Saturday, 13 January 2018

Inspirational Gifts for 2018

Well, we both seem to be on the mend after our recent illness and trying to get back to normal activities at last! Can't believe my last blog post was at the end of 2017 - how time passes.

I mentioned that I hoped to write a post about some of my Christmas gifts, all of which kept me well entertained over the past couple of weeks. I love anything that makes me think, or inspires, or transports me to another time, or soothes my soul and many of my gifts did that completely.

My daughter, who knows me so well, gave me the very interesting non-fiction book, The Power, a sequel to The Secret which I hadn't read. Although I'm generally positive and an optimist, this book is encouraging me to be even more full of gratitude and love - not always easy, of course. It promises much and I dare say you have to be open to its suggestions but I'm willing to try!

I recently discovered the books of C.J. Sansom which are set in Tudor times, thanks to a friend. After reading the first two, I am completely hooked on the main character, the hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake, and the fantastic period details in them. But these are more than historical novels, there is also a mystery in each which keeps us guessing until the end. You can imagine my delight to receive the third in the series from daughter - devoured while I was unwell!

One of the gifts from son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter was the lovely little book of poetry, The Seasons. Perfect to dip in and out of and I started with winter of course, my favourite descriptive season. One of my good friends bought me a CD of Tai' Chi music as she cleverly remembered I had tried it at the conference in September. Now I just have to remember the moves, although I love just listening to the soothing music and even have music on while I write.

Another friend gave me a most unusual journal which I think is meant for travel. It reminds me of the type of leather-bound journal Indiana Jones (or his father) would use, with sort of yellowing pages inside, and it has a lovely little anchor that wraps around it on a leather thong. I'm aiming to use it as an inspiration journal in tandem with a couple of writing inspiration books I have from previous years. I don't have to explain to other writers the joy of new stationery!

I do hope your own gifts were beautiful, or useful, or inspirational.


Look out for my New Year newsletter in the next day or two with news of a box set and a little giveaway draw for Burns Night. If you don't already receive it, you can subscribe to the newsletter at the side of my blog, and you'll get the five stories in the Romantic Encounters collection free!

Happy New Year,

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Looking Forward to 2018

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, wherever and however you celebrated. We greatly enjoyed having the family here for the first Christmas in our new home and look forward to many more. Unfortunately, husband and I have both been unwell and still can't get rid of the nasty cough, which of course then keeps us awake and makes us feel worse. However, we have been trying to go out for a short time each morning then I don't feel guilty slobbing in front of the TV!

Wednesday (day after Boxing Day) in particular was the most stunningly beautiful I've seen, after it snowed on the Tuesday then started to freeze. As many of you know, I love the cold dry autumn/winter days so we risked a drive to the country park in the hills. Once we braved the icy paths, I had great fun taking lots of photos of the Narnia-like scenery. I've never seen such a white-out in places. The sun even shone giving it added light and interest.

At least it cheered us up a bit and we went out to a different place each day since. Not sure if it's made us better or worse but I'm enjoying not having to do anything in particular the rest of the days at the moment. That will change soon enough after next weekend! Also enjoying my interesting Christmas gifts and have plenty to inspire and encourage creativity - once I can make myself start. I'll mention a few in my next post.

Although we don't tend to celebrate Hogmanay and New Year like we used to, I enjoy looking forward to all the possibilities and opportunities that a new year might bring.

Happy New Year when it arrives and thanks for your support over the year!

Rosemary x

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Winter Solstice and Christmas Greetings

I hope you forgive me re-posting this from 2014 - my head is like cotton wool at the moment but I wanted to put a festive message here before the big day.

It's the Winter Solstice and the days have gradually been getting darker. The shortest day of the year, usually December 21st, is still a magical time for many people in the northern hemisphere. This is when the sun appears to stand still before changing direction, although it's actually the earth which tilts around the sun. The days will slowly begin to lengthen again until reaching the longest day on the Summer Solstice. The word solstice is thought to stem from two Latin words: sol, meaning sun and sistere, to stand.

The days leading up to the Winter Solstice were known as Saturnalia in Roman times, marking the moment when the sun was reborn after the shortest day and longest night. To celebrate the occasion and to welcome the coming of light, most people left aside their work to enjoy as much merriment and feasting as possible.

