Thursday, 25 November 2021

TV thoughts.

 Shetland is a series I enjoy watching in spite of having to tune my ear in to Douglas Henshall's accent each time.  The last episode revealed all last night and then the last few closing words accused Jimmy Perez of aiding and abetting murder! 

Jimmy Perez! What are they thinking

I know that they filmed 2 series on Shetland back to back recently, but of course they are not going to release series 7 until next year. Hopefully, early in the year. I don't want to wait forever.

The other crime drama I began watching I'm not so keen on. Dalgleish. Oh, the acting is fine and the lead actor does a wonderful job but the story lines are so depressing. Always connected to the church in some way, in the dark colours of the 70s for accuracy and not a joke in sight. Now I know why I never read any of the novels of P D James except Murder comes to Pemberley, and I was not very keen on that.

There is a rumour that Happy Valley is doing a series 3. I hope so. Even my other half watched that, though we caught onto it quite late as in last year.

Hope for Last Tango in Halifax is fading, which is sad. I know they've all gone on to bigger and better things - well, the two female leads have; but I would like to see another series.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

November droops

 November means Nanowrimo.

Social media goes quiet, book sales drop off,  and many claim the month is filled with holiday prep  - which is odd because  we don't have any holidays in November and surely it is far too early for Christmas preparation? (But other countries do!)

Then there is tax preparation and end of year wrapping up of projects - now there I can relate, since I am desperate to finish my current novel and this week - or was it last? - Amazon told me it required a new tax form from me. 

I don't take part in  Nanowrimo because for me it takes all the pleasure out of writing. Besides, the editing afterwards must be horrendous

I'm one of those people who write a scene and then go back the next day and fill in all the "expression," as I call it. I sometimes go back two and three times, especially if my plotline is changing in any way- which it usually does!

It seems odd to lump book sales in with this list. Not all readers are aspiring authors, but mine do drop in November. I wonder if it possibly has more to do with people waiting for Black Friday reductions when they plan to have a a splurge and buy lots of cut-price books? That makes more sense to me.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

A big enough turkey

 We are currently waiting to see if Australia deems us worthy of being allowed to visit them.  Been waiting about a fortnight now. We have an exemption as parents of an Australian citizen - well two or three of them - but it doesn't seem to speed things along as we fondly imagined it would.

Once we do get there it will be heading up to midsummer for them - totally different to the grand Northumberland countryside closing down for the winter here. The idea of walking barefoot along Diamond Beach appeals very much right now and we are assured that Helen has bought a turkey big enough for everyone. 

Friday, 5 November 2021

The Ellsdon Affair under way

These, at the moment, are the first paragraphs of my new novel. They may yet change or be deleted as I am still very much at work on it! (The highlighting is for me to keep check of a sub-plot as I go through the chapters. So easy to forget things, or get them out of place in the time line.) he title will undoubtedly be The Ellsdon Affair. As yet I have no cover....

The coach rolled to a stop in the small Northumberland village of Ellsdon, the door opened and Miss Rosa Brewster fell out onto the stony track. By sheer chance, her cousin Louise, impatiently awaiting her arrival, dashed forward, caught her by the arm and prevented her from pitching headlong in the dust.

“Careful!” she cried. Young enough to laugh at mishaps, they clung together, chuckling. “What were you doing?”

“Thank goodness you were waiting for me,” Rosa gasped. She held her cousin at arm’s length and scanned her fair curls and amused blue eyes with pleasure. “I’ve been so cramped the entire journey I think my foot has gone to sleep because I can’t feel a thing. Do you think we might dare a quick stroll?” She waved at the village green behind her.

Louise darted a glance at the house behind her. “Quickly then. The others will hear the coach and be out in a moment.”

With Louise to steady her, Rosa hobbled a step or two until feeling came back into her foot. “I could not wait to get here,” Rosa declared. It was the truth, but she declined to speak of the reason for such longing. Time for such disclosures once she was settled in with her cousins.  

Louise snatched an assessing glance at her companion. “We shall have such fun.” For a moment, her fair brows drew together. “We even have a little mystery I think you ought to know about. It involves Grace.”

Rosa stopped brushing dust from her gown. “Your sensible older sister? What can Grace have done to cause alarm?”

Friday, 29 October 2021

 We liberated Tim on Wednesday 27th October at the high point of his favourite walk. In sight of home on the other side of the valley, in sunshine, a west wind to support him, and a rainbow on the other side of the hedge. So now my lad is free to do what he liked doing best.


Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Doesn't even have a title yet

 It has been a fortnight, and I still have Tim's ashes. 

At first I only peeped inside the smart carrier bag - the kind you might pick up from Bradley Hall Garden & Interior Design shop. Then I couldn't bring myself to look inside the presentation box. Finally I found the bamboo woven package that is surprisingly heavy.

