Sunday, 28 May 2017

Half-Viking Scots hero.

Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due. Yesterday around 3pm I ordered three books from Amazon to arrive in time to take on my holidays next month. Imagine my surprise when half an hour ago, they were delivered to my door! That's less than 24 hours! and with free delivery. Amazing. Congratulations to Amazon.co.uk. Somebody in there has a good management strategy going!

What did I order? My holiday reading will include two books from Lee Child, and the latest in the Jimmy Perez series by Ann Cleeves - Cold Earth. Besides these, I shall have several titles on my ipad and will happily peruse the book shelves at our destination. I tried a copy of The Red Tent and never finished it, but now I see it has become a tv serial. Perhaps a second look is in order.

I mustn't take too much reading matter as I have a novel to read and edit. Alba is Mine is now down to 106k word count and I am over the halfway mark, almost two thirds done on a first edit, and I have to say that it is looking good. I suppose re-reading Jack Reacher novels would be good right now in fine tuning how men think - though perhaps not all men think like him! Still, his thought processes might be a tad more in tune with a half-Viking Scots hero than me. 

The local woods were full of garlic flowers a few days ago, billows and cushions of them. Such lovely flowers when viewed close up. The perfume is strong and antiseptic but not unpleasant - I should think it would be used in many medieval potions and lotions.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Buster collar days

I'm not getting any work done. The last two days have been a wash out, workwise, and all because my dog has been to the vet.  Like the last time he went in for an op, they blithely said to pick him up at 4.10pm. We said that would be fine but they could ring at any time and we'd pick him up. He went in at 9am and by 10.40 they were telephoning to say he's awake - come when you like.

We parked behind the surgery and we could hear him when we got out of the car, doing his Huckleberry Hound thing. Long drawn out whoooooooooooooooo, deep breath and then again - whooo-ooo-o-o-o. He was very pleased to see us and quietened at once. He's wearing a Buster collar to prevent him licking and chewing his stitches, of which he has seven, in two differentand no doubt sore places - one to remove a small growth and the other take a skin patch to inestigate an irritating itch he's had for some time which ointments don't seem to help.

We're all far too hot to be comfortable and he has perfected the art of side-swiping me with his Buster collar. I shall be covered in bruises before he stops wearing the wretched thing. Our garden thermometer claimed 31 degrees C this afternoon. We sat in the shade. What on earth are July and August going to be like?

Right now I'm hearing the pathetic little snuffles and moans that indicate he wants a cuddle. When I looked round, he's lying there, staring at me. Got to go and offer comfort...

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Re-tweet groups

Intrigued by a group new to me, I joined and found they re-tweet everyone's posts, which means every post goes to everyone's followers. Great, I thought, more exposure and it probably is. But there is a downside, as I soon found out after only two days. 

Some of the authors I don't know, and consequently I don't know their books, so how do I know what I'm sending out? I don't want to spend time checking everyone's titles but then I don't want to discover down the line that I've retweeted and liked something that will not be appreciated.

Plus which I've noticed already that many of the people are authors I know. A lot of our followers are the same, too. The poor followers must be inundated by tweets about books! So all in all it is probably a good idea, but to be used *sensitively.* Otherwise no one will want to know me. (It certainly did not boost either my sales or my KENP stats over the last two days.)

Starting to dream of holidays in the sun, though to be fair it is warm enough here. Still, a change of surroundings will be welcome. Looks like I'll be taking my re-editing with me. It is turning into more of a re-write and Alba Is Mine (was Banners of Alba) stands at 107k word count now. That's 40k words gone! and mostly every one of them through smartening up the writing rather than cutting out chunks of story.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Fascinating characters

17 May 2017

DARK WHISKY ROAD by Jen Black



Amazon UK £1.20
Amazon US $1.50
Amazon CA n/a

Romance
Victorian
England

“For an ex-duchess, obeying orders proves difficult. But Melanie has little choice. Scarred and cheated out of her widow's entitlement, she accepts a post as housekeeper in remote Gavington House where widowed Lord Jarrow rears his young daughter. He has secrets, and Mel's curiosity will not let her rest until she has discovered what it is that occupies both him and his friend Mangerton. Soon she is embroiled in lying to the Excise men, and wondering if she dare risk falling in love again.”

Maybe Dark Whisky Road is a little melodramatic, and reminiscent of Jane Eyre in places, but what the heck? This is a thoroughly enjoyable true-to-the-genre romance.

I confess I initially selected the book because of the lovely piebald horse on the cover, which shows that cover content is as important as the narrative, but soon found myself engrossed in the struggles and doubts of our wonderful heroine, Melanie Grey. Forced to leave her wealthy life as a duchess, Melanie finds a position as a governess and housekeeper for a widower and his daughter. And so the plot continues from there, leading to the Excise Men and other such nasty baddies.

There are fascinating and well-created characters in this story, most of them with secrets or struggles to overcome, and of course there is an anxious budding of love. We meet the typical-genre necessity of brooding heroes, unsure heroines, dastardly anti-heroes, remote settings and misunderstandings

Jen Black writes with a crisp, refreshing style and elegant descriptions which take her reader right into the scenes she is creating. Her characters are equally well written, Melanie in particular is not the typical feisty beauty who has it all – she is vulnerable has her fears and none of the modern feminist views we often come to expect in novels. In this story she is ordinary – and I very much liked her, and Ms Black, for it!


