Amazon Academy for Authors

It’s all very well writing a book and getting it published but it’s not going to find any readers without some well planned and targeted marketing. And like many authors, the whole selling and marketing thing is something I find difficult. It’s not only reaching potential readers that’s daunting, but also how to find the time to do it – especially when I’d rather be writing.

So a couple of weeks ago I was delighted to get the chance to spend the day at a free marketing information event for authors held in Edinburgh’s International Conference Centre.

It was sponsored and run jointly by Amazon and by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLI) and it was excellent. I certainly learned a lot about marketing and can see I need to take a fresh look at what I do in this respect.

As well as the welcome and introduction from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) UK head, Darren Hardy, and author and ALLI representative, Paul Teague, there were four main sessions – and a free lunch.

The programme was as follows:

  • Making a Book
  • How to Write a Bestseller
  • Marketing Your Book
  • Making it Happen – The Business of Being an Author.

All the sessions were well judged as to length and content and all proved informative. The suggestions as to how to best go about marketing were also feasible, sensible and realistic. It was especially reassuring that all the experts who spoke at the event presented their views as based on their personal experience of what works and on their preferred way of working. There was no one right way, one true path, or one size fits all preaching. And because of that it’s probably safe to say that all the delegates got something out of the day that they could take away and use.

I particularly liked and related to author, Linda Gillard’s experience and advice, but also got something from the contributions made by Kindle’s Darren Hardy, and authors Paul Teague, Murray McDonald, Steven McKay and Harriet Smart.

It was good to hear ALLi getting so many favourable mentions throughout the day too. They are a fantastic organisation for authors to belong to and worth every penny of the membership fee.

My advice to fellow authors is that if you get the chance to attend a similar event, go for it. I’d be interested to hear from fellow authors how they feel about marketing and if you’ve attended any training events like the one above. Do leave your comments below.

And, a question for book readers: How do you find out about books you might enjoy reading and what is your preferred method for doing so?

As for me – I’m off to completely rework my marketing plan…

The Writers Craft: Four Days of Learning


'Write Enough' production centre
The Garret

Writing is both an art and a craft. As such it’s something that requires inspiration,  skill, ability and knowledge. So it’s important that writers sometimes leave their solitary garrets and go ‘fill up the well’ .

image via shutterstock
image via shutterstock

And that’s what I like about attending writing conferences, events and courses. I love the buzz and intensity and I really love those light-bulb, now-I-see moments that arise when listening to a speaker or conversing with a fellow delegate.

image via shutterstock
image via shutterstock

And so it was that from Wednesday to Friday of last week I was a virtual participant in a worldwide book event and then on Saturday I was an actual participant at a local workshop for writers. I got a huge amount out of both. I made contact with other writers and with professionals who had so much expertise to offer. I learned a lot.

ALLI badge-185x185-author

IndieReCon: Indies at the London Book Fair

Last week was a big one in the world of publishing. It was the week in which the London Book Fair (LBF) took place. And it wasn’t just the big publishing houses who were there. Indie publishers – that is individual authors publishing their own books and small co-operatives of authors pulling resources and expertise in order to self-publish – had a real and significant presence there too.

The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) ran an Indie Author Fringe Festival in association with the LBF. It was delivered in  live-streamed and  watch-when-you-can formats over three days and it was called IndieReCon. So while some events were live and interactive and could be attended in person, some (including those live ones) were video (vlog) presentations that could be watched at your own convenience and some were written presentations in blog format where ‘attendees’ could leave comments. All the presentations, whatever the format, were designed to either inform self-publishers how to improve their products or to tell them about the sorts of services, expertise and marketing that are available to them – just as at any trade fair.

And on the third day of the fringe fest there was also an indie book selling event at Foyles bookshop  where indie authors could promote and sell their own books.

So, despite being hundreds of miles from London, I was able to take part. And I’m very glad I did.

The online organisation was mostly slick and with only a few technical hiccups – and it’s important to bear in mind this was a first time and a unique event.

Below is a roundup of the events, talks, discussions I attended.

