The Poor Person’s Guide to Helping Your Favourite Authors

About a year ago I wrote a post about how you can help creators make money, without spending any of your own. I got to invent a character called Jiminy Snicket to use in examples, so I count it as a success regardless of the quality of the advice. I thought I’d do an updated post with authors in mind specifically, since that is my area of interest these days. Let’s say that our friend Jiminy Snicket, a year on, is a published author. It’s probably a poetry anthology, and they’ve probably illustrated it themselves…

Request their book from your local library

If it’s already available, borrow it. In the UK, authors can earn revenue when readers borrow their books from libraries. If Jiminy’s book isn’t in the catalogue, suggest the library purchases it. I do it all the time (not for my work. That would be embarrassing. I tend to request obscure YA novels and Nabokov. You guys can request my obscure YA novels for me. I’m not that desperate yet).

Engage with social media posts

This was on my original post, and still applies! Comments, shares and tagging-your-mates is good for feeding the Algorithm Gods and is also quite a nice mood boost for whoever’s running the social media account. Posting to the socials, especially when you have to do a certain number of promotional posts, can get repetitive and a little bit depressing. How many ways can you say ‘hey I’ve got a book out’ without boring your audience senseless? It’s hard to tell when the algorithm means that each follower might only see one of your posts every six months. Anyway. Put that screen time to good use! Engage with the social media channels for Jiminy’s publisher as well, if they have one, so the marketing team know that this is an author making waves in the, um, poetry anthology world.

Send work to friends who aren’t on the same channels as the creator

This still applies as well! Most authors have a presence on most platforms (Twitter, Insta and Facebook still seem to be the big ones), but not every reader has an account on those same platforms. Some people are even… deleting their social media in favour of doing something else.

Jerry from 'Tom and Jerry', eating an entire block of cheese
from Giphy

Also I’m told that The Youth are all on TikTok?

Gif of Jonny Rose saying 'Hash tag. Is that two words?'
from Giphy

By the way, if anyone wants to do some TikTok posts with my work, I’d appreciate it. I’m too old busy for another social media platform.

Anyway, yeah, word of mouth is still very much the name of the game with book sharing, whether the mouths are online or offline. Continuing with that:

Add their book to your wish lists or to-read lists

Most online retailers have an option to add a product to your wish list. Add Jiminy’s book to yours! According to a very quick search which I can’t link because writing this post took about two months: to-buy lists and reviews don’t impact a book’s ranking on Amazon (only sales will). But social sites, like Goodreads, suggest books to users based on what they have ‘shelved’ or what they have previously reviewed. So if you’ve read or want to read Jiminy’s anthology, add it to a list and it may be suggested to people who have read similar work.

All right, there we have it. Four easy peasy ways to do a good turn for the authors in your life! Truly I am a fountain of knowledge. I’m also off to watch the Olympics, so I will see you in the next one!

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

News, if you like stationery: I’m closing my shops on 1st September!

Hello! Big news today, if you are interested in very cool stationery and accessories: I am closing my shops on 1st September. I may reopen in December or January, depending on my workload. I’m juggling one too many plates, so I thought I’d put this one down before it smashes, aka something goes wrong in the Christmas season and I cry in the post office. So get your shopping in while you can, in case I don’t reopen!

I don’t currently have anything for sale in any local shops (although if anyone who runs a shop, especially in the Southend area, wants to stock some pieces, give me a shout!). It’s all available on Folksy or, if you prefer, Etsy (item prices are the same in both shops; international postage is a little cheaper on Folksy because of how fees work). There’s 20% off a lot of items at the moment, so grab those pieces while you can! My last mailing day will be 31st August.

Give me a shout if you have any questions! Here is a selection of what’s available:

Here’s the link to my Folksy, hint hint, and to my Etsy, hint hint…

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Roasting My High School Work 10-ish Years Later

Last year I found a couple of huge boxes full of my notes from year seven through to year thirteen. Which was quite a lot of years ago. I burnt a lot of it on Halloween and Bonfire Night – seemed appropriate – then recycled the rest when I realised that I’d be there forever. I kept a few pieces that made me laugh. Today I thought, it’s a billion degrees out and I don’t like football, so let’s go through them and take the piss!