© Helen Hollick



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Wonderful Viking Romp

Discovering Diamonds


Posted: 15 May 2017 03:49 AM PDT

Amazon.UK £0.99
Amazon US $1.24
Amazon CA n/a

Romance / Fantasy / Adventure

Viking

“Gisla might have won her freedom, but can she stay out of the evil magician’s clutches? There seems nothing that can save her from Karli Olafsson except a handsome stranger who doesn’t believe in magic…. His name is Olli.

This wonderful Viking romp will suit any reader who likes a bit of magic and adventure mixed in with the romance.

Gisla is a woman with determination and courage, and beyond all else is set on avoiding a marriage she does not want, particularly as it is to a less than pleasant magician, Karli Olafsson. Olli Ketilsson, on the other hand, is a young, slightly immature man who has flawed edges. Then there is Flane, Olli’s foster father, who relies on his ship’s crew to aid Gisla when she needs help. The escapes and escapades come at page-turning speed, overdone for real life, but this isn’t meant to be taken seriously as fact, it is a fun, romantic pleasure read and as such, it excels.

Set in the Norse settlement area of the west coast of Scotland, Cumbria in northern England and Dublin, the story gives a believable picture of these rough and unruly times when Pagan ritual ran alongside early Christian.

The Magician’s Bride is a light, easy read absolutely ideal for satisfying e-book entertainment while travelling or lazing in the sun somewhere. For less than $2/£1 or free on Kindle Unlimited how can you go wrong?


© Anne Holt

Friday, 12 May 2017

Alba is Mine

Finished Sleeper's Castle the very next night. Satisfying end, too. Still haven't dissected a page of her writing, though it is still in my mind to do so. Plenty of time to do that today, as I won't be out gardening or too long with the dog walks - the weather has turned grey and damp again. After the brilliant few days we've enjoyed, it is something of a shock.

Editing Banners is a slow process. I wonder if authors who hate editing are the ones who recommend buying editing services so they can enjoy writing while someone else does the hard slog of editing? Coud be true! It is tempting....

I've been thinking of a new title for Banners and am going to work with Alba is Mine for the time being to see how it feels. I'm still debating about cutting the word count down. I'm at 112,000 words now with half the book still to go, so I could end up with a very short story if I go on being as ruthless as I have been. I will need to add in some exposition and can see where character development could be better. Addin in can be as dangerus as cutting out - I could end up with enough words for two 90,000 volumes!




Monday, 8 May 2017

Writing

Reading Sleepers Castle at the moment. I've put it off long enough, refusing to pay the high new publication charges. It has come down in price now, so I succumbed. (Shame on me for refusing to pay for what was probably three years work, or more.) I didn't begin reading right away - I'm one of those idiots who will prolong the delight of gratification if I can! But finally I dived into it yesterday.

It is like so many of her other stories, yet I am still reading at every moment. There is something so utterly easy about Erskine's writing  that makes the pages turn in a regular rhythm. No incongruous word, no jarring sentence, everything in keeping with the time period. The rhythm, the flow of words is so easy that the reader skims across the page taking everything in. Never mind that I have no knowledge of Welsh history and have to look up the locations on Google earth as I'm reading. (So easy on Kindle!) No worries about the story leaping between medieval Wales and Modern Wales, nor about the ability to dream oneself into a different physical setting and be seen there but leave no trace.( Perhaps Ms Erskine has read the Far Memory books by Joan Grant, so popular in the thirties.) Perhaps it would pay me to really examine a page and see how she does it. That will be my homework for the night.

As for my own work, I've whittled Banners down to 113,000 words and still going down. It really is a work in progress!



Friday, 5 May 2017

Language, please!


There is a lot of fun to be had reading websites and when I followed the link to this one I must admit I chuckled. So much so that I thought I might show some of it here. It isn't a new post and there are lots of comments which are informative too. In six years a lot may have changed with regards to some of the words , but it never hurts to keep checking.... 

Oh, hell, since I’m being nitpicky and bitchy already…


(Prefatory note: Again, apologies to Dear Author for stealing their style. I guess I’m in a epistolary mood these days.)
Dear various American authors of historical romances who are trying very, very hard to sound authentically British,
It’s not like I’m the foremost Britpicker of all time. Not even close. But I’ve noticed a distressing trend among your ranks in recent days. I understand that you are probably sick of readers bitching and moaning about how American authors sound too contemporary and too American, so you’ve decided to inject some authentic Britishisms to spruce up the joint. I applaud your efforts. However, allow me to offer the following vocabulary tips:
1. Your Regency- or Victorian-era English aristocrat isn’t going to use the word “git” as a term that means “jackass” or “fuckwit.” Why? Well, partly because it’s a term more closely associated with the working classes, and the class cultures weren’t quite as permeable as they tend to be today. Partly because the etymological roots for “git” are probably Scottish. And lastly, and probably most importantly, because it didn’t become common usage until the 20th century.

There's much more and all the comments to read. Just follow the link: here

Monday, 1 May 2017

Hot weather and editing

We drove out to a country park on the Derwent Reservoir the other day to give ourselves and Tim a change of land and smellscape, and will go back again. It's not too far, but gives the feeling of being out in the country - which it is! Pine trees and heather are so different to the green fields and deciduous trees where we are. I  noticed the low  water level in the reservoir  - and it is so early in the year. Come July there will be water shortages if this weather continues.