  • Discussion between ALLi founder Orna Ross and Smashwords (eBook publisher/distributor) chief, Mark Coker. It was a good introduction to e-publishing for those who’ve not done it before and a good round up/reminder of the pros cons and possible future developments for the more experienced.
  • David Farland shared his recipe for fiction that sells well.
  • Ben Galley led a lively and useful interactive discussion on online bookstores.
  • Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware did a live session on the need or otherwise to register copyright.
  • Miral Sattar gave a talk on the basics of online book selling – excellent for first-timers.
  • David Penny and Joel Friedlander shared an often amusing, as well as enlightening, conversation on the principles of good book design. As Friedlander said, the design should be so good the reader doesn’t notice it. He also flagged up his Book Construction Blueprints available free on his site
  • Guido Caroti also did a useful presentation on cover design and on copyright issues around covers.
  • Neil Baptista of Riffle and Katie Donelan of Book Bub gave good advice on how to optimise your book for inclusion on their promotional sites.
  • One of the best talks, for me, was the one given by Rebecca Swift of the Literary Consultancy. She stuck her head above the parapet by addressing quality in self-publishing. She made comparisons with the Victorian era’s Penny Dreadful novels. She wasn’t dismissing or deriding self-publishing, but she was making a plea for high ethical standards of editing, for good content both genre and literary and for expert reviewers. She made the point that it shouldn’t be the writers with backgrounds in marketing and with money to spend who flourished. Good thought-provoking stuff.
  • Other highlights were Jessica Bell on self-editing. As an experienced editor as well as a writer she provided a first-class editing checklist which I’ll definitely be using. Ricardo Fayet advised on finding and working with publishing professionals such as editors. Yen Ooi’s excellent ‘What is your Message?’ addressed how to grab readers’ attention. She talked about the importance of crisp, precise description of your book and how to apply it. She suggested thinking in terms of newspaper headlines followed by a suggestion of content. Jay Artale advised on the use of Pinterest for authors – something I’d been wondering about. And finally, Robin Cutler’s piece on getting your manuscript together and on the four most lucrative genres was also interesting and helpful. And finally, author, poet and campaigner Dan Holloway performed his outstanding new poem calling for social diversity in publishing. You can read it here.

All of the above people have their own websites, blogs, twitter (etc) accounts and I recommend you check out any who grab your interest. It’s also my understanding that most of the events will be available to view on the ALLi/IndieReCon website within the next fortnight.

Orna Ross and her team and all the presenters deserve a very big thank you for all the hard work they put into this successful event.

image copyright Suriya KK via
image copyright Suriya KK via


Emergent Writers Workshop

Then, on Saturday, I was off out into the real world to a local arts centre for a day’s workshop on self-editing for novelists. This was run by community interest company, Emergents, which as XPONorth offers support to writers in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Novelist, literary agent and editor, Allan Guthrie delivered the workshop. Now, when I was at the Scottish Association of Writers Conference at the end of March,  I’d attended an interesting and informative workshop given by Allan on the topic of getting published (which I wrote about here) so I had high expectations.

I wasn’t disappointed. It was superb and I came away with sheets and sheets of notes and again, I learned a lot.

Writing can be a lonely pursuit. It’s easy to let self-doubt eat away at motivation, to wonder if it’s worth it. It’s easy to be daunted by all you don’t know. It’s easy to get stuck. Having a network of fellow writers and of publishing professionals is vital. And striving to improve is vital. So for me those four days were sound investments in my writing. I learned so much and my own writing-well is full to the brim once more.

If you’re a writer, or other type of creative artist, how do you ensure you keep learning, developing and continue to be motivated?




Invest in Your Writing – Part Three


First draft is just the beginning

Welcome to part three of this three part series of posts on investing time, money and effort in your writing.

In the first two parts I covered learning the craft of writing here and then polishing it up and getting it ready to publish here––so now it’s time to consider how best to get your work out to readers.

Publishing and publicising

What follows isn’t a set of rules. It’s based on my own experience and it’s what worked for me. And, yes, again it involves investment on the writer’s part.

So, you may have:

1.submitted your work to carefully researched agents and publishers and you might have got a publishing deal. may have submitted to the aforesaid and not got a contract and have decided to self-publish i.e. to become an indie-author or author-publisher (pick you term). may have gone straight to the indie option.

My experience has been 2 and 3, therefore I’m basing my advice on that experience, but a lot of the marketing stuff will apply whether you’re traditionally or indie published.

What sort of investment?

Having finalised the manuscript, the cover and the layout, it’s now time to research and decide on  the best methods of distribution for your work––i.e. paper or e-format, or both; availability direct from you, through Amazon, Kobo, Ingram, Apple etc. Take your time – a worthwhile investment. Ask around in the network you’ve been building, as advised in part two here. Consider joining The Alliance of Independent Authors as an associate member and thereby tap into the wealth of advice offered by this organisation, such as their publication above which is regularly updated.

