Thursday, 26 May 2016

Edits and family trees

"it was a long walk!"
Coming to the end of edits - the ones I hope will be Final Edits, and am astounded to note that even at this late stage (after several edits) I can still play around with the word and sentence order and make improvements. I am beginning to think that a person to go on and on improving a book for a lifetime, but I really want to get on an write another story.

It is becoming clear to me that my writing is sometimes muddled.I don't get the sentences in the right order so that the flow of words is graceful and the thought processes are clear. Sometimes, I need to change one sentence's position in the paragraph and then it is fine. Sometimes I need to move a paragraph to make the thought process clear. Another notch on the learning curve.

Side by side with this I have been investigating my family tree on my mother's side. My father's side I have, thanks to a diligent gentleman who gifted me a copy of his research and then disappeared from my life. I'm doing it via UK Census Online and find that I don't have to go back very far before my great grandparents were "making their mark" on a marriage certificate. On the other side of the family,  there were teachers - what a pity they didn't get together!

It also seems that people often didn't bother to record births and deaths, which is frustrating. The Society of Genealogists says: "The records of civil registration in England & Wales which commenced on 1 July 1837, relate to the birth, marriage and death of an individual. In Scotland records began in 1855 and in Ireland in 1864 (n.b. Irish non-Catholic marriages were recorded from 1845.)" So pre-1837 it is back to parish records, not always easy to access.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

House decoration

Day 3 just starting. As our wonderful decorator was pulling onto the drive, I was tripping downstairs still buttoning my shirt having failed to give myself enough time to clean my teeth. I have had breakfast and Tim has been out for his walk in the woods, I've showered and washed my hair, but still - it would have been better to have done my teeth.

We've done bits and pieces of the house since we moved in twenty years ago, but this time we decided the whole of the interior woodwork needed doing, and that meant stairs with all  those spindles and door frames, loft hatch frames, and all those other quirky corners, so we decided to get a professional in. Because John is doing the stairs, landing and hall first, we are keeping Tim with us in the living room to prevent him running out and spraying dog hairs all over the place or getting into any other bother. I remember a friend in the past whose Yorkshire terrier stepped in the tray of white paint and then jumped on the sofa and left little white paw prints all over it. (Anyone who has kept a Dalmatian will know what I mean about dog hair. Those small white hairs get everywhere! and I don't want them stuck into the paint for the next 20 years.) Anyway, all this means we are sort of imprisoned in our living room. I was desperate to get to the loo by three o'
clock yesterday, but couldn't access any of the three loos in the house without getting in the way of wet paint!

Still, it was high time the job was done. Now that John has painted the doors on the landing, I can clearly see from the "cream" paint  where he has yet to do. It will look splendid when it is all finished.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Thinking ahead

Sitting here late on Sunday night I'm wondering what I will need tomorrow. I will not be able to get into my study because we are having the interior of the house painted and our decorator is going to begin with the hall and stairs. Obviously that means ladders and platforms in order for him to reach the high bits and the ceiling. The other complication is Tim, who could cause chaos if he got into the scene and I do not want terracotta paw prints all over the beige carpets.

The plan is to open the living room doors onto the patio and keep the living room door to the hall and stairs tight shut. We can access the kitchen (and food!) via the patio. We had worked that out, but then once I had gone to bed I remembered I'd want to use my computer even though I might be watching some tennis, (Roland Garros 2016 has begun today). So that meant creeping out of bed and firing up the desk top so that I could e-mail my wip to myself and then tomorrow I can access it via the laptop, which is already downstairs in the living room. The thing is once I start looking around my study
at the things I use every day, I could end up with everything downstairs!

We walked along the river to the pub at Warden the other day and had a bowl of soup in the garden with Tim sitting beside us, behaving well. There's a lot of history in Warden - if you are interested, click here

Friday, 20 May 2016

Amazon and payments

More changes from Amazon for self-published authors. I have always opted to receive a cheque when more than $100 or £100 has accumulated but recently Amazon informed me that they were no longer sending out cheques and would I please fill in my details to receive payments directly into my bank. I'm not happy with the decision, but there doesn't seem to be any get out clause. Authors in America who receive US dollar payments won't worry, but every cheque I cashed at my bank had a conversion charge on it. Admittedly it was not a huge sum, but now I wonder if every paltry amount sent to me is going to incur a conversion charge.

Here's what Amazon say:
"As part of our ongoing efforts to improve the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program, we're changing the default payment method in your country to Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) in September of this year. Checks will no longer be offered as a payment method.

EFT payments are paperless, secure, and fast. This environmentally friendly method deposits royalties directly into your bank account, with no minimum payment threshold. This means you will be paid electronically in full 60 days after the end of every month for sales within that month. Instead of waiting up to three weeks for your check to arrive, EFT payments should appear in your bank account within five days after the end of the month."

