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Christmas Books Selling Period

How well and for how long can you realistically expect a Christmas book to sell? I have a children’s Christmas ebook out, Oh Santa!, so this is a very pertinent question for me! However, I haven’t been able to find many concrete facts and figures on the Net.

Printed copies of Christmassy books will have been selling for a month or so now. The publishers brought out their books aimed at the Christmas market back in October to allow time for word to spread and sales to pick up. But ebooks aren’t quite the same. You don’t have to wait a week for them to arrive in the post or plan a trip to town to buy them so you don’t tend to purchase as far in advance. You get them within seconds of hitting the ‘buy’ button. Also, ‘word’ is spread via instant social media rather than via slower newspaper articles or magazine reviews and so that happens quicker.

When is the best time to launch a Christmass ebook? November still feels too early, and it would seem a lot of people share that feeling since I’ve only sold a handful of copies of Oh Santa!, which is priced very reasonably at 99 cents! So I’m going with December. You can’t avoid Christmas once kids start opening the windows on their Advent Calendars. Tomorrow I’ll make available a Smashwords  coupon code so that folk can get the book for free, but just for 24 hours. I can Tweet and Facebook that to get some attention. I’ve come across a couple of Christmassy virtual book tours scheduled to take place in December, and that seems a nice idea too. I’ve probably left it too late to organise one for Oh Santa!, but we’ll see.

Ebook sales can in theory continue right up to and including Christmas Day itself since those shops won’t shut and you’ll get the goods immediately. But how can you give an ebook? Well, with Kindle books it’s easy. You gift a book to someone. You buy it and specify where it is to be delivered. And Smashwords? You can choose and buy a book and download it in the suitable format, and send that as an attachment to the recipient via email. Please don’t abuse the system and send it to loads of people though. Think of us poor starving authors! I’m not sure what the Nook system would be. Barnes and Noble refuse to sell me anything, including ebooks, since I don’t live in the USA so I don’t have a lot to do with them!

In the next few days, I’ll be suggesting some ‘book bags’ you can put together to go with some of my ebooks as Christmas pressies to make them more fun. Most of my ebooks are free, by the way, so they’ll make budget-friendly pressies! I’ll also come up with some lists of great ebooks for anyone and everyone you might need to be buying for.

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Stay Tuned by Lauren Clark – Blog Tour

Well, I’m taking part in a book blog tour for the first time. The book in question is Stay Tuned by Lauren Clark. Here’s my review of it:

It’s not often I can’t put a book down, but Stay Tuned came into that category. I read it one go. The turkeys were waiting mournfully for me to put them to bed, the llamas were left thirsty – I got lost in the story and remained glued to my Kindle till I finished.

Why? The story really caught me. It was fascinating to get an insight into life at a TV station, delightful to meet characters like Melissa, Chris and Candace, and there was plenty of excitement in the plot. The relationships between the people in the story were gripping. There were attractions and hatreds, tensions, frustrations, misunderstandings and real affection. Several punches got thrown, there were clumsy passes, lots of tears but just as much laughter. And the ending is bittersweet without being mawkish or implausible.

Reality is very much the key of this book. We could all so easily find ourselves in Melissa’s shoes – juggling career and family life, trying to keep the communication channels open with a workaholic husband, striving to be fully committed in every sphere of your life.

Every single character is rounded and interesting. There aren’t any cameo roles or stereotypes. This story is peopled by a truly human set of people.

It’s a very readable book. The author has a flowing, natural style that sweeps you along and you can’t wait to find out what happens next. Definitely worth reading.

 

How to win

Now, as part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Stay Tuned eBook edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including lots of Amazon gift cards (up to $100 in amount) and 5 autographed copies of the book. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 2nd, so you don’t miss out.

To win the prizes you need to:
1. Purchase your copy of Stay Tuned for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble (You’ll need it for the big contest on Friday)
2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!

…And I can win too! Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

 

The events

Monday, Radio Interview with Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We interviewed Lauren on our radio show Sunday night and have embedded the full podcast and blogged about its highlights. Give it a listen and then leave a comment on the blog post. This is a great chance to get to know more about this fun and bubbly author. One commenter will win an autographed copy of Stay Tuned. Don’t forget to enter for the other contest prizes while you’re over there!

Tuesday, Twitter sharing contest! A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters. But on Tuesday, it could win you $50. Send the following tweet across the twittersphere, and you just may win a $50 Amazon gift card. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. The winners will be announced Wednesday morning. Here’s the tweet:  Take a break from the holiday frenzy, and read Stay Tuned. It’s fast, fun, and reduced to just 99 cents! http://ow.ly/7zA1e #whirlwind

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Stay Tuned book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. Two chances to win with just one click! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Stay Tuned book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Are you ready for some more fun? Take a picture of yourself with your copy of Stay Tuned either in paperback or on an eReading device, tag Lauren Clark’s Facebook page, and you can enter to win one of three Amazon gift cards! A $100 prize will go to the most creative photo, $50 to the best BFF photo, and $50 to the photo with the most people in it. An autographed copy of Stay Tuned is also up for grabs. If you need help learning how to tag a photo, you can visit Lauren’s Facebook page for detailed instructions.

