Monday 23 December 2013

My top 5 independently published books of 2013

.....and I've read a fair few this year

These are the five I liked best; with all of them I was able to read without my 'editing head', which for me is a sign that a book is really well written. All of these are, in my opinion, good enough for traditional publishing - I'm not saying that a professional editor might not make the odd change, but the authors of these books can really WRITE!

One short story, one novella, one factual account and two novels - and I don't recommend lightly, these are all books that I genuinely think deserve more recognition.  None of them will break the bank, either - two are under a quid.

I have given the Amazon UK link only, as most of my blog and Twitter followers are from the UK, but the books are available on all Amazon sites. I've also chosen not to copy and paste the blurb or my full reviews of the books, not because I'm lazy but because you can read both by clicking on the link!  In the meantime, I'll just say a few words...

Without further ado and in no particular order:

THE PURPOSE OF A MAN by Daniel Brevitt

Lad lit and contemporary drama at its absolute best - knocks the socks off a couple of those by bestselling traditionally published writers of the same genre I've read this year. Under-promoted, little known and sitting on a dusty back shelf of Amazon waiting to be read by YOU!

X by Jack Croxall

Unusual and shocking post-apocalyptic short story that should have been at least novelette sized!  Because I would have liked to read more, I mean - it's perfectly executed as it is.  If you like films like '28 Days Later', get this!

LIFE'S A DITCH by Charles Dougherty

I adored this account of Charles and Leslie Dougherty's first experience of running away to sea (I mean living on their houseboat!) - and not in the first flush of youth, either! I've read bits of this quite a few times - it's fascinating, funny, thought provoking - good stuff!


Zoe Saadia is an expert on pre-Columbian history, which I greatly respect anyway, but she can't half write a good bit of fiction, too!  This is a cracking tale, and the style reminded me of some parts of the Game of Thrones series.

ONE STREET OVER by Kimberley Biller

Please excuse the straight-from-Amazon picture of the cover, I couldn't find another!  Ms Biller was my surprise find of this year.  I'd read the sequel to this, The Tree In The Front Yard, and immediately fell in love with Sissy, the 11 year old, dirt poor Southern US heroine.  I liked this one even more.  The author writes as Sissy would talk, and it works, brilliantly.  A natural story-teller.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Moving Out - a short story

This story was written in 1995 and was originally to be included in my short story collection, Nine Lives, but I rejected it.  It would've need a complete rewrite to bring it up to date and sharpen it up, but I thought it was worthy of a blog appearance!
Nine Lives is free from Sunday 16~Wednesday 19 August 2015 ~ click here

a story about leaving home and growing up....