The next step will be to scatter the ashes on his favourite walk. I don't know if dh wants to come with me or not. I know I'm being silly, but that's the way I am. I will get over him. 

We are going out - visited with Prue and Shirley last Tuesday, plus the Lion & the Lamb in the evening, York on Thursday, hairdressers Friday, the Coffee Barn this morning to have coffee with Pat and Alan. We've planned to eat out at the pub again tonight since we were pleased with the new management situation and I might go into town later this week. 

And all the time we are planning a trip to Australia if a) we are accepted as parents (which we are) and b) we can get flights and c) if lockdown doesn't strike again in either country. The garden is getting a lot of pruning, and everything that can be washed is being washed.  My writing life is busy with Amazon Ads and a new book that doesn't even have a title yet. 

Oh, and the good news is I've lost 15lbs since coming back from Ardverekie. I'm sure all those bacon and egg breakfasts piled the weight on!

Saturday, 23 October 2021

The empty house


We haven't adapted yet. We are keeping busy. It is not often you see me cleaning windows, but it seems to help hide the emptiness of the house.

Went to York on Thursday and I bought two pairs of shoes at Hotter. It seems criminal that we have to go all the way to York now when we used to have a branch in Newcastle. The city was busy and very cold, so we didn't stay much more than two hours. It has gone downmarket since I was there last. Not as attractive as it used to be.

I enjoyed Ardverekie's beach much more!

Saturday, 16 October 2021

My hero

I meant to write more about Ardverekie but I got side-tracked.

We travelled home on Friday without problems - we left at 6.32 am precisely in order to beat 
the traffic hold ups in Perth and Edinburgh, and succeeded.  

On Monday we noticed Tim was slowing down on his walk and I slept on the living room 
floor beside him through a very disturbed night.  By 8.30am Tuesday we were at the vet's surgery in Hexham and by 8.45 my beautiful boy had left me. 

We knew he had a tumour but we did not expect him to go downhill so fast, though as Tim the vet said - it's a  good thing. We didn't want him to have a long lingering death. 

He certainly enjoyed  his holiday in Scotland and he loved life. 
The problem is mine -  I keep expecting to hear him trotting upstairs to pop his head around the door to find me. Now I have to eat all those hard crusts off the toast and throw away the apple cores. He was short of his 9th birthday on New Year's Eve by a couple of months.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Ardverekie continued


Entering  at fig. 2, we had the Billiard room on our right (fig 1) and my first impression on walking into Ardverekie House was of death. The entrance hall is a beautiful wood panelled space, but around the edges of the space between ceiling and wall are the heads. Deer skulls, some fully restored with fur and eyes, and all with antlers. When James Ramsden, the millionaire Huddersfield industrialist who built the existing house, went hunting, he aimed his gun at the perfect 12 or 14 point specimen.

Today game is stalked with different priorities in mind. But those heads filled the billiard room as well; many initialled by those who killed them. It took my attention from the full size billiard table and the ancient books and the even more ancient Persian rugs that lie rumpled, torn and wrinkled beneath my feet. They are part of a large collection of Persian rugs kept in the house. I’m happy to report that the others all seemed in better condition.

It is part of the charm of Ardverekie that it is a family home and nothing is behind glass or fenced off by ribbons.

We saw so much and before it becomes a jumble in my mind, and want to retrace my steps. The beautiful wood panelling is now drying out because of the modern central heating but so far I saw no signs of damage. We were shown through a door and tucked in the corner off the entrance hall was a wooden bench type toilet with a porcelain bowl. I remember it featured (or one like it) in the tv series with the banker having difficulties getting the loo to flush)

From there we progressed to fig 3, the main hall where we gazed at the stairs almost expecting to see a portrait of Hector MacDonald staring back at us. There isn’t a tartan carpet on the stairs; the tv company put it down and hung tartan curtains at the huge window, but when they left they took carpet and curtains with them.

From there we went into fig 5, the library with its fire and vast numbers of books plus a ladder to access them. The wood panelling made the room dark and by contrast the ladies parlour, fig 4, was much lighter and brighter, so that they could read and do their needlework. The huge dining room, fig 6, was also dark but I imagine with candlelight and ladies in diamonds and silverware gleaming on the table, it would look magnificent. The table seats 14, but if the guests number only 13, then a teddy bear seated in a baby chair  in the corner window takes his place at table to make up the numbers. A smaller round table in the window is where the family have breakfast when they are in residence. A dumb waiter at the side held pots of jam and tomato ketchup.

Just outside was the “modern” kitchen, fig 7, which did not look that modern to me until we went and found “Lexie’s old kitchen.” A monstrosity! The old sinks have been removed and new washing machines installed, plus a sheet press and iron. The old iron was almost too heavy to lift and the gas iron was a scary thing. I often wondered how Lexie managed her skimpy outfits in the Scottish climate (think heat, cold and midgies!) but the huge black cast iron range was taller than me and probably threw out enough heat to keep her warm.