 

Extract

To whet your appetites further, here’s an extract from Chapter One.

 

Alyssa Andrews was missing.

Gone, vanished, MIA with just minutes to airtime.

“Melissa, where is she?” Our news director, Joe, shot a harried look in my direction. After dealing with a broken studio camera, spotty satellite reception, and last-minute script changes, his nerves were fried to a crisp.

“She’ll be here,” I promised, knowing my confidence was a front. Alyssa, one of WSGA-TV’s main news anchors, was a constant source of angst in my already-stressful job.

She was young, talented, gorgeous…and chronically late.

This lack of punctuality was a problem, especially when WSGA ran a show at exactly six and ten o’clock every night. Not a moment later.

WSGA was Macon, Georgia’s number one news station and had been for two years running. If we wanted to keep it that way, timing was everything. Every second mattered.

I produced both evening shows, which meant—among a dozen other tasks—organizing the day’s stories, writing copy, and checking video. Each segment had to run seamlessly between three-minute commercial breaks.

Deep breath, Melissa. Send up a little prayer. She’ll show up.

The red numbers on the clock continued to march forward.

Another deep breath. Everything’s in place. Alyssa just needs to walk in and get on set…

“Tighten up on camera one.” Joe peppered the room with demands. “Mic check, now, not yesterday.”

Tim Donaldson, Alyssa’s co-anchor, obliged, counting backwards from the number five.

Joe’s thick fingers punched buttons on the massive keyboard in front of him. “Bring up the live shot.”

Still, no Alyssa.

Joe raked a huge hand through his long gray hair. “Five minutes!” he growled, with a glare into his empty coffee cup.

At this point, it was Joe’s show to run. He was in charge. I shuffled my scripts. “How about I call her?”

“She’s an adult,” he grumbled. “You shouldn’t have to.”

Joe expected nothing less than perfection. He was experienced, hard working, and a stickler for detail. Alyssa’s nonchalance made him crazy.

Which, at 9:55:36 on a Friday night, gave him the patience of a gnat. On crack.

This was particularly dangerous for an unsuspecting new employee, all of twenty years old and pimple-faced, who crept up behind us.

Joe ignored him at first, barking an order to me instead. “Fine, fine. Melissa, tell Princess A. she’s needed in the studio.”

On autopilot, I punched her extension, eyes focused on the row of monitors above my head in case she decided to appear.

While the phone rang, the new kid rocked on his heels nervously. I flashed a smile and shook my head gently in his direction, hoping he’d get the hint.

Not now.

Nope. The kid stood there, coughed lightly, and waited for one of us to turn around.

“What?” </em>Joe finally snapped.

The force of the word made the kid’s body jerk back. Jaw open, unable to speak, his face turned crimson.

Joe waited about a second for the kid to talk, and then leaned back over the control panel. He pressed at switches, clearly annoyed. The kid looked sick. Joe rolled his eyes. My anxiety level cranked up ten notches.

9:58:09. Less than two minutes.

Wait…a flash of an ivory suit and blond hair.

“There she is,” I interrupted the tension with a cool nod toward the monitors.

Front and center, Alyssa sauntered into the studio, lips puckered, blowing her shell-pink nail polish dry. She slid into her seat next to Tim, and gave him a playful pat on the shoulder.

Joe muttered something I couldn’t repeat.

I stifled a loud sigh of relief and glanced around the room. The new guy was the only one in the building unimpressed with Alyssa’s arrival. With a shaking hand, he reached out and tapped Joe’s burly shoulder.

“Mr. Joe, there’s a problem with one of the machines—”

Joe’s back stiffened. He turned a millimeter in the kid’s direction and exploded. “Get your butt back there. Get one of the engineers. Fix it. Call someone.”

I caught the now-completely mortified kid’s eye, and motioned for him to come toward me. Grabbing the nearest piece of paper, I jotted down the engineer’s extension and held it at arm’s length with a kind smile. Poor guy. Lots to learn.

With a grateful look, the new kid plucked the scrap from my fingers and darted away.

Time to get started.

I settled in, gripped my pen hard, and looked up.

Okay. Alyssa’s collar was turned under. Minor detail, but sure to garner at least five viewer complaints. You wouldn’t believe what people called in about.

I leaned toward the microphone to let Alyssa know.

“Dare you not to tell her,” Joe muttered. It wasn’t a secret that the guys would willingly let Alyssa go on air with underwear on her head. She hadn’t made friends. Or tried to.

Tim, her co-anchor and current boyfriend, didn’t count.

“Just part of those darn producer duties, Joe. You know that.” I flashed him a smile and pressed the button to talk. “Alyssa, fix your collar.”

