Monday, 22 December 2014

Here's a small seasonal gift ~ a little taster of my latest book!

Matho and Meg Douglas meet when she rides into Stirling thinking how best to befriend the Dowager Queen, Marie de Guise. He and his friend Harry Wharton are plotting how best to kidnap the Dowager's infant daughter, Mary. 

"Riding into Stirling, Meg eyed Broad Street with a calculating eye, but decided it was not a place she would choose to live. A cheerful crowd, jostling for a view of the gallows, surged about the open space between the Mercat Cross and the grim old Tolbooth. A hanging must be imminent. Her escort closed protectively around her and forced a way through to the top of the hill.

Both her destination and the castle came into view at the same time. Meg caught her breath at the sight of the Great Hall, pale as day-old cream in the October light, shining like a beacon against the darker stone of the older castle buildings.

‘You there! Shift yer hide!’ The sharp order from her Serjeant snagged her attention. He had halted his horse and glared at two men sitting on the perimeter wall surrounding Douglas House. The taller of the two slid off the wall and disappeared in the direction of Broad Street before she had time to glimpse his face. When she looked at the other man, her heart gave a single, painful bound.

Thomas!

She blinked, and found she’d raised a gloved hand to her throat. Her heart thudded light and fast in her chest. Like Thomas, this man’s skin had been coloured by wind and sun, and his hair held the same dark-red fire of beech leaves. Yet Thomas Howard had been dead these six years. When the fellow slid from the wall, she realised the resemblance was no more than a trick of the light.

He glared at her little company as they rode by. Such insolence! His torn sheepskin and rough, darned hose labelled him as farm labourer in town for the day. She raised her nose in the air. He stiffened, and drew his heavy brows together. With a snort of disgust, he turned and walked toward the town.

She stared after him. The tilt of his head and the lithe grace of his walk were so reminiscent of Thomas. Shave this stranger, dress him in velvet, satin and jewels, and the likeness would be remarkable.

Turning in the saddle, she faced Douglas House and rode into the courtyard without registering the recently refurbished dormer windows and freshly carved stone griffons that adorned the roofline."

Check out the reviews on Amazon: 

Available: http://amzn.to/1wQTs7F for the UK link.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmas and GONE GIRL

I read Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL  last week. Initially I thought I wasn't going to like it, for the beginning was very slow. Then slowly, slowly, I got more and more interested and couldn't stop reading. By the end I thought it was a masterful piece of writing, even if the subject matter was a tad off centre. Not many people are so vengeful they will spend a year or more planning a crime and then put themselves through hell in order to bring it about. It could be done, of course, and on the one hand admiration is the overriding factor; on the other, it is pity for such wasted lives. I just hope the story doesn't encourage anyone to try and emulate the plot.

The last line of the book was both inoffensive and full of menace. Hardly the open ending some claim, when one considers the female protagonist's past history. Nick had better watch  his back and both sides....  

Just the sort of thing to read for Christmas!

Just when we thought winter had finally arrived with chilly, crisp days, we're back in the muggy, damp dreary days again. I could hate this weather but I suppose it is kind to the wild creatures that have to live outdoors. The masses of autumn berries have already been eaten. Our holly bush was stripped bare so our plans for a holly wreath at the front door have been scuppered again. I'll have to give in and buy one - or do without berries!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Run-up to Christmas

Miss a day and e-mails choke up the computer! Now I'm running to keep up, and all because I took Saturday out to host a dinner for friends. Well, and Sunday to get over it - I was cream-crackered even though DH did a lot of the cooking!

Here I am today, running to catch up. E-mails checked off - except that for some reason BT Openworld is down, though G mail is functioning without a hitch. Keeping abreast of the Sydney Lindt cafe seige, and trying to plan for the next few days and the run-up to Christmas. I try and stay out of town at this time of year because I dislike being pushed and shoved in crowds, and conspicuous consumption is quite ugly in its raw state. Unfortunately, some things must be purchased, and while buying online is great in many ways, I do like to touch and feel clothes I buy - before I buy! I need something for DH, and so I'll sneak in really early one day this week. Everything seems to be so urgent in the run up to the big day. So many things that Must Be Done and yet, would we really miss them if they weren't done? Will anyone notice if I fail to buy or make sausage rolls? I doubt it!

