It’s Ok To Ask For Help

I’ve never been very good at asking for help, and I blame my parents for this. With the best of intentions, they brought us kids up to be polite, and not ask for things. It was one of the most repeated mantras of my childhood. ‘Don’t ask for anything! Wait until you are offered!’ I can see why they drummed this into us. They didn’t want their children to be brattish or demanding. They thought children who marched into someone’s house and asked for an ice lolly were rude. I can clearly remember playing in the garden at my Nan and Grandad’s house on various hot summer days. We knew the ice creams were kept in the chest freezer in the cellar. We knew our doting Nan would give us one if we asked, but we didn’t dare. We kept egging each other on, urging one of us to go and ask for an ice cream. I expect we worked up the nerve eventually, but it definitely took some time!

Not asking for things in sweet shops and toy shops was the norm. My mum would have given us ‘the look’ if we had ever dared. She always said it was much nicer to give a child something they had not been expecting. But the trouble is, not asking for treats becomes translated by a child into not asking for anything, including help. Take me in the classroom, all the way through my education, too scared to put my hand up for any reason, including going to the toilet!

I’ve had a problem with asking for help my entire life. I hate asking anyone for anything. If I have any kind of problem, I will do everything I can to try to solve it on my own, before I give in and reach out for a helping hand. It really is quite ridiculous. I can’t help assuming that asking for help annoys the person you are asking, puts them out, or means they will begrudge you.

This has also made things harder as an indie writer. Indie writers cannot do it all alone. They just can’t. But in the beginning, this was how I approached things. I struggled with so many aspects of indie publishing, from formatting, to cover design, to marketing, to gaining reviews, and I was absolutely rubbish at asking for help! I truly didn’t want to bother people.

Fast forward four years and six books later and I am beginning to change my mindset. For my sixth book, The Tree Of Rebels, I actually had a book launch.  I wasn’t quite brave enough to do a real life one, so I opted for a Facebook one and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was amazed by the response and the positive results of sales, reviews and follows. I’ve also started asking for help more by sending out ARC’s for the first time ever. I would never have done this before, but now I am trying to live with the mantra; ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get!’ Out of the 45 people I asked, 31 responded positively, and I have received 18 reviews on Amazon UK and 6 on Amazon US. This has without a doubt given this sixth book a far bigger kick into orbit than the others have, and I will learn from this and do an even bigger and better book launch next time!

friendship-2390279_640.jpg

Learning to ask for help is not easy when it has been indoctrinated into us to be polite. Last week was a really hectic one for me work-wise. I had all the normal bits to do and a rather big dog walking/sitting job as well. I love my day-job as a dog walker and sitter, but I’ve only gone back to it fairly recently as it was too tricky to combine with my youngest when he was first born. Last week I was so busy walking back and forth, that my blog post didn’t get written or posted and I only managed to scrape in an hour or two of editing Elliot Pie each day. There was one day in particular when I had a lot of walking to do, washing to hang out, a parcel to post that had been sitting there for weeks, washing up to do and God knows what else. Instead of trying to do everything myself and then getting grumpy, I reached out to the kids and got them to help. Two took the parcel to the post office and one hung out the washing, and wow, what a difference it made just having those two jobs crossed off the list! I felt I could breathe again and calm down and it made me realise how rubbish I am at asking for help at home too.

I do what my mum used to do. I do everything myself get worn out, feel unappreciated and then moan about it! I must stop doing this! I have four children and the oldest three are more than capable of helping out. If it involves the animals, they jump at the chance anyway, so why the hell am I trying to do it all by myself? Again, I think the reluctance to delegate chores goes back to being told not to ask for things as a child.

I don’t want my children to grow up unable to ask for help, so I am trying to set them a good example now. I’ve told them all about the amazing response I had when asking for help to launch the latest book. I want them to see that asking for help doesn’t make you weak, or needy, or annoying. Yes, you should strive to be independent and proactive, but when you genuinely need help from others, you should not feel ashamed to ask for it. And it makes such a huge difference!

Have you ever found it hard to ask for help? How did you overcome this? I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment and share.

