A Sobering Thought on World Book Day

“You’re an author – you must be raking it in.”

I’m sure I’m not the only writer who hears this comment or variations on the theme. It follows the one about how preferable writing is to actually working for a living.

In some ways, writing at home is easier than going in to the office for eight hours every day. You don’t have to get up at a certain time; you can stay in your pyjamas all day; you can take things easy when you want to.

But the reality is that the books still have to get written, magazine editors must be satisfied and products have to be sold. There may not be anyone checking that I’m actually working – but if I don’t, nothing will happen and there will be no books, no articles and no sales.

This is the reality of the self-employed.

There has been a lot of research lately into writers’ incomes. There’s an interesting article here:


And it’s becoming clear that most of us don’t make the vast sums of money people assume we do.

There’s a steady stream of people after freebies from authors. From the book blogger who emailed me (with an obviously form email) to promise she’d give me lots of publicity for my new book if I gave her an electronic copy (obviously forgetting she had a free copy of a previous book and never even reviewed it), to the person who thinks the way to get a free book is to try and get my husband to bully me into it. (It doesn’t work with strong women – that’s a definition of the term!) Not to mention the people who assume I’ve had promo goods made so that they can help themselves to as many as they want. If you really want something from an author, why won’t you pay?

I’ve just been emailed by a large supplier who appears to have increased my order and charged me an additional 30% for doing so. I suspect any publisher would flinch at that difference – it’s potentially disastrous for a small business. I don’t think they’ll worry about me taking my business elsewhere in the future, I know I’m a very small fish in a large ocean. But the loss of goodwill is something that doesn’t appear on any balance sheet.

Read Same

Yes this is a rant, but there’s a reason for it. Today is World Book Day. If you’re inclined to celebrate by buying a book, think about supporting an Independent Author. There are many of us, struggling to survive in a business world that’s constantly trying to squeeze every last penny out of our bank accounts. Every sale is worth something to us. And you may discover a new writer you really like.

The mercenary bit – Chrystal Heart has been out for one whole year! Reduced on Kindle to celebrate this and World Book Day- £1.99 / $3.49 or equivalent. You can read the first few chapters for free via Amazon, if you’re unsure whether it’s for you!


Blog-Hop #mywritingprocess

Thanks to the lovely Sallie Tams and her Plottdog for passing me the baton for the blog-hop called My Writing Process. You can read Sallie’s post on her beautiful blog here: http://sallietams.com/2014/02/10/the-act-of-showing-up-mywritingprocess-blog-hop/
– and there is the twitter tag #mywritingprocess if you’d like to track down more links in the chain.

So, on with the job in hand. There’s a set of questions for me to answer before hopping you on to the next blog. These had me thinking – and that’s a dangerous thing to happen on a Monday!

Without further ado:

1) What am I working on?

Several things, as always. For me, the best way to combat writer’s block is to have at least two projects on the go. Then if I find myself drying up on one piece, I switch to something as different as possible. Of course, this only works if I don’t have a tight deadline on any of them, so I like to arrange my writing commitments with plenty of elbow room.

Hey – it works for me!

At the moment, there’s the latest book, Just Add Writing. Publication date of today so I’m busy promoting that all over the place. I sent off all the pre-ordered copies last week, along with stock for Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-Add-Writing-Release-inside-ebook/dp/B00IG8L8MC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1392649012&sr=1-1 and copies for the Legal Deposit people at the British Library. Launch party over on Facebook if anyone wants to join us for virtual drinks and nibbles. All welcome! https://www.facebook.com/events/606496329431142/617468688333906/

Once that one is laid to rest, I’ll be focusing most of my writing time on the next Chrystal book – the second in the series begun with Chrystal Heart last year. It’s been gestating in my head for a good few months and is ready to get typed up. In Chrystal Travels, our two heroines set out to make their way home from Meso-America, where we left them at the end of the first book. There will be thrills, spills, motorbikes, modern Steampunks and traditional wrestling in this instalment. And some nasty surprises for our friend Sam.

