Category Archives: Authors

Death Ship – yesterday’s reading

Fully charged Sony reader in my purse and Death Ship downloaded to it, I was ready for some lunch time reading yesterday. I admit for a brief moment I wondered if it was something best not read whilst eating but it was too late. I was already hooked!

Now, I’m counting the days until The Figurehead becomes available. The first chapter teaser drew me into the story immediately.

 

Introduced to new author

My good friend, Chris Longmuir, has introduced me to the works of Bill Kirton. I just downloaded Death Ship from Smashwords and am looking forward to reading it. He’s also included a teaser… chapter 1 of the Figurehead.

Promises to be some good reading ahead for me. I’ll report back soon after I’ve read them.

Bill maintains a website at http://www.bill-kirton.co.uk/ and a blog at http://livingwritingandotherstuff.blogspot.com/

Interview with Chris Longmuir – author of Dead Wood and Night Watcher

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with 2009 Dundee Book Prize winning author and personal friend, Chris Longmuir. I asked her if she would consent to an interview for my blog. To my delight, she said ‘yes’. So get yourself a cup of tea and settle in…

 

Why did you decide to write crime fiction rather than another genre?

I suppose it was because my preferred reading has mostly been crime, although I went through a horror phase as well. I started out with Agatha Christie when in my early teens and progressed, through time, to the darker stuff. Maybe that was because I took a detour by reading Stephen King, James Herbert, Dean Koontz and many more like them. I still read Dean Koontz, I think he’s a fabulous writer. I also remember reading Bram stoker’s Dracula at an early age, as well as Frankenstein, although I never thought Frankenstein to be very scary. However, the first book I wrote was a saga. It was actually recommended for publication by the Romantic Novelists’ Society (RNA) but my timing was wrong, because this was just as sagas were going out of fashion. I still have the novel in my bottom drawer.

What was your reaction when you got the news that you had won the 2009 Dundee Book Prize?

I was informed over the phone, and honestly I didn’t quite believe it. The woman on the other end of the line said, ‘Are you sitting down’, and I replied, ‘Do I need to be?’ When she told me I thought it was a wind up, but she assured me that I really had won it, and I believed her. However, after I hung up I started to doubt again and was convinced it was a scam until the letter from the Lord Provost of Dundee, arrived a few days later.

I understand you weren’t to tell anyone. You found out in November but couldn’t say anything until the following June when it was awarded? How did you manage to keep that exciting news bottled up?

When I got the news I was bursting to tell someone and I thought the two friends who are my readers at the editing stage should be the first to know. That was before the letter arrived stating there was a moratorium on the information. So it was immediate panic stations and I was terrified they would take the prize away because I hadn’t stuck to their criteria. I had to swear my friends to secrecy, and we became secret agents, one, two and three. It was difficult for all of us to maintain the secrecy but we managed it. Even my closest family didn’t know.

Dead Wood wasn’t your original title. Why did the editor want to change it?

That’s right, my original title was ‘The Screaming Woods’ which I thought was a pretty good title. It wasn’t actually the editor who wanted it changed, it was the panel of judges who awarded the prize, and quite frankly, I would have stood on my head if they’d asked me, so it was a no brainer to agree.

Why did you decide to go the indie route with Night Watcher?

A variety of reasons I suppose. I’ve always been a bit of a techno geek, and I own a Sony Reader as well as a Kindle. I like electronic gadgets. I could also see that ebooks were going to be the future. They will never entirely replace printed books but I think they are starting to give traditionally published books a run for their money. Besides I find traditional publishers are only currently looking at celebrities and the big names in writing. It’s all to do with who will make them the most money. For me it has been a liberating experience going down the Indie route.

How are the sales going on Amazon and Smashwords? Are you pleased with the results so far?

