A New Season

It’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere, which I’m happy about. I think spring might actually be my favourite season (having thought about this more than is probably sensible). Just the sense of renewal, and fresh starts, and oh, the longer evenings!

New Year has that same sense of starting over, which is why it’s my favourite holiday (if holiday is even the right word?). And summer obviously has long evenings, too, but I’m not so great with heat*, so that doesn’t work for me. Spring, though… imagine a very contented expression here just at the thought. (I’d add an emoji, but the ones I have at my disposal don’t quite do it justice.)

*Extreme understatement (is that an oxymoron?).

Point is: I’m feeling good.

But also… in complete contradiction to that, things have also felt a bit… off(?) for me this past week or so.

2021 for me has been full-on so far. I finished the rewrite of my novel in January and February, then had the whirlwind of the launch in March. I typically take part in CampNaNo in April each year, but it’s just not happening for me right now. I haven’t had the physical energy or mental bandwidth, so have slowed things right down and am going a bit easier. It must be said that I probably wouldn’t have realised I was overdoing things (again) if my husband hadn’t pointed it out. You know how it is when you’re lost so deep in work you don’t even realise it? Just me? Well, anyway, Steve let me know I was in danger of burn out (again) if I kept on, and––as often happens––I then proceeded to be hit over the head with all the pain and fatigue I’d been pushing aside while getting on with things.

That was a couple of days ago, and now I think my brain and body have settled again and––lo and behold––I’m starting to get that itch to write again.

It’s almost as if there’s a rhythm to it all. I don’t know how many times I’ve been around this particular… what do you even call this? Weird life cycle? I feel like there’s a common metaphor that applies here, but it’s eluding me. At this point, I’m not entirely sure if this post is coherent or just a brain dump of unconnected thoughts (maybe both?). Regardless, it feels nice to write. To get the thoughts out, coherent or not.

Almost every day, at the end of the night (which is to say, anywhere from 11pm to 6am–our “typical” bedtime. Which is funny, but that’s kind of the point) my husband and I will often turn to each other and exclaim, “Weird day, huh?” And it’s more than just a running gag, because somehow it ends up being true. Every single time. Because there’s no such thing as ‘typical’ for us. We rarely know what we’re doing from one day to the next, and that’s before whatever of life’s curveballs hit us––and I love it. The weird days (and nights), the inconsistencies, and rhythms, incoherent ramblings, and random tangents… I really do love it all. And I’m grateful for the perspective to see that, that the brief step back has given me.

How do I conclude all this? Is there even a conclusion to be drawn? Is a lack of conclusion not kind of part of what I’m trying to say? If anyone is still reading this, thank you. Welcome to the inner workings of my brain. And, um… Happy Spring!

Launch Week Happenings

At the time of writing, it’s less than twenty-four hours until my debut novel, Full Term, is finally, officially out.

You can read the first chapter for free over on Jo Zebedee’s blog today, tomorrow (Tuesday 30th) Kelly Creighton is sharing a Q&A I’ve done over on her blog, and on Wednesday my good friend Vee will be posting a review of Full Term on her book blog.

But that’s not all!

Also tomorrow, I’m having a mini party over on Zoom just for friends and family (which will probably be shared to YouTube, after the fact), there’s going to be a giveaway on my Twitter (UK only), and between 8 and 9pm (BST) I’ll be answering questions for this week’s #UKTeenChat.

If you want to pick up a copy of the book, electronic versions are available for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Google Play and more––all linked here.

Paperbacks can be ordered from Waterstones in the UK, Barnes & Noble in the US, and Amazon around the world. Libraries should be able to order the book in for you, on request, and independent bookstores should also have it in their wholesaler catalogues.

There’s also an audiobook currently in production.

Plenty to celebrate, I’d say!

On Lockdown and Birthdays

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of lockdown starting in the UK.

It’s also my thirty-second birthday. Meaning I’ll be one of the first people to have two birthdays spent in lockdown.

Surprisingly, I’m not feeling too bad about it. Maybe because all the excitement going on with my book release is outweighing the disappointment of not being able to celebrate with friends, or maybe because I know that––comparatively––I’m not in too bad of a position.

All considered, I’ve been fairly unscathed by the pandemic. I’m not saying it’s been easy, but I’m aware of my privilege in not having lost anyone close, when for so many others it’s been so much worse.

Back when the pandemic started, my mental health took a nosedive for a couple of months, as I know was the case for a lot of people. And for a bunch of those people, their mental health hasn’t yet recovered. For more still, the emotional impact was compounded by the fresh wave of injustices that happened during the Black Lives Matters protests last summer. And even more recently than that, the unrest over racism against Asian communities in the states, and women in the UK.

