Friday, 23 June 2017

Shopping en France

According to the thermometer in Lalinde, it was 39 degrees today (22nd June) at 11am. Still no rain, no wind, no clouds. It was joy to drive to Bergerac and then on to Lalinde because we could enjoy the air conditioning in the car! So cool, so wonderful. 

I wanted to buy fly repellent, skin lotion and anti-moustiques cream, plus a bottle of wine to replace the one we drank the first night we were here. The wine was the easiest thing to find in the Bergerac wine section because the bottle was on display, but I failed absolutely to find a Marie Rose mosquito repellent, though I did find what I think were lotions against head lice. Not quite what I wanted.

Then the fly spray; there was one here last year, so I know they exist but in the whole of Monsieur LeClerc’s fine supermarket I could not find a similar household spray. I came out with something called Stop Insects that promised to kill mosquitos, flying ants, cockroaches and the like. Then I went to look for the apres sun lotion. Again zilch. Sun tanning lotion everywhere, but no apres soleil in sight. I gave up and bought a tube of good old Nivea to stop my skin wrinkling up in all this heat.

At home with the dictionary I discovered the Stop Insect was not quite what I thought. It kills the creepy crawlers, but by spraying the curtains, window uprights, doors, tables, pool surrounds etc etc. Not sure what to do with it now.
On the wildlife front I found the desiccated corpse of a five inch lizard languishing in the bottom of an empty blue glazed planter. I wonder if I could fill these somehow, so that they are not death traps? Poor thing must have starved to death. At least I could turn them upside down.


Another problem is that the men who come and remove the dustbin bags have not appeared so far. We remember they came on Wednesday around 10.30, but something must have happened to the schedule, or else they’re not doing it in this heat. It really is extraordinary.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Night activity

the bolly
Another day with 36 degrees forecast. We are longing for rain! Or at least cooler days, some cloud, some wind. We’re not eating much in the way of dinners, but Magnums from the freezer are most welcome mid-afternoon. That’s when I swim. 

Yesterday the tiles around the pool were too hot to walk on, so it was a mad dash out of the shade of the bolly to the edge of the pool! If this weather continues, and it is forecast at over 30 until next Monday, I shall be an accomplished swimmer before we go home.

The late evenings are very pleasant. We switch between the bolly and the balcony in the hope of catching a breeze. The farmer turned up at 10pm last night, headlights on his tractor and we thought he must be about to move his hay bales. He did the turning and baling after eight o'clock at night earlier this week and finished with two tractors whirling around in the dark with headlights glaring. Rather like watching huge fireflies flitting about. If he did, he took only one (we couldn’t actually see what he was doing because of the rather large and healthy pine tree) before he roared off back up the hill to the north. Next morning the bales were still in the field.

Two mornings ago I saw a young fox racing away from us as Tim and I returned to the house, and yesterday evening it was a small deer that legged it at the first sight of us as we left the house. Tim saw neither – some dog he! I’m pleased, actually, because if he had seen it, he’d have chased it. He nearly broke his lead this morning to attack something (unseen) in the hedge at the end of the drive. Naturally, I saw nothing, and he never caught anything. Maybe it was the scent of the deer. Or the fox.

I’ve finished reading a Jack Reacher I brought with me – Without Fail. Interesting story but a tad long-winded on the explanations, but isn't that typical Lee Child? It struck me yesterday that he's becoming more like Sherlock Holmes in the way he makes his deductions about what villains will do or why they do it. Intriguing to read, but must be annoying to have someone like that in real life! I found one of his titles  I hadn't read - Night School - on the shelves here, so I'm reading that now.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Hotter still!

33 degrees forecast yesterday, and 38 actually recorded. Today 35 is forecast, so we’ll see how high it goes. We get up early, around half six and I walk Tim well before seven. Then we do everything to keep the house as cool as we can. After that it is read, relax, swim and sunbathe – and go indoors when the heat is too much!

