I’m delighted to announce that paperback copies of Trouble on the Tide are now available. It’s always a time of great excitement in our house when the delivery van pulls upside. Who knows what or whose parcel you’re going to get next, but to find a box of your very own creations on your doorstep is pure joy!
I’m old and wise enough to know these paperbacks are not going to sell like hot-cakes. Self-publishing through Amazon KDP means these books don’t come cheap – when you can get two for one bestsellers in Waterstones and WHSmith, and £3 bargains of the popular commercial titles in the supermarket, I appreciate the Amazon selling price of £9.99 isn’t an attractive proposition, but for a low-key self-publisher like me, KDP is the most viable option for producing print copies.
Books bought directly from me will be sold at a discount of course, but I know the only people who will buy – or receive – copies of this book will be people who know me personally.
So why do I do it? For that precise reason. Family and friends. Personalised books make marvellous Christmas presents and my Christmas list is sorted. I’ve had a huge amount of support on my writing journey from my family and various acquaintances, and this is a wonderful way to pay them back. (Pay back sounds wrong, like a threat…Reward? Show my appreciation?)
In addition, what writer doesn’t want to hold their very own paperback? I’m a true book lover, I grew up in a house surrounded by books and reading has always been one of my main hobbies. I have a Kindle, and yes I use it, especially when I’m travelling, but you simply can’t beat the feel and smell of a paperback.
When I do talks to groups I like having paperbacks to illustrate the fact I am a genuine writer – because, let’s be honest, nobody has ever heard of me. I’m so lucky I found the marvellous Berni Stevens who has created such attractive covers for the Eliza Kane series. Even if I don’t sell an awful lot of physical books at events, the covers do make an impression and I might see a spike in ebook sales afterwards.
The three books look wonderful together and I now have five of my own creations nestling amongst my favourites on my bookshelf.
Anyway, the whole point of this brief little post is to announce that paperbacks are now available to purchase either from me (happy to post within the UK or deliver by hand in the local area), or the big A.
Meanwhile, I’ve also updated my social media author pic to something I think gives me a more serious author-ish look as I embark on my next project (basically I’ve balanced my glasses on my head to look more intellectual). I’m still having a little bit of trouble getting inside the psyche of my new leading lady, young Kat, or old Kat, as she is at the start of the novel. She’s already telling jokes, which has to stop, because my WIP (Work In Progress) covers very serious matters. I need to lock myself away and concentrate, hard when the sun is finally shining and the temptation beckons in the form of a deckchair in the garden and a good book…
Trouble on the Tide has been out in the big wide world for a month and I’m pleased to say the book has been a resounding success. And by success I’m not measuring myself by any Sunday Times bestseller list rankings (I wish), but my own far more realistic criteria for self-asessment, ie came up with a plot, wrote it down, refined and edited it into a manuscript of 84,000 words, uploaded it as an ebook to Amazon Kindle, and launched it. Anything post launch is a very welcome bonus – and that includes enough sales to put a smile on my face and some wonderful 5* reviews (like the one below) that have been a fantastic boost to a fragile ego.
It’s also good to see an upturn in sales/page reads from the first two books in the series – the knock on effect and proof that the writing a series is the right way to accrue a readership. There’s part of me that thinks I should continue with Eliza Kane Investigates Books Four, Five and Six, rather than take the planned break but that epic romantic historical saga is getting impatient…
The characters are starting to talk to me. I’ve had Eliza Kane in my head for the last three years and to be honest, she’s still there yapping on about a potential Christmas special. Now I need to switch her off and tune into a seventeen year old in 1942 who is currently called Kathleen, or Kat to her friends, and who is itching to relate her heart-wrenching story of love, loss, war and peace.
I like the idea of shutting myself away and creating something new from scratch, but slightly daunted by the constraints of writing a novel inspired by true events. As a relative newbie to the world of historical research, I can see how very easy it is to fall into the trap of disappearing down irrelevant rabbit holes. My last trip to the library resulted in the borrowing of four books, three pertinent to my cause, and another called Bloody Brilliant Women by the journalist Cathy Newman which for some bizarre reason was in the World War II reference section. Its bright yellow cover attracted my attention amongst the grim military greys. What has this book to do with war, I asked myself. The answer is nothing – it had clearly been mis-filed. Bloody Brilliant Women is useless as far as my research goes, but it is a fascinating trawl through the last two centuries highlighting the work of unsung pioneering females who have made valuable contributions to society. This book should be on the school curriculum, and as you can guess, like the worst kind of textbooks, the other three highly relevant WWII books have been shoved aside, unread.
