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!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Release Day The Gybford Affair

Yesterday was release day for THE GYBFORD AFFAIR - my latest historical romance set in Regency times. It was released in 2012 with MuseItUp Publishing as Reluctance, As far as I am aware it sold about 25 copies and I received several comments that though the cover was striking, it had little or nothing to do with the Regency period!

It was priced fairly high, too, so recently I asked for my rights back, re-edited the entire book, removing over 10,000 words and generally improving the story and the writing. Yesterday I sent it out into Kindle world at half the original price, and will see what happens next..
Frances is an heiress and perfectly happy with her quiet life in Gybchester until the day a stranger rides hell for leather across her land and later proves to be someone she knew twenty years ago . A day or two later a second handsome stranger marches into the locality and defamatory letters challenge her reputation in the national press. Frances doesn't know who to times amusing and sometimes full of emotion and drama, this will entertain all those who enjoy regency romances.

I finished editing THE QUEEN'S COURIER a little while ago and sent out submissions to various agents. So far three have returned answers that they don't think they can sell it. This leaves me wondering if the time period has become passe? What are publishers buying these days? If this depressing news continues I shall self-publish via Kindle and then consider Createspace for a paperback version. So now I am working on a possible cover in case I need it.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Editing blues and Silverwood

Still editing hard. It's a drag as it takes so long, but  - just to be contrary - I quite enjoy it.
It is satisfying to improve something, because once it is published and someone - me, anyone - discovers a mistake or a typo, then it is mortifying, and not easy to rectify. Much easier to catch all the errors at the editing stage. 

I especially want it finished before the end of the week as we are zooming off for a few days away catching the sea breezes, and I don't plan to lug a laptop with me. So, I'll have to keep plugging away until I get it done.

Just when I was planning to upload  my book to Kindle in the very near future, the download version of Build Your Book for Kindle refuses to download. I've had it on my pc since 2012 and used it several times, but now, for some strange reason, it has gone  baulky and sticks at 95%. Infuriating. I'll just keep trying it and see if it untangles itself soon. 

Out of curiosity I opened the post that came unsolicited from Silverwood Book Publishing. They offer to publish my book for me, for a small cost. There are three options, Bronze, Silver and Gold. I clicked on Bronze and was surprised to find that the package would cost me £999. Good grief. I opened the Silver option and my eyes opened wide - the cost is £1,999. Good grief again! How many aspiring authors can afford those sort of prices? There must be some, otherwise Silverwood Books wouldn't be in business, but really - how many copies would you have to sell to  pay for the package? Would you ever get into profit? I doubt it. 
PS I didn't bother opening the gold option. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

Indie author figures

No more than  40 self-published authors “make money” via Kindle, according to a report in the New York Times on 7th February this year. Selling more than one million e-book copies in the last five years qualifies you to make this claim. I’m surprised 40 authors have managed that. Here are some quick notes about the topic.

Last year, a third of the 100 best-selling Kindle books were self-published titles. That figure is averaged out for each week. The digital market is huge - there are 4 million titles today in the Kindle Store, compared with 600,000 six years ago. Standing out in such a crowd is crucial and very difficult to do.

Some ground-breaking solutions come from the successful self-published authors such as Meredith Wild, Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, H.M.Ward, C.J.Lyons. They have struck deals with Ingram Content Group, a major book printer and distributor, thus getting their novels in bookstores, big-box stores and airports.

It seems there are two publishing worlds out there running in parallel. One is the traditional trail and the other is driven by Amazon with books priced at a much lower level.

The majority of authors earn a figure that is well below the poverty line. The statistics are grim:
Overall, the median writing-related income among respondents dropped from $10,500 in 2009 to $8,000 in 2014, a decline of 24%. That’s way below the poverty line! Most authors depend on another job to survive.

So if you’re not selling your books, take heart, you’re not the only one. If you’re considering becoming a writer, think twice, because it won’t make you rich.

Meredith Wild’s story is fully reported in the New York Times, here, and well worth a read.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Historical Romance or Historical Novel?

Contemplating sending my wip QUEEN'S COURIER off to agents, I have been thinking about how to introduce it. There is a range of books set in a historical period that are easily recognised and acknowledged by all, but it is the section in the middle where things blend.