The second edit on Alba is Mine is going well. DH did a second day working on the overgrown hedge and has given himself a day off today. Actually he is on his way to the supermarket to do a grocery shop as we’ve eaten everything in the house. Tim is squealing as the car goes down the drive – worried that his dad is going and might not come back Or – why am I not going with you, dad?


I’ve been reading After You by Jojo Moyes and enjoyed it. It’s the same kind of writing style as Barbara Erskine – easy, effortless, uncontrived yet the reader keeps wanting to turn pages. 

The pic? That's my shadow taken yesterday!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

It's Hot!

Had my first swim yesterday. We’ve arrived after a thunderstorm, so according to the forecast, the next few days are going to get hotter and hotter. The curtains are closed to keep out the sun, and we sleep with the windows open and the shutters closed. That keeps us at a comfortable temperature as the heat of the day disappears. It seems amazing but at half six in the morning, when we wake, it is shivery cold. Soon warms up though.

Already, at nine fifteen in the morning, I have come indoors into the cool because it is too hot to pull the weeds out of the steps down to the lower patio. By weeds, I mean three foot lengths of Virginia creeper and ivy, and those horrid weeds that look like maroon spiders and grow to enormous size with tiny pink flowers. Not to mention the ants that scuttle away every time I uproot something. Somehow I don’t feel guilty about them, but I was sad to see two pathetically small lizards dead in a garden jug that had half filled with water. When I emptied it, a live fully grown lizard swept out with the water. Green and gold, he sparkled and glittered in the sunshine before he raced away into the undergrowth. Perhaps I saved his life. Anyway the earthen ware jug now sits upside down so nothing else can fall in and find itself unable to get out.


I am about to begin a second edit on Alba is Mine, after re-writing the first scene yet again. DH is out hacking merry hell out of the overgrown hedge that runs beside the drive. He did this yesterday, cleared a strip about twenty yards long and fell asleep after dinner and slept all through the night too! Must be the fresh air.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

En France

After a long journey by car I am now resident en France for the next few weeks. Good to be back.  The sun is not at full strength to day but even so I gave up sitting in it after an hour. My pale white English skin will turn lobster pink if I don’t expose myself bit by bit. (If that sounds vaguely rude, I apologise.) But given time and patience I shall turn brown; I have the sort of skin chemicals or proteins or whatever it is that turns sin brown. A lady from Israel, sitting beside me by the lake during my time as a summer camp councillor in Maine, once remarked that I had a “nice colour in my skin.” Not everyone has, she explained.

This time when we arrived the first thing that struck me about this green lush valley in the Dordogne is the complete absence of sound. Granted the birds sing with extraordinary energy and the wind rustles through the millions of green, shiny leaves, but the sound of humans is absent. Gone. Disappeared. The distant chug of a tractor mowing an adjacent field later this morning was something worthy of my getting up and taking a look.


I think it may have inspired DH, because he is now outside, wearing my sunhat, driving the mini tractor round and round the meadows to bring the knee-high grass to a manageable level. A shame in a way, because among the grasses are the yellow iris, and all the other wildflowers that bloom unseen and keep the bees and presumably themselves happy. Near the lake, the young frogs will leap out of harm’s way ahead of him. 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Predictie text and Amazon changes.

Amazon have changed their stats system yet again. I don't know if their method of "counting" has changed, but certainy their way of reporting to authors has, and in a way I find most unhelpful. Bar charts are all very well in their place, but I much prefer the old method of numbers of books sold against each title, and number of KENP pages read against each title.

Now it seems I have to check through each titles infividually to find out what is happening to it. I looknat the bar chart and see for example that two books have sold, but I don't know which one or in which country. I have to go and do some extra work to find out.  Might be easier for Amazon, but it certainly isn't easier for me.

Must be in a growse mode today, because I'm getting annoyed with predictive text too.  DH has found a way of switching it off, so I must do that when I have a moment. I have enough mistakes of my own to correct without predictive text incorrectly guessing what I want to say.  I'm in the washing, ironing, tidying, hoovering stage of getting ready to go on holiday so I live in turmoil. Perhaps that's my problem!

