Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Last Taboo - Guest post Jan Ellis

I'm delighted to welcome another guest onto my blog today... the lovely Jan Ellis. Jan is a fellow member of the RNA and is a writer of romcom and contemporary fiction. Without more ado, I'll hand you over to her.

When Wendy kindly invited me to write a post for her blog, I wondered what to write about. Should I tell you about my journey from publisher to published writer? Should I tell you about working in the book trade, an experience that makes me passionate about bookshops and one that comes in handy when writing about my fictitious Devon shop in ‘The Bookshop by the Sea’ stories? No, I shan’t tell you about either of those things. Instead, I’m ready to share with you – dear friends – a deep, dark secret that sets me apart from 99 per cent of people on social media. It is the last taboo; a peculiarity often met with incredulity and shock. Whisper it: I hate Christmas. There, I’ve said it and I can feel the sharp intake of breath across the country as gentle, Santa-loving folk read this. What’s not to like about over-cooked sprouts and the annual family row, I hear you ask? Here’s a handy list.

Things I don’t like:

‘Book now for Christmas!’ signs in August
Adverts for naff sofas
Cheesy supermarket music
Shopping of any kind
Crackers that don’t go ‘bang’
Over-heated rooms
After Eight mints
Cards that arrive the day after ‘last-posting’ day from people you forgot to send cards to

If I was an estate agent or a deep-sea diver, my aversion to Yuletide would not be a problem. However, here in romcom land I feel like the black sheep, the over-looked chipolata at the bottom of the oven, the jar of stinky bath salts. Despite my embarrassing affliction, I have somehow managed to introduce Christmas scenes into two of my novellas: French Kisses and A London Affair. In the latter, my young heroine Kate heads off to Suffolk with friends to celebrate Christmas Eve on the beach.
Here is a short extract:

When they reached their Christmas star, Ned stopped and threw out his arms towards the sea. “Enjoy that fragrance, people. There’s nothing like it.” He breathed in deeply, then waved vigorously with both hands.
“Who are you waving at, darling?” asked Valentina. “I can’t see anyone out there.”
“We can’t see them, but there will be people on beaches in Holland and Scandinavia waving back.”
Kate and Freddy tried not to laugh at their eccentric companion.
“Have you done this kind of thing before then, Ned?”
He turned, his eyes crinkling into a smile. “Many times, Frederico.”
“In England?”
“England, India, Thailand – the sea’s the sea, my friend. Now, let’s make
fire.” Ned knelt on the ground and lit the bonfire, which soon sprang into life. The others arranged themselves on the rugs and gazed into the flames. After a while, Valentina unpacked the champagne and glasses.
“Don’t open that yet, darling,” said Ned. “We need to dip our feet into the ocean first. Come on – get those boots off and roll up your trousers.”
Groaning quietly, Kate pulled off her boots and double layer of socks and stood on the cold sand, shivering. Freddy hopped over and took her hand. “Come on, Kate. Let’s do it.”
“I’m sorry about this. Ned is a bit bonkers.”
Fred turned towards her and laughed. “Why are you apologising? This is brilliant.”
The tide was in and Ned had already run the short way to the water’s edge with Valentina who had rolled up her skirt to her knees. “Hurry up, you two,” she said, laughing. “We must do this together.”
Freddy and Kate stepped gingerly across the sand, then the four of them walked hand in hand into the inky sea, squealing as icy water lapped over their ankles. Behind them the fire crackled, throwing a flickering red light over Kate’s star, which stood like a beacon on the beach.
They dashed back and forth into the water shrieking and jumping over the waves, then separated so each of them could walk alone in silence. It was a spontaneous moment of contemplation under the moonlight: magical, as Ned had promised. Afterwards they dried their feet, put on their boots and lay on the rugs watching the stars and listening to the rhythmic whooshing of the waves. At midnight, they drank a toast to good times and wished each other happy Christmas.
The moon was high in the sky by the time the bonfire had burned down and all the champagne was drunk. Ned’s body cast a dim shadow on the sand as he stretched and stood. “Friends, I think it’s time for bed.”