Her mouth parted into an O. Alyssa frowned, glanced down, and straightened the pale edge. Just in time.

Like a well-directed movie, the WSGA-TV opening video flashed across monitor one. Macon, Georgia’s skyline filled the screen.

My body tingled with a familiar rush of excitement. It happened every time we went on air. The cameras and lights, the beat of the music, the thrill of live television.

Here we go.

Seconds later, Alyssa and Tim appeared under the lights, their bright anchor smiles pasted on.

“Good evening, I’m Alyssa Andrews.

“And I’m Tim Donaldson.”

And on it went, without a blip, for the first ten minutes. I started breathing again after the third break.

Stanley and Sunshine, the weather cat, were ready for the five-day forecast, check.

Commercial break, check.

Sports, check. I didn’t worry about that three-minute slot. Plenty to talk about, visual stories; the anchors could get away with jokes and ad-libbing. Viewers loved it.

We rounded out the show with an inspirational kicker about a local scholarship winner, a kid first in his family to go to college. He’d won forty thousand dollars and was going to Georgia Tech to study astrophysics.

The show wrapped with a standard goodnight, credits, and a wide shot of the WSGA set.

The second the master control operator switched to break, Alyssa flounced off the set in silicone fashion. She barked into her jewel-encrusted cell phone about her min-pin puppy’s cancelled spa appointment and stomped out of the studio, teetering precariously in four-inch heels.

Yikes!

I climbed the flight of stairs back to the newsroom, relieved the night was almost over.

The phones started to ring five seconds later.

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Prix Goncourt 2011 – Cheap Prize, Expensive Books

The Prix Goncourt is reckoned to be France’s most prestigious literary award. It’s not the most generous. The prize is just €10, which compares very unfavourably with other prizes such as the Man-Booker which is worth over €57,000. And only one winner has ever cashed their cheque for €10. It’s seen as symbolic. The award guarantees fame for the author, although not necessarily international fame. Not all winning novels are translated into other languages. For example, 2005 winning book Trois jours chez ma mère by François Weyergans wasn’t spread overseas.

Edmond de Goncourt got the prize going, although not till after his death. In his will in 1896 he left money to establish the Académie Goncourt to choose the best French book each year. The first award was made in 1903 to John-Antonie Nau for his book Force Ennemie.

There are a few spinoffs, namely the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens (to a book chosen by lycée students and theirs rarely matches the choice of the Académie Goncourt who tend to be much more highbrow) and the Goncourt de la Poésie.

The winner of the Prix Goncourt is chosen over lunch, of course, this being France. The jury meets every month during the year in fact to select the shortlist and the winner is chosen on the first Tuesday in November.

This year’s winner was Alexis Jenni L’Art Français de la Guerre. Now, I’ve read a couple of articles about it in French and I’m still none the wiser as to what it’s actually about. They’re all verbose and vague. One goes on about how writing is like doing a Rubik’s cube – creating harmony with words. Hmm. Somehow I don’t think this book is my cup of tea.  The book is availabe for Kindle price €16.80  paperback €19.95. This Kindle price is ludicrous and highlights that the French don’t get the Kindle yet really, at least the publishers don’t. I’ve blogged about this before. It also gives you an idea of how expensive printed books are in France.

The rest of the shortlisted books are equally pricey, both in ebook and printed format:

Des Vies d’Oiseaux by Veronique Ovalidé is €18.05 paperback only. You can get ‘fiche de lecteur’ for €3.99 on Kindle = reader’s guide, not actual book itself!

Retour à Killybegs by Sorj Chalendon is Kindle €15.99, paperback €18.95.

Tout, Tout de Suite Morgan by Sportès Kindle €15.99,paperback €19.86

Les Souvenirs by David Foenkinos Kindle €15.70 paperback €17.58

La Belle Amour Humaine by Lyonel Trouillot  €13.99 Kindle, €17 paperback.

Du Domaine des Murmures by Carole Martinez €13.50 Kindle, paperback €16.06

Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit by Delphine de Vigan €14.99 Kindle, paperback €18.05.

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Monday Sales Figures Update

Week 3 of montoring my sales.

A bit slower this week, with a total of 244 books downloaded via Smashwords and 2 on Kindle, namely 53 x Oh Gran, 73 x The Witch’s Dog, 65 x Escape the Volcano, 13 x DeWitched, 7 x Witching Again, 2 x Oh Auntie,  2 x Oh Grandad, 2 x Oh Santa! and 3 x Beat the Hackers. (Last week I had 422 sales.) But by no means shameful. I haven’t done any publicity on them during the week, so maybe I should. I’m hoping that Oh Santa! will be distributed to Barnes and Noble by Smashwords very soon  now. That should make a big difference to sales. Also, in a couple more weeks’ time, I can shamelessly promote it as a Christmas book. It’s still too early for that I think. I know I’m not feeling very Christmassy just yet

I hope to have another free ebook out during the week – Best of Blog in France. This is a selection of my best blog posts from my other website and I think it’s going to work very well. Watch this space!

