Posted in Self-publishing, Writing

Meet T E Shepherd, Illustrator for my Novels & Lit Fest

A post about T E Shepherd, the gifted artist who is drawing the imagined settings of my novels 

Meet Thomas Shepherd, artist and novelist

I first met T E Shepherd, or Thomas as I know him, through his novels. We were both members of the Alliance of Independent Authors, and for a little while we belonged to the same writers’ group, meeting regularly in Oxford. Only after reading and enjoying his Mr Tumnal novels did I realise he was also a talented illustrator, with a style so distinctive that readers have asked me whether he is related to A A Milne‘s illustrator, E H Shepard. (As you will have guessed from the different spelling, no, he’s not!)

When Thomas started sharing some of his drawings online, in particular a picture of Hawkesbury Upton’s village school, one of the venues for the Haweksbury Upton Literature Festival that I organise each year, I asked him to create a village map to help visitors find their way around the festival, and the result was stunning.

image of Hawkesbury Upton Primary SChool
Hawkesbury Upton Primary School – available to buy as a greeting card also (Image © T E Shepherd http://www.teshepherdart.com
map of Hawkesbury Upton
Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival map by T E Shepherd ©T E Shepherd http://www.teshepherdart.com

When he started sharing portraits of some of his favourite bookshops, it seemed only natural to ask him whether he might also draw a fictitious bookshop for me – Hector’s House, which is at the heart of my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries. Sophie works in the shop and the proprietor, Hector Munro, is her romantic interest.

Usually Thomas draws from life rather than from his imagination, but for me he was prepared to make an exception, provided I was able to give him a good brief and some photos of the kind of thing I was looking for.

For Hector’s House, I’d already specified certain details in the books, and needed to find a Cotswold cottage that matched that specification – harder than I’d expected! Eventually I sent Thomas a snapshot of Nailsworth Computers (highly recommended for their computer services, by the way – I’ve been a regular customer for years) plus a list of changes that would be needed to complete the transformation. I was astonished when a local friend told me later that this building used to be a bookshop.  It was clearly meant to be!

line drawing of Hector's House by T E Shepherd
This illustration of the Hector’s House bookshop by Thomas Shepherd is in the same style as Sophie’s ficitious cottage (Image © T E Shepherd http://www.teshepherd.art.com)

I was so delighted with Thomas’s attention to detail and the thought that went into the drawing that as soon as my second series of novels was established, the Staffroom at St Bride’s School Stories for Grown-ups, that I asked him to draw the school building. This time his starting point was the cover design of the first book in the series, Secrets at St Bride’s, with his own personal flourishes added.

drawing of St Bride's School
I never knew until Thomas drew it on that there was wisteria growing up the side of the building, but it looked just right! (Image © T E Shepherd http://www.teshepherdart.com)

When I started my spin-off series of quick-read novelettes set in the same parish as these two series, Tales from Wendlebury Barrow, I couldn’t resist completing the set by commissioning Thomas to draw the Wendlebury Barrow village green, which features in all three series. Again I found myself driving round the Cotswolds looking for appropriate visuals for him, and ended up sending a selection of different greens from which he took various elements to create a completely new one just right for me stories. He even added Sophie and Hector!

image of Wendlebury Barrow village green
A glimpse of some of the characters who inhabit my novels (Image © T E Shepherd http://www.teshepherdart.com

I now have framed prints of all three on my study walls to help me immerse myself in these worlds as I write my stories. I’ve also turned the first two into attractive cards and bookmarks to give away to readers at events, and will be doing the same with the third once we’re allowed to hold in-person events again. I’m also planning to add the appropriate drawing to the interior title page of each book so that all my readers may enjoy them,

As is usual with such things, the copyright remains with the artist, and anyone wishing to order prints from him or to book commissions of their own should contact him via his website: www.teshepherdart.com. He has a different website about his books: http://www.shepline.com/books.

He also sells prints of his other landscape drawings of bookshops and historic buildings, and this year produced for the first time a calendar of his art. There are still a few copies available to buy in his January sale on his website here

image of T E Shepherd's calendar
Still a few copies for sale on Thomas’s website

I’ll be holding a prize draw for a copy of the calendar for my Readers’ Club in my next newsletter which I’m planning to despatch tomorrow. If you’d like a chance to win one and you’re not already a member, you can join my Readers’ Club here. There’s a different prize draw every month for something fun associated with my books.

