Thursday, 15 November 2018

Upset tum

Sad to say but I've been brought down by my poor housekeeping! Ate some hummus that was 8 days old and oh boy, have I paid the price. Never again. And yet it looked and tasted fine....

I'm not expecting sympathy, but only to explain my absence from things like Facebook and Twitter.  This is just when I should be getting on with the final check on my new ebook which is coming out on the 23rd of this month, Probably means I'll be burning the midnight oil so as not to fall foul dof Amazon. I put it on pre-order thinking I had loads of time to be ready, but isn't there always something to catch you out?

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

France and Brexit

My blog has recorded holidays in France over the last few years and judging by the visitor numbers to the site, many of you like reading about them. But now we are in a quandary, because if Brexit goes through, how will the travel rules change?

If we have to pay more to get there, I'm not  worried much; I'll save a bit harder before hand. But what if all the nice rules about taking your dog on holiday (or your cat, mouse, hedgehog, whatever) suddenly stop and go into reverse?

So far there is no information about this.
There's no way any pet lover would put their pet through weeks of quarantine just for a few weeks holiday. Certainly I would not. So if the worst comes to the worst scenario, we won't be going to France again. Tim doesn't know there is any problem, but he loves the open spaces there, jumping in and out of the stream, hurtling through the woods.

What will I miss? The absolute freedom to do as we wish. The sunshine, the wonderful walks, the sightings of deer, foxes, ducks, fish and the occasional farm dog. Oh, and those big, big cattle in the next field, with their delightful calves. The kites that fly over the valley, the mice that escape the farmer's hay cutting, the lizards that run up and down the walls and even the occasional snake.

Come to think of it we've seen several snakes over the years: a small black one dropped out of the bolly roof and vanished down the nearby drain; we found a similar one in the balcony room and watched it wiggle its way out onto the balcony proper and then vanish. A small adder  near the stream, wiggling through tree roots, another on the wall where the old pound wall used to be and one year a much bigger snake we never identified, but about four feet long; it came to rest  at the top of the bolly steps at the side of the house, and I took a picture of it over the bolly rail before it slid off across to where the walnut tree hung over the grassy bank.  Then there was the time Tim jumped on a snake in the ditch beside the road; the snake retaliated and bit Bill in the calf before scuttlinng away back into  the ditch. Bill, I am happy to say, suffered no ill effects and we assumed it was a grass snake. Then there was the time we found two of those very large, muscular cattle in the field with us, ambling up to the house...but that is a story for another day!

Friday, 2 November 2018

The Marketing Headache

Let's face it, marketing is a headache for most indie writers. We're just not geared for it. This is the one time when I really bemoan the fact that I'm not published by one of the big publishing houses, because then they would have a department that took care of marketing. Naturally, not all authors get the same kind of marketing push, but any push at all would be better than the way I'm doing it!

So, I'm re-evaluating how I do (when I get around to it, that is) my marketing. I've relied on Facebook, but FB has changed so much that it ain't working any more. The yahoo groups I used to use seem moribund now and I'm not sure if there are  equivalents hiding in the undergrowth. It seems that authors mostly tallk to other authors via FB, which is good but I'm not sure that authors are into buying books in quantities.

While I'm on the run-up to perfecting my soon to be released book, I shall be scouting the blogs of successful authors to see what they recommend. More than authors on FB these days I see people who want to sell or teach me how to make a million sales in a week. It must surely be the new industry of IT! I followed Mark Dawson for a while, but his course is far too expensive for me to consider, plus which there are an awful lot of words to wade through before you get to anything useful or sensible. I wonder how many takers they have? Will everyone suddenly be using new and different techniques for selling online? I watch with interest.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Confusion sets in

I am about to confuse myself utterly in the next couple of days. I have (almost) finished The Queen's Letters and have the original Word Document saved; I also saved the Kindle Create version of it, marked by a little brown circle. Then I have a PDF version of the Word copy, which I have sent out as an ARC to people who cannot use MOBI versions.  I tried  to be too clever by uploading the Kindle Create version to KDP to create a paperback version, but that doesn't seem to suit. I should have uploaded a PDF formatted copy. Consequently, my e book version is fine, and now available for pre-order, but the paperback version has so many errors is quite depressing.

So, I am waiting for comments on the ARCs I sent out. If there are any suggestions, I can still make alterations. Spotting a comma instead of a period, I went back to the original and corrected it. That led on to making more "corrections" .... which task could go on for ever.