Sales are going quite well with books trickling out regularly. I’m not in the top 100 yet, but it’s early days. Most authors don’t write to make shed-loads of money anyway, they write because they have to. It’s a compulsion. What we write for is to bring our books to the people who enjoy reading them. I acquired quite a big fan base for Dead Wood and was always being asked when the next one was coming out, so I’m hoping I can do the same in the electronic market with Night Watcher. I’m quite satisfied with the results so far.

How do the royalties differ from Amazon to Smashwords?

That’s a difficult question for me because money was the last thing I was thinking about when I put Night Watcher up. My recollection is that Amazon has two rates – 35% and 70%. You can only get the 70% rate if your book is priced higher, can’t remember if it is $2.99 or $3.99, and distribution expenses are deducted from that, no expenses are deducted from the 35% rate. I’m on the 35% rate through choice, however the higher rate is only applicable to the US and I am in the UK, so it doesn’t make any difference. Smashwords gives a higher rate but I can’t remember what it is, bear with me while I go and check it out.

Okay – Smashwords keep 15% and the author gets 85% minus any Paypal or credit card charges. Not sure how it works when it goes out to other sales points. For example Night Watcher is already despatched to Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Diesel, and is on the brink of being despatched to Apple and Sony, so I reckon it’ll be the above percentages of the price Smashwords gets for it from these retailers.

It certainly beats the 8% I get for Dead Wood from my print publisher.

I know you’re currently working on a project, can you tell me a bit about it?

I actually have two projects on the go. A historical crime novel and a contemporary crime novel. I’ll tell you a little about the contemporary one. Again it’s a dark crime novel with a psychological theme. It’s the story of a family where a child went missing six years previously. This is tied in with the present day murder of internet paedophiles, and there is a link to the missing child. The family are completely dysfunctional and there is no doubt that it is one of them who is the murderer. But which one? And there is also the unanswered question as to whether the missing child has returned and is seeking revenge.

You followed the success of Janice Horton’s Bagpipes and Bullshot Amazon launch. Will you do something similar with your next indie book? Will you launch simultaneously on both Amazon and Smashwords to take advantage of a wider market?

I’d certainly like to. However there is a disparity of time in uploading to Kindle and Smashwords. With Kindle you are there for sale immediately the upload is complete. With Smashwords there is an approval period and my book was only approved for the premium catalogue on 7 April, although it had been uploaded in March. I think the time lag depends on how busy they are.

Who are your favourite authors? Why?

Another difficult one. I like so many authors and often it’s a case of who I am reading at the time. However, firm favourites are – Dean Koontz, Jeffrey Deaver, Val McDermid, Alex Gray, and Aline Templeton. I also like Ken Follett because he tells a good story. I’m not a classic fan, I find the books too slow, so I suppose my tastes are for the fast paced modern stories. I like suspense, I like a roller coaster of a read, and that’s what I try to give my readers.

When you’re not writing what do you like to do?

I like technology. I upgrade and build my own computers, and just recently I’ve been itching to build another one. Not that I need to you understand, because I already have three desktops (two PCs and a Mac), two laptops (an ancient PC and a MacBook), a Linux netbook, and an iPad. You’d think that would be enough for one person, but I just like building them. I also like to spend time with my grandchildren and have just returned from a Euro Disney trip with them. I’m hopeless at housework, gardening and all the other domesticated things that I really should take an interest in, but don’t.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

If you really want to write you’ll write. However, don’t expect to make a fortune unless your name is JK Rowling or something similar. You’ll need stamina, determination, and the ability to take criticism and use it to your benefit. You’ll get a lot of knockbacks from publishers and agents so you need to be able to deal with that and always remember a knockback doesn’t mean your work isn’t good. It’s also beneficial to be part of a writer’s group, and if you can acquire a friend or two to give you honest feedback, value it.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I think you’ve found out a lot already so I reckon it’ll have to be background stuff. Okay, here goes, I left school at fifteen with no qualifications, did the Open University in mid life and got a BA degree, and then a postgraduate course at Dundee University. Later studied criminology and got a certificate for that. I worked in a variety of jobs but became a social worker after I gained my degree, and then climbed the career ladder finishing up as an Assistant Principal Officer for the Local Authority. I took early retirement to concentrate on my writing. I was married but am now widowed. Had two children, and subsequently five grandchildren. I also have a cousin in Canada.

