Feeling very privileged…

 

Well, this is the life. St Marie-de-la-Mer is almost now our most fave place. We’ve been here, stood still, for four days and likely to stay a fifth. At €13 a night with water, it is a snitch when the sea is about 12 feet away. We’re in one of 4 Aires (all the same price), and probably the best one. We can walk into town – think Mexican border town with proper old sandstone church – in 5 mins, which has everything. Fab.

We have cycled all the way to the lighthouse on the Camargue (20 miles), walked a lot, cycled north into the Camargue yesterday (against a strong, cooling headwind), cycled down the coast the other way this morning, ran twice and eaten well. It is the start of our Autumn detox – that is after our summer detox in Germany two month a go. We feel v privileged, I can tell you.

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Mrs Sun has been with us throughout. There is an accompanying northeasterly which is fine when you’re out of it, but it’s not quite mid-summer weather. Not that we’re complaining. And that has tested the new battery/solar panel set up. Well, it’s been perfect. We use, including 240v toaster and desk lamp, between 30-40 amp hours per day. Even in oblique sunlight the two panels put in somewhere between 5 and 10 amps, which means we’re fully charged before lunch. Hurrah.

There is no wifi, unfortunately – unless I walk into town. But we are much better placed than we ever have been. Virgin offer 250MB for £5, which is more than enough for me to check book stats and do some research. We’ve used our new 3 MiFi twice (like now). For £12 a month we get 5GB of data, which complements my phone (unlimited everything from Virgin) and C’s new contract with Vodafone, 5GB + decent voice calls for just £8 a month. The good news about the MiFi is that we can use our allowance abroad for 60 days. Like today!

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So, here at the lovely Aire, for €13 a day + water, and with no need for electric hook up, we could stay indefinitely? Now there’s a thought…

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I have to finish on the book(s). Currently close to finishing chapter 11/20, that will be 3 in a week if I manage to close 11 today. That’s well ahead of schedule. And still loving it. Sales of FtF and UH continue to impress. I won’t know this week’s total until Monday night, but I’ll easily break through another 100 books – I sold 10 copies of UH yesterday! It’s all happening.

Now trying to establish a working title for Book 3. Should have either ‘trust’ or ‘oligarch’ in the title. Any thoughts?

Here for a week…

C said Ive got to stop going on about the books. It’s dull. And as we are now down on the south coast of France (Mrs Sun hasn’t joined us yet, but Mr Thunderclap has put in an appearance) I need to talk about the scenery and what it’s like doing this in the autumn.

here for a week?

here for a week?

That’s all well and good, but the book(s) continue to play on my mind. Stats have been good: 130 books sold last week (well over my ambitious 100 target), and overall, I miscounted (under-counted) the number of FtF sold. I’m now 1040 books actually sold, with, I guess a couple of hundred out free at the beginning of the campaign due to the Kindle Scout process. Add to that another 250 UH in the two and a half months and it all seems quite a lot. And my rankings have stayed high and so books continue to sell. Nearly all, BTW, in the US. I’m not sure how many I need to sell to call myself a proper author, but 5,000 would be nice!

And book 3 continues to inspire me. 46,000 words in and still loving it. Sam is having a ball…

Well, onto the boring stuff.

We had a lovely evening with Hilary and Steven (who were far from boring). They cooked a very French duck, and we bought the bubbly and the (French) tart. I know I’ve already gone on about being envious of their long journey ahead of them, but as we sit outside in 18 degrees of centigrade warmth with 4 weeks ahead of us, things aren’t quite so bad?