 

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Halloween Special!

Well, I did it – just. I got my three Witch’s Dog stories up there on Smashwords in time for Halloween. By a stroke of luck, while hunting for the missing box of Halloween decorations in the loft, I came across a box of old CDs. Amongst them was one with copies of many of my old stories. De-Witched and Witching Again were there, so saving me several hours of scanning the books in. Huzzah!

The Witch’s Dog I’ve already blogged about. It’s now sold 605 copies through Smashwords and is 27,044 in Barnes and Noble Nook Book sales rank. (My non-Halloweeny ebooks Oh Gran and Escape the Volcano are at 12,332 and 17,034 respectively.)

De-Witched, which got its name when the pop group B*witched was in the charts – just a few years ago now! – follows on from The Witch’s Dog. Cackling Carol the witch gets taken into care by well-meaning social workers. Deposited into a squeaky clean flat and with ten years of old age pension to get through (Carol has lied about her age, she’s in her 400s by now!), our witch discovers shopping and the cinema and turns her back on her witchy life – but more importantly on Big Roddy and Broom. What will they do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then comes Witching Again. This final story in the trilogy sees the three friends reunited, just in time to battle with the evil Blue Wizard Egbert again. It’s a tough fight which sees Broom turned into a floor cloth and Big Roddy into a toy dog. Has Cackling Carol got enough magic left to turn her companions back?

The covers are the best I could do in the time and I think are adequate for a free ebook whose main role, apart from providing some free entertainment, is to start getting my name as an author out there. Nessie was slightly more co-operative than when I did The Witch’s Dog pictures. They demonstrate that the books are in a series and give a nice image of a friendly witch’s dog, which is what Big Roddy is.

Did you check out my Halloween poem here?

Below are two stories that any youngsters in your household might enjoy. Change the character’s name if you like. Webmaster Chris will be putting a selection of my stories to personalise up on this site very soon, so do watch out for those.

 

The Witch’s Broom

“That’s it! I’ve had enough of being a witch’s’ broomstick!” spluttered the angry  broom.

It was the morning of Halloween and he had just come back from a quick warm-up flight with his witch. The broom’s witch was called Witch Ella. Most of the other witches called her Witch Ellaphant, behind her back, of course . She was a very tubby witch and every year she got even tubbier because she ate too much pumpkin pie.

“Huh!” said the cauldron. “You say the same thing every year. I don’t know why you make you such a fuss. You only work one night a year, after all. Now, I work every single day. If it’s not stew she’s cooking in me, then it’s some horrid potion or other. And all day long I sit over the hot fire. I really have got something to moan about.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” muttered the broom. The cauldron was right. The broom did complain every year. Well, this year he would do something about it.

He hopped down from the shelf and shook his bristles.  Several spiders plopped onto the floor and scurried away in alarm.

The broom made his way stiffly to the door of the cavern.

“You really off, then?” asked the cauldron in amazement.

By the door the broom stopped to tickle the cat’s ears with a bristle.

“I’ll miss you, Puss,” he said.

The cat opened one eye and purred a farewell, then went back to sleep.

The broom looked at the stretch of countryside before him. He had never seen it in daylight before. It looked beautiful. There were rolling hills, wooded valleys and even some snow-topped mountains far away. The broom’s gaze fell on a dark forest in the distance.

“That’s where I’ll go,” he decided. And at once he leapt into air the and streaked through the cool morning breeze. How pleasant it was to fly without the Ellaphant!

On the way to the forest, the broom flew over a village of white houses with thick, thatched roofs. Every house had a neat garden filled with late blooming flowers. How much nicer than Ella’s scruffy yard!

“How lovely!” exclaimed the broom. He glided down for a closer look. He had just made himself comfortable against the wall when a woman bustled up and grabbed hold of him.

“Come on, broom! Lots of work to do,” she panted and dragged him indoors. “Got to clean up before the children have their party tonight.”

For the next hour the Broom didn’t stop. He was stuffed into dusty corners and poky cracks. He swept cobwebs down and rustled and hustled all around the house.

At last the woman stopped.

“Well,” she exclaimed. “I need a rest before we start on the paths.”

“What!” gasped the broom. “More sweeping  No thanks!”

He leapt out of the astonished woman’s hands and sailed into the sky. He didn’t stop until he came to the forest. He plopped down into a clearing and was surprised to find a row of brooms there. They were leaning against a wooden stand with a notice that said ‘FIRE BROOMS’ above them.

He settled next to them and closed his eyes for a nap. He was very weary. But suddenly the broom woke in alarm to find the air filled with thick, choking smoke. People were shouting! “Fire! Fire! Get   the brooms! Beat the flames out!”

For the second time that the day the broom was grabbed.

He was crashed down onto the red, licking flames, again and again. The heat singed his bristles and the smoke made him sneeze. He was covered in ash.

