writing a novel

Editing services – an update on pricing #amwriting #editing #selfpublishing

pricing-tips-freelancers

A few weeks ago I decided to change the way I charged for editing, moving away from pricing per thousand words to charging by the hour. I did this because I had found over the last few years of editing that there is a sometimes quite a big difference in the amount of time it takes to edit different manuscripts of the same length.

However, I have realised since making that change that this system isn’t working for authors. I have reached out to past and current clients and the feedback I’ve received is that clients prefer to know up front exactly how much an edit will cost. This is understandable – writing and publishing can be an expensive business and I can completely understand how it is better from an author’s point of view for the costs involved to be clear from the outset.

So, after much reflection and consideration, I have decided to return to the previous system of charging per thousand words. My clients are, obviously, the life blood of my business and it makes sense to use a system that works for them.

My editing charges are as follows:

Editing – a note on editing: as I work mainly with authors who are planning to self-publish, or who want to have their work edited prior to seeking representation, my editing service works in a slightly different way to the editing process that happens in traditional publishing, which would usually involve a developmental edit, followed by a line edit and then a proofread. Most writers are on a restricted budget and so would find it difficult to pay for all these different stages of editing. There is also always some overlap in these editing stages.

So, my editing service comprises of an edit for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, flow, characterisation, continuity, plot consistency and style. I will also correct any typos, grammar errors and spellings. I use the track changes facility in Word and will provide you with two copies of the edit: Edit 1 shows all changes made so you can trace what I have done, Edit 2 is a clean copy with all changes accepted – this will show you how the manuscript will read if you accepted all the changes that I’ve made. Having both copies means that you can easily see the difference the changes will make, while still having the option to choose whether or not you want to make those changes. You can go through Edit 1 accepting or rejecting each change as you see fit. As well as the edits, I will write a detailed report focusing on plot, structure, characterisation, pace, setting and style, making suggestions for any changes: £4.50/$6.00 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £60/$80

If you would like to book an edit followed by a separate proofread, the cost is £5.50/$7.25 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £80/$100

Two edits of your manuscript followed by a separate proofread costs £7.50/$10.00 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £100/$130

Proofreading – correction of spelling, grammar and any minor issues with sentence structure and plot inconsistencies: £2.50/$3.25 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £40/$50

Beta Reading – general feedback on elements such as plot, characterisation, setting, story flow, continuity and any grammar/spelling issues. Please note that this is not a proofread and I will only give general advice on spelling and grammar, not a line-by-line edit. I do not fact check: £1.50/$2.00 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 30,000 words I charge a flat rate of £40/$50

Evaluation/critique of self-published work: £2.00/$2.50 per thousand words.

For manuscripts under 15,000 words I charge a flat rate of £40/$50

Submission to agents – letter and synopsis: £40/$55

Evaluation of first three chapters for submission: £40/$55

Self-publishing – blurb, author page information: £35/$45

Please note that all prices are in GBP and USD. If you would like a quote in a different currency then do get in touch.

If you would like a quote, a sample edit, or if you have any questions at all, then please do get in touch, either via the contact button, by email at alisonewilliams@sky.com or give me a call on 07891065012.

You can also read some testimonials from current and past clients here.

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Frustrated Writer – Help Needed! #wwwblogs #IAmWriting #WritingTips

 

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What I imagined…

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The reality…

So another week of solitude in Devon (read why here) and another attempt to get back into the writing.

This time though, I’ve hit a bit of a crisis.

When I began this second full-length novel (absolutely ages ago) I sort of knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted it to go. But, as often happens, when I came to write, it went off on a tangent and I’m not sure, at this point, how to get back on course. I’m not sure, anymore, exactly what this book is.

I do know that I’m not altogether happy with the direction it’s taken, or the way some of the characters have evolved. But 50,000 + words in, I’m a bit loath to start all over again.

So, do I give it all up as a bad job, or do I persevere and potentially waste more (precious) time?

The thought of ditching all that work, particularly as I find it so hard to fit in time for writing as it is, fills me with horror.

So where do I go from here?