Another important part of the festival was the winter greenery brought inside to decorate homes around this time, such as ivy, holly, laurel and mistletoe, all illuminated by the light from candles. The evergreen ivy and the holly with its bright red berries have had many myths and legends attached to them over the centuries, often to do with new life and rebirth.

Here in Britain, there is a wealth of carols and poems celebrating the place holly and ivy have in our December traditions, both pagan and Christian, from Advent, through the twelve days of Christmas to Epiphany, such as this poem by Robert Herrick from the 16th century.

The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here is the heart.

Which we will give him, and bequeath
This holly and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

Many people still celebrate this special time at the Winter Solstice and it is especially sacred to the Druids and some pagan beliefs. Stonehenge in England is one of the most significant ancient spiritual sites where hundreds of people gather to watch the sun set on the shortest day and will welcome the new sunrise after the longest night of the year. 

I do hope you all have a wonderful Christmas or holiday period, however you celebrate.


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Advice from Floris Books

This is the second overview I promised from the recent Society of Authors weekend conference, although it's taken me a while to post it! Hope some may find it useful. Meant to add that I was honoured to be invited to speak to some of the classes in wee granddaughter's school last week and I saw how enquiring and interested they are in all sorts of subjects - and they loved a 'real' author visit!

Floris Books is a well-established Scottish publisher based in Edinburgh and they produce some wonderful books for all ages of children. The best way to approach them for a couple of the age groups is to enter their annual Kelpies Prize, as they read all submissions for that. All books must have a strong Scottish theme but the author can be from anywhere!

I greatly enjoyed the talk Sally Polson gave at the conference as it was straight from the horse's mouth, if you excuse the expression. As well as showing us covers of their different range of books, Sally gave us very useful pointers for writing and submitting a book suitable for Floris.

Who is the Reader?

It is essential to decide to what category or age group you are aiming the story and ensure it is pitched at the correct level as below:

Picture Books: aimed at ages 3-6, these are usually 24 or 32 pages and under 1000 words

Young Readers: aimed at ages 6-9, these stories have a strong concept or theme and are around 100 to 150 pages long and about 10,000 words. They also tend to have line drawings to help a child move on from picture books.

Middle Grade: aimed at ages 8-12 and often submitted through agents. They should contain strong adventure and be around 30,000 to 60,000 words.

Teen/YA: aimed at the 12+ age group, with more adult content, danger and emotional impact

How do they Choose Books?

How does the writer get the editor excited? (Wouldn't we all like to know that!) Sally suggested the following:

  • Great concept
  • Beautiful or unique quality of writing
  • Memorable characters
  • Do we want to read about them again?

Editorial Questions

  • Who is the book for?
  • How can they sell it? For example: author events and promotion
  • Does it fill a gap on their list? They might have a similar one already
  • Is there a hook running through the main plot that could be marketed?
  • Is there series potential? A series with strong themes is good for the 6-9 age group.
  • Children like to read about other children saving the day so limit adult characters
  • Do the characters speak and act like a child of that age?
  • Is the content and language appropriate for the targeted reader?

Subbing to Floris

Sally kindly shared the following tips for submissions:

  • They accept unsolicited manuscripts
  • For the Kelpies range, about half the submissions are unagented and come straight from the author
  • The Kelpies Prize is a good way to get noticed - submissions are open for books targeted at the 8-11 age group and 12-15 age group and you can download the guidelines on the website
  • Read the submission guidelines on their website
  • The Synopsis does not need every detail - sum up the story in a couple of paragraphs and focus on main points
  • Include a letter with author details

All great advice - we just need to write the books now! I actually submitted a picture story recently and had some lovely feedback from the assistant editor. Although she said it was a lovely story with excellent writing, it wasn't quite Scottish enough in a crowded market where they have to be choose carefully.

This particular story is already included in an American anthology of Princess and Dragon books but I'd love it to be published as a stand-alone, and I completely understand that response as it could really be set anywhere, although I have castles and lochs in the story.

One of my writing colleagues, Elizabeth McKay, is the author of the brilliant Wee Granny books and that is exactly the kind of 'Scottishness' they are seeking, for picture books at least.

Good luck if you feel like submitting!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

St Andrew's Day in Scotland

November 30th is St Andrew’s Day up here, a celebration of the patron saint of Scotland. Although it is not generally a national holiday, there are a few events going on around the country.