In a way I hope it does go on being warm, for it is so nice to be out and not blown away or come home soaked and freezing. (Actually, dog walkers will know that we come home warm and toasty whatever the weather - it is only the first few minutes that are pretty dire. After that, the exercise warms the muscles and its fun to be out.) The other thing I'm thinking is that France will be even warmer by the time we get there. We've experienced occasional weeks there when it is too hot to contemplate moving about too much, and there may be more of them in the future.

As for editing, I'm whipping out words out of Banners at a tremendous rate. The word count now stands at 118,158 which is a vast difference. I hunted out early critiques and reviews and gleaned the following tips:

  • dialogue is repetitious
  • needs paring down
  • used passed instead of past
I had noticed how wordy I was as I was going through! Still, fifteen years ago books tended to be wordier. I'm contemplating a different title and a new cover, but have not settled on anything yet.  

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Editing

On my first run through of Banners I've cut 21,000 words. Yikes! Taht's a lot of words, but I'm not done yet. I'm half way down the list of  "unnecessary words" and taking out almost every one except where the sense is altered. So often removal of the word means nothing is altered, which is the true mark of an amateur writer. I console myself with the thought that I wrote this at least fifteen years ago, maybe even longer than that. At the writers' meeting on Monday I recevied various suggestions - make it two books being the one I've given the most thought. These days the average word count seems to be 80,000-100,000 and at 147,000 Banners was way too long. Still haven't decided, but the way the word count is whittling down, I don't think I will need to divide the book. Other suggestions were to revamp the whole thing - title, cover and interior, so now I'm scratching my head about new titles. Incorporating the words "duke" or "you, me and us" won't quite work for something set in 1034AD. 

My worst fault was adjectives, over describing, and trying to report every little action. If I remember correctly I used "laugh" 141 times, and removed most of them, so  when I read through again I'll find my characters a serious lot who never smile. "Turned" is not on my list of unnecessary words, but I think it should be and I shall certainly add it. Many sentences were pedestrian, often beginning with a pronoun or name and some were so close to repetition that I removed them. Editing teaches an author a lot about writing. Those authors who rely on an editor to smarten their work - do they learn more easily when someone tells them what to add or remove? I suspect that doing it yourself is the more effective process.  


Once I've completed the unneccessary word list, it will be time to read it through and see if I've left any glaring holes which will need a newpiece of writing. I also need to conside if the story hangs together as it should.  I thought I had omitted to mention the king's death, but yesterday found the scene where his death is reported, so that worry has gone. It is such a long time since I worked on this story that it feels quite new and a little unfamiliar. An odd feeling to have when I wrote it!




Friday, 21 April 2017

Life

Editing can get tedious. I know I'm reaching that point because I find all sorts of excuses  not to knuckle down to it - even though I know I'm almost finished Banners. There's no chance of me touching it before I take Tim for a walk, and then I must have a coffee. Then I find I've drifted off onto checking my blog stats, my Kindle stats, and then collecting info before I have a look at the Nielsen website. Doing this, I've discovered that I have the same ISBN for Abduction of the Scots Queen on the Kindle version and the print copy. Not too sure what to do about it. I suppose the easiest thing would be to assign another to the Kindle copy, or to remove it completely. 

I actually received a tweet from Peter May yesterday. I had read The Critic and couldn't see why the last few lines of the book told me no one knew who killed Braucol the puppy and almost killed Enzo MacLeod. "He's still out there." Had my copy a chapter missing? So I tweeted him, and he tells me the answer comes in Book 6.  Nice of him to respond, but I'm not sure I like the ploy - I'd rather have the answers without reading another two books!

The weather this morning was glorious for  our walk.Some of the trees are green now and the grass has been growing for a week or so. Now it is splattered with dandelions and everything looks wonderful. Since I got home the sky has clouded over and the sunshine has disappeared, though we're not quite at the dismal state we were a few days ago - see pic!


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

First re-draft

Pretty soon I shall be at the end of my first re-draft of Banners of Alba. Then it will be time for a read through to see if it makes logical sense and the transitions are smooth. At that point it will probably be time to decide where I am going to make further cuts to bring the story down to 100,000 or less ( if I can). 

Have I begun the story in the best place? 
Have I made motivation clear? 
Have I shown their loves, their hates, their faults? 
Why things happen? (Do I need to do this? should it not be clear without that?)
Does each scene make a point? 
Does something important change? If not, should I cut the scene?
Have I conveyed necessary info in narration?
Can I lose secondary characters?

After all that, I'll need to go through and check for those terrible habit words - the ones that keep cropping up but are really not needed.


Editing is hard work. I can only do it in snatches before my eyelids begin to droop.

Monday, 17 April 2017

How am I doing?

I’ve spent several hours collating stats only to come to the conclusion that I cannot compare like with like due to the many changes Amazon have made in the last few years. 

In 2011 books were sold and we authors received a royalty. In December of that year, the first change appeared - books were either sold or borrowed. By the end of June 2014 we had the introduction of KU/KOLL units. I understood that KU stood for Kindle Unlimited, but I was never sure what KOLL stood for. (Now I know it is Kindle Owners Lending Library)

By July 2015 we saw the introduction of “Net Units Sold or KENP Eead.” Otherwise explained as:  Net Units Sold or Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) Read. According to Amazon people bought books but never read them, so this was an attempt to pay only on pages read in an effort, so they said, to weed out the dross that was self-published. 

