Rustic Guest Katie Attwood – One Foot in the Stirrup

My rustic guest in the farmhouse kitchen this week has come all the way from Australia.

Katie Attwood is a para-equestrian who, in her own words, “plans to take on the world… minus a foot.” I love reading Katie’s posts about her travel and equine adventures, so a big thank you to Katie for letting me share a little of her story here.

Over to Katie, who’s chatting about the horses in her life.


Meet the Crew

So as you can grasp from my blog, I’m going to be doing a fair bit of writing about my horses, other horses, and just every horse in general! As you might be able to tell I love my ponies! And I thought with this post I might introduce you to my current gang. Now […]

via Meet The Crew — One Foot In The Stirrup

Read all about Katie’s Para-Olympic quest by clicking the link to visit her site or by liking her page on Facebook .

I name this book… let’s launch indie style (Part 1 – The Pre-launch)

There won’t be any billboard campaigns, bookstore displays, mainstream media interviews or big name reviews for your average indie book launch, we indies haven’t got the clout or the funds for that sort of malarky. But what we have got (in droves) are lively imaginations and a deeply personal investment in our ‘product’.

It’s three weeks today since A Bed of Brambles published in paperback and ebook. AVAILABLE AT AMAZON, IBOOKS, NOOK, KOBO AND MY LOCAL BOOKSTORE. (If my book is going to sell, I do need people to know that) so I thought I’d share my pre-launch preparations with you here.

Building buzz

You know all that time you spent blogging and tweeting, building up a following and an email list? Well, now is the time to make good use of those platforms – AND your imagination. As an indie, you’ve got the personal touch, so think hard about your options. Give updates, mention the book and the launch date but don’t be overdo it to the point of turning people off. Interaction is the key word here. Consider your (potential) readers and other interests you might have in common with them. Share topical stuff that links to your story, and pass on posts/tweets/blogs of others that catch your eye (you’re going to need these lovely people to return the favour and extend the reach of your own posts).

My golden rules are:

  • Keep it personal and interesting
  • 70% topical/witty : 30% MY BOOK is a decent ratio to follow at this point
  • Post at different times of the day to connect with more readers and time zones
  • INTERACT

Pre-Sales

This option didn’t exist on Kindle Direct Publishing/Amazon when I launched my first novel, but it does now. Also on Draft2Digital, where I publish the ebook to iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc. It’s a useful tool because it gives you a mini pre-launch, pre-launch to tempt readers in (ie, it’s something new to shout about) and will (hopefully) give a boost to first day sales. Best of all, it gets a major job out of the way ahead of the launch panic. Your ebook is there, uploaded and waiting for buyers, avoiding the stress of wondering if you’ll get your timing right. (Horror of horrors – shouting about a launch date for weeks in advance to find the book isn’t ‘live’ when the date arrives.)

It’s not so easy with the paperback, in fact, it’s nigh on impossible (without a lot of complicated contortion which I, personally, don’t think is worth it). Not only are pre-sales difficult, CreateSpace and Amazon can’t specify an exact date when the paperback will be live. Three to five days is the best you’ll get, which is something of a dilemma because, in my experience, the book is often live on day two. With a launch you just can’t risk it (see horror of horrors above), so press ‘Publish to Amazon’ five days ahead (and keep schtum if your book, like mine, is live ahead of the launch date!)

Is this book part of a series, or have you written other books of similar genre?

Crank up the buzz and redouble your marketing efforts on the other book(s). I ran a Kindle giveaway on A Bed of Barley Straw, sought fresh reviews and signed up to Bublish so I could post excerpts from both books to social media (see my earlier post: Are you using Bublish yet?) Sales of the first book went up and I hope those readers will be itching to buy the sequel!

Physical copies of paperbacks for marketing and review

You may not have published a paperback, it’s very much a personal choice, but, if you have, now is the time to stock up on those lovely, physical books. They’re a great tool for marketing. You can do your own photo shoot, run giveaways and offer them to reviewers who prefer a paperback copy (at this point we’ll do anything for reviews, right!)

The paperbacks will feature more in Part 2 – The Launch, but if, like me, you publish through CreateSpace and don’t live in America (I live in the UK) you’ll want to get ahead of the game on ordering paperback copies to avoid the exorbitant postage. Print on demand (POD) copies for the author are printed in the USA  (unlike UK customer orders, which are printed in Europe) so it costs to rush delivery and the cheaper options can take UP TO 6 WEEKS to arrive. (Please can you do something about this CreateSpace?)

Make sure you haven’t enabled any sales channels when you approve the final proof of your book, and CreateSpace will give you the option to order copies.