Reading this again, I realise that there are perhaps one or two redeeming features about Christmas…

Things I do like:

Black and white films on the telly
Carol singing
The smell of cigars
Crackers that do go ‘bang’
Parties with friends in spangly frocks
Dogs in Christmas sweaters
Chilly walks that end in warm pubs
Catching up on the TBR list

On balance, I guess Christmas is okay – so long as it only happens once a year and starts and ends in December. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to open the sherry and put the spouts on. Yo, ho, ho!

French Kisses and A London Affair and An Unexpected Affair and A Summer of Surprises are published in two paperback volumes by Waverley Books. The ebooks (Endeavour Press) are available on Amazon. The Bookshop Detective is a paperback original.

Contact Jan:

Follow Jan on Facebook and Twitter @JanEllis_writer
Jan's Amazon page: http://goo.gl/yqmAey

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

House of Christmas Secrets: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly! - Guest post Lynda Stacey

One thing I love about hosting guests on my blog is when they ask to come back for another visit. It means I must be doing something right as a blog host! Today, I welcome back, author Lynda Stacey. It's her third visit to Wendy's Writing Now and it's great to have her back.

Lynda first visited in 2016 when she'd just published her debut novel, House of Secrets. Today, she's back to talk about its sequel, House of Christmas Secrets... the good, the bad and the ugly!

Over to you, Lynda.

When my debut novel House of Secrets was first published I literally bounced around the house for days while watching in amazement as it began to sell. The first days were very surreal, I still found it very hard to believe that firstly I’d fulfilled my dream and I’d written a whole book, and secondly that people were actually buying it.

I would seriously check the ‘amazon sales rank’ at least once an hour to see if it had moved up or down in the rankings and at its best it got to No133 in the whole of the paid Kindle Store and No8 in the whole of Romantic Suspense, for which I’ll be forever grateful. Then, as though things couldn’t
get any better, the readers began leaving reviews. I was totally blown away. I lost count of the actual readers who not only loved it, but also spoke of my characters as real people. They wanted to know what they were doing now and how their lives had turned out. Which got me thinking.... could I do it, could I write a sequel, could I bring all of those characters back to life and if I could, what adventure could I take them on this time?

So, House of Christmas Secrets began.

The good..!

I began the story one year on from where House of Secrets ended. I felt that the characters would have had time to have moved forward with their lives but I didn’t want the story to start so far ahead that things would have changed dramatically.

I loved re-creating the characters. Getting to meet Jess again, along with Jack, Emily and of course Maddie, Bandit, little Poppy and, last but not least, our lovely Nomsa who was still baking, looking after everyone and, at times of both happiness and sadness, always put the kettle on. I felt that all of these people needed to be there for the continuity so that the reader felt comfortable picking the story up again.

The bad..!

I really struggled with the storyline. I really didn’t want to throw anything more at Madeleine, I felt as though she’d had so much trouble already with all that had happened in House of Secrets that I couldn’t possibly send anything else in her direction. Also, because I hadn’t planned on a sequel, I hadn’t really left any loose ends that I could pick up and run with, which meant I had to dig deep. There was only one tiny thread that I could pick up, so our story begins with Jess wishing for a nice, normal and quiet Christmas. However, when two unexpected visitors arrive at the hall, her Christmas turns into everything other than nice and normal.

The ugly..! (but only for the author... me..!)

House of Christmas Secrets began life as a novella, which was 50,000 words. I was happy with the result, I felt that it offered House of Secrets a great sequel.

However, when it went to my lovely editor she read it and emailed me with a short, sharp response that basically said... ‘Too good to be a novella, could you possibly just add 35,000 words and get it back to me as soon as possible... if you don’t mind.’

As you can imagine, I read the email at least twice, gasped, stamped around the room and then I poured the wine, knowing that to add 35k meant that I needed to add a whole extra storyline...!

Saying that, I love it. And as always, my editor was absolutely right. The story is now better, it has more depth and the extra storyline does add moments of laughter and also of tears. Above all else, like always with my novels, I feel that the reader will now go through every single emotion whilst reading. I must admit that there is one chapter that I tend to blubber at every time I go through it. 

Final note: More than anything, I hope everyone loves it as much as I do. xx

This year we’re just going to have a nice, normal Christmas… 

Last year’s Christmas at Wrea Head Hall didn’t quite go to plan which is why Jess Croft is determined this festive season will be the one to remember, for the right reasons. And she has plenty of reasons to be hopeful, she’s going to marry the man of her dreams, Jack Stone, seven days after New Year’s Eve.  