When KU came in, KENP made some kind of sense. Members of KU didn't buy the book, but "borrowed" it, so no royalty accrued to authors. KENP means that for every page read the author is paid a tiny amount, something like 0.0016 of a penny. On a 400 page book that would amount to 64p. It was as much, sometimes more, than the original royalty payment on low-priced fiction. 


So far, KENP Read is still holding. The only way I can see that I might be able to tell if I am doing better or worse is by tracking the money. Is the money that comes to me via KENP pages read better, worse or equivalent to my payments back in 2011? Who knows? Looks like another few hours doing stats. Even then,  other things have moved and changed since those days, so I won’t ever be certain whatever the stats tell me.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Broadchurch 3

It may be that I'm out of step with many, but I am not enamoured of Broadchurch 3. Apart from the police duo and Beth Latimer there isn't a character to really like. They're all slightly odd embittered people, many of them up to suspicious activities. As snippets of how a major incident affects all the people within the community this series is  puzzling. Unless the underlying theme is rape in all its manifestations, the various snippets we get - such as Hardy's daughter's problem - become distractions. Yes, it may be telling that a policeman's daughter is silly enough to make pictures of herself available and the male teenagers seem obsessed with catching porn on their computers - and yes, the policewoman's son is guilty as hell - but is this a reflection on society in general, or the fact that even police personnel don't take note of what their offspring are doing? Computer porn certainly seems rampant in Broadchurch, with Trish's husband and nearly every other male involved to some degree.

 I'm not even sure that Trish the victim is quite what she seems, and there are so many characters who could have been the perpetrator of the crime that it seems silly to try and guess, much less work it out. With so many possibilities, the rug could be pulled from under our feet at any time. We may not have even "met" the rapist. Now that other ladies have come forward with complaints, the rapist may not be a Broadchurch inhabitant at all.

While the acting is very good, the weakness (for me) is the storyline. I think the only way this series can conclude is if the rapist actually confesses and tells all, because there doesn't seem to be any route of discovery otherwise. Almost everything could be a red herring, or it could be a real clue. I think I will be glad to have it all sorted on Monday night.




Monday, 10 April 2017

Writing news

I think I’m missing a trick here, for rarely do I mention my books on my blog. I hope everyone finds the links to the book pages and leave it at that, but maybe I should do more. As I’ve said, I’m re-editing Banners of Alba, which I published ten years ago in the US. It astonishes me to see how wordy I was back then, and I’m desperately trying to edit 147,000 words down to something closer to 100,000. Currently I have 100 pages to go on a first run through and I’ve “lost” 10,000 words. Still room for lots more to go.


I’m experimenting with shorter chapters, too. In many cases I am attempting to keep a chapter to one scene, or two scenes at best and I’d prefer it if the characters remained the same. In order to accomplish this I may need to do some re-jigging, place scenes in a slightly different order, but it will all be for the best. The reason for this? It saves skipping from one POV to another too often

Would the pic on the right make a good new cover? 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

What I should be doing

This good weather is doing nothing for my writing. It is so tempting to be out with the sun on my back that nothing, absolutely nothing is getting done as far as editing Banners of Alba is concerned. Nor am I getting much promotion done for the simple reason that by the time I do come indoors I am so tired with the fresh air and activity that I slump in front of the tv and watch all the stuff I recorded over the last few days. I am also romping through L J Ross's books about DCI Ryan all set in the north east around Durham and Newcastle. 

I should be promoting The Matfen Affair, which became available on Kindle mid February for the princely sum of £1.20. It is a happy tale of Leigh Fenwick, who travels to Matfen Grange  to be bridesmaid to her cousin Lucy and encounters a ghost. 



https://tinyurl.com/z246enk

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Wasted journey

A freind has recommended L J Ross, who writes crime stories set in our local area. So I tried the first, Holy Island, and enjoyed it.  As luck would have it, the day I finished reading, an e-mail from my local bookshop informed me that the author would be speaking in Corbridge on 27th April.  I drove into Corbridge yesterday morning to get tickets only to be told they were sold out.

Wasted journey, but we did have a lovely walk with a super-excited dog through the east woods along the river bank. Everything is so green it is amazing. The hawthorn is in flower, little white star flowers against the black branches, cowslips poking up through the grass. The river is running fast, but not in flood. If I walk in the other direction, I walk around fields where rapeseed is coming into flower and the ripe musky smell is faint as yet.

I also finished a Jack Reacher novel yesterday night. One Shot, about a Russian gang setting up a sniper. A good, nicely-paced thriller, and of course Reacher wins and walks off alone into the sunset. That makes three good books in a row if I count  Rankin's Even the dogs in the Wild in the trio. Long may it continue, Seems ages since I read a really good historical.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

It's all change

It's all change in the Black household this weekend. DH is back from Oz after five weeks away, we picked up a new car last night and I did the grocery shopping this morning. I walked out of the store, shopping complete, at 9am, which I must admit, is a first and may never happen again.

I've discovered a pet hate this morning. People who stand at the checkout and bag every item and load it into their trolley then - when all is done and the cashier is waiting, start rummaging in their capacious handbags for the credit card with which to pay the bill. Sometimes it takes ages. Why not have it ready, hand it to the cashier and then carry on bagging your goods? That way the cashier's time is not wasted and the queue moves a hell of a lot faster. This morning the person did not budge until she had put the card in her purse, zipped her handbag and got the strap to exactly the right position before she moved. Deliberate obstruction, I feel.

