Wednesday, 31 August 2011

GUEST AUTHOR - Victoria Connelly

Today we welcome romcom author Victoria Connelly, who is already a famous UK paper-book author as you can see from this picture of her signing in Waterstones. Here she tells us why she is publishing some of her books for Kindle. Over to you, Victoria!

In September 2000, I got married in a medieval castle in the Yorkshire Dales. It was the perfect day. However, just six weeks after our wedding, my husband (who was a television news cameraman at the time) was sent to Israel, which was then a war zone. I panicked - convinced I was going to become a widow - and at exactly the same time, I couldn't help thinking that it would make a great opening for a book: a newly-wed suddenly becoming a widow!

I didn't dare write the book until my husband was safely home but I soon had a completed manuscript called Flights of Angels about a young widow who discovers she has a tiny group of guardian angels to take care of her.

In 2001, I tried to get an agent for it and received nothing but rejections for ages. But then somebody decided to take a chance on me and the novel was submitted to publishers right around the world. And more rejections flooded in.

It wasn't until 2004 that we had an offer of publication. Bizarrely, it wasn't from the UK but from Germany, and not just one offer either – five publishers were bidding against each other and, at the end of a very exciting fortnight, I had a book deal. My German publisher went on to publish two more fantasy rom coms from me:

Unmasking Elena Montella is about a young woman who is given a magical Venetian mask which has the power to turn her invisible so she is able to spy on her three fianc├ęs and find out who is the right one of her.

Three Graces is about a woman who discovers that her husband's ancestral home is haunted by an 18th-century ghost who simply refuses to leave.

In 2008, Flights of Angels was turned into a film. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and my husband and I flew out to Berlin to see it being made and even got to be extras in it. But, despite all this excitement, these books have remained unpublished in my home country and it's been so frustrating that my friends and family can't read them in English.

Until Kindle, that is.

Now, I'm thrilled to see them made available in the English language at long last. Kindle is so exciting for writers and for readers too. As authors, we're told – all too often – what readers do and don't want: “Readers don't want magic in adult books.” “Readers don't want short stories or novellas.” Well, I'm pleased to say that all this has been proved wrong. Readers do want these books, and I'm very happy to be a part of this new publishing sensation.

Thank you very much, Victoria! And the best of luck with the Kindle books. Magic? Masks? Guardian angels? They sound EXACTLY the sort of thing this adult reader likes... I'm off to download them right now...

Monday, 29 August 2011

Enid Richemont: Post London riots

At present, the UK riots are still uppermost in my mind. So many of them happened in my city, and they started off in what's just down the road and around a few corners from us - Tottenham. And oh, the rubbish they stole... TVs? phones? jeans? trainers? And for junk like that they destroyed people's livelihoods and homes? This materialistic, vacuous and celebrity-focussed culture has a hell of a lot to answer for. It must change. It has to. The emotional deprivation was real - most notably the absence of any family or community involvement. Illiteracy seems to have played a major part too - the statistics are horrifying.

This morning I received the Arabic editions of two of the little books I did with Franklin Watts some time ago. It was unexpected, and I was thrilled. My much longer books have been translated into German, Japanese and Danish, but seeing these short illustrated books in Arabic was quite fascinating. They're quite rude and funny stories, too. Collectively, we all enjoy the rude and the funny, don't we? It gave me that good-in-the-belly feeling of being part of a big, big laughing community.

For the Kindle, I've recently re-published TWICE TIMES DANGER, my thriller for 9-12 year old girls, initially published by Walker Books. I'm so pleased to have it out there again, and accessible. It's set in Cornwall, where my daughter and my grandchildren live, and which is somewhere I know well.

The concepts of both self-publishing (and re-publishing) have taken on a new image these days, and it's given writers new freedom. I hugely enjoy working with print publishers, but I'm also enjoying the challenge of doing the whole thing myself, and it also makes me feel like a more potent and knowledgeable part of the industry. At present, ideas, manuscripts, are frequently turned down at the acquisitions stage by marketing people, which can be a psychological killer for any writer (I know, I've been there). I've recently been involved with a picture-book/app company, which makes it possible for writers and illustrators to team up independently (and the company donates a portion of its profits to Third World educational charities, too). The little story I'm doing for them may sink or swim - who knows? But at least it will be out there. Its an interesting and challenging online world, innit?

My first 'proper' picture book text comes out next year with Little Tiger Press - very exciting. More on this in future blogs.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Hello - Deborah Durbin

Hello and thank you to the team for inviting me to contribute to the Kindle Authors UK site.
My name’s Deborah Durbin and I’m a Kindle Author.
In fact I’m also a traditional published author of 11 non-fiction books, ghost writer of three other books and my day job is that of a journalist and columnist for various glossy magazines and national newspapers.
I discovered the Kindle almost two years ago when I decided to buy four Kindle readers for Christmas presents for some members of my family and decided to keep one for myself – that particular family member didn’t really deserve it anyway:) and it was shortly after using the Kindle that I received an email from Amazon telling me that I too could publish my words on to Kindle for the world to see.
Having had a great deal of success with non-fiction books, I didn’t have quite the same amount of success with my fictional work – I’d manage to get to the part where you secure an agent, but after that, I couldn’t quite get that all elusive three-book-fiction-deal.
My novel titled, Oh Great, Now I Can Hear Dead People, is a story about Sam, a young woman who out of desperation to pay her rent takes a job as a psychic reader for a hotline to the heavens, despite not having a psychic bone in her body and soon discovers the voices she can hear in her head are in fact real dead people. As it was just gathering metaphorical dust in my My Documents, I thought why not just test the market and see if anyone would be willing to part with their hard-earned cash to read it?
And part they did! (thank you Mum!) I can officially say that I’m a best-selling novelist, (albeit Amazon’s supernatural category) – I have been listed in the best-seller tables since February this year when I put my book on Kindle Direct Publishing and I’ve already made more in royalties than some of my traditionally published books in the same time frame.
I recently added another title to KDP – So You Want to be a Freelance Writer which draws on my 14 years experience of working as a freelance writer (including securing non-fiction book deals with publishers) and whilst this particular book is not selling as fast as the novel, it is still selling.
Do I regret not holding out until the recession improved and a mainstream publisher beats a path to my door to buy the rights to my novel? Not at all. At the end of the day, publishing is a business and women’s fiction is one of the hardest genres to break in to. Being a trained journalist you learn quickly not to be precious about your work and the same goes for any writing that you want to get paid for.
Amazon has created a ready-made, world-wide market that anyone can utilise and at the end of the day it’s the readers that will decide whether a book is good or not.
Will I publish with KDP again? Probably, yes. Considering I do no promoting of my two Kindle books whatsoever, they are selling and selling well. I personally think that authors are biting back and realising that with a little bit of know how, they can cut out the middle man and publish their own books and if they are prepared to invest time in promoting them, they can make a lot of money and gain a loyal readership.
You can even by a copy if you feel inclined;)