“Frogs legs!” he yelped. “I hope this doesn’t go on for too long!”

At long last the fire was out. The people sat down for a rest. The broom decided it was time to leave. He didn’t want to go through that again!

He swooped into the sky and headed quickly for home. Today had shown him that being a witch’s broom wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Ella was out in the yard looking for him. Puss purred happily when she saw her friend again.

“Aha!” Ella croaked. “I thought you would be back. It’s nearly time to go”.

She glanced up at the clock’s skeleton hands. “But there is just time for a couple of spells. First of all, broom, you need to be spruced up. And then I need to be slimmed down. I’m not surprised you flew away. I hadn’t realised what a lump I’d become! You’ve taught me a lesson!”

Side by side, they waddled into the cavern. The broom was looking forward to Halloween after all!

 

Patrick and the Giant Pumpkin

 

It was nearly Halloween. Patrick was very excited. He was jumping around in the hallway, waiting for Mum to come home. She had gone to town to buy a pumpkin. Mum had promised to buy an enormous one.

At last the car drew into the driveway. Dad and Patrick opened the door and watched as Mum opened the boot and lifted a beautiful orange pumpkin out. The only trouble was – it wasn’t very big at all. It was a tiny little pumpkin!

“I’m sorry,” said Mum, seeing Patrick’s sad face. “It was the only one I could find. All the shops have sold out of pumpkins. But look. It’s a lovely, round one. We’ll be able to carve a super scary face onto it. We’ll do that tomorrow.”

Mum put the pumpkin on the kitchen counter. Patrick kept running in to look at it, hoping it might have grown a bit more. But it stayed the same size. Patrick decided it needed some help.

First he decided to water it. He knew that watering plants helped them grow. Mum was busy in another room, and Dad had gone out so the coast was clear. Patrick quietly pulled the stool over to the sink. He got a jug out of the cupboard, then climbed onto the stool, turned on the tap and filled the jug. Next he pushed the stool over to where the pumpkin was and poured the water over it. The water sloshed all over the pumpkin and the counter and the floor and Patrick. But the pumpkin didn’t get any bigger.

Next Patrick decided to feed the pumpkin. He’d heard Dad talking about feeding his plants in the garden. But he wasn’t quite sure what they liked to eat. He went to the fridge and looked inside. There was ham and liver and butter and cold sausages and bacon. Patrick didn’t think the pumpkin would like those very much because he didn’t. But there was some lemon jelly and chocolate mousse. The very thing for a pumpkin! Patrick got them out and  helped himself to a few licks! The jelly and mousse went all over the pumpkin and counter and the floor and Ruadhri. But the pumpkin didn’t get any bigger.

The only other thing Patrick knew was good for plants was soil. He couldn’t go outside on his own so he went into the lounge. There were three pot plants in there. He carried them into the kitchen very carefully. He pulled the plants out and put them in the sink on top of the washing up to keep them moist. Then he tipped the soil out of the three pots. The soil went all over the pumpkin and the counter and the floor and Patrick. But the pumpkin didn’t get any bigger.

Maybe he should just leave it for a while. That might do the trick. So he went to his room to play.

While he was playing, Dad came back. He’d been to the greengrocer’s shop in the village. He’d seen some pumpkins there. He’d gone out and bought a much bigger one than the one Mum had got.

He took his pumpkin to the kitchen. He gasped when he saw the mess. He nearly started shouting because he knew Patrick had done it. But then he realised what Patrick had been trying to do. He chuckled. So he cleared the mess up off the counter and the floor and repotted the plants. Then he put his pumpkin where Patrick’s had been. He hid the little pumpkin in the cupboard. Then he went off to find Mum.

Patrick decided it was time to check his pumpkin. He could hardly believe his eyes when he saw how much it had grown. Wait till Mum and Dad saw it! He was about to rush off and tell them, when he stopped. Seeing that just a little bit of water and a little bit of food and a little bit of soil had made it grow this much, well, just imagine how much bigger it would get if he used more water and more food and more soil. And there was plenty of water in the tap and loads of food in the fridge and lots more potted plants round the house.

Patrick rolled his sleeves up. He was going to have a very busy afternoon. He loved Halloween!

 

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Oh Santa! is Coming to Town!

No, it’s not too early to be thinking about Christmas – not when you’ve written a Christmassy book that you want to get into all the ebook shops. There are quite a lot out there already and I’m starting to read some so I can publish reviews on this site in a few weeks’ time.

But more importantly – my Christmas book, which is Oh Santa! I’ve just received the cover artwork from Roger Fereday and it’s every bit as fantastic as I knew it would be.Caitlin is adding the title and my name to the graphic as I write this, and then we’ll be in business since the text is ready and waiting.