However, as family secrets are revealed in hidden letters and two unexpected guests turn up on the doorstep, Jess is left wondering whether her life will ever be the same again. 

Can Jess and Jack still experience a peaceful festive season that they had imagined or are there some problems that even Christmas can’t fix?


Contact Lynda:

Twitter  @Lyndastacey
Website   www.Lyndastacey.co.uk

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Making Twitter Banners and Adverts plus a Bargain!

I've just come back from a gorgeous holiday in La Gomera and it's time to turn my attention once more to writing and also to marketing my Christmas collection, Silent Night. This is especially important as, for one week only, it's on Kindle Countdown at just 99p and if I don't tell people, no one will know about it. So here I am telling you - you can buy it here!

Since publication day in October, and without the marketing department of a publishing house to do it for me, I've had to think up new and creative ways of showing off my book. There are many tools on the internet to help you and, as I've had a few people ask me recently how I went about making my adverts - especially my Twitter banners - I thought I'd devote this post to explaining what I did.

First of all I needed a picture of my book cover but I also wanted some other pictures to use as backgrounds. I used Pixabay for this as it has a wide range of free to use illustrations and photographs - just right for what I wanted.

For example, the background of snowflakes in this Twitter banner was from the site. 

To get the picture the right size and to add text, I used Canva. Although you can use it on a PC or your phone, I found it worked best on my ipad. Canva is a basic design programme and it's very simple to use - it must be if I managed it! I used Canva to size my adverts to fit Facebook posts, Twitter banners and Instagram pictures (you name it, it can do it.)

But I also wanted to use my book cover in a different way. For this I used the free on-line photo editor LunaPic. I made the book cover graphics below using it. 

I also used LunaPic to add the frosted edge to the title picture and to add the snow effect in my Twitter banner below (you'll find it in 'animations').

I used a different program to add a filter to my pictures to give a different effect. For this I use the photo-editor App PS Express on my ipad. I love the way it changed the tone of my advert below from warm to cool.

While I was searching around for new things to use, I came across another fun site called Lumyer. Again I used it as an App on my ipad to create the heart effect on the advert below. I used this one on my Facebook author page. If you want to remove the watermark, you have to pay, otherwise it's free to use.

Not content with animations and gifs, I decided to try using a little fun App called Boomerang. It does what it says on the tin and makes a few second 'boomerang' movie of whatever you photograph. Clever eh? This is the one I made for my Facebook page and also for Instagram.

And there you have it. Lots of ways to advertise your novel without getting boring. I'm sure there are lots of other interesting Apps and websites out there that can brighten up your marketing. If you know of any, please let me know in the comments.

Which leaves me only to remind you that Silent Night is on sale for just 99p all this week. It's had some fabulous reviews which you can check out on Amazon and, if you're feeling festive and would like to take advantage of this offer, you can buy it here.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The RNA Winter Industry Award Party and Me

I went to the library yesterday. Not to borrow some books but to attend the RNA Winter Party and industry awards in London. This delightful venue was in Birdcage Walk and inspirational - being surrounded by books was certainly a fitting way to pass a few hours in the company of other authors.

I went to the party with my good writing friends, Liz Smith (who writes under the name of Liz Eeles) and  Susan Griffin - my partners in crime at this year's conference. To say the evening started eventfully would be an understatement. First, my train ticket wouldn't open the barrier. Luckily, there was a man in a little box (well he wasn't really in the box but that's just the way my brain works) who told me to show my him my ticket. I waved my ticket in front of his face on the screen only for him to say, when he guessed what I was doing, "No, show it to the camera, not my face." It transpired that the barrier hadn't opened was because I'd used my return ticket by mistake.

At last was got on the train - only Liz and I had been talking so much, it was the wrong one!

A change of trains later and we were on track again (excuse the pun) and joined up with Susan for the last leg of our journey... only we weren't out of the woods yet. Our taxi route from Victoria (remember I don't do tubes) came to a halt when we found the roads around St James' park barricaded off. We had to ditch the cab and walk so it was a good job I wasn't wearing my high shoes.

Eventually we arrived. The place was packed, the noise level was high and I stood there feeling, as I always do, slightly overwhelmed. I needn't have worried though as very soon, I spotted someone I knew and from then on the evening went in a whirl.