But I’m not working to any deadlines, and my Kat is going to be a bloody brilliant woman who has some very tough choices to make. And if I’m going to be a bloody brilliant author, I should stop procrastinating and get on with writing her story down. In my defence, I’m not just procrastinating, I have been otherwise occupied. For some bizarre reason, to counter-balance the high-level of anxiety caused by some stressy other life stuff going on at the moment, I decided it would be relaxing to make a new hall curtain and matching Roman blind. (I’ve made curtains before, but a Roman blind! What was I thinking??)
Anyway, for those of you who like the feel and smell of a paperback the good news is that copies of Trouble on the Tide should be available by September. Meanwhile, I highly recommend Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman as an exceptionally good read. I also have a top tip for anyone thinking of embarking on the creation of fiddly soft furnishings. Don’t.
It’s news you’ve all been waiting for – Trouble on the Tide is now available to pre-order on Amazon Kindle. Official launch date is 27 June.
The third instalment in my Eliza Kane series features several new characters, including Eliza’s dad Ian who makes a surprising return to the Isle of Wight after a thirty-year absence.
Trouble on the Tide was an absolute blast to write – and that’s the joy of self-publishing. I can keep my books exactly as I want them. I’ve promoted this series as a “cosy mystery” because the market demands books fit into neat little pigeon holes, but as anyone who has read the first two books will know, there is so much more going on in Eliza Kane’s life than simply solving mysteries.
I’ve just finished reading Nevil Shute’s Requiem for a Wren as part of my research for my new writing project. First published in 1955 Nevil Shute’s style is probably considered old-fashioned in today’s commercially driven market, but the bottom line is he’s a born story-teller – anyone who can keep me engrossed in a novel about ammunition supplies to machine gun boats has to have something special. Reading this book reinforced why it’s so important for me to write an engaging and original story.
In Trouble on the Tide, I’m hoping I can capture readers’ imaginations with a mystery involving a forged piece of artwork and a body in a boat. Add into the mix a dubious celebrity antiques expert, the return of an errant father and of course, Eliza’s love-life and I’ve hopefully created another entertaining slice of Isle of Wight life.
I’ve woven topical threads into the story. The dead body belongs to a chef. I think we’ve all become more foodie and gastronomically aware in recent years and my chef is a prominent figure in Isle of Wight society, famous for championing local produce. Likewise those daytime TV experts are never off our on our screens, but are these experts as knowledgeable as they first seem? What really goes on when the cameras stops rolling (I’ll admit I’ve used my very vivid imagination here!) Women’s sports are also finally receiving far more media coverage and Eliza is determined to promote her new golfing for girls initiative. She also faces dilemmas in her relationship with single-parent Charlie Harper. She has some big decisions to make.
Family is a major theme running through this novel, especially the father-daughter relationship. Mr T has been a brilliant dad to our two daughters. They are both well-established in their careers, have their own homes and steady partners, but he still gets phone calls about flashing lights on car dashboards and household appliances that don’t work, despite the fact both our girls live 200 miles away.
Eliza hasn’t had a Mr T in her life, and I felt she deserved the chance to have one, or at least the chance to get to know her father better. However, I must stress Mr T is nothing like Ian Kane and the two men have absolutely nothing in common – apart from the fact that 1981 was a special year for them both. Why’s that? I hear you ask. Well, 1981 was the year Mr T first met me, but if you want to find out why 1981 was so significant for Ian Kane, you’ll have to buy the book!
Trouble on the Tide Blurb
When Isle of Wight restaurant owner Stewie Beech is found dead in a dinghy abandoned in picturesque Newtown Creek, the police conclude he died of a heart attack. But just days before his death Stewie discovered he’d been the victim of a serious case of art fraud, and his grieving widow Pilar is convinced the two events are related.
Forty years ago Stewie Beech and Eliza Kane’s dad Ian were best friends. When Ian returns to the Island after a thirty-year absence to attend Stewie’s funeral, he promises Pilar he will seek out the swindlers who conned her husband and bring them to justice.