But that’s enough about me! Now here’s a chance to get to know more about Thomas and his work via this exclusive interview that he kindly gave me a few days ago.


Exclusive Interview with T E Shepherd, Illustrator & Novelist

Meet Thomas Shepherd, artist and novelist

Thomas, welcome to my blog – I’m so pleased to be able to introduce my readers to the man behind the drawings! When did you take up drawing and how has your career progressed?

I’ve always drawn, for as long as I remember. Give me a pad of paper and a pack of those cheap felt tip pens from the post office or Happy Shopper on the corner and I am lucky. At college I was never that great at taking notes in lectures because I’d be doodling patterns on my notepad instead. I did art at college, specialising mainly in photography and printmaking which I loved, however since leaving college I of course lost access to the dark room (this was almost a decade before digital cameras) and it’s hard to set yourself doing printmaking. I also left college thinking that my kind of art wasn’t really that good because it wasn’t the weird stuff you find art galleries winning awards! It wasn’t until I was fortunate to be working the day job with the fantastic Rachel Henderson Art that she encouraged me into doing things with my art.

Please describe the media you work in and the processes involved in creating a new drawing.

I work mainly in Indian Ink although I also use coloured pencils. I have been known though to work in photography, printmaking, airbrush, gouache – basically it depends what the picture is that I’m doing!

Why do you particularly enjoy drawing buildings?

The honest answer is that I have historically been terrible at drawing people! The slightly more interesting is that they interest me. It has to be said, I have a bit of thing for cobbles, walls, and doorways. My A-Level art exam piece was a piece created from the subject “Through doorways” in 10 hours, or two back to back days.

For this year you produced a calendar of your favourite drawings of Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds. What makes this region particularly rewarding for you as an artist?

Simple answer really that I live in Oxfordshire on the doorstep to the Cotswolds and that is the geographical area that I have mainly been selling my work, at markets, when markets are allowed to happen. I grew up in East Anglia though and still have strong links there so I could have done the East Anglian. Collection (following on in the footsteps of John Piper I already have three Suffolk churches to my name!). When you include all the bookshops of I’ve drawn it puts my geographic spread is even wider.

What else do you like to draw?

Anything and everything that interests me. I’m a very visual person – even when I’m writing my books it’s the frame by frame cinematic scenes that I’m picturing as I write. And so if I see a view or frame a picture in my gaze I want to capture it, often with a photo (or two, or three…) ahead of drawing them.

Tell us about your passion for bookshops and why you love drawing them.

As mentioned above, I write books. My degree, as well visual arts also involved creative writing, and I’ve written three novels to date: my debut standalone book, and the first two parts of a trilogy about imaginary friends. I love books, and stories – I have a ‘library’ of over 2000 books in the house. If I visit a town and there’s a bookshop, I can’t not go in, and chances are I will buy at least one book, so yes you could say that bookshops are bad and evil places for me to visit… *grins*

I have an on-going project to illustrate myself around the country drawing (mostly) independent bookshops for my celebration of bookshops in my my illustrated The Booklover’s Guide to Bookshops.

What is the most challenging picture you’ve ever drawn and why?

My most challenging picture that I had to draw was my illustration for Tales of the Wendlebury Barrow. Not only was this to be an imaginative piece but it needed to include a traditional village scene of people and to be honest people have never been my strong point. My two big inspirations are the work of Rex Whistler and Edward Ardizzone and I’ve found my style to be somewhere in between. One of the things I love about Ardizzone’s illustration is the way they are very loose simple designs but have all the character and expression. It was a challenge, but one that I believe I pulled off, particularly when the author saw her two lead characters come walking out of the picture towards her.

Previous to that, one my biggest challenges was a pen and ink and colour illustration I did of Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire. I was established in the medium of black and white, so adding colour was a bit of a departure, but one that was really effective and led directly to a commission late last year of a full colour picture of Notley Abbey as a wedding anniversary present.

Which is your favourite of all the pictures you’ve done and why?