Part of my issue is, I think, that I’m a great list-maker. I like to be organised and to have schedules and time tables and deadlines. And when, more often than not, I fail to reach those deadlines or stick to those schedules, it can feel like there’s no place left to go. And when a story, or an idea, or 50,000 words refuses to stick to my original idea, I find it hard to move on.

But 50,000 words is 50,000 words. I can’t and won’t ditch it all. I need instead to go back and read and read again, and evaluate every word, every twist, and every change in what I’ve written and try to get to the whys of it all. And perhaps too, I need to let go of that original idea of what the book was, and of what kind of writer I am.

I’m not starting again though.

So advice please, all you lovely writers out there – what would you do if you were me?

The Joys of Solitude #wwwblogs #Iamwriting

solitude-image

I’m not sure exactly where she gets it from, (it certainly isn’t me) but my daughter has a brain that leans towards maths and science. Which is a good thing, because she’s always wanted to be a vet. So a couple of weeks ago, the two of us set off for Devon – Jess to spend the week with the local farm vets in Holsworthy, and me to spend a week on my much neglected WIP.

While Jess really did have the proverbial arm up a cow’s backside (or three – cows, that is, not arms) and was literally counting sheep, I sat in the very sunny kitchen of our beautiful rented cottage and listened to the silence. Well, it was silent except for the mooing of nearby cows and an enormous amount of birdsong.

It was… weird.

At least it was at first. I’m normally a headless chicken (which Jess didn’t encounter last week), rushing from pillar to post, from editing work, to working for my husband’s business, to ironing and shopping and cooking and clearing up after the dogs. You get the picture. My life is exhausting, as is true for lots of people in this day and age. And it’s noisy too. Our house is not all that far from the M3, and I can just about hear the traffic during the day. My office is at the back of the house, and I do get the birdsong (from any birds not completely terrified my Milo, our massive cat)  but I also get  the lawn mowers, builders, DPD vans delivering endless parcels etc. etc. All of which can be rather distracting.

So the peace and quiet of this little corner of Devon took a bit of getting used to. For the first couple of days I felt a bit lost. Once Jess had gone off in the morning, there was just me, and a friendly robin that hopped on to the doorstep once or twice, and quite a few lady sparrows (not a gentleman sparrow in sight). There was a family (of people!) in the cottage next door, but they went out every day. The owners were close by too, but they were the perfect mix of there if you needed them without being obtrusive. So, it was quiet. I stared at my screen, avoiding the temptation of Facebook and Twitter. I’d made a promise to myself that there would be no social media. And my mind went blank.

Then I remembered that old adage about applying the seat of one’s pants or however it goes, and I made myself type.

quiet

It got easier. And by Wednesday I was chilled, and writing well and keeping right away from social media (well, almost).

And by the time we were packing on Friday, I’d written more than I had in a long while, and, even better, I felt enthusiastic about my writing again, ready to continue with it.

So it was a luxury, this week of solitude, and one I was very lucky to have. I admire so much those writers I know that hold down a job, or two, and have young children or care for elderly parents. Those writers who still manage to write, despite all that. And I know I’m extremely lucky to have had that week in Devon, and to have the prospect of a second week in Devon later this month when Jess is working with another vet. And I know I’m lucky to have had that time to work in peace and quiet and reflect on my writing. It really was bliss.

And it made me realise how important it is to try and find a bit of peace and quiet, if we can, in our everyday lives. I can’t swan off to Devon every time I need to get on with my writing, however much I’d love to, so I need to make sure I try and recapture that sense of peace and calm. I know it won’t be easy now I’m firmly back in the midst of the responsibilities of daily life, but I’m determined to try.

And if you’re planning a trip to Devon (and do, it is utterly beautiful) then I recommend Staddon Barns. The Post House, that we stayed in, had everything we could have asked for, was charmingly furnished and spotlessly clean. Details here.

Staddon

 

 

#writing a novel – Should you write for an audience? #wwwblogs #Iamwriting

It’s almost a year since I wrote this post – and I still don’t know the answer (and I’m still almost nowhere with the WIP!). So do you write with a specific reader in mind?