I’ll leave you with a pic from my photo shoot (retweeted on twitter as “the cutest book promo shot of the year” – but it does require a puppy, which I accept you may not have.)

DSC_0786 (1)

I’d love to hear how other self-published authors set about preparing for launch day, and what you do when the big day arrives. Do comment below, and tune in next week for Part 2 – The Launch

Rustic Guest Chrissie Parker – The Beauty of the Grand Western Canal

_MG_2415crop (1)I’m welcoming Chrissie Parker to the farmhouse kitchen today – do grab a chair and join us.

Chrissie is passionate about ancient history, archaeology, travel, and the beautiful countryside around her Devon home where she lives with her husband.

A woman of many talents, Chrissie is also learning to play the ukelele, and that’s alongside her work as the author of thrillers, historical fiction and poetry. Her novel Among the Olive Groves won an historical fiction award in the 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards.

Today, Chrissie is walking us along the Grand Western Canal. It sounds, and looks, truly magical.


The Beauty of the Grand Western Canal

I love being a writer, but sometimes it can be quite solitary and a break is needed from sitting behind the computer. Near to where I live in Devon, is the Grand Western Canal. It’s just over eleven miles long and starts at Tiverton basin, winding its way through the rolling mid-Devon countryside, before ending abruptly at Lowdswells close to the Somerset border.

Image 1 Canal General

The Grand Western Canal was the last canal to be built in the UK, work started on it in 1810 and finished in 1838. The original intention was for it to link up with the Taunton canal/river Tone, but it was never completed due to the advent of the railways which is why it ends so abruptly. The canal was built to transport coal and limestone, there are two old limekilns, the remains of an old quarry railway, and The Waytown Tunnel – a barge wide tunnel at Greenham. The canal meanders its way through the countryside, and has no locks due to the way it was constructed. At Lowdswells the canal continues as a rough, dry section, and it is possible to walk the intended route, around 13miles, to Taunton. This section has remnants of locks and lifts, and  I especially love exploring this section, wondering what it would have looked like if it had ever been completed.

Image 2 Lowdswell canal end

Nowadays, the canal is a conservation area. There is a lot to see especially if you love a multitude of wildlife that includes swans, moorhens, ducks, and a variety of other birds such as birds of prey and kingfishers. Pike and other fish haunt the depths of the water hiding among the vegetation and it is also home to elusive otters. The canal is beautiful, serene, and a perfect place to walk whatever the weather. In winter fog hugs the water and ice clings to the bare branched trees. In spring the towpath fills with colour as daffodils, bluebells and primroses bloom in riotous colour. In summer growing cygnets paddle the water accompanied by their proud parents, enjoying the bright sunshine. In autumn leaves of russet and gold flutter to the towpath and vegetation dies back to prepare for another winter.

Image 4 Canal Bridge

As well as being a haven for wildlife the canal is also a popular tourist attraction. Runners, walkers and cyclists stretch their legs daily, kayakers and paddle-boarders explore the water, and fishermen cast their lines in search of a catch. At Tiverton basin the history and heritage of the canal is displayed in a small museum, a colourful horse-drawn barge offers visitors the chance to experience a trip along the canal, and there are two tearooms, where weary visitors can rest their feet.

Image 5 Tiverton Canal Company

Wherever you look, there is much evidence of the old canal industry, and I love imagining what the area would have been like at its height during the industrial revolution, as it seems so far away from the conservation area that it has now become. As well as the canal so many other interesting things sit right on my doorstep. We’re surrounded by public footpaths that take walkers across fields, up the back of the old quarry and through a long avenue of trees. Others wind their way across fields of corn, sheep and cows to surrounding villages, and there is an old monastery that dates back centuries.

Image 7 Waytown Tunnel

Each time I step out from behind my computer and go for a walk I’m very grateful to be able to live where I do. No two walks are the same and I really do live in the most beautiful place in the UK.


To find out more about Chrissie visit her website www.chrissieparker.com follow her blog or link up with her on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

Meet the author in her natural habitat

What better place for my new book signing than down at the local, and how lucky are we to have such a gem on our doorstep?

‘The Local’ – a pub where locals meet for a catch-up and pint, a g&t and gossip, or a dinner of hearty pub grub (next to the roaring log burner).  The heart of the village! All cliches because they’re true, be it the Fox and Hounds in Draymere, or the pub down the road from you. So I’m very grateful that our lovely hosts are letting little-old-me use their warm and welcoming bar for my book chat.