A freak accident lands Ian on Eliza’s doorstep and she is roped in to help out. Eliza isn’t used to having family around and father and daughter soon clash, and not just with their conflicting theories about the mysterious circumstances leading up to Stewie’s death. Eliza is committed to promoting her new golfing for girls initiative, and has a love-life to sort out. She wants to solve the case and send her dad swiftly back to his native Yorkshire. But with few clues to go, Ian Kane is in no rush to go home, and it soon becomes clear he harbours secrets of his own…
The Kindle version of Trouble on the Tide launches on 27 June. You can pre-order your copy here. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0C6B33VXT/ A paperback version will be available later in the summer.
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the area around Newtown Creek where much of the book is set – these were taken on our hike around the Isle of Wight in 2021 when I first discovered this rather remote corner of the island, and the idea for this novel was born!
I thought I’d write a post about the joys of editing. I like editing. It’s fine-tuning, polishing off. I’m a Virgo and we’re supposed to be pernickety (Mr T may have a different opinion on this when it comes to things like decorating…) but as for my writing, yes I like to dot every t and cross every i, or something like that.
When I decided to embrace self-publishing, I knew it was important that my books were edited professionally. I wanted to create a product that was as good as anything else out there on the market. That meant giving my baby up to someone else for inspection.
When I’ve reached a stage in my writing when I think a novel is good to go – I send it out to a handful of good friends, just to make sure the plot works and they find the story enjoyable. I know they will be kind but I always ask for an honest opinion. I take their feedback on board and give my manuscript another self-edit, before I send it off to the professional.
The professional I’ve used for all three Eliza Kane books is a lovely lady in the Isle of Wight called Anna, https://www.annabritton.co.uk/editing who I originally found on Twitter. I’ll admit when I received the very comprehensive report she provided on A Crisis at Clifftops, the first book in the series, I had to pick myself up off the floor. I thought my book was finished, I thought it was ready to hit the shelves… But of course it wasn’t.
Anna pointed out a lot of flaws, but also a lot of positives. After a few days of mulling over, I decided I could make some of the changes she suggested, perhaps I hadn’t made the characters’ motivations as clear as I thought, perhaps there were aspects of the plot that didn’t quite work… and so on. I didn’t change everything she suggested, but I do know at the end of what seemed like a very painful process, my novel was a lot better because of her intervention.
It made sense to continue to use Anna for the second and third books in the series, and I’ve just received her report on Book 3, Trouble on the Tide. Once again it has been a positive experience. There are few minor differences of opinion, which we’ve sorted out, and a few things to tighten up. Writers carry a lot of background knowledge about their characters in their heads, but that doesn’t always transfer to the page. Anna is very good at pointing bits that are missing – why is Character A behaving like this? Why isn’t Character B reacting? Sometimes I think it’s obvious, but that’s because I know what’s about to happen next. The reader doesn’t.
It’s very hard to be subjective about your own writing – which is why having an editor who doesn’t know you, who isn’t your best friend or related to you in anyway, is vital!
My old writing tutor used to say every word has to earn its place in a story. I try to keep my writing tight and not wander off on a tangent. Anna did suggest I might like to think about getting rid of some of my secondary characters because there are rather a lot of them. My plots are character driven, and every one of the people in Trouble on the Tide is instrumental in carrying the plot forward (seriously Rosie? Yes! Vital!). However, because I’m reasonable and sensible I’ve taken her comments on board and made some changes to the way some of these folk are mentioned and re-introduced. But kill them off? The sheer horror of a cull…but talking of culling, yes all those VERYs, JUSTs, REALLYs, SMALLs, STILLs, have got to go. Another self-edit should reduce the superfluous word count.
I’m really pleased DELIGHTED with the way the story has worked out – Trouble On The Tide isn’t just a cosy mystery. It’s a story about families and trust, and Eliza has some big decisions to make. I’m working on the blurb, and the cover has been commissioned. I’ll keep you posted on pre-order and launch date.
In other news, I’ve got the go ahead to work on my historical romance. This is going to be a whole new challenge, involving research and planning. I want to do the family involved and their story justice. Exciting times ahead!
Here it is – the first sneak preview of the third Eliza Kane story – Trouble on the Tide. The first draft is finished and it has been an absolute joy to write. I set myself a deadline to finish this draft before going on holiday next week, so I know there is still a lot of work to do, especially in the latter half of the story. I’m itching to start editing. There are tweaks to be made, characters and scenes to plump up, a new twist is already floating about in my head, but I need to stop now, sit on it, and attack the manuscript with “new eyes” when I return to my desk in December. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed writing a novel so much – probably because I know Eliza and all her foibles very well by now, plus part of the book is set in 1981 – my teenage years – so to re-visit that period in time has been great fun!
