Ta Dah! The Cover Reveal for Talk of the Toun

This post has been a long time coming and over the years I often wondered if I’d ever be published and get the chance to do a ‘Cover Reveal’.  It was a goal that kept me motivated beyond rejections and the many months it took to shape my novel. To think that one day I could walk into Waterstones and spot my book cover on the shelf has been a dream that ThunderPoint will make happen when it’s launched this October.

For me, one of the most exciting parts of the journey to publication has been the cover design. I know as a reader how easy it is to dismiss a book on a fleeting glance and there are many examples of utter howlers out there.  Be warned, click on ‘Kindle Cover Disasters’ and I guarantee that you will cringe! The importance of a great cover is well documented and Scottish Book Trust recently blogged about the ‘Death of the Book Cover: Do Covers Really Matter?’  They matter to me!

Reading this post sent a shiver down my spine. I wanted not to like my cover but to LOVE it! It had to be a striking image and one that in an instant made a statement about the contents. One of the benefits of being with a small independent publisher is that it’s a tight-knit partnership. There’s no faceless marketing department to deal with so that as each of the draft covers were up for discussion I was comfortable giving my feedback, knowing that ThunderPoint want me to be happy with the cover and proud to promote it (another cringe warning – I plan to be in lots of photos posing with the book!). I also feel lucky as I’m well aware that many authors who are signed by big publishing houses often get no input into their cover design and might not like the final result.

As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and I desperately wanted to feel sure that the final design was THE ONE so I bounced ideas around with my pal Anne until finally, after several drafts, (thanks for your patience ThunderPoint!) we had the image of the poodle with sunglasses.


In the book, the main character’s gran has a poodle called Bimbo.  The gran and her dog are like a comedy double act in this coming-of-age story.  But the quirky image says much more than a direct link to a scene in the book.  A key theme of the novel is ‘identity’ and how aged seventeen you need to explore who you are and sometimes have to fight against social expectations to explore your aspirations. It’s easy to hide behind sunglasses but you can also reinvent yourself to follow a new direction in life.

I hope you love the cover as much as I do and in the build up to the launch I’ll be sharing writing and book news on my new author Facebook page so please ‘like’ it if you want to keep updated.

What’s your favourite book cover? Do book cover designs influence your reading choices?

Dreams Can Come True…

This is the blog post I often wondered if I’d EVER get to write.

photoIt’s been a long journey, lasting years, with lots of ups and downs, more downs than ups to be truthful and I’ve blogged several times about my doubts about whether I should keep the faith that one day a novel I’d written would be published in the traditional sense.

And finally, haud me back, the day has come when I can jump up and down (not too much – when you wear a bra in my size – it isn’t safe) and scream, “Ya dancer!”

ec009d38c65e2132ca75e5c3a0891f9a_400x400I am more than a wee bit hyper (and still a bit hung over)  to announce that I have accepted a publishing contract for my novel, working title, ‘Talk of the Toun’ with ThunderPoint with the aim of having the book available in late 2015.

ThunderPoint are a small independent publisher based in Scotland who believe in me and ‘get’ what I’m trying to do with my book. When the email came through that Seonaid at ThunderPoint “laughed and cringed in equal measure” I knew I’d found the right publisher and can’t wait to see the manuscript morph from a word document into an actual book.


There are many folk in my real life who’ve helped me get to this point, I hope I get enough space in the book to acknowledge everyone although you know who you are (the bleeding ears from listening to me for years are a tell-tale sign). But there are others too who I ‘know’ in a virtual sense who have regularly left supportive messages on this blog and on Twitter that have meant a lot to me and encouraged me to keep going. To you, my dear and very patient readers, I’d like to say thanks for hanging on in there with me until the end, although some might say this is just the beginning.

In the words of Shania Twain, “Looks like we made it, look how far we’ve come my baby…”

See you at the launch…



Santa’s Best Pressie

images (2)This time last year, I blogged that all I wanted for Christmas was a big enough ego to call myself a writer. I must’ve been a good girl as the big man in the red suit with the white beard delivered and I’ve come a long way in my writing journey.

