Tuesday, 29 September 2015

You know what they say about eggs and a single basket...

I became a published author because of Smashwords. Until I discovered their site (and that was purely by chance, if I remember rightly) I'd had no luck travelling down the traditional publishing road. In fact, I hadn't made it out of my front door!

When I realised there were such things as indie authors, and I could publish and be damned without having to secure a contract, however measly, my writing life was turned upside down. I embraced Smashwords with all the enthusiasm of a new lover. I published my first novel, then my second, until all five were loose on the digital world.

Some time after I published my first novel via Smashwords, I found I could publish through Amazon. So I did. At this point my books were digitally available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks (Apple), Scribd, Kobo, and a whole lot more, and I used Createspace for the print version.

Then KDP Select came to my attention, and I was seduced by the marketing. I enrolled first one and then all of my books in the scheme, and have since regretted it.

The problem I have with Select (and with Amazon as a whole) is the growing lack of diversity within the self-publishing business. With Oyster closing there is one less outlet for indie authors. How many more will go before Amazon is the only child left in the park with a ball? If indies want to play they may eventually have only one option - do it the Amazon way, or don't do it at all.

Don't get me wrong - I publish on Amazon and am grateful for it. But what happens if /when the option for indies shrinks to only Amazon?

Authors, as a profession, need to encourage diversification, not repress it. And we also need to make sure that a single publisher doesn't become the only publisher, or we might find we are suffering the consequences.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Thoughts on self-publishing

Alyssa Flowers asked me some questions about my experiences of self publishing. Here's the link to her website and the blog:


I really enjoyed reflecting on the whole process and I hope up-and-coming writers can learn from some of the mistakes I made!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Editors! Who needs ‘em?

Actually you do, if you’re an author, or plan on becoming one.

Let me tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

Once upon a time a would-be author decided to write a novel. She wrote and wrote and wrote, and after the end of a lot of words she sat back and viewed her full-length manuscript with satisfaction. Believing it done and not in need of any further fiddling, she sent it off to a variety of agents. Then she proceeded to watch the ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letters roll in.

Undeterred, she came across an ebook self-publishing site and thought all her Christmases had come at once. No need to bother with all those query letters and rejections – she could simply upload her manuscript and wait for the reviews.

Only – they they weren't quite what she hoped for. Don’t get me wrong, she had her fair share of good reviews. But there were also a significant amount of reviewers who said they enjoyed the story but it was littered with errors. One kindly reviewer even took the trouble to contact the author privately and list them so the author could remove them.

Okay! It was me! Looking back, I was so na├»ve and ignorant. Of course I knew what an editor was – he/she was the person who sat behind a desk at a newspaper company and decided what could or couldn’t be printed. I vaguely understood that publishing houses employed editors, but I was self-published so I didn't think I had access to one. And even after I unpublished my novel and paid a professional to edit it, I still didn’t get the full picture. I didn’t realise there are different kinds of editors. Before you employ someone to edit your manuscript, make sure you know what you need and what you are paying for.

There are several types of editors for fiction. The three main ones are:

  • ·         Developmental/content/structural (they can often go by a variety of names) editors look at plot, sub-plots, plot holes, story development major inconsistencies, character development, pacing, voice, tone and readability. They may well do some research to check any salient facts are correct. In essence, this type of editing looks at your story as a whole and how it hangs together.

  • ·         Copy editors do not offer suggestions for changing the actual content of your story. For instance, they wouldn’t suggest changing the motive of your villain for murdering one of your main characters. Instead they will look at your story when you are happy that you won’t be making any more major changes. These editors look at clunky sentences, word choices, punctuation, grammar, repetitive wording (I love to use ‘was’ and ‘that’ in my writing), dialogue tags and much more.

  • ·         Proofreaders are the last stage in the editing process. When they read your manuscript they will be looking for typos, spelling mistakes, missing or incorrect punctuation.

Editing does overlap. Copy editors correct typos and proof readers may well point out a plot hole and I’m not suggesting that self-published authors, most of whom have a limited or almost non-existent budget, must shell out for all three. However, an additional pair of eyes, or four, on your work is essential before you let it loose in the big world. And I don’t mean getting your mum to have a quick scan through it ‘because she reads a lot.’  