Book Review – Bagpipes & Bullshot by Janice Horton

***** out of 5 stars

Orley McKenna is an American cowgirl. Innes Buchanan is the Laird of a run down Scottish estate who is in the state of Texas looking to save his home from ruin by seeking out a cattle expert to help him breed a hardy new herd back home.

By the time he returns to Scotland he’s found his new cattle expert – Orley – but to complicate matters, he’s fallen in love with her.

Back home, Davina MacKenzie waits for Innes to return. They have been arranged in marriage and she is determined to see it through even though his plans no longer include her. Lady MacBeth has nothing on Davina when it comes to what lengths she’ll go to in order to marry a man with a title.

Fergus, Innes’s younger brother is madly in love with Davina and would do anything for her, until he discovers her secret. But she isn’t the only one with something to hide.

Janice Horton keeps you riveted from the beginning. She portrays the beauty of the Gulf Coast of Texas and the ruggedness of Scotland with her descriptive narrative in addition to keeping you wondering what’s going to happen next.

 Bagpipes & Bullshot is a definite “feel-good” book and it is impossible not to laugh out loud at some of the situations she throws her characters into.

Highly recommended!

If you live in the US or Canada, you can download your own copy of Bagpipes & Bullshot for $1.95 US here: http://www.amazon.com/Bagpipes-Bullshot-ebook/dp/B004PLMI4G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=A7B2F8DUJ88VZ&s=digital-text&qid=1299943327&sr=1-1 

or if you live in the UK you can download from Amazon.co.uk for £1.38 through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bagpipes-Bullshot/dp/B004PLMI4G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=digital-text&qid=1298719741&sr=1-

The next thing from Janice Horton on my “to-do” list is to try Bullshot. I’m just not sure if I want the over ice, or the warmed variety will hot beef broth added.

 

Conversation with Janice Horton – Author of Bagpipes & Bullshot

I discovered Janice Horton on a friend’s Facebook. The picture of her book cover and link to her blog were there. I was intrigued from that point on. I sent her a friend request saying that I was as good friend of the person whose page I found her on.

I offered to promote her Amazon launch by passing the information on to the guys and gals in the writers’ groups I belong to, by posting on my own blog and buying a book on “launch day”.

I joined her Followers on her blog and visited all the blogs she guested on during her launch.

Then I decided why not ask her if I could interview her about the process she went through to publish her book on amazon. I was thrilled when she agreed to answer my questions.

So, without further ado… my conversation with Janice.

Why did you decide to self-publish for the Kindle on Amazon rather than seek out a traditional publisher?

Two reasons: the first was that having been previously published in paperback by both traditional and self publishing methods, I couldn’t resist the challenge of having a go at indie e-publishing, especially on Kindle, because distribution and marketing on Amazon are all well established. The second reason was that I unexpectedly fell in love with the Kindle my husband bought me for Christmas and wanted to have my books available for it.

Tell me a bit about the process you went through to put your book up on Amazon. Did you have to pay for someone to edit your book first?

I kept costs to a minimum by edit checking the book several times myself before asking one of my sons, who is at Edinburgh University reading Literature, to edit the book. I then asked an astute writing friend if she would give the book a ‘once over’ before publication. I was amazed how many errors they both picked up which I’d completely missed – proving it is impossible to edit your own work – as your eyes see what your brain tells them to and not what is actually on the page. I hope the book is now error and typo free!

