Saturday, 29 September 2012

Catching up

I thought I'd got got all organised before I went away with my laptop, notebook, magazines and competition details, but wherever I am there always seem to be distractions preventing me doing as much as I intend.

If you can avoid getting distracted by a few more pictures from our latest trip, you'll find links to things I'd meant to tell you about, but didn't get around to mentioning.

There was (and still is) the chance to win Jack Reacher audio books.

If you can instantly write an amazing book blurb you could win a writing course (but if you can do that you probably don't need the prize!)

There's just slightly more notice for this poetry competition - which has a £500 prize.

Oh look, I've just left room to brag about the lovely reviews I've had for my book!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

All castled out*

I've been away Castle spotting and didn't have as much internet access as I'd expected. It made me realise how much time I usually spend online ... still, let's not dwell on that. As well as visiting lots of castles, looking at quite a few ferries (and travelling on one) and eating and drinking (only slightly to excess) I did get quite a bit of writing done.

Maybe it was due to the peace and quiet - well, it was quiet except for the thunder and hailstorms. They're really dramatic in a campervan on the edge of a cliff ...

Talking of quiet, Here's a competition you might like.

Sorry if you had trouble reading the proofreading post a few days ago. I still can't work out what the problem was so will post it again later - hopefully minus whatever the snag was.

*not really! We only saw nine which is nowhere near too many.

btw, not all the pictures are of castles. We visited churches and cathedrals too.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Amy Kinmond talking about Running Out of Ink

What do you publish? We publish short stories and don’t restrict as far as genre goes as variety is going to be the signature of each online issue. We do only accept stories under 2500 words though or we could be reading through submissions forever!

 Where can people read writing you've published?

 You can’t as yet, but come to www.runningoutofink.com on the 1st of November 2012 to see our debut issue of the fiction webzine. We hope to see you there.

How should writers submit their work? Send us your story in a .doc format or in the body of an email to

What Reward Do You Offer Writers? While we regret we are currently unable to pay our writers, this webzine provides an excellent method for new writers to gain a voice as well as adding to the resume for existing writers. We are also keen to have some recurring writers throughout several issues as we believe this will great a familiarity throughout the issues. This means writers can potentially get continued exposure and gain a following through our website.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Helen Baggott talking about Proofreading

Do you think it's important for writers who intend to self-publish to get their novels professionally proofread?

Most definitely!  It’s virtually impossible for us to spot our own typos.  By the time an author has planned, plotted and written their novel, they’re so familiar with the content that instead of reading it for errors, they’re almost reciting it. 

Friends and family will be honoured to read it first, but often they won’t be able to overcome their pride and errors will remain.

And if you think a spell checker will do the job of a proof-reader, think again.  The wrong word spelt correctly is still an error – stares/stairs is a favourite.

How did you get into doing this then?

I began writing seriously about 20 years ago.  I won my first short story competition (Writers’ Forum) in the late 80s and since then have continued to write the odd story and have won more competitions – most recently last year.

But it’s non-fiction and publishing that really grabbed my attention.  As well as writing and researching articles for magazines and websites, I’ve also edited a local magazine and that involved proofreading.  I also write reviews for local newspapers and have met some wonderful people, including Julian Fellowes and Mike Leigh.  Thankfully Lord Fellowes had been interviewed before and my stammering questions were interpreted and answered with an Oscar-winning performance.

Of course you can’t write without reading and it occurred to me as I embraced the world of e-readers that writers who self-publish, need to get their books proofread, but on a budget.

They also need to publicise their work and that’s where I can also help.  Once I’ve either proofread a manuscript or given an e-book a final post-formatting check, I write an impartial review – posted on my own site (, Amazon, Goodreads etc.

Can you tell us about any funny/rude mistakes you've caught? 

Sadly nothing too funny or rude, but there’s always the next one!  Characters can change name or career – a proof-reader isn’t just looking for typos.  A while ago I read a novel with a legal secretary as a minor character.  Within a few chapters she’d morphed into a fully-fledged criminal lawyer, simply because it helped the plot.  That’s sloppy writing.

What’s the most embarrassing error you’ve found?

Sadly it’s my own.  I was rushing to finalise the magazine a few years ago and missed that posterity had been rejected for prosperity.  I still cringe.

