A day early? Surely not?

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C’s loving the garden…

Phew. I’m exhausted. Marking books, writing reports. And whereas our hoity-toity public school teachers have just over 2 weeks left before the summer break, us hard-working state school teachers have our nose pressed against the grindstone for another 5 weeks. I’m not sure I’m going to make it before some useful part of me falls off and can’t be sewn back on again. I’ll do my best.

US politics, which has been my very own soap opera for the last year or so, is beginning to wear me down. It is now so partisan that it’s difficult to establish where the truth is. I reckon if His Trumpleness continues to rip immigrant children from their parents at the border and then stick them in cages in a disused Walmart in downtown Texas, there’s going to by a Civil War. There is so much hatred out there it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to heal. Donald has to take responsibility for this. He is the man setting the tone of the argument.

I’m now waiting patiently for two proof copies of For Good Men To Do Nothing to arrive. C has just shouted from the kitchen, where she is making some other fatless mixture of grass and root vegetables, ‘Hopefully this will be the one that will really take off?’ Let’s keep our fingers crossed. I have to say that there are around 5,000 copies of my books in circulation and I am close to 300 unique reviews (4.2/5.0 average) across all platforms. That, I guess, in itself is a good thing. But, as I’ve said countless times here – I’m after 10-books a day, which should give us a small but really helpful income. Currently I am one-tenth of that, so there is some way to go. I will, as always, keep you up to date.

That’s all from me. C tells me I’m a day early with this. That just shows you how befuddled my brain is at the moment.

Have a good week!

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The book, the book…

Not so long ago there were one and a half ways to get a novel to the public: you’d need an agent. Many moons ago you found an agent by sending your full, printed manuscript wrapped in brown paper, to a dusty agent’s office in London. Most agents would look over a couple of manuscripts a day, stopping at the end of the first page if they were put off, and then they, or someone in their office, would tap out a mice rejection note, and Mr Postman would bring you that note about 6 weeks after you’d sent the manuscript in.

[For accuracy, you might follow the same procedure and send your script straight to a publisher, but very few publishers would accept your work unless you were already a name in some sense or the other.]

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still getting decent reviews for all three books – I have over 300, averaging 4.3/5 stars

The arrival of the internet and word processors meant that more and more agents accepted electronic manuscripts, but the process was the same. It is interesting, but not relevant. that there are still one or two agents today who only accept paper manuscripts. Just as interesting, but still not relevant (did you know?), is that Jeffery Archer writes by hand and gets a flunky to type up his work?

And everyone still knew that getting a novel published via this process was as rare as hens’ teeth, so aspiring writers either had to have a second income stream, be supremely confident, or be as mad as a fish. Probably all of those three. As a result, there weren’t a good number of us – because the sane among us knew that failure was inevitable. What’s the quote from someone like JK Rowling? ‘I could wallpaper my bedroom with rejection letters and have plenty spare.’ Indeed.

Even with the dawn of the internet, the number of writers didn’t increase – because the process and rate of failure was the same, but with fewer felled forests.

Then someone invented the e-book. And spotting a market, Amazon decided to allow any idiot to publish their e-book for free. Boom! No, sorry, Kaboom! All of a sudden there are more novels than readers and, like choosing a series or a film on Netflix, you never sure what you’re going to get. This is because, unless a writer is a complete numpty and designs a rubbish front cover, the amateur’s book (on a pixel-screen) looks just the same as one that Penguin has put out there. Your cost = £0; Their’s – £10s of thousands.

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excuse the quality – original is pdf

This is a good thing. And it’s a bad thing. Writers, indeed many good writers – who have enough rejection slips to run a biomass power station, can now find an audience. That’s good.

The bad? There’s so much chaff out there, it’s hard for punters to find the wheat. And without a decent marketing budget – which nearly all writers do not have – getting a book noticed is next-to-impossible.

Unless. Two things, I think. The first is you have to write something completely amazing and totally original – almost a new genre. You still have to find an agent, and that will attract more heartache than most mortals can endure, but you have a chance. A good agent will find a good publisher – and they will put their hands in their pockets. Second, you are already someone – a name. Take my genre – thrillers – for example. I’ll only cite one example, but there are many. Frank Gardner, the brilliant BBC security correspondent. He’s just launched the second in the Luke Carlton series, Ultimatum. I’ve not read it, so I shouldn’t comment. But I can say reviews are mixed. It’s about an SIS/MI6 agent (they’re not agents, Frank, they’re case officers) in an ‘action-packed and unerringly authentic’ thriller. Good luck to him. I tried to get on with I am Pligrim, by Terry Hayes (ex-Hollywood screenwriter and journalist; another name), which was the ‘only thriller you need to read this year‘ – in 2015. It was good, but too arcane and a bit slow for me. I did give it my best shot, I promise.