To publish onto Amazon, I read the Amazon guide to formatting and also watched some helpful You Tube videos to give me an idea of what I was letting myself in for. I also opted for the simple route. You can get involved with writing your own HTML if you like, I didn’t.  Preparation is key, so do make sure you edit your manuscript with formatting ‘activated’ which will help you check that tab stops and page breaks are correctly placed. If they’re not, then transferring your file will move your paragraphs all over the place. You do get a chance to preview before you actually publish but that should just be for final checking. I had the manuscript on Word, saved it as a HTML filtered file, and uploaded it to Mobipocket Creator (downloaded free from the internet). This created a stable file recognised by Amazon Kindle.

I set the price for Bagpipes & Bullshot at a very affordable $1.95 / £1.38.

Have you been able to translate the success of your Bagpipes & Bullshot launch and climb up the Amazon ratings into an actual number of books sold?

Yes, as well as the Amazon rankings, which are updated hourly, the Amazon author account gives actual sales figures on a monthly basis. So I will be able to see how many books I’ve sold. I’m very excited about that – and nervous at the same time – I hope all those lovely people who bought my book enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Will you also make your book available on Smashwords to take advantage of the other e-books that are out there (Kobo, Sony, etc.)? If so, will you have a launch similar to your Amazon one?

My next step with Bagpipes & Bullshot will be to upload to Smashwords. I have not done it already simply because I wanted to focus on assaulting the Amazon chart with my launch promotion. Other e-book authors have advised that currently 80% of their sales revenue comes from Amazon. I’m sure this is simply because Amazon has marketed the Kindle e-reader and their free Kindle App so successfully recently. However, no e-book author can afford to ignore a 20% share of the market which is likely to increase. As for more promotion, I will do a follow up promotion but will likely spread it over several weeks rather than one day. I’m couldn’t possibly ask for that level of support all over again and expect the same results.

Electronic publishing typically pays higher royalties than print because of the lower overhead. Do you mind telling us what % you’re receiving through self-publishing with Amazon? Do you know if you’ll receive the same rate from Smashwords?

The royalty from Amazon Kindle Publishing depends on the price at which you set your book. Books priced under $4.88 or £2.99 get a 35% royalty with no delivery costs on every sale. Books priced over $4.88 or £2.99 get 70% minus delivery costs – and that is why lots of indie authors pitch lower (to encourage more sales and therefore readers) and the publishing houses mostly set a higher price for their books. Bagpipes & Bullshot is priced at $1.95 or £1.38 – so I am in the 35% bracket. I don’t know for sure yet but I would expect Smashwords to offer similar royalties.

I love the Bagpipes & Bullshot cover. Who did the art work for it? Did you have to pay for the cover art? Did you incur any other expenses?

I did the cover art entirely myself. I gave a lot of thought to how I wanted the cover to look – it had to convey the premise of the book –  it had to say ‘Scottish’. I decided I needed a small castle and so went to www.istockphoto.com and searched for an image. I struck lucky and paid for the image. This is a very inexpensive way to make sure you have a great cover picture and also the legal rights to use it for your purpose. I imported the picture to Microsoft Publisher, overlaid my title and name, and I had my cover. Total cost of putting a book on Kindle – less that £30 /$50.

What other methods of promotion have you employed?

The on-line blog promotion and blog tour for Bagpipes & Bullshot was a first for me and therefore a learning curve. I had no way of knowing if it would succeed. In the past, I’ve had paperback books published (both by traditional and indie methods) and I have had a big launch party, held book signings in book stores, done book readings in libraries, and had articles in newspapers. I’ve even done radio and TV promotion. On-line promotion was entirely unknown territory for me. Thankfully it all went well, and I must admit to feeling completely overwhelmed by the response and support I received, which on the day put Bagpipes & Bullshot in the Amazon Top 20 Bestseller Chart.

Growing up, who were your favourite authors?

Enid Blyton, Ruby Ferguson, Jilly Cooper, Jackie Collins, Anita Burgh, and the list does not stop there!