I honestly think Oh Santa! is my funniest children’s book and I’m sure you’ll love it. It’ll be coming very, very soon to Kindle and Smashwords. Watch this space …

 

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Guest Post from Jo Parfitt

I’m delighted to host my first ever guest post. Jo Parfitt, expat author, has just released her latest book, Sunshine Soup which I’ll be reviewing in a few days’ time.

Jo has some inspiring advice for all would-be authors:

Inspired by La Grande Rue

Many years ago I lived in France. I studied French at university and spent my year abroad as an assistante in a school in Normandy. I don’t know whether you know Neufchatel-en-Bray, but it’s pretty small. I was the only English girl of my age living there and I found it rather lonely. I love to eat and so that was how I whiled away the hours. I would wander up and down the high street, looking in the shop windows.   I particularly liked the patisserie.

One day, as I gazed at the tartes aux myrtilles and tartelettes au citron, the words French Tarts popped into my head. That would make a great book title, I thought.

Now, as I had told you, I was a bit bored and I loved to eat, so I hatched a plan. I would ask the people in the town to invite me to dinner and make me a tart and, in exchange, I would put their recipes in a book I was writing. I really believed this would happen, and so, it appeared, did my potential hosts. I got my recipes and solved my social life problem in one go.

Back in my dingy flat above the school boiler, I had no kitchen, in fact I could not even cook, but I was determined to write that book. After graduation, I did a little research and sent a synopsis to a publisher called Octopus. They accepted my proposal and about 18 months later, French Tarts was published in French and in English. I had never written anything before but this lucky break led me to believe that I could follow my dream and become a writer. Today, 25 years on, I have written 28 books, hundreds of articles, teach writing and am a publisher in my own right. I specialize in publishing books by and for people who live overseas.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because I believe that if you have a good idea, lots of passion and some self-belief, you too can achieve your dreams, even against the odds and even in a foreign country. My book succeeded because it was a good idea, with a catchy title, that came at the right time.

Without French Tarts I doubt I would have become the writer and publisher I am today. Neither would I be a decent cook. Living in France back then I would never have believed that I would go on to live abroad for the rest of my life. I have lived in Dubai, Oman, Norway and am now in the Netherlands.  I have become a pretty decent cook too, and wrote a second cookbook when I lived in Oman, called Dates.

This month I launch my first foray into fiction. Sunshine Soup is a novel about expats and expat life. Its protagonist is a cook and there are 20 recipes at the back of the book. French Tarts is no longer in print, though you can buy second hand copies on Amazon.

If you have a dream, however crazy, I urge you to go for it. You never know what may happen.

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt  – author of Sunshine Soup, nourishing the global soul. Out now. Price £8.47 and available on Amazon. Find out more at www.joparfitt.com, www.summertimepublishing.com and www.expatbookshop.com

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Good Results from Getfreeebooks.com

I submitted Oh Gran, one of my two free ebooks available via Smashwords here to www.getfreeebooks.com. It was accepted on 1st October and by today, 3rd October, it’s been downloaded over 200 times. Up to then I’d had around 130 downloads directly from the Smashwords site over about 10 days. So going to getfreeebooks.com was a very worthwhile move in my opinion. Hopefully people will enjoy the book and remember my name, and one day, actually pay for one of my masterpieces!

None of my latest batch of ebooks, two free and one at 99 cents, have made it onto Amazon yet in Kindle format. I thought I’d do it via Smashwords this time round. It’s taken longer than I thought it would, but the advantage of using Smashwords as distributor is that they pay by Paypal, whereas Amazon will only pay overseas authors by cheque. Cashing cheques drawn on foreign banks in a foreign currency is practically impossible in France. I’ll probably have to open a special account somewhere with an awful lot of accompanying bank charges when the time comes to deal with royalties coming directly from Amazon. Sadly at the moment I imagine those expenses will far outweigh the income 🙁

But I’m an optimist! I plan to carry on plugging away with my ebooks in the certainty that one day it will be worthwhile financially.

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Super Thursday

Today is Super Thursday, the day when publishers launch their best hopes for the Christmas market. According to the BBC, more than 500 books in all formats, amongst them 200 hardbacks, are being published today, including a good helping of comedians’ autobiographies, and of course a Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie’s Great Britain. This latter is the hot favourite to the Christmas bestseller.

Getting the Christmas books out today gives publishers and authors enough time to do lots of promotion and for word of mouth to kick in and the power of reviews to kick in. The next best day will be in a fortnight, October 13th, so if you were hoping to make it big this Christmas, get your skates on! Looks like I’d better get a move on with my two non-fiction ebooks.

Last year, nine of the books released on Super Thursday sold more than one million pounds’ worth of copies. Not bad. In the 12-week run up to Christmas, a total of 69 million books were sold, with a value of 567 million pounds. This is serious money.

Ebook publishers will be looking to take a share of the public’s book budget this year. You can’t put an ebook in a stocking, though, which will work against them during the festive season. However, you can put a Kindle or other ebook reader in, and with the new Kindle priced at 79 dollars, that’s in normal spending parameters for family and special friends.