Time to go.
She zips up her suitcase and takes a last look around the bedroom, a pretty, frilly room, decorated in a style she has long outgrown.  Then, turning to gaze out of the window, she pictures the flat she hopes to buy once she has found her feet.  A flat furnished to her own taste, with dramatic splashes of colour.  In this flat she will laugh and cry and live, she will find a social life and entertain her friends, all by herself.  In this flat she will grow up.  For nineteen years she has lived according to someone else’s rules, but now it is time to break free.
She lights a cigarette and watches the stream of grey smoke drift across the room.  He doesn’t like her to smoke.  Well, that’s too bad.  He seems almost pleased when he catches her, so that he can tell her off, as if she is still a child.
He.  Him.  Victorian Father.  That’s what he is.  The restrictive, demanding, nagging presence who wants to stunt her development.  Enough is enough.  She feels guilty about planning her departure with such secrecy, but there is no other way. 
When did the rot begin to set in?  Two years ago, she thinks, when she wanted to enrol on a college course - and he used every one of his persuasive powers to prevent her from doing so.
“Why on earth do you want to mix with a crowd of silly students?” he’d demanded, rustling his newspaper and lighting his pipe (that pipe!  How she hates it!).  “Think of all that studying!” he said.  “You’ll never cope with it!”
She has read articles in women’s magazines like Cosmo and Company, and is beginning to understand the male ego.  She hides these magazines in the same way as men hide porn, reading only her innocent romance novels with alpha male heroes and ditzy heroines when he is around, but her secret stash has taught her a lot.  She knows about men, now, all men.  He likes her to feel helpless so that she can see him as the Great Provider.  Big Daddy.  He is scared of losing her, so he wants her to believe she cannot cope on her own. 
She has had enough of their quiet, closed, stifling existence.  Just the two of them.  It used to be enough, but now it isn’t.  He discourages her from making friends.  Doesn’t he provide her with all she needs?  If she wants something she only has to ask!  Yes, she can have anything she wants – apart from the freedom to express her own personality.  Maybe she should blame the generation gap, she thinks, and laughs to herself.  Men of his generation don’t acknowledge such a thing exists.  They think it’s just an excuse for younger people’s lack of respect, but it’s not.
She opens a cupboard and looks, without regret, at the few possessions she is leaving behind.  She doesn’t feel they are truly hers, because she chose so few of them herself, not even the clothes.  He likes her to dress like her mother did.  She wants to wear jeans and funky tops, not pretty frocks.  His little girl.
“But I’m not a girl, I’m a woman!” she says, out loud, to the reflection in the wardrobe mirror.  A girl would stay put, safe, unchallenged, cared for, but the emerging woman in her head dares to break free.  She feels sad because she loves him, of course she does, but she is more frightened of the consequences of staying than of the big, bad world outside. 
She lifts the handle on her case and, on impulse, leaves her cigarettes and lighter on the dressing table.  She will give up smoking, because she won’t need it anymore.  She won’t feel frustrated and hemmed in, in her new life.  She walks out onto the landing.  Before closing the bedroom door behind her she glances in one last time.  She is shutting the door on her childhood.  This makes her smile, and she hopes many more things will make her smile when she steps out into her brave new world.
Down the stairs, out onto the street.  She breathes in the air and feels spring-like, despite the cold November drizzle.  Now she must walk; wisely, she has decided not to splash out on a taxi to take her to the station.  Managing her own finances will be another thing she will have to learn, but learn it she must.  Better to be poor but independent than shielded from the world by those overpowering arms. 
She walks down to the bus stop, her hand closed tightly around the train ticket in her pocket.  Her ticket to freedom, and life as a fully-fledged adult.  She is scared but happy, and proud of herself. 
She should have listened to her mother after all. 
Marrying a man twenty-five years older than herself was never going to work, long-term; finally, at the age of thirty-seven, she has found the courage to grow up.

If you would like to read more of my stories, Nine Lives is only 77p or $1.25!  Here are the links to Amazon UK and

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Christmas Desperation....

"Are you ready for Christmas?" 

My father and I place bets on how early we will be asked that question, each year.  I expect my first one will happen in the hairdressers on Friday. I will pretend I haven't heard it.  (I'm not, by the way).

Well, then - are you?  No, I don't really want to know.  Every year we hear that the seasonal retail figures for 'the high street' are disappointing - especially in recent years, now that more and more people are shopping online.  The shops are getting desperate - and it shows.

Where I live, the shopping centre is open air.  Yesterday I walked through it, on only November 26th, to the tune of Wizzard's "I wish it could be Christmas every day".  I couldn't get away from it.  Look, I didn't want to hear that banal, tired song in 1973 when it came out, and I certainly haven't wanted to hear it for every one of the 40 years since. How, pray, do the shops think this will entice me in?  The same goes for the clothes stores with horrible reindeer sweaters in the window, and every single emporium trying to orientate its wares towards present giving; even Wilkinsons (where you go for your cheapo kitchen cleaner and shampoo) claimed to have the perfect Christmas gifts for all the family ("a handy kitchen gadget for Mum, and don't forget that garden tool for Dad!"). A girl in a red fleece wearing reindeer antlers stood at the door trying to spray me with perfume as I walked past.  I only wanted a notepad and a pack of biros.  