Me (right) and Kath McG
But it wasn't all socialising. An important part of the evening is the industry award ceremony. Congratulations to all the winners! I was particularly thrilled to learn that the publisher I write for, D C Thomson, was runner up in the category Publisher of the Year. You can find all the winners here.

I'd like to tell you that I was brave enough to introduce myself to Agent of the Year winner Broo Doherty, who has the first three chapters of novel two, and runner up Rebecca Richie who favourited my twitter pitch for novel one in the recent #TellAMH twitter pitch contest and has the first three chapters.... but it didn't happen! One day I'll stop worrying about what people think of me and just do it.

As always, I only managed to speak to half the people I would have liked - but never mind, there's always next time.

In other news, I am delighted to have recently had two sales to The People's Friend and today I found out that novel two has been long-listed in the Flash 500 novel opening and synopsis competition... keep your fingers crossed for me. Congratulations also to writing chum, Tracy Fells, who joins me on the list.

Finally, I'll leave you with a picture of my story in the People's Friend Annual 2018 (which is out now) called Where the River Leads.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Just So Stories - editing out those banned words

Having recently published Silent Night, my new collection of short stories (you can read my post here) and spent time coming up with ways to market it (Book Marketing for Dummies) I've embarked on a new project - or rather gone back to an old one.

Anyone remember the romantic mystery novel I was working on a while ago that was set in Greece? This novel has been on a long and eventful journey with me (it even got me an agent for a while) and I now have two completely different versions of it - one in a single viewpoint and one with a dual narrative. For ages, I've been itching to go back to the original dual-narrative version and add in some of the better parts of the second version but, with the new novel I've been writing taking up most of my time, I've not been able to.

Now that novel two has been submitted to agents, I've been able to go back to reworking my special first book and I'm pleased to say that it's almost finished. Version three is, in my opinion, the best yet and I'm super excited to soon have two novels to offer agents and publishers (or to publish myself, if I go down that route).

It was only on reading through the manuscript again that I picked up on the fact that I'd used the phrase for a moment rather frequently (on checking, it was 28 times!) I could hardly believe it. With this in mind, I turned to Facebook to ask what words other authors knew they overused. I'm happy that people were not shy in coming forward with the words they knew were for the chop.

This is the list I came up with using their answers (most common first). See how clever I was with the title of this post!

just (mentioned by the majority)
a little
all at once
blood (an interesting one!)
not for the first time

That's quite a list and I'm going to be busy checking out all these sneaky little words that creep in when our backs are turned... I may be gone some time!

Have you got any favourites you can add to the list?

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a picture my latest story in The People's Friend called, Next to Me.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Book Marketing for Dummies

As many of you will know, two week's ago saw the publication of my Christmas short story collection, Silent Night. It's been exciting seeing my third collection hitting the Amazon shelves but books don't sell themselves... oh no.

You can read about my launch here.

I knew that if I wanted to make Silent Night visible to readers, I would need to take action. That means using the M word. Yes, you know the one... marketing. As anyone who has tried to publicise their book knows, without it, you might as well just print the pages out and read them to yourself. Particularly if a) the book is self-published b) it's a collection of short stories c) your book baby is coming out in the two months before Christmas along with everyone else's!

I am by no means an expert in marketing (hence the title of the post) and it's difficult to know what things work without publishing a control book on the same day and doing no marketing, but I will try to help a little.

Below, are some suggestions for those starting out, based on what I've done and learnt so far.

1. Say "Pretty please" to book reviewers

A few weeks before publication day, I put out a request on the fabulous Book connectors Facebook group (if you don't belong to it, you're missing out) asking whether any lovely, kind book reviewers would be willing to take a look at Silent Night. It was a nail-biting wait after I'd clicked 'post' as I know that I'd left it very later to ask and most of the reviewers have a toppling pile of novels waiting to be read from traditionally published authors. Imagine then my delight when several reviewers said they'd be happy to have a read. Who knows, maybe they thought my thirteen short stories would be a quick and easy read after a 90,000 word manuscript. Whatever it was, I was very happy.

Of course the risk is that the reviewer might not like your book (that's the price you have to pay for requesting an honest review) but I'm delighted to say that the first reviewer, Rachel Gilbey from 'Rachel's Random Reads', really enjoyed my collection, commenting that Silent Night is 'a great showcase to Wendy Clarke's writing talents'. How lovely! You can read the rest of  Rachel's review here.