I’ve also got a magazine article in its very early stages and a possible radio play coalescing in the dark, shadowy recesses of my brain.

There’s always a sort of lull after finishing a large project like a book. I’ve had a few weeks since sending Just Add Writing to the printers and now I’m starting to ramp things back up to normal.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a very good question. Steampunk is a bit of a niche genre anyhow, so you’re asking if my book has its own niche within a larger niche? Cosy!

Most Steampunk is set in an alternate history that differed from our familiar world during Victoria’s reign. Mine is set in the 21st Century, but with a main character who has been alive since Victorian times. Steampunk is such a varied genre, it’s really hard to generalise it at all. People can’t agree on a definition of Steampunk, so how can I say where mine falls outside the general type?

In brief, a young lady is attacked by thieves in 1851 and rescued by a group of Tibetans who replace her damaged heart with the Chrystal Vitalis, a legendary gem believed to have healing powers. It not only saves her life, it keeps her alive far beyond a normal person’s years and, now calling herself Chrystal, she’s still around in the 21st Century. She teams up with a modern woman and the two of them set out to save the world. There are many familiar Steampunk elements, such as ætheric science and pirates, but I believe it’s unique in having a Victorian main character who’s hiding in plain sight in this way. Look closely at any Steampunks you meet – one of them may be more genuinely Victorian than you think.

3) Why do I write what I do?

It’s easy to say why I write my factual books and articles. I’m asked the same questions about disability time and again – so I put my standard answers down in book form. The MonSter and the Rainbow had to be written – I wanted to tell the story of life viewed from a wheelchair, about a world that isn’t as equal as it thinks it is – but without the self-pity so common in many biographies.

Then, Just Add Writing is a pocket book of tips for writers finding their feet and wanting to take their writing to the next level. It’s the book I wish I could have read when I started as a writer. And lots of exercises and random prompts to send even an experienced writer’s brain off at a tangent to reality, into the dimensions where the stories are.

It’s harder to say why I write my fiction. It’s something to do with wanting to create something tangible. Fiction comes as light relief after living with my MonSter (MS) for so many years; they say fiction has to make sense, whereas reality doesn’t! I have all these ideas inside me and stories are a great way to set them free into the world. I enjoy the process of writing and I get a tremendous satisfaction from my work; it comes naturally, somehow – I think I was born to be a writer. Maybe I spent all those years in grown-up employment frustrated by the lack of creative outlets.

4) How does your writing process work?

The amount of time I have for writing varies from day to day, depending on other commitments and my health. So I’ve learnt to think about writing – working on plot details and character twists – when I can’t write. My works always start in my head where I can fine-tune the plot details before setting any words down and once I’m happy that I have enough of a structure and some of the details, I can start writing.

I write on a laptop, right from the first draft. (Even my doctor says my handwriting is illegible!) If I’ve done enough plotting, the first draft is usually written very quickly and enjoyably. At some point, my characters start doing things I didn’t expect and I know the story’s coming to life. I try not to stop this first draft for anything. If I need to research a detail, I’ll make a note to come back to it. Writing like this has its own momentum and a whole book can be written in a matter of weeks. Then comes the much longer process of editing it into shape.

I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my progress through the different stages – and to remind me that I am moving forward. So long as those numbers change every day, I know I’ve done some work!

In broad terms, I try to write the first draft and then focus on different aspects with each redraft. In reality, it’s hard to stick to a disciplined editing scheme and I admit to breaking my own rules occasionally. Well, more than occasionally, to be honest. I have beta readers for each book and I like to let them loose on a draft so that I can make any changes that arise from their reading before I polish my final version. (It’s a similar process for magazine articles, but I skip the beta reader phase and sometimes end up with minor changes to be made after I’ve sent it to the magazine’s editor.)

Eventually a book is finished and emailed on to be printed and bound. I get a few weeks to recover from that and the whole cycle starts again. If I haven’t done any writing for a few days, I start to get twitchy. And you won’t like me when I’m twitchy.