As for the supermarkets who start pushing overpriced chocolates and packets of red candles at you as soon as you start taking-a-cardigan-with-you-because-those-late-summer-evenings-can-get-a-bit-nippy ~ don't get me started, especially not now that people moaning about it begins as early as Christmas product promotion every year, and I'm as guilty of this as everyone else.  I find the whole thing so desperate and so ghastly that this year, guess what?  I'm not going to go out shopping again until January.  I'm going to be one of those who shops online, instead.  

I think it was buying bleach and loo paper to the sound of Elton John's appalling "Step Into Christmas" that sent me over the edge...  

Monday 25 November 2013

Free Promotion results & thanks - and Kindle Countdown!

As anyone who uses Twitter alot may well have grown sick of seeing over the past week, I have just had a five day promotion for my new short story collection, Nine Lives (I'm so fed up with the sight of it I can hardly bear to type that!).

I know that the free promotion is, like, SO last year, and these days it's no guarantee of anything other than making sure that 500 people have yet another book on their Kindle that they'll never read, but I wanted to do the short stories as a chance for some people to try out the way I write without having to commit to a novel - and, much to my delight, I have already had some new people saying that they loved them and now want to read more, which is what it is all about, is it not!  Also, I had far more downloads than I expected; I had only anticipated about 500, but got 1541, which is not half bad for these days, considering it's without advertising on any other sites apart from Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads - not even all the Facebook/Twitter free pages, for the simple reason that I couldn't be bothered. 

However!! I would not have had half so much success without the help of so many lovely people - a big thank you to all the people who retweeted for me, some many, many times, and I'd like to just mention a few people here who really 'went the extra mile' for me, by putting it on blog posts, reviewing, downloading and telling the (Twitter) world about it, scheduling tweets, sharing Facebook posts, and all the rest. Big, big thanks to: Sonya Kemp, Susan Buchanan, Bodicia (and her apple), Deena Rae, Maria Savva, Rosie Amber, Julie Ryan, David Njoku, Darcia Helle, Geoff West, Jack Croxall, Alice Huskisson, Jan Ruth, Ro Jordan, Jenny Twist, Neel Kay, Sharon Roberts, KJ Waters, Lizzie Lamb, Claire Hill, Joanne Phillips, Hache Jones, Mack Brown, Carol Hedges, Francis "Mr Lover Man" Potts, Dylan Morgan, Molly Greene, Andrea Williams, John Donoghue, Alex Martin, Dave Perlmutter, Wendy Proof, Cathy Lynn, Judee Ann, Colette Thompson Pam Howes, Foggy Tewsday, Jane Sleuth, Roberta Goodman, Carrie Bookworm, John Hudspith and anyone else on the #wkb group who tweeted for me, Kitty Bittersplit, Jeanette Christie, Amy Good, Peter "Awesome lol hugz" Davey,  and I'm really sorry if I've forgotten anyone, my head's a bit full at the moment!

Kindle Countdown
(This bit mostly just of interest to other writers!!! Sorry for boring non-writer readers!!!)
At the end of the book is the first chapter of my latest novel, What It Takes. To tie in with the free promotion, I thought I'd reduce the price of this one. Earlier in the week I had heard that the new Amazon Kindle Countdown promotions are the absolute cojones del perro; two friends who normally sell roughly the same as I do (or a bit more or a bit less!) reported sales in their hundreds.  Daily.  Gosh, thought I, I iz gittin' me a piece o' that mo'fo, innit.  So, I put What It Takes on a Kindle Countdown deal for half price yesterday. What happened?  Bugger all. Sure, I've sold a fair few, but no more than I would expect on a normal reduced price weekend.  