Walking with Tim is a slipery-slidey task these days. We've had one good day of frost when the ground was hard and silver with frost. Tim went out in his overcoat - the temperature had dipped below freezing overnight. He trotted out looking very pleased with himself. The frost had gone by lunch time, the overcoat went back on the hook and the ground turned to mud again, The fields are green, winter wheat is growing apace in the fields. The lawn looks a mess because it is still growing but too soggy to cut. 2014 has been the strangest year for weather that I can remember.




Thursday, 11 December 2014

Complaints about Kindle Unlimited

Best selling American writer H M Ward has something to say about Kindle Unlimited.

"Ok, some of you already know, but I had my serials in it for 60 days and lost approx 75% of my income. Thats counting borrows and bonuses. My sales dropped like a stone. The number of borrows was higher than sales. They didn't compliment each other, as expected.

Taking a huge ass pay cut while I'm still working my butt off, well that's not ok. And KU effected my whole list, not just KU titles. At the time of enrollment I had about 60 titles total.

I planned on giving it 90 days, but I have a kid in the hospital for long term care and I noticed my spending was going to exceed my income-by a lot. I couldn't wait and watch thing plummet further. I pulled my books. That was on Nov 1, & since then my net revenue has gone up. I'm now at 50% of where I was pre-KU. During the time I was in KU, I had 2 new releases. Neither preformed vastly different than before. They actually earned far less (including borrows).

This model needs to be changed for it to work. Authors shouldn't be paid lottery style. For this system to work we need a flat rate for borrows, borrowed or not borrowed (not this 10% crap), and it needs to be win win for the reader AND the writer. That is the crux of the matter.

Id like to see Amazon create something new, something better instead of falling in step with Scribd and Oyster.

Example: subscribe to an AUTHOR. Easy, clear. When Author X has a new book it automatically gets sent to your kindle, & the card provided is charged.

As a reader, I'd want that. As a writer, I'd want that.

Amazon, stop following other companies and break the mold.

Ok, I'm done ranting. Back to writing."

I'd notice my sales have gone way down since Kindle Unlimited appeared on the scene, but thought there could be many causes for this. It is reassuring to see other top-selling authors complaining about the same thing. And complaining they are!

Here's a link all independent authors using Amazon should read.
http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,202571.0/all.html

There's also a link to this article on the new blog Passive Voice over to the right hand side of this blog.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Winter Casualty

Out walking today with Tim and came across what I hope will be the only casualty of winter. Couldn't see any injuries and no sign of a struggle. Beautiful little fox, and not very old. A touch of frost on his fur, since he was in the shadow of the tall hedge separating the fields. Tim sniffed and sniffed but made no effort to touch it.

Brilliant cold day with low sunshine making long, long shadows across the fields. At last the temperature is comfortable for walking fair distances at a decent pace. Lovely and warm inside my old Goretex jacket, fleece hat and gloves, but with my face freezing!  Quite a change to the last few weeks when the slightest effort has had me sweating because I dressed for November instead of the actual temperature.

Good weather for writing, too. Nice to be snug and warm inside my imaginary world. This time it is Victorian England with an art thief as villain. I'm finding it difficult to work in the crimes themselves and leave clues without giving away the whole thing. I fear I my have the timing of incidents out of sequence - or someone knows something when they shouldn't. Will have to read through very carefully before too long!



I hope the fox wasn't poisoned. It is a worrying thought when so many dogs walk the fields with their owners. Dalmatians are very greedy dogs, and Tim is no exception. He ate something nasty along the riverside at Hexham a couple of days ago, and vomited it back up before we finished the walk, but he doesn't learn....probably an old fish skin or carcase. Fishermen tend to leave them behind and I wish they wouldn't. There's nothing quite as smelly as an old fish head.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Notable Books

I expect every independent author/publisher received a lengthy explanation about how VAT on e-books will work after the turn of the year. I got mine. So it looks as if it is happening. The consoling thought is that Amazon might be paying more tax too.

