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 young James  escaped his step-father's rule and took power himself at the young age of 15. Margaret and Angus produced a daughter, also naed Margaret, but Dowager Queen Margaret chose to remain with her son, the King of Scots, when Angus was outlawed and fled to France and England, taking his daughter with him.

James V leaned toward France rather than England, and married two French women. The first, Madeleine, died within months of arriving in Scotland, but the second, Marie de Guise, arrived and produced three children; two boys and a girl. Only the girl, Mary, survived into adulthood. 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 young 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 thought they were 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, becoming a trusted courier of the Dowager Queen of Scotland. 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: http://amzn.to/1wQTs7F 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.

Friday, 7 September 2018

The Season turns

There used to be a button on this blog for e-followers. I never found out what it did, could find no explanation. It has been there a long time, but about ten days ago I decided that I would clean up my blog prior to inserting the "subscribe to my newsletter" button. So I deleted the efollowers button.
Since then it seems to me that my viewing numbers have dropped, though this is only a feeling, not a proven fact. But if I have unwittingly done something to, how shall I put it? "Turf you off my blog," please believe me when I say it was unintentional.

The year moves along. It won't be long before the leaves start to turn such glorious colours. In fact, some of them have begun the shutting down process.There are hints of yellow in the hedgerows and berries - berries, blackberries, apples have been abundant. Rowan and hawthorn berries splatter their brightness among the green and look splendid against the clear blue sky. I need my camera in my pocket when I next go out.

Saturday, 1 September 2018


Autumn is here. One of my favourite seasons, possibly the favourite. I took  some photos yesterday and then lost them in transferring them to my PC. Ages since I've done that, and so annoying but I don't suppoe the fields and hedgerows will change much in a day or two, when I can take them all again. Since I came back from France I've had the fields mostly to myself, which is good, but it also surprises me. The weather has been so brilliant this year, and yet people don't seem to have been out and about exploring. Or if they have, the have not been where I've been!

The internet is desperately quiet, too. People say it is because  of all the changees to Facebook and it does seem less hectic than a year ago. Time was when new posts would go flying by with barely time to see what they were; now the same post stays for ages. It is becoming boring. I assume that this means posts promoting books will be so much less effective and wonder if it is a ploy to get authors to use Facebook Ads. Paid, of course. I heard today that Amazon, which now owns Goodreads, is using the GR friends page to find and delete "friend" reviews on Amazon. Way sneaky, I think.

Reviews are hard enough to get without this sort of nuisance fiddling, and since Goodreads and Fb both count mere contacts as "friends" this is likely to mean reviews will disappear. One way round it, I've read, is to mark your friend pages as open only to yourself. That way Amazon cannot read them. I don't know if it is true, but I pass it on for what it is worth.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

So much work!

I think, I hope, that my third atempt at sending out my free ebook to those who subscribed to my newsletter has worked. Certainly the  book came up on the preview and it seems one person on the list has let me know she has received it, so I only hope all the others have too. Perhaps those who see this and should have received the book, but have not, will let me know!

My next task will be to ensure that new subscribers get the ebook automatically. What a learning cure this has been - and will go on being. Struggling with Mailchimp has taken my attention from everything else, - PR, Facebook, Twitter and on occasion, editing my wip, though I think I only missed one day with editing. I am way out of touch with groups on Facebook - everyone will have forgotten me!

Holidays seem long gone now, so I'm showing a few pics I've taken this summer in France because they are nice and bright and make me feel less autumnal. Once the leaves start to turn here, there will be more colour and out will come my pocket camera again. Until then, I shal crack on with editing  because I really do want to have this published before Christmas. The other thing to do is check with Createspace and get my two paperbacks transferred in KDP. Maybe it is time to change their covers, too, but that would be a lot of work. Maybe I'll let them go through as they are. There are rumours that Createspace is to close and KDP will be the viable option, so I must not forget to do something about it.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018


 Bodyguard is the latest hit programme on Sunday night tv. It is a tad different to Poldark!
What surrises me are the comments on Twitter afterwards. After the first episode they centred  on the train being too old, too clean, too on time, too slow. Second to that the comments about women started to drift in. I almost joined in this one myself, because I had noticed the paucity of men, apart from the hero. I know a surprising number of Police chiefs appear to be women these days, but rarely do we see them holding assault weapons. In fact the only real policeman I have ever seen holding an assault rifle was outside the old US embassy in London.

Episode two and the attack on the Home Secretary's car was the thing that attracted the  attention. The driver, who never had a speaking part, was unceremoniously dumped on the street without a word of regret, on tv and on Twitter. He was deemed invisible. Our hero and heroine, after a near death experience, swiftly followed it with life-affirming sex, which has been a theme of literature  and film for generations. Twitter howled it down. Not again! they cried. Did they have to spoil it? Whitney will be bursting into song next, they said.

There may be glitches in the programme, there may be well-worn themes as well as new ones, but have these people any idea how hard it is to come up with comething new these days? Why not relax and enjoy what proved to be a very tense programme that has another four episodes to go?

It is nicely set up and can go in many directions from this point. Will he commit suicide, like his old comrade? Will he kill the Home Secretary? Will someone else do it? Will she have a change of heart - or rather, a change of policy? Will she somehow be forced to kill him? Will his kids/wife be kidnapped or held to ransom? Who has Vicky met recently who now stays overnight? Will another old comrade take the place of the scar-face one? With this many options, I think it is an excellent piece of writing by Jed Mercurio. (Hope I've spelled that correctly; now that I look at it, the surname seems very similar to that of the Home Secretary.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Mailchimp learning curve

I am desperately mugging up on how to get Mailchimp to send out an ebook! I am sure it will do it; the trick is for me to find out how. 

I've googled how to do it, and it sounds simple; I've changed the cover on my Word copy of Fair Border Bride and re-saved it as a PDF, so I guess I am good to go as they say these days. I hesitate because I'm slightly distracted by an aching tooth and know that an appointment with the dentist is looming in 45 minutes. Might be better to wait until this afternoon when the dentistry will all be over.  I wouldn't want to get half-way through the process and then have to leave it or worse still, make an absolute hash of it.

Also I think my newly ordered mouse will arrive today. I'm hoping it will correct the slovenly way my old mouse is operating - clicking when it feels like it and ignoring me at other times. I suppose they do wear out at some point.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Newsletter follow up

A little over an hour ago my first Mailchimp newsletter went out. I hope it doesn't annoy or antagonise anyone! The Mailchimp site I find rather complex, so I am feeling my way with it and have a very slow rate of progress. As I get to know how to use it, I shall improve my news
letter, but this is a start!

The sign-up place is (at the moment) to the right of Tim's ear as you look at his picture, but of course it will move as I add more posts. Top right of the side bar at that point. I hope you will sign up and I shall be interested to see what happens at my end when you do. Evidently it is a legal obligation to have people's permission to send newsletters to them, so if you don't sign up I'll be very sorry but I won't be able to continue sending them.

Tim  slept through it all. Well, most of it.