I've also had a review from across the pond. This time from Kathryn at Book Ink Reviews.
She said, 'Within a few pages, you become attached to each of her characters'. You can read the rest of her review here.

I'm looking forward to reading what the other book bloggers have to say when the reviews come in. Next time I won't leave it so close to publication date to ask (I'm aware that Christmas publications have a short shelf life).

2. Don't be afraid to ask to guest on someone's blog

Again on the Book Connectors Facebook group, I asked if anyone would like to interview me on their blog or have me write a guest post for them, linked to something in my story collection. Having hosted over fifty guests myself on Wendy's Writing Now, I didn't feel bad asking and it was lovely how many people were happy to oblige (especially authors and bloggers who have been guests on my own blog). What a lovely supportive bunch writers are.

Here's where I've been so far - many thanks to all of them. Why not pop over and have a read. I love the variety of questions I've been asked.

Brook Cottage Books  (interview)
Clare Flynn                  (interview)
Lynda Stacey               (guest post - Christmas through the eyes of different characters)
Angela Petch                (interview) 
Books and Wine Gums   (interview)

...and last but not least, a huge thank you to Jessie Cahalin from the amazing Books in My Handbag blog. Considering Jessie and I have never met either in real life or on social media before, she has given up an inordinate amount of time to voluntarily promote my book. 

First there was the picture of my collection in her handbag gallery linking to my Amazon page and then a short interview and extract from my book which can be read here. She has also tirelessly tweeted and promoted on Facebook and twitter, going above and beyond what I'd expect and I can't thank her enough.

Here's a picture of Silent Night in my handbag.

I have more guest posts lined up in the next weeks.

3. Learn how to do it properly

A bit late I know but a few days before publication, I went up to London to take part in the Neetsmarketing Social Media for Writers course, run by the fabulous Anita Chapman. Anita has got masses of great advice on her Neetsmarketing blog and you can read the guest post she wrote for me here. I'm pretty good with social media but there's always something new to learn. After attending this course, I came back determined to do numbers 4 and 5 below.

4. Set up a Facebook Author Page 

I've only ever had a Facebook profile page, as I joined Facebook after I started writing and the only 'friends' I had were other writers. However, with a new collection to publicise, I knew I was stepping on thin ice using my personal profile for marketing so decided to bite the bullet and set up an author page so I could put up an Amazon link every now and again without being thrown into Facebook gaol. What I've since learn, though, is that unless you pay to 'boost' your post, very few of the people who 'like' your page actually get to see your post. Grrrr.

If you wish, you can find and 'like' my author page here.

5. Try out a new social media

After going on Anita's course, I decided to try a new social media - Instagram. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what it was or how to use it. I do now... and it's so simple! Basically, you post pretty pictures (after making them as good as you can by using the different filters) then adding relevant hashtags. That's it. Simples. So far I really love it but how does it work with book marketing? Every now and again, I've put up a picture of something book-related (my book cover, or the bookmarks my husband has made for me)

Then I've added appropriate hashtags and mentioned the link to Amazon that's in my bio (you can't add live links to your photo). It's too early to say whether this is working but it gets your book info in front of a new and diverse audience.

6. Make some good adverts

This is one I made earlier. It's my favourites and I think it deserves a Blue Peter Badge. It's a Twitter banner which I made on my ipad using Canva. I just love this site. The trick is to make several different ones and change them around frequently. I also try not to bombard people with 'buy me' posts but slip them in amongst other things.

7. Don't be scared to mention your book

I took my bookmarks and a sample copy of Silent Night to my choir practice. Many of the ladies are in the age bracket who read the magazines I write for and have bought my other collections. I've had several paperback sales already. These ladies may not be on social media and if I hadn't told them about Silent Night it would have been a market I'd missed. Think about who goes to your pilates/badminton/swimming club - might they like a book like yours?

And that's it... so far. 

The only marketing tip I've left to try is the Amazon Countdown price drop (I've used this promotion for my other collections with varying degrees of success). It will be happening very soon... watch out for it.

So, if you're a dummy at marketing like I was, why not try giving some of these things a go. They might not get you into the best-seller list but at least you'll have fun trying.