Year Seven: History

Turns out I got started in witches quite early. I actually remember making this with another student, in one of the first collaborative projects of year seven. Excellent work enlarging the text box, there…

ancient sugar paper called 'Extracts from a Diary of a "Witch"'

I think we got good marks, though. The inside of the diary is long since lost but those cardboard-and-sugar-paper lasted well!

Year Eight: English & Science

Handwriting reading 'It's a good memory moment but you're not really directing the scene - you need to think about the techniques we used in lesson and also use your imagination! Try and do something original!'

Hahahahahaaaaaaaaa

If memory serves, that teacher is the one I part-dedicated The Princess and the Dragon to (she taught my classes again in sixth form). I might frame this piece. Coincidentally, year eight was the year a friend and I discovered the nuances of Word Art:

Am still miffed they chucked out Pluto.

Year Nine: French & Fan Fiction

piece of badly written French homework, featuring Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance & Leathermouth

Ah, year nine. I was so, so shit at French. I remember my teacher doing an oral assessment and saying ‘your accent is very good but you don’t… know any words.’ Psh, whose fault was that? I maintain that I was useless at modern foreign languages because language classes should focus on conversation and communication, not learning to listen to a tape of a stilted robot-esque ‘exchange.’ Top marks to little me for the MCRmy rep, though.

Speaking of fandom… I’m including this next one here because although my fan fiction days were already mostly behind me by this point, I feel like it would have taken a while for me to file it all. I’m not sure who I’m talking to. Future me? The fan fiction police?

paper reading 'Fan Fiction Also published on www.fanfiction.net. This folder contains nothing MCR-related. Neither does my fanfiction.net.'

Possibly everything said or done concerning fan fiction before the age of 16 should be pardoned, no questions asked.

Year Ten: Media Studies

Year ten was when Danger Days was unleashed unto the world. I immediately set about analysing it for my Media GCSE coursework. A*, my dudes, thank you for asking. I’d have been great at Media at A Level but I didn’t like the teachers, so I did essay subjects and didn’t like myself instead.

Year Eleven: Nothing

I clearly was not effing around with my studies in 2011-12, because I didn’t deem a single piece of work from year eleven funny or ridiculous enough to keep. I can’t remember much of year eleven if I am being honest. I think I took three science subjects at GCSE. I definitely took Religious Studies. Mmm. And maths? I remember a maths exam. What a time that was, sitting in a hall with hundreds of other students, breathing on one another…

Year Twelve: Depths of Hell

These collectively sum up my feelings toward year twelve and my life at the time. I am still furious about the ‘I am a package, and I must be shinier than all the packages’ advice we were given. They had an external careers advisor come in and offer advice. Some of her wisdom was good, but a) she made my friend cry with bolshy questions about our career choices, and b) she used three shampoo bottles to illustrate the jobs market. One shampoo was just a bottle. One had a bow on? And one had all this plastic cellophane and glitter and shit. She wanted us to choose which was the best. They were the same brand, so I thought ‘regular non-cellophane shampoo, because who pays for all that glitter crap that you cut off before you use the shampoo? You don’t, unless you’re shopping for a gift.’ That was the wrong answer, because job candidates are objects that must look better than all the other objects.

It might have been bubble bath, now I think on it. It might have been a different year, too. It’s irritated me for a good six or seven years, though. Fucking terrible advice regardless of the toiletry product. Comb your hair, read up on the job description and make eye contact. That’s all you need to do to make a good impression at an interview, sweeties. Promise. Well, don’t be a shitbag to the interviewer. Maybe make sure you’re qualified for the role, unless you’re a white man who’s good at bullshitting.

Right, next up:

cartoon of The Picture of Dorian Gray

A friend and I did this retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray. We were quite proud, if I remember correctly. We had the most lovely teacher, who really wanted us to know that she knew the book was Extremely Gay and that she was okay with it. She used the word ‘homoerotic’ in class so often that we started keeping a tally. I think the record was twenty uses in an hour, because she’d done that thing where you get stuck on a word? Sometimes we’d segue into conversations about Ancient Greek wrestling and, if I remember correctly, body oil. A Levels are a ride.