I joined an online critique group (there are several out there), and this has proved invaluable in everything from pointing out major inconsistencies in my plot, to letting me know a comma is missing. I also have a bank of beta readers who I can call on to give me an honest opinion of my manuscript at whatever stage is it at, and in the early stages I need an alpha reader, rather than a beta. 

Here's my earlier post on the difference between the two:


Whatever you decide, don’t do what I did – publish and be damned then regret it later. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

I like a nice castle - Caerphilly


Caerphilly castle is practically right on my doorstep and it's one of the most impressive castles in Britain - the largest in Wales and the second largest in the UK after Windsor.

      Built by Gilbert de Clare in 1268 to stop Llewelun ap Gruffudd's southward ambitions, it is an early example of a concentric castle with extensive water defences. Today it provides the backdrop for festivals and concerts, film sets and carnivals. It is said to be haunted and like so many ancient buildings a series of myths, legends and folklore surrounds it.

     Legend has it that the castle is haunted by a goblin called the Green Lady of Caerphilly. She wears a green robe, and has the power to turn herself into ivy and mingle with the ivy growing on the wall. This apparition used to warn the de Clare family about an eminent death. Now, though the castle is in ruins, the ghost is still seen.

     Another story is that the ghost is the spirit of Alice de la Marche, who was the niece of Henry II and the wife of Gilbert de Clare. Alice was beautiful, with dark hair and dark eyes. She was also flirtatious and provocative.

     The myth is that Alice fell in love with a knight called Gruffydd the Fair, and they became lovers. A monk supposedly reported the affair to Gilbert, who ordered his wife to leave for France, and sent his men to track down Gruffydd and kill him. When Gruffyd heard of the monk's betrayal, he hung the monk from a tree at a place known today as Ystrad Mychach (Monks Vale).  Gilbert's men caught up with Gruffydd and he too, was hanged.

     When Alice learned of Gruffydd's death it is said she died of a broken heart, and since then her spirit has wandered the castle mourning her lover. She is known as 'The Green Lady', perhaps because of the ivy which grows on the castle walls, or because green signifies Gilbert's envy. 

And maybe I will weave a story around this piece of Welsh folklore, one day...

Saturday, 18 July 2015

New cover for State of Grace

And not only for State of Grace - the other two books in the Resurrection series have been treated to new covers too. But the hunky man on the original stays the same. I couldn't possibly have gotten rid of him!

And I've got the lovely Annme Spiby to thank for the new jackets. What a fantastic lady! She also did this flyer.

(Shh, don't tell anyone, but there is a reason for the facelift. So many readers have contacted me asking if there will be another novel in the series. I hadn't planned on it - I honestly thought my work here was done - but then I got to thinking, and...  Anyway, it won't be this year because I'm half way through another paranormal romance but Grace and Roman may well make a reappearance next year.)

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Cover change - opinions needed

I'm planning on changing the background to my novel, State of Grace. It's part of a trilogy and I use the same model in each, so I don't want to get rid of him (anyway, he's HOT!!), but the current background is boring. Really boring.
It's a paranormal romance, and the guy on the cover is a vampire. Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated. Please bear in mind that these are just ideas, and the finished product will be done professionally. The first picture - the one with the plain brown background is the one I'm using at the moment.

Recipe for Welsh Cawl (lamb stew)

Cawl is a traditional Welsh stew and depending on your location in Wales, cawl will be made in many ways.  If you are inland or up in the hills you will get served lamb or mutton cawl where as on the coast you will get seafood cawl. Here is a recipe for a traditional lamb cawl.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 6 x small lamb shanks (Welsh lamb if you can get it)
  • 1.2L/2pts water
  • 225g/8oz potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 225g/8oz swede, peeled and diced
  • 225g/8oz onion, peeled and chopped
  • 225g/8oz carrots, peeled and diced
  • 225g/8oz leek, cleaned and sliced thin
  • A bunch of herbs: Bay, thyme, rosemary and parsley
  • 2tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper


Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan, season the lamb shanks add to the pan together with the onion and brown all over (you may have to do this in batches if your pan is not large enough. Pour over the water and add the bunch of herbs. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 40 minutes. Add all the vegetables, bring up to the boil again, reduce to a simmer and cook for a further 40 minutes, then serve with fresh crusty bread.
During cooking the stock will reduce somewhat, so top up with more water, or some wine. You may also wish to add pulses such as lentils, or beans, pearl barley is also good during the winter months.