At the start of 2012, I had never been published and felt too shy to use the title ‘writer’ to describe myself. I felt that I needed an external endorsement to validate the claim and I got it in the form of several of my flash fiction pieces and short stories being published online, in anthologies and short listed in competitions. It’s not easy putting your work out there and I still have to work at fighting the self-doubt about how I’ll be judged based upon my writing. But like everything else in life, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Probably the most exciting high for me was hearing my story read out by a professional actress at the National Galleries of Scotland, ‘Inspired? Get Writing!’ event (there’s still time to enter this year’s competition deadline is 18/1/13). To hear words I’d written getting a laugh from the audience is a buzz I won’t forget in a hurry.  And it reminds me of one milestone that I still have to achieve, and that’s to read out my work in public. Of course, that requires me to keep submitting work which at the moment is pretty non-existent. But I’m hoping that 2013 will get me back on track with an ongoing submission schedule.

Completing my masters definitely gave me a huge boost and incentive to prove that I didn’t waste time and money on a writing qualification. It also provided me with an opportunity to take the time to find out who I am as a writer and where I want to go with my writing. And of course that would still be to fulfil the dream of a traditional publishing deal.

imagesBut it hasn’t all been success after success in 2012. The biggest and most painful blow was learning that having an agent doesn’t guarantee a book deal. To come close but not close enough hurts like hell.  But in the words of Kelly Clarkson, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” and the feedback I got from publishing editors will hopefully help to make my writing stronger.

543979_10200142443186502_1168765060_nAnother kick in the teeth was a complete knock-back from the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award. I knew the odds against getting anywhere with it were high but I was still praying that I would be one of the lucky ones (congratulations to my fellow MLitt student, Angela Hughes who made the shortlist-yeh!).


Chuffed to have my writing in Octavius, Causeway, Valve, New Voices Press & Paragram.

And of course throughout the year, there was a series of lesser “ouch” moments when submissions to literary journals and competition entries got nowhere.

But all in all, I can’t complain. I’m still on my agent’s books and I’ve got a MLitt to add to my name as well 6 pieces in a clutch of 5 mighty fine anthologies with my work featured.  So thank you Santa, I got what I asked for and more!

P.S. Dear Santa, if you’re reading this, Kelly Clarkson’s Greatest Hits CD would be much appreciated in case I need a reminder that, “What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter…” And I promise not to sing it out loud! Well, maybe just in my car when I’m driving alone…

Writing and Rejection

I was chuffed to bits to reach a milestone recently by having my first short story published. It was the wee boost I needed after being on the receiving end of the dreaded ‘R’ word.

“I’m afraid your novel is not right for our list”

“unfortunately, the piece is not for us”

“we will not be publishing your short story”

“thanks, but no thanks”

However it is worded, a rejection still hurts. It feels like someone telling me that my sons are ugly and they aren’t worth loving. Do I see any flaws in my boys? Of course not, they’re my flesh and blood and I wouldn’t change a thing about them (well maybe their selective deafness, eating habits, untidiness….) And my writing is my baby too and that’s why it gets messy with tears and snotters when another knock back drops into my inbox.

We’ve all heard the stories of famous writers being rejected and I’m sick to the back teeth of being told, “Don’t worry, J.K. Rowling suffered 12 rejections from publishers before she found the lucky 13th company to publish Harry Potter into literary history.”  Yeah, whatever. Only 12, I want to scream? That’s nothing, she had it easy!

So the lesson is that I need to get used to rejection. But does it get any easier I wonder? I doubt it; I think it’s more about accepting that rejection seems to be part of being a writer and living with it.

The trick I suppose is to learn how to cope with rejection. Here’s my 3 step strategy:

1) I try not to take it personally, although I’m glad that I don’t actually know any of the editors/judges so I don’t have to worry about awkward social contact in the future and bumping into them whilst drowning my sorrows with my old buddy, Pierre Smirnoff. There’s no risk of me telling them exactly what I think of their crappy literary journal. And who wants to be published in it anyway?

2)I also try to get straight back on the saddle and fire something else out to another magazine or competition.

3)But most importantly, I make it my goal to keep writing, with the hope that the more I write, the better writer I’ll become. I need to stay upbeat with PMA and all that guff (although PMA deserts me more often than my hubby would like).

My gran had a wooden plaque in her hall with the inscription, “Don’t take life too seriously, nobody gets out alive anyway”, painted on it along with the manic face of a circus clown. I can still picture the plaque and the message must have stuck in my brain because although it’s rotten receiving a rejection, I remember that rejection is not fatal, nobody died. And I laugh it off (courtesy of large vodka or two).