Does anyone else remember when we had Old Labour and New Labour? Do you remember who Ed Miliband is?

photograph of paperwork and tables of information about Ed Miliband and David Cameron

Year Thirteen: Own Work

I didn’t keep any school work from year thirteen – I got a bit of a stomach ache just thinking about that time, to be honest. I thought sixth form was The Worst Time in My Life, a Literal House Fire, for ages, but then 2019 and 2020 happened, and now it only seems like a small house fire. Tell you what, I’m owed a good year.

Anyway, here is the time I marked a piece of MCR research I did. I don’t know if any of you will remember the MCRmy Census Project (my first piece of big research!) from circa 2012-2014. I collected a bunch of info from MCR fans, collated it into graphs and commentated on it, printed it out all nicely, then mailed it to Gerard Way. I spelt ‘ethnography’ incorrectly on the front cover. I think I finished it in year thirteen or thereabouts. Some time later, I went through with a red pen and graded myself. I can’t remember why, but it turned out to be good practise for book editing. And my return to academia. I sound way bitchier than my college teacher did in any of her feedback, ha.

Have you kept any of your old school work? Was any of it as ridiculous as the pieces I dragged out?

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Psst, Paperback Edition of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes Available Now!

Surprise! My baby is now available in corporeal form. A few weeks ago I asked on social media how people feel about audiobooks versus physical books (you guys were unanimous, physical it is). I’ve been wanting to test the waters for a print copy for a while, not least because my Ultimate Dream is to have a iridescent, map-on-the-front-pages, probably-linen-bound hardcover. With a little ribbon for keeping your place. You know the type of book I mean: the type that is a work of art.

Anyway, those are expensive and since I’m self published, I’d have to figure out some sort of pre-order system to gauge demand before committing to a print run. I don’t fancy being stuck with books I can’t sell, even if they are linen bound with a ribbon. So I thought, let’s do the smart thing and have a sort of soft opening using Amazon’s print on demand system.

I’m pretty sure I’ve bitched about Amazon on here before, but if I haven’t: it’s an unholy trinity of bad packaging, ethically questionable business processes and is at least partially responsible for the devaluation of the book industry.

Unfortunately for the high street but fortunately for my bank balance, Amazon does print on demand really well. It took me about half an hour to upload my files, less than 72 hours for Amazon to check the details and tah-dahhh. You can now order a paperback of the world’s best YA fairy tale. It cost me zero pounds, because I downloaded a Photoshop trial to design a back cover and spine. The book is priced exactly as the ebook at £7.99 (well, it is until Bezos discounts it to 89p). I will make about £2 on each copy, assuming they sell at full price, so I need to sell about a thousand copies to afford a posh hardback. Less if I’m willing to put all the money toward the hardback, but I’m quite invested in earning a wage. This is probably a good time to mention that after 11.5 years of blogging, I’ve joined the Amazon Affiliate programme with the strict goal of scraping every last penny from this paperback as I can… the links in this post are all affiliated. I think a lot of you would have to click and buy for me to hit the minimum payment threshold of £25, though, ha.

Anyway, I am already in profit, because a few members of the No. 1 Readers’ Club have bought some copies (this is why you should join the No. 1 Readers’ Club). I haven’t forgotten about doing a quarterly income round up, by the way! The last quarter ended a few weeks ago but I have diploma work to finish, so I’ll probably get the post done in a month or so. My ebook royalties aren’t in, so it’ll be a short post.

As with the ebook, I’ll be paying it forward with three copies: if you or someone you know wants a copy but cannot afford it, hit me up and I’ll order you a copy to to your mailing address. I’m also doing a giveaway right here on this very blog! To win a signed copy of The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, comment on this post and tell me your favourite fairy tale or folk tale. Mine changes all the time, but Femlore Pod recently did an episode on Lieutenant Nun, who is fascinating. The contest ends on 30th April at 11:59pm BST, it’s open internationally, and I’ll pick a winner at random the next day.