This could turn out horrendously for me - last month Amazon told me I had earned 54 rupees in India. That intrigued me, fascinated me that someone in India was actually reading my books. But wait - I had no idea what an Indian rupee was worth, though I have always known it's a very small amount. I checked this morning. A rupee is worth 0.01016 of a pound sterling. I think I earned 50 of them, so that means £0.50. The bank will charge more than that to convert the rupees into sterling. 

Unless  EFT payments don't require conversion, I think I am going to be annoyed.  

Monday, 16 May 2016


Do you want to win an e-book or paperback? Here’s your chance.

  • I’ll post the list below. Blurbs are available on my blog
  • (

  • Enter a comment on my blog saying what you’d like to win 

  • E-books will be MOBI.

  • If you choose print, I’ll only ask you for your postal address if you win.

  • Make sure to put your email address in the comment box so I can contact you.
This is my first Giveaway but I think I’ve covered everything. There’s only one print copy of Abduction of the Scots Queen and the rest are e-books. I’ll post every day for a week.

Titles up for selection:

Abduction of the Scots Queen
Fair Border Bride

Far After Gold

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Getting people to buy

85% of the U.S. population uses social media which means  if any self-published author wants to sell their books, they should start  using social media. Sometimes I wish I'd taken marketing at university instead of plain old English Lang & Lit but then marketing was barely heard term at the time. Already I can hear my d-i-l telling me "Marketing is not selling, Jen."
She has tried many times to explain the difference to me, since her field is - you guessed it - marketing. 

A normal dictionary definition of marketing is: 

"the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising."
However, the business online dictionary goes further:

"The managementprocess through which goods and services move from concept to the customer. It includes the coordination of four elements called the 4 P's of marketing:
(1) identification, selection and development of a product,
(2) determination of its price,
(3) selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer's place, and
(4) development and implementation of a promotional strategy.
For example, new Apple products are developed to include improved applications and systems, are set at different prices depending on how much capability the customer desires, and are sold in places where other Apple products are sold." 

Read more:
So now you see why I wish I'd done this at uni. How on earth do I go about discovering peoples' habits, hobbies, interests? Help!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Ann Cleeves

Coming late to the genre known as crime novels, I am definitely hooked by Ann Cleeves and her Shetland series. I've just finished THIN AIR and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to race to the end to find out who did it, but I didn't want to finish the book - I wanted to go on enjoying it.

She has been writing for years and I've never noticed her. What a shame. But on the other hand, what a lot of enjoyable reading I have in front of me now I have discovered her! Amazon is already telling me she has a new novel out  - COLD EARTH. I won't be able to resist temptation for too long, and why should I?

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Learning new tricks

Changes for a new, summery feel, done on a day where the temperature in our garden has reached 26 degrees. (I'll see how I feel about it on a cold, rainy day.) Even Tim the dog has laid around, curled up or sprawled out behind me, his back touching mine as I pulled some weeds, which is why I've posted a nice cool picture of the stream that was roaring down the valley in flood not so long ago.

I'm making a determined effort on using social media after attending out training day at Shepherd's Dene on Friday, focussing on on Facebook and Twitter. I've never been very sure of what I was doing with Twitter, but I have a better understanding  of it now. I'm busy searching out hashtags - it took me a long time to realise they existed so that like minded posts could be grouped together - and collecting @addresses. Heaven knows if it will make any difference, but I'll feel as if I've done my bit and made it worth Caroline's time teaching us all.

I'm also editing for the umpteenth time, and still making changes. It is amazing how much I can still sharpen the dialogue and tighten up the plot when I thought I'd "finished it" ages ago. I thought I was editing for typos and silly mistakes only. Of course, I still find quotation marks missing at one end of a sentence, and sometimes there's a full stop instead of a comma. Occasionally predictive text has gone and done something silly, so I've learned to look for that now. But the Dowager Queen is slowly emerging from this edit as a much more active character determined to save the Scots throne for her daughter Mary.

If anyone has comments on the new look of my blog I'd like to hear them. I think some people found the black background difficult. I hung onto it for so long because I always thought it showed off the photographs as nothing else could. I still think that, but recognise it is time for a change.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Publishing glitches

Busy right now. I suppose you could call it a Spring Clean, or simply getting rid of redundant paperwork. Like many authors, I have lots of it! I've also changed the cover on Magician's Bride yet again - does this book have a chequered history? This time it is to indicate that I have made changes to the formatting and re-published the book. Apologies to those readers who found my formatting so odd!