I will spend the winter editing and polishing off, and plan to launch the book in early summer 2023. More good news is that I hope to be able to have a physical book launch as well. A new independent book shop has opened in Lymington in the New Forest, and I have been able to persuade the lovely owners, Robyn and Dan, to stock the Eliza Kane Investigates series in their “local author” section. Robyn has done a grand job persuading her customers they will enjoy meeting Eliza, and they are now on their third stock-run of books (granted they don’t hold a huge stock but it’s wonderful to be told they’ve sold out!)
I know I’ve been all too quiet on social media while I’ve been working to get Trouble On The Tide finished, and as any author knows, if you disappear off air for a while people very quickly forget about you and your books. Self-publishing is all about being visible and vocal, but I have accepted that for my own personal well-being I need to concentrate on the things that make me happy – which is writing!
I did pop my head up to do an author talk at a local arts centre in my old home village of Bursledon on the eastern side of Southampton earlier this week. As I’ve said before, “performing” in front of an audience is something I would never have seen myself doing a few years’ back, and I’d like to thank the Greyladys Art Foundation for inviting me along, and those brave souls who ventured out on what was a horrible Tuesday evening to listen to me wittering on about my path to publication. I always refer to my path as a rocky road because just like the chocolate treat of the same name it’s full of soft gooey bits, delicious bits, colourful bits, and some very hard, break your teeth on bits. Right now, with Amazon sales and page reads on Kindle Unlimited of A Crisis at Clifftops and The Puzzle of Pine Bay trickling in slowly but surely, I’m at soft-gooey stage, which is a very satisfying place to end the year!
Don’t forget books make wonderful Christmas presents – personalised signed copies of all four of my paperbacks are available directly from me and I’m happy to post anywhere in the UK. Sadly I’m down to my last few copies of Your Secret’s Safe With Me and The Theatre of Dreams….and when they’re gone, they’re gone. The books will remain on Amazon in ebook format only, and signed paperbacks will become very rare copies. Who knows, one day they could be worth a fortune! I dream on…
This week marks a very special anniversary – it’s four years’ since the publication of my first book, The Theatre of Dreams. Back in August 2018 I was giddy with excitement, full of optimism. I loved my story of two actresses and their fight to save a seaside pavilion. That book was written straight from the heart. There was drama, romance, a seaside setting, a mystery. The Theatre of Dreams had it all. Surely this book would be a huge success and herald the start of a whole new literary career?
If only I knew then what I know now. Anyone who follows this blog will know that the last four years have been a rollercoaster ride of conflicting emotions, and not a dazzling romp to the top of the Sunday Times Bestseller Chart. But hey, I do have four books out there on Amazon. That’s four more books than a lot of people ever manage. Of course, I realise it’s not everybody’s ambition in life to write a book, let alone publish it, but in case it is, based on my own personal experiences, here are my top tips for surviving the publishing jungle.
Top Tip Number One
If you’re Intent on Capturing a Publisher – Choose your Publisher Carefully.
Of course, we all know it’s actually the other way round, the publisher chooses you. But the big publishers are the elephants and tigers of the jungle, and if you’re happy to snare a smaller beast – a warthog for example – do your research and make sure that warthog will satisfy your needs.
Whilst I’ll always be grateful for the publisher who gave me my first break, when I signed my contract, I was very naïve. I had zero knowledge of the jungle and was ill-equipped to tackle the tasks expected of me, which subsequently led to feelings of inadequacy and failure. On reflection, now that I’m older and wiser, I realise I hadn’t failed at all. My warthog was simply not the right warthog for me. I should have held out for a tiger.
Top Tip Number Two
Make Friends Wisely
At the start of my writing journey my social media following consisted almost entirely of people I knew personally. I was unaware there was a whole online writing/reading community out there. I didn’t know about Facebook author/book groups, bookstagrammers and bloggers. Four books later I do. The more you engage with the online world, the more followers and friends you gather. And while it’s true, the more people who know and like you, the more books you may sell, there is also a huge benefit in engaging with like-minded people. Every writer needs a support network and there is a wonderfully generous community of successful authors out there who are happy to pass on tips and advice.
Social media can seem overwhelming – especially with the rise of the dreaded do-I-don’t-I TikTok. Find your tribe and pick out the aspects you enjoy and are comfortable with. Don’t put yourself under pressure to befriend everyone and do it all, because you can’t. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, week, year – at least not if you want to write more books.
