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!

 

Oh Santa!, my latest kids’ ebook, is up on Smashwords here. I’ve also published it on Kindle Direct Publishing, so you can get it from Amazon.com here, from Amazon.co.uk here, and from Amazon.fr here. It’s on Amazon.de too. It’s priced very reasonably so go on, treat yourselves!

I actually priced it at 99 cents on the French site, but I see it’s selling for €1,14 which is puzzling. I’m assuming some kind of tax has been shoved on. This brings me on to my pet grumble about Kindle book pricing. I switched my Kindle account from .com to .fr with Amazon, as they recommended I should since it would be better for me, bla bla, but all that’s happened is that I now have to pay more for my ebooks. Ones that are advertised at 99 US cents on the Net are priced for me at more than two euros. They don’t cost me that since I don’t buy them from Amazon – I track them down on Smashwords (the vast majority are there), buy them for the 99 cents there and then email the file to my Kindle from my computer. And books advertised as free on Kindle end up costing money too.

I’ve downloaded the Barnes and Noble Nook app as another way of getting free and 99 cents books for the proper price. There was one freebie in particular that I wanted, intriguingly entiled The Wee Christmas Homicide. However, I got a bit muddled up with the app and ended up lending that book – I have no idea where it’s gone or if I’ll ever get it back!  I then tried to buy a book but was told my credit card was invalid, which is nonsense, so maybe I won’t be doing that much business with B&N after all!

On the bright side I’ve won three ebooks this week. I’m still waiting for two of them to come, and have been for several days, but The Grimoire Lichgates by S M Boyce is sitting on my Kindle awaiting my attention.

So it’s not all bad in the Kindle kingdom.

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 …

 

As promised last week, every Monday I’ll update you on my ebook sales. I hope it will be an interesting exercise and at least give you one set of figures to compare your own sales/downloads with. You’ll notice the bar chart on the right of this web page which reflects these sales. Chris installed this nifty little widget for me.

This morning, at roughly 11 o’clock, we had the following figures:

Oh Gran! (free)       830 (757 last week = 73 downloads this week)

The Witch’s Dog (free) 483 (336 last week = 153 downloads)

Escape the Volcano (free)  372 (235 last week = 137 downloads)

Oh Auntie! (99 cents)  25 (24 last week = 1 sample downloaded, no sales)

Beat the Hackers (99 cents) 9 (7 last week = 2 samples downloaded, no sales)

Oh Grandad! (99 cents) 13 (9 last week = 3 samples plus 1 sale with coupon code so it was free!)

 

No changes on Kindle sales. 🙁

 

So, the week’s best mover with 153 was The Witch’s Dog, my fun kid’s story for Halloween. A close runner up was Escape the Volcano with a pleasing 137. Booby prize goes to Oh Auntie! with just 1 sample. (Shame, it’s a super little story!) Total downloads for the week were 370, which is pretty fair really.

I’ve issued Smashwords coupon codes for Beat the Hackers (TQ44P) and for Oh Grandad! (LP43H) so you can get those ebooks for free at the moment with those. I’ve Tweeted them but need to keep doing so to get some more downloads.

See my Smashwords page here to get copies of my ebooks.

Who Put the Eye in the Pumpkin Pie? by Stephanie Dagg

It was Halloween, about half past three,

We were sitting down to have some tea.

Mum had made a big, plump pumpkin pie,

But when she cut it open, she found … an eye!

Now as you might guess, that spoilt the meal

And gave it a very creepy feel.

Suddenly no one wanted to eat

That yummy, scrummy Halloween treat.

Mum went mad, she totally freaked,

She roared, she screamed, she yelled, she squeaked!

She glared at us all to try and see

Who had shoved an eyeball into the tea.

But none of us there had an empty socket

Or eye-gouging tools hidden in a pocket.

We weren’t the culprits, we weren’t to blame.

Was this just some ghastly, ghoulish game?

We wondered quite where to begin,

When the door burst wide and a witch flew in.

She was hunched and so bristly it made you itch,

It was Wicked Wanda, the One-Eyed Witch!

She swooped and shrieked. “What’s this I spy?

You guys have got an extra eye!”

She grabbed it and poked it into place

In her warped and wrinkled witchy face.

No sooner had she left the room

Than a mummy stepped in, fresh from the tomb.

He was followed by bats, a frog and toad,

And the mad professor from down the road.

“Has anyone seen my eyeball bomb?”

He asked. ”The wretched thing has gone!”

As we opened our mouths to tell the truth,

We heard a loud bang from the roof.

We rushed outside, and crikey! Jiminy!

Witch Wanda’s remains were stuck to the chimney!

As her tattered hat floated to the ground

We grimly, glumly gathered round.

So the moral of this tale, my dears,

Is that Halloween can end in tears.

So do be warned, please be advised,

To stay clear of eyes in pumpkin pies!

 

I’ve just happened across this rather interesting software for writers. It’s called LitLift and its aim is to keep you organised as you create your masterpiece. It’s not a wordprocessing package, but a helpful tool to help you keep on top of the details of your creation. It was developed by Brad Marsh, a UX designer and developer who is also a writer. And he’s made LitLift available for free.

So how does it work? OK, first you create your account with your name and password. The main page comes up with tabs for Books, Characters, Settings, Items and Tools.

Books: you enter the title and a description of what it’s going to be about.

Characters: there are three tabs to start with – All Characters, Major Characters and Minor Characters. Highlight the category you want, and then click on the New Character box on the right. This brings you to a page where you enter the name, their status (major, minor etc) and a description. There’s a useful list of features to consider in your description eg  hobbies, education and so on. If you’re stuck, there’s a button that will generate a character for you! I was offered Wayne Hall, Cullen Ross and a couple of others. Rather useful, that.