I bought a book this morning. A Lee Child book. I might have bought a second title since it was part of an offer - 2 for £7. Unfortunately my view of a third of the rack was blocked by a member of staff with two wire cage things  he was unpacking. So Tesco lost a sale there because of staff thoughtlessness. It isnt often I buy a real book these days, but my forays into Kindle purchases have been dire lately.Am I getting harder to please? Tv is also dire at the moment. Not much I want to waste my time watching. Thank goodness for re-runs on the Drama Channel, that's all I can say.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Could this be summer?

A glorious day - 21 degrees in  the garden, which faces full south. Tim and I have been out for a lovely walk on the north side of the river up the hill behind Ovingham. It is uphill, but steady and follows the edges of the fields which this season are sprouting sprouts (I *think* they will be sprouts.) It is in full sun, too and it is fairly dry except for the odd muddy patch where water drains off the fields. Birds are singing, the trees are showing a hint of green and we had it all to ourselves. Passed one couple walking their two dogs on the way back down to the field gate and no one else in sight. Unless people have a dog, they don't seem to venture out much these days. 

It was like this yesterday, too. Long may it continue, but I expect it won't, and if it did we'd be in drought condition by July. Nothing is perfect and we are lucky to live in this temperate climate where we don't live in fear of bush fires, dust bowls, avalanches, floods and tsunamies, not to mention volcanic eruptions and days and days of snow blizzards. We get changeable weather, sure, but it is (usually) incovenient rather than deadly.

Now, back to editing. Didn't do any at all yesterday, and feel guilty. 


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Grey days

This perfectly illustrates the weather today. After heavy rain all evening - and all night, for all I know - I did not take Tim for his walk on the fields this morning. They were back to a muddy quagmire yesterday, and today I'd be likely to land on my backside in six inches of mud and water. We made do with a walk on pavements, which is good for wearing down his claws. He enjoys the doggy smells  on every fence post, tree, etc.

The trees are starting to flush with all the shades of green and brown that indicate new leaf growth, and down in the valley by the river hawthorn blossom looms out of the gloom like a white ghost. Birds are chasing each other round the garden but I don't think we have any frogspawn yet. All we want is some decent weather.

Editing is continuing. As yet I don't have an idea for a new Affair title, but one will come if I let it percolate around while I'm editing. Not certain I will  bother doing a paperback version. Sales are low, presumably because of the high price (plus postage) on Createspace copies. Lovely as it is to hold one's book in one's hands, I think I'll stick to Kindle versions.






Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Fresh air and editing

Editing, I am tired of thee! 
I like it in small doses, but when I opened Banners of Alba I saw with horror that it was 147,000 words in total. (Remember I wrote this about 15 years ago and published it 10 years ago.) I'm a third of the way through and down to 144,000, but as fast as I take some out, I add some in. Let's hope I can cut more from the next  chunks. I've done two good stints today and now deserve the glass of white wine that is waiting for me downstairs. I like to break the sessions up because my editing eyes fails if I do too long in one go. I end up reading instead of editing.

Spring is hovering around with daffodils in flower and catkins dancing on the wind. The frogs are back in the pond, all four of them this time and Tim is fascinated. I don't know if he's seen them yet, but he hears them and the splash as they disappear from his view. Today neighbours have been cutting their lawns, and the fields are greening up nicely. Now if only the 45 mph winds would die down, we could have a lovely time out in the fresh air.


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Lowering book prices

My experiment with lowering prices of my self-published books was interesting and in general, successful. There was an instant response and while I cannot claim to be racing up the sales charts, my figures have gone up quite nicely. Lowering the price has also had an effect on KENP pages for all of my titles.

On the other hand, I did not simply change the prices and sit back to observe what happened; I did a few tweets announcing the lower prices, and made a determined effort to tweet one or the other of my titles two or three times a day. But that’s hardly what might be called high profile marketing or promotion.

It was around this time that I stopped sending out full cover pics, but made some small banners that sit comfortably on Twitter and Facebook without hogging the whole screen. I like making them, and like how they look on screen.

I suppose it was lucky that around this time I brought out a new book, The Matfen Affair and probably that spurred some interest.


I researched some tweet hashtags to widen my promotion activity, and checked my blog pages and Amazon Author Central to keep my titles and biography up to date. Now I need to check and see if yahoo groups are still working as they used to. My impression is that they are not, but I’m wondering what has taken over instead of them? Maybe it is time I was on Instagram, but would I have time for writing?

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Banners and book promo

My watch tells me it is 29th February, but I know it is the 1st March. I shall struggle for ages to alter my watch. It is one of the things I happily hand over to dh, who manages it with no trouble whatsoever, but for me, it is like those child-proof pill bottles and  every other kitchen and bathroom appliance that employs such caps and tops. No child is going to get into them, and neither are many women and men who don't have the requisite finger strength. Old people don't have a hope. Do the manufacturers and designers ever think of this?

It is a bright frosty morning outside, with a sunshine and a blue sky, so the moment my post-shower hair is dry enough, I shall head for the great outdoors. Then I shall be concentrating on editing Banners of Alba when I return. I was surprised to see it was published ten years ago at 147,000 words, so now I'm aiming to bring it down by forty or fifty thousand. Quite a task, and much editing as I go. Reassuring in a way, in that I can so quickly see where I need to make alterations, which  proves I must have learned something in the last decade.