The New York Times has published a list of notable books of 2014 - http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/books/review/100-notable-books-of-2014.html?_r=0

As my eyes scanned the list, several thoughts occurred to me. Firstly, I have read none of them. Secondly, they all seem to be on gut-wrenching topics. Thirdly, where have all the happy books gone? Why does everyone want to read about other people's misery and anguish?

When I was much younger and worked in a public library, I ordered/requested many books and read them with a greed for knowledge of the human race. I didn't think of it in those terms then, but it seems to me now that that was what I was doing. I don't do it any more. By my late twenties I had moved away from what I thought of as the agonising stuff, and looked for more escapist fiction, something that would excite me and keep me reading late into the night. Dorothy Dunnett fitted the bill admirably. She had more "bite" than Mary Stewart, wrote so much better than Jean Plaidy, and her mind was so devious I was always surprised by her plotlines.

Now it seems to me that the book world is geared to supplying the stuff that I wanted to read as a young person starting out into adulthood - but there also seems to be a hint that this is what we all ought to be reading. Is this, I wonder, because the editors and reviewers are twenty-somethings themselves?

I read some notable books in the last year, but by the time I get to them, they are likely to be a couple of years old. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent was one title I  would have put on my personal list, and Longbourne by Jo Baker was another. When I read Lamentations by C J Sansom, that will no doubt be added, as I thought highly of his preceding books. Some that missed the mark, like Queen's Gambit (Freemantle) and Bring Up the Bodies, (Mantel) I enjoyed at the time but found they didn't stick in the memory. When I think of more titles, I shall build my own personal list of Notable Books.

PS Tim shows up well in any situation - a flash of white among the dark trees!

Monday, 1 December 2014

VAT Clarity and Reviews

This statement from the Bookseller clarifies my last post -  The new European-wide VAT law causing digital products - including e-books and apps - to be taxed in the European member state in which the consumer is located, as opposed to the country from which the product is sold will be introduced in January.
The change will stop multinational online corporations such as Amazon and Google from diverting their European sales through low-VAT countries, but small companies fear that the new rules will also hurt sales of their digital products.

So the petition I've signed is an attempt to prevent small companies - read authors as well as publishers - from suffering from this attempt to stop giant companies avoiding tax. Everyone wants Amazon to pay taxes as it should, but this seems an unhappy way to achieve it. Surely the business brains could think of another way? The thought of having to be VAT registered and send in returns is enough to make me consider pulling out of this writing lark.

On another topic I am very happy with the first two reviews I've received for Abduction of the Scots Queen. (Check them out here ) If anyone has the time, energy and inclination to review it for me, please get in touch! The pic is present day Stirling Castle, where Matho has many of his adventures

Friday, 28 November 2014

VAT ALERT!



Usually I find out about new legislation far too late to do anything about it, but this time, thanks to Facebook, I'm up there with the news! There is a fiendish plan afoot to place VAT on digital products - yes, that will mean e-books!

New EU VAT regulations come into force in Jan 2015.

Micro-businesses selling Ebooks direct to customers will forfeit their VAT exemption threshold by doing digital business in Europe.

"From 1 Jan 2015, the new ruling means that should you make a sale to the EU (how one can prevent that with online services is not clear) from the first £1 of revenue your business earns you will need to be VAT registered in the UK and under the VAT MOSS Europe-wide scheme – meaning that you will immediately have to apply VAT to all your services, including those in the UK.

Furthermore, this this means a quarterly obligation to submit VAT returns, increasing the accounting burden significantly; as well as, the cost and complexity involved with meeting the letter of the law regarding the capture and retention of evidence of its customers’ location will bring (which needs to be retained for 10 years)."

In 3 years I have sold less than a dozen books to readers in Europe.
I don't know how I can stop them buying, and I certainly don't want VAT on my other sales in the UK.

Click on the link and sign to petition against it -
https://www.change.org/p/vince-cable-mp-uphold-the-vat-exemption-threshold-for-businesses-supplying-digital-products

Monday, 24 November 2014

Clear Out and Statistics

 I love the sound of the word Clear Out, and I love actually doing one. But I'm always afraid it'll come back to bite me. This morning I deleted several folders from my Inbox, plus all their contents. Behold me now sitting nervously waiting to see if  I've deleted something I'll later regret! It is unlikely. Some of the folders were last used in 2012, so I should be safe.