Oh, one last thing:

If and when a hardcover run becomes a reality, I may pull this particular paperback. Ideally, one day I’d like this book to have a permanent home with a publishing house that can do hardcover, paperback, audiobook et al and handle all the logistics (and ensure that Amazon is not the only paperback retailer). That would mean a different ISBN, different blurb and spine and whatnot. So there’s a distinct possibility that in twenty years’ time, this particular Amazon offering will be like first printings of MCR’s first record: rare and sold on eBay for inflated prices. That’s actually already happening to an extent; the book’s been live for a week and someone’s already selling ‘used’ copies at a premium. What they’re actually doing is drop shipping: buying new copies and sending them straight to the customer, because they are [censored because it’s too rude even for this blog]. Anyway, if you’d like to be a part of history, just saying, the book is here.

'The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes' paperback on shelf
Much love to my cousin Ellen for taking The Princess and the Dragon‘s first ever shelfie!

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Making a Killjoy Jacket Part Two

I was under the impression I’d already done a sequel to this post, but I’ve clearly made far less progress on my killjoy jacket than I thought I had. The MCR show I’m making it for is meant to be in June, but I’m pretty sure it won’t happen. Part of me wants another year to get fit enough to dance for 90 minutes and decide what I’m going to put on the back of the jacket, even without the ongoing worry of Covid and vaccinations and which tier I’m in (I can’t remember, I’m assuming it’s a bad one).

Anyway, the jacket. It needs a back piece! I could sew on a large patch or I could stencil something? I’m not good enough an artist to freehand it. There are some nice larger patch designs available online that I might save up for. BUT THAT IS FOR ANOTHER DAY. Here is the progress I’d made in June, adding an Aglionby Academy patch and a Fun Ghoul patch:

dark green New Look jacket with My Chemical Romance patch and The Raven Cycle patch

Here is the progress I’ve made since June:

Yes, it’s only one pocket patch. It is a very large patch, though. Shout out to Jayne at Tickle and Thread on Folksy for being so helpful when I Instagram messaged her about restocking the design I was after! I’m so pleased with the contrasting yellow/khaki colours. It’s also matchy matchy with the Fun Ghoul patch. I’m not sure what will go on the other pocket. Maybe something else book-inspired, or maybe something tarot-y. I’ve seen some lovely little designs inspired by Greek mythology. Hmmm.

In the mean time, I have a conundrum regarding something I already know I want to add:

This quite large mourning band came with… a CD. Presumably May Death Never Stop You? I can’t remember. Obviously it would go perfectly on the left jacket sleeve, which is where mourning bands traditionally go unless the internet has lied to me (what a thought). It would now of course be delightfully ironic.

Had I purchased it, though, I’d have bought one that fit my arm instead of the arm of the Average Man, which I think is who this one is designed for. My initial plan was to stitch it around the arm of the jacket, but it’s so big! Should I cut it shorter to sew it on? Or sew on the design part of the patch first and then wrap the rest of the fabric to fit?

Sewers of the universe, lend me your opinions. I definitely have a while to decide how to do it, but it’s nice to have little goals in lockdown… once I’ve proceeded with whatever I choose, I’ll take another full photo. I might even – but don’t quote me – be in the picture, wearing the jacket. We’ll see what my hair’s doing then.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Or we could just get coffee? If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers.

2020 Has Not Been Completely Shit and Here is Definitive Proof

You heard me. I’d normally consider doing the Indifferent Ignorance awards, but I don’t feel like dedicating time to ignorant people… they are the reason I spent Christmas Day in tier 4. I’m also mindful that it’s important to count our blessings, not our curses, so in this post I’m going to share some of my favourite entertainment and arts discoveries of the year, plus a few personal/family highlights.

Things that blessed my ears in 2020

  • Lauv’s record, which I bought a copy of back in February or so, and kind of became the sound track to early lockdown.
  • Tim Minchin’s record. It’s… not his usual stuff. Some of the songs are sharp and sarcastic, but if you’re looking for more black comedy-philosophy, this album will disappoint. It’s mostly about how much he loves his wife and children. I cried.
  • The news my friend Tatchiana applied for a Master’s degree. MY FRIENDS ARE SO CLEVER YOU GUYS. I don’t even fully understand the topic she’s researching.
  • The Umbrella Academy put a soundtrack out and:
Klaus Hargreeves dancing in a liquor store
from Giphy
  • As well as re-entering the world of academia, Tatchiana introduced me to the Magnus Archives podcast and I guess I’m a fan of horror stories now? I’m kind of late to the party because it’s been running for years and finishes in 2021, but if you like a) creepy stories with the odd god that’s gross and really clever moment, b) short stories that slowly merge into one overarching Story and c) office politics, you’re in for a good time. (Aside: I realised partway through that Martin really reminds me of Arthur from Cabin Pressure. The programmes have nothing in common except that they’re audio, but I can’t unhear it. I don’t know if there’s a Venn diagram of Magnus Archives/Cabin Pressure listeners but if there is: do you hear it too?)