I am busy amending a Word copy for the paperback by altering the margins, the font, the placing of things on the page - almost everything, in fact. So now I am going through the whole thing one last time. The cover needed changing too, but I half expected that.

As I said - lots of room for confusion!

Saturday, 27 October 2018

New cover: The Queen's Letters

Time to reveal the cover for The Queen's Letters!
This is Book 3 in the Scottish Queen Trilogy and I plan to publish it mid-November. That gives me time for last minute checks so that it will be typo-free.

Here are the opening lines:

May 14th 1544

Matho tilted his stool until his shoulders touched the sun heated stone of the tavern behind him and let out an involuntary yelp. “God’s blood,” he muttered, hitching his jerkin between himself and the wall. “Wouldn’t ye think there’d be a breath of wind up there somewhere?” For days now, the east coast of Scotland had sweltered in sunshine with only the merest hint of a breeze.

“Aye.” Jordie consulted the cards in his hand and flipped one onto the mounting block built into the inn wall beside them. “Ye can wait weeks fer the wind ye want. It’s been blowin’ up out o’ the sou’west for days now.”

“Not today, it isn’t. There’s no wind at all.” Matho wiped sweat from his face with the tail of his already damp shirt and picked up his cards again. “I’m not asking for much,” he added plaintively. “All I need is a wind that’ll get me to France.”

“Isn’t it allus the same, though?” The inn-keeper’s son was thirty if he was a day, but Jordie’s plumpness and lack of beard made him seem much younger. “Say ye want tae sail north tae Aberdeen and ye’ll get nowt but a wind that’ll take ye south. Venture a wee word that it’s France yer after an all ye’ll to get is one gannin’ north.”

“I don’t want to go to Norway, Jordie. France’ll do fine.” Matho dragged his hair away from his damp forehead. Days this warm were rare in Scotland and a windless one was very nearly unheard of so close to the sea. Seawater swirled around the posts of St. Andrews wharf, fishing cobles stood idle at their mooring and the smell of seaweed and fish numbed the nose to everything but the thick, heavy smell of hot pitch from the sailor busily painting his boat thirty paces away.
“The English were damned lucky with the wind back at the beginning of the month,” Jordie remarked. “It blew from the south just when they wanted it.”

Matho scowled. The English attack on Edinburgh held unpleasant memories for everyone, and especially for him. If Phemie had not died that day, they would have been married now and living happily in his cottage in Aydon. The memory of her lying on the grass, her throat savagely cut by English soldiers, rose from the back of his mind. Abruptly he pushed away from the wall, scattering cards across the stone block. “I’m fed up with cards and days too hot to bear, and by God, I’m fed up with this miserable town. I know the streets down to the last stone sett and every pathetic excuse for an inn on this foreshore. Another day of it, and I’ll go mad.”

“Yer getting restless,” Jordie said placidly, squinting up at him through a lock of hair. “I can understand it, reet enough.”

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Books and beaches

Hardlly looked up from my keyboard this last week, hence the lack of news here on my blog. New books take a lot of time to get just right before they are let loose on the unsuspecting public, and I've been checking and re-checking The Queen's Letters for what I keep telling myself is the last time. This time really is the last!
Finally decided the title is The Queen's Letters; The Scottish Queen Trilogy Book 3

I have some people who are willing to take an ARC (Advance Review Copy) and hopefully they will go on and leave a review for me, and I may send  one off to a few other people in the hope that they will do the same.

Apart from working hard on the book, we had a wonderful morning on the beach at Druridge Bay on Thursday. The beach is gentle and it was a calm day, so Tim dodged in and out of the water and thought it great fun. At SEaton the sand dips sharply into deeper water and he's not keen on that.

And yesterday I was up very early and out in the fields before 9am and it was beautiful. Blue sky from horizon to horizon, warm sunshine and only three people+dog spotted in the distance - easily avoided. The apple tree is still loaded with fruit which seems such a shame. Like the blackberries that went unpicked, it seems the apples will eventualy fall and be eaten by insects and birds. I pocket a couple as I pass, and I think other people do the same, for the lower branches are not so laden as they once were! But I'm surprised the farmer doesn't come with a tractor and take the lot. Apple pie til Easter!

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Reality and fiction

Flodden was a disaster for the Scottish nation. The heir to the throne was a baby in 1513 and the best of the country's leaders perished along with their king. The misery of a long minority and a succession of regents did nothing to help stabilise the country. Queen Margaret married the young Earl of Angus who assumed power until in 1528 King James  escaped his step-father's rule and took power himself at the age of 15. Margaret and Angus produced a daughter, also named Margaret. Dowager Queen Margaret chose to remain with her son when Angus was outlawed and fled to France and England, taking his daughter with him.