If you have any marketing ideas that have worked for you, please feel free to put them in the comments.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

An Insider's Guide to a Blog Tour - Guest Post Vivien Brown

Blog tours go hand in hand with publishing a book but what is it really like going on tour? I asked author Vivien Brown this question as Wendy's Writing Now is the final stop in Vivien's tour to promote the paperback publication of her novel, Lily Alone.

 Over to you, Vivien.

When I hear the words ‘going on tour’ I instantly think of rock bands and roadies, packed into a bus with a mound of guitars and being pursued by screaming groupies! I am glad to say that, when it comes to books, a tour is a very different thing altogether. I had heard a lot about blog tours over the last year or so, particularly since becoming a novelist myself, but I had very little idea of how they worked, so planning and promoting one of my own has been quite an experience!

There is a lot more to launching a novel than just writing it and then sitting back waiting for sales. From as soon as my book ‘Lily Alone’ was given an e-publication date, I have had to talk about it on social media and in every conceivable forum, until my potential readers are probably sick to death of the very sight of its (rather lovely) cover. But now it is has been published in paperback too, things seem to have stepped up another gear and the search is on for more readers and, crucially, more reviews.

The best way to make a real splash, I was told, was to organise a blog tour, whereby I and my book would feature on a series of bloggers’ sites, travelling from one to another during the days leading up to, and soon after, publication. At each stop, I would provide photos, answer interview questions, perhaps offer free copies as prizes, or write a post that in some way links to the book. If I was lucky, some of the bloggers might review and recommend the book too. But, where to begin?

I am a member of the fantastic Facebook group known as Book Connectors, a friendly and very active community of readers, writers and bloggers who enjoy talking about, promoting and reviewing books, and all without a penny changing hands! So, I boldly asked if anyone there might like to include me in a possible future tour, and I was flooded with enthusiastic replies. Having taken a look at all of their blogs and talked about what they would like me to supply, I was able to select the ones that I thought best suited my book, and after several emails passed back and forth as we juggled available dates, I ended up with eight who were happy to ‘host’ me, one each day (apart from Sunday), starting two days before publication and ending up right here, after a much needed day’s breather, with my friend Wendy’s super blog as my final stop. Then I designed a poster, put all the dates in my diary, and waited for it all to begin.

So, what was the hardest part? It had to be making sure that I didn’t give exactly the same information to each blogger. People interested in books may well read more than one of my interviews and will soon tire of reading the same replies. It helped that each blogger had their own unique way of doing things, varying the questions asked, trying to include more imaginative and unusual questions, and often providing a longer list than was needed, so I was able to pick and choose which ones to answer. I was also conscious of having too many identical photos of me floating about the internet, so I tried to send a different one each time. Okay, so in some I am probably five years younger than in others, but I think they are all just about recognisable as me!

And the best bit? Well, I have been overwhelmed by the level of response. Of course, I shared the blog posts on my own Facebook and twitter pages as each one appeared, but then friends, other reviewers and bloggers, and total strangers, started to like, share and comment on them too. It helped that a short story I had written to tie in with the book appeared in My Weekly magazine on the second day of the tour, so that generated a lot more interest and even more retweets. And then the RNIB tweeted on day three to announce that the book was now available as a talking book, which produced even more ‘traffic’ from its followers and beyond. I looked up the voice artist, Penelope Rawlins, and found she had also narrated books for such great writers as Jo Jo Moyes and Maggie O’Farrell. I tweeted a thank you and she replied that my novel had been ‘an absolute joy to narrate’ –Wow!

Hitches? There were one or two. One blogger lost my email replies, and the poster that my publishers made for me on day two to replace my home-made effort was great, but it was only after sharing it just about everywhere that I spotted it had an error in it (the date of this final blog was correct but it said it was a Wednesday instead of a Thursday!) But these were just minor blips in an otherwise hectic, but highly enjoyable, exercise.

But, after a week and a half ‘on the road’, has the blog tour actually resulted in extra sales or reviews? Well, my Amazon rankings certainly went up day by day. Not astronomically so, but then not all sales are via Amazon, and not everyone buys a book the moment they first hear about it. And reviews tend to follow some time later, as I have to give readers time to actually read what they have bought before they can voice an opinion. So, only time will tell. But, overall, I’m sure such intense promotion can’t have done any harm, and it was certainly fun!