St Andrew is very well integrated into our culture. He was said to have been crucified on a diagonal cross, depicted on our flag, the saltire, as the white cross of St Andrew on a blue background. The ancient historic university town of St Andrews on the east coast was named in honour of the saint whose final resting place is supposedly here.

Known as a fair and generous man who desired to help those less fortunate, he has often inspired such generosity of spirit and friendliness amongst Scots over the years. This year on St Andrews Day, we are being encouraged to #BeLikeStAndrew by sharing an act of kindness with someone. Perhaps I could get away with mine being today (29th) when I bought coffee and chocolate for a homeless man in Glasgow!

If you’re around any of the venues on November 30th mentioned on the site, you’re guaranteed a great time.

And if you’d like to read a Scottish novel, two of mine are set around the beautiful west coast and are available on Amazon!


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Indie Authors as Entrepreneurs

One of the most interesting and helpful sessions at the recent ScotsWrite Conference run by the Society of Authors in Scotland was the one from online guru Joanna Penn. I've been following Joanna's blog posts and podcasts for a few years and no one is more helpful to those authors who are creative writers but also want to run their own self-publishing business.

I've outlined some of her talk below but you can also follow Joanna at the Creative Penn where you'll find a wealth of advice. Joanna writes both fiction and non-fiction and it's fascinating to see how her career (and income) has grown over the years

Change of Mindset

  • entrepreneurs should create value from their ideas, such as publishing e-books, print books and audio books. Some even create workbooks to do with their subject

Focus on the Customer

  • for writers, it's all about the reader and not ourselves. What do they want to pay for? 
  • use Amazon to research and understand your target market - what are competitive titles? What are the sub categories for your genre?

Intellectual Property Rights

  • if with a publisher - what rights have you sold? If e-books, then investigate using the print rights, audio and translation rights yourself. 
  • write more books; alternate fiction with non-fiction
  • write a series and hook readers with the first one
  • try novellas - from 25,000 to 40,000 words
  • create a box set by offering a few similar books or series in one file for a bargain price
  • some authors only use Amazon to self-publish but you could also publish with Kobo and Apple yourself.

Multiple Income Streams

  • as well as writing novels, try short writing for magazines 
  • offer online courses (through teachable) 
  • try affiliate commission on your blog or website (where readers click on Amazon or whatever, earning you a small affiliate fee if they buy)

Take Action

  • schedule time to include the business side of writing and to set goals
  • decide what you want (hope?) to earn from your business - when (by next year?) and what you could do to achieve it.
I was so busy scribbling away while absorbing Joanna's lively talk that I've probably missed a lot. We might not all want to be entrepreneurs to such an extent but one of the simplest things I could do right away is to set proper goals - so I can finish all my ideas and fragments of stories!


Monday, 30 October 2017

The Story of a Cover (and Special Offer)

We've all heard it many a time in the world of indie publishing: the cover art is very important and we must leave it to the professionals or at least get it right!

I love doing my own covers where possible and can spend hours enjoying finding the right photograph of my own or sourcing a suitable one elsewhere. However, I've never had such difficulty with one as I did with my latest Victorian novella: Pride and Progress.

Part of the problem was my usual impatience to get it done and dusted, both the writing and the cover. But I forgot one simple, important lesson I learned from my Crooked Cat publisher (among others): the cover should only reflect the genre and period (if relevant) and not the whole story.

So, I first tried to incorporate a steam train into a Victorian looking background, as well as a Victorian lady. Some of you were kind enough to tell me you liked it, but I was never completely comfortable with it, especially trying to add that train in such a way.

Then I decided to change all my books to my full name which meant historicals were no longer under Romy - why did I not decide that before publishing the novella?! And so I tried another version of the cover, without the train this time. But again, I instinctively knew it wasn't good enough, and I preferred the original.

Finally, I did what I should have done before now and took a small subscription to one of the best photo image sites where I have much better choice if I don't have an image of my own. And it was third time lucky, as far as I'm concerned. No train, no Victorian image that had to be incorporated into the scene. I took note of the kind of covers being published now on historical novels and I really like the girl with cameo brooch.

Rather than leave it in its original state, I played around with it until happy with the portrayal of my heroine, Emily, in the hope it gives the impression of a romantic novella about a young Victorian woman. Although the steam train plays a big part in the story, it's basically a romance and thus is aimed at that readership.

Hopefully, I'll be more patient in future until I get it right first time!