I was beginning to think I had a problem that my best friend hadn't told me about.  Where were the 500 sales of which my friends spoke?  Then, a writer friend solved the mystery for me.  She told me that Kindle Countdown deals are no longer advertised on the home page of the Amazon Kindle Store (as they had been until the day before mine started), but have been tucked away somewhere else.  In other words, they have been taken out of the shop window.  Chaps, we've missed the boat.  Whereas the Countdown deals are good royalty-wise, the initial boost is all over.  

An example of shop window benefit: eighteen months ago, my first book, You Wish, was number one in Kindle 'Movers and Shakers', which was, at the time, also on the home page of the Amazon Kindle Store.  It was selling every five minutes.  That's literally, by the way - it really was.  The minute it stopped being at number one, though, and slid down to number 4 or 5, you could no longer see it on the front page - and sales went back to normal.  

Conclusion ~ Amazon visibility is all.  With it, you don't have to do anything to promote at all.  You can just sit back and watch those sales roll in.  Without it, it's a hard road out there - but one I shall keep travelling, nevertheless! 

Thank y'all again!! 

Please note:   What It Takes continues to be on offer for the whole of this week.... see the top right hand corner for the link to my Amazon UK page, or the link is here:

Saturday 2 November 2013

My new short story collection - NINE LIVES!

I'm happy to announce that my short story collection, NINE LIVES, is nearly ready for publication (cross fingers)!  I'm hoping it will be out on November 20th, and it will be free on publication, for five days.  

I love the cover!

NINE LIVES contains nine stories (hence the name!), with various themes ~ here's a brief run-down:

Angel ~
A young woman in a storybook perfect marriage is tempted to stray...

Shut Up And Dance
Laura's boyfriend Paul has promised to love her whatever size she is - but does he mean it?

Mia ~
A middle-aged wife talks about the threat of 'the other woman'

Kiss Your Past Goodbye ~
Zoe wonders what happened to Jack, who broke her heart when she was eighteen

We All Fall Down ~
The quick drink between two old friends that gets out of hand....

Bright Light Fright ~
Vengeance, a burglary, and a nasty shock!

Mama Kin ~
Emma has serious doubts about Melanie's attitude to childcare...

Don't Get Mad - Get Even!
Kevin and Marcus have been friends and rivals since childhood - but who will come out on top?

Happy Birthday
A forty year old woman looks back at her life

I hope you will download it - and I'll be shouting about it from the rooftops (okay, on Facebook and Twitter!) when it's published, so you won't miss it!


Monday 21 October 2013

No problem - have a gr8 day lol!

I was inspired to write this by a post by Elizabeth Ducie on a similar subject - ie, the automatic usage of dumb phrases, such as 'no problem'.  Here is Elizabeth's post - please read it first, it's very good!:

I, too, have had experience of the 'no problem' school of waiter service in restaurants. I remember a few years ago being in a fish restaurant near Peterborough with my father; as in Elizabeth's post, every request was answered with this phrase.  Our main course did not arrive for 45 minutes.  We talked to the waiter about this, giving orders for more drinks ("Another bottle of the Pinot Grigio" "No problem" "And a jug of water, please" "No problem" "Could you find out from the kitchen how long it will be?" "No problem").  In the end, my father said, "Well, there clearly is a problem, because we've been waiting for our main course for an hour. Could you please check in the kitchen again?"  "No problem".  The waiter actually went red when he'd said it, probably realising what a chump he sounded. What ever happened to "Certainly, sir"?

Another one is "Don't worry about it!" - "My payment for £120 to doesn't seem to have gone through.  Could you check it please?"  "Sure, don't worry about it"  "I paid it on Friday" "I'll just check, don't worry about it"  "I wasn't, I was just asking you to check it."  "Ha ha!  Don't worry about it".  

One of my biggest loathes is "You'll be fine" ~ said whenever anyone expresses concern about a job interview, a serious medical condition, a driving test.  It is a bland platitude, said without any knowledge or conviction that the person will be fine at all.  The first time I heard it, I thought the person actually had inside knowledge, and that I would get the job.  I didn't. 

