Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Self-publishing loses it s appeal

The saga of publishing a paperback copy of The Queen's Letters goes on and on.

After receiving a proof copy I have redesigned the inner content, and thought all was done. Set to Publish. Back comes an email saying I have loaded the barcode in the wrong place. So I redesign the back cover, which means rejigging the whole back, spine and front cover and carefully re-position the barcode and send it off. Now they are telling me the barcode is not there. What do they want? I can't stick a real barcode on the cover when I'm working online, now can I? It seems an impossible task.

I don't recall having this problem with Createspace. And now this morning they have decided that I need to update tax information because I have relocated from Createspace to KDP. Suddenly self-publishing loses its appeal.

Saturday, 15 December 2018


Have you ever had the feeling the year is marching on without you? Every time I look at the calendar we are closer to Christmas and I still have to get my paperback published. When I first declared it would certainly be out before Christmas, I felt that I had loads of time. Now I am starting to panic. I blame my current addiction to FindmyPast!

One of the things I have learned from using the database is that my ancestors could not remember how old they were or when they were born.  In all fairness I must add that while the dates quoted by men vary by two or sometimes three years, those quoted by ladies can vary by seven or eight years and one has to wonder if there is a little judicious annotation going on there - especially when the lady is quoted as older than her husband!

Pre-1840 there was no obligation to record any of the important milestones in life - birth, marriage, death, and many did not bother, especially if there was a fee to be paid. Lack of diaries, calendars, literacy and remoteness of some communities, especially in upper Teesdale, where many of my folk lived, would all contribute. So far I have records back to 1807 and in  one case 1756 but proving the link to newer generations is difficult. There must be a link between  and Richard and Thomas Dixon, for when Thomas died aged 85 he was living with Richard Dixon - but I do not know if that Richard was a son, gransdon or nephew. Trying to prove the link is fascinating.

The lady in the hat is my paternal grandmother: Mary Weston Wilson, born 1869.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Future of self-publishing

Major re-work on the Paperback copy of my latest : the font and margins have been reduced and now my book looks less like a Large Print edition and comes in at 317 pages instead of 410. Which means the price will be a reasonable £7.95.

So, not many days to go to Christmas. I'd better pick a date and work to getting it released instead of enjoying myself tracking my ancestors via FacemyPast. Who knew there could be so many people called Thomas Dixon in the country?

I am wondering about the future of self-publishing. Sales are the lowest they have ever been, and though people rushed to download the free Kindle version - no one seems to have read it yet. I know I am not alone with this because other witers are reporting the same facts. For me it is only worth the effort  if someone somewhere is reading what I write.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Time and my CD-player

My proof copy of The Queen's Letters arrived today from Amazon and I see I have alterations to make. The font is too big, by far, and the the margins could be smaller. That will reduce the page count somewhat, so I may need to adjust the cover when I'm done fixing the interior. Good Job I sent off for the proof.

I am on the hunt for a CD-player that will fit not too obtrusively with the double cassette deck, tuner and amplifier from my Technics mini system - which all still work splendidly. The whole system is at least 40 years old, but gives me, or rather. gave me, exactly what I wanted. Only the laser that reads the cd has given up the ghost, and there are no replacement parts to be found. I suppose lasers will still pretty new back in the earlu 80s.

This is the first time I have sat down in front of my compueter today, and it is 4.37pm! We had friends for a meal last night, drank lots of wine and slept late this morning, then walked Tim, had lunch and then off to pick up the hi fi system from the repair shop. Then a quick whiz around the MetroCentre only to discover it has no hi fi shops at all! Lintone has gone, no one else keeps it either, not Currys, Debenhams, House of Fraser - though I did note that a lot of the HoF stuff is 50% discounted because the store is closing down. Maybe time for some new towels, or duvet covers?

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Car woes

This dank, dismal weather is awful and probably accounts for a lot of winter depression. Even the dog doesn't really want to go out in it. So I spent most of today indoors, re-checking the proofs for the paperback version of The Queen's Letters and longing for the summer - hence the pic, which was taken on the cliff path outside Mullion Cove a few years ago.
That was the year our lovely bright yellow Honda 2000 Sports car conked out on the cliff at Land's End.  An electrical glitch; simply refused to switch the engine on. 6pm and everyone else leaving --- how do we get back to Mullion and our cottage? There is nothing more panicking than thinking you'll be out in the windy darkness all night - unless it is the blank refusal you get when a PC or laptop refuses to co-operate.

A hike down the cliff to the gift shop, which was locking up for the night, and a swift phone call to the local garage promised relief. A long hike back up the cliff - this is me and not my other half - and we got towed to the garage. I feel sure the garage owner was laughing at us all the time! He said he only came because he thought I sounded local! Ignominious journey indeed.