On the far left we have category romance, where the romance is the only thing the author and the reader, presumably, is interested in. Category romance specifically does not want sub-plots and sub-characters running off and doing interesting things, taking interest away from the hero and heroine. The author must focus on the couple in question. These days, interest does not stop at the bedroom door. More and more blow-by-blow encounters are detailed inside the bedroom - or the equivalent.

The other extreme is of course the literary end. These books are often three and four times longer and detail all sorts of other things beside the central romance - if there is one. C J Sansom manages to write almost 450 pages without a central romance featuring at all and I love his books. Cornwell's Sharpe has a few stabs at romance but there is so much more about daring-do, war and skullduggery. Writers like Forester, Clements, Winston Graham, Mitchell and Gabaldon set their characters in a particular time period and then weave them into the history.  Writers like Parris and Clements centre on a murder mystery.

This where the lines blur. Readers will put authors  in differing places on the line. Some will say Gabaldon is literary because she has great swathes about the American War of Independence in her Outlander series. So did Mitchell in Gone with the Wind, but in both those books, the central theme is the love affair between Claire and Jamie, and Scarlett and Rhett. We could be very analytical about it and put every title on a sliding scale of romance v literary-ness, but who has the time? Certainly not me! It is a task for each reader according to their personal taste, should they chose to do it.

The other thing that affects the argument is the male-female reading bias. In general terms, though not everyone fits into these divisions, men like action, and women like romance. Men like tighter writing, women want feelings explained. Men's reviews still  seem to have more kudos than those written by women. Men, of course, review the Sansom, Forester, Cornwell "serious" type of historical novel. Perhaps they write better reviews? I don't think I've seen this type of historical novel reviewed by a woman, but they must be, surely? If not, they ought to be.

Perhaps Byron had the answer when he said "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart; it is a woman's whole existence." Follow that through and you have an answer to the basic question, though you may not like it.

As it happens I've got the rights back for a book I placed with MuseItUp Publising and have begun editing it prior to publishing on Kindle. I always thought it was priced a little too high with Muse,and that it would sell better if I "Kindled" it. I began last night, and right away I can see the difference in style - Reluctance, soon to be known as THE GYBFORD AFFAIR, is definitely historical romance. THE QUEEN'S COURIER is more about the times and how they affect people's lives. So, I have my answer.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Final check.

Easter has come and gone and the cul de sac is quiet. So many people have gone on holiday it is amazing. We stagger on, weeding the garden if it is sunny, hiding indoors if it is not.
DH contemplates mowing the front lawn but no decision has been made as yet. Grocery shopping has been accomplished, so the fridge/freezer are stocked again. We shall not starve!
True to form, one of my teeth began to ache as soon as it was certain the dentist would have locked up and gone home for a well-earned rest. I begin to think this toothache is psychosomatic as it always acts up when I can't reach any help - Christmas, hols in France, now Easter.

Editing is just about done. I'm thinking about THE QUEEN'S COURIER as a title, but am still trying to dream up a better one. This is the second story about Matho and his adventures as newly established courier. I suppose technically it is the third story about him, because he first figured in FAIR BORDER BRIDE alongside Harry and Alina, though in a minor role. It has rolled in at almost 94,000 words though at one stage before editing it was about 104,000. I think that means I'm getting better at editing! A few little tweaks, then print out and read through as a final check.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Easter already

Amazing that it is Easter this weekend. I've heard very little about it  - also surprised to see the clocks change this weekend as well.

So that means schools and colleges are finished for a while, and universities have sent everyone home. The knock on effect of this is that the Metrocentre  and town will be chockablock with people mooching around with (quite often!) glum faces as they do a little retail therapy.

Those of us who are retired probably shy away from these busy places - oh and that includes National Trust, English heritage sites and the like - and postpone our visits until things are calmer and everything is back to normal. I know dh takes one look at the calendar and shakes his head when I suggest we go out anywhere during these times. Let's wait, he says. Car parks will be full, the roads congested and there'll be kids running about screaming everywhere. It isn't that we don't like kids, we do; but en masse and often high on sugary drinks, they can be trying if not terrifying!

So probably this is one fortnight when we won't be out and about and doing things!

Monday, 21 March 2016

First day of Spring

Blogger is still being funny about recording stats backwards. I hope it cures itself soon, because it makes me wonder what else is going wrong in Bloggerland.