Top Tip Number Three
Celebrate your Achievements
You’ve found an agent. WELL DONE YOU! You’ve netted a publisher. CONGRATULATIONS!
But what if the big stuff never happens? What if you don’t think you’ve got anything to sing about? Bash that negativity on the head and THINK POSITIVE.
Envy is a perfectly natural human emotion but always remember where you are on your own personal journey. You don’t have to be part of the elephant brigade to blow your own trumpet.
You’ve written a book, or maybe it’s just a short story. That’s an achievement. SHOUT ABOUT IT!
So you’ve only sold enough copies of your book this month to count on the fingers of one hand, BUT you have got a fabulous new 5 star review. LET EVERYONE KNOW ABOUT THOSE 5 STARS.
If you celebrate your success, other people will cheer with you.
Top Tip Number Four
Grab Every Opportunity
Networking IS important. If you have an opportunity for a 1-2-1 with a publishing professional, take it. If you can go to a conference, or a book festival, GO. Every connection you make, is a connection. I know I’ve had opportunities I’ve let slip; chances I didn’t follow up, and yes, I do sometimes wonder what might have been…
I’m naturally a shy person, and that has held me back. Writing has forced me half-way out of my shell. I’ve had to put myself out there and over the last four years I’ve become far more pro-active. I’ve talked to WIs and book groups, taken part in Facebook and Instagram Lives, a Podcast, things I never thought I would do. Stand up in a banqueting hall and give a talk to 100 people? With a mic? Crack jokes. Who me? If I’m talking about my love of writing, yes I can and I will.
Top Tip Number Five
Write the Book you want to Write
That’s easy for me to say now that I self-publish and I don’t have the constraints/obligations of a publishing contract. However, I have tried to conform. I have tried to write the book I think a publisher is looking for. When I came up with the idea for A Crisis at Clifftops, I started out with the serious intent of writing a traditional cosy mystery because cosies are currently the “in thing”. Amateur sleuth solves crime, tick. Nothing grisly/gory requiring in depth forensic knowledge, tick. Quaint countryside/seaside setting, tick. Potential for series to continue indefinitely, tick. Amateur sleuth is professional golfer, untick. Major suspect is amateur sleuth’s grandmother, untick. Also include vintage crime from sixty years earlier, untick. Add in another subplot involving resort redevelopment with far too many secondary characters, untick.
I can’t help it. I have a vivid imagination and a creative mind. I can’t reign it in, and when I do, I’m not happy. The words don’t flow.
Let your creative juices run wherever they want, and if that’s in the direction of an agent or a publisher’s wish-list, all the better. But if they meander off-piste… Think about what you want from your writing and why you do it. Do you want to conquer the jungle, or are you happy hanging about on the fringes?
I’m not going to lie. There’s still part of me that thinks it would be wonderful to get snapped up by one of those big tigers, but self-publishing has given me the control to write what I want to write and when I write it. I know my limitations. If I were younger I might be more ambitious, more committed to conform. It’s taken me a long time to reach the stage when I’m happy and comfortable with what I do.
And My Final Top Two Tips?
Two phrases I chanted like a mantra while adjusting to life as an ex-pat wife in the wilds of LA many years ago, but equally as applicable to surviving life in publishing jungle: DEVELOP A THICK SKIN and RETAIN A SENSE OF HUMOUR. I don’t think either requires any further explanation!
It’s been far too long since my last blog post but I’ve been waiting until I had something exciting to report, and now I do!
My second Isle of Wight cosy mystery, The Puzzle of Pine Bay will launch on 5 July 2022. This is later than originally planned but I’ve had distractions with weddings and other people’s house moves. In addition, although everything is now ready to go – bar the dreaded formatting and uploading onto Amazon, I’ve got holidays booked in May and June. I don’t want to launch a new book and then not be around to promote it.
There is another reason I’ve held this novel back. That old lack of confidence crept in again. Am I really cut out to be a writer? Although my first round of readers all sung the story’s praises, these people know and love me very dearly, I needed that extra validation of a neutral opinion. Once again I sent the manuscript off to a professional editor, and I’m pleased to report her feedback has helped me to improve the storyline in a way that I now feel confident will keep readers satisfied.