Wednesday, 6 October 2021

My grand tour

 Tuesday we waited for ages and no one came, so we   took Tim for a walk on the beach, and came back to find maintenance men just  finishing cleaning the chimney. By 11.30 no satellite man had arrived off we went Newtonmore where I did some food shopping at the Co-op. On the way we saw the satellite van heading in the opposite direction, and Bill said that's the fella we were waiting for! We got the shopping done and drove back to Pinewood and there he was, just packing up, having completed the job. We now have a working television, a clean chimney and some wine to drink this evening.

Before that I had my tour of Ardverekie House - ground floor, cellars and grounds including the walled garden. Fascinating and more so because it is still a family home and the family had been in residence so recently the housekeeper was still processing bed sheets and tidying up.  More on that later.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

 At Ardverekie again.

We made 2 stops  for Tim, one at St Boswells, and one at Perth, where we gave him a walk and a chance to pee, and arrived at 4.01pm. Access to Pinewood is from 4pm! Swift unloading  and then a walk down to the beach, which seems larger than ever. 

Sadly, dh can't keep up with his 24 hour news because the tv isn't working. Nor could we get a signal to call the maintenance engineer until on Saturday morning we walked down to Gatehouse at the turn off from the main road down the Laggan valley. We made the call there and after a quick run on the beach went back to Pinewood to await the arrival of the engineer.

Two men arrived, which sent Tim into a frenzy, but they could not solve the problem.  Returned with a ladder and while one checked the tv, one checked the satellite dish. Still no joy, and there won't be any until Monday when thy plan to return.

So we set off on a three mile ramble and climbed onto one of the logging roads which you see in the pic.  As we went up the hill we were in full view of the opposite side of the loch, where one white house stood amidst trees. It sounded as if a dog there could see or hear us and barked its head off. Must have annoyed the owners, because it took us quite a while to make it up the steep incline!

Sunday morning and it is raining very gently. I suspect there's a word for it locally. It is possible to walk out and not notice until you get wet. I took Tim down to the beach where all went well until he found a rabbit. I suspect someone had shot it, but t wasn't dead and when he grabbed it, the poor thing squeaked and kicked its back legs. He let go when I insisted, but  he dearly wanted to go back and eat it. He didn't forget it until we were within 100 yards of home. Passed a man with a gun over his arm, so suspect hewas the hunter.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Lurking in the attic

 Back in 1980 I spent nearly three months in America. Its so long ago I'd almost forgotten about it, but the other day I found a bundle of airmail letters - the kind that were folded, stuck down and super light - in a bundle of old university papers that my mother had kept. DH and I seriously considered cleaning out the attic and we made a start, which was how I found these letters. Sad to say, we never finished the task, but I enjoyed reading the letters and I thought I'd record the last one here.

"I am travelling around the great continent of America now in company with Maggie and John. You must excuse the hasty writing but I have to do it before the sun sets, which is imminent, or I shan’t be able to see to write. We are camping in a tent and have stayed at Montreal, Toronto and now just past Buffalo, which is the second largest town in New York state after New York itself.

Montreal was a pleasant, well-bred town, not rowdy and frenetic like the bit of New York I saw nor cool and precise like the bit of Boston I whizzed through. Montreal is set on an island in the middle of two rivers and a canal and has huge sea-going liners gliding past its gates every day. It has a hill in the centre, like Edinburgh, and the city swirls round the foot of Parc Royal Mount in all directions.

Everything in Canada is in French – I expected some French, but not 99.9% French like it is. Some people don’t speak English! The shops look very French, ie chic, and there are cafes in the Old Quarter (Vieule  Quartier!) where everyone sits out and drinks wine on little street balconies. We went into Notre Dame Eglise and found it very beautiful, looking like Notre Dame in Paris, but built here in Montreal in 1889 or some such recent date.

The French influence in driving is apparent, too, for navigating the motorways in and out of the city was hazardous to say the least. The legal limit in the US may be 55mph but here in Canada  its 100kmph and I’m sure they exceed that; I’m  inclined to write-off our correct selection of route 20 out of a handful of criss-crossing intersections taken at speed as due to Madame Luck.

The same thing happened at Toronto. I don’t know yet where the city began or ended. The map I had from Ontario Tourist Information Office just stopped communicating information about 15 miles from the city limits, and we hurled along a huge section of dock-land sub-auto routes with  crossing rail tracks for freight trains,  which regurgitated us smack bang in the middle of Canadian National Exhibition. The number of people collected around this centre was too much for us – used to rural Maine for two and a half months – and we just kept going. I never noticed where Toronto  ended either; one town just faded into another.