It will be very interesting to see how ebook sales fare over the next three months. I’ll be watching closely.

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Sample Sunday Guest Post: Something Fishy by Rorie Stevens

Here’s an extract from Something Fishy, the racy fishing mystery story by my carp fishing friend Rorie Stevens.

Marcus Summers is the narrator. He’s brought a team of 6 anglers to take on a rival team at a friend’s lake in France near Coussac. This year Marcus has the hot Fiona on his team.

 

Chapter 6

Fishing is a good sex substitute. Not if you put them side by side, of course. If a beautiful, naked, sex-starved woman (or man, if that’s the preference) came prancing along the bank just as an angler was about to cast, well, I don’t think it’s the fish that would get pulled. But as a way of keeping your mind happily and busily off the subject for a period of time, it works well. At least it usually did for me, but this week with Fi close by, it was rubbing my nose in it.

I’d once done a column about why fishing was better than sex, coming up with daft reasons like the fact that a fish will never post embarrassing video footage of you on Youtube; you don’t have to hide your fishing magazines; you can have as many fishing partners, including total strangers, as you want, and how if you catch something when you’re fishing it’s good, but if you do the same when you’re having sex, well, that’s bad. That was one of my most popular articles. It was a shame it wasn’t actually true.

I got through Sunday more or less OK. We were all anxious to get our first catches so we all concentrated hard on our fishing. I spodded like mad and built up a good bed of bait, and sure enough, by Sunday evening I was starting to land some excellent fish. Overall, our team was ahead by 41 lbs. Greg had been landing the most regularly, but he was bringing in smaller grass carp, rather than larger commons. However, no-one minds catching a grass carp – they’re always exciting and fight like crazy. Fi had brought in three mirrors over 30 lbs and she was thrilled. She was proving to be a reliable carpist.

She got a lot of teasing, because in between casts and catches, she pulled her knitting out.

“Grannies knit!” protested Derek over lunch. “Hot chicks don’t.”

Fi rolled her eyes. “So you’re saying Scarlett Johansson and Dakota Fanning aren’t hot? You’re way out of touch, Del Boy. It’s cool to knit these days. All the celebs are doing it.”

Derek snorted.

“Anyway, I’m a yarnbomber, not a knitter.”

“You what?” Derek looked at her blankly, like the rest of us.

“Yarnbomber. Knitted graffiti street artist, if you’d rather.”

“Knitting’s not art,” grumbled Andy. “Knitting’s jumpers and stuff.”

“Not necessarily.” Fi put him straight. “There are quite a lot of us who brighten up public places with our artwork. You know, a hat on a postbox,  a scarf round a statue’s neck. Some yarnbombers have knitted covers for tanks and buses!”

“They need to get a life,” tutted Josh sadly.

Fi ignored him.

“Have you done any of that stuff at Haverton?” asked Norm.

“No, not yet,” admitted Fi. “I’ve been too crazy with work. But I’ve got the time now so I shall rustle up something for Coussac. It’s bound to have a statue somewhere that needs a makeover. Are we going into town soon?” she asked me.

“I was reckoning on tomorrow or Tuesday morning,” I replied. “I need to buy more food, and it’s always interesting to have a poke around there. It’s a nice little town. You’ll like it – it’s got a very picturesque old part.”

“Has it?” said Derek, surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

“How many years have you been coming here?” I grilled him.

“Eight now, I think.”

“Yeah, and for each of those eight years you only ever go to the same bar each time we go into Coussac!” I reminded him. “That’s why you haven’t done any sightseeing yet.”

“Oh, I see sights in that bar,” smirked Derek. “There are some fit babes in Coussac.”

We sat around for a while longer, then Fi got up.

“I need a shower,” she announced.

“Thank God for that,” grinned Liam. “I wondered what that funny smell was.”

“Ha ha, very mature,” riposted Fi.

She collected her wash things from her bivvie and disappeared up the path to the barn which housed the new shower room. But she was back ten minutes later, still dry, and carrying a camp shower. All the others had gone back to their swims.

“The proper shower’s bust,” she grumbled to me. “Julian says he should have it fixed by tomorrow evening. So he’s given me this thing. He says if I hang it up first thing in the morning in a sunny spot, the water should be good and warm by midday.”

“Keep that thing in sight the rest of today,” I warned her.

“Oh?”

“Yes. Never forget there are people round here with a mental age that matches their hook size. These same people are into silly practical jokes. I remember a camp shower episode a few years ago that involved worms and other creepy crawlies!”

“Eeyuw!” grimaced Fi. “Thanks for the heads up. I shall go and stash it at the back of my bivvie and stand guard.”

I smiled as I watched her hurry off with it.