I don’t want to give too much away about the plot of The Puzzle of Pine Bay until the pre-order is ready – just to keep you in suspense a little bit longer! However, the story picks up where A Crisis at Clifftops left off. Eliza Kane is buying her first permanent home on the Isle of Wight. Moving in day turns out to be a little more dramatic than planned when she makes an unexpected discovery in the cellar of her new house. Old flame Charlie is still in the picture, and Nanna Lilian has another secret to impart, only this time she wants Eliza help in solving a mystery, as opposed to hindering her…
Here’s a little teaser for the cover, which I will be revealing in full in the coming weeks, along with pre-order details.
I always planned my Isle of Wight series to be never-ending – or at least three books, but up until a few weeks ago my plot for Book 3 was nothing but a flimsy piece of drivel. However, inspiration has hit. The word count is now growing daily as the characters start to take over the plot – or rather plots (there are several!)
As for my own reading, March and April has been a mixed bag. I’ve tackled a couple of heavyweights, Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which I enjoyed, and Libby Page’s The Lido, which I found too slow going (my old creative writing tutor would be having kittens if I devoted an entire chapter of one of my books to a description of a fox rummaging through waste bins). After that I devoured The Custard Tart Cafe by the Sea by Isabella May, which was gorgeously entertaining, and I’ve just finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I was quite sceptical about Crawdads because it’s one of the those books that received an awful lot of hype. I had the impression from its Amazon reviews that it’s either a book people love or they hate. Personally I was hooked, despite the fact that a huge part of the plot is totally implausible – girl abandoned to live a shack in the swamp at the age of 6, no electricity, no running water, no education, no medical attention, no dentistry, turns into a stunningly desirable young woman who writes poetry and illustrates nature books. A novel clearly written with Hollywood in mind.
That’s the wonder of reading and writing fiction though. It doesn’t have to be real, or make sense. For me it just has to be entertaining and enjoyable.
Meanwhile, to put you in the mood to return to the Isle of Wight, here’s a few gorgeous pics of the some of the locations which inspired The Puzzle of Pine Bay.
My self-publishing journey continues to be one big learning curve. Having successfully launched A Crisis at Clifftops in ebook form and proving, mainly to myself, that I am an intelligent and capable person who can master new tricks, the education continues. I’m now embarking on the production of a paperback. I’d love to say its due to popular demand – yes I have had few enquiries, but mainly its because I’ve realised what wonderful Christmas presents a signed copy will make to friends and family, especially with all the shortages predicted over the festive season this year. What no turkey? Never mind, devour a good book instead.
Seriously, I just love the feel and smell of a paperback, so I just thought, why not. I’m doing it for me, and that was also very much the theme of my first Facebook Live event which took place last week. I know these things are second nature to the younger generation, but not for me, although to be fair, it wasn’t actually meant to be live. I had recorded a well-rehearsed word-perfect video presentation to upload to my post, but at the last minute, technology let me down.
Fortunately, the event, the Chick Lit & Prosecco Facebook Chat Group Late Summer Festival, was a wonderfully relaxed affair. My contribution was supposed to be a short, humorous piece entitled The Joy of Writing, an account of how I got my writing mojo back after a serious slump, with the aim of helping others in the same position. The main emphasis of my talk about going back to basics, reminding myself why I started writing in the first place, which wasn’t to get a book deal or to top the Sunday Times bestseller list, but to simply tell a story. (It’s a theme I talked about on this blog back in November 2020 The Joy of Writing)
Despite the technical glitch my talk went down well, possibly because of the comparisons I made between writing and sex (I know my audience!). Fortunately I was neatly coiffured, made-up and fully-dressed when I had to jump in last minute when my video failed to upload. The show must go on, after all!
I’m very attached to my comfort zone and doing things like this quite frankly, scares me. I know it’s all about character building and challenging yourself, but twice in one week….
The Facebook event was followed a few days later by taking part in a podcast. Yes me, a podcast. I know, the kids couldn’t believe it either. After the release of A Crisis of Clifftops I was contacted by Charlie Place, a local book blogger. I originally met Charlie three years ago when I was just about to launch my debut novel The Theatre of Dreams. Charlie told me how much she’d enjoyed the book and how the story and its characters had stayed with her, after all this time – which is music to any author’s ears!
The podcast will be broadcast at the end of October via Charlie’s website: http://wormhole.carnelianvalley.com/. At least there were no visuals to worry about this time and Charlie promised the piece would be edited! I wouldn’t say I was a media natural, but I’ve realised, just like writing, when you’re passionate about something, the words tend to flow quite easily.