If I had to choose just one, it would be my picture of St Andrew’s Church, Covehithe in Suffolk. Covehithe is one of my most favourite of places in the world with some very fond memories for me. There is a poignancy to the place as it probably has no more than 60 more years before the fragile Suffolk coast tips it into the sea. Sadly I don’t have the original any more as it was snaffled up within days of me finishing it but I know that it went to a new home.

image of St Andrew's Covehithe
Thomas’s favourite illustration – St Andrew’s, Covehithe, Suffolk (Image © TE Shepherd http://www.teshepherdart.com)

I know you take other commissions too – what does this entail and how do people go about commissioning a picture from you?

In short, just get in touch! I work from photographs so geography is no obstruction to having a commission done. What I do need is high resolution photos  that I have permission to use. These can be photos either that you have taken or from a professional photographer so long as you have obtained copyright permission for me to work from them. I can’t use photos that you’ve grabbed from Google! My pricing is based on size of the finished work not by number of scenes, so you could have multiple views of your subject in one picture, and you pay for it upon completion of the piece when you are happy with it.

You’re not only an artist but an author too – please tell us a little about your books.

My books are what I would call real-world fantasy or magical realism. My debut novel is set in Iceland and is a story where Norse Mythology meets modern day climate science as our protagonists face The End Of All Worlds. My other two books are the first and second books in my Imaginary Friends trilogy. The first in the series, Mr Tumnal, concerns a man, Louis Tumnal who marries his imaginary friend and has an imaginary child. When he meets his real-life girlfriend things get complicated beyond imagining.

What are you working on at the moment – both in terms of drawing and writing?

I’m currently writing the third book in the trilogy, Forgotten Friends, set 40 years after the events of the first book in a post-technological world (imagine consulting Wikipedia in print in a vast room underground Oxford’s Bodleian Library!) With my drawing, I had a crazy end to last year, finishing my last commission a day before delivering it to my client on Christmas Eve and so I’m taking January off – partly this is because I incurred a drawing-induced injury of trigger finger! But I have been creating art, having acquired a press to get back to etching too, which is something I’m very excited about.

Where can people go to find out more about your illustration and your books?

The best way to find out about my illustration work is on my online shop: www.teshepherdart.com but you can also find me on Instagram and Facebook at @t.e.shepherd.art. My books, can be found at www.shepline.com/books or follow me on Twitter at @shepline.


Biography of T E Shepherd

Derbyshire born, Suffolk bred. Thomas Shepherd now lives in Oxfordshire with his wife Emma and five cats, five chickens, three bunnies, two African land snails and some fish. He’s a landscape artist and novelist. His two main inspirations are the work of Edward Ardizzone and Rex Whistler, and his style is somewhere between the two. As a published author, books are his passion, and he is currently working on a project to create an illustrated guide of bookshops. He works principally in Indian Ink and Polychromos artists’ pencils. He takes commissions, including maps and book illustration.

Find Out More About T E Shepherd

 

Posted in Personal life, Self-publishing

It’s a Wrap!

My column for the October 2020 issue of this month’s Hawkesbury Parish News

When I as a child, one of my favourite features in the annuals we received each Christmas was the puzzle captioned “An everyday object viewed from an unusual angle”. The reader was invited to identify the object from a photo of a tiny detail greatly enlarged or from a long shot of an unfamiliar aspect.

The journey to choir practice last week provided a similar challenge. As I drove down the hill towards Hawkesbury, (the ancient hamlet that is home to our parish church of St Mary), I spotted peeking out from among the treetops a tall white box that I’d never seen before.

view of mysterious object

For a split second my brain processed it as either a newly-landed alien spaceship or a just-built block of flats put up since the recent relaxation of planning regulations. Then I realised it was just the tower of St Mary’s Church undergoing restoration. The last time I’d seen the tower, it had been covered in scaffolding (as per Colin Dixon’s photos on the front of last month’s Parish News). Now, like a skeleton covered in flesh, the scaffolding had been given  a smooth, pristine white coat of protective fabric.

the church in wraps revealed
Revealed!

Then I thought of Christo, the Bulgarian-born artist famous for wrapping buildings, monuments, bridges, and even landscapes in fabric or plastic. In Wrapped Reichstag, for example, he encased the German parliament building in aluminium fabric. Each of his installations was designed to be temporary. One of them, a 14km orange curtain across Ridge Gap, Colorado, blew down in a storm on its second day.

