Saturday, 29 December 2018

Hints and tips on publishing a book with KDP

This is an aid memoire for me in case I decide to do it again, but i thought others might be interested, which is why it is here on my blog. Of course, by the time I decide I want to do it again, the KDP structure might have changed….but currently, this is the link to the User Guide:

 You ought to read it before you start! 
By using the headings function on your computer you can format every chapter heading as Heading 1, and this makes it very easy for the system to produce a table of contents for you. You need the cleanest story before you commit to KDP - checked for mistakes and for basics such as the same font throughout, correct  punctuation, paragraph spacing.  Load Kindle Create to your computer from the KDP site and copy and paste your story into it. 

Be patient and wait for it to do the basic formatting. Then have a look at the style choices. There is not much in the way of instruction, but the system works quite well if you use trial and error. There are 4 options for a basic style, and once you have chosen the one you prefer, your story will be formatted in that style. It isn’t fixed in stone. You can choose again and again until you decide which is the one for you. 

You can make more decisions about font and size, dropped caps, separators (scene break symbols). It is fun to see what you can do, but eventually you will be ready to move on; once you are absolutely certain you have everything as you intended,  press the PUBLISH button and you get a version saved into your files identified by a brown circle. This is what you upload on the normal KDP site - the one you may have used before to self publish. Upload your cover separately, as you used to, and they will be matched together. This had me puzzled for a while until I understood the cover still went through separately.

Now for the paperback. Once the Kindle is complete, KDP offer to do your paperback as well. Take the offer, as it makes it easier than doing it from scratch. Not all the e-book style formats are available, but a good few are. You can still have dropped caps, but the separators revert to ***. 

Doing the content is fairly straight forward, but it is best to decide the page size before you begin. A 6”x9” paperback is popular these days. Remember the margins will dictate the number of pages in your book, so you may need to fiddle with them on your original file until you get what you want. The number of pages dictates the size of the spine (and also the cost!) when it comes to the cover, so that is important, too. My last effort had margins so wide my paperback looked like a large-print version.

You don’t need a Contents page in a paperback, but you do need page numbers. Leave the front matter pages unnumbered; make a section break on the final front matter page, do not link the sections, and then start numbering on the opening page of your story so you will have Chapter One, page 1.

Some people like to put the author name and title in headers on alternate pages, but I don’t think it is necessary, and offers more chances for things to go wrong!) I add in my other titles list, and how to contact mein either the front matter or the end pages. I contemplated adding in a cjapter of the next book, but since I don't hae one ready, I let the opportunity go this time. 

Once you are happy with the content, upload it on the KDP site. You will be told if there are spelling errors or other glitches and given the opportunity to check and OK them.

Then comes the tricky bit. You need a cover. Not just a front cover as for Kindle, but a front, back and spine too. All in the size you have chosen for your book. I used Photoshop to do mine. Download the KDP template, which looks like this 
~ in the size you have decided upon for the cover, 

It took me a while to discover that the template size is not fixed; I was required to resize it in Photoshop from 13.27” to 13.47” before it was accepted. It seemed a tiny change, but it was necesary. Ensure your cover pics reach right to the edge of the red zone. Remember your spine cover size depends on the  number of pages in your book. 

If you want to add an ISBN (purchased by you) you will need to use a barcode generator like and get the barcode e-mailed to you; transfer it to your cover and place it bottom right, very close to the spine fold. It took me some time to realise they wanted a “real” barcode; in Createspace I think I only had to input the barcode number and they added the barcode.  It is probably easier to ask them to add one for you, but I already had the (expensive) barcode and was determined to use it. 

If you are happy with your cover, save it at 300dpi in PDF format and upload it to KDP. I learned the hard way to save it in Jpeg format as well, in case alterations were needed. In my case, they were!

You might get the cover thrown back at you a few times. They will tell you where you are going wrong with it, and you must correct the original and try uploading it again. And again. It takes patience and a lot of time, but is well worth it. 

Thursday, 20 December 2018

A true heroine

Everyone knows the story of Mary Queen of Scots, but how many could cite details about her mother, Marie de Guise?





Corneille de Lyon - Portrait of Marie de Guise - 2017.88 - Indianapolis Museum of Art