Grateful, but a tiny bit panicked. It doesn’t come natural, this speaking in pub(lic) lark, I’d far rather write it down. I’m talking to myself in the mirror again (the first sign of author madness?) and practising my signature, which should be easy, but I managed to sign Sam Reading the other day (it started so well).

My special authograph pen (gifted by eldest daughter) is primed and ready to go. I’ve managed to find passages in the book which I can read out loud and (a) don’t give the plot away, (b) aren’t too steamy. But my mind is inventing first night fears – what if no one turns up? What if someone turns up? I pity the poor sods who wander down for a quiet pint and find themselves thrust into romance. Or maybe they’ll enjoy it.

As will I, when I get there. I always do.

Gentle reminder to self; don’t overdo the Dutch courage.

 

Rustic Guest Julie Stock -Vines, Wine and Romance

dscn8886I’m chatting to Julie Stock in the farmhouse kitchen today and, given the theme of Julie’s post (and of her new novel The Vineyard in Alsace) we thought it only proper to forgo tea and biscuits in favour of a nice glass of vino.

Julie and I met through the Alliance of Independent Authors and we’ve been in touch throughout our self-publishing journey, with our paths following uncannily similar routes. I’m chuffed to have Julie with me today.

Can I tempt you to a glass…?


Vines, Wine and Romance

I have lived with my husband and family in Bedfordshire for nearly thirty years now, having moved out here from London shortly after finishing university. I grew up in a big new town (Slough, for my sins!) so I’d never really experienced rural life much before then. I remember finding it so difficult to get to sleep when we first moved because it was so quiet and I was used to lots of noise. Now, the peace and quiet (most of the time) is one of the things I love most about the countryside.

Once I was made redundant from my London job, I started work at The Wine Society in Stevenage and I started learning about wine and winemaking (There might have been a bit of wine tasting involved too!) I was also lucky enough to go on a trip around France with one of our wine buyers to see how he went about choosing wines to sell in the UK. I found the whole process of growing grapes magical and in my dreams, I wondered if I might one day buy my own vineyard and grow grapes too. Now I am older and a bit wiser, I know just how hard a job this is – a year-round job, in fact, like any agricultural industry, and something I’m not sure I’m cut out for.

Interestingly, Bedfordshire has its own vineyard near Old Warden. Warden Abbey has planted vines on its site since medieval times when Cistercian monks tended the fields. Today, the vineyard operates as a not-for-profit venture, offering a unique community and educational resource – and the tradition of making medal winning wines continues. Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity works with other local charities, organisations and local schools to offer social and therapeutic horticulture, learning and skills development, help for people into employment or voluntary work, a range of volunteering opportunities for local people and community groups, and a great chance to be involved from vine to wine, as well as wildlife and heritage projects. We have visited the vineyard on a number of occasions and it never ceases to amaze me just how tirelessly they work, against the elements most of the time, to produce wines in our very fickle climate.

My latest romance novel is set on a vineyard in Alsace in France and takes place against the backdrop of the harvest. I did lots of research of course to add to the knowledge I already have of what really happens during a harvest, and it convinced me that no matter how romantic it all sounds, it really is hard work. Most of us have no idea of the amount of back-breaking work that goes into making our delicious glass of wine, or any other product of course.

When we moved out here all those years ago, I had no idea of course that I would work in the wine industry, nor that one day, I would write a romance novel set on a vineyard, let alone have a vineyard on my doorstep. I now work part-time for a local charity myself and my daily drive through the countryside, passing those vineyards is one of my greatest pleasures.


Julie Stock is an independent author of romance novels, novellas and short stories. She has just published her second novel, ‘The Vineyard in Alsace’ which is available on Amazon.

She is a proud member of The Romantic Novelists’ Association. She blogs regularly about her self-publishing journey on her website, ‘My Writing Life.’ You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author page.

The Vinyard in AlsaceIs there really such a thing as a second chance at love?

Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.

Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.

Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?

The Vineyard in Alsace is a contemporary romance set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in Alsace in France.

I’m no cover designer, but I might give it a shot…

With Volume II of my Draymere Hall Series published, and the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) *Select enrollment period on Volume I about to end, I’ve decided to experiment with a two-book box-set (this is despite the preconceived wisdom on blogs I follow that box-sets should consist of three or more books!)

The box-set will consist of both ebooks. It was pain-free and straightforward combining the two volumes (which have already been edited, proofread and formatted, of course) into one great big document (200,200 words! I impressed myself with the weight of my saga).

Selling them as a pair feels like a no-brainer, giving readers the chance to buy both books for slightly less than the cost of buying them separately (if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about marketing, it’s that everyone loves a bargain) and at no additional cost to me.