Overall, it’s been a hard year. But I don’t need to tell anyone that.

I hope this doesn’t come across as insensitive, because that’s absolutely not what I’m going for here––my heart goes out to everyone who has suffered over the past twelve months. But with everything that’s happened, I also feel personally grateful to have made it through.

I got my first vaccine on Saturday, and I’m hopeful that, soon enough, I’ll be able to see friends again. (Soon being a relative term.)

Trite as it might sound, the hard times will end. We’ve got to hold on to each other now more than ever, in this home stretch. We’re not out of the woods yet, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel and––I’m sorry, that’s a lot of mixed metaphors. What I just wanted to say is I’m feeling hopeful, and I hope that’s okay.

Press Release for Full Term

For Immediate Release
March 2021

Local Author Releases Debut Novel During Lockdown

Belfast-based author Ellie Rose McKee is to release her debut novel, Full Term––a contemporary coming-of-age family drama that would appeal to both older teens (14+) and adults––on Tuesday 30th March. The book will be available for sale online in eBook formats for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and more, as well as in paperback via Waterstones, Amazon, and independent bookstores.

ISBN

978-1-8384323-0-0

About Ellie

Ellie Rose McKee was born and raised in Bangor and now lives in East Belfast. She is an established blogger and published poet.

Novel Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Mya Byrne has three problems: her long-term boyfriend broke up with her over a stupid misunderstanding, her step-dad’s a psychopath who might just try and kill her, and––oh, yeah––she’s just gone into labour two weeks early in the middle of maths class.

As Mya navigates her first month of being a new mum, she resolves to fix her relationship, keep herself and her baby safe, and hopefully get her step-dad put behind bars.

Not too much of a tall order, right?

Acknowledgements

Last week, I wrote the acknowledgements of my debut novel (Still can’t quite believe I get to say that!). And with so many people to thank, I wanted to share all my gratitude here as well as at the back of the book, because everybody should know how awesome everyone who helped me is!

I first started [Full Term] on the 22nd of May 2016. By the time it finally goes into print (30th March 2021), it will be just under two months shy of being five years old, from first word to publication. So much has happened in that time, and so many people have helped that I’m both thrilled and terrified that now, at this very last hurdle, I’m going to forget to thank someone. Just in case, I ask forgiveness in advance if you feel your name should be below, but you find it missing. Please know this was not intentional. There’s a saying about it taking a village to raise a child, and I feel like it’s taken an entire online community to bring forth this book.

But enough preamble. Let me first start with my editor, the wonderful and ever patient Bridget Wilde. I know it’s cliché, but I honestly could not have gotten this book into print without her. This book is very literally a different book than the one I handed to her, but it’s so much better for all the rewrites. Be, honestly, thank you so much!

Next, I must thank Be’s partner in crime, Anna Sheehan, who not only beta-read considerable parts of this book (and a few of its previous iterations), but contributed a large portion of the IndieGoGo funding, and provided the lovely quote for the cover as well. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you, but if I ever find out, I’ll let you know!

I have spent countless nights being encouraged by both Bridget and Anna––often both at the same time––throughout this long process. Thank you both for listening to all my 5am meltdowns.

Going back over ten years to my university days, I want to thank my original critique partner, Mickey Luke Mitchell. I also want to apologise for the things I made you read back then, when I was very much still finding my feet.

Similarly, the dear Liz Griffin who read a lot of my old work, before I quite got the grip on grammar and punctuation I have now. Thank you, and sorry for all the typos I brought into your life.

Speaking of typos, my good friend Jodie Eve, in her innocence, used to get me to beta-read her work. Many, many hours were spent moving around commas that I’m still not quite sure are entirely right, but you believed I knew what I was doing and for that I am so grateful.

I’m proud to have also been buoyed by support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast Writers’ Group, Women Aloud NI, SCBWI (both British Isles and Irish chapters), countless Elysian Fields members (you know who you are!), my lone Patreon patron Seanín Hughes, beta readers Tina ‘Mini’ Scott and Vee Caswell (who both also contributed to my crowdfunding campaign), critique partner Lesley Walsh, life partner and perpetual lemon toasty of the month (don’t ask!) my wonderful husband Steve Herron, and writing mentors Felicity McCall and Jo Zebedee.

My darling Stephanie Hibbert did an excellent sensitivity read of this novel for me (i.e. answered all of my ignorant white people questions), and I got expert advice from Cathy Carson, Alicia Rana, and Dr Joanne Holland DVM MD about safeguarding, nursing, social work protocols, and midwifery respectively. Any errors that may have slipped in regarding any of these topics are my own doing, not theirs.