 But I noticed Niagara Falls, which we saw today along with  along with a million other tourists. (It is Labour Day, after all, the equivalent of out Bank Holiday). I took some pictures, so I hope they’re alright. We are now heading east again, for Boston this time, where Maggie and I have the offer of a floor for a night with Joanne from Camp Modin.* Then its off to New York on Saturday and then down to Pennsylvania to meet Nancy and her family. Take care, see you soon, about three weeks…"

 *Jewish summer camp in Maine where between university breaks I spent a summer working as Camp Counsellor. Still have vivid memories of swimming and canoeing in the freshwater lake every day and some of the personalities I got to know. Sadly, no pictures survived. Or perhaps they are lurking in another part of the attic.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Predicted trends for self-publishing 2021


Spotted this piece floating around the internet, and it seems to be proving pretty accurate.

1: More traditional authors will move to the indie model

Some indies are having major financial success, and the rest of the publishing industry is taking note. Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell have signed with Thomas & Mercer. Big publisher corporate mergers means traditional authors will have less negotiating power and at least some will be tempted by the indie path

2: More indie authors will collaborate or consolidate in collectives

From sharing production costs to combining marketing efforts, this is a great way for indies to publish quicker, expand back catalogues, increase output and earnings, not just by combining email lists, but actual books as well to compete on a level above.

3: Authors will benefit from competition in the eBook marketplace between Amazon, Apple, and Google

Amazon is the largest retailer for indies, but in 2020 Apple redesigned its author portal so authors without a Mac could publish to iBooks and Google Play revamped its publishing analytics interface in fall 2020 making it easier for authors to analyse their sales on the platform. Apple and Google are clearly investing in indies in 2021.

4: More platforms fighting for Audio supremacy will benefit
savvy authors

5: COVID-19 will impact book sales in different ways at different times

2020 saw more people turn to books for at-home entertainment and education via digital means and will continue in the first half of 2021. The second half of the year could mark a downturn for eBook sales if vaccination efforts in the US and Europe are successful. This could mean a temporary lull in eBook sales during the “post-Covid re-emergence” phase of our lives.

6: The overall eBook market will continue to grow

Overall industry stats show that upwards of 70% of people who read, still read print and haven’t yet adopted a digital reading. Covid 19 turned more readers to digital in 2020and more readers are joining the digital eBook market in 2021.

7: Authors will see more success with international sales

Authors willing to invest in translation could get a great foothold in this rising European eBook market. The German market first, but the French, Italian and Spanish ones will be catching up quickly.

8: It will be a volatile year for paid advertising

More retailers and brands will spend more marketing dollars in digital channels in 2021. Increased spend and competition will drive up the costs of digital advertising for authors.

9: Email delivery and engagement will become a focus for authors

Email lists become more important and the competition is fierce. Nothing prevents you from letting them know about your latest release. Other marketing channels will suffer in 2021, so email is more important than ever.

10: Authors who write into series, and with big backlists, will win larger pieces of the pie

Writing a series results in more sales, and authors know it. Expect to see more authors writing series, and those who do will see the financial rewards.


Thursday, 9 September 2021

It's OK, I've got the message.

Patterns in the fields?
 Do passwords give you a headache?

They do me. I thought I'd give spoken books (not a brand name!) a whirl and joined as a trial member. I spent a couple of hours trying to download the chosen volume. I was asked for my password every time I tried to download and each time they told me the password I had just entered was incorrect. After the fourth attempt  I gave up,  only to discover (eventually) that my ipad was not of a generation that could play spoken books.

 I don't want to sit at my pc or laptop and listen. I wanted to snuggle up in bed with my ipad and earplugs and listen to a bedtime story. Since my ipad won't play ball, I had wasted my time and decided to cancel the brand new membership and reclaim the whole 99p I had spent (!). 

Seriously, the 99p was not important, but I did not want to end up paying £7.99 a month if I did not cancel. Of course, you can guess what happened. Before I could contact anyone to cancel, I had to enter my password, didn't I? Incorrect, they said, over and over again. There is nothing more infuriating than a computer that tells you your password is incorrect. I had to input a new password twice, get it verified, purified, clarified or whatever the term is, and after three unsuccessful attempts, managed to get a new password accepted.  Then and only then, could I cancel the membership. 

It's OK, I've got the message. Spoken books are not for me.

Saturday, 4 September 2021


 I've never had to worry about getting bitten in this country before, but his year I've been bitten twice in the last fortnight. (I'm discounting the notorious Scottish midgie) 

But I have been bitten twice in the last fortnight.

It is happening when I walk my dog. The first offender was definitely a tick,  expertly removed with the correct tweezers by my husband. We are not sure what bit me this time, and I can't really see the bite area as it is at the back of my knee, but we are "keeping an eye on it" as they say. Drenched the spot in TCP, so I smell a little clinical this morning. I was wearing wellies and thick fleecy trousers on both occasions, too, but I must take care not to walk through long grass or I suspect it will happen again.