But the fleeting change in appearance of a well-known landmark can change people’s perceptions of it forever.

Christo died in May this year aged 84, and his website www.christojeanneclaude.net poignantly includes a list of “Projects Not Realised”, as well as cataloguing his completed achievements. In a posthumous celebration of the pioneering artist, L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris is due to be wrapped next autumn.

Seeing St Mary’s Hawkesbury in its new white robe, I wondered whether Christo would be pleased with our inadvertent tribute to his work – and as relieved as I am that unlike the ancient and timeless fabric of the church, the white wrapping should be whisked away just in time for Christmas, once the tower repairs are complete.

If you’d like to know more about St Mary’s Hawkesbury, and to see it in its usual unwrapped state, hop over to its website here: www.friendsofstmaryshawkesbury.com. (The eagle-eyed may spot that I’m on its committee and that I also run its website!)


In Other News This Week

cover of Breathe magazineI was pleased to be quoted in this month’s issue of Breathe magazine in Stephanie Lam’s feature on self-publishing. You’ll find the magazine on British newstands everywhere and you can also order single copies and subscriptions online.

I’m currently writing another magazine feature myself, the second in my commissioned series for Mslexia to celebrate successful independent authors. For the December issue, I’m interviewing award-winning children’s writers Kate Frost, Jemma Hatt and Karen Inglis.

Meanwhile I’m busy with speaking engagements. Yesterday I was on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Book Club spot (you can listen to it here for the next 28 days, from 2hrs 12mins into the show). Next Wednesday I’ll be guest speaker via Zoom at Uley Women’s Institute, and on Saturday 17th October I’ll be chairing a panel on “Routes to Publishing” at Bristol Literature Festival, held online – you can reserve a free place here if you hurry!

Meanwhile the ebook of Best Murder in Show, the first in my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries is currently free to download, and as I type this it’s #98 in the free Kindle charts in the UK, introducing thousands of new readers to the series. If you’ve not read it yet, download your free copy here. And if you  have read it and enjoyed it, feel free to send this link to any friends you think might also like it.

cover of the Clutch of Eggs
Coming soon! A fun quick read to brighten the dark autumn nights.

And now, back to work, putting the finishing touches to the second in my Tales from Wendlebury Barrow series. The Clutch of Eggs will be out by the end of the month. It’s a quick read for just 99p/99c, to tide you over while I write my next novel – the seventh Sophie Sayers mystery, Murder Lost and Found.

More news next week. Until then, happy reading!

 

 

 

Posted in Events, Personal life, Reading, Self-publishing, Travel, Writing

A Trip to the Van Gogh Exhibition and More Serendipitous Inspirations

In keeping with Orna Ross‘s recommendation to replenish the creative well by going on a “createdate”with yourself every week to a fun, stimulating place, I book tickets for the Van Gogh Britain exhibition currently running at London’s Tate Britain Gallery. I bend Orna’s rule by taking my teenage daughter with me, because Van Gogh is her favourite artist and this seems the perfect focus for quality mother-and-daughter time.

Van Gogh Britain Exhibition

The exhibition is even bettter than we thought it would be, demonstrating how a three year stay in London before he began to paint influenced Van Gogh’s themes and style, and how his own paintings went on to influence subsequent generations of British artists. It was not only art that influenced him, but also British literature, his favourite being Charles Dickens, and the architecture and ambience. He particular enjoyed the views from the Thames Enbankment, a constant source of inspiration to artists and writers.

Afterwards my daughter and I channel our inner Van Gogh by walking along the Embankment on our way to Trafalgar Square, via Whitehall, then back down the Mall and through St James’s Park, as I point out historical and cultural landmarks along the way. I enjoy introducing her to the landmarks that as a Londoner I grew up with, and have never felt fonder of my home city.