When I started researching and jotting down ideas for this post, I was pretty certain that the gist would be to help fellow writers to think about just who they were writing for – who their audience was. After all, what’s the point of writing if you don’t have an audience, people to read your book, to buy your book, to recommend your book to other people? That’s the whole reason we write, isn’t it? To share our stories with people who will enjoy them?

So I thought about the audience I’d had in mind when I began writing The Black Hours. And I realised that I hadn’t had anyone in mind at all. I’d simply had a story in my head that I wanted to write down. Yes, I wanted it published, yes, I wanted people to read it, but I certainly hadn’t thought to myself – this is a novel that will go down well with Mrs Smith at number 27, or the postman. Had I done the whole thing wrong? Should I have been thinking about my target audience before I began to write?

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As I so often do, I turned to Google to see if I had been doing things wrong again. And it turns out that apparently I have. There’s a raft of articles about thoroughly researching your audience. Some suggest visualising your book for sale and then analysing the people buying it. What do they look like? What are their hobbies? What do they do for a living?

Now, I do think it’s important to have your reader in mind when you write- at least to a certain degree – particularly if you are writing for children or young adults. But does anyone really work it out to this extent?

Yes, I have readers in mind when I’m writing, and yes I have my clients’ readers in mind when I’m editing – usually I’m thinking, will people understand that bit, will they follow that plot point etc. But when I write, and when I’m editing, the story comes first. Afterwards, I might think about who would enjoy it, what they would expect to see, etc. For example, with historical fiction, I know readers will expect the details to be accurate. And ‘The Black Hours’ is pretty dark, so my audience certainly won’t be readers of historical romance or chick lit fans. But the story comes first. Otherwise I’m writing to a formula, and surely that’s not great for me or my readers.

So, I’m left in a quandary really. And certainly no wiser than when I began to write this post. Internet experts say that I should have a target audience in mind, that it will focus my writing and increase my chances of success. After all, a publisher needs to know who to market to, and if I self-publish then I’ll need to sort my categories on Amazon. I can see the wisdom in that (although my WIP is set in three different times, has one real figure from history and one sort of mythological figure and a great deal of stuff about painting and Romanticism- not sure what genre I’m going to stick that one in). But should a story that’s going round my head change to fit a certain genre? Should I alter a character to suit some idea of a potential ‘customer’ in my head? Or should I be true to my story?

What do you think?

Small Publishers – A Checklist #wwwblogs #amwriting

checklist

I recently wrote a bit of a rant about the quality control of some small presses whose books I had read. You can read it here.

If you are thinking of signing with a small publisher, then do bear a few things in mind.

  • Do your homework – start off by Googling the publisher. You might find threads on writing sites that go into a great deal of detail about your chosen publisher. Read them – they can be incredibly enlightening.
  • Ask questions – if your publisher is honest and genuinely wants the best for you, they should accept that you have a right to want to know about them. After all, you are placing your book and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing it in their hands.

Ask:

  • Who are they?
  • How long have they been publishing?
  • What exactly is their background and experience? You want specifics about this. Who have they worked for? Where did they get their experience? How many years?
  • Who will your editor be? What experience do they have? Again, specifics here not vague assertions and statements.
  • How many editors will be involved?
  • Who else have they worked with? Once you know this you can see for yourself how well their books are doing.
  • What can they offer you? Editing? Book cover? Promotion? What sort of promotion?
  • What do they expect from you?

If you get through all this and still want to go ahead, then make sure you read the contract really closely. Look for things like cover design, for example – who has the final say? And how many editors will be involved? How does the editing process work? What about copyright? What happens if you aren’t happy further down the line?

Always get a lawyer to look at your contract. Always.

Some warning signs:

  • Companies that state they don’t deal with agents or lawyers. Why don’t they? What are they afraid of? Surely it’s up to you if you want to have an agent.
  • Companies that insist it’s like a family. Why do they think that’s a good thing? This is a business relationship and it should be treated as such.
  • Staff that are vague about their experience.
  • Companies that approach you. If they’re any good, they will be fending off submissions.
  • Dreadful covers on current books.
  • Glowing five star reviews on current books by other authors also published by the company.
  • An insistence that you read and review their other authors’ books.
  • Reviews of other authors’ books that mention typos, grammatical errors, poor editing and poor formatting.