It must be another effect of climate change. I'm looking forward to autumn when the insect population seems to disappear in these regions.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

New Cover facts

 Been working hard  these last few weeks. 

I've been trying Amazon Ads and so far, I'm making a profit. 

Not a great profit, but  definitely in my favour.  In following the course I learned that my approach to marketing was dismal, and so I've been uprating my book descriptions, dreaming up hooks and renovating all my covers. They may not be perfect now but they are an improvement and may still change in the future 

It takes a lot of time and effort to do all this, because I have to find out where I'm going wrong  before I can try to put it right. I've lost count of how many videos on compositing and graphics in general I've watched - not to mention the talks I've listened to on the best way to use Ads. It has meant that I've been absent from Facebook and Twitter but then - would anyone notice my absence? 

It has also meant I've done no writing of fresh material though I have

 revised Alba is Mine. In doing so I discovered how much my writing

 has improved since 2005, which was a bit of a surprise.

I have put the new cover for Far After Gold up today as a comparison. It isn't that old, as my covers go, but I learned that a linked series of books ought to have the same font and cover treatment. If you check the pages for my books at the top of this blog, you will find that all my "Viking" books are now using the same fonts for the title, sub-title and author. (I've just noticed that the newest cover  I've put up here does not have a capital letter for Viking. I'll have to rectify that very soon.) So: Far After Gold, Viking Summer, Viking Bride and Magician's Bride are now "linked."

I'm happy. Now it is time to get back to planning a new book.

If you've ever wonder about the title I chose its an old saying that "Man will travel far after gold."

Friday, 20 August 2021

Head Hopping

Kahina Necaise has written (for the History Quill) a clear  description of the fault that often annoys readers – and so I have  jotted them down here to remind myself of What-Not-To-Do.

Read the whole thing here: Head-hopping: what it is and why you shouldn't do it - The History Quill


1. Head-hopping disorients readers, preventing their immersion in the story

2 compromises the emotional coherence of a scene

3. hinders connection with charactersBottom of Form

4. signals an unfocused scene

5. comes across as clumsy

 These notes are for me to remember:

 Less common in today’s fiction, the omniscient POV is still a perfectly workable and engaging way to tell a story…..

The  omniscient POV presents the story from the perspective of a single character: the narrator, who has a distinct voice. Even when it dips into the thoughts of a particular character and colours those thoughts with that character’s voice, it’s clear that this is not the narrator’s voice. We’re still anchored in the narrator’s POV………..

An omniscient POV narrator’s switching from one character to the next is strategic. All the POVs that it presents fit together in a way that supports the scene as a whole.


Monday, 9 August 2021

Always a sign of a good read!

 I have another review up on Discovering Diamonds today.


Many thanks to the reviewer ~ Anna Belfraga.


"Having married into an aristocratic family in Yorkshire, American Ellen desperately needs a child. The family expects an heir. After three years with a loving husband it seems the desired child will never arrive, and when a dangerously attractive estate worker makes an outrageous suggestion, Ellen is mortified. She dismisses the idea, but the temptation becomes irresistible and in the steamy sensuality of the long hot summer of 1911 desire consumes them both, with dire consequences for one of them."

It is 1911 and the heatwave that will plague England over the summer months is already becoming a nuisance. Or so Ellen thinks as she wanders off on a solitary walk, preferring to walk through the woods to avoid the heat. And there, just beside the gazebo she bumps into one of the gardeners.  Yes: it must be the heat. How else to explain how the wife of Charles, Lord Dipton and future sixth Marquess of Durrington, allows this unknown gardener to lead her inside the gazebo and there seduce her?

I must admit to having some initial problems with the premise. Ellen and her husband are desperate for a child—Charles’ grandfather is threatening to disinherit him unless there is the pitter-patter of small feet—but Ellen is also very much in love with her husband. She is also a lady, very aware of her station in life and in general not at all reckless. For such a woman to leap into the arms of one of the estate workers…well...? 

While it would—perhaps—have been credible to have Ellen consider just how to sort the child issue and do whatever she had to do (with closed eyes) to present Charles with the much-needed heir, what blossoms between Ellen and Tom is instant, fiery passion. This is not a solution to Ellen’s problem. In fact, it adds another complicating twist.

However, I may have had reservations about this premise, but Jen Black is an admirably competent writer. Not only is she adept at recreating the historical setting, she is also skilled at presenting us with complicated characters. In this case, it is Tom who turns out to be as multi-layered as an onion, much to the surprise of, among others, Ellen’s husband, Charles. 