3 Unexpected Pleasures

But as always with planned trips, serendipity yields more food for thought. On this trip to London, three incidents stand out for me that transported us out of London and around the world:

  1. Waiting at the bus stop for our coach to London, we’re approached by what I assume to be an unremarkable old man, in old-fashioned windcheater and slacks. He is clutching a Sainsbury’s carrier bag, and I assume he’s come into Chippenham to do a bit of grocery shopping. When he strikes up a conversation with us, we discover he is also London-bound, on his way to meet a former student he taught in Macau as Professor of Intercultural Trade and Relations. He still teaches for in China, Hong Kong and Macau, for three months a year, the maximum visa period. He gives us plenty to think about on our way to London. My key takeaway is “Never judge a man by his carrier bag.”
  2. Strolling down the South Bank of the Thames before our allocated time slot for our date with Van Gogh, at the foot of the Oxo Tower we chance upon Latitude, a free exhibition of wildlife photography, an array of breathtaking pictures of Arctic polar bears, Antarctic penguins, and all kinds of animal in between, including cheetahs frolicking as playfully as domesticated kittens and a tiger apparently leaping towards the photographer with murderous intent. From a modestly tiny picture of the photographer Roger Hooper in the exhibition brochure, I recognise the grey-haired man lurking diffidently in the corner. “Excuse me, are you the photographer?” I ask. “Yes,” he says with a smile. “How many risks do you take to get such fabulous shots?” I ask, indicating the hungry tiger. “Ah,” he smiles wryly. “You’ve picked the one shot that isn’t entirely real. That tiger is the one used in the film The Life of Pi, and i had a piece of meat on a stick dangling from my hand beside the camera. I photoshopped the background in and blurred it afterwards.” That still sounds pretty risky to me. The mental image of that set-up is almost as pleasing as the resulting photo, which I can’t reproduce here for copyright reasons, but you can find out more about the photographer Roger Hooper and view his pictures on his website here. You may also be interested in his laudable charity to help build a brighter future for African girls here: www.hoopersafricatrust.org.
  3. The final surprise of the day is when, exhausted, we’re sitting in St Martin’s in the Fields Crypt Cafe, enjoying our tea, when my eyes alight upon what seems to me the most perfect piece of brick wall. The pleasing array of colours in such a neat grid reminds me of Van Gogh’s thick daubs of rich colour, and to an artist’s watercolour paint box filled with the promise of the pictures still locked inside the neat rectangles of pigment. Whether prompted by our encounter with the Professor at the bus stop, or the amusing snap of Roger Hooper apparently being photobombed by a giant panda, it also puts me in mind of the Great Wall of China and all the wonders of the world, whether natural or manmade. My daughter is bemused by my fixation with beautiful bricks (“I can’t believe you posted bricks on Instagram!” she crows later) after all the sights we have seen, but to me it seems a neat and fitting end to a stimulating day, and the perfect end to an enjoyable July.
A paintbox in brick form in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields – could be an artist’s palette for skin tones

Thank You, July, It’s Been Fun

And what a busy July is has been! It kicked off with included a week in Scotland (see my earlier post), finishing my latest novel for publication, and completing a new novella to be sent as an free ebook to my mailing list next month. (If you’re not already on my mailing list, you can sign up now via the form at the foot of this page to receive your copy in August – sorry, originally intended for July!)

I also enjoyed being a part of the usual monthly BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club, in which we talked this month about Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, 300 years old this year but still a cracking read. If you’d like to hear what we had to say about this and other bookish talk, you can listen again for the next couple of weeks on BBC Sounds via this link – we’re in the first hour of the show.

Our discussion about Robinson Crusoe included reminiscing about the wonderful old children’s TV series that we all grew up watching

One other highlight of July for me was starting to write guest posts for the IngramSpark blog. IngramSpark is a huge printing company that not only prints books for all kinds of publishers but also puts them into the distribution system for high street bookstores. All my books are published via IngramSpark, which means that you can order them from your favourite bookshop rather than online. I love bookshops – a good bookshop is an invaluable part of the high street and of the wider community, so I’m really glad to be able to drive trade their way.

IngramSpark’s blog is aimed at authors rather than readers, but if you’d like to read the post I wrote for them, about writing productivity, here’s the link: https://www.ingramspark.com/blog/writing-1000-words-a-day-finding-better-ways-to-measure-productivity-finish-your-book

So that’s it for July. And despite my careful plans for a productive month ahead, I wonder what serendipity August will bring?

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Posted in Events, Self-publishing, Writing

Looking Forward to June Events

A preview of my public events in June

I thought it might be helpful and, I hope, interesting, if I share a post at the start of each month previewing any imminent public events that I’m involved in. Then at the end of the month I’ll report back on them.