Thursday, 25 August 2011


THE GHOST DRUM by Susan Price
          Susan Price has been a professional writer since she was 16, and has published 60 books, with Faber, Black, Hodder, Scholastic, OUP and CUP, among others.  She is now self-publishing, and her books are available as downloads from Amazon.

          'My story is set (says the cat) in a far-away Czardom, where the winter is a cold half-year of darkness.
          In that country the snow falls deep and lies long, lies and freezes until bears can walk on its thick crust of ice. The ice glitters on the snow like white stars in a white sky!... the winter is one long night, and all that long night long the sky-stars glisten in their darkness, and the snow-stars glitter in their whiteness, and between the two there hangs a shivering curtain of cold twilight.’
          The cat is the ‘learned cat’ which often begins Russian folk-tales, who is found in Pushkin, and in Bilibin’s beautiful illustrations (left); but the quote is the opening of my Carnegie winning book, ‘The Ghost Drum.’  (Click here to read the first chapter.)
Bilibin: from 'The Tale of Tsar Sultan'
          I wanted to write a story which was, at once, beautiful and terrifying; full of the darkness and intense cold of a Russian winter, and the brilliant jewel colours of Russian folk-art.
          The story tells of a witch who comes to a slave-woman on the darkest, coldest night of midwinter, and begs her newborn baby from her.  It also tells of a jealous Czar, who imprisons his new-born son at the top of a tall tower, for life.
          It tells of a witch’s education: ‘Chingis was quick to learn the simplest word-magic, and could soon make anyone believe anything. And she learned to smell a lie, and to see the truth lying hidden under a liar's tongue. And no sooner had she learned that much than lessons in another magic began: the magic of writing.
          'Writing is another common magic,' said the witch… 'When you can read this book, Chingis, the voice of a witch who has been dead two thousand years will speak to you from it. Every day, people who know nothing more of witchcraft, open books and listen to the talk of the dead. They learn from the dead, and learn to love them, as if they were still alive. That is strong magic.'
Ghost Song by Susan Price
          And it tells of ice-apples: ‘The box held ice-apples. Their cold rose from them in a chill, apple-scented mist. [They] seemed made of glass. Their skins were transparent and so pale a green as to be colourless.
          'At the heart of the apples, hanging in space, could be seen the flower-tracery of the cores, and the black pips. 
         'Chingis lifted an apple by its stalk…and turned it. The dark pips whirled… Juice sparkled in droplets, like frost…The apple gathered to itself all the light there was, and shone without heat; shone dimly and softly, like light seen through water, a light coloured with the faint, barely visible green seen in snow.
          'Ice-apples are rare. Compared to them, diamonds are as common as sand grains on a beach. Unicorns are more easily found than ice-apples. Yet here was a box of them, shining like moonlight on a night of rain.’
          In its pre-electronic life, the book was published in Britain, America, Denmark and Japan, and was widely reviewed.
          ‘…this powerful and musical story placed in the world of Northern…folk-tales, but strongly and fiercely original... Compelling…’  BOOKLIST.
          'The Ghost Drum is a richly emotional and lavishly written tale of love and…tyranny… This is adult fiction for [children].  TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
Ghost Dance by Susan Price
          'Price [is] a hypnotic storyteller who laces her work with delicate cynicism.  She uses vivid imagery, as well as effects occasionally uncompromising in their brutality…her story flows, told by a master. A find for lovers of folklore and fantasy.'  KIRKUS REVIEW.
          When I give talks in schools and libraries, people often ask me where they can buy copies of 'The Ghost Drum'.  Now, I'm glad to say, I can tell them: 'On Kindle. It'll cost you £1-71 ($2-99), and you can download it instantly.'
         The first two books in the original sequence, Ghost Drum and Ghost Song, are already available as downloads, and in a couple of days the third book, Ghost Dance, will join them. And I'm thrilled about it.