You review books too - what would/do you do if you think the book is awful?

Some books are returned with an explanation.  I try to find something positive in everything I read – I’m not interested in shredding an author’s confidence.   At the moment I have about 70 books waiting to be read for review only - I give priority to the proofreading work.  Often an author will contact me first and I have the opportunity to read the free excerpt on Amazon.  I decline the book if I spot too many errors.

Writing should be a pleasurable experience and authors deserve to feel a great sense of achievement – planning, writing, formatting and marketing is a massive achievement.  But if authors expect to sell their work, they should strive to produce something worth buying.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


I must be getting a reputation. Penelope emiled to say she'd seen an unusual word and thought of me. Tartuffrey is the behaviour of a tartuffe. It means to express beliefs and opinions you don't hold in order to disguise your own feelings and motives. It was created by Moliere in about 1664 - and I thought sock puppetry was something new!

What do you think about that? Writers either writing their own glowing reviews and rubbish ones for 'rivals' or paying others to do it for them? I worry that it devalues genuine reviews and it seems even reviewers agree. Do you take any notice of Amazon reviews (and the like) when purchasing books?

Maybe sock puppets should stop writing reviews and sub here instead? They're not looking for wholesome fun and morals.

Here's advance notice of a competition. I need the time to prepare! I've been shortlisted the last two years so I'm going to try harder and see if I can get placed.

Here's a chance to win books by Lee Child.

Yes I have socks with faces on and I photograph them. What's your point?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

How to publish an ebook on Amazon.

Publishing your ebook (or kindle) on Amazon is very easy. Some would say too easy. Here's how I did it for Paint Me a Picture. Try at your own risk!

1. I wrote the book. It took ten years and many, many rewrites. Taking that long isn't necessary but I do think you should take as long as you need to get it as good as you can.

2. I had help. When I started I was attending writing classes run by June Hampson and I belong(ed) to several online and one 'real life' writing group. All these people helped me a great deal. Although you needn't take a course nor join a group if you don't want to, I do feel it's very important you get at least a couple of people to read your book and give feedback. You don't have to do what they suggest, but you should consider their opinions.

3. I had it proofread (by Helen Baggott). If you're sure you can spot and correct every single typo, extra space, spelling mistake, inconsistency and missing or surplus punctuation mark then you can skip this stage.

4. My husband created the cover. Marrying a brilliant and amazingly good-looking, enigmatic photographer with excellent computer skills and artistic flair* is a good idea if you intend to self publish. If you're already married to someone who doesn't fit that description you'll have to create your own cover or pay someone to do it for you.

Make sure you have permission to use any images you select and that the title and your name can be read on screen at the size the image will appear on Amazon. Save it as a JPEG or TIFF. It needs to be at least 1000 pixels on the longest side and have a ratio of 1 to 1.6 (or 1000 x 1600). You don't need a huge file size, 'medium' quality is fine.

*I'll be writing more books so I need him to know his efforts are appreciated ;-)

5. Next you need to format the document. That's slightly fiddly.

If you've used Word, Neo Office or Open Office then any italics and bold should work fine and if you've used the return key to start each paragraph they'll be OK too. Most other formatting might not work. Tabs and spacings will need to be replaced. Do this by using the software's formatting menu to insert an indent at the start of every paragraph and a space after each (assuming of course that you want your paragraphs indented and a small space between each).

Remove page numbers and other headers and footers - they won't appear where you want them.

I found it helpful to remember that ereader users can resize the font and therefore what is one page to one reader could be half a page or two pages to another. That means if you want something (a chapter for example) to start on a new page you need to insert a page break.

Use that funny shaped backwards P thingy to show any spaces between paragraphs you've put in so you can remove them. It helps for showing missing or extra spaces between words and sentences too.

If you're going to have an index you'll need to insert tables and use bookmarks but ensure you don't rely on page numbers. I skipped that bit.

If you're adding photos, diagrams, tables etc. you can't just copy and paste them in. You'll need to insert them and compress them into a zipped file that you upload separately. I skipped that bit too.

Once you're done, save the document as an HTML file.

6. Now register on Amazon and upload the files. There are plenty of help features in case you get stuck.

You'll probably want to add a 'blurb' (as a product description). Good luck writing that, they're a nightmare.