Yesterday I was struck by the statistics bug. (Must be something in the air at the moment!) I carefully went through all the reports for Kindle sales from my very first venture with FAIR BORDER BRIDE in October 2011 and put the results into a spreadsheet. Once the figures go into graph form, it was quite a surprise to see that my best seller by far is FAR AFTER GOLD.

An even bigger surprise was that the UK sales outweighed the US sales by quite a margin.I'd always thought that the bigger market of the US would be where I had the most sales, but no, that was not the case. I had no idea what my second "best seller" would be, but good old FAIR BORDER BRIDE proved to be the one. Slow and steady sales in almost every month since publication, and - quite unexpected - selling in the US far better than the UK!

My other titles have sold a lot less, and in almost equal numbers to both the US and UK markets. Occasional sales come from Germany, Canada, France and Australia, but nothing major. I wish I could find a way to reach the Australian market; perhaps I'll make an effort to visit the blogs belonging to Australian authors and try and make some impression. I know they're out there!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Goodreads Gone?


The big move of the year for readers and writers is probably Amazon's takeover of Goodreads. I've not been following the news as as well as I should, obviously, but I have picked up one or two snippets and hints about this so decided to check it out. Alison Flood has an article, dated 13th April, on the subject in the Guardian. Link 
I have to say that I never really got to grips with Goodreads. I'm on it, but in a sketchy sort of way because I could never understand how the website worked. As of this week I confess to being puzzled as to why none of my covers for e-books are showing on the site. I'm sure they were there not so long ago, but perhaps its just paranoia on my part. Goodreads boasts 16 million subscribers, all of whom probably use the site happily enough, which in turn makes me feel an absolute dunce. 

Some say Goodreads could have become a competitor in online bookselling, either selling direct or directing users to a site other than Amazon, which was why Amazon stretched out a giant hand and grasped it. There those who think Amazon has a plan to rule the world. Most people seemed to be against  the move, but not all.

Hugh Howey (of self-published Wool fame) predicted "a lot of hand-wringing over the acquisition". but thought  there were "so many ways this can be good for all involved. I'm still trying to think of a way it could suck."

He thinks Amazon wanted the data behind the Goodreads scenes and will use the algorithms to improve  their tailored buying suggestions . The social networks that feed readers' habits are going to get stronger. The people who helped make Goodreads so good are going to get richer. And the people at Amazon are going to keep trying to get the right books in the hands of readers. Aha - there's the rub, or at least one of them. The people at Amazon are going to decide which are the right books Or am I misreading what Howey says? 





Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Unseasonable weather

A few of my blog friends appear to have given up on blogging in favour of other forms of social media, so I'm clearing out the attic, so to speak. No hard feelings. I've enjoyed their words of wisdom for a year or two, and if they come back on-stream, no doubt I'll find them again.

As I find new and interesting blogs, I'll add them to the list. Talking of changes - if I could discover how to put new photos up in the Jen's Holiday pics feature (on the sidebar) I'd refresh that too, but as of this moment I have no idea how I managed to get them up in the first place.

I know the north American continent  has snow already, but we still have temperatures that are unseasonably warm. I tend to dress for the season rather than the actual weather, and that is proving a huge mistake. I seem unable to adjust to going out in November without a sweater or a fleece. Madness.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Bathroom blues

How long does it take for a book to dry out? Anyone know? I was reading in the bath the other night, fell asleep and woke up with half submerged book across my middle. It has been reclining beneath the bathroom radiator ever since and still feels twice its normal weight. I'm thinking about using a hairdryer to speed things up because I'll soon forget what the first half of the story was all about, and it wasn't an easy read.

In Life after Life characters die and then reappear alive in the next chapter which is strange enough, but there's an additional complication in that scenes leap about the decades and the reader gets views of the heroine at various ages but not in sequential order. I haven't yet figured out why the author has done this, hence the wish to get to the end of the book.