Next decide on your publication date. Consider whether to do previews – perhaps just of your cover on Facebook and on Twitter, for example. If you’ve already got a good network of fellow authors around you, then hopefully they’ll retweet and share on their own networks.

If you’ve not already done so, consider setting up a blog or website to give somewhere for your prospective readers to come to find out more about you.  Include links to online sites where your book can be purchased. Then go for launch.

After launch day, keep plugging away, but don’t overdo  it. Don’t just go on twitter and post endless tweets saying ‘buy my book’––nothing’s guaranteed to turn off your followers faster than this.

Publicising your work is a long haul, slow burn sort of a process. Thank everyone who reviews, posts, shares and tweets on behalf of your book and be sure to return the favour.

Investigate websites that promote indie-author books, and take advice from your network on which ones are worth the money. Make an informed decision on this one.

Submit your book for consideration to one of the no cost, quality-assurance  review websites that have sprung up and which sift through and promote the best indie-published work. An example of such a site is IndieB.R.A.G.

Out in the real world you could consider approaching your local radio station and newspaper with a pre-prepared pitch/press release. You could offer your services as a speaker at local writing/book groups. Perhaps there’s a local book festival you could approach. Ask the local bookshop if they’d take a few copies.

If your book features a hobby or special interest e.g. one of the characters is into hill-walking or whatever, then approach a club or association that has members who’re into the same thing. If the book’s set in a particular town or city, see if bookshops in that town or city might feature your book in its local author section.

And so on…

Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, it’s yet another investment – and it’s mainly an investment of time. But if you’re writing in order to reach readers, then you’re going to have to work at it.

You and your writing are worth it!

All the best with all your writing endeavours.


Invest in your Writing – Part Two: Let’s get Critical

Critical Eyes are a Critical Investment

Image via clipart
Image via clipart

Welcome to part two of this three part series of posts on investing time, money and effort in your writing.

Last time we looked at getting on course i.e. getting started on taking your writing seriously. This time we look at the next step.

So you’ve written a novel, or a memoir, or a collection of short stories. Maybe you’ve written a set of essays, or an instruction manual, or perhaps you now have enough poems to make a book. Now what?

Routes to Publication

Most likely you’d like to share your work with some readers beyond your circle of family, friends and the cat and so you need to get published. So how does that work? Well you can approach literary agents and if you’re lucky get taken on by one. You could even approach publishers directly and with even  more luck and a following wind be snapped up by one of them. And of course to increase your ‘luck’ in being offered a contract or publishing deal, you will have done careful research on which agents and publishers to approach, i.e. ones who actually represent/publish writers of your particular genre. You will also have investigated the nature of such contracts and will know what’s a fair offer and what you can and should negotiate on.

I did the above. I was encouraged by the fact that my first novel got to the ‘second-reading’ stage in the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Getting that far in that scheme is usually taken to mean the manuscript is publishable and leads to an introduction to at least one agent. But I had no success, I’m afraid. Bad luck or poor writing? Not for me to say. None of the agents or publishers I approached ignored me. All offered encouragement and constructive advice. None felt they could sell my work. My novels don’t fit neatly into any one genre, but spill over across several, plus the main characters in both are women who are no longer ‘chicks’–– and older women just ain’t cool––apparently.

But that wasn’t the end of my ‘getting published’ dream. We are indeed (as writers) fortunate to live in interesting times. Recent years have seen the rise of the independent author-publisher. Now, put all notions of the old concept of vanity publishing out of your head. Things have moved on considerably from the scenario where a desperate-to-be-read writer would spend a lot of money on poorly produced volumes of their work, only to end up pulping them, having stored them in the garage unloved and unsold for months or maybe even years. No, it’s all different nowadays.

The rise of the indie author or author-publisher (pick your favoured term) has coincided with the rise of the digital or e-book. As e-books popularity increased, book distributors such as Amazon saw an opportunity; an opportunity that would bring them sales, sure, but would also allow anyone with a written piece of work to publish it.  Kindle desktop publishing (KDP) was born. All an author had to do was have their manuscript in a suitable format for uploading, get a cover from KDP’s cover creator facility and press upload.  Other companies such as Ingram and Smashwords and the makers of the Kobo and Nook e-readers also got on board. The uptake of this opportunity by authors was considerable and this led to Amazon and Ingram, amongst others, offering the facility to produce paperback as well.