Advertisements

10 Ways Writing A Book Is Like Raising A Child

 

This blog post is brought to you from the mind of a writer who has a three-year-old son who won’t go to sleep by himself. As frustrating as it is, his delightful refusal to fall asleep on his own, is entirely my fault. As my fourth and last baby, I have held onto him even tighter. This time, I ignored the advice I had struggled with in the past, I shunned the social norms and expectations and embraced what felt natural. So, he was breastfed to sleep until he was two and three months, and since then, I have cuddled up in bed with him and held him until he falls asleep. So of course, he has absolutely no clue how to drop off on his own. We tried working on it last week and it was horrible. There was crying and shouting and stomping about and general confusion for both of us. Inevitably, I gave in to him and to my heart and got back into bed with him. As I lay there, holding his half snoring, half sobbing body tightly to mine, I suddenly realised that a year from now he will be about to start school. I held him even tighter and as I gazed into his face I could have wept with the useless, torment of knowing this will all one day be over. And then I started thinking about writing books, preparing them and letting them go. I released my latest book The Tree Of Rebelson the 11th August after two years of work. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that writing books and raising kids have quite a few things in common…

  1. They occupy your mind constantly and completely. I sometimes say my mind is like a sieve these days. Utter mush. But in truth, it is just full of children and writing and there is not a lot of room for much else. If I am not thinking of,  worrying about or planning things for my children, then I am consumed with thoughts and fears and ideas of the fictional kind.
  2. You don’t want to let them go. Well, sometimes you do. When they drive you mad, when you’re at a complete loss as to what they need or want. When you’re tired, close to exhaustion, just want to escape, or have completely forgotten why you started this in the first place! But most of the time, letting go is hard. Almost impossible. I just spent two years making sure one book was good enough to meet the world. And as for the kids, I’m never going to be ready for that.
  3. You are always preparing to let go. Though you don’t want to, you know you have to. As a parent, bringing up your child to be a decent human being, is preparation for letting them go. From the moment you first hold them in your arms, you are making decisions that will affect how they turn out. You encourage them to walk and talk and run and climb. You send them to pre-school and teach them how to hold a knife and fork. You do all of these things because you know that one day they will be standing on their own two feet. It’s the same with writing a book. When you first start it feels impossible that it will ever be developed enough to share with anyone. It’s a mountain to climb. Followed by another one. But every draft, every edit, every rewrite, every proofread are all part of letting it go bit by bit.
  4. You know you must work hard for the end result to have a positive impact on the world. You don’t want to raise an arsehole. You don’t want to inflict a spoiled brat on the world. You don’t want to create a selfish, mean or ignorant human. There are already enough of those! Raising decent kids is a lot of hard work. You have to say no a lot, and you have to explain why you are saying no. You have to distract them from the thing you are saying no about. You have to be inventive, creative, spontaneous, organised and heroic. Writing a book is similar. You might not aim to change the world, but surely you don’t want to make the world a worse place?
  5. Inspiration works both ways. My children and our lives together inspire my writing. I write for them and because of them. Our journey takes me outside of myself and later allows me to fully wallow inside of myself. They have made me a better person and I want to be that better person for them. Being a writer also inspires me as a parent and a human. Because I love writing, I am interested in humanity and in the stories that make up a society. I hope this makes me more empathetic as a person, as I try, time after time, to get into the heads of other people.
  6. The work is never really over. You get to the top of the mountain, only to discover another one! The work is never over if you are a writer. There will always be another idea, another plot, another story to be told. The same applies to parenthood. They might fly the nest one day, but you are never going to stop worrying about them.
  7. But once it’s mostly done, you will have more time for the next project. When I go cold at the thought of my littlest one starting school, I remind myself how much more time I will have for other things, once he does. I can remember when my third child started school, I spent months dreading it and welling up at even the thought of it, and then, that summer, I started writing again. I had not written in years. But suddenly it was back and I needed it more than ever. I was suddenly excited. I had something just for me. I had a part of me back again! And the same thing applies to writing a book. You feel so many mixed emotions when you finally publish it, but what allows you to let go is the call of the next project, the next characters and so on. It keeps you excited.
  8. They will always be your baby. Kids grow up fast. They often move away from you before you are ready. Pulling their hand out of yours when they spot their friends. Saying they are too old for bedtime stories. It happens bit by bit. You watch them grow. You prepare to say goodbye. But even when they eventually leave home, just like the books you wrote, they will still be your babies. Forever. Nothing can change that.
  9. They came from inside of you. And I don’t just mean physically, although this is obviously true of both your children and your writing! I mean they were created and developed and matured with your thoughts, feelings, emotions and imagination. What is inside of you as a human, what makes you you, has had an influence on these offspring of yours.
  10. Creating them means you will live forever. Well, sort of. I like to think of it like this anyway. Passing your genes onto your children, as well as some of your experiences, stories, opinions, beliefs, means parts of you live on after you have died. The same could be said of writing books. Your words and therefore, parts of you and who you were, will continue to exist long after you do.