The heat builds and builds. In casual bits and pieces, Ms Black presents the growing political friction in Europe. In England, there is a new king to crown, a young Prince of Wales to invest while the nation pants under a relentless sun. For Ellen, tension spirals, making it unbearable to see Tom, just as unbearable not to see him. Plus, there is Charles, the man she truly loves and admires.

And then finally, the heatwave breaks. The heavens crack open and in the resulting storm, life will be irrevocably changed for Tom and Ellen. This reader found herself reaching for the tissues repeatedly as the final chapters of Silver Season Affair rolled by. 

Always a sign of a good read!

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

 e-version reviewed

Sunday, 1 August 2021


 These last few months I have renewed most of my e-book covers.

The e-covers are easy and I enjoy doing them. Some turn out better than others, but even so, it is a pleasure, and gives me a task to do while I await inspiration as to the story I am supposedly moving forward.

I am finding the paperback covers much harder to change and given the low number of paperbacks sold, I'm wondering if it is worth the hours it takes. Or the frustration, for that matter. Amazon instructions are never harder to interpret than when loading book covers!

On the other hand, I should be able to manage it, given time and patience. 

It is hard to believe that the two boys in the picture are now in their fifties and one is actually having his sixtieth birthday this year! This is one of the many slides dh and I retireved using a film scanner.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

It's madness,

 It's stupid really. I now have two first chapters.

From not writing for weeks, I now have two ideas on the go - and that's all they are - ideas in my head.

I wonder if I could  bring them together somehow? It seems silly to write two stories at the same time, especially if one is  set 200 years before the other, with different characters and locations. Not to mention the missing plot, which I talked about in the last post. I don't know what is going to happen in either story.

This has never happened to me before. I don't think the two stories are combinable. 

It's madness, really, to keep going with them both. It's a bit like something I read about  that prolific American writer of contemporary romance - she said she wrote one story in the morning and edited a second one in the afternoon, and that way she kept herself fresh for both.

I think I shall see how I go. It is possible that both will go to completion, but it is also very likely that one - or both - will run out of steam very soon. As long as only one disappears that would solve my problem! 

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Does the novel have a PLOT?

Over the last few weeks I've swopped writing for reading.

While I have read McDermid's Tony Hill and Carole Jordan series beginning to end I have not been writing at all. I've done a lot of work on statistics and sort of have a handle on how I'm doing but no writing at all. 

Until this week, that is. Then I began with a heroine called Rose who journeys to a tiny village in Northumberland (- write about what you know!) to stay with rellies. I intend that she should (somehow) time shift, or time travel, but with chapter one done I suddenly remembered a piece I read sometimes last year - namely:

Does the novel have a plot? Without a plot, received wisdom claims it is difficult to keep a reader interested. A plot must involve a protagonist with a worthy story goal. 

Well, the honest answer is no, there is, as yet, no plot. Nor is there a goal, worthy or not and I haven't reached an inciting incident yet. You know - that thing that turns the protagonist’s life upside down in a negative way.

All this suggests that I am on a hiding to nothing as my Dad used to say. I knew what he meant, but I never looked at the peculiar way he expressed the thought. Just as it occurred to me yesterday that from age 7 to 23 I lived in Sydenham Road and never twigged that all the streets around me - Hampton, Osborne, Kensington, Marlborough, and others - were all famous buildings or locations. 

I shall keep writing - descriptive bits and locations, but I must lay down a plot line  in the next week or two or I fear I shall lose interest and go back to reading. 

I wonder when the next Hill-Jordan book is due?

Wednesday, 7 July 2021


 Time to do some stats.

I am no mathematician, but statistics fascinate me.

With almost more stats than I can cope with now that I've found Book Report, I am having a ball.

Perhaps it is time to take a peek at my career as a published author. I tinkered with writing for years, but grew disenchanted with early indie book publishers who kept running into financial difficulties and collapsing. Amazon came along at just the right time. With one book published via KDP in March 2012 and one in December that year, I recorded  20 sales and earned £25.68 in royalties.

73.5% of those came from the US and 26.5% from the UK.

From then on I was hooked, and I am happy to say that sales have improved since then!

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Out with the Old

My old photo slides are now in the wastepaper bin. They've been waiting in the attic for a good many years.

Now they have been digitally copied, run through Photoshop and the pictures are now safely on my computer. If anyone wants the now redundant film scanner, do let me know. It has now done its job for me. 

The clarity of the digital pic is not as good as the original but since there is no way I will ever get all the old gear from the attic and set up a projector and screen in the living room, this is as good as it gets. 

I have also been busy on another new cover. Taking to heart the advice offered by Bryan Cohen's webcasts, I "saw" that some of my covers were not "genre relevant". So I am on a mission to rectify that. 