Well, thank you for reading this far. Next week, #mywritingprocess passes on to Marit Meredith, an ex-pat Viking from Norway who’s now rooted half way up a Welsh hillside (surrounded by her large family), where Shakespeare is said to have found his inspiration for Midsummer Night’s Dream – she even wrote an article on the subject once. She can be found at: http://wherefactsandfictionfuse.wordpress.com/

I’ll leave you in Marit’s capable hands as she talks about her own Writing Process.

The Laboratory under Lincoln

How the Story Happened
The Laboratory under Lincoln is the first adventure of A.W.E.S.O.M.E. – Asylum Workshop Experimental Scribes Of Mechanical Escapades.

A.W.E.S.O.M.E. was founded at the Asylum in Lincoln in September, 2013. A number of Steampunks gathered to take part in a writing exercise like no other. Aided, abetted and led by Chrystal (also known as the author Meg Kingston), they formed the storyline that became this tale. From selecting the characters involved to designing the locations and the action of the story, this group truly devised their own tale.

After the event, Meg undertook the translation of the story notes into the action adventure above, with collaboration of the other participants.

A.W.E.S.O.M.E. will continue to meet at both the Lincoln Asylum and Steampunk at the Seaside, with the intention of writing further chapters in the story of the adventurers they represent.

The next scheduled meeting of A.W.E.S.O.M.E. will be at Camber Sands Holiday Park, as part of Steampunk at the Seaside on the last weekend of March, 2014.

Meg Kingston is the author of Chrystal Heart and is currently working on a sequel. Further information at: http://www.facebook.com/MegKingstonAuthor

With many thanks to all the wonderful participants at our writing workshop in Lincoln. I look forward to seeing some of you again next year.

Meg / Chrystal

The Laboratory Under Lincoln <—– Click here for story

Heat, Fatigue and Victorian Clothing

The UK has just experienced the hottest July in years and everyone’s really enjoying the summery weather.

Except those of us who aren’t.

Most people with neurological disorders find their symptoms are exacerbated by heat. In other words, we’re the grumpy ones who complain it’s too hot when everyone else is hunting for skimpy clothing and slapping on the factor 15. Or in my case, sweltering under heavy clothes to keep the rays off my vampiric skin that burns at the first touch of sunlight.

MSers commonly list fatigue as their worst symptom. It’s also the hardest
to explain. It isn’t “feeling a bit tired” or “tiring easily” – it’s more like something suddenly stealing all your energy without warning and leaving you unable to do anything. No, getting more sleep doesn’t prevent it, not does taking things easy for a few days. And it usually gets worse when we’re too warm. One of my MonSter’s favourite tricks is to lie in wait while I cook dinner and pounce so I’m too fatigued to lift the fork to my mouth. It’s debilitating, annoying and can be downright embarrassing.
So why do I agree to attend an event in Victorian-style clothing on a hot day? It could be that I don’t want to let the organiser down. Or it could be plain old-fashioned masochism. Or maybe it’s because I’m too bl##dy-minded to give in to the MonSter today.

Whatever the reason, looking forward to seeing some more lunatics in Steampunk attire at the Punknic. And I’ll try not to be too grumpy!

BTW. Chrystal Heart is at the reduced price of £2.99 for the weekend. (Amazon willing!)
Click Here

A Long Short Week

As Arkwright used to say, “It’s been a funny sort of week”.

I’d foolishly expected a quiet week. It’s half term – people are spending time with their offspring, offices are quiet, I didn’t have a single medical appointment and – after all – I’m meant to be retired. Instead, I’ve had my busiest unplanned four days in years.

Apparently everyone saw an opportunity to catch up with little jobs – especially ones that required my input. At least that’s what it felt like.

It started with Hubby travelling all over the place for work. Not terribly relevant, except I couldn’t rely on him to help with transporting or shopping or anything. I even had to catch two big spiders and put them outside before the cats noticed them.

Speaking of the cats, they had to go visit the cat-doctor for their annual checkover. Fortunately, Hubby was here, but I’ve had a couple of clingy cats for the rest of the week. Cat cuddle overdose!