Things that blessed my eyeballs in 2020

  • I finally got around to reading the Noughts and Crosses series (or most of the series? There seems to be more books than I realised), and it is Very Worth the Hype. So’s the TV show.
  • I also got round to Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky. It’s very long and a horror novel – this is a theme – both of which usually put me off, but I really got into it. Brilliant last page too.
  • Bill Bailey in Strictly Come Dancing.
  • The news that my cousin and her boyfriend bought a house! A whole entire property in this economy. Epic.
  • Real Life Money by Clare Seal. It’s a memoir-advice book by the lady who runs the My Frugal Year Instagram, and it’s really interesting. If you’re at all into finance, money management and/or consumerism, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I don’t usually love memoirs, or advice-y novels, but this one is non-preachy, well researched and quite important in these uncertain times.
Real Life Money, book by Clare Seal
  • If you want to buy any of these books, by the way, I have a Bookshop account. Every purchase made through my little page earns me one fifth of a penny or suchlike. Am I being shameless? Um yeah, I don’t have a regular job as of Christmas Eve. I’m also on Goodreads if you want to see what else I’m reading and chat about books. One upside of lockdown was spending so much time reading and I am already planning my reading list for next year. So many books, so little time! Speaking of books, the prettiest thing I saw this year was:
  • My book coverrrrrrr. Also, you know, seeing the book available to purchase. I wasn’t sure it was going to be released this year – or ever – and I’m a tiny bit proud of the work that went into it. Not bad going for someone who spent their A Levels wearing a wrist brace and their early-mid twenties dealing with chronic pain, crippling anxiety and on-again-off-again depression, huh.
blue and white illustrated cover of 'The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories of Unlikley Heroes' by Francesca Burke, including stars, a large dragon, a skull, moon, swords, a rabbit and a tower
Cover by Nell from Instagram. Click here for book-related joy/info

Things that blessed my ears and my eyeballs in 2020

  • The second series of The Umbrella Academy. I love it. I love it so much. It has everything I want out of TV, plus a Baby Pogo. TRULY WE ARE BLESSED.
  • Videos by A Small Wardrobe on YouTube (I talk more about Patricia’s channel and learning about minimalism here).
  • Videos by Annie, who posts as the Green Witch on YouTube. Sometimes the algorithm suggests videos that you didn’t know you needed. Annie has a witchy YouTube and a nature-y YouTube. They are both very peaceful. Taking 10 minutes to watch calm, nature-y has turned out to be quite good for my brain.
  • In the same vein, I’m thoroughly enjoying videos by The Cottage Fairy.
  • Olive and Mabel.
  • Schitt’s Creek. I know I know, I was late to that too. I cannot recommend a more soul-warming programme. Other TV I’m brilliantly late to: Derry Girls, Nighty Night, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Ghosts.

What have you enjoyed in 2020? You’re allowed to say banana bread and Netflix. You’re allowed to say ‘realising that the friend I checked in with during lockdown never checked in with me, and now I am disengaging.’ You’re allowed to say ‘not having a big, overwhelming Christmas.’ What are you planning for new year’s eve?

GIF of David from 'Schitt's Creek' saying 'I plan on popping a pill, crying a bit and falling asleep early.'

Jut kidding, mostly. I’ll probably have a bath, pour a wee drink, watch the clock to ensure this hellscape actually ends, and get my beauty sleep. I’ve got things to do in 2021! Nothing ostentatious, of course. My plans are mostly to read a lot and maybe bake some more banana bread. But I may as well do them on a full night’s sleep, especially as there is literally nowhere to go. I’ll talk more about that (my plans, not tier bloody 4) in my next post. Probably.

