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Life Lessons on a Baking Bad Anniversary

Three years ago this month – yesterday, in fact – Beaufort Scales ambled out into the …

Three years ago this month – yesterday, in fact – Beaufort Scales ambled out into the world with a cup of tea in one paw and a deeply nervous writer hanging from the other. 

Three. Years.

(Insert my normal astonishment about the fact that time passes here.)

I don’t really know what I expected from that first book. I was still planning to traditionally publish at the time, and Baking Bad was just a fun thing that I decided to do after a particularly bruising period of submissions, rejections, and stressful complications with my ‘proper’ book. And, I figured, no one would really be that interested in a cake-loving, crime-solving dragon, so why not just self-publish it for fun?

Six Beaufort books (and four snarky feline and scruffy human PI adventures) later, I stand corrected. Crime-solving dragons are a deeply serious business.

And this is only one of the many lessons I’ve learned since hitting publish that first time back in 2018 (such innocent, pre-pandemic days!). 

Many of these lessons, are, of course, quite boring, if important, such as: Scrivener (writing software) needs to be backed up manually while you’re working, as it only backs up automatically on exit, which is a Bad Thing to discover when it crashes just as you’re in the final stages of a ten-hour, four-chapter marathon session.

And yes, you can get by with formatting in Microsoft Word, but the sheer frustration of it will probably shorten your lifespan – or at least that of your laptop, when page breaks appear out of nowhere and text centres to some mysterious alignment that bears no semblance to the reality of the page, and you mash the keys in a blind rage and threaten bodily violence to software.

And no, you don’t need to buy another marketing course, because you already have three you haven’t finished, and none of them are buying you the confidence you need. But yes, you do need to learn marketing, so why don’t you go and finish those courses rather than staring at the ads dashboard in horror and chain-eating a packet of dark chocolate digestives?

Also, bulk-buy tea and said digestives. They’re not an indulgence. They’re pure necessity. 

Those lessons were important, but not hugely interesting. Other lessons, however, have had repercussions beyond my writing and biscuit-consuming life, so I thought I’d share a couple with you here. Because I sometimes think writing teaches you as much about life as it does about the skill of putting one word in front of another. Because, in the end, writing isn’t really about the words. It’s about the life in them.

baking bad cozy cosy mystery dragons kim m watt

Your people are out there. I will admit, I had already discovered through Twitter that, while I may not know many cat-loving, bad joke telling, terrible horror movie viewing, delightfully odd people in the non-online world, they are out there. Or in there, on my laptop, as the case may be. Which is quite a wonderful place to have your friends when you’re an introvert with a good dose of social anxiety. 

But what putting Baking Bad out in the world showed me is that, whatever your weird thing is – be it tea-drinking dragons, or snarky investigative cats, or chickens saving the universe – your stories will find someone. And then they’ll tell other people who share your weird thing, and they’ll tell still more, and next thing you know there are a whole load of people who think that what you’re writing is exactly what they’re looking for, and that’s the sort of thing writer dreams are made of.

baking bad, writing, life, ray bradbury, weird

Not everyone is your people, and that’s okay. I admit, my first batch of bad reviews (and they all came at once, in a massive pile on), were pretty devastating. But I had just weathered a year or so of publishing rejections, so that might have built some callouses up a bit. Although rejections tend to be impersonal, and a lot of the reviews I got edged into personal territory, so that sucked. But after the initial shock and stomach-twisting shame wore off, I realised that all those reviews by readers who weren’t my people simply told others who also weren’t my people not to pick the book up. And that’s more than okay – that’s perfect. None of us are meant for everyone. We’re only meant for the people who share – or at least understand – the strange little quirks of our hearts.

terry pratchett, quotes, criticism, baking bad, writing

Write what you love. Or create, or paint, or build, or whatever your thing is. This is linked so closely to the other two points that it’s not really a point three – these are actually more like points 1A, 1B and 1C, I guess. But create what brings you joy, what brings you back to the page or the studio or the workbench every day with excitement, what makes you smile to yourself when you think about it, even in the supermarket when you know someone’s going to think you’re suspiciously delighted by the baked beans or something. Then take that thing you love and offer it to the world, and some people will throw rotten vegetables at you, but others will cheer and say, “Hey – that’s exactly what I was looking for!” 

And you only need one of those to make a whole truck of rotten veggies worth it.

neil gaiman make good art quotes baking bad dragons

Don’t compare. Thief of joy and all that. But seriously – everyone’s at a different place in their life and work. Everyone’s skills are different. What’s easy to you is hard to someone else, and vice versa. I still spend far too much time shouting at myself why can’t you write faster, and looking glumly at the rapidly expanding bookshelves of authors I love and admire. But my pace is my pace, and that is all it can be. Maybe I’ll get quicker as time goes on, maybe this is my max speed. But either way, all comparing does is make me so stressed that I try new techniques that simply slow me down, or I end up reading so many books and articles on how to go faster that I write less, so … yeah. I shall potter along and be happy about it, dammit.