Susan Price's books can be found here
Her website is at
Read her blog here

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Michael Boxwell: The whirlwind ride of a new author

Four years ago, if someone told me that I would be a successful published author, I would have looked at them in disbelief. Other than writing a few technical reports, a handful of buyer's guides, and a short novel that was released as a free eBook in the late 1980s, I had never considered writing a 'proper book'.
That all changed in late 2008. One of my friends was writing his own book and his enthusiasm got me thinking about writing a book of my own, writing about subjects I know: namely, the environment and technology.
My background is technology. Over the past twenty years, I have been involved with mobile computer systems, electric vehicles, solar energy and digital camera technology. Along the way, I’ve also been involved with a number of different industries, including the energy sector.
Years of experience running my own businesses taught me that you cannot be successful unless you find a gap in the market. From my knowledge of solar energy, I knew this was a much misunderstood technology and that good introductory books on the subject were few and far between. It made obvious sense to me to tackle this subject and put the records straight.
As anyone who has tried it will tell you, writing a book is hard work. Whether you are writing fact or fiction, it is a very time consuming labour of love. Researching your subject, finding the best way to communicate it in an interesting, informative and fun way is never easy.
My book was published by a small local publisher in June 2009. Early sales did not promise much: I sold 35 copies of my book in my first month and 67 copies in the second. It did not appear that I would be troubling the best-sellers lists.
It was time to change. I hadn’t spent six months of hard toil just for my book to sit on the remaindered shelves. I set about marketing and promoting my book with gusto. I released new press releases, I spoke to magazines and newspapers, I wrote short articles based on the book for magazines and internet blogs, I created a new website and ensured my Amazon listing was as good as it could be. I pestered everyone for reviews for the Amazon, Waterstones, W.H. Smith and Borders web sites.
Slowly but surely, it began to work. I started receiving terrific feedback from reviewers and readers alike. My book started getting noticed, not just in the United Kingdom but elsewhere as well. Sales grew: first to a few hundred a month, then into the thousands. Within a few months, my book was constantly the best-selling book on solar energy listed on Amazon in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and France. I was receiving feedback and comments from customers all around the globe.
Six months after writing my solar book, I’d written an updated version, responding to the feedback I received from early readers. I’d also started another book: on the practicalities of owning and using an electric car.
Again, I chose to write a book on a subject I knew a lot about: I’ve owned and used an electric car for the past 5½ years and run one of the largest electric car clubs in the world. Prior to that, I ran a business that sold electric vehicles across the United Kingdom.
By now, I was getting approaches from larger publishing houses, and enquiries about translating and selling my books in Germany, Hungary, Japan and China.
At the same time, I was experiencing problems with my UK publisher. After talking to several publishers, I made the decision to switch to self-publishing: none of the big publishers were offering me anything that I couldn’t achieve myself. I decided that if I were going to put the effort in to promote and publicise the book, I should take the rewards myself.
It was a risk, but ultimately, it was the right decision. With my new book selling well, and my books printed and distributed through Lightning Source (owned by Ingram, the largest book publishers in the world), my income from books meant that I could change from full-time employment to part-time and spend more time on my writing. Since then, I have written four more books, written significant updates to both my solar and electric car books and had articles published by The Guardian.
It’s fair to say that I’ve become hooked on writing. It’s not a full time job, I’d probably fall out of love with it if it were, yet it is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling activities I do.
My books have also created new opportunities that I never thought possible. Car manufacturers fly me out to see their new electric cars before they are released, I get invited to speak at forums around the globe, I am regularly interviewed for radio and television programmes and have been on a pilot television show. This past month I met Prince Charles at a garden party at St. James’s Palace and talked to him about electric cars. It all seems a whirlwind ride.
What next? I don’t know. Writing has become my passion and my life. I would like to work on my own creative writing, and in the long term, have ideas about a humorous history book. In the meantime I’m working on another book to be released next spring and I’m co-editing an anthology to be released this November. The last few years have been a rollercoaster on my journey to becoming a writer. Long may it continue.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Smug? Me? Nahhh! - Simon Cheshire

One of the things which seems to characterise this whole DIY publishing revolution is the attitude gap between writers and publishers.

Mainstream publishers need to be able to all but guarantee the market for a book before they publish it. Entirely sensible. They can't afford to do otherwise. But writers don't. We write something. We publish it. We let the market decide. We can't afford to do otherwise!

Which way is best? That's for time and market analysts to tell. In the meantime, I'm just grateful that the whole DIY publishing revolution is here to prove one point: I was right n' they were wrong, ha ha, in yer face etc etc.

Some years ago, I wrote a book for 8-12 year olds called "Pants On Fire". I was very pleased with it, but publishers weren't. They said the main character was too unlikeable, and it wouldn't sell. I kept nagging my poor agent to find it a home, because I couldn't understand that point of view. Plenty of books have flawed heroes. Kids aren't daft, they can see what's what. It's COMEDY, for goodness' sake! Anyway, it ended up in the bottom drawer.

Along comes the whole DIY publishing revolution. I'll take a chance, I think to myself. "Pants On Fire", print and ebook editions, came blinking into the sunlight last year. And since then, it's been the consistent bestseller of all my self-published books (mostly backlist reprints, one or two originals). It always gets the best response from kids when I visit schools - I sell out of that book at signings faster than any other - and I know grown-ups read it too.

Are smug little triumphs like this a good thing or not? I honestly don't know. There's no way I want mainstream publishers to lose out, I want them to stay a vital part of the book business, I really do. But every time another Konrath comes along, or another Hocking, or another "Pants On Fire", things tip a little further away from the establishment. And I'm not sure that's healthy for the industry as a whole.

Monday, 22 August 2011

How Do You Use Yours? - Joan Lennon

There are things I particularly like my Kindle for. Taking Dickens on a train, for example, where carrying the paper version causes my handbag to split at the seams. Reading while eating, though this is perhaps more me liking my Kindle case, which has this neat thing at the back to make it stand up, leaving the hands free for the stuffing of the face. Getting me reading short stories again - much as I love writing short stories I'd lapsed in my reading of them over the years. I'm really enjoying the re-discovery, which has taken place almost entirely on my Kindle. And lastly, I really like reading science fiction on my Kindle. Alien worlds on what is, basically, alien tech. How satisfying is that!

So, tell me, what do you particularly like your Kindle for? (The words "Answers on a postcard" rise up in my mind, but that's another story ...)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Reincarnation from the other end of the telescope - Roz Morris

Hello! This is my first post here on Kindle Authors UK, so I thought I’d tell you a few things about myself.