I went down the author-publisher route, set up my own imprint and have published two novels with a third one (this time for children) due out early in 2015. I  joined the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) set up by the indomitable Orna Ross and this means I have access to lots of very useful advice and protection, as well as a network of authors and publishing industry experts whose knowledge I can draw on. I’ve become au fait with marketing, especially on social media and have made a reasonable number of sales but I’m nowhere near making a profit – yet.

Why no profit? Ah, well, that’s where we come back to the investment thing at the heart of this series of posts. Yes, it’s time to get critical.

Polish before you Publish

So, if, having read the above, you’re enthused to publish your book, please just stop a minute. Don’t rush into it and don’t publish your first draft. Don’t publish your fiftieth draft. I can assure you it won’t be good enough. Whether you want to pursue the traditional agent/publisher route, or whether you decide to go indie, you owe it to yourself and your manuscript to get dispassionate, critical eyes to assess and critique your work. Get networking and find an editor, a cover designer, a proofreader and a book designer. At the very least get an editor. If you join ALLi as an associate member (£44.00) i.e. unpublished writer, you will be able to tap into a rich database of tried, tested and approved book professionals who will knock your manuscript into shape.

If you take this advice and perfect and polish your book, you have more chance of getting an agent or publisher’s approval, but more than that you have a publication-ready manuscript regardless of whether Penguin (other publishers are available) think you’re next big thing.

If you do self-publish, you’ll have a book worthy of your readers hard-earned money and investment of time. The last thing you want is your reader throwing your book  (or their e-reader) across the room in frustration at your poor spelling, several typos, plot inconsistencies and nonsensical sentences.  And furthermore, it’s not unheard of for traditional publishing houses to pick up a successful indie author having been impressed by a good product that’s building a satisfied readership.

But more than any of that, it should be a matter of pride and of belief in your writing to produce and publish the best version of that writing. And, especially if you choose the indie route, the quality is down to you. The author-publisher is gaining respect. Booksellers and book fairs are beginning to be just as approving of the independently published as they are of those who are traditionally published. Again ALLi has been at the forefront of this move with their Open up To Indies campaign.

However, it’s down to us as writers whatever route we take to publication, but especially if we go the indie route, to ensure that our book is edited and proof read, that the cover is not some generic, distributor generated one, but is worthy of being the first judgement readers make of our work, and that the interior layout is easy on and pleasing to the eye.

So develop a professional attitude, invest in your ‘business’ and GO GET CRITICAL!

And if you still need convincing, and even if you’re not wanting to be published, consider this, seeking and accepting constructive criticism won’t just make your book a better read, it will make you a better writer.

Some useful contacts:

These are the talented people whose services I’ve used to make my books the best they can be, clck on their names to go to their websites for more information:

Editor: John Hudspith

Book and cover designer: Jane Dixon Smith

Proofreader: Perry Iles email –

And you’ll find the Alliance here



Put it in Writing – December 2013

Hello and welcome to the second edition of the new look blog. Thanks for visiting.

Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice (Photo credit: Grizdave)

This month, as we approach the shortest day and keep ourselves cheerful with festivals of joy and light, I’m keeping the blog as bright and positive as possible.

And, whether you’ll be celebrating a winter festival or not this month, I wish you warmth, light and good things to come.



Is the glass half empty or half full? The pess...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I write this on a gloomy November day, having just listened to the news which was full of yet more gloom, negativity and discord, it’s not easy to maintain a positive attitude.

But I do try. I try to look on the bright side. In spite of being a worrier and being on medication for anxiety and mild depression, I do manage to be optimistic most of the time. Yes, I’m a contradictory critter.

I don’t mind the dark days too much. I quite like drawing the curtains and cosying in. I like crisp, cold days and I don’t mind the snow as long as I don’t have to drive anywhere. I try to look for the best in other people and I try to make the best of difficult situations. But, like most people, I do have moments when the glass appears half-empty.

The media saturate us with bad news – it’s what sells. We engage with it. We don’t seem able to help ourselves. And we’re programmed by evolution to react to all the possible dangers and impending disasters that are presented to us. We react. We strive to protect ourselves and our loved ones. But the threats and risks are vague, of disputed significance and sensationalised. They’re often hypothetical, but are presented as facts. It’s not surprising we sometimes feel helpless, especially if we’re already vulnerable. We may already be stressed by job uncertainty, workplace demands, lack of money, poor health, relationship problems.  In such cases it’s easy to see how we can end up seeing only the worst case scenario. We can become overwhelmed and feel powerless. We then expect the worse.