You'll have to decide if you want to register with KDP Select (if you intend doing a free promotion you'll need to), pick a selling price (VAT at 3% will be added for UK other tax as appropriate elsewhere), tell them how you want to be paid and fill in personal details.

The cover is uploaded separately as are inserted images etc.

7. Check the book once it's uploaded. There's an app thingy to download for that. Note I said check 'the book' not 'skim through a couple of pages'. Go back and fix anything you're not happy with and upload again.

8. Click the button to publish.

9. Wait for the cash to roll in.

10. Realise No. 9 is never going to happen all by itself and start promoting your book. I've had help with that too! The Terrific Teresa, Super Sue, Devine Diane, and Scintillating Shannon have all, very kindly, interviewed me to help spread the word.

I'd like to help others just a tiny bit in return. If you've self published an ebook yourself feel free to give the title, brief description and a link to where it's available as a comment. If you ever decide to offer it as a free promotion let me know and I'll try to post the link in a blog post.

I hope you found these 'instructions' useful. If you did, please tweet or share on facebook (using the little icons under the post if you like) post a link somewhere or, you know, buy my book. *flutters eyelashes*

Friday, 14 September 2012

Getting about

Some kind and lovely people have interviewed me about Paint Me a Picture - I was asked some pretty interesting questions! Read the interviews here, here and here. There are a couple more to come.

Today I'm off to eat cake on Brownsea Island* with JJ Cocker and then Gary and I are off to the Newbury Show where my twin uncles are competing in the heaviest mangold competition. (Photo by Linden Collins)

My next blog post will be a step by step guide to publishing your ebook on Amazon.

To keep you busy until then, here's a novel writing competition with a prize package that includes £5000 ($8000) publication and cover design.

*it's a research project - honest!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


Thanks to Tracy Fells for introducing me to this word. It mean a hotpotch, mish-mash, heterogeneous mixture, jumble or medley. Isn't the English language great?

I picked these tomatoes this afternoon. My brother gave me the plants so I knew I'd have an assortment of different types.

My allotment is a good place for thinking up story ideas. I suspect that's partly because I'm so far away from a pen and notebook! I'm hoping my next gardening stint will give me inspiration for this poetry competition. I wouldn't have any trouble spending £75 worth of gardening vouchers.

Remember the erotic poetry thing I mentioned the other day? Well, they've used one of mine. It's not really very naughty - I dare you to be more daring!

I've never been tempted to write my memoir - a girl is entitled to some secrets ;-) If you don't mind telling all, or maybe just the 'best' bits, you might be interested in this competition. The prize is an advance of £10,000.

That's all the competitions you're getting from me today. If you want more, pop over to Carol's. She has several posts with competition news.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Free book, free writing competitions, free map

Joanne Bryant sent me a link for this book which is currently available free (UK link here) She says it's 'funny and very dark'.

Here's a free to enter writing competion that covers many of my favourite things - food, drink, writing, a £7,500 prize!

And here's the free map. Do you recognise any of the book covers featured?

Something else that's free is the sunset. Gary took this picture on the first night of our honeymoon. *sigh*

I'm looking for a freebie myself - in the form of publicity for Paint Me a Picture. Any suggestions?

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Ebooks without a kindle?

Did you know you didn't need a kindle or other ereader to read kindle ebooks? You can just download an app for free and read them on your computer or smartphone. Either download it first or wait until you're prompted when you try to acquire your first ebook. There's a jolly good one available just here.

I'm coming round to the idea of ebooks - there are advantages. One plus point is the ability to 'look inside' many books and read the opening. I know you can do that with real books too - but it can be uncomfortable to stand and read the first chapter of several books until you one you know you'll like. You could try the look inside feature even if you intend to buy a paper copy.

Of course Amazon isn't the only place you can acquire ebooks and you don't always have to pay for them. Not a Drop to Drink (a collection of short stories) is being produced by Alfie Dog Ltd under the Smiling Dog imprint and will be available soon - absolutely FREE!

Also currently available for FREE is Deeds of Deceit -  by Kathleen Rowland. "A half tank up the mountains, Big Bear winters are isolating for heiress Bayliss Jones. Circled by the same cult that murdered her parents fifteen years before, death awaits her around every corner. Her shirttail relative and trustee of her estate, Sheriff Byron McGill, never agreed with local hearsay that made her a suspect. Air crackles between two people who clash, but the spoiled princess needs his help. Besides hers, the life of a young man, her secret baby, hangs in the balance. There’s no time for error." 