I once volunteered for an experiment in ESP. I sat in a room and was told to close my eyes and think of nothing while someone in another room beamed thoughts at me. A researcher put wires on my head to record my brain patterns and see if any communication was taking place between us. To help me zone out he put a swirly mandala on the wall and played me white noise through headphones (thank you, SantaRosa OldSkool for the one below).

Honestly, I tried to think of nothing but it was just like an episode of The Avengers. Brainwashing, EEGs, far eastern symbols; and all in a leafy suburb of London.

With some difficulty, I locked in on the husky hiss in my headphones.

After a while I began to hear voices. Inside my head. Very faint, but definitely people talking.

Eureka, was this ESP? I heard the crackly whisper of a jingle, and then … was that Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer? It was Radio 1. Being picked up on the 30 metres of unshielded headphone cable from the white noise generator in the next room.

And so I went on for half an hour. Trying not to notice things that would obviously spoil the game, being sucked into imaginative diversions and then remembering I was meant to be relaxing. When my time was up, the researcher showed me my results unhappily. ‘This is what your brain waves should have looked like,’ he said, and pointed to sleepy undulations along the bottom of a graph. ‘And this is you.’ He showed me a frantic jagged line like a seismograph about to freak.

‘You know your equipment is picking up the BBC?’ I said.

‘No one else has heard it,’ he muttered, and I was out on my ear.

So hello, I’m Roz.

1. I simply can’t ‘think of nothing’.

2. When I was a child I wanted to be in The Avengers, getting up to peculiar derring-do in leafy parts of London.

3. At college I was in a band. So I know that long cables can pick up the radio.

4. I love using things for an unintended purpose, which is why I remember things like #3.

5. I can never resist an adventure to add to the writing diary, which is why I answered the advert to take part in the ESP experiment.

6. I like living in London because it’s the best place in England to find these sort of adventures. Although I have tried not to ruin anyone else’s experiments.

7. What this doesn’t tell you about me, but is relevant to my qualifications to be here, is that I’ve got nearly a dozen novels in print under names other than my own. I am the secret hand behind eight bestselling ghostwritten novels. I’ll tell you more about that some time - although I can’t reveal who I’ve pretended to be because I’d be shot.

But back to lighter matters.

In the spirit of using things for an unintended purpose, I wanted to write a novel about reincarnation, but turning the telescope the other way around. My Memories of a Future Life belongs to the new trend in literary fiction of mixing in a dash of genre to add imaginative spice - like Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife and Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle.

Yes, with my experiences of ESP I’m a mite sceptical about reincarnation - but only at face value. Deeper down, I find it a fascinating, powerful and genuine experience. As a storyteller, that’s a rich mine indeed.

Some people feel their past life explains how their life has turned out now. I thought, what would happen if someone looked at themselves in the future, to see what echoes they had left in the next soul down the line?

I threw into the mix a narrator who, like me, would never think she’d lived before. She’s a concert pianist who needs nothing more than her instrument to feel special, expressive and powerful. But when a mysterious injury forces her to stop, it’s like she’s no longer alive. She feels like all those people who die prematurely in a past century, perhaps on the scaffold, or in a Victorian alleyway at the hands of Jack the Ripper. Sceptical as she is, she needs a hope to cling to, that she turned out well in the end. So she goes on fast-forward, to check that she did.

With the phenomenon of regression to past lives, I always had this question: what’s really going on? It seemed there were two distinct sides. To external observers there’s a person putting you in a suggestible state and asking questions you feel you need to answer. As my narrator says: ‘On the outside there is a hypnotist, possibly planting suggestions, pulling strings. But you spend real hours and heartbeats in there and you don’t forget it.’

Inevitably this throws the real spotlight on the people - always the most interesting place for the novelist to look. What are they are really doing to each other? My Memories of a Future Life is a story of all this - how we hurt each other, heal each other, scare each other, beguile each other - a subject I've long been fascinated by, thanks to Peter Shaffer's plays The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Equus. Souls colliding, both through the centuries and right now. I guess another of its literary antecedents is Vertigo.

Alas, at the moment mainstream publishers are wary of cheeky, genre-bending novels. I’m not going to list all the editors who said they loved it and loved my writing, and if only the market was different they’d have taken it. That’s a refrain you’ll be familiar with from these pages - and my work with big names in mainstream publishing means I understand why this is happening. The market for new writers has narrowed - even if they’re really established writers in new guises. Many of those books that influenced my novel might not have been published today because of market pressures. But with the Kindle we can find our own readers - the people who love the same books that influenced us.

I’ve already published a book of my own successfully on the Kindle - Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. People seem to swear by it, and in a good way. Having had the secret seal of approval on My Memories of a Future Life, I thought it was high time to unleash it on Kindle.

You’ll notice the words ‘Episode 1 of 4’ on the cover. I’ve written the novel so it splits into four hefty parts, roughly 25,000 words an episode, the size of a novella each go. I’m going to publish it over four weeks starting 30 August. There was a time when a lot of popular fiction was serialised and I think the Kindle is the perfect medium - smaller reading chunks that fit better into your week, a new episode each Monday. The story-driven literary novel could be as much of an event as a serial like Lost.

Yes, it’s an experiment. But there was nothing wrong with it 150 years ago when another self-publisher did it - Charles Dickens.

Find out more at My Memories of a Future Life and follow it on Twitter @ByRozMorris. I also blog at Nail Your Novel and tweet as @DirtyWhiteCandy.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Nearly There! - Karen King

When I wrote my first blog I mentioned that I was about to e-publish my romance novella, The Millionaire Plan, but since then someone has shown an interest in publishing it as a paperback novella so while I wait their decision I thought I'd e-publish another romance novella, Never Say Forever, which I had published a few years ago under the name of Kay Harborne. Trouble is, I didn't have the text saved on my computer or on CD so had to type it all out again. Almost 50,000 words - a very painstaking task! Anyway, I've finally completed it so now I just have to format it and do the cover. And therein lies the problem. It has already had two covers. The paperback version:

And the softback large print version:
I want something more modern for the e-version so I'm getting my illustrator daughter to do me a cover. The problem is, I'm not used to thinking about covers, my publishers always deal with that. So what picture do I have? The story is about a modern feisty, independent heroine who falls in love with an equally independent bachelor tycoon. Both have resolved to never commit to anyone. So do I go for the hero/heroine design updated? Pink and pretty with silhouette figures? Just the heroine? And where do I put the title and my name? What font do I use. Decisions, decisions! How did you all decide on your covers?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Jane Adams: Without a Safety Net!