Look after yourselves and happy new year!

Want to support this page and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Or we could just get coffee?

So ‘The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes’ is out as an ebook. Behold, my guide for getting a free copy!

Oi oi! So you remember all the posts about writing and/or pitching The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes? I try not to either. Anyway, THE EBOOK IS OUT NOW. You can purchase it from all the usual retailers and leave gushing reviews on GoodReads, etc. etc. If you’re not doing anything else – and you probably shouldn’t be doing anything else, especially if, like me, you have been shunted into Tier 4 for Christmas – I’m hosting a Facebook Live release party today (23rd Dec) at 19:30 GMT. I’ll be doing some readings, answering questions and chatting about the writing and publishing process.

Before tonight’s release party (yeah, I’m calling it a party. It’s 2020, I can call a conversation with a friend who’s standing six metres away ‘a party’), I wanted to take a moment to pop in here and say HI, I DID SOMETHING I’VE TALKED ABOUT FOR YEARS. It feels sort of important to say that, both for my own self esteem and for this blog’s narrative purposes. I also want to share a list of ways you can access this ebook for free, because I am mindful that the economy, whichever country you’re in, is… not fantastic. Although the RRP of the ebook is £7.99, and most retailers have it discounted already, I know that lots of you will have other, more practical, uses for that money. So here’s a little guide for getting hold of this novel without spending a penny:

Borrow it from libraries

At time of writing, the only library app it’s available on is ProQuest. I’m keeping a list of retailers and library services, plus links, on my fancy website. My supplier sent a list of all the vendors that will host it, but it can take up to six weeks for the book to load on all of them, so I’m checking in weekly to update my list. But if you’re a school/college/uni student, you will likely find you have a login to one or more of these library services. They’re often designed for reading academic texts, but I think we can agree that The Princess and the Dragon benefits everyone’s mental health by providing four to five hours of respite from reality, which will in the long term help with your studies.

Join my blog tour

If you’re a book blogger, YouTuber, Instagrammer, etc., I am embarking on a book tour in the new year and into spring. Anyone who joins gets access to a free copy via an Advanced Reader Copy website (I am aware that now the book is out, the copy is not in fact ‘advanced’, ha). If you’re interested in being part of the tour, hit me up at info [at] francescaburke [dot] com with links to your blog/YouTube/Instagram.

Pay It Forward

I am kicking off a pay it forward experience! Is experience the word? Here’s how it works: I have some money left over from the publishing process. I will pay for three of you to purchase The Princess and the Dragon from the retailer of your choice (send me a link to the retailer so I know how much money to send. The prices are weirdly different on each site). It’ll be via PayPal or bank transfer, your choice. In an ideal world, all three of you pay for someone else to purchase the novel, and then those three people pay for three more people… but this world is not ideal, so if you can’t afford to pay it forward (I did say this was a guide on getting the book for free), I don’t mind in the slightest. Perhaps one of my other readers might like to hop in and buy a copy for someone else?

If you’re interested in pay it forward, leave a comment with your email address, or private message me on Twitter/Insta/Facebook! Now I am going to share the cover (because I am never not going to share the cover) and get organised for this evening. I’m not one hundred per cent sure which passages I’m reading yet. SUCH FUN. Look after yourselves!

blue and white illustration with a dragon, moon, stars, skull, leaves, rabbit and tower, reading 'The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes Francesca Burke'

Want to support this page and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Or we could just get coffee?

Making a Killjoy Jacket Part One

Good afternoon!

In a non-corona world, I’d be headed to Milton Keynes today to see My Chemical Romance for the first time since 2011. Instead I am at home, looking up what happens when you accidentally swallow a cherry pit. I suppose I could conceivably do both.

Anyway, I wanted to commemorate the day, partly as a reminder to myself that I have one year until MCR actually play in Milton Keynes (and therefore one year to get fit enough to dance through a 90-minute set, as thanks to lockdown inactivity I am knackered after a forty minute walk). The other reason is that I think I mentioned in a video back in May that I’ve been customising a jacket for the show?

It’s not finished, and probably wouldn’t have been finished even if corona hadn’t happened… but on the plus side, I now have a year to make it look Very Cool. In fact, even though I’ve only done a couple of embellishments, I think it could be legitimately considered a killkoy jacket.

