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!

Sunday, 12 August 2018


Setting Far After Gold in the north west of Scotland was both better, because I had spent many holidays there, and worse because there wasn’t an equivalent large settlement like Dublin. is a starting point for the history of the area and the latest large scale maps show where the settlements and brochs, rivers and fords once were and sometimes, but not always, still are.

 I could describe the landscape because I’d seen it, as long as I made allowances for the changes that have taken place. Forests were much larger around the eleventh century and land was undrained and often swampy. Fords and known tracks were important for travellers and travel by sea was deemed much easier than travel overland. I had experienced the weather of the north west in the summer months and late October, early November; research told me which animals once lived there. We no longer have wolves in Scotland, but wolves and bears were certainly present back then.

Orkney is another of those places where research pays dividends. I’ve never been, but archaeology provides a great deal of information about dwellings, artefacts used, crops grown and where settlements were. Google Earth is fantastic for giving an author a feeling for the size of a place and the geography around it. The satellite imagery will give a very good idea of where you might beach a ship or find a way through the mountains and contour lines of maps will suggest whether you might end up in a bog or fall over a cliff face.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Locations (for writers)

I like researching locations for my stories. Contemporary stories in a foreign location are easily researched with tour guides, travel books and all the resources of the internet, but set the story in the past, and it’s a little bit harder to visualise. Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian locations are not too hard here in England as many of the streets and buildings are still extant, but when I made a 4 day trip to Dublin and found that the street I had set my heroine’s home on was still there I was surprised and delighted that I could walk up and down it. 

Why was I surprised? Because I had set my story in the eleventh century – almost a thousand years ago. (The fact that the street looked nothing like the scene I had envisaged didn’t spoil things for me. There might be fairly ordinary brick buildings there now, but the shape of the street was the same, I could see how steep it was, whether I could see the river or the sea from there, and it led to the cathedral that was being built at the time.)

Dublin was a famous Viking stronghold and an ancient settlement even when the Vikings arrived, so maps of the place in those days were easy to find online and print out thanks to archaeological studies. I could really get to know the layout of the Viking town from the maps and they showed the development from the earliest settlement to the 1200s, which covered my period of interest. Visiting the place showed me how narrow the river is now compared to how much shallower and wider it had once been before Lord Sitric confined it and reclaimed what had been swampy, tidal land.

All this came in useful when I wrote VIKING SUMMER published this year, and MAGICIAN'S BRIDE. 

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Improving covers

Some of my books have new covers. I'm doing them myself. 
I know  the word is that a professional cover is 
an absolute necessity, but all I can say is the covers I've had done for me have sold less than the covers I've done myself. One I paid quite a hefty sum, too. The other thing that is an absolute must these days for indie authors is editing. One must be edited. 
All this is is fine if the graphic artist and the editor comes courtesy of a traditional publisher. There are so many choices these days. Editors and covers artists  spring up on the internet in their hundreds, and who knows what their track record is like? 

I gather from a little ferreting around that the average price for editing a decent length novel by a reputable person is around £5 or £600. Add another £100 for a cover, and you have a £700 deficit against your book before you try and sell it. How many indie authors make that back in a year? In two years? Not many, is my guess.

So until I have an L J Ross type hit on my hands, which isn't likely since I don't write crime, I'll keep on trying to improve my own skills. Some of my first efforts were lame, I am the first to admit it; but I think I'm improving. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018


2 August 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of Viking Summer by Jen Black


Vikings 11th Century

Ms Black has a thing about the interaction between the Norsemen and the Gaelic people in the 11th century. Just as in her previous books set in this period, she delivers a well-researched and gripping tale, featuring a young female protagonist, Eilidh.

Due to her brother’s lawlessness, Eilidh has been taken hostage by Finlay of Alba, obliged to remain at his court until her brother pays a substantial fine. But Eilidh grows impatient and when her brother fails to show up on the set date she convinces two young men to help her “escape” Finlay’s court and return home. I must admit to finding this a little implausible as no well-bred woman of this century would ride off unchaperoned with two hot-bloods, and as to the two young men, Finlay is their king and they owe him obedience. However, Eilidh’s act of rebelliousness will come at a very heavy price as the little party of three is attacked by marauding Norsemen.

Soon enough, Eilidh finds herself in Dublin, there to marry the somewhat unstable Kimi Torkillson. Not that Eilidh wants to: no girl in her right mind wants to marry this young man who seems to enjoy hurting people. However, it is marry Kimi or be sold as a slave, so Eilidh is trapped between a rock and a hard place.

Leaving aside my concerns regarding the plot device that leads to Eilidh’s abduction, Viking Summer is a fast-paced and well-written story. Against the background of a vividly depicted 11th century Dublin, Eilidh’s new life takes a turn for the very exciting, even more so when Finlay and her brother show up, determined to somehow find her and free her.

I particularly like how Ms Black describes the religious ambiguity of the era. At times pagan, at other times more than willing to pray to St Patrick and other Christian saints, the Norsemen who have made Dublin their home are pragmatic in their relationship to the gods. They are also cunning traders and brave fighters, more than ready to die on behalf of their lord. Their world is at times very simple, more black and white than grey, but the Norsemen as Ms Black portrays them are no fools, as adept at playing the political game as they are at wielding their swords.

At times, Ms Black’s obvious love and knowledge of the period results in a little too much detailed information which does not move the story forward, however, she does present us with a nicely convoluted plot and a cast of well-developed characters, foremost among which Finlay of Alba makes a lasting impression.

For those in love with the Viking period, this is an excellent read, offering insight into the everyday life of a culture that is often depicted as merely violent but which was much more than that.

© Anna Belfrage