Although I realise that most people reading these posts won’t be able to attend these events in person due to their location,  if you do manage to get to any,  please come and find me and say hello – I’d love to see you  in real life! 

Self-publishing: A Complete How-To Guide (Saturday 16th June)

On Sunday 16th June, I’ll be joining two other successful indie authors and great friends of mine, Katharine E Smith and David Penny, to teach an exclusive one-day course in self-publishing in the beautiful and inspiring setting of the Bleddfa Centre near Knighton in Wales.

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to return to this peaceful place, where I very much enjoyed being on the panel of a more general publishing day a couple of years ago.

The rural setting is idyllic, and the standard of catering superb – a combination highly conducive to learning!

Drawing on our own experience as authors, publishers and marketers, we’ll be sharing practical guidance, top tips and moral support, as well as debunking popular misconceptions about the exciting possibilities that self-publishing offers the independent author – and indeed to those who contracts with publishing companies. This blog post I wrote for the Bleddfa Centre tells you a little more about those possibilities.

With a limited number of places available, this course will be an intensive but highly accessible event providing the perfect opportunity for aspiring authors to ask questions about their own ambitions and plans, and to receive specific guidance from experts, whatever stage they are at in their writing and publishing journey.

Find out more and reserve your place at the Bleddfa Centre’s website.

Crime Panel at Evesham Festival of Words (Thursday 27th June)

Later this month I’ll be returning to the Evesham Festival of Words, where I’ve spoken several times before. This year my role is to chair a fun discussion about the nature of crime-writing, from cosy to dark, from fact to fiction, in the company of three distinguished and entertaining authors:

  • historical mystery writer David Penny (yes, the same David Penny who’ll be joining me at Bleddfa!)

We’ll be convening at the pleasant setting of Evesham Rowing Club, down by the river (I presume!) to discuss what makes great crimewriting, to considerwhy it’s enduringly popular, and taking questions from the audience. We’ll also each read an extract from our work to showcase the variety that we offer between us.

I’ve spoken alongside all of three of my fellow panellists at other events, and I can tell you they are all sparkling company – so expect a lively, accessible and intriguing conversation with serious moments but plenty of laughs!

Find out more about the busy Festival programme and how to book tickets here.

Plus all the regular events…

Although the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club usually broadcasts from the Gloucester studio, we occasionally take it out on the road – or in this case to the canalside presenter Dominic Cotter took this photo of Caroline and me with canalboat skipper Pete, with the perfect reading matter for anyone interested in messing about in boats!

Every month, three further events feature in my diary:

  1. The BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club show, hosted by lunchtime presenter Dominic Cotter. on which I’m a regular panellist, alongside fellow local author Caroline Sanderson. For an hour live on air, usually the first hour of the show (which starts at noon), we discuss our chosen book of the month, book-related news and local literary events. It’s always great fun, and you can always listen online for 28 days after the show if you don’t catch it live. In June, our Book of the Month will be Raynor Winn’s inspiring memoir of walking the south west coastal path with her seriously ill husband, The Salt Path, and in July we’ll discuss Daniel Defoe’s classic Robinson Crusoe – so two very different adventure stories for summer reading! Here’s a link to last month’s show, in which we discussed Angie Thomas’s stunning YA novel The Hate U Give: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p077r655 The date of our next Book Club slot is Wednesday 26th June from noon.
  2. The Bristol Authors’ Alliance – the monthly group for writers that I host for sharing best practice and moral support at the very pleasant Foyles bookshop at Cabot Circus. To find out about meetings and to join our group, visit our Meetup page here: https://www.meetup.com/Bristol-Authors-Alliance/ We meet on the first Wednesday of each month from 6pm until 7.45pm in Foyles, so this month’s meeting is Wednesday 5th June.
  3. The Cheltenham Authors’ Alliance – another writers’ group that I host along the same lines at the ever-hospitable Anthology Bookshop in Suffolk Parade, Cheltenham. For more information about to join our group, visit this Meetup page: https://www.meetup.com/Cheltenham-Alliance-of-Independent-Authors/ . We meet on the third Tuesday of each month from 10.30am until 12.15pm.