He means that a romance ought to be recognised as a romance within the first seconds of seeing the cover. That's genre recognition in action. Subconsciously we recognise a thriller from the cover style, and some  - like the Jack Reacher covers - have become almost a brand. Another thing I learned from Cathy Helms and Tamian Wood is that choice (and use) of font is as important as the picture. And finally ~ I managed to use a layer mask successfully! 

Friday, 18 June 2021

Tiny, tiny instructions

 Will be playing with my new software for a day or two until I get the hang of it. 

Like all "gadgets" from China (or Taiwan or anywhere in the Far East,) the technical aspect is good but the instructions that come with it are the opposite.

I struggled with the the tiny, tiny print and the film scanner yesterday but could only get a negative image on the scanner rather than the computer which kind of defeated the object of the exercise. 

Applied to dh, who has no fear of  attacking things intuitively, (and has better vision than me!) whereas I hesitate in case I do more damage than good. Evidently I had managed to screw up the menu, but he soon had it sorted again. So today I am all set to go, except that I have an appointment with the dentist at 9.45.

On the right is the final attempt at a cover for my latest story set in 1911. I took the advice from Cathy and Tamian and finally got all the bits as they were intended to be. I definitely need more practice with layer masks!

Thursday, 10 June 2021


Finally, revision of the Matho trilogy is complete.

I sent it off for re-publishing this morning, and can 

now relax and enjoy the garden, the sunshine and dog walks!

Currently uncertain as to beginning any new writing project. It takes so long to complete, and though there are lots of ideas spinning around in the subconscious nothing  is solidifying into an idea that I am prepared to spend a whole heap of time on. Perhaps I just need a rest, time off to relax. I can always concentrate on marketing and improving covers. 

Recently I put my cover for Silver Season up to Discovering Diamonds Cover critique duo (Cathy Helms and Tamian Wood) and received some really useful comments that have spurred me on to  do something about it. For the moment I'm so relieved at having got the revision off to Kindle that I'm going to relax and enjoy an ice-cream in the sunshine - oh, and watch Rafa go for his 14th Roland Garros championship.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Ad results

 All my ad campaigns on Amazon were scheduled to end  on the last day May 2021.

All 34 of them! What has my dabbling achieved? 

I have spent less than £25 and earned roughly double that. No vast fortune, I agree, but then I didn't throw myself into it with gay abandon and create 200 plus ads as some do. But it was enough to make me want to do the stats, and confirm that though there were no sales in the US the whole exercise gained me more dollars from Amazon than I have in a while using other methods. 

I haven't spent a huge amount of time on it, either.  And a big plus is that I have not been dodging about on Facebook and Twitter with book ads, which does take up a lot of time. I used that time profitably, too.

So I shall take a little break, see if I can spruce up my Hooks, and start again. Meanwhile, there are book descriptions to check, blurbs to polish and keywords to collect. At least I now have all my book prices in line over the last month!

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Cow trouble


Hoping to spend some time in France this year, I was meandering through some of my blog posts. This one is from July 2015:

In the heat of the afternoon it has become my habit to take a nap. Sometimes I fall asleep over the computer because I'm up at six to walk Tim while it is cool, but sometimes I take myself to the bedroom and lie down. It is cool there on the west side of the house, and as this terrible heat continues, that is welcome. It wasn't long before Dh crashed through the door, Tim barking hysterically in the distance, and the news that, like Houston, we had a problem. "The cows are in the garden and Tim's setting them off." Exit husband, pursued by moi.

 Sure enough, there are two very large chestnut beef cattle wandering only yards from the bolly fence and Tim is beside me at the window bouncing on his hind legs and barking insults at them. (He had followed Dh inside, which is a good thing.) We hastily shut the door to keep him there.

H’mm. Unused as we are to dealing with cattle, especially very large ones with horns and not much to choose between bulls and cows in muscular power, we discussed what to do. I feared they could wander around the corner and up onto the bolly and into the house. Or fall into the swimming pool and damage both it and themselves. They were within ten feet of the bolly when I remembered the "bull" was one of the calves born this year and still following his mum. The old bull lives with his harem, but I've only seen him at a respectacle distance of 100 yards across the field. The son was impressive enough and he was interested in the long grass growing by the head of the pound and snatched at it, occasionally casting an evil look in our direction. I persuaded Dh that it would not be a good idea for him to go and round them up and "chase them back into their field."

We were virtually trapped inside. I suppose we could have gone downstairs, through the garage and legged it in the opposite direction, but where would we have gone? We did not dare let Tim out, for the mother might have decided to protect her young bullock, or ….anyway, we stayed inside and phoned Tom, who lives not far away. Thankfully he knew the farmer to whom the cows belong and volunteered to phone him. He lives even closer than Tom.