In spite of his mother being English, James V leaned toward France, and married two French women. The first, Madeleine, died within months of arriving in Scotland, but the second, Marie de Guise, produced three children; two boys and a girl. Only the girl, Mary, survived childhood. Somewhat ironically, the king's illegitimate children survived and one later caused young Mary a great deal of harm.

Another battle with England in November 1542 resulted in defeat for Scotland at Solway Moss, and on the 14th December king James V died at the age of 30. Once more Scotland was punged into confusion after a battle in which her best men had died, the heir was barely eight days old and the Scottish nobles considered themselves better suited to rule than the Dowager Queen Marie de Guise. Cardinal Beaton seized the Regency, and amassed too much power at a time when the new teachings of Calvin were filtering into Scotland. The burning of heretics did not go down well, and he was murdered in 1546. Henry of England wanted the little Queen married to his son Edward, and rather than persuade the Scots into the marriage, he went about it with a great deal of force, harrying the Borderlands and sacking Edinburgh and Leith in 1544.

It is against this background that I have set my Scottish Queen trilogy. My protagonist is fictional, but he moves among real historical characters. The first volume, Abduction of the Scots Queen, is published and available on Amazon as both paperback and Kindle, as is the second volume, Queen's Courier. The third volume, The Queen's Letters, is nearing completion and will be published before Christmas.

Friday, 12 October 2018

PR, promotion, call it what you will

Nearing completion on my wip, so my thoughts are turning to the inevitable PR exercise that accompanies any new book.
It is about time I got to grips with Mailchimp again, so maybe that should be first on my list. Then I'm considering pre-ordering on Amazon to see if that stirs any interest, but I need to get a little nearer completion before I upload the details.
Then there are the posts that have to go out until one feels that one's head is as solid as the desk at which I work each day.
Reading some of the literature on the internet about marketing strategies and plans makes me feel tired before I have begun. It takes as much time as writing the book! Old ways of spreading the word seem to have changed. I no long see any yahoo groups coming up on my feed and presume they have mostly succumbed to falling usage and given up the ghost. So what has replaced them? The Snapchats and Instagrams and the other boards I know nothing about? Perhaps.

I have a blog, I use Facebook and Twitter, but to be honest I mostly talk to other authors, and that is not what I need right now. Methinks I need to widen my scope and veer towards readers. With this in mind I have joined Goodreads for the third time and hope  to make some headway in understanding how to use it. The site is not the easiest to understand.

There are other options to consider. Paid advertising, of course, which is probably linked to the winnowing down of Facebook contacts that seems to be going on. Blog tours, sending out arcs to get reviews, and a host of other things. Authors are running to keep up with all the tasks they need to perform...

It is always about this point that I wish, really, really wish, that I was attached to a big publishing company who have professionals to do this sort of thing. How nice to be able to swap ideas about what will work and what will not; what will sell and what is last year's golden child.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

All Clear!

A post from Amazon at 8.46 this morning told me my paperback ABDUCTION OF THE SCOTS QUEEN, with updated cover and interior, is now for sale. We won through!

 The final stage was to adjust the spine, where the font had run down into the area that would be cut off when the book was finally trimmed. Having used a smaller font, I moved the sub title and author name further away from the bottom edge and it seems to have worked. Also Bill re-sizing the template to suit their requirements helped. (I respectfully suggest that the template be rendered unchangeable in future.)

So, the paperback and the e-version are now available. There is a "Look Inside" facility and for those people who were kind, or brave, enough to buy my early version, the basic story has not changed. I have corrected the odd typo that crept in, taken out the unnecessary words - mostly dialogue tags - and generally improved the formatting. Kindle Create helped with that on the ebook, but as yet those nifty little separators and themed chapter headings are not available on the paperback versions.

