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.