people-2572105_640

 

Being A Self-Published Author; Is It Worth It?

This is a question I ask myself on a regular basis. And let me be honest, for many reasons, I would not choose to be self-published over having a decent traditional deal with the right publisher who knows how to market my books. Let’s get that out in the open. There are many proud indies out there who feel very differently, and I admire them greatly. Perhaps their books are selling so well they have been able to give up their day job. It does happen! Perhaps they are earning enough to keep a smile on their face and self-doubts at bay. Perhaps they are natural promotional and marketing wizards, or have experience in this area. I salute them.

But for many indies, the self-published route is a hard old slog. That’s not to say it’s without its joys and successes. It’s thrilling to finally publish a book. It’s exciting to work on a cover, and it’s challenging to learn how to craft a decent synopsis. There are a lot of positive aspects to self-publishing, and I would never ever deter anyone from trying it. You learn innumerable skills, you run your own business, you hit the ceiling with joy when your book connects with a reader so much they send you a personal message or leave a book review that blows your mind. Believe me, there is a lot of fun to be had.

But let’s take another look at the hard old slog of it. Let’s take a look at what it can take to get a book finished and out there, to push it and promote it, and then see a trickle of sales reward you. Let’s think for a minute what it is like to remember that literally millions of other indies are publishing books, that the market is swamped and that it is getting harder and harder to be seen and heard.

So, first, you write a book. Which might take a year or two out of your life. There will inevitably be blood, sweat, and tears. There will be semi-breakdowns and outright temper tantrums. There will be a neglected family and or partner who know you are never really listening to them when they talk. There will be a day job for you to try to focus on. There will be housework and life and this crazy, messed up world. But somehow, you do it.

baby-215867_640

Of course, the hard work has only just begun. Now you must rewrite it, redraft it, edit it, proofread it, cry over it some more, enlist beta readers, cry some more when they tell you what sucks, feel like giving up, bang your head against the wall and do it all again, and again and again until you know it is done.

Then you try to find a publisher because you’ve heard how hard self-publishing is. You’ve heard that it costs money to edit, create a cover and get it marketed. You don’t know how to do all that stuff, so you want a publisher. You want someone of authority and experience to grab your book and demand to publish it. You want that recognition that all that hard work was worth it. That your book is worth it. That you are in fact, really and truly, a writer.

Next, you face rejection. You get sorry not for us, right now. You keep going because you know how many times Stephen King and JK Rowling got rejected, but eventually, you realise that self-publishing may be your only option.

If you are made of tough enough stuff, you don’t balk at this. You want to be published and decide to grab onto this adventure with both hands. So you start doing your research, network and make contacts, maybe go to workshops or events and you start to feel good about this. You can do this. This might even be fun! It’s a challenge!

can you tell I'mhaving fun-

You read articles and secure a cover and pen a synopsis and do everything the best you can, although you will always harbor a sneaking feeling that it all could have been much better with more money and experience behind it. You plan a book launch. Exciting, indeed.

Exhausting too. This was me the last few weeks, months even. Reading up, reaching out, building hope. Sending the book out to agreeable ARC reviewers, which is something I have not done before. I decided to focus more on reviews than sales with this book to see what difference that makes. Because everything with self-publishing is experimental and trial and error. No one thing works for sure. What works for one person will do nothing for another. You have to keep trying different things.