Here are the links and the opening lines: UK 

Chapter One

Northumberland, October, 1543
Dark fingers of shadow stretched across the valley toward the old sheepfold as the sun dipped behind the Redesdale hills. Inside the broken ring of stone, Matho Spirston, grumpy with unease, crouched over a fire and turned a spitted coney. The crumbling walls of the sheepfold gave some protection against the cold wind, but he was very much aware they gave none against the lawless men of Redesdale. Full dark would come soon, and it would be a rare night if the reivers stayed warm and snug in their beds once the moon rose.
“Damn!” He sucked away the sudden sting of hot fat.
Harry Wharton, his back propped against the wall, stopped honing his eating knife against a chunk of stone. “Jittery, are we? You can always ride back to Aydon and waste your life away as Carnaby’s Guard Captain.”
Matho snorted. “Aye. But like yer Da said, you’d never survive on your own.”
Harry smiled the insult away. “The thought of silver must tempt you?”
Matho grimaced at the flames. “Aye, but it’s a chancy business, snatching a queen.”
He still found it hard to believe that Harry’s father, Sir Thomas Wharton, Deputy Warden of the English West March, had suggested that they should ride north and see if they could snatch the infant Scots queen from her cradle with the aim of delivering her into King Henry’s hands. “If stealth fails, we are authorised to take her by force.” Even Harry had spluttered at such a statement.
“I doubt the Queen Dowager of Scotland will agree to that,” Harry had exclaimed. “The child is barely two years old.”
“She is not yet two years old,” his father had replied.
Running a finger lightly across his newly sharpened blade, Harry gazed across the fire with an amused glint in his eye. “You don’t fancy wearing silk shirts and owning a decent horse?”
“Silk shirts are nae use to a dead man.”
“True.” Harry sheathed his knife and rolled his blue eyes heavenward. “But wives, I’ve found, are an expensive commodity.”
So his new bride drained his purse, did she? Alina Carnaby was a demanding young lady, as he knew to his cost, but she had a pretty face. “There’s surely compensations,” Matho said as he turned the coney on its stick. “Like a warm bed on a cold winter’s night.”
“That’s true, too.”
“Your Da will dig his fist into King Henry’s gold, if you ask.”
“Ha! I have to earn my own gold.” After a long pause with both of them watching the coney turn brown, Harry said, “We’ll be across the border tomorrow.”

Friday, 5 October 2018

Poblems, problems

Deeply immersed in updates to a Createspace paperback about to go to KDP;  been working on it for days now.  I had decided earlier this year that there were one or two updates needed, and I decided to go ahead and do them while I made the change from one site to the other. Everything is good to go except for the cover.

I changed the design, front, back and spine. I downloaded the template and fitted everything exactly. Six time now KDP have come back to me with faults that need to be rectified. The final fault is the template size which seems to change during transfer - not by a huge amount - something like 0.097 and we are talking either mm or cm. Consequently I have not got much else accomplished this week!

KDP Help Contact Us have yet to come back to me. Within 24 hours, they said; well, they have some hours to go yet, but it seems like a long wait for answers to me. Nor does it help that BT keeps dropping the internet in our locality for short periods of time.

On the plus side of daily life, the farmer's fields are greening up nicely. Hardly any bare brown earth to be seen.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Deep in edits

Currently so deep in edits I'm ignoring almost everything else. I must get this update of Abduction finished this week so that I can move on to finishing  the Work (That Was) in Progress. At least when I go back to it, the storyline will  seem fresh!

I think a lot of the typographical errors occur when I chop and change my work when I'm editing. I've learned to be very, very careful when I change something now, because it seems that I correct one thing and something else goes AWOL as a result. Is it because I type faster that Word can keep up? I doubt it, and yet it seems so at times. Is it because my typing is inaccurate? Possibly, but that doesn't explain the words that go missing. Or the interlopers, the letters I am sure I never touched on the keyboard. Though I must admit that as my typing has got faster over the years, there are also more mistakes. Then again, there is predictive text, which often causes me embarrassment on Facebook. Whatever the cause, I sometimmes wish I was able to type a phrase or a paragraph and get it right first time so that no changes were necessary. Lucky the author who can do that.

What I am finding is that when I wrote Abduction in 2013-14, (or even earlier, as I recall it took me a long time) I sometimes got the right sentences but put them in the wrong place. Now I can see at once that a sentence would work much better if it came a paragraph further into the story, or was part of another paragraph. It is an interesting exercise to go over something witten four or five years ago. It is also a confirmation that the writing itself is getting better, that one is improving in the craft of writing, which is always nice.

