A Bed of Brambles ~ Kindle Countdown Deal ~ £0.99
Passionate, contemporary romance for just £0.99
This was never going to be a conventional love story. No bed of roses.
Proud, passionate and wilful, Hettie and Alexander are alike in so many ways. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?
Or it could be a disaster…both carry scars, and old wounds have a habit of causing new hurt.
Physical attraction draws them together. Hearts and minds can be thorny.
Together, or apart, their lives will move on and Alexander and Hettie’s clashes of spirit will only be part of the story.
Second chances. New beginnings. The opportunity to make things right. Or to make the same mistakes all over again.
Unless fate takes the future out of your hands…
Offer ends 19th May 2017
Rustic Guest Chrissie Parker – The Beauty of the Grand Western Canal
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rustic Guest Julie Stock -Vines, Wine and Romance
I’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.
Is 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.)
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).
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 Canva) 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!
Rural Romance – my Valentine’s Day gift to you
Donning my marketing hat (are you using Bublish yet?)
I hooked up with Bublish this week. I’m not sure why it took me so long, given that it’s free (for readers and for ‘Emerging Authors’), but maybe the sheer choice of digital book-sharing platforms addled me sufficiently that I ended up doing nothing, with any of them.
As an independent author, and *²rooky *¹authorpreneur, it’s down to me to tell readers about my novels. So, with the new book about to come out, I donned my marketing hat and doubled my efforts.
I know more about marketing from the customer point of view than I do from that of the marketeer. I know what annoys me (pop-ups, sign-ups, repetitive, shouty-ads, and don’t get me started on cold calls) so I was looking for more thoughtful ways of marketing my books.
Bublish achieves that:
- Readers sign up because they want to hear about books
- Author posts (or ‘bubbles’) have added value and insight (ie, they don’t just shout READ THIS)
If you’re not using Bublish already (as a reader or a writer) I would thoroughly recommend it. You get to choose which genres you’d like to hear about, and authors share extracts from their work, with accompanying thoughts and comments. It’s really easy to use and set up, plus (did I mention already?), it’s free!
¹*Authorpreneur (Urban dictionary definition)
An author who creates a written product, participates in creating their own brand, and actively promotes that brand through a variety of outlets.
²*I’ve done teaching, farming, horses and accounts, but I never had to market myself until I wrote a book, so whilst I may not qualify as a fully-fledged authorpreneur, I do qualify as a rookie.
A Bed of Brambles teaser…
In case I haven’t teased you for long enough, here’s a sneaky extract from the new novel (no spoilers, I promise).
The rural lanes were familiar now, white painted signposts to places she knew, remembered landmarks. They crested the hill, the scenic approach, and their journey took them onto the Cotswolds Romantic Road, the route that didn’t pass the industrial estate or the council houses to the east of the village. Driving it after an absence, Hettie could see what the tourists saw, the contrast of chocolate-box houses and lush, picturesque landscape. She was lucky to call this place home.
Ahead to her right the village still slept in a leafy green hollow of clotted cream cottages and pantile roofs, with punchy chimney pots rising above their ridges. And off to the left, Draymere Estate, its dry-stone wall curving alongside the road, softened by the years and the tall grasses clustered at its base. The Hall wasn’t visible yet, as it would be if they drove on through the village. Alexander swung the car off the road at a break in the wall, the back entrance to the estate.
They passed her old cottage and the stable block. Hettie looked at the clock on the dashboard. It would be another hour before early stables and horses wanting their breakfasts. The thought made her smile, a reminder of snuggling down in her bed in that cottage, with time in hand before she had to get up.
‘What are you thinking?’
‘I’m thinking it’s good to be back.’
You might get another one next week, but then I’ll be stymied for passages that don’t reveal too much of the plot (or need an adult rating)
I’m faffing with formatting this week…
I know I shouldn’t do it, not until the ultimate proofread is in the bag. The reason I know that is because I did the same thing with the last book: Formatted everything neatly, and then did it all again after I’d made changes to the manuscript.
The trouble is, every format (epub, mobi, pdf) has a different trick up its sleeve. And Word is the devil incarnate when it comes to mischief making. My opening lines have popped up in bold, in italics and several font sizes larger than the rest of the text. Blowed if I can work out why. I solved it by deleting the page and adding it back in again. (A new take on turning it off and turning it on again.)
My PDF is immaculate. Immaculate, but reversed.
What the hell is that about? Everything in the right place, but on the wrong page. So my extra-wide margins for binding have become extra-wide thumb rests, and the page numbers should be on the outside edge of the page. Back to the drawing board (heavy sigh).
My PC won’t save the downloads, according to my Kindle reader I’ve already got a copy. (‘Search Documents’ doesn’t agree.) And I’ve shot myself in the foot by writing two books with very similar names. After hours of this brain exercise, I’m not even sure I’ve uploaded the manuscripts which tally with their covers. I mean, A Bed of… Barley? Or Brambles? Who’s daft idea was that?
Luckily, it’s only a trial run. I’m honing my skills so that the real thing will be perfect.
But my brain cells are knackered now, so I’m off for a frosty walk and some blue sky thinking.
Looking for holiday romance…
I was in Lanzarote last week. That near-barren island of glinting black sand, volcanoes and fields of charred lava. Sheer rock faces that plummet into the deep blue Atlantic and waves that explode on the shore with flumes of white spray.
There is nothing gentle about the landscape in Lanzarote, it is awe inspiring. Powerful and dramatic. It turned my head to the idea of romance.
I’m waxing lyrical, and I’m talking fiction, of course. I can’t help myself. As a writer every new place, vista and experience holds (as yet) untold potential.
A hero forged from molten rock, a narrative spun over sharp peaks and yawning craters. A heroine trapped by the ocean.
A passionate love story rising out of the sun-baked land.
Ah, for the inspiration of a setting so poetic that the plot (almost) writes itself.