Any one of these things should give you pause for thought. At the end of the day it is your choice, but do ask yourself what it is exactly these publishers are doing that you can’t do yourself. OK, so they might offer editing. You can hire a freelance editor. OK, so they format and do covers. Again, you can source that yourself. You can even learn how to format and do that bit for nothing. They promote? How much? And how much will you have to do?

Now be truly honest with yourself. If you can do, or can learn to do, what they are offering, if their books aren’t really selling that well, if they’re vague about their experience, then why are you even considering signing with them? Is it because you’re flattered? Is it because someone is actually interested in your book? I do understand, after all, we all want to be told that someone loves our work, that they value it, but unfortunately that’s what some of these companies are relying on. Don’t waste your time. And do do your research!

Small publishers – a bit of a rant! #WWWBlogs #writingtips

Buyer-Beware

As well as writing and editing, I also read and review a lot of books. I try to read a variety of genres and read indie authors, traditionally published authors, big names, small names, complete unknowns, new writers and established writers. So I read a lot of books published by small presses.

Now before I get a load of flak, I do appreciate that there are a lot of really excellent small presses out there who do a fantastic job and who look after their authors. I also know that there are big, traditional, well-known publishing houses that don’t look after their authors. However, as the problems I have come across have all been with these smaller presses, those are the ones I want to talk about here.

I have read several books recently, for the most part eBooks, where the author has been published by a small publisher. Being rather nosy, and being an author always looking for opportunities, I have looked into many of these organisations. They all have lovely websites, all have lots of authors they are working with, all say they have plenty of experience in the industry, all say they are offering authors more than other publishers. Most also provide editing, formatting, book covers etc.

So why then are the majority, and I mean at least 75%, of these books not of publishable standard? Why are they full of typos and formatting errors? Full of spelling mistakes? Why, when they have supposedly been edited, do many contain basic writing no-nos such as ridiculous dialogue tags, exposition, stereotypical characterisation, unnatural dialogue, and information dumping?

Why also do so many of these organisations insist that authors promote each other? Why do I often look at glowing five star reviews for a book I can’t bear to finish and find those reviews are written by authors publishing with the same company? I’m all for authors helping each other, but I smell a rat, particularly when a publisher’s website states that the organisation treats its writers like family. All very nice I’m sure, and I’m very fond of a lot of my clients, we talk about stuff other than writing, we even occasionally meet up for coffee, but when they’re paying me their hard-earned money for my hard work it’s a professional business relationship, not family, and that’s how it should be.

I’m not suggesting that these companies are deliberately misleading authors, or that they aren’t trying their best. What I am suggesting though is that they aren’t up to the job. And OK, they might not be charging their authors up front – they’re not vanity presses – but they are taking a cut of the writers’ earnings (if there are any) and for that an author deserves professionalism, deserves an editor who knows how to edit, a marketing manager who has experience in marketing.

I think a lot of this has to do with people thinking they can publish books just because they can. And on closer inspection, a lot of them, despite vague statements to the contrary, don’t have any RELEVANT experience.

So please, please, please lovely authors – beware. Don’t let the fact that a publisher wants to publish your book go to your head. You deserve more than what some of these people are offering. You can probably do what they do better yourself. I shall be posting soon on what you should be careful of and what you should look for if you are considering a small publisher. In the meantime, do be cautious, and do your homework.

New work in progress – ‘Chiaroscuro’ #wwwblogs

I’ve finally completed the research (as far as I can) and have at last put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard, anyway) and begun my second full-length novel. All through the research, I kept myself on track by writing regular blog posts, something that I’m going to continue to do during the actual writing. Hopefully the posts will be interesting to others, as well as giving me a focus!

The idea for this novel has been in my mind for a very long time. Almost ten years ago I was studying for a degree with the Open University. One of the modules included a study of Eugene Delacroix, the nineteenth century French romantic painter, and involved an analysis of his paintings, including The Death of Sardanapalus’.

sardanapalus
Delacroix’s painting fascinated me. It’s so vibrant, the colours are so vivid; there’s so much detail, so much going on. Sardanapalus, an Assyrian king, watches dispassionately as everything he owns, including animals, slaves and concubines, are destroyed. His kingdom is under siege and he would rather everything was obliterated than left to the invaders.