Friday, 21 September 2018


One storm over and another to come So far I have not noticed any damage to property in this area, but there were plenty of broken branches, some very large scattered around the perimeter of the fields where I walked Tim yesterday. Windfall apples  - yes, plenty of those. Acorns scattered far and wide anywhere there was an oak tree, so I picked up  a few and lobbed them into the hedgerow where a tree had died or there was room for it to grow. I don't suppose many of them will, but it is a nice idea that even if only one grows, it will be there three hundred years after I've gone. That's if the world is still turning. I say that because right now we seem to be in a hell of a mess, Brexit wise.
On a personal level I'm off to get a hair cut at lunch time. I mention this because I have not been to a hairdresser since my long time friend abruptly closed his shop due to medical reasons immediately after Christmas 2017. My hair is now quite long and very annoying as the short bits that were once a fringe are forever in my face! But over the year I must have saved £250 or £300. Time fo a splurge? Possibly, but my immediate problem is explaining to the new hairdresser what it is I want her to do. An even deeper question is what exactly do I want? Who knows what I shall look like by 2pm?

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Still struggling

There is a storm forecast, so I thought better do First Walk of the day early. Still warm, and so far no wind in this neck of the woods. There are berries in bright colours everywhere, so glorious to see.
Back home to discover our internet connection is down again; lately it keeps dropping out at some point almost everyday, which is most annoying. We've come to the conclusion that because we are surrounded by new  house building sites within a five mille radius - well a bit further in one case - the disruption is  caused by inserting new users into the system. Sounds logical, even if not an accurate cause of the complaint!

The trial of Photoshop is going well to a point, but I'm not at all sure I want to "rent" the software. It might be a good system and good for the company to do it this way, but I really do not want to be paying out x amount every month, for ever. I have seen references to GIMP, which is a free system for those who want something similar to Photoshop, so I shall be trying that out very soon.

Stilll struggling to think of a title for my latest wip. The QUEEN'S LETTERS is my current thinking. It continues the Queen theme, which is good for what has turned out to be a trilogy, and  the letters are important  in the story. This one may last the distance. (I shall check and see how many other authors have used tha title. Too many and I might change my mind) I plan to begin showing excerpts from the trilogy in my second Newsletter, which will go out this month, so now is the time to sign up for it. The litte square on the right hand side of my blog will do the trick.....

Saturday, 15 September 2018


Nothing lasts, does it?
The temperature jumps around like a kid on a pogo stick, and one morning last week our heating system clicked into action for the first time this end of the year. Then the next day it was a couple of degrees warmer and the heating remained silent. Every morning seems to be a little colder than the previous one, which is about right for the season. But then the weather forecasters are saying we'll be back in the twenties next week. If we live in the south east of England, that is. The island of Skye seems to have been under a permanent rain cloud all summer and that continues, so all the tourists that flocked there must be drenched.

 Decided I didn't like QUEEN TRIUMPHANT  as a title. Not only was it inaccurate, but put the focus on the wrong character. So it is back to the drawing board for that. Editing goes on apace and is a satisfying exercise.

I'm not sure if I can attend a webinar when I never moved from my chair, but I watched an online lesson on how to design a book cover that sells, demonstrated by Stuart Bache, and enjoyed it. I think he must have used the latest version of Photoshop because some of the things he demonstrated are not available on mine, which is several upgrades older than the current version. I'm now considering getting the latest version, as I liked what I saw.

The last few days have been grey, grey, grey and the trees still have their leaves,though some are starting to turn orangy brown and will soon fall in a brisk wind. Because grey days are not good for photography, I have used a pic from last year. A little bit of cheating, but another week and the trees will be looking like these.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Editing skills

 It is an interesting experience going back over stories written as long ago as 2014. I realise now that an editor would have been useful then, but I did not have the confidence to approach one. 

Didn't know enough to say if I wanted copy-editing, proof-reading, structural edit or one of the other many "edits" that are offered today. 
I would have learned faster; but in a sense I've done it the hard way - always my path! I've learned by reading, reading about writing and writing, which is never a bad thing and talking to other writers via the internet. also by looking at tv and published stories with a more critical eye. 

Reading about it and never doing it is not going to work. Now I think I've got it; or I've got it as far as I am going to take it. At my age, I'm not going to have forty years to hone my skills further!

Today I am beginning what I hope will be the final edit/run through of my latest work in progress - a further installment in the Matho story. TRIUMPHANT QUEEN  may well be the title, unless I come up with something better. Now as I go through the printed pages with my coloured pens, I spot things much more easily than I used to. Re-arranging sentence so they sound better, collapsing two sentences into one more pithy arrangement; spotting fullstops
and commas lurking in the wrong place and changing singe quotes to double quotes. I've come down on the side of double quotes lately; I just think they look nicer on the page. 

How long will this take me? I'm not sure, especially as I am looking at an earlier story at the same time. Variety is the spice of life, so they say; let's hope that doing two stories at once will prevent the bordeom that comes with doing only one.