And talking of The Theatre of Dreams, I’ve always felt this story deserved another chance out there in the big wide world, so I’ve given the book a make-over. When I’m back from my hols in October this lovely little book is going to have a relaunch. After receiving my rights back from its original publishers, Crooked Cat, the book has sat on the back-burner, buried in the dark vaults of Amazon obscurity. When designer, Berni Stevens, came up with her wonderful cover for A Crisis at Clifftops, I asked her to work her magic on The Theatre of Dreams too and here’s a teaser of the new cover…
After the relaunch, and the paperback, I’ll be hunkering down to do some serious writing again. The Puzzle of Pine Bay, the second Eliza Kane mystery, needs some revision if I want to publish in Spring 2022, which I do, and there’s also a sequel to The Theatre of Dreams which has been brewing away for some time and is singing to me again. I’m marching on!
After The Theatre of Dreams’ original release I thought I had to conquer the publishing equivalent of Mount Everest to consider myself a “successful” author. I beat myself up for feeling I’d made it no further than base camp. But it’s all about mindset. As I said in my Chick Lit presentation, find your G spot, work out what makes you happy and take it from there. I don’t have a head for heights. I don’t like climbing mountains. This time round I’m sticking to the hills!
After a few weeks with my feet up, I thought I ought to pen my own blog post this week. A Crisis at Clifftops has now been out in the big wide world for a whole month, and it seems a good time for an analysis/appraisal of how things have gone.
Success, no matter how small, should always be celebrated. I’m a complete technophobe but I managed to upload my book onto Amazon – woohoo! I’m shy and reserved, yet I’ve managed to convince people they’ll enjoy this book enough to want to download their own copy – go me! Seriously, I am totally chuffed at the response.
My book launch was low-key. I’m working on a very tight self-publishing budget, prioritising editing and cover design, to ensure I had a professional quality product. I knew I would have to publicise this book organically with no paid promotions, not even a blog tour. I knew sales would be limited, but if I’m honest they’ve exceeded my expectations.
A Crisis at Clifftops was never going to become an overnight Kindle bestseller, but we made it to the dizzy heights of being a HOT NEW RELEASE, and at one point it was sitting at NUMBER 3 in its golfing category, which gave me something to sing and dance about. I apologise now to anyone who follows me on Facebook – every time I post something I can hear a chorus of “there she goes again, banging on about her b****y book.” The thing about being self-published is that if I don’t bang on about my book, no-one else will. I have to keep it visible.
We all know about Facebook algorithms which limit who sees what, and anything I post on Twitter always disappears into a void. I’m grateful for every re-tweet and share by friends who understand how hard it is for independent authors like me to reach a wider audience.
Goodness knows how many books have been published in the last month. A Crisis at Clifftops will soon disappear off the radar. It will settle somewhere low down in the Amazon charts. I do get a little flutter of excitement every time I see it move up in its Amazon category. I know those BIG bestselling authors never have to check these things – Richard Osman would be in a constant flap, but for me, each flutter is special, even more so because I made it happen all by myself.
There was a time after the publication of my second book back in 2019 when I felt totally disenchanted and deflated with the whole publishing/writing thing. Seriously I could have happily never written another word again.
However, this time round I knew exactly what I was capable of. I set myself different targets. In the last four weeks I’ve received some amazing reviews from readers and from within the writing community, together with messages and comments which have totally restored my confidence and made my heart sing! And yes, even more exciting, readers can cope with a heroine who plays sport for a living!
I know not everyone who buys the book is able, or will be willing, to leave a review. There’s a minimum spend requirement on Amazon, and to be honest I don’t review every Amazon purchase I make. It’s a crochet hook – it crochets. It’s already got 1000+ reviews it doesn’t need another one…
I dream of 1000+ reviews, but us writers are needy, fragile creatures. I genuinely want to know if you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written. So if A Crisis at Clifftops has made you smile, provided a few hours of escape, let me know. (And don’t forget to tell your friends if you think they might like it too – there are loads of people out there who would benefit from having this book in their lives, if only they knew it existed…)
Meanwhile, The Puzzle of Pine Bay, Eliza Kane Investigates Book 2, is on its way. I originally intended to have everything ship-shape and ready to set sail later this year, but that’s not going to happen. Apart from the fact that the Christmas novel marketing deluge is already underway (yes I know, ridiculous right? I don’t even feel I’ve had my summer yet), my plot was far too complicated. I’d basically tied poor Eliza up in knots. It’s not exactly back to the drawing board, more an extensive unpicking (why do you think I bought that crochet hook?!) Seriously, Pine Bay will be out early in 2022.