I'm assured it's a sensuous romantic suspense. I've just started reading this and there's certainly plenty going on!

Talking of sensuous, how d'you fancy writing erotic poetry? Aaaw go on - it's in a good cause.  Just to ... er... get you in the mood, have a read of this one. Brilliant, eh?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A Picture of Insecurity

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. This month I'm insecure about this (or this if you're outside the UK). It took me ten years from start to finish so maybe it's not that surprising that I hesitated a moment or two before finally pressing the 'publish' button, but having found the nerve to do that, I probably should do more than whisper the fact. I'm not at all sure why I'm finding harder to promote this one than I did with the previous novel.

On the plus side, I no longer feeling nervous about having a go in a few competitions (something which slightly scared me to begin with). I might have a go at this poetry one. If I can get something together in time I'm definitely trying this short story competition. I've already sent something to this one, but as we're allowed up to three entries I'm going to send in a couple more. Maybe I'll even manage something for this one.

Are you ever nervous about things you feel shouldn't really bother you? Or maybe you're now more confident about something that used to bother you.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Shaun Adams talking about Jack is Writing.

What Have You Had Published?
I started writing short stories at in January 2011. After several months and a lot of support, I improved to the point where friends suggested I try to publish. I entered a couple of stories in a contest at The prizes included acceptance in a Canadian e-zine called Separate worlds. Both stories were accepted subsequently a third. Encouraged by this I began to look around the blogosphere for short story submissions. I have had a few success and inevitably a few rejection letters. By the end of 2011 I realised I had enough stories to put together a collection, so I began work on my first eBook.

How/Where was it published?
As I previously mentioned I had three stories published in an e-zine. Two (so far) at Thrillers Killers ‘n’Chillers, one at Dark River Press and I also had a story featured at Chris Allinotte’s Leaky Pencil blog for something he called ‘Nine Days of Madness’. The story was later included in an anthology of the same name available at Smashwords. Then there is my eBook called Jack Is Writing, which is available from Amazon.

Why did you take that route to publication?
I assume you are asking about my book. (Patsy says - I am!)I guess I enjoy the do it yourself approach. Many years ago, I published a music magazine. That was long before the internet and involved a photocopier, listening to demo tapes, doing interviews by phone and many trips to the post office. However, it was fun. Fun is the main ingredient for me and with a laptop all, the tools I needed to put together an eBook are right here in front of me, so the question really is Why not? I did have a try with a couple of other eBook publishers but I found Amazon to be the easiest to work with and they also have the KDP Select option which allows you to promote your book for free, five days out of ninety. I know that means you are giving away your hard work for nothing but it really does help to shift copies and get people reading. Right now, I am happy to settle for that. I would also add that social networking is a great way to advertise. I used Facebook’s event planner to launch my first free promotion in conjunction with Twitter and got a great deal of support from friends and fellow writers. (Patsy says - I 'attended' that event and it was fun.)

Usual thing - if you have any questions for Shaun please leave them in the comments and he'll answer as many as he can.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Paint Me a Picture

Mavis Forthright carefully planned her jump from Portsmouth's Round Tower. She's existed for over five decades. Lived hardly at all. Will end her misery with a few second's fall into the cold sea. Except she's not quite ready to die. A half day's delay to try a bacon sandwich from the cafe won't matter. Mother's no longer there to disapprove.

She delays another day to lend Janice a book. Then a week to use her new paints. A month. Until the end of term. Mavis makes new plans; to create paintings full of emotion, to live, perhaps even make friends.

As if to balance her survival a number of people connected to Mavis die. At first that doesn't matter. They're people she dislikes. Mavis continues painting, tending her garden, feeding the birds and keeping her home properly clean, without additional concern. Then people who've been kind to Mavis are killed or injured. That shouldn't happen.

Why are people dying? Is it because of charming Norman who's back from her past, or is that strange boy Jake her mistaken guardian angel? Perhaps Mavis herself is to blame. She must learn the truth, stop the deaths and protect those she's learned to care about before she can enjoy the new life she's making for herself.

I'm going for a soft launch, so I'll whisper ... the ebook is available here.