I'm finding it good fun to make up these little banners to use in promo on Twitter and Facebook.
I'm sure people get bored with seeing the same cover photos at full size which are pushed out everyday - and yes, that's what I used to do - but now I find these little chaps and chappesses much more user friendly.

But first of all I need to try and make some alteration to my Microsoft Outlook account in order to stop it periodically deleting all my e-mails.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Sometimes I wonder...

My 14 year-old mini is going into the garage today for a new exhaust, so now I am grounded for the day. Will probably get lots of work done, and it is a good day to stay indoors because according to the Met office, storm Doris is on her way. (Haven't seen any signs of it yet at 9.09am)

Checked through a few magazines at the hairdressers yesterday and was disappointed to see so much female flesh on display. It is the same on the internet - small town celebs competing with each other to show as much flesh as they can before the censor clicks in. Pop concerts  with girls (supposedly) singing while wearing very little and edging dangerously close to the pornographic flashed across my tv screen while I had breakfast this morning. I wonder why it is? Surely this isn't what feminism is all about? How will women ever be deemed equal if they prance about in a state of undress and expect to be paid for it? What is it in women that makes them so keen to flaunt themselves as sexual beings? The local high school has hordes of girls who wear skirts no longer than their knickers (and sometimes shorter than their blazers) strolling through the streets - in this weather they must be freezing!

Not that I wholly support feminism either. Certainly not the kind that demands that I conform to their stereotype of what a woman must be. I sometimes wonder if the world would be a better place if mums stayed at home with the kids and settled for a life without two cars, three holidays a year and a tv in every room. Would so many children be deemed depressed, lonely, unsure of their sexuality if mum was there to come home to after school every day? Would they be bullied so easily, turn to self-harm and drugs so readily? It was one of the absolute certainties of my school life that she would be there whether I'd had a good or a bad day and I could tell her all about it. (If I wanted to - naturally.) I did not realise then how much I relied on her being there, but I do now.


Every person has the right to decide what they do with their life. Of course they do. But that doesn't stop me wondering why things happen, or wondering if things are the best they've ever been or if we're all caught in an illusion that it is better.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

New beginnings

After a few days of not working on a book, I'm now back in the groove. I amused myself by checking through all the photographs I've taken in the last  few years, and deleted all the ones that were not worth keeping. That freed up a lot of space! Then I began to look at writing again. Started slow, by opening up a copy of my first book Banners of Alba in a word document. (The publisher closed, so I have my rights back and plan to re-publish it myself.) It needs some work, because I've learned a lot in the last ten years. 

First of all, I changed the font to Bookman Old School, and the Language from US English to UK English. I fully justified the document. Then I checked all the chapter headings and decided I wanted just Eleven instead of Chapter Eleven. (That must save a lot of words....). Next I looked at the scene breaks, decided on a particular style and ensured they were all the same.  I've set up Styles for these things. 

We're on a roll now.  I began with the first chapter and read through it. I made changes. Couldn't stop myself. Not to the storyline, but cutting out unneeded words, where I'd over-egged the cake and/or repeated myself. Sometimes simply explaining things more concisely.
Like I said, I've been learning  a  things these last few years. Pity I didn't start writing much, much sooner!

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Matfen Affair

 The Matfen Affair is now published on Amazon Kindle and I wish it God speed. February 16th was my dad's birthday, so hopefully that publication date will bring me luck as I announce my new book!

 This one was fun to write. Leigh Fenwick lives in Northumberland, far away from Lady Jersey and her London Society cronies, but a wedding is still a big day in any girl's life. Visiting Matfen Grange as bridesmaid to her cousin Lucy, Leigh is sidetracked by a wayward ghost, the bridegroom is injured on his journey from Cumberland and the bride returns home after only one day of marriage. Cousin Bertram decides Leigh is exactly the girl for him, but Leigh is focused on someone else....

There is a Matfen Hall  close by the village of Matfen in the Tyne Valley in Northumberland, but as far as I know, the hall has no family or history such as I have described within these pages.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

Questions, oh questions

I don't know if I should believe Stat Counter.
Today it tells me that some two hundred  people have viewed my blog yesterday, yet when I look at the behind pages, they record only 65. So what exactly is going on?

I've often wondered if the views each post gets on Facebook are recorded. If they are, that might account for the difference. If anyone knows the answer, please tell me - it would be good to know for sure.

It seems that independent book publishers are still going to the wall. The latest to close its door is Samhain, one of the bigger names in the US. I had two books with a smaller independent and that closed in January after 17 years in business, so I have two books waiting to be given a new lease of life, but I don't think I shall look for another independent publisher. They all seem to be rather precarious. Better to publish my books myself via Amazon Kindle. That way I know I am in control, but a .curious question came into my head the other day.

 A case in point is Banners of Alba, the paperback version. The rights came back to me when the independent publisher closed, but I see the paperback is still up there on Amazon. Amazon say they keep every edition up as a record and it has a silly price on it, but supposing someone wanted to buy it. With the e-publishing process, Amazon could print a paperback copy of Banners whenever they liked and I would never know. I am not in control of that particular item as Write Words, Inc went ahead with the paperback some years back. Is there a way of getting that paperback title removed from Amazon? another question is - what happens when I die? Assuming that my books would still sell, do Amazon get to keep the royalties? Can I will my rights to someone else?