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Anyhow we stopped at a village in the lower Massif Central on Monday night and then headed straight for Plague d’Atriste for a long stop – in the seaside village of Le Grau-du-Roi We stayed there last year and loved it. Lots of beach running, cycling and writing. Perfect. Except the Aire price is now €24. Yes, that’s €24. Having picked myself up off the floor and checked timings, the price stays that way until 3 Novmber – although the laconic French chap at the kiosk couldn’t tell us what the low season price was. So we only stayed a night and today drove onto St Marie’s de la Mar. Again we stayed here last year, but this time round (at €13), we are likely to stay for longer. The town, which is Mexican looking and comes with its own bullring (and horse parade today), has 5 separate Aires and two campsites. Our Aire, right on the beach, is the best – although the others are all full.

So it’s a good dose of walking, cycling (through the Camargue), running and writing. Exactly what we came here for.

All’s good with us then!

Almost there…

Well, we made it. I’m currently writing this mid-Sunday just north of Sarlat (which is on the Dordogne), parked next to an ancient sandstone tower and about to be served noodle soup – our fave. We’re off to meet up with Hilary and Stephen, who we met on our first 8 months away in Sicily and Greece, and then we dog-sat for them earlier in the year. They’re off on their long travels, heading for Portugal and Spain. They have, he reports enviously, a good chunk of months put aside – we, on the other hand, have just six weeks. I know it’s all relative, but in so many ways I wish we had months ahead of us.

the Aire last night

the Aire last night

I know it’s our choice. Our choice to come back for Christmas. My choice to work on the leadership thing. Our choice to see our children, friends and family. When you say it like that it does seem a bit selfish to want for longer. I know… But, wouldn’t it be nice to have another 8 months ahead of us?

Anyhow. Having parked up at Calais overnight on Thursday, we stopped off on a motor service station on Friday and, last night, at a lovely Aire (€0) in Argenton-sur-Cruese. We both went for runs, watched Strictly (middle-class porn), and then C watched Troy on DVD as I wrote. Chapter 8/20 almost complete and still loving it. In an instant I changed the main plot line. I don’t want to give anything away, but rather than heading off to California, Sam is now going to end up on Athens (blame C, it was her choice). I’m sure proper novelists don’t up sticks half way through their prized book and decide to do something completely different. Oh well…

Sunday lunch...

Sunday lunch…

The ‘free weekend’ for Unsuspecting Hero has been a partial success. I think, as at about 10 minutes ago, I had shifted around 300 copies. Interestingly the first 200 went in a flash and I am pretty certain this is punters who have the ability to sniff a free book (any free book), download it and then only read it if they feel like it. So, they’re probably pretty much lost in the scheme of things.

Stats for FtF look good – my ranking in the US has been higher than average all week. Unfortunately, Amazon’s stats site has crashed so I have no idea how many books I’ve sold this week. Still holding out for 100 for both books a week. That would be fab.

Off to the campsite now. Apparently Hilary has duck on the menu. We have bought one of the glorious French tarts, with apricots and almonds. Oh, and some bubbly. Will I get any writing done tonight, I wonder?

Have a great week.

Free this weekend!

Short and sweet today. Rushing to the ferry, having had a good evening with my brother last night talking over brotherly things! As you do…

I had a really good couple of leadership days. First at a school in Gloucester, where I do some mentoring. And then a day at Wells, where the instruction bit of my middle-leader training is coming to an end. I’ve got to come back before Christmas to run a 360 degree reporting process for three members of staff. It’s been a great set of seminars – and I have learnt a good deal from the feedback I’m getting from the team of three who I am working with. So it’s all good.

For the record we left Mary’s yesterday, C having stayed with Mary whilst I was down in the West Country.

Now the book. Sales of both books have steadied. It is too early to say whether I will continue to sell 100 books a week (wouldn’t that be nice?), but the reviews keep coming in and people keep buying. I do expect numbers to drop, but I’m just not sure when. And, for the record, I am spending £5 a day advertising in the US, but have decided not to do that over the weekends, where numbers look like they rise naturally.

A very 21st Century spy novel. Free to download this weekend.

A very 21st Century spy novel. Free to download this weekend.