It is a very funny feeling, having striven for so long to get into print with a 'legitimate' publisher and feeling that this is the only way I could validate my writing to suddenly be going it alone. True, I've still got a publisher (fingers crossed and all that!) and I continue to write both the Rina Martin and Naomi Blake series for Severn House, but this entry into Kindledom is really very different.

You can kind of blame Michael Wood, the historian and TV personality. Years ago I'd got an idea for the book that finally became PRIEST, part one of the Swordweaver sequence - I think there'll be four. I'd got stuck on the research and when I met the venerable Mr Wood at a reading I asked for some advice. It was just a simple question (and I was really well behaved, bought a book for him to sign and everything) but it led to a conversation, others joined in and it led to a bigger conversation. I got the direction I needed for the research and Michael Wood missed his train - for which major apologies to his publicist who had been desperately trying to usher him out of the door.

So I started to write the book, in between other projects. Originally, it was just the one book and it was called Swordweaver, the idea being that would echo the notion of pattern welded swords and also of women either being shield maidens or peaceweavers, but, as these things do, it got a bit out of hand. The idea grew, the scope of the story expanded - and my husband adopted the name for his armoury (he makes metal clothes for medieval knights).

Mostly, I write crime. Often, I write crime and something else - supernatural, historical...whatever takes my fancy really. This was certainly Crime and Something Else and the something else became more important as time went on. There's a modern crime story with an investigating officer and there's a story set in the time of Alfred the Great and they wind through one another, linked by location and also by the effect the characters have one one another, despite the time and distance between....and, guess what? No one wanted it.

I've had some lovely rejections for this book. 'Compelling and involving but too long for us'; an expression of disbeleif that anything convincing could be written set in the Dark Ages (that conclusion reached without actually looking at the book) and, my favourite, one I take as a major compliment in fact, that it was, 'at times, like Alan Garner writing for adults- but it wouldn't sell in Tesco.'


So, here I am, entering the Kindledom and bringing a book that I hope will be read so I have reason to write the others. And it is both terrifying and liberating. No safety net, no external validation, just my own judgement that this is a good book and so many new skills to learn.

But, you know what, it actually feels pretty good and being in the company of other writers that I admire and who have also taken that leap of faith is validation in itself. And I have other books that have received equally lavish rejections and a backlist - finally reverted -that deserves to be allowed another chance so this is just the beginning of the adventure and a long and exciting one I hope it will be.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Dan Holloway: Where Are You Going To

It’s funny how changes creep up on you until one day you sit down and have a think and go “whoa there, steady on, lad”. July was one of those months for me. It was fantastic, but also a little scary, and a timely reminder that it’s good to sit down regularly and take stock. To take a look where you were last year, and what you said you wanted last year. And how far you’ve moved in respect to both.

Writing is like music in many ways, and the writing business like the music business in many more. But one of the most pertinent similarities is the way you start out scratching and scraping to play first on at your local pub, and you keep scratching and keep scraping only one day you realise you’ve actually been approached by three bands in a row now who really wanted you to come and support them next time they have a pub gig. And (you hope) so on.

Progress in writing, as in music, can be so imperceptibly slow that it’s only when you look back year on year – or further – you realise how far you’ve come. Day to day it feels as though I’m doing the same now as I’ve been doing for the past three and a half years, since I made the decision at the start of 2008 to do something with my as-was newly-finished manuscript for The Company of Fellows other than leave it in my bottom drawer. Day job aside, I write, I do blog posts, I tell people about other writers I love, I try to get people along to hear great writers (and sometimes me) read.

(that's me at Blackwell's with l-r Rachel Genn, Naomi Wood, John Butler, store manager Euan Hirst, and Lee Rourke)

The grind feels the same. It *is* the same. But the other day I had one of those slightly vertiginous moments and realised maybe I’d moved on from scarping and scratching. Take readings: Back in June I organised a show at my first ever literary festival; at the end of July I was on a panel of pukka writers at Blackwell’s; next month I’m on a festival panel talking about publishing with Luke Brown from Tindal St. And promoting other writers: I run a tiny alternative press (eight cuts gallery press) publishing three of the most incredible pieces of contemporary literature, and within a fortnight one of them, Penny Goring’s The Zoom Zoom, was called in by the Guardian First Book Award judges and another, Cody James’ The Dead Beat, was the talking point of Not the Booker Prize. Even my own work was being read by more people than last year – a few weeks ago The Company of Fellows sold its 5000th e-copy.

All of this is a little scary, but fantastic. And proof positive that nothing is quite so sure-fire as plugging away at it. And a little bit of a brass neck. Almost everything that’s happened to me that could be counted a break has happened because I stuck my hand up. Or sent someone an e-mail. Or generally, but in the politest possible way, ignored the barriers that allegedly exist.
But. And here’s the other thing. Movement is one thing. And it’s very tempting to get excited by it. This time last year I’d sold fewer than 100 books and readings were a favour from the lovely guy who runs the local bookstore. But, just like it says in those mortgage ads, movement can be away from your goal as well as towards it. And when movement involves what some people would call “progress” that’s the time when that can be most true but you’re least likely to see it.
Which is why – unlike a lot of bands with their entourages, and even a lot of writers with their well-meaning family and friends – it pays always to keep reminding yourself why it is you’re doing this thing, and measuring your movement against that goal (or at the very least being aware that your goal has changed, rather than watching it slowly slip beneath the horizon).