Amazon paperback: http://amzn.to/2v2THAK

Amazon ebook: http://amzn.to/2nF1iDC

BLURB: What sort of mother would leave her daughter alone? Would you leave a very young child at home on their own – knowing that terrible things can happen in the blink of an eye? Lily, who is not yet three years old, wakes up alone with only her cuddly toy for company. She is hungry, afraid of the dark, can’t use the phone, and has been told never to open the door to strangers. In the flat downstairs, a lonely and elderly woman keeps herself to herself but wonders at the cries coming from upstairs. Lily’s grandmother frets that she can no longer see her granddaughter since the child’s parents separated. Lily’s father hasn’t seen her for a while. He’s been abroad, absorbed in his new job and his new girlfriend. A young woman lies in a coma in hospital – no one knows her name or who she is, but in her silent dreams, a little girl is crying for her mummy… And for Lily, time is running out.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Merry (Christmas) Publication Day to Me!

At last it's here! Publication day for my Christmas short story collection, Silent Night.

Yes, I know it's only October but unless I launch my collection into the wide world now, Christmas will have been and gone in the blink of an eye and no one will have read it.

Thinking about Christmas when it's not (if you see what I mean) is nothing new to me. All thirteen stories in this collection have been published in national women's magazines (The People's Friend and Take a Break Fiction Feast) so were written in the middle of summer - some as early as June!

So, how do I go about writing something Christmassy when the thermometer is showing 27 degrees, I'm skulking in the shade and the thought of a crackling log fire might just send me over the edge? Well, imagination is the key. I don't play Christmas songs, read A Christmas Carol or stare at Christmas cards hoping for inspiration. Instead, I close my eyes and take myself back to my childhood, remembering the excitement of waking up to a stocking on the end of a bed or the smell of a turkey in the oven. Don't get me wrong, not all my stories are written from a child's point of view - in fact, the stories are seen through the eyes of many different characters: male, female, young and old. It's just that this is my way of capturing that special Christmas feeling. A feeling that can be woven through every Christmas story I write, even if I know that very soon I'll be jetting off on my summer holidays.

Putting this collection together hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be. I wanted Silent Night to be around the same size as my other two story collections, Room in Your Heart and The Last Rose, which meant thirteen stories. It was trying to choose the thirteen from the thirty published that was the problem. In the end, my husband said, 'Why don't you just pick your favourites?'

So that's what I did. 

The next few weeks will be exciting - as you read this I shall be busy writing guest posts and answering interview questions. I'm very grateful to all the people who have invited me onto their blogs and I can't wait to start visiting. I've got so used to being the blog host that it makes a lovely change to be the guest.

Let's crack open the bubbly and I'll leave you with a short extract from the story, 'On My Own'.

I wake to a weak light filtering through the curtains. Looking at my watch, I’m surprised to find that it’s nearly ten. My morning is usually dictated by Ryan’s morning routine so to lie in bed and know that the day ahead is my own, gives me a delicious thrill. As I lean across and pull open the curtains, I gasp. The sky, yesterday a battle-ship grey, is now a clear winter blue and seems to go on for ever and, in the distance, is the sea view I had been promised.

Christmas Eve. The thought fills me with excitement as it did when I was a little girl. I run down the stairs two at a time to make a cup of tea to take up to bed. As I enter the living room, I see the half empty bottle of Chablis and the tree jauntily displaying its home-made decorations: silver fir cones, golden flower heads and white cut out snowflakes shimmering with glitter. It’s a far cry from the white and pink baubles we bought in Selfridges. It wouldn’t look out of place in a primary school but I love it.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of Silent Night, it is available on Amazon HERE as an ebook or
paperback (perfect for popping into a Christmas stocking)

Sunday, 1 October 2017

What NOT to Do When Self-Publishing - Guest Post Alison Morton

Interested in self-publishing? If you are, you might want to read this - a warts and all guest post from Alison Morton, writer of the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series. It's about what NOT to do if you are thinking of going down this route. In Alison's words, 'highlighting some of the difficulties brings a sense of reality to the whole business of self-publishing'.

Over to you, Alison.