And probably eat a few extra digestives, just to soothe the sharp edges. Medicinal, you know.

anne lamott, quote, creativity, writing, bird by bird

People are more wonderful than you realise. I think I’m back to point 1D now, but anyway. People are. Whether it’s other writers who offer advice, and sympathy, and feedback on your work, and truly terrible jokes, or readers who send unexpected and wholly wonderful emails, or postcards, or dragons – people are wonderful. I think it’s really easy to forget that, when the news is constantly full of people being rather less than wonderful, and our own interactions, online and off, don’t always fill us with confidence in humanity. But people really are wonderful. They’re funnier, and kinder, and more delightful than I think most of us have come to anticipate. 

So that needed an extra point all of its own.

quotes, dragons, beaufort scales, friendship, a manor of life and death

No matter what, there’s always time for tea and cake. Murder investigation stalled? Bring out the cake. Office destroyed by pixies? Put the kettle on. Slightly tense encounter with untrustworthy journalists or creatures who may or may not want to snack on you? A cuppa’ll put you right. 

While we may not have too many of the above situations to worry about in everyday life, we’ve all got more than enough other stressors to go around, and it’s easy to get caught up in them, rushing from one mini (or not so mini) crisis to the next, never stopping long enough to shake off the tension of one before picking up another. But nothing forces us to slow down and take a breath quite like the ritual of boiling the kettle, steeping the tea, and waiting for that first sip to be ready. We could all do with that reminder to slow down sometimes.

And the cake? Well, the cake is just – ahem – the icing on the top. Sorry.

baking bad, beaufort scales, cozy cosy mystery dragons quote

I’m sure I’ve learned many other things along the way, too – things about patience, and persistence, and practice, and other p-words, and also not leaving your tea right next to the keyboard when the cat’s liable to make her presence felt at any moment. But if I could sum up everything I’ve learned over the past three years since Baking Bad came out, and all the years of writing before then?

People are wonderful.

You are wonderful.

And without you, the stories wouldn’t be stories. They’d just be words on a page.

So thank you so much, lovely people. Thank you for reading, and listening, and believing in dragons.

And cats, obviously, but they basically insist on being believed in. We have no choice in the matter.

baking bad cozy cosy mystery dragons kim m watt

Now over to you, lovely people – what’s one thing that you’ve learned from books over the years (whether reading them or writing them)? Let me know below!

(And, of course, the link to buy Baking Bad in ebook, paperback, or audio is here. If you haven’t already got your Christmas presents sorted 😉)

Baking Bad, Beaufort Scales, books, life, writing

  1. Deirdre Gage says:

    There are so many things that I enjoy in your writing but a zombie battle in Leeds market won me heart & soul. I could tell that you felt the same about Butchers Row as I did when I was marched through it as I child (holding my breath). I love North Yorkshire & dragons too.

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Thank you so much, Deirdre! I had so much fun writing that, I have to say. I loved going into Leeds market whenever we were there (which admittedly wasn’t often, but still). Old markets like that have so much magic in them – and I’m so glad it captured a little of that for you! ❤️

  2. Tsippi Jelingold says:

    Hi Kim,
    Just wanted to tell you again that I’m one of your people, that is – what you’re writing is exactly what I’m looking for.
    Thank you for admitting me into the arc team and please keep writing books and stories and emails. They bring me joy.
    Tsippi

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Thank you so much ❤️ You are indeed my people, and thank you so much for all the support in the reviews, and on FB, and here, and just for being so generally wonderful. I can’t imagine anything better than my books bringing joy – it seems the best possible reason to keep writing. That, and preparing the way for feline world domination, of course.

  3. Frank Van Glabeke says:

    Discovered your books beginning this year. Love them. Perfect anti-dote to dark times.

    Frank
    Ghent, Belgium

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Thank you so much Frank! I’m so glad they’re bringing a bit of light and escapism – I can’t imagine a better reason for writing them than that ❤️ And thank you for commenting to let me know!

  4. Ashley McC says:

    Ten books in three years, and you want to write FASTER?

    Tea. I need tea, preferably with a slug of Irish Mist in.

    On the other hand, that gives me more to read, and right now I need as many dragons and snarky cats as may be available, so please, carry on…

    1. Kim Watt says:

      See, now when you put it like that – over three books a year – it doesn’t seem so bad! And then I turn around and someone’s publishing every month, and they’re all wonderful books, and then I comfort eat another packet of dark chocolate digestives …

      Goals, though, right? And I shall endeavour to keep the dragons and snarky cats coming!

