Mountains and Surf

I took a couple of days off over the weekend.

There were a couple of reasons for doing so: the first was that I’d finally pressed ‘Publish‘ on No Quarter, the second book in my Ambeth Series. The second was that my husband had booked himself and our daughter in for sessions at Snowdonia Surf, the outdoor surf pool in North Wales.

Mountains and blue sky, taken from the car

Mountains and blue sky, taken from the car

I may have mentioned this before, but North Wales is one of my absolute favourite places on earth. Something about the landscape, the light, the grey stone and green dreaming mountains speaks to me, connecting to something deep in my bones. Most of my family come from Wales, so perhaps it is my blood calling me home – I don’t know, but whatever the case may be, I always feel a little bit like it’s Christmas morning when I’m there (and I’m a big fan of Christmas morning).

Friday night we headed out, stopping first at my parents’ house for dinner and an overnight stay, then leaving early the next morning and heading over the border into Wales. We stopped on the outskirts of Wrexham, in the small village where my grandmother was born. We were staying with family there as well, and an afternoon in Llangollen beckoned.

Canal walk

Canal walk

Our afternoon in Llangollen was lovely – the sun shone and we walked along the canal into the town centre, enjoying lunch at an ancient mill on the banks of the River Dee. A party of white water rafters became stuck in the shallows directly in front of the large restaurant terrace and bumbled around for about fifteen minutes trying to get free, to increasingly loud calls and hilarity from the crowds on the riverbank – we all clapped and cheered when they finally worked themselves loose and headed off down the river, no doubt glad to see the back of us.

The River Dee - rafters gone on their way

The River Dee – rafters gone on their way

 

After lunch we visited Courtyard Books, one of my favourite independent bookstores. After a couple of purchases we headed back along the canal to the car and I snapped a photo of Castle Dinas Bran through the trees. On my post about Rivendell last week, Barbara commented that she thought the ruins of Dinas Bran would make a great Weathertop, and I have to agree – what do you think?

You might have to zoom in a little...

You might have to zoom in a little…

 

 

The next day dawned bright and sunny and we headed off early to make our booking time. We took the A5 through Llangollen and into the mountains, driving through leafy tree tunnels opening out into valleys starting to gleam with autumn, looming mountainsides patched with bronze. I’ve driven along a few of the world’s scenic routes – the Sea to Sky Highway in Vancouver, the Great Ocean Road in Australia, the California Coast road through Big Sur and Monterey, and I have to say that I think this drive compares in beauty, especially when the sun is shining. So I was definitely in my happy place as we headed into the Conwy Valley, where the Surf Snowdonia pool is located.

IMG_2301Other than the prototype in Spain, Surf Snowdonia is the first facility of its kind in the world, and is pretty amazing. It’s a large man-made lagoon with a long pier stretching down the middle – this is where the waves are created. A large block moving along a track under the pier pushes the water ahead of it, creating a perfect surf wave. There are zones for beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers, and the fact that you have to book a time means the waves are never crowded.

IMG_2307Additionally, and a bonus for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy sitting on beaches for hours on end, there’s a very nice restaurant alongside the pool, so you can sit in comfort and watch the surfers go past. However, I found I spent a lot of time outside – the weather was so glorious and the pool so fascinating to watch I couldn’t resist.

IMG_2303The final verdict was one word: awesome! Both surfers had a great time and, as we headed home under the super moon hanging like a golden lantern in the sky, we took a moment to appreciate the weekend and all we’d experienced.

 

And now IMG_2327I’m sharing it with you 🙂

 

Published! No Quarter

Front Cover Image

Yay!

I’ve made it through the formatting maze and have (deep breath), hit the ‘Publish’ button on both Kindle and Createspace, which means that No Quarter is now available on Amazon!

Amazon.co.uk    Amazon.com    Amazon.com.au

‘Alma, even I do not know what he is capable of…’

Things couldn’t be better for Alma. She’s returned the lost Sword to Ambeth and is finally with Deryck, Prince of the Dark. But what’s really going on? Deryck is struggling with his father, who wants to control Alma, while Alma is struggling with her best friend Caleb, who doesn’t trust Deryck one inch. Plus it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with her life in the human world. Falling in love shouldn’t be this difficult. But things are about to get much worse…

Quests and friendship all fall by the wayside when there’s romance to be had. Plus, spending time with handsome Deryck is much more appealing than with an increasingly angry Caleb. The Light are always on about making choices, so they shouldn’t have a problem with her choosing to be with Deryck. Besides, he’ll protect her from his father – won’t he?

Now I might take a couple of days off 🙂 See you next week!

xx Helen

Bits and Pieces

The light at the end of the tunnel...

