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. 

Monday, 9 January 2017

New tasks

The New Year is a good time to turn over a new leaf. (Isn’t it easy to fall into clich├ęs?) I mean that I want to set up a good regime of work again, because if the Christmas holidays do nothing else, they seem to butt into everyone’s working habits. I’ve done virtually nothing for a fortnight now, but from today – things will be different!

So much to do. I’m learning all the time, and there are so many changes coming along that it is hard to keep up. This month my long time independent publisher Write Words, Inc will close its doors after 17 years and leave two of my titles homeless. 
I’m deciding whether to publish myself or canvas for a publisher for Banners of Alba and Dark Pool. How much do I want to re-edit them? They were my first books published, and I could probably improve them. Dark Pool in particular has never had much success, so perhaps a change of title and a new cover is in order there.


Certainly I shall do nothing with them until I have The Matfen Affair published, but other tasks will probably include trying to get Amazon to remove all traces of the old version, particularly the paperback of Banners – still for sale at the ridiculous price of £33. I’ll need to alter the book page here, too. There’s nothing worse than an out of date book page!

I'm also having another go at mastering Goodreads. In the past I have found it the most difficult website, but I really should have a presence there.