This got me thinking. About Sardanapalus, about his concubines, about the man who painted it all. What stories lay behind the women who were Sardanapalus’ slaves? And what about Delacroix himself, his life, his art? And the models he used? What would it be like to work with an artist like him? These ideas were all jumbled together and have remained so for the last ten years or so. Somehow, I’ve managed to put them all together in a storyline that covers three different eras, three very different women and three very different men. The novel will range from the sixth century BC to nineteenth century France and into 21st century England.

Why the title ‘Chiaroscuro’?

Chiaroscuro is the Italian for ‘light-dark’. In art it refers to strong contrasts between light and dark. Delacroix was known as a master of colour, and he took this contrast to extremes, bringing a sophistication to the technique. In ‘The Death of Sardanapalus’, he uses contrasts of light, of shadow, halftones and bold brushstrokes to create vibrancy, a sense of life and movement in the face of death. I hope to carry this theme through the novel, into the lives of my characters; the lights and darks of their worlds, their relationships, the events that shape them. It’s a bit daunting, but at least I’ve finally made a start.

#WritingANovel : Feedback

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One of the most difficult things to deal with when writing a novel is getting feedback, whether this is from a friend, a beta reader or an editor. Honestly – it can be completely terrifying. I know this from experience having written two books myself. The first experience I had of getting feedback on a piece of fiction was when I began studying for a Masters in Creative Writing. A huge part of the course was the workshop. We took it in turns to send a few chapters of our WIPs to everyone in the group and then a week or so later we would gather (online) to discuss that writing. The first time it was my turn I actually felt physically sick. I was terrified that the other students would hate my work, that they would destroy it. So, as an editor, I do completely understand how nerve-wracking it is to get that feedback. And sometimes it’s not only terrifying, it’s also confusing, especially when two or more of your readers or editors have completely different opinions about your work. So how do you deal with feedback?

Feedback from Beta Readers

So you’ve sent out your manuscript to five beta readers and you have five conflicting opinions about it. What should you do?

First, step back and coolly asses your betas. Whose opinion do you really trust? If one of them is your mum, then she’s probably not the one to go with.

Then go with your gut – you know if someone’s comments rings true, if something makes you think ‘Oh yeah. That’s a good point’. You need to be honest with yourself.

Look for common threads. If three of your betas hate the same thing, but one loves it, then it’s probably safe to go with the majority.

Feedback from Editors

Again, take a step back. Yes, that’s difficult; your work is so personal to you, so much a part of you. But feedback is vital to improve your craft. So put the process into perspective. Your editor is (hopefully) trying to help you. Their criticisms (if they’re any good) should be constructive. Trust me, when I give feedback on a manuscript, I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, or upset you or belittle you. But it would do you no good whatsoever if I wasn’t honest. I want to help you. So bear that in mind and try to be objective when you look at feedback.

Make sure you understand what your editor is trying to tell you. If you don’t understand their comments or you need some clarification, then ask. Personally, I feel that if a writer comes back to me about a point I’ve raised, then it’s my job to address their concerns. Just because I’ve finished the edit, it doesn’t mean I can no longer answer questions or provide feedback. A caveat though – don’t take advantage of your editor’s good nature; ask a question, accept the answer, but don’t expect a long-running dialogue. And don’t argue either – you’ve asked me for my professional opinion, I’ve given it and I’ve given my reasons for that opinion. It serves no purpose if you don’t agree for us to have back and forth emails about it.

Remember – you own the story. You don’t have to do what your editor says. It’s entirely up to you. But do remember that your editor is not your enemy. We don’t sit there trying to pick faults – we want to help you make your manuscript the best it can be. So if we say something you don’t agree with, take a deep breath, read the criticism again and really think about it. Does your editor have a point?

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Eugene Delacroix and the lost art of letter writing

Eugene Delacroix

Eugene Delacroix

Researching my new WIP, I’ve been reading the selected letters of Eugène Delacroix.

Delacroix was a rather controversial 19th Century artist. His painting invoked strong reactions for their use of bold colour and for his refusal to conform to the ideas of the day. I think that’s why I like him so much. He’s pretty hard to research however, despite the fact that he is regarded as the father of the French Romantic movement.