Ah, but I will need a cover for my box-set.

The beautiful covers for my books were created by Jane Dixon-Smith of JD Smith Designs. She did a wonderful job and I love them (plus, I got some of those zany  3D images to show off.)

 

But this stops being an experiment if it costs me more money. I’d like to know that a box set will sell first. Which means I’m going it alone, and I’m no cover designer.

My first port of call was KDP, Amazon’s self-publishing platform, which has its own ‘Cover Creator’ (with guidelines to assist). It’s simple to navigate. You can upload your own images or use one of their backgrounds, and there are options to change colours, layout and font. But the choices are limited and mine were limited further by the amount of text I needed on the front cover to make it clear that this was a box-set and to name the separate titles (my titles are quite long!) I didn’t love any of their fonts or backgrounds and I couldn’t control the alignment of wording (or vary the font colour) within their layout parameters.

I’m trying to convey rural setting, romance and passion, and catch the eye of readers. This was my best effort on KDP’s Cover Creator. (The background image was downloaded from Pixabay for the voluntary price of a cup of coffee.)

box set DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

I don’t like it. It doesn’t catch the eye, it doesn’t shout ROMANCE and you can’t read the white font on the pink sky background. But the biggest snag is that this cover would only function on Kindle, so alternative platforms would have a different cover, which I’d still have to make.

So I hopped over to Canva (tagline: Amazingly simple graphic design software!) and their ebook cover template. You could play forever on Canva, adding your own images and superimposing other pictures on top of the background, but I’m not clever enough. I made a right dog’s dinner of my efforts.

Luckily there are multiple, pre-designed ‘Canva Layouts’, so I selected them, because I’m not a designer, and I’d worked out by now that real designers are better than me at pairing up fonts with layouts and backgrounds. Snag number two is that whilst some of the layouts are free, all the ones that caught my eye cost money. Not much money, true, but then none of them were perfect either. So I changed my remit to something simple which just tells you what’s in the box(set).

draymere HallVolumes I & II

Yuk, right? And remember that when you’re looking at these on Amazon or other sales platforms the image might be even smaller. Ask yourself, would you bother buying that?

I may go back to Canva, when I’ve come to terms with the fact that spending a little money could be essential and, with that thought in mind, I headed over to The Book Cover Designer to find out what premade covers are going for.

There are benefits to buying a premade cover. Obviously, it’s cheaper than using your own designer, there are options for paperbacks as well as ebooks, the designs are one-offs (so there won’t be another book appearing with the same cover, which is a risk with KDP) and some of the designers include extras like 3D images or a choice of alternative fonts. You can search for covers by genre. Those I looked at under the romance tag ranged in price from $29 (£25) to $200 (£165). Needless to say, the one I liked was $200. I jumped off there quick-smart before I could be tempted.

I haven’t designed my cover yet, but I have worked out that I’m both fussy and tight-fisted.  For a little more effort (and possibly investment) in Canva, or more specific images I might find the solution I’m looking for. Pixabay couldn’t help with my search for red-headed heroines or English manor houses. Shutterstock had some images which piqued my interest…

… but they wanted £32, for five downloads, and I only need one picture (and the skills to turn in into a cover would be handy).

This is why cover designers are worth their money, but I haven’t given up. Back to the drawing board for me. All suggestions welcomed!

*enrollment in KDP Select grants Kindle exclusive sales of the enrolled ebook. I would therefore be unable to sell the box-set on other platforms whilst volume I was enrolled in the Select programme, and unable to enrol the box-set in the Select programme whilst Volume II is available on other platforms. Yes, it is confusing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rustic Guest Mac Logan – How to Find Peace Without Really Looking

Today, I’m happy to welcome my first rustic guest to the Farmhouse Kitchen.

mac-loganLet me introduce you to Mac Logan, an author from Scotland, who not only writes gritty, edge-of-your-seat thrillers (a Scottish Stieg Larsson!) but who is also lucky enough to live in the stunning and dramatic East Neuk of Fife.

Mac and I met on Twitter, and he’s been a great virtual friend and supporter of my rustic writing efforts, so I’m delighted to share Mac’s thoughts on rural life with you here.

I’ll put the kettle on, you sit back and enjoy.


 In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks. John Muir

Find peace?

What do you do if peace finds you? Can you help its search?

When I seek quotes about peace, mostly I find contrasting ideas, you know:

• the opposite of war – with countless homilies,

• an internal “good thing” that happens when you do “good” exercise, deeds, spiritual things, and so on,

• if you speak Scottish you’ll know sandwiches get a mention, (so what if the spelling’s wrong?)