Some of the things that have happened this past month have taken me quantum leaps towards wgere I want to be - none more so than when the Guardian First Book Award judges gave their verdict on Penny's The Zoom Zoom - “lively and original new voice in poetry“ and “a really energetic and raw collection of poetry and short prose”. But some have taken me further away. I love reading thrillers, but I am not a thriller writer. It's increasingly hard to convince the world of that, and to get back on the track of what I really really want to do - take literary weirdisms out of the shadows and present them to the world.

There are two messages in this. First, there’s no substitute for sticking at it and putting your hand up in the right places. And second, movement is all very well but it can as easily be away from your goal as towards it, so make sure you take stock regularly to check you're going in the right direction.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


I've been in the writing game now for nearly forty years. When I first started doing school visits, I was so pleased when kids came up to me and said, "I've read all your books." As the years went by, I was even more pleased when they said, "My Mum says she read all your books." When they started saying, "My Gran loved your books when she was little," I wondered - just for a moment - whether my time might be up.

I suppose that in a sense it is. Being published by such as Scholastic, OUP, Walker, Franklin Watts, once something I took almost for granted, now seems a far-off dream. Thus is the hubris of the complacent writer extinguished. Now I'm on my own and everything has changed. Part of me feels like a farmer who has thrown off his ruinous Tesco contract , opened his farm shop to sell direct and now sniffs the heady air of freedom. The other part feels scared stiff.

But why should I be? I have a long list of books to kindle. Some are out of print. People have enjoyed them in the past so surely they can live again. Some are new. Some are still to be written. But though the great days of getting contracts before a word was on paper have gone for ever, so, I hope, has the feeling of impotence when you're writing on spec, with no clue whether your book will ever be read by anyone outside your own house but with a strong suspicion that it won't be. In the end, all a writer wants is to be read. Being part of a community of writers bound together by past achievement and present quality is a terrific privilege and it's why I'm blogging now.

Anyway, first up will be all six of The Joslin de Lay Mysteries. No, that's what they used to be called. I can't blame anybody but myself for such a limp title for a whole sequence. It sounds like Agatha Christie or The Midsomer Murders. So, from now on it's either going to be The Quest of Joslin de Lay or The Long Journey of Joslin de Lay. Both are stronger by far, I think, and much closer to the whole nature of the series. What do you think?

I can afford to change this, by the way, because a request to Scholastic to use the original covers first made a year ago has been at last answered with the curtest refusal I have ever seen. That's what I mean about publishers and primary producers. Out of print eight years, rights reverted, what ever use can they find for them now?

I'll start with Of Dooms and Death and follow it with A Pact With Death, Hell's Kitchen, A Devil's Judgement, Angel's Snare and finally The False Father. Six murder mysteries set in the Middle Ages, first published by Scholastic between 1999 and 2002. They tell the story of Joslin de Lay, a young French minstrel whose father is murdered. He starts on a journey from France, through England to Wales to find his lost mother. Wherever he goes - Suffolk, London, Oxford, Coventry, Hereford - death and murder stalk him. Five separate mysteries to solve - until the last book, when he can concentrate on the end of the quest and the solution to his own mystery.

I've always been proud of these books. When I came to revise them for Kindle I feared that after not looking at them for some time I might not like them after all. Never fear. I can read them now as if someone else wrote them and - what a relief - I still like them. In next month's blog, when the first two should be nearly ready to appear, I'll introduce them properly.

What else? I have the first two books of three set in Nelson's navy in the Napoleonic wars: the journals of midshipman Edward Trefusis - and some pretty hairy things happen in them. Bright Sea, Dark Graves is the title of the whole trilogy. The first story is called The Guns of St Therese: the second is entitled The Nightmares of Invasion. The third is still title-less and swashing about somewhere inside my head.

I have two compilations of short stories planned, some old, some new, some long, some short. Very short. And, biggest project of the lot, is the Ellen Trilogy. In 2006, Walker published the first, Ellen's People, set in the first world war. In 2008 they published the second, Divided Loyalties. Both had really good reviews. Both were on several longlists and each was shortlisted once - Ellen's People for the Hampshire Book Prize, Divided Loyalties for Calderdale Book of the Year. Ellen's People was published in th US by Candlewick, albeit with a new title, Without Warning. Divided Loyalties was taken and already in production. I'd made a few revisions and provided publicity blurbs. So far, so good. Cue for more hubris on my part.

Then everything went wrong. Candlewick pulled Divided Loyalties when it was still in production, citing the dreadful state of publishing in the US and their own need to cut titles and reduce staff. Over here sales of Ellen and Loyalties just weren't good enough. My agent pushed the third book, which I had started and which many readers and reviewers had asked for. No go. Anyway, I didn't have a three-book contract. Suddenly, my enthusiasm for a third waned.

So now both books are on the point of going o/p - if they aren't already. Walker's alacrity when I asked for the rights to be reverted was alarmingly noticeable. BUT - now I can finish the trilogy with an easy mind. It will take time but will satisfy me very, very deeply.

That's it for now. Next month, more about Joslin. Or look at the section on Joslin (with the old covers shown) on my website:

Saturday, 13 August 2011

It's FAB by Ann Evans

My day to day office is nestled within a photographic studio in sunny Nuneaton. It’s a little business that I share with my photographer friend, Rob. We’ve worked as a freelance team on magazines for donkey’s years and found this studio four years ago.

It wasn’t a studio at first, it was a doggy grooming parlour but five solid weeks of scrubbing, painting, decorating and rebuilding and it was miraculously transformed.