As I got closer to launch day, I panicked. I panicked that the book was not good enough. Two people found a few typos, so there was panic in getting these amended in ebook and paperback, and in both cases, I managed to mess up the formatting and had to ask for help to fix it all again. In the nick of time, all was well for release day. In a negative mindset by then, I decided that no one would come. No one would join in. Most of my FB friends had ignored it. What was the point? It wasn’t worth it. None of this was worth it. I was well and truly down about it. And feeling down about self-publishing is not a new state of mind for me, it’s a pretty regular one. I have down days and then something happens to lift me up again. It’s a good old fashioned roller coaster of a ride, all right.

headinhands

 

I spend a hell of a lot of time on this. Writing and crafting the books, keeping my social media and author platform engaging and consistent, reading and absorbing new trends and information. The list goes on and on. This is not a game for the faint hearted or the easily dissuaded. This is also not a game for anyone banking on instant success, money or fame.

Nevertheless, I persevered.

And launch day reminded me why.

Launch day reminded why self-publishing is worth it.

Launch day kicked off with 6 instant reviews on Amazon, courtesy of those amazing ARC reviewers. By the end of the day, I had 12 glowing reviews. One review was the longest I have ever had for any book! The reviews left me in no doubt that these readers had got the book, enjoyed the book and been affected by the book. Over the moon does not go close to revealing how this made me feel. I believe reviews are fuel to writers. They feed us and warm us and keep us going when we feel like quitting. These reviews will fuel my journey for some time to come.

Launch day saw my online Facebook party start at 1pm and end at 11pm. I managed to juggle this with childcare and domestic duties, and though I had been dreading it and wishing I hadn’t started it the day before, I ended up really, really loving it.

I shared news of my release in a Facebook group called Book Connectors, and had a great response there with a few people buying the book and coming over to join in the party. I’ve already had a great response from bloggers in that group for this book and some of the others. It’s been a brilliant group to be part of.

Feeling more confident, I launched the party and to my surprise, things really took off. Lots more people started joining, loads of people shared the event and each post and giveaway got a really great response. It was tremendous fun!

I sold some books, gained new likes and followers, enticed discussion, gained reviews and had a great time. A few days later and I am still selling books and gaining reviews. I keep telling myself to enjoy it while it lasts, and prepare myself for a slow down or a stall in sales. I am sure there will be another down day, another ‘this is not worth it day’, but until it comes I am determined to bask in the glory of the now and let people know how much I appreciate their help and support.

So, going back to my original question; is self-publishing worth it?

Yes.

Will you ever make back the money you spent?

Yes. One day you will.

Will you ever feel like you are worthy after the rejections of traditional publishing?

Yes. Given time, patience and increased work and attention to both your craft and your promotional activities, you will. Not all the time. But enough to keep you going.

Because self-publishing is one thing above anything else. It’s an opportunity. It’s a chance. It’s not easy, and it does not guarantee sales, reviews, recognition or respect. You have to earn all those things and yes, in time, they do come. It’s an opportunity to get better. To become a better writer with every book you produce, to become a better promoter, to improve your author platform, to network, to keep trying, to work harder and harder.

 

What do you guys think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject! Have you tried self-publishing? What are your thoughts on how easy or hard it is to succeed?

 

 

 

The Tree Of Rebels and Disconnection From Nature

So it’s finally here! The day has finally arrived! Sometimes when in the middle of writing and rewriting and crafting a book, publication day can feel like an impossibility. Something so far in the future it feels like it will never happen. The Tree Of Rebels felt like an impossible thing more than once. This was a very tough book to write and one I had a constant love/hate relationship with. It’s very different from my other books and I wrote it with an audience in mind, something I’d never done before.

As I’ve mentioned before, the seed of this book was sown while scrolling through Facebook one day. I’d kept seeing these petitions to sign to stop Monsanto patenting seeds. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but what I did read and digest alarmed me and got the cogs turning in my head. I’ve often thought about nature and who owns it. Have you ever walked through the woods or across a field, only to be stopped by a fence and a Private Property sign? Have you ever stood on a high hill and looked down at the landscape and realised how restricted our movements actually are? How the paths and roads have been laid out for you and how signs and fences stop us roaming as we once did?