We had a CRAG writers meeting midweek, which I did know about in advance and was great fun. (We meet in a local pub and I always come home buzzing from contact with like-minded writers.) But I managed to complicate things by mentioning my idea for increasing sales to the landlord. More about this another day!

And then people deciding to phone me! Three people wanting my considered opinion, two editors and a partridge in a pear tree (*). Sending out books, chasing shops about stocks, booking a few weekend sales trips and sorting out access problems with my business bank account. And working on a new Chrystal story! A friend rang me this afternoon and I confessed if he’d left it five minutes later, he’d have caught me with no clothes on. (I was running a bath!) He’s too much of a gentleman to comment…

So, I’ve earned a quiet weekend. With wine – and we’ve started already. Cheers all and have a great weekend.

(*) The partridge is a lie. Sorry for any confusion.

The Joy of Text

Hello. My name is Meg and I’m a bookaholic.

Yes – it’s true. And I’ve said it before. But I make no apology for saying it again. I just love books. I love reading ‘em, I love to have ‘em piled up in every room. And now I’m writing ‘em too and there’s no hope for me.


It’s been a seriously good week for me on the bookaholic front. It was World Book Night last week and I was chosen as a “giver” for the third time. So if you were in Chepstow Town centre and a be-hatted woman on a purple buggy drove up and gave you a book – that was me. It was a good morning to smile at a stranger. And I hope you’re enjoying the book, too.

Last night (Tuesday) was a Local Authors’ Event at Chepstow Library. There were meant to be three of us, but Sue had to cancel rather than risk infecting the rest of us with her bug. So – much scrambling around to get ready and try to fill the gap, although I did my best by reading an extract from her book. I had to suggest the audience pretend I was about half my weight and five months pregnant – they didn’t seem to mind. Hopefully Sue’ll be better soon!

The event went really well, with Paul and I reading excerpts from our books and answering questions about writing, agents and other outlandish subjects. We had a mini-writing competition during the break (just in case anyone thought we were doing all the work) and awarded a prize after we’d all been tempted with the refreshments laid on by the Library. (Yummy cake bites.) All in all, a very successful evening.

So what’s next on the book front? Well, I’m running writing workshops, chatting and signing at a couple of Steampunk events in the next few weeks. And we’ve got a drop-in event at Chepstow Library as part of Adult Learners’ Week. Links below.

Meanwhile I’m working on a short story about Chrystal, involving an Ambassador and a séance. 😉

Steampunk at The Labyrinth, Looe: Saturday 11/05/13, 12noon onwards. I’ll be on twice.

Steamcheese Event at Frome: Saturday 18/05/13, from 10am. I’ll be in the Authors’ Area.

Chepstow Library: (Drop-in on Saturday 25/05/13, any time between 09:30 ~ 12:30)

It’s been a Funny Sort of Month!

Oops, I’ve been neglecting this blog. Apologies to those who’ve been checking in. I will explain.

Things have been rather hectic, with launching the novel and all of the events surrounding that, as well as a few other little details like normal life.

The launch went really well. Waterstone’s staff were wonderful, looking after me and making sure everything went smoothly. I have to admit, I was a little overawed at the thought of being “The Author” at my own event and I appreciated their thoughtfulness. We presented the event as an interview of myself by Andy Roberts from BBC Wales in Cardiff. He asked questions and I did my best to answer. Then I read a little from the book (it was only a little ‘cos my voice started playing up) and then I took questions from the audience. Lots of people bought copies of Chrystal Heart and even a few of The MonSter and the Rainbow and I signed them.

Then we adjourned to The Old Library Bar where I’d arranged for a buffet and a few drinks – with the bar being open for people to keep drinking. I’d been good and stuck to water while I was “on stage”, but now I could relax and enjoy the Cava. Until Andy suggested he buy me a brandy and Chloe suggested mixing it with the Cava and a little brown sugar. I’d never had this drink before and I did enjoy it. Very tasty. And extremely alcoholic! You guys are a bad influence. But that’s what friends are for. Thanks!