The light at the end of the tunnel…

I’ve been a little bit absent from the blogosphere this week – mainly because I’ve been working on the final edit for No Quarter, the second book in my Ambeth series. This is the part of writing I like the least. (though I still know how fortunate I am to be able to do this at all).

I had some issues with my proof copy, as you know – thankfully the lovely people at Createspace got right on it and it is now resolved, plus they are replacing my faulty proof copy. It hasn’t stopped me from reading through and sacrificing endless quantities of sticky notes as I record small changes and the occasional typo. These corrections have been made, the new file uploaded and, once I get through the fiddle-faddle of formatting for Kindle, I should be ready to publish.

One part of the process I find frustrating is that everything always takes longer than expected. This is why I’ve not yet explored the option of setting up pre-orders for my books. I’ve already had to push my (self-imposed) publication date out several times, due to health, family life, the edit taking longer than expected, and issues with the proof. I would hate to be in a position where I was locked into a date and had to deliver a book that wasn’t finished to my satisfaction

The other thing I don’t like about this part of the process is the doubt. Scurrying up like beetles from under the floorboards, doubts come to plague me as I read through my book for the last time before pressing ‘publish’.

Is the story good enough? Will people like it? Have I covered all the different storylines? Does the language flow? Will anyone read this, ever?

I don’t think I’m alone in this, nor am I alone in thinking I will unleash dragons or some form of unpleasantness onto the internet once I hit that publish button. And yet, I’m still going to do it. And then I’m having a couple of days off. 🙂

IMG_0854

‘Look at the tree..’

Oh, and in my post the other day, Autumn Sky, I recounted the tale of a teacher I once had. A few of my commenters suggested I look him up and, guess what, I did! I had thought maybe he would have passed away, as I remember him being about 60 when I was in his class, almost thirty years ago. And yet, a google search of his name and my high school revealed… he is still working there??!!!

And a further link revealed, complete with photo to corroborate, that he was also working there in 1961!!

So we have four options: Either he was younger than I remembered when I took his class (though I distinctly recall him having silver hair and a beard), or he has been working at the same high school for 54 years and refuses to retire, or the website listing him as employed at the school has not been recently updated, or he is a vampire.

What do you think?

Oh and finally, the lovely Geoff LePard is coming for a virtual visit on Monday, with a guest post to promote his new release, My Father and Other Liars – yay!

The Proof Is In The…

Sticky notes a-plenty!

Sticky notes a-plenty!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Just a very quick post today – the proof copy has come back for No Quarter, the second book in my Ambeth series, and so I’m focusing on one last read-through before hopefully, publishing by the end of this week.

I would recommend to anyone using Createspace or any other print-on-demand service, to invest in a hard copy proof. Already my pages are full of sticky notes – corrections to words, sentences or even how the text sits on the page. While you can look at something onscreen and get an approximate idea of how it will look once printed, it does not compare to actually holding the book in your hand and reading the printed pages. I spend a lot of time going through my proof copy, not only to pick up any missed indents or minor typos that escaped my 80496th edit, but also seeing how the text sits on the page. I try and eliminate ‘widows and orphans’ wherever possible (not actual widows and orphans, because that would make me an evil person). Instead, I mean a single line of text at the top of a page, or the first line of a paragraph starting at the bottom of a page. I can’t completely avoid them but, by carefully manipulating the text, I can remove most of them.

I’ve also had a bit of trouble with the cover on this one, as my design has been cut off at the outer edges. When I measured the book, I realised that it’s been trimmed about an eighth of an inch too short, which seems to be where the problem lies. So I’ve emailed Createspace and am in the process of getting it all sorted out. Once again, another good reason to invest in a printed proof.

Righto, better get back to work!

A Marketing Experiment – Follow-up

Oak And Mist final cover

Last week, I wrote a post about a marketing experiment I was doing, the main objective being to increase my readership and, hopefully, generate some interest in my upcoming new release, No Quarter. I decided to offer Oak and Mist, the first book in the series, free on Amazon for a limited time, hoping to capitalise on some positive reviews.

Front Cover Image

I took advantage of the free five day promotion from Amazon, part of being enrolled in KDP Select. You get five days out of every ninety to list your book as free – you can either run the days all together, or break them into separate promotions. I chose to run the five days together, hoping to maximise my exposure. I also ran three paid advertisements during the promotion – one with Booksends, one with E Reader News Today, and one with Robin Reads.

So how did it go?

I ended up having 4415 people download Oak and Mist for free. Even if only twenty per cent of those people actually read the book, I’ve still substantially increased my readership, and potentially will be able to sell subsequent instalments in the series. I also noticed a large increase in my KENP pages, for which I get paid royalties, and sold several paperbacks as well. I received a new 5 star rating on GoodReads, and several more people on GoodReads marked Oak and Mist as ‘currently reading.’