And that’s the thing about books (and music – and any art form). It’s in the eye of the beholder.

So, being a name (Dame Stella Rimington, ex-boss of MI5 – another successful cross-over to the novel business; I know, I know, I only said I would mention one) is a golden ticket. [Oh, bear with me, the biggest, latest and brightest is, of course, Bill Clinton – his new novel, The President is Missing, written with James Patterson, is out there now and getting mixed reviews. But do you see what he did there? Ex-president. Goes into the writing business with the best-selling thriller-writer of today? Name-squared.]

I did mention that there were two ways to secure publication. Actually there’s a third. It’s called ‘vanity publishing’, and all of us writers turn our noses up at it. I have just done an internet search, trying to find a vanity author who has actually gone on a become a recognised name. Ehh, I can’t find one – which speaks volumes.

Why all this writing stuff, this Sunday morning? Well, I have updated For Good Men To Do Nothing‘s script – thanks to my editor/proofreader. I love it. I have then, for luck, stuck it back though Word’s very powerfully spell and grammar check, and made some more corrections. And I have topped-and-tailed it. It is now with Amazon. Yesterday afternoon, I worked on the wrap-round cover, which I have always paid someone to do, as I didn’t think my competence stretched that far. That was much easier than I thought it was going to be as CreateSpace provide a template when they know how many pages your book is – it’s all to do with spine width. And that’s been submitted. Hurrah! If it comes back clean, then I’m going to order a proof copy, which I hope should be with me by next weekend.

That should make an early July publication date workable. I know this is my fourth and I’ve forgotten how excited I was prior to every launch, but I am now very excited. Very. Excited.

And then I’m going to focus on marketing. Once I finish work I’m going to take it seriously. The end date is Christmas Day 2018 – and I’m going to spend the money Amazon gave me to put Fuelling the Fire into their Prime Lending thing. It’s not a great deal of money, but it’s enough to prove whether or not self e-dvertising helps. More of which later.

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mmm, v green bedroom…

For the record, we’ve finished the back garden, and with some burst of energy that I didn’t realise I had, we’ve painted our bedroom and C has sorted out new curtains. It looks fab.

And I haven’t been sacked from school. Yet.

 

I know, I know

I know. You don’t want me to go on about the Singapore summit. I know.

I know.

So I won’t.

Except. Come on. It was a nothing burger. It was. His Trumpness gave away joint military exercises (which are key for any force which needs to remain operational) and got nothing new in return. No discussion on human rights. Nothing substantive on denuclearisation. And, come on, Donald hates the Iran deal, which at least includes verifiable denuclearisation. Kim whatshisname, a tyrant chosen to take over from his tyrant Dad because he was the nastiest of all the siblings, sat at the same table as the leader of the free world – who said subsequently that Kim whatshisface ‘loves his country’. Huh? What? He. Loves. His. Country?

No. He loves power, and he will do anything to hang onto it, including executing a senior general because he fell asleep at a meeting. But Donald met him anyway and now we can all sleep safe at night because ‘I trust him’. Mmmmm. Not sure. On the other hand, there is ‘a special place in Hell’ for Justin Trudeau.

Whatever next? We are living in a reality show. Someone’s taking the mikey. The lights are going to come on soon and we’re going to blink the madness away.

Anyway, at least C and I will be able to pop over the border to the new hotels that Donald has opened up on the NK beaches when we fly to see Bex and Steven next year.

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back from the editor – so excited

Any other news? Well, I am v excited that For Good Men To Do Nothing is back from the editor and it all looks fab. I’m still on for an ‘end of the first week’ in July publishing date. And for the record we popped up to Jen’s on Monday and went for a lovely walk in the hills around Gloucester.