Shout out to Wendy L. Bonifazi RN CLS APR, who kindly proofread this novel for me, and of course the rest of my awesome IndieGoGo Backers: Debi Lamm, Cat Pothier, Liz Weir, Byddi Lee, Shirley-Anne McMillan, Beth Armstrong, Karen Mooney, Mark Davidson, Ryan Miller, Marianne Simpson, Cathy Reilly, Kay Adlington, Elizabeth McGeown, Emma King*, Lynda Collins, Anthony Calamis, Wilma Kenny, Kelly Creighton, and my cousin (and fellow author) Kim Graham.

The puddle/ocean advice that Lynne gives Mya in chapter five, I picked up from Tumblr many years ago and have never forgotten (though sadly I haven’t the faintest idea who shared it originally––told you I’d forget someone!).

Just thank you, thank you, thank you all so very much!

*Since I wrote this and sent the book to print, Emma King earned herself another shout out for donating hours of her time to helping me with a fiddly photoshop task to do with the paperback cover. Even at this stage, I’m finding it staggering how much people are willing to give to make sure this book succeeds.

*UPDATE* I just realised I have been completely remiss in thanking my super wonderful, completely excellent web developer Will Hall! Will, I am so sorry. If/when I make a second edition of the book, your name will be included properly. You are awesome!

Full Term is available for pre-order here.

February Writing/Publishing Update

So much has been happening lately, I have been remiss in keeping this blog up to date. At this point, I’m not even sure where to begin, so I’ll stick to the highlights.

At the end of January, I was told my application to the University of Atypical’s D/deaf and Disabled Artists Support Fund was successful, allowing me to purchase some equipment, get some mentoring, and work with my editor on the second and third books in my trilogy.

This news went public across my social media on Tuesday, swiftly followed on Wednesday by the news that I’d also secured a grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland under their Individuals Emergency Resilience Programme. This money is to help me and my artistic practice survive the loss of earnings incurred due to the pandemic.

Both sets of funding are obviously a huge boost, but that’s not all!

I am currently setting up my own independent press, which I will be publishing my trilogy (and more) through––more on that in a future blog post.

And as for the trilogy itself, I am right on the edge of several things:

  • Finishing up last minutes tweaks to book one with my editor. (This has been such a long process, but the book is so much better for it.)
  • Sending book one to the proofreader.
  • Launching the pre-order campaign.
  • Having ARCs (advance reader copies) become available for review on NetGalley.
  • Being able to share the book with everyone who generously contributed to the crowdfunding campaign.
  • And finally getting a physical book to hold in my hands!

It’s a bit behind the schedule I had originally planned, but all of the above bullet points should literally be happening in the next week or so. (Maybe slightly longer for my physical proof copy to arrive.)

If I’ve missed anything, or you have questions, let me know!

Crowdfunding Stats

If you were ever curious about how the crowdfunding thing works behind the scenes, I’m here to lift back the curtain. Purely because I think transparency is important and the taboo around money needs to die.

So, let’s dive in.

On the surface, the crowdfunding campaign for my novel raised six-hundred-and-twenty (620) pounds. What I actually got in my bank account, after fees, was £535.51.

That’s a lot of fees, you might say to yourself, and I agree. IndieGoGo (my crowdfunding platform of choice) has two different types of campaign. Why I picked them is because they offer an option to get the funds you raise, even if you don’t reach your target. I think that if you picked the more standard method, of only getting funded if you reached your full goal, has a different set of fees. So there’s pluses and minuses to both.

What is the same with both is that the minimum goal amount you can set is 500, whether that is euro, dollars, or pounds––you choose whichever is most relevant for your country.

Charges deducted from my total were a £31 platform fee, a £28.49 payment processing fee (2.9% + £0.30 fee per transaction), and a £25 bank delivery fee, which I believe varies depending what country you’re in.

If I’d had over £1,000 pledged, the site would have also held some of my funds in reserve.

As you can see from the pie chart above, the funds came from four different countries: £280 from the UK, £250 from the US, £50 from New Zealand, and £40 from Canada.

When I set the campaign up, I think the guidance notes said, on average, most people get 30% of their pledges from family and friends, but for the 23 people who backed my campaign, 22 of them were my friends. There’s just one person who’s identity is a mystery to me, though likey I do know them, too, just don’t recognise their username. (The campaign page says I had 24 backers, but one of my friends contributed twice.)

My campaign had 260 total visits, with viewers coming from Facebook primarily, via a direct link in the second instance, and thirdly from Twitter. None of my funds came from people randomly scrolling through IndieGoGo, which I believe is uncommon.