Dh suspected said farmer would arrive with a tractor and trailer to take them away. I imagined two men and cattle dogs. Dh whizzed down the drive on the little bike and unhooked the chain across the drive for him. He hadn’t got back to the house when  a small Renault van showed up at the far side of the west field, slowed and bounced across the rough grass to park in the shade of a walnut tree. Out got one man dressed in tee shirt and short shorts, very tanned, very dark, a veritable Rafael Nadal lookalike but ten years older. Bonjours all round and big smiles – ours of relief to see him, naturally. I had stayed on the upstairs balcony with Tim and Dh went over to greet the farmer, who raised his cap to me as gentlemen used to do in England and old gentlemen still do. "Bonjour, madame," he said with a big smile.


DH offered him a stick, and the farmer laughed and said Non. Off he went, all alone towards the end of the lake where the dreadful duo had now wandered. We hung out of the window, hoping he wasn't going to get hurt, watching his careful approach, retreat, approach and the not exactly friendly response of the cattle. Within ten or twenty minutes he chivvied first the bullock and then the cow down into the stream. From there he shepherded them 100 yards back up the river and into their own field at the east end of the the mill. There was much laughter and relief when he came back to his van and promised to repair the fence.

 He was as good as his word, too. Twenty minutes later we heard the tap tap tap of a hammer and saw him making good the gap where the cattle had simply wandered down the stream and onto mill land – from where there was open access to the asparagus field and the road and crepes at Clermont-de-Beauregard for all we knew.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Pricing fair and foul

I've been thinking about the pricing of my books.

I've never known what to charge, and there are many views out there from which to choose. Traditional publishers still opt for high prices and for  a hard or paperback, there are costs. I appreciate that. But I do object to high prices for Kindle formats from them. I'm holding out on a title I want to read but it is on sale on Kindle at £4.99. I'll wait a little and see if it drops in price.

But last week I noticed that my books are all over the place as far as price goes, so I've decided to bring them all into line with each other if nothing else! It will take a little time to work through them and alter the marketplace prices so that the price is the same be it for sale in the UK or Australia. 

I checked the £1.99 cover price against euros, dollars, reals and rupees and though the numbers vary, it is the same charge - or it will be when I through with the task. 

The £1.99 price is tempting, but $2.80 doesn't look quite so tempting. There is a school of thought that says I should make it $1.99 but that means the book sells for less in the US than it does in the UK, and that seems hardly fair. I appreciate that exchange rates fluctuate but I don't think traditional publishers change the price every few days, so I won't either!

It will still be possible to have a week where the price is discounted or goes free for a few days.


Friday, 30 April 2021

Back Matter in books and marketing


Back matter these days shoud always contain a hook in the form a enticing sample of one of your other books. Such a pity I’ve only given a list of the other titles – I never thought of giving a sample. That should be rectified as soons as I can.

Keywords and categories can help too and not just in setting up your new book on KDP. Take every chance you can to put hooks out to catch an unsuspecting reader.

Hooks are everywhere. A blog should have hooks to attract new readers Every piece of marketing you do should have hooks. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken a catchy phrase or sentence to help create interest in my books. Huge embarrassment binds my tongue and I shrug and pass on to the next topic of conversation. How many potential sales have I ruined? Word of mouth recommendations are the most successful and the devil to come by so instead I should have had a lovely strapline to use in such situations.

So should you!


Sunday, 25 April 2021

Look Inside


Amazon provides a Look Inside feature. Many customers use it before deciding to buy or to choose another title in preference to yours. The first chapter should be so good that no one walks away at this point!

In the argument about whether to place glossaries and such like at the front or the back of the book, I suggest it might be wise to let the customer get at the first chapter without distraction. Other Book titles, glossaries and possibly even maps, should go at the back where they don’t get in the way of this first, all-important read.

The opening line of the chapter is like the first line of your blurb. It should arouse curiosity and engage interest, needs to be so good that the customer will decide right away to buy.

Like the title and cover, the first lines must reassure that the customer is in the right place; that the genre is the one he thought it was and likes to read. Check your first lines and remove anything that might prevent a sale. This is not the place for back story, poor spelling, stilted language, or poor formatting. Concentrate on the things that will help the reader make a good decision – suspense, curiosity, personality, language that flows smoothly, ideas that link to one another without a distracting jerk. Take time to get it right.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

More about Blurbs


I’m really getting into Bryan Cohen’s advice on Amazon Ads and reading around on the merits of various things to improve sales.

A book blurb is a great big hook. It should arouse curiosity in any potential buyer. The title and cover create expectations and you need to reinforce these early in the blurb.

A good blurb needs engaging content. Think about the features that will sell your book and use them. Cut out the material that customers don’t need to know. Does the customer really need to know the names of multiple characters when checking the book out in the bookstore? Don’t give away the ending or important plot twists - the customer should remain curious. Regard Curiosity and Suspense as sales tools.

(The pic? Blackthorn in flower)