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big hill … and Jen

We’re going to Hell in a handcart

OK, so use your imagination. I’m a 13 year-old girl and my name is Dottie. Me and my 6 friends have all got together in Justina’s bedroom to make ourselves up for the ‘party’. Me and Justina have a love-hate relationship, but I’m tougher than she is, so I get my own way. Just recently, after I said that she has to give me half of her pocket money, she said that my bum looks big in the tight pants I wear. I (just about) forgave her for that, especially as she’s now giving me her pocket money. Anyhow, we all agreed what we’re going to wear, we all put on too much makeup and we all look pretty fabulous, although I look bigly fabulous than everyone else – because I say so. And we are all soooo looking forward to the party. But, and it’s a bigly but, on the way out of the door Justina reminds me that my bum looks big in my tight pants. AND THAT’S NOT NICE.

Justina is weak and feeble, and I hate her.

So, poo to them, they can go to the party by themselves, which will spoil it for all of them as my Dad was going to drive us there in his expensive Cadillac. To be spiteful I post my feelings on Facebook so everyone knows: I really hate Justina.  Then, apparently, Marcie posted that we all ought to act more like grownups and stop having temper tantrums, and keep our teddies in our cots. Well, I hope she gets spots. She always smells of frogs.

Did you also hear that Donald reckons he will know within a minute whether or not Kim Jon Un will denuclearise? Apparently he has a touch, so he tells us. ‘It’s like knowing within a a few minutes if you going to be good friends with someone. You’ve heard that. right? Within a couple of minutes?’

Noting that he’s sacked many of the (‘good’) people he’s hired, and The White House is ‘an awful place to work’, according to Chief of Staff, Kelly, I’m not convinced I trust Donald’s judgement on whether or not he’s going to be good friends with someone – or not. Certainly within minutes. Never mind, he’s off in Singapore now and will doubtless spin whatever outcome that comes from the summit – which, by the way, links together the Leader of the Free World (sorry, is that Merkel?) and a tyrant who has murdered countless thousands of dissidents and incarcerated many more, and runs his state like an Orwellian dystopia. I’d make that one-love to the North Korean, whatever the outcome. Apparently human rights is not on the table for this summit. If it were me, I’d have made it a prerequisite of any meet.

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new patio, yippee!

Whatever. We’ve had a good weekend so far, after, for me, what has been a very manageable week at work (6 weeks to go!). We haven’t stopped working on the garden, which less grass seed, is now fit for purpose. I even did some concreting to create a step by the back gate. C and I have just had a beer out there on our new (two-person) patio, and are v pleased with ourselves. Especially as the total cost was around £100 plus about 30 wheelbarrow loads of top soil to the local tipping place. C has expertly made the sitting room curtains – they look fab. Next (by the end of next weekend) is our bedroom, less the new carpet. That should then see us through the summer.

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the Spanish foursome were great, it went downhill from there

We did take late yesterday afternoon off to wander down to the Bradley Stoke carnival (with no floats). BS is a lovely town – it really suits us, and the carnival proved that point. There is a huge town green which was full of stands and a music arena, where bands played from an open artic truck. We got there for a Spanish foursome (two guitars and a pair of bongos) who were fab. We decided to pop home and get the bikes. We came back for the final two acts, which were a Bonnie Tyleresque band, where the female lead would have got a big red cross from Simon Cowell after just 15 seconds – but we grew to like her. The final act was a Scottish rock band…except, and I said to C, ‘If there’s a bagpipe, I’m leaving’, there were two bagpipes – plus a rock band (no singer). For me it was painful, so we left before the end of the set. However, with Mrs Sun in attendance it was a great afternoon.

My proofreader, Rosemary, tells me For Good Men To Do Nothing is fab (‘the best yet’) and will be back with me by Wednesday. Can’t wait. I hope to have it all sorted by the time the public schools head off on holiday – the end of the first week in July. Hopefully.

So, all’s good here. There has been a real kerfuffle with M&D which we have sorted from a distance. They now have professional carers going in twice a day – and Mum (Dad is completely out of it) seems much happier. We are prepared to go and see them next weekend, if necessary. If not we will see them in a couple oi weeks time – as planned.

Hoping you had a great weekend…

Dull as dishwater!