I don't know why now, but I must have thought that leaving two spaces  to indicate a scene break or a passing of time was enough. Evidently not. It looks all right on my ipad, but then I know what I did! So I've done the proper space-***-space formatting all the way through. There should be no formatting problems now.

I received a review for Magician's Bride from the Historical Novel Society and though it did not earn an Editor's Choice Award like The Craigsmuir Affair, it was still pleasing - "Ms Black does a good job of depicting life among the Norsemen who colonised Ireland and the western Isles of Scotland. Casual details are inserted with a light hand, bringing to life everything from the interior of longhouses to food and clothing...a fun and interesting read."

Monday, 2 May 2016

Indie Award time

 Checked my e-mails for the last time today and was richly rewarded by two reviews from the Historical Novel Society Review section. I sent off both titles earlier in the year - The Craigsmuir Affair and The Magician's Bride. One of them has done rather well and earned itself an Editor's Choice award which means it joins the long list for the 2017 Indie Award.

I can't begin to say how pleased I am. It's been a long struggle to get some recognition for Daisy and Adam and I have put a lot of work into it since I first sent the story off to an agent in 2009. The first response by phone was that it wasn't "quite there" and alterations only collected the words "didn't make my heart sing" on the bottom of the returned submission. I left it alone for a good couple of years, but always with the intention of going back to it. I'll be pasting the actual review on Facebook and Twitter over the next few days.

The Magician's Bride was favourably reviewed but did not make the Editor's Choice. Still, the review for that will be posted too - it is nothing to hide away! The reviewer was not keen on the cover and I have to say I never actually fell in love with it myself , but because I paid money for it and it is at a level of graphic artistry that I may not be able to match, I sent it out there to fend for itself. I'll have to see if I can't make something more suitable.

Friday, 29 April 2016


Any author publishing via Amazon's Kindle needs to be aware of what is going on in Kindle world. By pure chance I picked up this info by finding a link to a blog I have not read before, but will from now on.

The link is here. It is a very long article, with important links at the end of it. Basically it is all about how people are cheating the Kindle Unlimited system and earning lots of money with nasty tricks. Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss, but not in this case - it's as well to know what is going on even if you decide to do nothing about it.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Low Newton

Monday saw us out on the road to Low Newton along twisty country roads lined with clumps of daffodils and that was after I'd taken Tim for a walk along the lane that runs away from Bilton Farm toward Bilton Mill. We were the first car in the Low Newton car park by a short head, but not the first dog walkers on the beach. It was my first visit.

An offshore reef creates a natural harbour, and shelters a sandy beach backed by dunes. The hamlet - it is hardly big enough to be called a village - is a quaint square with one side open to the sea, with a collection of old fishing boats and old trailers in a field to one side.

Small fishermen's cottages on three sides, with the Jolly Fisherman pub facing the sea. Such a pity  that the clouds rolled across the sun at that moment and made the place look dour and uninviting, because it is just the opposite!

 One of the loveliest beaches in the country is Embleton beach with its pale sand, high dunes and a view of Dunstanburgh castle across the bay. The squeaky sand reminded me of Whitehaven Beach in the Hamilton Islands off Australia. There's a collection of thirties summer houses splattered along the top of the dunes, their windows staring out to sea and some of them glaring across the bay at the Castle. There's little of it left now - in fact, the view we had today it made me think of a crown roast, which is very unromantic. The only other time I've visited I approached from Craster in the south, and walked to it along the cliffs. The wind that day was so strong I could lean against it and not fall off the wall. It was built in the fourteenth century by Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, who was executed in 1322. The castle then became the stronghold of John of Gaunt.

Low Newton is a dead end  - ie the road stops at the beach.    There is a large, clear police notice at the top of the hill stating that there is no public parking beyond that point. When we had a quick lunch at the pub after our walk, along with  a great many other dog walkers, we noticed several cars creeping down and then having to turn around - with difficulty - and go back the way they came. A delivery van had great trouble getting in and out to make his delivery.  When we left and walked up the hill to the car park, big posh cars were still swooping  down the hill, having ignored the notice.  Do they think the notice was telling them lies? Wasn't meant for them? Anyway, they all had to turn round as best they could and creep back up the hill again.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Northumberland coast

We spent the next couple of days walking for hours on glorious beaches, stopping when we felt like it, poking into rock pools, having lunch at a pub right n the beach and discovering Monk House - once owned by the monks of Lindisfarne and the point from which they rowed themselves out to the Farne Islands, In the 1950s it became a bird observatory and still is as far as I know. For anyone who wants more detail on this Heritage coastline, there's a lengthy document here

By Wednesday we were all tired, including Tim.
He slept all the way home in the car and he isn't a good traveller usually because he feels too far separated from us in the big Honda. In my mini he can snuggle up right behind my shoulder, leaning against the dog bars, but in the Honda there is the big gap of the rear seats between us and him. He objects most strongly.
He slept for the rest of the day and the evening. The next day he was content with one walk on the field up at South Park and then slept all through without a hint of wanting more exercise. I think he's about back to normal now though!