Easy to Find?

What I seek is easy to find … but not in crowded places. It’s all around us, yet can lack the buzz and zip of a packed city. People miss it, yearn for it, yet seldom find it.

Strange thing, this “peace”.

Want an example?

Will a definition help our search?

peace [piːs] noun: freedom from disturbance; tranquillity.

Could this hint at both an inner and outer reality? It’s all over the place near where I live. You’ll find it too, anytime you drop by.

Bliss of peace

A hectic life with peaceful spaces may be as good as it gets these days, unless … Unless you live with and within the beauty of nature … like me, like Sam.

When Sam asked for a few words she rural headed her agenda. If you read her books, you’ll know why, even if there are city interludes and rolls in the hay. You know what they say up here: there’s nothing like the sleep of the just, but even better, the sleep of the just after. Talk about blissful peace.

I’m lucky enough to live in the country. North of the Border, true, and in the incomparable East Neuk of Fife.

Peace is all around

I made the Kilconquhar Loch video late May last year.

Rambling along a quiet lane I came to an incredibly green bank and sat on a dry stump. Warm air ruffled my hair like a lover’s caress. For a moment I slipped out of time.

Without really looking

Peace found me, I didn’t have to go looking. There, free from the noise and turmoil of modern life, stress oozed out of me as peace took its place.

Thinking back I smile and promise myself a wee dram when I finish this draft. I know peace will find me again in a soothing amber glow from a crystal glass.

Peace to you …


If you want to hear more from Mac, you’ll find him, his blog and more about his Angels’ Share series of books by clicking the image below. Mac also hangs out on Facebook and twitter, do follow him there.

angels-share-series

Dearest child, I can’t recall your name (the consequence of a chaotic mind?)

It’s not an uncommon condition. Anomic or nominal aphasia, apparently. Problems with name retrieval. Or anomia, problems recalling any word. Ah, yes, that happens too, occasionally.

Ironic that there are three names for the condition, and that I probably won’t remember any of them when I’ve finished writing this post.

C’est la vie. Whatever it’s called, I’ve got it. I run through a telephone directory before I hit on the right name for whichever member of my family I’m trying to holler. I might chuck in the names of the dogs, the horses, distant acquaintances (and, all too often these days, the name of a character in the novel I’m writing). My children have learnt to forewarn new partners that mother will refer to them by someone else’s name. In my defence, the name I use isn’t always that of one of their exes, but anomia has no decency filter.

When recalling the stars of TV or screen, Google is my friend. I can quickly locate the cast list for any film or drama. Now, what was the name of that blasted film? Pop stars, and who-sung-that? No point in looking to me for your answer, as many a pub quiz has proven.

Where we stayed on holiday will be ‘that little town/harbour/resort in the north/east/west/south’ and as a writer, I live in perpetual fear of being asked to name my favourite authors. Or what they wrote, come to that.

Apparently, it’s something to do with the way your synapses fire (or fail to fire in my case) and it frustrates me because I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. I can recall many facts of less importance than the name of the person I’m talking to. My history teacher might have disputed my self-awarded IQ, but you tell me how it’s possible to correctly order the monarchs of England if you can’t remember their names. I wasn’t getting the dates wrong, you see.

When I speak, as an author, about my writing, I sometimes recount a funny story about how I changed one of my character’s names halfway through the manuscript (and the beta reading friend who sent me a text asking who the f**k is Ethan?).  It always gets a laugh, (or is it a scornful titter?) and I thought it was amusing too… until the second novel came back from the editor with TWO character name changes, and one poor soul with THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.

I’m afraid that’s what happens when you become part of my family.

Thank goodness for proofreaders. And thank you for reading, mary/jane/ben/tom… whoever you are. Please don’t take it personally, I’ve got a chaotic mind and I am synaptically challenged.

I’m a shouty-shouty author this month – a one-woman band of marketing

So… you may not have heard? I’ve got a new book out REALLY SOON.

That question was ironic. If you haven’t heard I’d like to know why not, because I’ve been banging the same tune out for weeks already. Blowing my own trumpet, singing my own praises, whistling into the wind… ok, I’ll stop with the cliches now.

Are you sick of me yet? I know I am. So I’m giving myself a bit of shouty time off. I’ve been playing silly buggers with Movie Maker instead, and today I’m just going to leave you with a little light entertainment. This isn’t marketing, honest (but do let me know if it works!)

ps A Bed of Barley Straw is free on Kindle until the end of play tomorrow… and the new book is out March 3rd (available to pre-order here).