Before I show you it, I think it deserves some back story: towards the end of last year (or maybe the beginning of this one; I feel like 2020 has gone on for a decade), I came across an initiative by Southend council to encourage clothes swapping. It was in one of the shopping malls, with two council workers plus a couple of racks and bin bags of clothes that people had donated through the recycling system. I’m assuming your council has something similar: you fill a plastic sack clearly marked TEXTILES (our textiles sacks are grey) and leave it on your curb with the other assorted rubbish.

I always wondered what happened to the clothes – I usually only put in garments that are damaged past fixing or donating to that scheme where they give you 50p per kilogram of clothes and ship them to disadvantaged people in eastern Europe. I assumed the fabrics were sorted out and broken down for recycling to be turned into pencils or something. None of my grey textiles sack clothing would be suitable for a clothes swap, but the ones on this stall were in really good nick – some even had tags. Naturally, I stopped for a rummage and found… a military jacket. Not that type of military jacket, MCR fans. The modern-ish type.

I’ve always liked the idea of having a big dark camouflage-y jacket with big pockets, but I am suspicious of anything beige or taupe, which rules out most of them. This jacket, though, was pretty cool. It was originally from New Look, had huge pockets and smelt a bit like cigarettes.

The whole point of the clothes swap was to exchange goods, but as I’d just wandered over with nothing to swap, the ladies on the stall were kind enough to let me take it. I promised I’d be back with my old clothes, but then corona happened, so I might have to wait to fulfill my debt to the universe.

Okay, story’s done, here it is:

green khaki New Look jacket with MCR and Raven Cycle patches
back of dark green New Look jacket
I did wash it before doing anything

I should add that originally, it was just the jacket plus the star patch on the front pocket and the Route 66 badge on the sleeve. It didn’t occur to me to take a picture until after I’d started adding bits.

I already had a Fun Ghoul patch from MCR’s killjoys era that I’d originally planned to put onto a bag but had, inevitably, sat in my sewing box for eight years. To the uninitiated, that’s the yellow patch, it was part of Frank Iero’s killjoy jacket. They don’t sell the jacket or the patch any more but someone put it on Pinterest for posterity if you fancy an eyeball. I thought it might be fun to put the patch on my jacket where it sat on the original.

Earlier this year I snaffled an Aglionby Academy patch which begged to go on something ostentatious. To the uninitiated, that’s the blue patch, a fan-designed logo of the school in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. I highly recommend you check out the artist, Caroline Dougherty. She helped produce The Major Arcana, a very cool Raven Cycle illustration anthology, as well as being a fantastic artist in her own right. The Algionby patch was actually the first thing I put on the jacket, but it’s a) not centred and b) is peeling a little, so I might redo the whole thing.

In terms of finished design, I want to add a mourning armband that came with the May Death Never Stop You CD, that greatest hits album that Warner Bros put out when MCR ended. It says ‘MCR 2001-2013’ so feels fitting to wear it to an MCR show no one expected to happen. According to the internet, mourning armbands are traditionally worn on the left arm, so I’ve unpicked the Route 66 patch and might pop it elsewhere later:

green jacket with unpicked Route 66 patch and unpicker

The armband is going to take forever to attach because it’s made to fit the Average Man Arm and I have Quite Small Lady Arms, as does the jacket. There’s far more armband than sleeve, but I’ll figure something out. There’s time.

To conclude – because this is reminding me of a proper craft article, haha – the jacket is beginning to feel a lot like something the killjoys would wear on down days. I think Gerard might have worn something green and camo-esque at their return show last year, so it feels fitting to add bits and pieces to mine until Milton Keynes next year. I’m fully planning to wear it around and about, too, because I am not one to look a pocket horse in the mouth. It’s quite nice denim-y material, too, not too heavy for warmer months but not too light to be useful.

I don’t know what I’ll add to the back. My two great artistic loves, MCR and The Raven Cycle, are fully repped, so maybe something mythology-related? Or tarot-related? There are some fantastic patches on Folksy and Etsy, and I have a good collection of enamel pins to add. But first I need to fix the Aglionby patch!

Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas and I will strive to keep you updated.

Look after yourselves!