So, back at work and all’s well. Only one detention today – a boy threw a glue stick across the classroom hitting another child on the head. Yes, I know. Why would anyone think they would get away with this? Beats me. But there’s nothing (seemingly) that I can do to stop the odd 5/6 kids (out of about 150) just thinking that it’s OK to mess about. Apparently I’m not the only one – I see and speak to plenty of teachers that are up against it. In my day we would have been in front of the Head with our hands on our knees. Whack! I can’t say that that would help here. Some of us were just as badly behaved…

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new bedroom curtains…

The biggest issue we have now is my M&D. Dad has reached that stage where, not only can he not complete a sentence, he is also not making any sense. I had a chat to him yesterday; it centred on him not wanting to go to Germany. He can hardly stand upright and lots of other functions are degrading. Mum, bless her, is coping – but only just. We have to remember that she had a major stroke 6 years ago (after heart surgery) and is not in the best of health. C and I are three and a half hours away, so getting up to see them (we try every 4/6 weeks) is not without its challenges.

And to be honest, neither of us come from nuclear families – all living in the same village. Mum and Dad’s parents went into a home and M&D were living in the next door village and the rest of the family within cycling distance. So there’s no precedent for opening the granny annex (for us, that would be Doris, mmmm). Next step (tomorrow) is to get in touch with the social services and ask them to pop round and see what they say. I think they’ll be recommending that Dad goes away – I’m afraid. Mum reckons that she’ll be OK in the house by herself. I’m not sure, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. What a sorry state of affairs. Ho hum.

Five weeks to launch of For Good Men To Do Nothing? When you say it like that, it seems v close. I’ve not yet had the manuscript back from my editor/proofer, but I have done some more work on the cover. Submitting a full wrap-round cover to Create Space is not without anxiety – and I’m still not there yet. Assuming I get the book back in time to make/agree the amendments it may well be the cover that ends up being the thing that’s sticky. We’ll see.

Anyhow, sorry this is short and as dull as dishwater. I’ll try harder at the weekend.

Ahh, Mrs Sun!

First, Doris was fabulous away in Wales (see). She continues to take us where we want to go, look after us when we’re there and then get us home again. I do have a list of jobs as long as my arm (and I have long arms) to get done for her when I stop working, but in the meantime she continues to do everything we ask of her without a burp. Fab.

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just us and some sheep

We walked on Thursday, up to a lake and then onto the top of a large Welsh hill – with picnic. We thought when we woke that the weather was going to beat us, but the rain stopped and a 4-hour window (with Mrs Sun) gave us perfect walking weather. It was good to be back out on the hills. The tops near Builth Wells are much less spiky that those around Snowden and The Beacons, but you still get that ‘away from it all’ feel when you’re up there. Just us and the sheep.

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Doris is fab

We got back on Friday, unpacked Doris and then I said to C, ‘let’s continue doing nothing for the weekend.’ C replied, ‘Yes. let’s,’ as she walked out into the garden with a pair of clippers. And that’s the problem with living in a house, even one as small as ours. There’s always something to be done. Anyhow, any thoughts of us sitting reading our books were obviously gone – which we had enjoyed being away in Wales (see). Doris takes 30 seconds to clean and doesn’t have a garden. That is liberating.

Anyhow, I was spurned on by an email from a chap from Gumtree who wanted to know if our hardcore was still available – which it was. He’d come round tomorrow at 3 pm and pick it up. An opportunity… We had another flowerbed wall to knock down, which, once in pieces, would set us up for levelling the back garden and preparing for our second patio. Trust me – we’re talking a couple of paving slabs and a plant pot.

So, never to miss an opportunity, off I went with a big hammer and an inane grin.

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wall’s gone – paving next

We had a break late yesterday where we popped up to Gloucester to see Jen and James. they were having a party to celebrate both their birthdays and James’ M&D were coming down. And there’d be meat – the BBQ kind. I’d forgotten what meat tastes like, so it was good to get a reminder. Which I did (C took up some oily fish and leaves -bless her). We had a lovely time and got back and watched a couple more episodes of Black Mirror. I don’t know if you watch it, but if you do have Netflix and like futuristic stuff, give it a go. It is a sensation. We watched the dystopian one, where a woman is chased down by a robot dog that looks like a metal cockroach. It ticked all the horror boxes for me (cockroaches are not my fave). And it was filmed beautifully (they all are), this time in black and white. Fab, again.

And today, back in the garden. I was always determined to get it sorted before Bex and Steven come back from The Bahamas (3 weeks, hurrah!), and having been spurred on by the man with the hardcore, it now only needs a couple more days now. Fab again, again. Oh, and for the record, we walked to the local car boot this morning. I’m completely at home at a car boot. Leaving aside my love of bargains, I’m more than happy mixing with the varied clientele and the store holders. We found a fab birthday present for someone (shhh, it’s a secret) and a couple of other things we didn’t need. But, as always, the things we didn’t need didn’t cost much, so nothing really lost.