The only piece of technology I took with me was my ipad, and that only because I wanted to check on Rafa's progress at Barcelona. (He seems to be back to his normal self, thank goodness.) I have to say I didn't miss the laptop or the e-mails, and it was good to have a break from writing and editing. Good to get away from normal things, in short.

We were very lucky with the weather, as the pictures show. There was some wind, but by Wednesday even that had gone. We slept well, ate well, and enjoyed some wine. But most of all we enjoyed our wonderful coastline.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Alnmouth and The Huffy House

Saturdau night we went to bed at the ridiculously early hour of 8.30pm so on Sunday morning we got up early and were on the beach before ten. The minor road heading to the sand was so rocky that we thought we'd got the wrong road, but we saw other cars, and continued at a speed of something like ten miles an hour. Once we got to the beach  that runs south from Alnmouth to Warkworth, we decided it was worth it as the beach looked magnificent. We walked as far as Birling Carrs where the rocks run out to meet the waves of an in-coming tide. I wore my trainers and dh wore his wellies, which meant he could wade through the shallows while I stuck to the dry sand. In turn, that meant that Tim ran from one to the other and no doubt trebled his mileage!

Then it was off to the supermarket in Alnwick to stock up on necessaries for the next few days. After that it was back to the Huffy House for lunch and a well earned rest before venturing out again to the beach north of Alnmouth. More sand and more waves but somehow subtly different from this morning. Tim is tired tonight, and sleeping quietly. My knees ache with all this walking, but as soon as I move around, they loosen up. I took photographs, but because I couldn't upload them from my camera to my iPad, I was stuck. If I'd taken them on my phone I could have done so, but the picture quality would not have been so good. Dilemma. (But now sorted as I am back home and using all the correct equipment!)

The Huffy House was once Rosie's pig sty and the old netty. It began its transformation in 2006 and finally opened for guests in 2013  - utterly transformed, I might add..  It is not far from Alnmouth, the oldest port in Northumberland founded in 1150 by William de Vesci, Lord of Alnwick. A charter from King Johnis dated 1207.  The town was almost destroyed by Scots in 1336 and by the Black Death twelve years later, so severe a disease that a third of the population died.

On Christmas Eve 1806 a storm hit the county, The river Aln flooded to such an extent that it created a new, shorter route to the sea which meant Church Hill was cut off from the town. The change was a death blow to the port as the new route was difficult for shipping, being much shallower than the old route. Railways dealt the final blow as goods travelled via rail instead of ship, The railways also brought tourists in growing numbers and Alnmouth became a Victorian favourite destination. There is a story that Charles Dickens  visited regularly, presumably to visit his cousin since he proposed to her. Unfortunately she was actually pregnant by a seafarer. Rejected, Dickens left Alnmouth. That same night the ship carrying the seafarer went down with all hands.  How true that story is, I don't know.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Saturday we arrived at The Huffy House in Bilton near Alnmouth. Went for a walk on the beach in the sunshine but couldn't remember where I had left my camera, so no pics. We walked north toward Marden Rocks and sat in the sun for a while, utilising one of those concrete blocks that still decorate British beaches and were intended to stop German tanks rolling ashore - or so I was told.

Tim loved the beach but couldn't settle in the house. It's dog-friendly, too. No cream carpets and sofas, but stone flagged floors - wood in the kitchen - and only one sofa to guard He is used to his own chair at home, so keeps trying to sneak onto the sofa when he thinks we're not looking. The big windows are clear down to floor level and he can see out over the terrific view we have which I think looks west but dh tells me is north. Hardly a house in view and then only in the distance but we can see the viaduct and watch the trains come swooping round the curve and slow down for Alnmouth station. 

We are here for four nights and arrived with cooked chicken to tide us over the first night. That and a bottle of SB white wine kept us happy indoors. We did take Tim for a stroll about eightish, but it was horrendously windy and the lane was waterlogged - a string of large puddles, most of them joined together. He pulled and tugged on the lead, but we didn't let him off to run free. We didn't know about traffic, and he would have romped through most of the puddles - not good in anyone's house! As it happened, we did not meet a single vehicle.

Off to bed early in the big king size bed and went off to sleep easily. Tim woke me up four times, once about eleven  and asked to go outside. I had to hold onto the door as the wind howled around the cottage and he trotted over to a tree, peed on it and the let off a fanfare of barks. H'm, that will make us really popular, I thought, and called him back. Besides which, my nether regions were freezing in the breeze!