The more I thought about large corporations owning seeds and nature and having that control over the food chain, the more I imagined a frightening dystopian world where growing your own food is banned. This might seem like a far fetched idea right now, but for some people this is already becoming a reality. Believe it or not, there are places in America where people are not allowed to have backyard gardens or chickens. Where people can be arrested for attempting to gather rainwater. The frightening future is already on its way…

13920054_1231406820211914_1274144773204141057_o

Distrustful of GMO’s, hormones in meat, anti-biotics in milk and pesticides on fruit and vegetable, more and more people are turning to growing their own food. Self-sufficiency is becoming popular again, and you can’t deny this is a form of rebellion, of taking back control. It’s vital for our planet too. The meat and dairy industry is literally killing the earth.

Dystopian future in mind, I already knew I wanted to write a young adult book. The protagonist, 13-year-old Lissie had been evolving in my imagination for some time, and now she finally had a place to play and grow. The book undoubtedly evolved into something more than I had envisioned. It’s not just about seeds or a post-apocalyptic future, it’s about rebellion, questioning the status quo, defying your parents and searching for the truth, no matter who it hurts. All classic issues in the complicated journey of growing up.

But one of the main messages I hope people pick up from this book if they do indeed pick up any is the consequences of becoming disconnected from nature.

I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. A head in the clouds type of girl. I love nothing more than a walk down the lane, to the river, or across the fields, the common, or the woods. Something special happens to us when we are in nature, when we walk barefoot upon the earth, when we touch trees, smell leaves and view flowers and wild animals. Sometimes I think I might be a bit odd. I have very strong urges to touch and hug trees. They call to me, they really do. Once I lay my hand on the trunk of an ancient Oak, I find it very hard to pull away. I can’t get over the fact they are helping me to breathe! They are eating pollution. Without them, we would all die. The same goes for the humble bee and other vital pollinators. We simply cannot afford to ignore nature. We are nature. And I truly worry that many of us have forgotten.

bee-on-cherry-blossoms-1403010_640

Where I live is very beautiful, but I fear that others do not see it. When they race their cars down the narrow lane and hurl their rubbish into the bushes, I fear they never linger long enough to see the beauty and majesty of the trees. I fear they have no clue that they would die if the trees were not there. I’m fascinated by the unseen lives of birds, insects, and animals. I’ll stare at birds in the sky, watching their flight, hearing their cry, wondering where they are going and where they live and what they do. I want to know. I want to be part of their world. Sometimes I feel like I am trespassing. Especially come dusk when the bats start circling and the owls start hooting. This is their time, not mine. How they must despise us, I often think.

branch-1753745_640.jpg

I think the thing we are often missing is gratitude and wonder. I am in awe of nature which makes me want to protect and nurture it. Sadly, others just don’t see it at all. In truth, this means they do not see themselves. They are disconnected from it, therefore they don’t care about it or appreciate it. If you don’t care about something, or see the value in it, you’re not going to go out of your way to protect it, are you?

In Lissie’s world, the people are taken care of. They are housed and fed and educated and worked. There is no war or violence. They have returned to traditional ways, fearful of the technological world that enabled war and destruction to almost wipe out the entire human race. But in order to keep them contained, the people are separate from nature. Food is grown and delivered to them. Animals are raised in domes . Unwanted plants are circled and torn up. Wild animals are feared and killed. They know very little of the natural world. And this is all sold to them as the perfect world. A society without war and hunger and homelessness. A safe, sheltered, catered for life. It’s Lissie who resists this version of life and strives to find out more about the outside world. A true rebel, spurred on by the dying words of her Great-Grandmother, she seeks the truth. What happened to the Old World? Who destroyed it and why?

Please feel free to leave a comment! What are your fears for the future? Do you enjoy reading post-apocalyptic or dystopian books, and if so why? How do you feel about the issues of humans becoming disconnected from nature? What can we do about any of it? I would love to hear your thoughts!