These letters then are indispensable and a godsend. They are also entertaining, intelligent, beautifully written (and translated) and hugely insightful. Without them, I would be at rather a loss to put any flesh on the bones of the man whose paintings I so admire.

The letters that are relevant to the period I am researching, when Delacroix was a young man, are written to friends and family. They contain within them clues to Delacroix’s passions, his values, his admiration for his close friends and hints of the rather strained relationship he had with his sister. But what if Delacroix was alive today? How would I find out what makes him tick?

Well, you could argue that it would be a lot easier. That I would just have to look at his Twitter account or Google him to find out the latest gossip, or read interviews in magazines or on websites. But would that give me a true picture? I somehow doubt it. Here, in these personal letters, we have something precious – a real insight into a man that many consider a genius. For today’s artists, musicians, actors and celebrities, what we usually get is a PR approved, carefully constructed, watered-down version of a personality, a life that the artist (or their management company) wants you to see. Yes, we might get to read an autobiography (but this would be run through the usual PR checks), we might read on Twitter what they had for breakfast, but is that a real insight?

And it’s not just in the area of celebrity that something has been lost. The art of writing letters is lost to us on the whole. We write quick emails, tweet or text each other. We don’t sit down and write to each other about our feelings, our ambitions, our desires and our disappointments as Delacroix did. Even our moments of the greatest grief or the greatest joy are now more often posted on Facebook. I’ve seen people ‘share’ the loss of a parent in a post and the response has been a range of sad emoticons. That takes a few seconds. Compare that to Delacroix’s letter to his great friend J.B. Pierret, written after the death of Perret’s father. The letter is awash with empathy, with sympathy, with real feeling, real concern and real emotion. How much more comfort would that give than a ‘sad face’?

I’m not one of those people who think that everything was better in the past – far from it. But I do think in this age where everything is quick, everything is automated, our responses have become automated too. And I do think we’re the poorer for that.

#Writinganovel : Getting Started

It’s almost two years now since I published ‘The Black Hours’. A year and a half since ‘Blackwater’. Since then I’ve carried on with my freelance writing, worked with my husband with his communications consultancy, developed and expanded a successful editing business and judged a playwriting competition.

Not bad you might think. And this is only my work life. I’ve also got two children through GCSE’s and A levels, waved one off to Uni and another to college, got a new puppy and undertaken several home improvement projects.

Now I’m really not blowing my own trumpet here – I’m actually honestly frustrated with myself for what I’ve failed to achieve in those two years. I’ve hardly written a word of fiction. I started a second full length novel and abandoned it. It just didn’t feel right. I then went back to an idea that had been buzzing round my head for a fair few years. It’s a story I know I want to write. It’s also a story that’s going to take a lot of research, based as it is on the life of 19th Century French Painter Eugene Delacroix and this rather wonderful painting:

sardanapalus

So, how is this new novel progressing? Well, it isn’t. I keep making excuses. Yes, there’s lots of research. And I have started on that research. But it’s slow, slow going. Not a single word of actual novel have I written.

I’m very busy. I’m incredibly busy. But so are other people. Other people have jobs, or businesses. Other people have husbands and children and dogs and stuff. And they manage. Some manage to write prolifically.

There is no excuse.

I just need to get off my arse.

procrastinate 2

So, I have a whole new determination to get going. And hopefully by getting this out there, on my blog for all to see, I shall actually do it. I’ve made plans to write a blog post about how I’m doing or about some aspect of research or the story behind the novel once a fortnight. I’m a bit anally retentive about schedules, so now I’ll have to stick to it.

I know what I have to do. I have to turn off Facebook. I have to stop reading the Guardian website every morning and getting angry about the comments sections. I have to stop stalking Johnny Marr on Twitter. I have to stop thinking – ‘One more coffee and I’ll get going’. In short, I need to take my own advice from this blog post.

It’s all this man’s fault:

Eugene Delacroix

Eugene Delacroix

And his:

johnny

Johnny Marr and stalker

And yes, that is me looking inordinately pleased with myself!

Any tips on how to motivate myself a bit more?