  5. Lynda Dietz says:

    CONGRATULATIONS AND HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! I’ll always remember how thrilled I was that you chose me to edit Baking Bad. I was already so impressed at how funny and well written your short stories were, and had loved the beta I’d read through. To be trusted with the Big Project™ was literally icing on the cake, as I can testify by how much baking I did while editing.

    I’m glad your people have made themselves known. They obviously have class.

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Thank you!! And it feels like it should be a joint celebration, since you’ve been so brilliant. I was so happy that you agreed to edit that first book – and to keep going with the rest I love working with you, and feel so lucky that we’ve got such a great working relationship AND friendship. You’ve been so gracious and patient with my weird grammar quirks and name fixations and, most of all, always so enthusiastic and supportive. I couldn’t imagine working with anyone else!

      1. Lynda Dietz says:

        I’m glad you can’t imagine it, because I look forward to having a blast with them every time (and looking for the hidden Barrys, of course). I’m still trying to figure out how I can justify a trip to NZ as a business expense . . .

        1. Kim Watt says:

          I’m certain the tax man would accept that. It’s marketing and promotion, or something. Client retention?

          Oh, and Barry. I did promise a Barry story … 😜

  6. MARIE CORDALIS says:

    Congratulations! It seems like you’ve done a lot of amazing writing in 3 years to me. And that’s aside from just getting through life in general, which is in and of itself a challenge.

    I can’t even wrap my head around anyone not loving your books or at least liking them! They don’t need to be as obsessed as I am, but still.

    I think the most important lesson that books and reading have taught me is how to “escape” my problems and for at least the time I’m immersed in them I can be anyone I want. Visit different worlds. Meet characters who are “my peeps”. Books never let me down. They are always there when I need them.
    And I can’t tell you how grateful I am to authors like you who are out there writing those books. Thank you!

    Go have an anniversary cake and celebrate 🙂

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Anniversary cake! Why do I not have anniversary cake? This is a terrible oversight. I must make one immediately – or as soon as reasonably possible, anyway. I can’t believe I missed an excuse for cake!

      And I’m so with you on books as escapism. Especially over the past couple of years, that has seemed even more important than ever. I think there’s a sense that books and movies that provide that escape from the world are cheating somehow, or just a way of putting our heads in the sand, but I disagree. I think they’re vital, and a way that we can disconnect and recharge, and I’m so, so happy that mine can fulfil that role for you!

      Thank you so much for all of your support and lovely emails and messages – it truly does make all the difference ❤️

      1. MARIE CORDALIS says:

        Yes! And make it a big cake 🎂 because it’s to celebrate something big 🙂

        If escaping into movies and books is burying my head in the sand then so be it. There have been times in my life I’m not sure I’d have made it without those escapes.

        So have some cake and toast your accomplishments because you so deserve it!

        Darn it! I wish I was there, I’d bake your cake 😉

        1. Kim Watt says:

          We all need that escape sometimes! And thank you – I’ll accept your cake of good wishes and raise a mug this afternoon! ❤️

  7. Linda says:

    The best thing I’ve learned from reading is oh, like you said, my people are out there. Because if someone could write a quirky, off the wall book that I fell in love with well then, I couldn’t be the only one, right? Growing up on a dairy farm, books for my way to see the world and meet people so interesting and colorful and different than the people in my small town in Ohio. And then some crazy author from New Zealand comes along and totally gets me hooked on tea that I have not enjoyed for the first 50 years of my life, and now I have a favorite (Harrogate Yorkshire Gold, milk, smidge of sugar)! Fell in love with mcvitie’s digestives in London many years ago and always, always loved cake. LOL There’s a woodworking YouTube guy who says that even if you did a little something over the weekend and it wasn’t as much as you wanted or as good as you wanted, you probably still did more then 90% of people. You had the energy, creativity, passion, endurance, and imagination to work on something you love. That makes you a winner in my book. Not of course it’s published… Or edited… Or written… But you get the idea

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Yorkshire Gold! The tea for discerning dragons and readers. I love it, although I mostly drink regular Yorkshire. But Gold’s wonderful when one needs that extra boost…

      And it’s amazing how books give us a chance to live in so many different places, and to embrace so many different lives. They truly are magic – and for all its faults, social media’s also pretty wonderful at connecting us, too!

      Also, that’s a good woodworking guy. I like the sound of him. ❤️

      Thank you so much for being so wonderful!

  8. You’re wonderful too. Thank you for the amazing stories and the easy Christmas presents for my mum. Here’s to the next ten books!

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Thank you so much – both for introducing your mum to Beaufort and for being such a lovely friend!

Comment away! (Points awarded for comments involving cats, tea, or baked goods)

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