James V of Scotland followed the Royal Scots tradition of marrying French brides when he persuaded Francis I to part with his sickly daughter Princess Madeleine. Unhappily she did not thrive in the Scottish climate and died within weeks of her arrival. Reluctant to part with a second daughter, Francis I offered James sound financial inducements to accept the recently widowed Marie de Guise as his second bride.
The de Guise family had only recently been elevated to the dukedom, but on the plus side Marie had proved her ability to produce sons. A cultured, intelligent woman familiar with the French Court, she was well able to fulfil the role of Queen of Scotland as intercessor, peacemaker, and mediator as well as ornament of the court and a shining model of piety. How much she missed her eldest son, who remained in France with his grandmother, is not recorded.
Her life in Scotland began in 1538 when she was 23. By 1542 she had given James two sons and by the middle of the year was expecting a third child. However, tragedy struck when the Scottish princes died with days of each other. Both parents were distraught. In November, Marie’s fifth child was born only days after the disastrous battle at Solway Moss in which the Scots were roundly defeated by the English. In Falkland Palace, James V reputedly turned his face to the wall in despair. Aged 30, he died on the 14th December, leaving the nation in sad disarray and his no doubt distraught wife alone with their new child at Linlithgow. His only surviving legitimate child, Mary, became Queen on his death.
Recovering from childbirth while in mourning for her husband, Marie, as a foreigner in a war-ravaged land, might have felt insecure enough to retreat, with her precious child, behind the walls of the strongest castle in Scotland.
The times were dangerous, and not everyone was helpful. The child’s closest relative, the Earl of Arran, wanted her to marry his son. Henry Tudor wanted her to marry the English Prince Edward and Francis I was determined that should not happen.  
Marie de Guise, as Dowager Queen of Scotland, refused to be elbowed aside; she gathered loyal supporters of the crown around her and very soon the Great Seal had been amended and documents were issued in Mary’s name. Mary Stewart’s coronation was held on 9th September the following year.
Living in Scotland for less than five years, Marie de Guise had an admirable grasp of Scottish politics and managed to safeguard herself and her daughter. Slowly and surely she built up French support and in 1547 she deemed it wise to send Mary to France where she married the heir to the French throne
Standing firm and alone, visiting her daughter only once, Marie de Guise continued to rule as Regent in Scotland. Over time Scots feeling grew against the French; they disliked being thought a subsidiary of France and deposed Marie in 1559; her death in June 1560 was followed by the death of her son-in-law, Francis II of France and by December, Mary was no longer Queen of France. Mary returned to Scottish shores in August 1561.

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!

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.

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.

Friday, 17 August 2018


Memories of France

Trying something new at the moment. The internet seems inundated at the moment with “experts” telling us aspiring authors how to sell more books. I followed Mark Dawson’s posts but decided I could not justify spending roughly £600 on an online course even if the information I learned would jump up my sales by x percent. Cynic that I am, I thought that if everyone followed his advice, then every indie author in the land would be earning thousands every day. Now that just isn’t going to be true, is it?

Seems to me that if it works for one or two authors, that’s great, but don’t expect the same result for everyone who tries the same methods. However – takes deep breath – there is some logic in what he says, so I am cautiously dipping my toe in the pool of newsletters. Sent out an exploratory e-mail to everyone I know whose email address I have on hand. You would think I’d have more than I collected together, but in my na├»ve days I didn’t keep back-ups and through a PC crash and my natural instinct for paper-tidiness and throwing away anything old (I inherited that trait from my mother; she was a devil for throwing things out. I lost several favourite books that way.) I have only a small number. In a way that is good, for I can build up slowly. It would be soul-destroying to discover that half of the emails were “dead links” or that people didn’t want to know me or my newsletter.

So the introductory has gone out, with no rude replies so far. Now I am exploring Mailchimp on advice from family and friends who all seem to think it is great. It probably is, once I’ve worked my way through it, but right now, it seems so complex it is making my brain ache.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

More about Locations

I discovered a fabulous website for maps held at the National Library of Scotland: I used it for the historical novels set in Edinburgh and Stirling in the mid 1540s. The magnification on most of the maps allowed me to see individual buildings on the old High Street most clearly.

Right now I am going through a third or fourth edit - yes, I've lost count - of my FOURTH book about Matho Spirston. I really did not know that the lowly guard captain who helps the hero escape death in FAIR BORDER BRIDE would stay with me as long as he has, but once I'd finished writing FBB, the critique group I belonged to suggested that Matho was character with potential and why didn't I make him the focus of my next book. So I did.

Since then he has survived being captured during a kidnap attempt on the infant Mary Queen of Scots in ABDUCTION and started a new career as courier to Sir Thomas Wharton in QUEEN'S COURIER. By the end of the book, the Dowager Queen, has decided he can be of value to her.

At the present time he is riding through France with two young people he has befriended, trying to discover who has disrupted the Dowager's correspondence and how he can put it right for her. So far, the title is COURIER EN FRANCE, but that may very well change. Will he stay with me? I have no idea; but there are times when I begin to think he was a real 16th century person. There was a Matho Spirston – the name appears in the rotas for guard duty in Corbridge when Scots attacks were expected daily, or rather, nightly; but I never found anything more than the name. So in a way, he was real.

Apologies to anyone who tried to read this  and found the formatting somewhat crazy. I only discovered how odd it looked by chance, and have now re-loaded it. Hope it reads OK now!


Adapting to colder temperatures now. Frantically Housecleaning to remove a month's dust, the washing mountain has diminished and we'...