In the search for a good way to promote, I've been doing banners, like the one above. They're fun to do and don't take a lot of time, and hopefully they avoid the readers response of "oh, not that old ad again."



Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Dabbling in the market

This week, on the 6th to be precise, I lowered the prices on each of my e-books in order to discover if prices had any impact on the lack of sales recently. Out in Facebook land there is a theory that  the cheaper the e-book, the less respect it deserves. I read this so many times from so many different people that I resolved to raise my prices as I was not writing the equivalent of Kiss me Quick stories that would be forgotten two days after closing the book - metaphorically speaking, of course.

My raised prices and subsequent falling sales resulted or coincided with the national decision to vote for leaving the EU, so Brexit had to be to blame. It had frightened everyone into  scrupulous saving, hadn't it? I had no idea, because I had not noted the dated when I raised prices and I didn't do it on all my books at the same time. Scientific about it I was not.

Meanwhile, the KENP pages read continued to do well in the USA, particularly for The Gybford Affair. The UK doesn't produce the same results. Perhaps paying a monthly subscription for as many books as you can read hasn't caught on  in the UK. Or maybe UK readers don't like my books. Who knows?

So this time I decided to take note of what I was doing. On 6th February I lowered  my prices and waited the 72 hours for the changes to kick in. This morning I checked my figures and there were sales in the USA. Not a huge amount yet, and only one in the UK, but it is a start. Now it will be interesting to see how the  rest of the month goes.

I had priced one or two of the more recent e-books at $3.50, and the lowest at £1.99. Now the lowest is $0.99 and the highest $1.99 and I'll be watching to see what happens from now on.

The picture? Oh that is the real Matfen Hall in the Tyne Valley. In my latest story I have a vague outline of it in my mind when I describe Matfen Grange, where Leigh Fenwick has her adventures.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Co-authors

Wilbur Smith’s fans have said that they would like to read his novels faster than he can write them. So a new deal has been dreamed up whereby he uses co-authors. It sounds very similar to ghostwriters, though they usually work on celebrity biogs or novels. In this new venture Smith will hire co-authors to do the hard work of writing to his ideas.

There are some rumblings among literary purists.

However utilising co-authors is not a new concept. Anna Davis, a literary agent with Curtis Brown claims such tactics have been going on for centuries. “Alexander Dumas did it - he had a whole team of authors writing for him all the time. He'd plot things out and have other people do the donkey work."

The practice is used in the film industry and the art world. Damien Hirst uses "apprentices" to produce his works. James Patterson and Tom Clancy regularly hire co-authors. Patterson has become prolific with 14 new titles in one year. He sends out short chapter summaries – and I mean short at four lines long – and receives full length chapters to edit in return.

Naturally he became the highest-earning author. Forbes magazine says he earned an estimated $94m (£58.6m) in one year. No wonder there's not much left for the rest of the authors writing today! It seems the book-buying public cannot tell the difference between Patterson's work and that of an unknown co-author. Is that not a tad worrying?
Something else I've noticed is that  authors are joining together to write a novel, but it goes out under both their names. I assume this is to help spark ideas, share the work load and widen the market for sales. Twice the number of fans must mean twice the sales.

Don't let the picture fool you. It is recent, and we did have some snow, but it barely lasted the day. Provided pretty colours in the sunshine. Who knew Tim was tall enough to make such a huge shadow?

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Styles of language

Looking back over my posts from 2008 I found this interesting snippet from  Phillippa Gregory. Talking about writing, language and languages, she says:

"In terms of styles of language‚ I deliberately took the choice to use fundamentally modern language‚ but quite pure and quite simple. So I don′t use slang and I don′t use modern idioms. This is to make it acceptable to a wider audience and to write as well as I possibly can without being limited by language. For example‚ if I was to write a novel set in France and there were French people speaking French to each other − I wouldn′t put that on the page in French‚ I′d put it in English − and the reader understands as it′s part of a convention of reading a novel‚ that when someone is speaking Russian or French you don′t get a page of Russian or French − you get it in English.

If someone said to me that the past is a foreign country‚ it seems to me that it speaks a foreign language. So in terms of any notion of thee and thus and thy‚ superfluous words‚ I tend not to use them as it′s so strange to the modern eye. You also gain nothing by using them and the chances of rendering them correctly are very slim.

In the case of early modern society we don′t know how they spoke‚ we know how people have written down Shakespeare plays‚ but we don′t know how people actually spoke or what they sounded like. We do believe however that Anne Boleyn maintained the French accent throughout her life as she believed that it made her a bit special‚ I mention this in the novel. But in terms of how actually people spoke‚ we don′t know‚ so I won′t even make a guess."

This seems sensible to me, and  maybe that is because it is the way i approach writing historicals, too. I allow some of the local Northumbrian dialect I hear around me every day to  filter in where it is appropriate for the character and some Scots that is used today by my neighbours/and or heard on various trips north of the border. This isn't to try and add a historical edge to the story, but to help with characterization. Wander around Newcastle's main shopping street - Northumberland Street - any day of the week and you will hear  refined BBC type accents rubbing shoulders with Geordie and all the stops in between. (Sorry, no pun intended)

Personally I dislike the accent that predominates in Eastenders and the one I find the hardest to "translate" is the Rab Nesbit Glaswegian. I hear echoes of Northern Ireland in Australia, and can hear differences in American speech without know where in the US the speech originates. The whole subject of language is a fascinating one.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Age is just a number

Matfen Hall
Rain this morning, so we won't be going out for a while. There's always a chance the rain will clear away by eleven. So I shall continue with my final edits and hope to finish them today.