On the other hand, if we’re feeling robust, in good physical and mental health and are generally resilient in the face of life’s stresses, then we can maintain a sense of control. Not only that, we can actively protect ourselves and others. We can do this by keeping ourselves fit, by having the energy to care for others, the will to share what we have, and the motivation to educate ourselves about the issues and to do something about changing or eliminating the threats to everyone’s wellbeing. By doing so, we reinforce those positive and hopeful feelings – a virtuous circle.

So, are optimism and pessimism self-fulfilling prophecies? If we’re in a good place, we’ll act for the best outcome; but if we’re in a bad place we’ll be paralysed by our expectation of catastrophe, do nothing and wait for the worst to happen.

In her book, ‘The Optimism Bias’, Tali Sharot considers this very notion. She reports that her research confirms the self-fulfilling nature of positive and negative expectations.

But she goes further. She suggests that humans seem to be wired to mostly look on the bright side. She states that while positive thinkers expect positive outcomes, and negative thinkers adopt a defensive pessimism as insurance against disappointment, it has been found that the pessimists are just as disappointed as the optimists if things don’t work out well. It has also been find that pessimists die younger often in  accidental or violent ways. Sharot suggests this is because pessimists may well have a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality when assessing risk, whereas optimists will want to hang on for their foreseen good future and will be selective and protective when faced with risk.

However, Sharot also acknowledges that extreme optimism can have a dark side too. It can sometimes be the case that, for example, in considering the risks of smoking, an optimist will take the view that smoking only kills the other guy. Another example is the financier who takes extreme investment risks in the belief he is invincible and ends up facing disaster. Extreme optimism can give a person a false sense of security.

So as in all things, moderation would seem to be the key. And this is where those of us of a mildly depressive and anxious state of mind come out well. In another study quoted by Sharot, the mentally healthy came out as inaccurately optimistic, i.e. they didn’t foretell how things would be and also failed to change their beliefs in the face of actuality. The deeply depressed also made inaccurate predictions and also failed to adjust those predictions in the face of the real outcomes. But the mildly depressed were proved to be mostly realistic in their expectations.

So, moderate optimism it shall be.

But that’s not to say you should ever give up on hopes and dreams. No way. Rather you should set achievable realistic steps along the way. Good luck seems to follow hard work and preparation.

And, remember, as Sharot also says, ‘a penguin in a parachute can sort of fly’.



Winter Solstice Fire Festival
Winter Solstice Fire Festival (Photo credit: lucasw)

Don’t despair, it’s all relative…

Here in the UK, and in the West in general, we probably shouldn’t dwell too much on the doom and gloom of political, economic and social matters. In comparison with many other parts of the world we have it easy.

Yes, many people in Britain live in relative poverty. But it’s not absolute in nature. It’s not the poverty experienced in a South African shanty town or a Vietnamese orphanage. It could be argued that poverty here is largely avoidable. We have the means to improve the lot of the poorest in our society, but no political will to do so. Instead the follies of the richest are overlooked and the plight of the poor blamed on immigrants, the unemployed and the uneducated young, the unproductive elderly.

Yes, our economy is broken and our government complacent. Yes, increasing numbers of people in the UK are dependent on food banks and struggling to pay bills as the cost of living outstrips wages. And, yes, our once enviable welfare state is a chaotic shadow of its former self.

But it is all relative. We are battling on. It’s not as hard as the 1930s – yet. We’re not facing a world war.

Many politicians are a joke –a bad one, it’s true – but most are decent and hardworking. And they are all democratically elected, albeit in an imperfect voting system, but it’s one that outstrips most in its administration and accountability. If they mess up they are accountable. If they’re corrupt they are dealt with. We also have a strong independent judiciary, free compulsory education and health care that’s free at the point of delivery.

We’re a more tolerant society than we were, although there’s still room for improvement.  Many of us volunteer within our own communities. Many of us donate to charity.