Next morning, she vanished early with it, into the woods at the far end of the lake. I was the only one to see her go. No-one else was up yet. I’d had a broken night with three runs so I was tired. Two of those had resulted in fish on the bank, so I was well pleased. But damn, the thought that in a few hours Fi would be naked somewhere in those same woods was definitely arousing. I tried to think about something else – what I’d write in my next column, how things were going at the fishery, had I got enough cash for the shopping today, but that was no good. The mental picture of wet, soapy Fi wouldn’t budge.

The other lads only found out about the shower over lunch, when Fi happened to remark that the water had still been on the chilly side when she’d last checked it, so she was going to give it another hour. All eyes were on her.

“Do you want someone to hold your soap?” offered Nat. “So you don’t have to keep bending down to pick it up.”

Eleven minds’ eyes saw a nude Fi bending down. That was something worth seeing.

“Come to think of it, it would be better if I held your towel rather than your soap,” Nat corrected himself hastily with a smile. “So you have to bend down!”

“In your dreams,” chuckled Fi. “I shower alone.”

“What if a wild boar comes along?” suggested Greg. “You should have a lookout to scare it away.”

“I’ll take my chances with the local wildlife,” replied Fi firmly.

Rob rustled up some cups of tea. I noticed Andy and Derek slip out. Not too hard to guess where they were going. They came back about half an hour later, sniggering like schoolboys. I watched them go round the lake, talking to Rob’s guys and then Greg and Norm. Everyone seemed to be giving them cigarettes.

“What are you up to?” I demanded when they finally got to me.

“We know where Fi’s shower is!” smirked Andy. “For half a dozen fags, we’ll tell you.”

I looked at them hard. “That’s a bit mean isn’t it? I mean, this is Fi, she’s our friend.”

“Are you telling me you don’t want to see her in the buff?” Andy cut to the point.

“No,” I sighed. “I’d love to, but I don’t think it’s very nice to go leering at her.”

“Suit yourself,” shrugged Derek. “You’re the loser.”

Just then, Fi came out of her bivvie with her towel. Everyone pretended to be busy with their rods. She snuck a look round, then hurried off to the woods again. A minute later, all the lads started following.

I watched them giggle off. I felt cross. No way were they going to eyeball Fi in the nude. I was determined to be the one out of us who got to see her naked first, but voluntarily on Fi’s part. I was going to get that girl. I pulled out my mobile, hoping Fi had got hers with her.  I quickly texted a message:

‘You wl hv audience. Lads r follwng u.’

I was relieved when my phone chirped almost immediately to tell me her reply had come.

‘Tx! Wl relocate fast!’

This I had to see, so I brought in my rods and trotted after the others.

“I changed my mind,” I lied shamelessly to Andy and bunged him a handful of fags.

“Knew you’d see sense,” he smirked.

We followed Andy and Derek through the shady woods. Everyone was trying to be quiet but not really succeeding. There were too many twigs cracking underfoot and too much laughing. I needn’t really have warned Fi. She’d have heard us coming, no problem. We climbed up some banking and then Andy and Derek beckoned to us to approach slowly and bent low. We looked down over the lip of the slope to where the lads were pointing. But neither Fi nor shower were anywhere to be seen. Derek and Andy looked gobsmacked.

“Where is she then?” demanded Mike, one of Rob’s team.

“Yeah!” said Josh, a giant of a man who made me look small and puny.

“The shower was definitely here earlier,” promised Andy.

“Lying bastards!” accused Liam. “I’ll have my fags back please.”

“Yeah, me too,” I added, hoping to appear genuinely disappointed.

“Um, we’ve smoked most of them,” admitted Derek.

“Already? Shit!” Josh wasn’t impressed.

“We’ll buy some tomorrow for you,” added Andy.

“Proper ones, like, not weird French camel-poo ones,” grumbled Josh.

“Do you get camels in France then?” enquired Liam.

I rolled my eyes.

“You have our word,” nodded Derek.

The two of them looked very abashed. Not a common sight, that.

Suddenly Josh laughed. “You had us all going!”

“Yeah, I believed you!” confessed Rob.

“We were telling the truth.” Andy didn’t like being accused of trickery.

“Yeah, whatever.” Phil, the quiet one on Rob’s team, shrugged good naturedly.

We traipsed back to the lake.

“Let’s have a beer at the cabin before we get fishing again,” suggested Greg.

Everyone muttered assent so we headed down to the cabin. And there was Fi, with wet hair and wrapped in a towel, unhooking the campshower from the tree branch just outside it.

“You had your shower? Here?” Andy couldn’t believe it.

“Finished about a minute ago. Yeah, it’s a nice sunny spot here,” she smiled. “Pllus I thought I’d get some help. I realised I’d been a bit stroppy with you all yesterday. It was so kind of you wanting to hold my soap and towel. So I came here, looking for willing volunteers, but you’d all gone. Such a shame.” She sighed melodramatically. “I really needed someone to scrub my back for me.”

She winked at me then sashayed along the bank, back to her tent, while ten pairs of eyes watched in abject misery. I watched trying not to laugh. Good old Fi!