P.S. I've now put Pride and Progress on an Amazon Countdown at 99p (99c) to run from Saturday 4th November until Wednesday 8th!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Celebratory Offers!

Now that I've finally changed over most of my books to my full name, I thought it was a good time to put three different types of book on a special countdown offer for a few days, while I'm also about to celebrate another birthday!

The following are on Amazon countdown from 21st to 26th October. You can find them on my Amazon Author Page UK and USA.

Mischief at Mulberry Manor

A Victorian novella with romance and ghost story set around Twelfth Night.

When Maryanne Robertson visits her cousins’ old manor house for the Twelfth Night Masked Ball in 1859, she does not expect to find the manor haunted or to fall in love. But mischief is afoot and one of her cousins is missing as frost covers the ground outdoors. 

Is the mischief caused by a ghostly presence or someone more human? 

End of the Road

Twelve quirky short stories from fantasy and black humour to light crime. Ideal for Halloween!

Return to Kilcraig

First time price reduction!

The legacy of her beloved grandmother's cottage in the Scottish village of Kilcraig seems like the ideal solution after Christy Morrison’s recent trauma. Until the threats begin. Can she trust her heart and allow herself to fall in love again?

When Ross McKinley reluctantly welcomes Christy back to the village, he has hardened his heart against love, until they begin to renew their childhood friendship. But someone is determined Christy should go back to London. Will they find the culprit in time?

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Changes Afoot!

Well just after releasing a new Romy novella, I've now decided to make major changes to my writing career!

Courtesy of Pixabay

I've been thinking for some time about the need to have all my writing under my full name and I've now set this in motion. It doesn't make sense to have three names for novels: Rosemary, Romy and Ros. Everything will be so much easier if confined to the one name - once I change everything over.

So guess what I'll be doing for the next few weeks? As of today, I've taken my two tween books (as Ros) out of circulation while I changed the covers and author name etc. Fortunately, I had redrafted them when I took them over from the publisher so I was able to upload the new versions today and they should soon be available again - and will then reappear on the side of the blog.

The rights for some of my Romy books are reverting to me in the next week so they too will be changed along with those I already own (including that new novella!). It's exciting but daunting and I'll have to sort out Amazon author pages, Facebook author page and anything else I can remember. At least twitter is under my full name and I shall be revamping my newsletter when all have been changed over.

It's a good excuse to take general stock at the same time and see if anything can be improved or enhanced. I'm very glad my two full length Scottish novels were published under Rosemary, as are all my short stories and articles, so they can remain in circulation.

So watch this space! Once all the books are wearing their new covers and have been republished, I'll do an update on here. Meanwhile, you'll notice some of the covers at the side disappearing now and then until ready. At least I'll be able to streamline any publicity for conferences from now on.


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Progress of New Victorian Novella

At last, my new Victorian novella, Pride and Progress, is now published! This began life as a short story which was shortlisted in a national competition. One of my writing friends loved the heroine, Emily, so much that I decided it needed to be a longer story. However, life, procrastination, other writing and a house move got in the way of progress until I finally finished it.

Brand new (and different) cover!

Set in the 1870s, the railways play a big part in the story as I absolutely love steam trains. Although many of the British railway lines had been built by the end of the 1840s, some more remote areas had to wait until the 1860s/70s to be connected. Many people were against such progress at first and that gave me the conflict between the heroine and the Scottish station master, Arthur.

Steam train at Bo'ness

The husband and I have been on most of the steam trains in North Wales, as well as the West Highland Way and Aviemore in Scotland. Since our move, we've finally been for a journey on the one at Bo'ness which is not too far from us so we'll be going again later this month with granddaughter. My lovely father-in-law was a station master and we were delighted to find the actual ticket office from one of the stations he worked at is the one they brought to the preserved line at Bo'ness! In homage to him, I've used his first name for my hero.

So, although this is a sweet, feel-good novella and a quick read, it's one that is close to my heart and I'm just glad to see it finished at last.

Short blurb for Pride and Progress

Miss Emily Morton is content with her village life as a teacher in the north east of England in the 1870s, until the new railway arrives along with the handsome Scottish station master, Arthur Muir.
Emily detests the railways, while it is Arthur's passion.
Each is challenged by the other but will pride allow for progress?

It's now available on Amazon UK and Amazon US and worldwide