The majority of contributions to my campaign came at the beginning, trailing off towards the end, which I understand is normal. And I think that’s basically all the info. I have to share. I hope it was interesting (I know I love these kinds of breakdowns), but if you have any questions, please let me know.

Thanks again to everyone who helped make my campaign a success.

What I Wrote and Had Published in 2020

In 2019, I wrote 166,000 words. At the time, it was a new personal record. This year, however, I outdid myself, writing a total of 242,000!

Poems Written: 5

Poetry Submissions Sent (many including multiple pieces): 20

Poems Published: 1 (and 1 held for publication in 2021)

Short Stories/Pieces of Flash Fiction Written: 6

Short Story/Flash Fiction Submissions Sent: 16

Short Stories Published: 8 – a new personal record!

Some of those stories made it into FOUR different anthologies, now available to buy worldwide.

And probably most important of all, I crowdfunded a fricken novel! Which leads me to say, I think 2021 will be even better. At least in terms of books.

2021 Goals

Usually, at this time of year, I write a little re-cap of everything that’s happened in my life over the past twelve months. For what should be obvious reasons, I’m not feeling much need to sum up 2020. (Though I will put up a post next week detailing what I wrote and had published during that time.)

I started the year with fourteen goals, seven of which I completed, two of which I came close to, but didn’t quite meet (reading and blogging), and some of the rest of which quickly became moot. Given that everything that happened globally, I’m gonna call that an overall win.

Moving on, here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Read: Twenty or Thirty Books (including at least two on writing craft) –– this is way down on the ever-increasing number I usually set, but given everything else I have planned, I decided to go easy on myself in this area.
  2. Blog: At least two posts per month –– Again, intentionally setting the bar lower than usual, because I don’t want to be forcing it or stressing about it.
  3. Study: Complete the Masterclass classes I’m signed up to (by April, when my subscription runs out)
  4. Newsletters: Increase these to three per year
  5. Make at least two poetry submissions per month (each submission typically containing multiple pieces)
  6. Submit at least two short stories per month
  7. Finish writing at least three fan fiction works-in-progress
  8. Finally get the third Belfast Writers’ Group anthology out into the world (Summer?)
  9. Finally, finally, finally publish my debut novel (Spring 2021) –– Despite being number nine on this list, this is actually my top priority and the reason I’m both cutting myself slack on reading and blogging, and increasing the number of newsletters I put out.
  10. Rewrite my second novel (Camp NaNoWriMo April)
  11. Finish my third novel (Camp NaNoWriMo July)
  12. Publish a different book –– Keeping all of the details of this secret, for the time being.

Plenty to be getting on with, I should say!

Author Interview: Kelly Creighton

Today on my blog, I have a special treat: an interview with author Kelly Creighton. Keep reading to find out about her, her writing journey, and her new book – Problems With Girls.

How did you get into writing crime?

I always watched crime series and true crime documentaries, and read a lot of crime fiction, but I didn’t initially start writing crime. I started with a story. When my first published book, The Bones of It, was billed as crime I was surprised, but at that stage I was formulating an idea for a detective series so I thought, alright, it makes sense. My work and voice had developed to be more on the noir side.

Can you tell us a bit about your publishing journey?

I have been writing for a long time, on and off, but in 2012 I decided I would really take it seriously and so I started on a novel. It never got published, but I got to play around, learning about different forms. I published a book of poems with Lapwing, called Three Primes. Then in 2015 my first novel was published by Liberties Press. In 2017, Doire Press published my short story collection, Bank Holiday Hurricane. Now, this year, 2020, despite how hard it has been overall, somehow it has been my busiest year in publishing.

In March, The Sleeping Season, book 1 of the detective series came out with Friday Press. This month (November) Problems with Girls, book 2 of the DI Sloane series is publishing, and I have been working as co-editor with Claire Savage and a host of talented local authors on Underneath the Tree: a multi-genre Christmas story anthology. That launched at the start of November.

What are your favourite crime books/series?

I adore everything by Gillian Flynn: Sharp Objects, Dark Places, Gone Girl. I think she is the real deal, an excellent writer and she thinks up great, memorable plots. Her books have a bit of edge and her female characters are especially compelling.

Tell us about DI Sloane

Harriet (Harry) Sloane is a twin, the youngest in her family of five. She was raised on the Malone Road to parents who worked at the top of their game: one was the chief of police, the other a judge. Harriet has just got out of a bad marriage, her love life is a bit of a mess. She is very career-focused and isn’t sure if she wants what women around her seem to want. She’s quite complex but is doing her best considering everything she has been through in her life.

Many thanks to Kelly letting me interview her. You can find Problems With Girls (alongside Kelly’s other books) for sale on Amazon here.