But WE COULD DO BETTER. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be paralysed by despair. Those of us who are healthy, in work and living in good accommodation should be mindful of the fact that we are doing all right, but we should also channel our positive energy into improving the lives of those less well off. We should exercise our intelligence, inform ourselves of the issues, hold our politicians and the very rich to account. We must demand a fairer society and lots more reasons to be cheerful.



a jill behind closed doors

a jill raw material

a jill tread softlyI’m a fan of crime fiction. I love the twists, the red herrings, the gruesome or clever crimes, but most of all I enjoy the detectives – police or private. I particularly enjoy the serial detectives, those main, crime-solving characters that I can get to know. PD James had the enigmatic Adam Dalgliesh, Lorna Hill has the captivating Simon Serailler, Ian Rankin has the irascible but likeable Rebus. And now, JJ Marsh gives us the troubled Beatrice Stubbs.

So far there are three Beatrice crime novels. They are, in order,  Behind Closed Doors, Raw Material and Tread Softly.

All three are very good reads.

We first meet Detective Inspector Beatrice Stubbs of the Met in Behind Closed Doors. She has been off work for over a year following a suicide attempt, but now it’s time to get back on the seesaw, as Beatrice might say. She loves mixing her similes, a delightful quirk that Beatrice has throughout the series.

She takes it as a good sign that her boss trusts her enough to give her this particular case. It is to investigate the apparent suicides of four financiers. And to do so she has to go to Switzerland. what follows is multi-layered crime thriller that builds to an exciting and, for Beatrice, perilous finale.

The second book, Raw Material, is set in a very different landscape. This time it’s the streets of London, the Irish countryside and the beaches of Pembrokeshire. Beatrice becomes unwittingly caught up in a particularly nasty type of crime while spending a Bank Holiday in Wales with her partner, Matthew. This time it’s a friend of Beatrice’s who ends up in peril as the final twists and turns play out.

And in Tread Softly we’re in yet another setting. We’re in Spain, in the wine country of the North. As in the previous book, Beatrice isn’t actively looking for crime, but when it finds her, she pursues it. She’s supposed to be on a gourmet tour as part of a sabbatical from her job. But the sabbatical bit doesn’t last long. Before she knows it, she’s compelled to investigate some very dangerous dealings in one of the wineries.

I like that JJ Marsh’s main detective character is a woman. Although we’ve had DCI Jane Tennison and, more recently, Sarah Lund on the television, there’s been a bit of a dearth, of late, of literary detectives of the female persuasion. It’s been a very long time since George in the Famous Five, or Nancy Drew and her Hardy boys. Miss Marple and Precious Ramotswe have also been doing it for the girls but they’re not exactly up-to-the-minute or real-world-gritty.

It’s also refreshing that Beatrice isn’t a ball-breaking Jane Tennison derivative. Here we have a woman who does a tough job, but who is also living with mental health problems, is in a  loving, but long-distance relationship, is sensitive and  not always confident. She’s credible and realistically drawn. The reader cares as much about her as about the solving of the crime.

I also like how Beatrice develops over the course of the three books. I admire the author’s handling of Beatrice’s mental health issues and of her relationships. But it’s not just Beatrice whose strongly characterised. The supporting cast of her partner Matthew, her friend Adrian, the other police officers and professionals with whom she works, and the victims and perpetrators of the crimes are all believable, three-dimensional characters.

The plotting is tight and cohesive. The level of suspense just right – subtle enough to be credible, tight enough to make the books real page-turners.

And the settings are glorious – European and UK cityscapes, beaches, mountains, seas, cliffs and  farmland all are rendered in just enough detail to make the reader believe she is there, with the characters, seeing the sights, smelling the smells, drinking the wine.

JJ Marsh’s writing is clever stuff. She’s a craftswoman and an artist. For lovers of crime fiction, her books will be ideally placed on your shelves alongside Hill, Rankin, James and Larsson. The books would also make excellent TV crime dramas. You heard it here first…


The novels are published by Prewett Publishing, an affiliate of Triskele Books and are available on Amazon.