It will also be a weekend of tennis. There must be something in the air as we have the finals of the Australian Open this weekend, and in both male and females sides we have competitors who are over 30 years of age. Rafa, of course, is the baby of the group at just 30. Should be amazing to see Rafa and Roger take each other on again. John Lloyd puts it down to modern training methods and diet. Before he played a match he used to have steak and chips, but I gather it is mostly pasta - plain carbohydrates now. Australia is eleven hours ahead of us, so Serena may well have finished her match by now - must go and check!


Monday, 23 January 2017

Too much work!

My post on Solway Moss has done very well, which is why I left it up for a while, but now it is time for something new. Last night I seem to have set up a group on Facebook. Now I won’t scream and run for the hills, but truthfully I clicked on buttons because I wanted to find out more. I thought a group had already been set up, but didn’t see how that could have happened. This morning dh gave me a strange look and asked why I’d set up a group about me?

Well, it need not be about me, or at least, not only me. I’ll have to have a closer look at this new venture and see what I can make of it.


It could have happened at a better time, for I really should give The Matfen Affair its final read before going to Kindle. I’ve heard from DiscoveringDiamonds that I will be receiving a review for The Gybford Affair, and the helpful reviewer suggested that there were one or two little glitches I might wish to correct, so I’m doing that as quickly as I can. 

Before hearing about the glitches, I’d also discovered that I could change a PDF to Word by using Calibre, so I now have a word copy of Banners of Alba waiting to be re-edited. Given that it was my “first book,” certainly the first completed and published twelve years ago, there is a lot I want to alter. Not the storyline, but style. Seems like I shall be busy, busy for quite a while.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Solway Moss

Battle of Solway Moss 24th November 1542

On the 18th November Sir Thomas Wharton, Deputy Warden of the English West March and Captain of Carlisle, called out the gentlemen resident within the West March to be at Carlisle with bows and spears by sunset on 22nd November. He planned a raid on Middlebie and Langholm with the aim of both annoying and confusing the Scots who were massing at Langholm.

He returned after supper on 23rd to the news from the Lord Warden, then Lord Hertford in Alnwick almost on the east coast that a great force of Scots, estimated at between 17,000 and 19,000 men, would descend on the West March on 23rd or 24th November.

Wharton had his deputies and commanders either with him or waiting for him at Carlisle and his spies were reporting almost hourly on Scottish movements from Langholm south toward the rivers Esk and the Leven. His forces, estimated at between 300 and 3,000 men plus 100 light horse, sometimes called “prickers” seemed like no match for the opposing Scots. However, the prickers, called into existence by the eternal forays of the Scottish Border, were probably the best light cavalry in Europe.

There are five contemporary reports on the battle: original letters from Sir Thomas Wharton, (written on 23rd and 25th November) plus one from Sir William Musgrave. Two more are “reports of reports” (Lisle and Tunstall (6th Dec) and Edward Hall’s “Chronicles,” published 1548. Lisle had taken over the Wardenship from Hertford on 1st December that year and might therefore be forgiven for not having a full grasp of the battle.

Communication was not easy in the sixteenth century. Wharton gives excellent detail of the entire battle, probably because he had his clerk with him to take notes.

A smaller battle took place at Akeshawhill, one mile east of Netherby, where Jac Musgrave, a captain under his brother Sir William Musgrave, led the company and later wrote notes which were later taken up by Lisle and Tunstall, who seemed mistakenly to believe that the skirmish was the main thrust of the battle. Lisle’s report to Henry’s Privy Council omitted all mention of Wharton.

On 24th November Wharton rode out with 2,000 foot and 1,200 horse to West Linton and observed Scots riders burning Oakshawhill. Lack of a guide, November weather and the notorious Solway Bore, often up to ten feet in height, dissuaded Lord Maxwell from bringing his Scots across the shifting quicksand of the Solway to Burgh on the English coast. Instead he chose to advance via the Esk Ford at Arthuret. Wharton and his prickers met them there.

Scots horse retreated to Arthuret Holme to warn the main body of the Scots army. The Border Horse pricked at Maxwell’s rear during their retreat.
The Grames chased Scots raiders from Oakshawhill to Arthuret and from Lyne to beyond Hopesikehill. Wharton advanced and set up his six standards in a flying formation ie with wings outspread to look as imposing as possible, on Hopesykehill.

As the Scots advanced, Wharton’s two hundred archers loosed off a volley of arrows. A trained longbow man can send off 10-12 arrows a minute, so the Scots advancing uphill faced a deluge of approximately 2,000 deadly arrows followed by a charge of the notorious prickers. Disorganised and believing themselves to be facing a much larger force, the Scots retreated.

Wharton overran the Scots foot at Hopesykehill and advanced to Howse to watch the Scots army floundering at the Myln dam. They attempted to regroup and fired light ordinance at the English. Maxwell dismounted at Sandyforde and attempted to rally the main army and protect the river crossing.


Wharton sent in prickers to harry floundering Scots who panicked and ran back to the river. The Scots retreated, ran from the battle, only to be harried by Liddesdale reivers. King James escaped capture by riding hard to Stirling and then on to Falkland where he died a few days later. A few days after that, his wife, Marie de Guise, gave birth to a daughter, Mary, on 8th December 1542.