Settings: you give a name and description of your setting.

Items: this is to help you keep track of who last had what – the murder weapon, the heiress’s poodle … it’s easy to lose tabs sometimes so this is a nice little feature.

Tools: this is the character generator I talked about earlier. There’s a note saying more features will be coming soon, but I’m not sure how recently that was put up.

I shall be certainly give LitLift a whirl with my next new fiction venture (starting imminently). I find I lose track of characters quite easily, and when it comes to naming them, I seem to have a fairly small pool of names that spring to mind. I end up with multiple Robs and Simons.

Thanks Brad – this is a well thought out and handy program.

My three 99 cent books have still not made any sales on Smashwords, whilst my freebies have been downloaded 1,574 times between them. So, I’ve generated coupon codes for two of  ‘pay for’ books to see if that helps. If you enter the code when you purchase the book, you get it for free.

Beat the Hackers – the coupon code is TQ44P. I’ve Tweeted about this several times but still no takers.It’s valid till 15 November so grab your free copy while you can.

Oh Grandad – LP43H will get it for free for you. I generated that yesterday and have had one ‘sale’, yippee! This runs to 5th November.

So, I’ve been a little despondent. But Chris cheered my up by saying he didn’t think free ebooks would endure for a long time. In the early days of the Internet, everything was free. It wasn’t the done thing to charge for software and information at all, but now you generally have to pay. He’s pretty sure the same thing will be true with ebooks. Gradually people will realise it’s not reasonable to expect to have reading matter supplied for free, given all the work that’s gone into it. And the authors will decide that enough is enough and want some recompense.

But until then, it seems a good bandwagon to jump on in the hope that it will lead to sales of future books. Lots of us believe this. If you type ‘Smashwords coupon code’ into the search bar on your Twitter page, you’ll find plenty there that will allow you to get some free samples. And if you do, please think about supporting the author by buying another of their books at some time. Especially mine … !

 

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

I’ve decided to follow Alex Adena’s lead and do a weekly summary of my sales figures, warts and all. I hope it will be interesting for other indie authors to see how their fellows are getting on. In rather a lot of the authoring-related forums and groups, there are plenty of whoops of joy on a good day, but a lack of transparency on the not so good! Of course, no one’s obliged to divulge what their sales actually are, but it may help create a more realistic view of actual numbers of books that can be moved in various genres. A lot of people come in to publishing with way over the top expectations. Generally results are fairly steady and mundane.

So, to get going I’ll do this report every Monday morning, at more or less the same time (farm chores etc etc permitting!).

To get the ball rolling, here are my sales to date i.e. 17.10.11:

 

Amazon Kindle

Oh Auntie! (99 cents)     9 (US 3, UK 6)

Beat the Hackers (99 cents)         4 (US 1, UK3)

 

Smashwords

Oh Gran! (free)                                                757

The Witch’s Dog (free)                  336

Escape the Volcano (free)            235

Oh Auntie! (99 cents)     24 samples downloaded, no sales

Beat the Hackers (99 cents)         7 samples downloaded, no sales

Oh Grandad! (99 cents)                 9 samples downloaded, no sales

 

It’s fairly clear – and disappointing – to see that people like free books and find even 99 cents a bit of an imposition! Now, so far I’ve only epublished children’s books, which I haven’t put illustrations in. (The original printed versions had them, but I only have the rights to the text, not to the illustrations so can’t reuse them in my ebooks.) Children’s books for younger readers without pictures aren’t the most attractive, it has to be said. So really, results have been better than expected. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, listing my books on www.getfreeebooks.com has given them a significant boost, as has their appearing in Barnes and  Noble’s Nook bookshop.

Let’s see what this week brings.

My three ebooks are currently being downloaded at a very satisfying rate from Smashwords. The later two, The Witch’s Dog and Escape the Volcano, have just had a very nice boost after appearing on www.getfreeebooks.com. That is definitely a site for indie authors offering free ebooks to know about. It certainly gets results. I’m hoping for another significant jump in downloads once the books get onto Barnes and Noble Nook bookstore.

None of the three books have made it as free books in the Amazon Kindle stores yet, which is a little disappointing. I hadn’t realised it would take so long for them to be distributed to Amazon from Smashwords.

However – despite people helping themselves to the freebies, they’re not splashing out 99 cents to buy my other books. At least not yet! As of Sunday evening, 746 copies of good old Oh Gran have been downloaded, but only 24 samples of Oh Auntie and 9 of Oh Grandad. I’ve yet to make a cash sale on Smashwords!

For me it’s not too drastic since these are backlist titles that I’m getting up and out there mainly to build my profile. I’ve already made some money out of these books when they first appeared in print back in Ireland. But I’d be very happy to be earning a little bit of money from them – as I’ve mentioned on my other blog, I need to keep my student son in pasta!

Then again, I’m just happy they’re being read. All we writers put so much effort into our work with the intention of entertaining and/or informing our fellow human beings, it’s nice to think it’s being consumed, hopefully with appreciation. It’s not an economically viable attitude obviously, but I’m not realistically expecting to make a living from my writing. And since moving to France and drastically changing our lives, taking downsizing to ridiculous extremes, we’ve got used to managing on not very much.

Readers are getting used to being able to obtain ebooks for free. It’s now an expectation. I feel I’m getting my name known, and I think that’s what other indies put their faith in too when they make their work available free of charge.  Will it pay off in the long run? Or we all shooting ourselves in the foot by being over generous and over-obsessed with counting our downloads.

Time will tell …