My own books have always been on display in the reception (perks of the job!) and many a customer has come in to have their photo taken and gone home with a signed copy of The Beast, The Reawakening or Rampage. Then a couple of months ago it dawned on me that I could display other Sassie’s books. (Apologies for the fact that it’s taken me four years to think up this idea!) We’d got a little bit of spare space in reception for a book stand (which my local library very kindly let me have for FREE!) Plus I hoped that a nice window display of children's books would attract more customers into the shop AND make some sales for fellow authors.

So, that’s what I’m doing. Starting with some CARm people first I’ve got a fabulous collection of signed children’s books on display in one studio window and Rob has created a big poster (4ft x 3ft) complete with a logo for another window. The FAB logo incidentally stands for: FICTION AUTHORS BOOKS!

About a dozen Sassies have kindly let me have signed copies of their books, and the plan is when I sell one I’ll send them a cheque. It’s not going to make anyone rich but it’s another outlet for sales – albeit a tiny one, keeps our books on display, it’s something different and it’s a bit of fun.

I wonder if any other authors (or their partners/family/friends) have a similar work set up where they too could organise a nice little display of author-signed books. Or maybe your local friendly newsagent might stock a local author’s books, especially if they are signed.

We used to be a nation of shopkeepers, maybe the future will see us as a nation of micro book shops.

My FAB little venture might work it might not, but hey-ho! Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Friday, 12 August 2011

A Blogging Virgin by Susan Jane Smith

Susan Jane Smith
I became an author without ever having any desire to write!

Let me explain: I was a Psychotherapist in private practice and busy, but always short on time or money due to the labour intensive nature of the work. I meditated about how to get more money and the "answer" came back "write the book"! Well, what to write? I had read you should write about what you know so I started to try to convey all that I had learnt in 20 years of my professional life.

It took me six years! It was a long time before I "found my voice" - my style. Chatty rather than clinical as I believe in trying to connect with people. I literally had to screw up all my courage to start writing as it was a new world to share my thoughts with people I didn't know.

My book started on a bit of chip paper in a car park! I made lots of notes on scraps of paper and eventually organised them and pulled it all together and that was how "Emotional Health for Emotional Wealth" was born.

Luckily I have a friend who is a PR guru , former journalist and a professional writer. I handed over my book for her to read and it was such a relief when she said it had pace and was understandable. Off to the printer I went as I had already decided to become a publisher to do it all myself and have the control over my success or failure. It's been sold at Foyles and Waterstones and online.
Emotional Health for Emotional Wealth

Now that it has gone live on Kindle I am even more excited!

Do check out the book reviews on my website

Also please take a look at the sample on Kindle to see if it might add value to your life.

Child abuse, bullying, rape, domestic violence, alcoholism, and depression are forms of emotional pain that need to be healed before a person can have emotional health. Chapters on love, parenting through divorce, anxiety, stress and bereavement are included. My experience led me to identify the changes people can make to move themselves from pain to health and on to emotional wealth. That wealth not only creates happier people and healtheir finances - it increases people's integrity, compassion, respect and serenity which is something I believe the world needs!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Preparing for a Miracle - by Linda Gillard

This post has been published in Sparks, A Year In E-Publishing - An Authors Electric Anthology 2011-2012. It has therefore been temporarily reverted to draft status to comply with amazon KDP Select's requirements.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The grass is always greener ... - Karen Bush

Look upon my works and tremble ...

I'm not one of those people who can write purely for my own private satisfaction; for me personally, apart from shopping lists, it's pointless writing anything that's never going to see the light of day in a book or magazine, or which I'm not going to get paid for. The first thing I ever wrote that wasn't a compulsory school essay was a competition entry, and my first earner was a short story I wrote during a History A level exam: I'd run out of things to say but wasn't allowed to leave the exam room until the allotted time was up. So I asked for more paper and eventually handed in two sheets of foolscap and left with four, which I typed up at home, sent off and duly had accepted for publication.
After that I was off and running, and when I left school and started work, writing became a way of topping up a pitifully inadequate salary which didn't even come close to covering the expenses of dog, pony, horse and car. The need to write to earn meant though, that fiction quickly became abandoned: it was much easier to sell non-fiction.

Nevertheless, I missed writing fiction, and at some point I wanted to get back to doing it. E-books have offered the perfect way of doing this - my book would definitely get out there, I might even make a few quid, and I wouldn't have to go through any of the agonising process of finding the right publisher. Or, having eventually found one, the irritations of being edited by someone who appears to be illiterate, of being forced to make changes or cuts you don't like, or a cover being foisted on you which you hate, or a ridiculous price being asked for it ... all those things we love to grumble about.
So, after rediscovering the pleasure of writing fiction again (I really had forgotten just what fun it is) and the euphoria of seeing the jacket designed by my lovely artist friend Claire Colvin, which I blogged about on my last post, where's the book?
Ummmm ... well, it's still on the USB stick in the picture. Because that is actually one of the positive benefits of having a publisher which it's easy to overlook: normally when I hand over my finished manuscript, I can breathe a big sigh of relief and forget about it, letting them get on and do all the stuff necessary to turn it into a book. Now it's all down to me instead, and at the moment I just don't have the time to do the techy stuff that will turn my stories into an e-book; ironically enough, because I'm currently racing to meet a deadline on a commissioned paper book ...

Monday, 8 August 2011

Wearing Eight Hats By Lynne Garner

This post has been published in Sparks, A Year In E-Publishing - An Authors Electric Anthology 2011-2012. It has therefore been temporarily reverted to draft status to comply with amazon KDP Select's requirements.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Whistle While You Work - Debbie Bennett

I work in an open-plan office. What’s that got do to with anything, I hear you ask? Well our HR people – or the people who plan office moves at any rate – sometimes seem to lack basic common-sense. Quite apart from the fact that we move around every year or so just so’s we feel like one big happy family, it seems that no cognisance is given to the nature of our work. Now, my day job is essentially as an IT programmer. I design pretty interfaces so that other people can get at their management information and suchlike. I make applications that have buttons to click and graphs to display and then I tweak it all so it runs off the web. What this means is that I’m often 3 layers down in complex bits of code and I really, really, really need peace and quiet. So my little team is sandwiched between two other teams that conduct most of their business on the telephone …

See where I am going with this? I usually have my ipod with me at work now, and while I don’t find it easy to work with music (it gets embarrassing when you realise you’ve been singing along, mouthing the words or tapping your foot up and down), it is less intrusive than listening to how many light bulbs need ordering for another building or why somebody’s computer isn’t working.