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car boot – my fave

Throughout Mrs Sun has been omnipresent. Apparently, in the UK, May was the hottest on record. And it is fair to say (note Baxterbus) that we have had the very best of it all. About blooming time. Doubtless it will rain tomorrow…

We’re in Wales, see?!

As a thriller writer I have to believe in serendipity, otherwise none of my books would hang together. Sam Green would not run from catastrophe to catastrophe without major artistic license, which I dress up nicely as serendipity. And so, what about this?

I’m am currently reading Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, a book about a retired couple who sail a narrowboat from London to the south of France. It is a scream – written more like a series of paragraph-long poems than anything you and I would consider to be English. But, if you step back from the prose, the story is one helluva tale. Narrow boats are flat bottomed vessels without a keel. They aren’t designed for waves – and they’re easily pushed about by the wind. A 15-foot wide canal is what they’re best at.

Well, as you can imagine, the couple bounce from near-disaster to near-disaster. Their first major exped is to sail from Bristol to Gloucester, up the very tidal Severn; the Channel follows soon after. The comedy is strong and the accompanying dog, Jim (a whippet – hence ‘narrow dog’) is beautifully narrated.

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What’s the coincidence? Well, on our first day away in Doris we stayed at John’s, just by the M48 Severn bridge. We took our bikes for a ride, over the bridge, and for the first time ever we spotted 2 narrowboats heading up the river to the Sharpness canal. Now, we lived on the Severn banks for almost 2 years, so to say that we were surprised is something else.

We’re now mid-Wales, at Builth Wells – a very Welsh town where everyone speaks in a tongue which we do not understand. There’s a sing-along thing happening at the Welsh showground and so the place is teeming, in a very understated, middle-of-Wales sort of way. We cycled to the showground to have a poke around and were greeted with a £15 entrance fee – each. Now, call me tight (I know, you already do), but mostly these shows are about lots of stalls selling things with the odd spare piece of grass being used to show off some cattle. So I say £15 is a bit on the stiff side? It’s a bit like turning up at Ikea and the Swedes asking a tenner to get in before you spend £150 on stuff you really don’t need. We probably missed something special, like a cow with two heads, or a prize bull as big as an elephant. Never mind. Doubtless it will be on Wales Today later.

The really good thing about being in Doris is that it makes you sit still and not do a great deal. Now Mrs Sun has buggered off and is browning the knees of some other vitamin-D deficient soul, we’ve spent the afternoon sat not doing a great deal. C has been reading and I have been catching up with a whole load of e-paperwork, like bank statements etc.

And, how about this as a back page for For Good Men To Do Nothing? (Still in draft form – so comments welcome.)

Someone’s messing with the Global Positioning System and no one knows who, or why. The CIA report that there’s a major terror attack planned for the Middle East, but they cannot get a handle on the detail. And the ultra right-wing christian sect. The Church of the White Cross, is back doing what it does best: laying down carnage and inflaming anti-muslim hatred.

Sam Green’s been fired from SIS/MI6 for being a maverick operator. Skiing on a shoestring in Austria, she spots a face in the crowd. A face that doesn’t want to be recognised. But it knows that she knows – and that can’t be allowed.

Then someone lets slip the dogs of war.

Sam’s back; this time without the comfort blanket of SIS back up. Pursued from Europe to Venezuela, via The Bahamas and Miami, her enemies are seemingly one step ahead. With a single act of terror the world is about to be plunged into a religious war that will last for decades. With only the support of her old German hacking pal, Count Wolfgang Neuenburg II, together can they prevent Armageddon?  

And, for the record, C bought me a new phone the other day, a Motorola G5. It’s an Android one and costs £118 from Argos. It is just brilliant (and my 4th Motorola). So, top tip. If you need a new phone, come off contract, go to Virgin (or similar) and ask for an all-inclusive deal – unlimited data, minutes, texts. It should cost you now more than £18 a month. And then buy an off-the-shelf G5. Fab. All four of us (me, C, Jen and Bex) have a G5. Works for us.

That’s it from me. We’re back in Bristol on Friday and then up to Jen’s on Sunday for her birthday. And … then it’s just 7 weeks until freedom. I must keep my hands away from anything that’s likely to set the school on fire. If I manage that I might just make it to the end …