JJ Marsh is on Twitter at @JJMarsh1 and you can find out more about her and her writing at

Triskele can be found at their website and on Twitter at  @triskelebooks



I’ve sent some ideas for the cover of the new novel off to  cover designer Jane at JD Smith design and she’s going to work her magic and come up with some ideas. I’m also looking for ‘Beta’ readers who would be willing to read the manuscript and give comments/suggestions etc. It has been edited but more pairs of eyes is always a good idea. If you would be willing, get in touch through the comments section. I would send you a synopsis first so you could decide if it tickled your fancy. Basically it’s a romance. It’s one for the baby-boomer generation i.e. the main characters are in their fifties. It’s set in Skye and Israel and is about love, loss and homecoming. Next I need to decide about the route to publication. I would like to be an author-publisher, something that’s becoming more and more common. That way I retain control over the book, the schedule and the finances. But I’m a bit apprehensive about striking out alone. That’s where the organisations I mention in the next, TIPS, section come in…


Alli book

I’m a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. For an annual membership fee, Members receive excellent advice about going it alone when publishing their books. They showcase member authors’ work, offer online Q&A sessions with publishing experts and warn about the pitfalls as well as making recommendations. They’ve produced a book called Choosing a Self-Publishing Service which I’m currently reading.

You can find the Alliance of Independent authors here

triskele trail

Then there is Triskele. I mentioned them above as they’re the author collective which is behind the publication of JJ Marsh’s books. In their book The Triskele Trail, the founder members of Triskele share their experiences of being author-publishers. This book, available as an e-book only at the moment, is another treasure trove for nervous and inexperienced authors keen to go independent.

You can find Triskele here

Joanna Penn market book

And finally, there’s the wonderful Joanna Penn for when I need to market the book. Joanna’s ‘How to Market a Book’ is another invaluable publication for authors – traditionally or independently published.

You can find Joanna Penn here


Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. Maya Angelou



flowers and birds Jul 11 2013 024

A goldfinch, a siskin and a lesser redpoll enjoying the nyjer seed.

 And finally…

Chin up and keep smiling

Smiley face 2
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)




May the force of the darling buds be with you

Another month has ended. My real life, my writing life and my working life have all been very busy throughout April and May doesn’t look as if it will be any quieter.

In real life, the Easter holidays were enjoyable and fun. The husband recovered from his lurgy and we got over the disappointment of our cancelled holiday. This was made easier when our daughter, son-in-law and our gorgeous granddaughter, Eva, came to stay. The wee one is four months old now and smiles and babbles away at anyone who pays her any attention. She also developed a liking for one of our floor-lamps and it got the most enthusiastic chatter of any of us – especially when lit.

And then it was back to school. It was lovely comparing notes with the granny colleagues as several of us had been able to spend time with our grandbabies during the break. It’s hard to believe that it’s term four already and that the school year will end in eight weeks time. We’re already preparing for the new intake of five-year-olds in August and it only feels like yesterday that our present Primary Ones arrived. The school is already going Olympics crazy and there is an absolute extravaganza of stuff planned for the next few weeks – all related to the Games.

As for the writing – it can be hard going after a busy day at school but I usually make it to my desk after dinner – and I always get a bit done at the weekends. Novel number two is coming along nicely. I’m two-thirds of the way through the first draft and I’m at that stage where the characters are always with me – and I half expect to meet them at the co-op they are so real to me.

I was very chuffed to be mentioned on the cover of April’s issue of Words with Jam,  the writers’ magazine that I’m a ‘staffer’ on. I’ve been with the magazine from the start but never had billing on the front page before. The founding editor, Jane Dixon-Smith, is amazing and has taken WWJ from solely free online editions to e-format and print versions. It is now a well-established, high circulation and entertaining and informative journal. The staff is even getting paid now!

I was also very pleased with the results of offering my novel ‘Change of Life’ as a free download for Kindle on one weekend in April. Hundreds of copies were downloaded and paid sales also experienced a boost afterwards. The book made it to number 3 on the Kindle paid Women’s Fiction chart on Amazon and to number 63 in the paid general fiction Kindle chart. I did enjoy my fifteen minutes of fame.

And still on the subject of writing I have also joined The Alliance of Independent Authors . This is a new body started by Orna Ross and it aims to support, represent and advise independent authors and looks well worth being a member of if you’re a ‘struggling’ indie author.

As for island life – well – lambing is over. The weather has been amazingly good and the lambing snow has been confined to the hilltops. Foxes are proving to be a pest as always and a colleague lost a lamb the other night to Mr Fox. I know they have to eat but it’s the way they just take the head that gives me the shivers – and they leave behind these wee headless corpses. On a happier note, there’s already a healthy number of tourists enjoying our beautiful surroundings.

The days are lengthening and the beautiful sunny days are ending with spectacular sunsets and magnificent displays of the Northern Lights. For some amazing photos of the Aurora over Skye go here: .  Skye is truly Hebridean heaven at the moment.

Slainte Mhath to all my readers and tioraidh for now.