Self-publishing?  Please don’t do these things

I’ve published eight books – six novels, two non-fiction – via the indie route since 2012, but in the preceding three years I learnt writing techniques: structure, plot, dialogue; how to delete adverbs, adjectives and over-writing. Then came techniques needed in the publishing world: proposals, submission packages, approach letters and etiquette in approaching agents and publishers; and how the publishing industry worked, who was who and how to make and use opportunities.

I attended conferences, courses, fairs, seminars, I read how-to books, joined writers’ groups and associations and talked to other writers, tutors, assessors, publishing experts and mentors. I brought in my business skills: time management, networking, project management, accounting, cost analysis, pricing, marketing, PR and negotiating. And I listened.

Along the way, I’ve learnt a great deal including some essential dos and don’ts.
Contrary to the jolly cheerleader ‘you can have it all’ approach, I’m going to be negative, and possibly crushing, because there are a lot of things you shouldn’t do if you want to succeed as an indie author.

1. You are not entitled to inflict rubbish on readers just because you can
In this glorious age of democratisation of publishing anybody can publish a book. Being honest, 80% of them shouldn’t. Grammar, punctuation, gripping prose, a rattling good story edited by a competent experienced editor and a fabulous book jacket are minima. If you DIY publish, learn how to do it properly: read ‘how to’ books, go on courses, research online and read guides, join specialist forums, learn from the experts.

2. Don’t whinge
The world is unfair. You learnt that in the playground. If you have a plan, work hard, research thoroughly and cultivate people, you will increase your chances of success astronomically.

You will see others get breaks, seem to prosper, receive plaudits, win prizes. Admit it, you’re left feeling a little envious. A secret – they’ve been in exactly the same place, but they slogged on. If you need to whinge, talk to the cat/dog/your critique partner. But don’t do it in public or you’ll be seen as needy. And nobody likes to be seen supporting a needy whinger…

3. Don’t diss others in the food chain
True in life and true in writing and publishing; it’s a village. Be friendly to all whether they’re a stellar bestseller or the newbie in your writing group. Of course, there are people we don’t warm to – the bumptious, the snobby, the unctuous and the darnright obnoxious. They have their own problems and really, we have to feel sorry for them.

As an indie, you have the benefits of freedom, control and the ability to be fully flexible in your PR and marketing. But please don’t sneer at mainstream authors or regard them as ‘sold out.’ They have chosen their route to publishing as you have yours. Remember we are all writers, especially if we share a genre.
Alison with TV presenter Sue Cook at
the launch of INCEPTIO
4. Don’t be a pest 
It’s hard, really hard, when you’re clutching your sweated-over manuscript or self-published book to your chest and you see your dream publisher/agent/endorser twenty paces from you not to rush over and gabble about your treasure in a demented ├╝ber-pitch.

Nobody is more passionate about your book than you. That’s how it should be; you have immersed long hours in it and probably part of your soul. But rein it back and think strategically. Approach people in the terms they find acceptable, be gradual, wear your sensible hat and exert your brain, not your emotions. Publishers and agents outline their requirements on their websites – study them in detail and send what they ask not what you think.

Endorsers and reviewers are often very busy and/or fighting deadlines. Approach politely and if they don’t have time or don’t wish to read your book, thank them and withdraw gracefully. Ditto if you decide to approach agents and publishers and your book is rejected. And please don’t send unreadable files (silly fonts, midget type, badly formatted) to anybody at any stage.

5. Don’t expect to be the great breakthrough author, nor to be rich beyond dreams
More books = more income, but in the ferociously competitive book world, you’re statistically unlikely to become one of the ‘big beasts’. However, with hard work (that expression again), you can enjoy a supplementary, even comfortable income.

And as you mature as a writer, people will ask for your opinion, read your blog, ask you to speak and, as long as you produce good content and information, come to regard you as an expert in your field. You may not win the Booker Prize, but you’ll probably be eligible for, and even win, some well-regarded indie ones.

Harsh? Probably. Realistic, certainly.

But being a writer, although creative, is a job. As an indie writer, you just have to show you’re also a professional.

Alison Morton writes the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

The first five books have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO was selected as an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller. The sixth, RETALIO, came out in April 2017.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds a MA History, blogs about Romans and writing.

Now she continues to write, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband of 30 years.

Social media links
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison_morton

Buying link for RETALIO (multiple retailers/formats):

RETALIO book trailer: https://youtu.be/Mql2Mm3ytJc 

Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.

Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.