Which author do you think had the most influence on your writing or inspired you to write?

I was inspired to write by the authors I listed in the previous question, but I am influenced by none. This is because I’m pretty independently minded. I can take advice, in fact I actively seek it, but I don’t think that is the same as being influenced. I tend to adopt ideas only if they meld with my own mindset or help me to achieve a predetermined goal. I admire others and have great respect for people who can do things better than I – but I’d rather innovate than imitate.

Coming up with a title is the bane of many writers. Do you have problems coming up with titles for your work?

Well, it was a matter of finding something jaunty that reflected the humour and the theme of the book. The story starts off with a prologue set in the US but the novel itself is set in Scotland. Innes, the hero of the tale, does indeed play the bagpipes and quite beautifully too. Bullshot is not a typo or a clever play on words but a drink: it’s a bit like a Bloody Mary and is favoured by those who swig from a hipflask and shoot from a shotgun. To me the word ‘bullshot’ epitomises the Scottish country estate!

My next book, another humorous contemporary romance, has the title of Reaching for the Stars and it seems an apt title to me because the stars my characters are reaching for are the culinary ones. It’s the story of a disillusioned celebrity chef who gives up his hard won accolades – three stars – and goes into self imposed exile in a castle on a Scottish country estate.

For an indie author, choosing the right title, cover, and selling price are important decisions and ones a traditional publisher would normally monopolise. I thought the cover of my first traditionally published book was ‘just okay’ but the first time I ever saw it was the day it went on sale – that felt weird. The publisher assured me they’d sent me an advance proof copy – but I never got it.

What advice to you have for aspiring authors?

I would advise them to write from the heart. To trust their own inner voice. Not to imitate others but to be unique and to just do it – write – and learn the craft.

 

Bagpipes & Bullshot can be downloaded from Amazon.com through this link: http://www.amazon.com/Bagpipes-Bullshot-ebook/dp/B004PLMI4G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=A7B2F8DUJ88VZ&s=digital-text&qid=1299943327&sr=1-1 

or from Amazon.co.uk through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bagpipes-Bullshot/dp/B004PLMI4G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=digital-text&qid=1298719741&sr=1-

 

Will you share your recipe for Bullshot?

Certainly – take two mature bulls…. Erm, no, not really!

Bullshot is a drink very much like a Bloody Mary. If you prefer it, you can use vodka, but the traditional Scottish version and the one favoured by the characters in my novel, Bagpipes & Bullshot, has whisky in it. However, if you are planning a trip across the grouse moors later or doing a bit of stalking on the hill, you’ll certainly need your thermos and the extra ingredient of hot beef stock with your bullshot. Mmmmm….warming.

First take a whisky tumbler – and put in it a bit of ice and a slice of lime. Then add a good measure of finest Scotch whisky. Fill to the top with tomato juice; add a good dashing of both Tabasco pepper sauce and Worcester sauce and half a teaspoon of grated horseradish. Stir and enjoy! Mmmmm…delicious!

A bit more information about Janice for those who don’t yet know her work.

She lives in Scotland and writes entertaining and humorous contemporary women’s fiction novels which are, for the most part, inspired by the romantic beauty of the heather-filled glens around her country cottage. When she’s not writing novels she writes lifestyle articles and has had work published in national magazines and regional newspapers. She’s also been involved in BBC Scotland’s ‘Write Here Write Now’ project. Her website is at: www.janicehorton.co.uk, her blog is: www.janicehortonwriter.blogspot.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @JaniceHorton

Night Watcher Review – now posted on Quick Brown Fox

My review of Chris Longmuir’s book is now up on Brian Henry’s Quick Brown Fox blog. Check it out at http://quick-brown-fox-canada.blogspot.com/a>

Since the review was submitted to Brian for inclusion, Chris’s book is also available at Smashwords for download for a variety of other platforms in addition to the Kindle for $3.99 US.
You can check it out at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/49443