On Saturday, I was part of the writing group presenting a day of Creative Writing Workshops here in Chepstow. We had a wonderful day. Sixteen attendees, which may not sound like many, but it meant we could focus a fair amount of attention on each person. And we made a profit! The workshops seemed to go down well, the competition was great fun (congrats again to our winners) and everyone left with a smile on their face and a writing itch in their fingers. We’re hoping to make this an annual event, so get in touch if you want to be kept informed.

And so it’s been a busy few weeks. I’ve been running writing workshops in different parts of the country (including a Steampunk event at Camber Sands Holiday Park, which was great fun). There are more events in the pipeline. The trouble is, I end up putting so much energy into organising these and doing them, I don’t have the time left to update this blog or the various lists which should be kept up to date with my activities. Mea Culpa as the Romans would say, or My Bad as the Americans say. I’ll try and get everything sorted this week. No promises, though.

Novel Noticeably Nearer

Busy times!

Goody Bag 130219

I’m finalising the text for my book, ready to send to the printers. The book cover is ready and I’m pleased with how that’s looking. The press release is being circulated to various media outlets and it’s all getting very real! Pre-orders are trickling in and I’ve just been told our local libraries are ordering copies (they handle orders centrally, so I get a single request for all the branches). I’m involved in running several events at the local library over the next few months, and I’ll be able to sell books at some of these. Not that I ever do a “hard sell” – I’m a writer, not a salesperson!

In fact, if I had to make a living from my books, I’d go hungry an awful lot of the time. But that’s a story for another day!

I’ve converted the text file into the appropriate page size for the first time today, so I can now say it’ll be 320 pages long. Give or take a few, ‘cos there’s all the extra stuff that goes at the front and tweaks to the formatting can change the count by a couple of pages. It’s about 92,000 words long, if anyone’s interested.

So, what’s happening with these promo goodies?

Well, the picture shows the current contents of the full goody bag. People who crowdfunded me for £50 or more last Autumn will get one of these bags with all the contents displayed, as well as paperback and electronic copies of the book. And one or two other little bonuses that are in the process of being produced. Some of the goodies will also be given away to anyone who buys a paperback copy of Chrystal Heart at one of my promo events this year. There are four events arranged so far, more to be added as I finalise details. The latest details will always be on my Amazon UK Author Page (look up one of my books and click on my name, or go direct to http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0034PC6DM ). And anyone who’s pre-ordered a paperback copy will get something extra in the parcel when it arrives.

Told you I’d go hungry if I depended on my book sales for an income.

Chrystal Heart will also be available for Kindle. Details to follow when I’ve done the necessary formatting and uploaded it to Amazon.

Tomorrow is Chrystal’s birthday. She’ll be 189. That’s a lot of candles!

Making Money and Promotional Freebies

I have the impression that the school system in the UK (and probably elsewhere) teaches pupils that they can make a living from writing fiction. Then they try to do it and find out it isn’t that easy. For every J.K. Rowling, there are hundreds of writers who have a day job for the steady income they need to pay the monthly bills.

And at my rung of the ladder, writing is little more than a hobby that pays for itself.

I’ve been doing the sums for the costs associated with my book launch in March. I not only have to pay for the books themselves, I’m also committed to providing goody bags for my major donors and those are the costs I was checking. I’m pleased to say I’ve stuck within my budget and I won’t be begging on an internet street corner to make up a shortfall!

In fact, as well as the goodies promised to people who funded me, I have a few extras of some items. And this is your chance to win a few of these. I’ve put together some packs, each consisting of two pencils, two ballpoint pens, an eraser, a pencil sharpener and a set of three bookmarks.

Comment on this post to be in the draw for a pack, like and share on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/MegKingstonAuthor ) to be in with another chance.

Names will be drawn on Wednesday 13/02/13 and Chrystal’s birthday, which is Wednesday 20/02/13. Winners will be announced on this blog and the Facebook page.

Good luck, everyone. 

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