Many people know of my loathing of such teenage Facebook terms as 'lol' , 'yay' , 'awesome' 'nom nom nom', and all the rest of them.  What I dislike is the way that these words/phrases are latched onto and repeated by all.  I'm not talking about incorrect use of the language - I call people dude, say 'wahey' and 'yee-hah', and all sorts of silly things like that, as do many, but I don't use them almost as punctuation marks lol like some do lol.  I hate it when I see sentences on Facebook lol with no punctuation apart from lol at the end lol.  You're not laughing out loud, are you?  And does it really fill you with awe?  I told a friend off the other day for her use of 'yay', and she answered that she was equally as irritated by my use of emoticons - fair enough, I will stop automatically putting :) at the end of practically every tweet!!!  Incidentally, if ever you see a tweet from me saying something like "I iz okay lol innit", it is probably to one of a very few people who also do this sort of thing as a joke.  Lol.  

My friend just told me of one she hates (though this isn't the same sort of thing, but I thought I'd mention it!) - when people say "Clearly" before they explain something - I said that means "It's clear to me, and you're stupid if you can't see it."  A bit like "With all due respect" which actually means "I think you're talking crap".

Okay, okay, I'll shurrup now - because I've written about this sort of thing before....

... and how every other Facebook bio (the ones I don't follow back) claims that the profile is that of a self-confessed geek and mediapreneur with eclectic tastes.  And the day I become 'sassy' I'll shoot myself.  Lol. 

A word of thanks - and bit about free promotions!

I promise you will not see another book tweet of mine for at least 10 years!!! Well, maybe not that long... but ....

Before I begin with free promo stuff and words of thanks, I just wrote this to a friend in an email, and I think it sums the whole Amazon visibility/free promotion thing up!

Imagine the biggest library you know, and your one book at the bottom of one of the back shelves. It's only been taken out by a few people, and unless they recommend it to others you have to wait for someone else to chance upon it, which they may not do for days or weeks at a time. The free promotion is like having it picked out by the library assistants and having it put on the 'recommended reads' shelf, for a couple of days!!!

As many of my Twitter followers will have observed (serious yawn!!), I put my book Full Circle on free promotion this weekend just gone.  It wasn't wildly successful; I partly have myself to blame for that because, for all that I advise other people to do so (!!) I didn't prepare for it properly.  I didn't submit it to any of the sites that advertise free Kindle books because... I couldn't be bothered.  So for that, I paid the price, I guess!!  Also, I chose not to do any promotion with the sites on which you have to pay to be featured.  Gone are the days of 17K downloads and getting to number #1 in free downloads just by tweeting (with the resultant fabulous after-sales) as I did eighteen months ago; now, you need to do more, alas.  

Nowadays I think people only download a free book if they think they might really want to read it, not like when I first did a free promotion and seeing a book for free was such a novelty that everyone downloaded it anyway!  Thus, I also have to accept that this particular book perhaps does not have the wide appeal of some others, including some of my own (even though its reviews are outstanding, and I think it's my best one - oh well!).  I hope I will always be able to be realistic about these things, and not blame 'the industry' or make daft excuses!  The rock band-coupled-with-romcom-coupled-with-wife-of-an-alcoholic thing was always a risk; it's maybe not girly enough for the chick lit readers, and not blokey enough for the lad-lit lovers!  However, I did have far more downloads than I expected at first, from which there is always the possibility of new readers and reviews.  And I had far more actual sales of my other five books than I've had at the weekends recently, particularly Dream On, which is the prequel to Full Circle - so I'd recommend doing a free promotion to anyone - but do it right, not like I did!

(Incidentally, Dream On is still half price (96p/£1.53), simply because I haven't got round to changing it back yet....feel free!)