The pic? The laburnum has faded now, but it was glorious while it lasted. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Stage One complete

At last the re-edit/write is now done. I've printed out 238 pages, and parcelled it up in a blue folder I bought a decade ago and never used to take with me on my holidays.
At the time I was sending submissions out to agents and wanted to impress, but soon discovered that fancy folders were a no-no among busy agents. So at last it has a use!

 The word count is now 104,740 reduced from 147k so that is a substantial reduction. After a few days break comes the read through on paper with pen and post-its to hand. Heaven knows what I'll find to correct. Anything is possible. I may need more than post it notes, though they are a fair size. I never travel without my laptop, paper etc etc etc so that won't be a problem. 

I took out the first chapter, and one or two paragraphs that I thought repetitious or that I didn't need, but the bulk of the reduction has come from removing what I call stage directions - moving to or from one position to another -  and taking out many speech tags where the action made it clear who was speaking;  generally tightening up my writing by remoing all those unnecessary words such as just, nearly, almost

A word like quickly can become a habit or a crutch word and mop up 50 or 60 uses and you never notice until you work your way through a list looking for them. I found over 200 uses of one word, but I've forgotten what that word was now. Turned, probably. My characters kept turning before they spoke or acted or sometimes even breathed. I also discovered I was one of those authors who gave advance warning and then described the action! Quelle horreur! I think I dropped that bad habit some time ago.

The pic is from our trip into Yorkshire last week. Very dramatic skies and a narrow single track road, but we got there safely and without the rain storm we suffered on our trip last year.





Thursday, 1 June 2017

Cookery, glasses and retail therapy

Contemplating some cookery beyond the normal run of feeding self and husband. Friends are arriving home tomorrow from South Korea and I'm planning on giving them dinner on Saturday. To be more precise I'm contemplating what to give them, as they will surely be here on Saturday night! After the highly spiced dishes of SK, I thought they might welcome some fairly plain English food, so I'm working on roast beef,  and lemon meringue pie. I don't know anyone who dislikes either!

The washer stopped working yesterday, which was inconvenient of it as we had a load in at the time. I suppose it always happens like that. We have ordered another which will arrive next Tuesday by which time the washing will have piled up.  This is proving to be an expensive time -  not only the washer to pay for, but Tim's vet's fees are not inconsiderable, and our holiday looms. I visited the optician yesterday since I'm struggling to read small print these days and that can become embarrassing with menus and price tags and such like. So that will be another £500 when I pick up my new specs. 

Yesterday's visit to the optician is one of the few times I have been out without a dog in tow, so I made the most of it by visiting M&S and a shoe shop and bought something in both! Thought it wise to stop there. I was obviously lacking retail therapy and to go on visiting shops would have been dangerous to my bank balance! 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Half-Viking Scots hero.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Buster collar days

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Re-tweet groups

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Fascinating characters

17 May 2017

DARK WHISKY ROAD by Jen Black



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

Romance
Victorian
England

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

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

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

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

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


© Helen Hollick



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Wonderful Viking Romp

Discovering Diamonds


Posted: 15 May 2017 03:49 AM PDT

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

Romance / Fantasy / Adventure

Viking

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

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

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

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

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


© Anne Holt

Friday, 12 May 2017

Alba is Mine

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

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

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




Monday, 8 May 2017

Writing

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

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

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



Friday, 5 May 2017

Language, please!


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

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


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

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

Monday, 1 May 2017

Hot weather and editing

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Editing

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

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


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




Friday, 21 April 2017

Life

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

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

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


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

First re-draft

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

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

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


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

Monday, 17 April 2017

How am I doing?

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, 14 April 2017

Broadchurch 3

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

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

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




Monday, 10 April 2017

Writing news

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


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

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

Sunday, 9 April 2017

What I should be doing

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

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



https://tinyurl.com/z246enk

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Wasted journey

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

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

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

Saturday, 1 April 2017

It's all change

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

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

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

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Could this be summer?

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

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

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


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Grey days

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

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

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






Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Fresh air and editing

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

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


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Lowering book prices

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Banners and book promo

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Sometimes I wonder...

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

New beginnings

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

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

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