The car was taken  to the Honda dealer in town and we followed on the bus - two buses, first to Helston, then to Truro. Car repaired, they said, paid another huge bill and off we went. Next day, the same thing happened. Better half  took car apart and discovered poor electrical connection under the driver seat. Twist it one way and everything died; twist it another way, and everything woke up. Stopping for petrol was nerve-wracking because when we switched off we were never sure it would start again.
The journey home I was due to do on my own. Cornwall to Newcastle, with other half meeting a friend at Bristol and driving to France. We made plans; fill the car with petrol at Bristol, I would drop Bill at the station, where he would be picked up by friend, and I was to set off and drive up the M6 without stopping til I got home. I tell you, I was vastly relieved to roll up onto the drive at home.

Car to garage again, fault discussed, repaired, another bill paid - and two days later the same problem occurred. I was sent home on the bus, to get the mini out and drive back to Bill. When I got there, he'd got it running again, but next day he drove our beautiful yellow sports car to the Honda main dealer and said Make me an offer. We came out with a red Honda Civic!
I still miss the wonderful sound of that engine as I roared up Blaydon bank. I don't think we ever had it running flat out. Should have gone to Germany and the autobahns.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

My first review of y latest book!

Absolutely delighted with this review which came in yesterday. The writer could not load it to Amazon, presumably because she has not spent £50 with them this year, so I will use it wherever I can as it is too good to lose!

The Queen’s Letters by Jen Black

With regret I reached the end of this exciting tale of intrigue and adventure, brilliantly coloured by Jen Black’s strong sense of period. In this novel we are taken to France, Scotland and England in the time of Henry Vlll and the details of daily life which she has so well researched convinced me I was actually there with her all the way.
 Her hero, Matho Spyrston, is no stereotype adventurer but a living breathing character who has appeared in earlier books and whom we are happy to meet again as he undertakes a dangerous mission to deliver the Queen’s letters.
Journeys always make for fascinating reading and Jen takes us with Matho and the delightful youth Jehan through sixteenth century France at a time of intermittent warfare. Intertwined with his story is that of Meg Stewart and the Earl of Lennox whom we have also met before, both of whom had previous dramatic dealings with Matho and now provide the fitting climax to this novel as old scores are settled.
The different strands are cleverly woven together and the tensions between the warring factions within the Scottish court keep the drama at a high pitch throughout. Matho has to escape many life threatening situations but they develop plausibly, not at all in James Bond fashion, and the love interest with Agnes de Guise is similarly handled, realistically, because she too is an inconsistent, believable human being. There is also a wealth of other characters from cruel cardinal to cheerful stable boy.  Jen brings to life everyone who has a part in her story however small and I find this one of the most delightful features of her writing.
I can heartily recommend this novel as an enjoyable and rewarding read.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

The way to go

Lots of writers are turning to ads because book sales are so slow. Google, Facebook and Amazon seem to be the top choices. I think it may have a lot to do with the way Facebook changed the ground rules about who saw which posts - the answer being the average person saw very little, certainly when compared with what had gone before. Time was when it was hard to actively keep up with the number of posts scrolling by - and maybe that volume threatened to break the system.
I deliberately did not do any promotion this autumn. I thought I'd save my efforts for when the new book was published. With no promotion my sales line looked thin, though the odd KENP figures chipped in randomly. Certainly no way to go on if I want my books to be read. I have followed a couple of webinars with Mark Dawson, but to follow the method he advocates you have to be prepared to speculate to the tune of $99 to join Amazon Advantage and it seems to me it is geared to selling paperback books rather than e-books. So I shall be doing a little more reading around the topic..

Ads, anyone? What do you think? Is it the way to go?

Friday, 23 November 2018

To ad, or not to ad?

Publication Day for The Queen's Letters.

I have sent it on its way and it will have to make its own way in the world. Yet in a way I feel bereft; it has been with me for so long, I'm not sure I know what to do without it!

My list of jobs to be done is whittling down item by item. My car tax is renewed, Mailchimp Newsletter sent out - though I cheated on that and asked my other half to do it before I flew into a temper and bashed the pc. The software is not easy to use  and of course I use it so rarely that what I learned the first time, I'd forgotten when I came back to it. I have given my other half the title of Mailchimp Manager and maybe he'll do them in future. I write the copy, but he does all the tecchie stuff.

I've been pushing tweets and Facebook posts in the last fortnight and I'm starting to think about using all the ad services there are around these days. According to Mark Dawson, advertising guru,  we should bypass KDP ads, free or not, because Amazon Advantage is far superior. I thought as a first foray I would try KDP Free ads, and set one up for 3 days starting tomorrow. I've no idea what, if anything, will happen, but I shall be watching!

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Contemplating Ads

Finally I feel better. A tummy bug laid me low
 and it has taken 7 days for it to start, develop 
and finally disappear. I hope it is not going to 
make a reappearance any time soon. It was a 
struggle, but I still managed to get the final 
version of Book 3 of the trilogy to Amazon before the deadline on Monday night. Publication Day will be Friday 23rd November. Between now and then I shall be promoting. I may even try an ad. Gulp!
Maybe a little reading around will be appropriate before I plunge in. I'm told you can start at as little as 3 dollars a day and spend as much as you want. 3 dollars doesn't seem much at all, does it? How much good can that paltry sum do? Will there be any result at all? There's only one way to find out.

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!