I would not have done half as well as I did if it wasn't for the help of others, and so I would like to give HUGE thanks to the following - and to everyone who downloaded Full Circle (or bought my others!) over the weekend:

Deena Rae of eBookBuilders and all her friends who tweeted my post thereon; Maria Savva (who did a blog post for me, too!), Dave Goodridge, Bert Murray, Susan Buchanan, Francis 'Vajazzle-Tastic' Potts, Carol Hedges, Darcia Helle, Rachel Thompson, Jenny Twist, Geoff West, Jenny Burnley, JD Hughes, Suzy Turner, Alice Huskisson, IndieAuthorLand, Zoe Saadia, Catterick Claire, Angela Thomas, Mandy Baggot, Alex Johnson, Mackenzie Brown, Soberistas, Rayne Hall, E L Lindley, Jackie 495, Zoe Saadia, Morton Balthus, Guy Johnson, Mary Coen, Evelyn Tidman, Jack Croxall, Jan Romes, Proofreader Julia, Jacy Brean, Carol Phipps, Dana Vickery, JE Ryder, Lisa Richardson, Diane Mannion, Electa Graham, Kimberly Biller, Karena Marie, Kitty Bittersplit, Peter Davey, Pam Howes, John Hudspith, Jan Ruth, Dave Perlmutter, Wendy Aizen-Smith, Janie Storer, Caitlyn Dawney, Terry Ridley, Marlena Hand, James Bryron, Michael Eging, Vonda Norwood, Wendy Potocki, Machel Shull, Suzy Ayres, Danny Kemp, Robert Bevan, Lisa Gillis, Jasmine Bath, Michelle Wilkinson, Sammy Sutton, Phillip Mayes, Ellis Vidler, Jenny Lloyd, Suzanne Jenkins, HE Joyce, Marc Mordey, Brian Menard, Phebe Bodelle, Mark Swain, Vanessa Wester, Josie Noonan, Glen Batchelor, June Kearns, Lindsay Townsend, Danielle Schnieder, Stephen Jennison-Smith, Jerry Beller, WC Hewitt, Polly Iyer, Chuck Bluestein, Lynette Creswell, Teresa Hamilton, Lisa Buist, Kate Hanney, Claudia Burgoa, Caroline Easton, Derrick Bickley, Toya Richardson, Wendy Storer, Blondie Waters, Neel Kay, Elizabeth Ziko, Jenny Kreeve, and everyone else who retweeted for me and posted on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere for me over the weekend - I tried to remember everyone, and I apologise I've left you out of that list.  I did try to return as many RTs as possible but I needed to do things like eat and sleep, too!

And if any of you are doing a free promotion - just let me know and I'll gladly help spread the word!

Sunday 13 October 2013

"I'm just an ordinary hard-working mum!" - NOT!

I was reading an article in some weekend magazine last week about Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Abbey Clancy, currently on Strictly Come Dancing, and (whether or not this is what they really said, or just how it was portrayed by the magazine, I don't know) they were both giving it all this "oh, people think it's so glamorous, but it's not!  We have to do the school run before we go to work, then we get to lunch time and think, oh God, I forgot to pack little Tristan's recorder, and after a gruelling day we get home and have to cook dinner, just like any other working mother!"


Er, no you're NOT just like any working mother - and I'm guessing you know this.  You're beautiful, rich, married to handsome successful men (probably), you're talented (maybe), well-known, and no doubt have a whole HOST of minions running round who will get little Tristan's recorder to him, should you have forgotten to have put it in his backpack.  You go to 'work' where you are fawned over, and get to learn to dance with hot guys all day whilst earning an absolute packet.  You don't have to do this to pay the mortgage, you do it to enhance your profile and secure other gigs that will pay out as much as this one does.  

Wouldn't it be great if, just once, one of them said this:  

"Yeah, I can't believe my luck!  I was born stunning, can do exactly what I want, and I've got all this money.  Go me!"

Myleene Klass (talented pianist, millionairess, etc) - High Priestess of the 'Oh, I'm just a normal working mother' club :)