So I’ve got into the habit of listening to music at the keyboard. I tried classical at first, thinking that would be less distracting, but I find I can’t write to Bach and it just doesn’t set my mood. So it has to have words. For fantasy writing, I’ve discovered that Enya is quite soothing, plus I adore Blackmore’s Night with the rock/folk mix (I’ve been a fan of Ritchie Blackmore right through Rainbow and Deep Purple – yes, I was a rock chick and I had a fringed leather jacket and hung around with bikers. Don’t laugh too much). For thrillers and more mainstream writing, give me a bit more of a beat with some Dio, and occasionally a good blast of AC-DC. And Jim Steinman does it for me in any shape or form – I can spot a Steinman track at two or three bars.

What else is on my ipod? Foo Fighters. Lots of 80s stuff and all the power ballads you can think of (Scorpions Wind of Change can still stop me dead for 5 minutes). I took my daughter to see the musical Wicked at Christmas, and the soundtrack from that is often on my playlist. Oh and Abba. I love Abba. I loved Abba when I was teenager, then when it wasn’t cool and suddenly it was cool again with Mamma Mia.

I always associate particular songs with books too. For instance my thriller Hamelin’s Child has the accompanying song Runaway Train by Soul Asylum. The lyrics seem particularly pertinent. Somebody pointed me in the direction of YouTube a while back and the video is strangely fitting for my book too. And there’s Bon Jovi’s Someday I’ll be Saturday Night that works rather well too. Having a song for a book gives it another dimension, in my opinion.

So am I weird? Abba to AC-DC, Bach through Bee Gees to Black Sabbath and everything in between. The 24-hour rock marathons of my youth to West End shows. But a snatch of a song can transport me in time and space in the same way a book can. And if you can read ebooks on devices that can also produce good quality music, maybe we can combine the two? There's an idea to run with.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Confessions of a Kindle Virgin - by Kathleen Jones

A few years ago my career as a writer was in crisis.  I was nearing the end of a long biography of Katherine Mansfield and my publisher became one of the first victims of the economic crash.  They were taken over by another publisher, my editor left, and there was a new editorial policy that didn’t include literary biography.  A significant number of other publishers made similar decisions.

Then my agent went on maternity leave and announced she was ‘slimming down’ her list.  As an author without a contract I was gracefully dropped.   Enquiry letters to other agents went unanswered.   Worse, Virago told me they wouldn’t be reprinting my most popular book A Passionate Sisterhood, even though it was still selling a respectable number of copies.

It felt as if my life as a writer was over.  No one wanted me.  The feeling of despair was terrible.  My partner N,  who’s a resourceful, practical kind of bloke, said ‘Well, why don’t we just publish the books ourselves?’  The answer of course was that no respectable author wants the stigma of self-publication - only one remove from Vanity publishing.  But, there was my new biography in which I had invested 5 years of my life and a lot of my own money.  And people kept asking for copies of A Passionate Sisterhood.

I went to an event organised by the Society of Authors and learned that ‘Indie Publishing’ was a growing phenomenon and I began to look at Book Blogs in America, made contact with other authors who were self-publishing over there and suddenly realised that it was possible to go it alone and that the more established authors went into Indie publishing, the more respectable it became.

It was N - who is a cyber-fiend and visual artist - who got me looking at the rise and rise of the E-book.  I bought him a Kindle for his birthday and got so attached to it  I almost kept it myself.  We're now  a Two-Kindle household!  We made a decision to publish both books under our own imprint (The Book Mill), using professional printers used by major publishers to ensure quality, and to put both books on Kindle.  A Passionate Sisterhood was the easiest, since it existed already, with a listing on Amazon and other major wholesalers.  A paperback was torn up, professionally scanned, N designed a cover and it was printed and made available to the bookshops as well as through Amazon.

Then we E-Published it - I say ‘we’ - but it was mainly N who struggled with Mobi-pockets - finding it almost impossible to go from PDF to Kindle and the illustrations were an additional complication.  We investigated software such as Jotuh, but in the end N found ways of converting PDF to Word and then inserting tags and loading up Jpegs.  A long learning curve for both of us.  The book is probably too pricy at £5.74, but still half the price of the paperback.  I will probably lower it by a couple of pounds - people seem willing to take a gamble on anything less than £4.00.

The Mansfield biography was taken up by Penguin New Zealand at the last moment, and - just as we went to the printers for a UK  hardback edition  - Edinburgh University Press took it over, using the same printer, our cover design etc, but with their name on the spine.  But I still don’t have a paperback or E-book deal and we intend to produce our own next year if we haven’t sold the rights by then.  And we’re now E-Publishing another title from my backlist ‘Christina Rossetti: Learning Not to be First’.

Everything looks very different now and I feel in charge of my own work again and no longer at the mercy of publishers and agents controlled by accountants rather than book lovers.  Through blogs and websites I have immediate contact with my readers.   I also find that I’m discovering and reading 70% of books electronically.   It’s also more lucrative - even if the author only gets 50% of the sale price it’s a lot more than they’d get as royalties.  What is there not to like?

Kathleen's own blog  A Writer's Life can be found at

More information about Kathleen Jones' books at

Kindle edition of A Passionate Sisterhood: The Sisters, Wives and Daughters of the Lake Poets