination – Never give up, never give up, never give up!

Determination by Emil Ovemar courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

7. Pragmatism – if something isn’t working, is there a way of doing it better or doing it differently?

8. Stamina – It’s a long haul to write a book, a longer haul to edit and market it. Have you got what it takes to become the literary equivalent of a marathon runner.

9. A thick skin – they said what about me? Shrug your shoulders and move on – it’s not you, it’s them!

10. The ability to multi task – there will always be at least three writing related things to do – six if you are an indie author. Make like an octopus!

Octopus by Karyn Christner courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

Can anyone be an author? Yes but to be a successful one I think you need all of the above. What do you think?

The Flower Seller Cover and Blurb
Have love and loyalty gone out of fashion? The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes available from Amazon now


Work-Work Balance

If you are anything like me your “to do” list is too long and your timescale for completing the tasks too short. If you’re not careful you can wind up feeling stressed and achieving even less than normal because you feel overwhelmed.

To Do List by John Schultz courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Part of the problem is that we kid ourselves about how much we are capable of doing. We have a tendency to think we’re super human and so we keep loading more and more on to ourselves until something gives and the cold winds of reality start to blow.

We also kid ourselves about how long the individual tasks are likely to take. Confident we can knock over five things on our stuff to do list when realistically, in the time we are allowing, two or possibly three are achievable at most.

The antidote to the stress of all this is often to write a new list, even though the list itself is often part of the problem. Why? Because we tend to load everything on to one list. We feel better simply for having recorded it all but I bet you do what I do and just write the list in an almost stream of consciousness way, spewing it all down in no particular order, just what pops into your head first

To do list
World’s Most Popular To Do List Software by I.A. Walsh courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

When we come to tackle the list most people will start at the top and try to work down it or we might cherry pick the easy jobs or the ones that just appeal to us the most. It’s not an efficient system.

So I decided to step back and work out what my priorities were so far as my writing was concerned.

For the last few weeks I have been trying a new system. I still write the stupidly long list that records everything I’m scared I might otherwise forget but then I categorise the list into Tier One Priorities, then Tier Two and then Tier Three. What gets Tier One status? Prepping the next two books for publication and increasing my reach and exposure. How does that shake out in terms of items on the list? Get the proofread finished for the novella I have coming out next and finish the edits on the book which will be published next summer, learn how to do Facebook ads and write my blog to increase my reach and exposure.

Now other items on my list may also fulfil the second part of a Tier One priority – to increase reach and exposure but they can’t all be a Tier One otherwise I’d have the same problem of overload. You have to be choosy. What is likely to have the most impact?

Choosy by Brett Jordan courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

I then have a realistic weekly target of what I want to achieve in the Tier One areas. Once I have hit those targets then I can move on to the Tier Two stuff. It’s why I don’t have as many Pinterest boards as I would like. I love Pinterest but right now other stuff is more important or why I’m not posting on Facebook every five minutes.

Focus by Dimitris Kalogeropoylus courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Being focused is the key, for me at least. You could argue that the items languishing in the Tier Three section will never get done. You may be right but that was probably always the case. Right now I am getting more of the big stuff done with less stress and that has to be a good thing.


The Flower Seller cover came second in Author Shout’s Cover Wars. I would like to thank all of you who took the time and trouble to vote. #teamellie fought a good fight. We were pipped at the post in the run in but you guys were awesome 🙂

The Flower Seller Cover and Blurb
Have love and loyalty gone out of fashion? The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes available from Amazon now