Making the decision to self-publish was very much about taking control, not just of what I write, but about publishing under my own terms. I’m really pleased (and relieved) with how these first steps have gone. To everyone who has downloaded a copy of A Crisis at Clifftops, you’ve made me very happy. Thank you. And if you haven’t downloaded a copy yet, what’s your excuse?
We’re not travelling anywhere exotic this week, but staying put at my writing desk in Southampton. I am going to talk about a journey though, my writing journey, and why I decided to head down the self-publishing route for my latest novel, A Crisis at Clifftops, which launches next week.
It’s three years since the publication of my first book, and two and a half since the second. There are various reasons why it’s taken me so long to produce a third. I’m a slow writer, I’m not one of these dedicated 5000 words a day people, I’m an as and when, and sometimes life just has this habit of getting in the way. I’m also a perpetual tweaker with a serious case of self-doubt, so even when I’ve got what looks like a finished product, I’ll edit, re-edit, reinstate paragraphs I took out six months ago, add in a new character, start a new project, force family and friends to read my work, incorporate their comments, and edit it all over again…
Then there’s the whole submitting to agents/publishers debacle, which for anyone who doesn’t know, takes ages. You send out a query letter and wait for a response. And wait. And wait. Not just days. Or weeks. Months.
I felt I had to give it go. Of the handful of replies to my queries, I received a couple of “encouraging” rejections. It’s wonderful to be told there ain’t nothing wrong with your writing, BUT also disappointing when compliments are inevitably followed by a BUT (and even more disappointing when one of the big BUT’s appeared to be because of my heroine’s occupation!)
Over the last twelve/eighteen months of lockdown I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and contemplate. I knew if I carried on submitting, my book might eventually get picked up, BUT there would have to be changes and compromises, and another long wait until publication day itself. I’ve seen authors on Twitter shouting about new books coming out in 2023 – I didn’t want to wait in the literary wilderness for another two years. Making a decision to self-publish was like stepping off a hamster wheel.
I know what the publishing world is like. Creating a main character who played golf was a risky strategy, BUT even so those rejections were demoralising. I write because I enjoy writing. It’s a creative outlet, it keeps my brain cells ticking over, it’s something to do in the winter when it’s cold and wet and I can’t go outside. And for me, being creative also means creating something that doesn’t mimic every other book out there on the market.
I must admit I did have a wobbly moment and wonder whether I ought to play down Eliza’s sporting prowess in my book blurb in case it put readers off, but then I thought, what the heck! Self-publishing means taking control and having the freedom to write the books I want to write. My heroines don’t have to conform and bake cakes. NOT that there is anything wrong with heroines who bake cakes, I know the public love cake-baking heroines, in fact I’m one myself, I BAKE CAKES, in fact here’s one I made earlier, together with the book I made too…I’m just talking about giving readers choices and diversity!
The self-publishing process has been a learning curve. I haven’t been reckless. I did consult an editor, and splashed out on a wonderful cover designer. I’ve taken a professional approach and enjoyed the process – which is what it’s all about. I know I don’t want to be hunched over my laptop 24 /7 days to meet deadlines. I don’t want to spend every hour or every day on social media promoting my books. I also have to be realistic about what I can achieve.
I have fingers crossed for next week’s launch. I hope readers will love Eliza, Lillian and Charlie as much as I do, and will want to follow their adventures into the next book in the series. And if they don’t, tough. I’m writing it anyway.
When Lilian Hathaway is named as the chief suspect in a murder enquiry, her granddaughter Eliza drops everything to rush to her side. After a string of crushing defeats, professional golfer Eliza is facing a career crisis of her own. She seizes the opportunity to hide away with Lilian at Clifftops Hotel, the family’s home on the Isle of Wight, determined to defend her beloved nanna’s innocence.
But just how innocent is Lilian?
As the evidence starts to mount up, Eliza turns amateur sleuth in a race to uncover the truth. Family loyalty is stretched to the limits when she discovers a series of events in her grandmother’s past which could have far-reaching consequences, not just for Lilian but also for Clifftops, and Eliza’s own future.
Available exclusively on Amazon Kindle, A Crisis at Clifftops is a fun and original cosy mystery, set against the backdrop of an old-fashioned seaside resort and featuring a feisty heroine who quickly learns life outside the sporting arena doesn’t always follow the rules.