It is a typical November morning today. Damp, misty and dull. Not a lot of light, and probably one of the major reasons why people leave the UK and go and live where it is bright, clear and sunny all year round. Still, I say to myself, what is life without variety? I should hate to miss autumn and spring and leap straight from summer to winter, and vice versa.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Cover Issues

This the third cover I've put up for Viking Magic. For some reason this book is lagging behind the others and isn't attracting attention. There may be 101 reasons why from a poor cover to a whiny heroine, but since I've nothing to lose I thought I'd experiment.
The first cover was dramatic, perhaps, with the prow-beast head but maybe the pink background didn't gell very well with Vikings. First mistake. Secondly I went for a purchased photograph and thought the girl looked like the heroine of the story. It was only some time later that I saw John Locke had a cover using the self same portrait. Maybe that went against me.
So I decided on a third attempt. This one conveys the darkness and use of magic in the story of a girl fearful for her soul as well as her life. She is too desperate to be kind-hearted, but uses everything she can to avoid entrapment by the wicked magician.

Let's see if this cover makes any difference. If nothing else, it is an interesting experiment in use of covers.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Adventures and freezing at Downton

Took Tim for a walk down by the riverside this morning and amused myself taking pictures of cobwebs on the gorse bushes. Boy! Have those spiders been busy! Do they do it all in one night, or is it the work of several days? Walked on, turned back to the car and realised I no longer had my phone.

Horrors! Not only an expensive item, but a gift from dh! I got Tim out of the car again, clipped on his lead and set off at a great pace back to the point of taking pictures of cobwebs. I had a clear memory of the spot and found it easily. Fortunately no one else is stupid enough to go off in the long wet grass among gorse bushes taller than they are, and my phone was lying where I presume it had fallen out of my pocket. What a relief!

So now I am happy to sit, and Tim is happy to sleep after double the normal amount of exercise.

Watched the final Downton last night. No more until Christmas. What amazes me is that inside those huge rooms, gentlemen wear (I'm guessing here - vests?) shirts, waistcoats, and tweed jackets and trousers. Ladies on the other hand, waft about looking pale and lovely in thin silk and chiffon. Their white skin has a beauty we don't often see in these days of suntans and the delicate set of a long neck on pale shoulders has a lot to recommend it.

Then we go outside, and the gentleman heave a mackintosh or overcoat and hat on top of their tweeds. Lady Mary and the other ladies favour thin-looking coats that often don't close up to the throat. I shiver for them. Come evening, the men have jackets, stiff shirt fronts and sometimes waistcoats while the girls once more shiver in silk with bare arms,and throats. They sport long leather or silk gloves which they remove at the dining table. I can only assume they have Danmart underwear to keep them from  hypothermia.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Marketing blues

I wrote a great blog post, pressed the publish button and the darned thing disappeared. I hope this is not a sign of how my day is going to go. So I'll start again. Now my book is out in the big wide world, I'm contemplating how to get people to buy it. Marketing is the tool, say the Createspace experts.

Marketing, they tell me, is the process of communicating with the rest of the world and telling them about your book, making them want to buy it without doing any direct selling. Who is your target audience, they ask. Anyone who reads historical fiction, I say. Not good enough. Who are they? Where do they live? What age group, social class? What are their hobbies? Which newspapers do they read?

I shrug my shoulders. Haven't a clue. Anyone between the ages of 14 and 94 might read historical novels, and the only link between them is probably just that - they like historical fiction! (I had to pick numbers, but I'm sure there are people over 95 and under 14 who read historical fiction!)

There are lots of sites on the internet these days who do nothing but promote books. Some charge, and there are lots of warnings from authors who've paid hard-earned cash and been disappointed with the results. So I think I shall steer clear of such places. I'm not enamoured of the way Twitter is flooded overnight with promotional post which I assume originate in the USA. I whizz by them - as they come batches this is very easy to do. The general opinion seems to be that 1 tweet in 10 may mention your book as long as you are offering other contents on the other 9. That seems reasonable to me, and the same seems to operate on Facebook.

This time I've let everyone know (or I will have done shortly) that my book is available, and this is a first for me. I'm slowly investigating lists of promotional sites, and may yet come up with some goodies. I'll stick with my promotional yahoo groups and see what the results are like.

It's quite a game, this writing lark. I thought the writing was the hard part!