Moving on after a tumultuous year

dscn2089Well, I knew I hadn’t been blogging as much as usual but I was still surprised to see how long it actually was since my last post on this site. Last year knocked me for six in many ways, as I’m sure it did a lot of other people. I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff but personally and professionally as well. This had a knock-on effect on my writing and I feel I’m only just coming out of that funk…

So what’s happening? Well, my second book has been finished for a little while now and I sent it off to some more publishers to see if there was any interest. I first sent it out in December 2015 and had some responses but no-one wanted to go the whole hog. I then spent a fair bit of time trying to find an editor I could afford, to help me with the necessary rewriting. That took me till June of last year and I worked on it all the way through the summer with her, finalising it at the end of September. I then dithered about a bit, wondering whether a traditional contract was really what I was looking for. In the end, I did submit it again but I still wasn’t really sure that it was what I wanted. I have heard back from some of those publishers but I’m still waiting on one other and I feel that if I haven’t heard by now (nearly two months later), it’s most likely not going to be good news. If the answer is ‘no’ once more, I really am going to get on and self-publish. I recently finished my accounts for last year and I realised that sales of my first book would qualify me as an independent author of the RNA if I had only published two novels! I was almost there for the Society of Authors as well. So, it’s time to crack on, I think.

In the meantime, I have started work on editing my follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville, as well as beginning the first draft of my third book to submit to the RNA later this year. I still have lots of writing plans but the hesitation over whether to self-publish or whether to seek a traditional contract made last year disappear all too quickly for me. Part of the problem with self-publishing, as so many of you reading this will know, is that it costs a fair bit of money to do it properly and as I left my permanent teaching job at the end of 2015, I didn’t have much money to throw around for most of last year. However, I did have regular work all year as a supply teacher, tutor and web designer and this recently led me to a new part-time job for a local charity as a Communications Officer. This will obviously make this year a lot more stable for me. I will still do a bit of supply teaching but my freelance website work has really picked up as well and I’d like to explore that further in the coming months. Proofreading never really took off for me but every cloud has a silver lining, or at least some of them do 😉

So having said all that, I should be looking at publication of book two very soon, I hope, and possibly publication of the novella as well. I guess I’ll just have to see how things go and not beat myself up too much if it doesn’t quite go according to plan the whole time. As long as I keep writing, that’s the main thing. With that in mind, I have signed up to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme again, which will force me to write my third book and will also make sure that I stay involved with other writing groups and friends. Last year, I wrote about ‘The Brave New World of 2016’ and I have felt very brave at times over the year as I dealt with some very unexpected things. I can honestly say that I won’t really miss last year though. We can only hope that 2017 is better for everyone. I leave you with a quote from Alfred, Lord Tennyson: ‘Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.” Wishing you all the best that a New Year can bring.

 

If you would like my help with your website, whether to sort out a minor niggle that you just don’t have time for, or for a full-blown new website design, please do get in touch. My freelance site is here or you can just leave me a comment 🙂

Why I’ve Gone Back to my Free WordPress Site

bald-eagle-489080_640The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that although my website looks quite similar now to the self-hosted one I created just a few weeks ago, it is in fact my good old WordPress.com site with a few tweaks. If you read my previous post (now deleted) about my migration to a self-hosted WordPress site, you’ll know that it was relatively painless in terms of moving the content from one place to another. I spent a lot of time faffing around with the design, choosing a new theme, installing a header and then loading the widgets but that too, was quite straight-forward. However, I soon found that in order to change even the slightest thing about the design, I was often having to get to grips with coding. I am lucky in that I am quite good at the technical aspects of most things and I’m also lucky enough to have a husband who knows a lot about all that stuff too but although I was enthusiastic at the beginning, it really did start to wear me down. For example, I wanted to centre my Twitter feed box and my Facebook likes box. For this, I had to submit a support ticket to WordPress.org and wait for them to come back to me with the CSS (Cascading Style Spreadsheet) code. They did come back with it and once I had it and knew where to put it, it was easy but when I found myself having to do this for every little tweak, it soon became dull. The main issue I encountered though was with transferring over my social share counts, by which I mean, the figures underneath each blog post showing how often they’d been shared on social media. After a lot of querying, I found out that it just isn’t possible to transfer them from one URL to another because Twitter and Facebook will only associate the shares with the original URL, even though my site was redirected from the old URL to the new one. I did come across a coding fix but it was so complicated that even my husband couldn’t get his head around it. I therefore decided to go back to my old site before I write too many more posts and lose the counts on them! When you are a small blogger/author, your social proof is so important and I’ve spent so long building it up that I don’t want to lose it. I have kept the domain name but I can’t see any way that I can realistically use it now sadly. One of the other things that tipped the balance for me, was that last Monday, my web host company was ‘attacked’ by some technical force or other (clueless!) and this meant that my site was down for a large part of the day. Of course, this never happens with WordPress.com and all at once, I started to see all the things they are doing for me behind the scenes. You don’t normally see all that because they’re dealing with it. Spam? Don’t even notice it but if you’re self-hosted, you have to set yourself up with Akismet or someone else and for that you need an API key and when you’ve worked out what that is, another day has gone by. I cannot complain at all about Tsohost’s customer service, they were great but I don’t want to have to deal with my site going down and all the associated messages that go with that. So I reversed all the steps: I exported my content and then imported it again to WordPress.com. Then I cancelled my site redirect with no charge as it had been less than a month since I put it in place. I used the Jetpack plugin to migrate all my subscribers back again successfully. I had no idea that the Jetpack plugin was one of the WordPress ones until I was ‘speaking’ to a WordPress ‘Happiness Engineer’ (that really is what they’re called). I was speaking to them because I had left a message about my disappointment in finding that I couldn’t transfer over all my social shares. I wrote that I thought I had read somewhere that this was possible so they got back to me to ask me where I’d read it. We discussed it a bit further and then, quite out of the blue, they sent me some upgrades free of charge because of my useful feedback. I told you they were called Happiness Engineers and by the way, there are about 50 of them tending to the needs of over 80 million subscribers 🙂 So, it’s back to normal for me and I have got my life and my writing time back. The moral of the story is that you should either self-host from the beginning with a domain name or you really shouldn’t bother, not if you care about your social shares anyway. If they were to sort that issue out, I would try again but otherwise, I’m going to concentrate on what I set out to do two years ago – my writing life 🙂 Thanks so much for bearing with me. Oh and if you need any coding done…