Screen Grab #8 on Amazon

In terms of the paid advertising, I ran ads on the first, fourth and fifth day of the promotion, and on each of those days my downloads increased dramatically to over a thousand per day, propelling me into the top ten Amazon free books (I reached number 8). The days on which I did not advertise averaged at about three hundred downloads. I supported the promotion with a couple of tweets per day – most of which were picked up and retweeted. I was also fortunate to receive some wonderful support from fellow bloggers (you know who you are, and thank you once again!). Chris The Story Reading Ape was kind enough to post a promotion on his site, which was then reposted by several other bloggers.

In conclusion, this was a successful marketing exercise for me. I’ve increased the audience for my books and, hopefully generated some momentum for No Quarter, the second novel in my Ambeth series. The KENP and paperback royalties I received as a result of the increased exposure have already covered much of my advertising costs, and it was wonderful to get another five-star rating. I believe the complete results of this promotion are yet to be seen, and will be keeping an eye on reviews and reader stats over the coming weeks.

IMG_0587

I write books because I want people to read them. I love Ambeth and the characters who live there, and it gives me great pleasure when other people enjoy the books. I had no problem in offering my work free for a limited time, and will definitely be employing a similar promotional strategy when I release Hills and Valleys, the third book in the series.

I’d love to hear about your own marketing experiences, and whether they were successful or not. I think our blogging community is such a great and generous resource for self-published authors – I know I’ve learnt so much already.

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

The Big Sky

IMG_2263

The weather seemed to reflect my mood today.

It was all over the place. Rain was spattering my sunglasses, but I needed them against the bright sunlight coming from behind the clouds. As I emerged onto the park at the top of the hill, the sky opened up around me, grey rain and darkness to one side, blue sky and sunshine above, then rain again.

Because it’s been a funny sort of day. I’m just going through the formatting on my second book, plus I’ve some other writing work to do. I also connected with a dear friend today about collaborating on another writing project. And for the life of me, I couldn’t settle on one thing to write about.

I tried one of Mel’s Writing Menagerie prompts, and ended up with a short (unfinished) piece about being an artist’s model. At least, I think that’s what’s happening, but knowing me it could end up anywhere. I also added and amended some sections in my book, seeing where they were needed as the formatting was completed. I might have spent a bit of time on Twitter. I know I spent a bit of time trying to catch up with everyone’s blogs – though I’m still a bit behind. I uploaded my cover template, ready to be added once the manuscript was finalised. I checked the numbers on my free Kindle downloads, and printed out some royalty reports for the tax office.

Like the weather, I was all over the place.

And yet, as I came up over the hill and saw the sky, I felt like it was going to be okay. That I just need to stick with it and get to the other side. The old arrow drawing back in the bow, the deep breath before the cold plunge. Publishing is like that, doubts rising to plague you as you read through your manuscript for the 8067934th time. But you just have to get on with it. And it will pass.

Like the weather.

IMG_2266

———

Oak And Mist final cover

Just a reminder – The Kindle version of Oak and Mist, the first book in my Ambeth Chronicles, is free to download from Amazon until tomorrow! myBook.to/oakandmist

A Question of Time

IMG_0029

Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m finding that time seems to be moving in strange ways these days.

The gorgeous child is back at school and so I have five glorious hours to myself each day to work, far more than I did over the six weeks of summer holidays. More than enough, you would think, to take care of the house and admin and various clothes people need. To clean and plan meals and keep the place tidy. To finish my No Quarter edit and publish, as well as delivering daily blog content for my current client.

I had grand plans, you see. Plans to use my time wisely, to eke out those five hours like someone squeezing pennies from their purse, each minute carefully guarded and used as required. I was going to start meditating regularly again, instead of the few snatched sessions here and there when I had ten minutes to myself. It was going to be fantastic.

And it all started so well last Thursday. I woke early, was ready and had all in place for the child when she awoke, both of us out the door in plenty of time to get to school. When I came back home I was on track. I got through my chores and writing in what felt like a fairly good use of time, going to pick her up with a heart content from having achieved a good day’s work.

Friday was still good, though I started to have a nagging suspicion that someone, somewhere, had sped time up slightly. Midday seemed to arrive a little earlier than I expected, as did school pick-up. But I shook it off and pressed on, still convinced that all was well.

Then Monday hit. And for some reason time escaped me completely. My day ran off the rails and, even though everyone else got to where they needed to be at the right time, I ended up doing the ironing at 9:30pm, which was when I should have been on the couch watching FriendsFest (and oh, I am laughing my head off at the Friends reruns – a guilty pleasure).

And here I am on Tuesday, the day nearly half over. I feel as though I may have a better handle on time today, though I’m still running a little behind. So I would like to ask whoever it is that manages these things, if they can just slow things down slightly. Bring them back to normal, if they don’t mind.

Or, maybe it is just me, after all. 🙂