It came home to me over the weekend that writing is a very solitary world and in real life often no one else is interested in it. Which is why, I suppose, there are so many writing groups on the internet. We need to share with someone and finding people who are interested in the same thing is often only possible electronically. Which is quite sad, in a way, and a blessing in others.

It was the first day of spring yesterday. The daffodils and snowdrops are flowering and finally, finally, the land is drying up and wellies are not the only option on walks. Strangely enough, though we've had so much wet weather over the last three months, the streams and the river are running quite low.
It is easy to see where huge chunks of the river bank have been washed away and there is as much sand deposited on the grass down by the riverside as there is at Redcar beach. As one lady dog-walker said, kicking at the sand beneath her feet, "I'll bring my deckchair next week." Tiny grass blades are pushing their way through but in some places the sand has buried it altogether. The dogs love it because it gives them a lovely smooth, clean surface to run on.  It's only when you look to the shrubs and bushes that you see the lumps of vegetation, branches and tree trunks matted together in huge piles.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Glitches all round

The last week has been a struggle. Not only did I have a cold but my other half was diagnosed with something quite painful that causes inflammation of the muscles. Thankfully the weather wasn't too bad, in fact it was warm and sunny, which made walking Tim easier than it might have been. He hasn't had the long runs he is used to, but at least he got to stretch himself on open ground and use up some of that boundless energy.

Some problems with IT, too. Blogger's stats counter seems to have gone haywire. I check every morning to see if anyone is reading, and for the last three mornings the counter has a recorded a number that is a hundred or so LESS than the previous day. Looks like someone has set the thing to count backwards!

I've been trying to use curly quotes rather than the straight marks intended for use as dialogue quotation marks in my software, (Microsoft Word 2010) but don't seem able to manage it. I suppose the software is considered old by now, so perhaps I'll think about an upgrade. It would seem such a simple thing to change to curly quotes, but nothing I've tried seems to do it. Maybe it's me. If I try next week, when my cold has gone, maybe I'll suddenly see the light!

Monday, 14 March 2016

The Woodville Curse

Croaky voice this morning. This cold has been brewing for a day or two and now its here. The sad thing is I cannot lie in bed like I used to! I'm more comfortable up and about. The paracetomol has lifted the worst of the symptoms so I'm doing some work before the effects wear off.

I'm reading The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory and finding it a depressing tale. One thing I had not realised before opening this book was how many Plantagenets were still around in Tudor times. A vast family, and most of them healthy, unlike the Tudors, who were the absolute opposite. Poor genes, or was it the curse? Gregory has taken up the rumour that Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth spun a curse on learning of the death of the young Plantagenet princes in the tower - whoever killed them would fail to rear sons and grandsons of their own. I first read this in the White Queen, and thought what a stroke of genius it was.

When daughter Elizabeth married Henry Tudor she became a victim of that curse, for her eldest son Arthur died very young. Her second son lived, but most of his children died in the womb or shortly afterwards. One son survived into his teens before he died. Two girls lived into adulthood - Mary and Elizabeth. His one illegitimate but acknowledged son died young. It was not a prolific record for a king with so many rumoured extramarital affairs.

Believe in curses or not, there is a strange rightness to the fact that it exonerates Richard III because I think I am right in saying that though his son died, he died before the Princes in the tower, and before the curse was made.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

False Figures

I picked up my new glasses yesterday and wore them this morning from first waking up. Every blade of glass was crystal clear during Tim's walk, and I saw two white tails bouncing up and down as deer escaped through the bracken and trees. Only saw their tails, but I was pleased, because deer bones have been found in the last couple of weeks. A hind leg has made the rounds of the field as different dogs found it and trophy-carried it around for a while. Another dog-walker tells me he's seen a couple of heads in a different part of the wood. Coupled with the tyre tracks across the grass I've seen  recently, it looks very much as if poachers have been at work. I was relieved to know that there are still some of the wary creatures around.

Came back and checked my blog stats and was truly amazed to find that today's total was less than yesterday's total. Very odd. I can only assume I misread Friday's total, so perhaps it's just as well I've got new glasses!

On the other hand, it may be Blogger that is at fault. Out with Tim yesterday, I spotted the rabbit (see pic)  and Tim, who was a good deal closer to it, did not. He loped off in the opposite direction without ever sensing it while I took a couple of pictures. Just shows the value of sitting still, saying nothing and minding your own business!