Both the writers’ groups are so popular that for reasons of space I’ve had to restrict the number of places at each meeting – not least to make sure we have enough chairs to go round! Therefore it’s essential to reserve a place in advance. I also give priority to members of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)*, the global nonprofit organisation that helps authors all over the world share best practice, campaign for writing-related causes, access helpful discounts, deals and benefits, and share friendship and camaderie with fellow writers, 24/7/365. If you’re not already a member when you join our group, you’ll almost certainly want to join it by the time you leave your first meeting!

(*The link above is my affiliate link, which means if you join ALLi once you’ve clicked on it, I’ll receive a small reward from ALLi. So thank you for that!)

So – that’s it for this month. I’ll report back on how it all goes at the end of the June!

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Posted in Personal life, Self-publishing, Writing

The End of an Era and the Beginning of a New One

A post about my new life as a full-time novelist

Debbie with ALLi friends in selfie shot
Celebrating the launch of “Opening Up To Indie Authors”, a book I co-wrote with Dan Holloway (right), at the London Book Fair – with fellow authors Jessica Bell, Hugh Howey and Orna Ross and Kobo’s UK Director Diego Marano

In just two weeks’ time, it’ll be all change for me as I leave the closest thing I have to a day-job to devote all my time to writing and marketing my books.

In some respects there’ll be no change, in that my commute will be exactly the same: from bedroom to study, just six paces. But instead of  working for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi, as in “ally”), I’ll be working entirely for myself.

All about ALLi

ALLi logoIn case you’re not familiar with ALLi, let me explain a little about what it is, what it does, and what I did there. ALLi is a global, non-profit organisation for independent authors to share best practice and support, founded by Irish author and poet Orna Ross in 2012.

Debbie on the terrace of the House of Commons with an ALLi flyer
Raising awareness of ALLi at the House of Commons, July 2015, at the All Party Writers’ Group Summer Drinks Party

In 2013, Orna invited me to be Commissioning Editor of its daily blog (www.selfpublishingadvice.org), and that role soon expanded. I moderated its members’-only advice forum, co-wrote self-help books for authors in ALLi’s series of guidebooks, wrote ALLi-related guest posts on other blogs, helped man its stand at the London Book Fair, and spoke on ALLi’s behalf at various festivals and writing events around the country. As an offshoot, I also started two writers’ groups, one in Cheltenham and one in Bristol, whose membership I had to restrict to ALLi members only to keep the numbers manageable.

With a new blog post required every day, and to a specific deadline, my ALLi work had to take priority – and for a long time I hugely enjoyed it, not least because I was networking online daily with all manner of authors all over the world, and learning an enormous amount along the way, particularly from Orna herself, who had become a real mentor to me in my writing as well as in my role at ALLi.

And Plenty More Besides

Orna Ross (left) has been part of the Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest from the beginning – pictured here with Katie Fforde at the first ever HULF (Photo by http://www.pixelprphotography.co.uk)

I also managed to fit in a reasonable amount of writing (I’ve published five novels in the last two years), public speaking on my own account, and running the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, of which the fifth is about to take place (Saturday 27th April). However, around Christmas time, with my work-in-progress novel beset by a series of delays, I realised that if I was to achieve my long-term writng goals, something would have to give. I was operating on as little sleep and as little housework as I could get away with, and there were still never enough hours in the day. A series of minor illnesses (all now thankfully resolved) underscored the message that I was simply trying to do too much.

For years people had been saying to me “I don’t know how you do it all” – it just took me a while to agree with them.

Onward and Upward

Coming soon – honest! The first in my new series of novels.

Orna and the team at ALLi have been gracious and generous as we’ve worked on a handover, and I’ve been vastly amused to discover I’m being replaced by not one but three people! (Ok, so they’re all working part-time on what I used to do, but the thought still made Orna and me laugh.) I will continue to be ALLi’s UK Ambassador, and to write and speak on the organisations behalf now and again, but apart from that I will be my own person. If I don’t get as many books written as I plan, I will have no excuse, and no-one to blame but myself! So watch this space – and if you’d like me to alert you as I release new books, please click here to join my Readers’ Club, and I’ll keep you posted of progress.

I’ll close now with Orna’s version of this news, over on the ALLi blog. She is very kind!

New Horizons for Our Blog Editor and Self-Publishing Advice Center Manager Debbie Young