This weekend is the big sale! I’m giving Unsuspecting Hero away for free – Friday to Monday, 4 days. Amazon allow you to do this for short periods every three months. I tried it over a couple of weekends last year and shifted 250 books. I’m hoping that with the advert above, which will go out on Saturday and Sunday in both the UK and the US I can increase those numbers significantly. My target is 1,000 books – with the obvious outcome that some of those people will look at FtF and book 3. I have to say that I struggled with the decision; I sold 5 copies of UH yesterday and expect to sell a couple of copies today – that’s the average. So I am potentially throwing away income. But, I think a ‘give away’ is a sound marketing plan.

Please, therefore, if you haven’t read UH, download it. Then read it. Then write a review! And share this with your pals…

That’s enough from me. We’re off to R&C’s tonight and a ferry in the early hours of tomorrow. We will sleep in Calais overnight. And I’m ahead of schedule with book 3 – almost finished Ch 7. Hurrah!

It’s all go…

It’s mostly about the book today. On Friday I broke even. 755 copies of Fuelling the Fire sold, 95% in the US. That pays back my advance and means that every book I sell from here on in I make about £1.50. If you add the copies of Unsuspecting Hero I have sold over the same two months period, the numbers make it to around 1,000, which is fab. If I could continue to sell 500 books a month I’d be a v happy man indeed, but I think sales are likely to drop. In fact I had a real panic over the past couple of days when the stats pointed to low sales, but that hasn’t materialised – yet.

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Advertising continues to be hit and miss. I can’t shift book in the UK no matter what I do with Facebook, and I don’t get it. I have 32 5-star reviews on Amazon in the UK. The first set of adverts I posted in the US did send a lot of people (360 per week) to the Amazon page, but it’s still not clear whether or not they’re buying the book(s), or it’s Amazon’s marketing that’s making the difference. I have given up advertising in the UK. However, I am lined up to appear on both the Caravan Club and Caravan and Camping Club magazines, and they have wide readerships. Also I’m hoping for a review in Soldier Magazine (100,000 readership), so hopefully some UK sales will come.

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This is my latest advert, prepared for the US market probably next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Since Wednesday, after a couple of days with Jen, we’ve made it to Mary’s to help with her fab party for a younger group of people she knows. That happened today, and was a great success.

And I’m 6.5 chapters into the new book (out of 20) and still loving it. I really am. That’s why I hope the book(s) continue to make an impact and encourage me to write about Sam Green’s adventures for a long time to come.

Finally, off to a school in Gloucester tomorrow and then down to Wells on Tuesday – C staying put here at Mary’s. Then off to see my brother on Wednesday night before hitting the continent on Thursday. Can’t wait!

Ahh, Mrs Sun

It’s all go. Monday I was down at Wells doing my leadership thing. I had a second session in the early evening, so I managed a run down on the Levels in the afternoon. What weather we’ve been having? Mrs Sun is without doubt now my best friend, as I keep getting invited around to her place. Even today, when C went shopping for our trip to France, I was blessed with fab weather which allowed me to clean the outside of Doris as well as going for a run.

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The picture above only tells some of the story – and that’s only what’s going in the boot. Now, I know we should be looking to spend our cash where we sleep, but there are some things (mostly biscuits and sweets) which we can’t easily get in France. Hence the mad purchase.

Yesterday we attacked the trees outside of Jen’s house. We do this every second year as both of them go out of their way to block Jen’s light. I have to get up into the big one to chop down the top branches. It’s like being a kid again. I’ll be playing conkers next.

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Tomorrow we’re off to Mary’s, but only after C has taken Jen wedding dress shopping! Bless the pair of them. I will hoping to finish Chapter 6 (sooo excited by the new book), with the aim of getting Chapter 7 and thus the first slab of the book finished before we get on the ferry. That would be fab. I have to say I’m loving it, but I have to keep going back to make sure that Sam is behaving as everyone expects Sam to behave. As someone commented in a review the other day – somewhere between genius and madness. Got to get that right!

The other two books continue to sell. I think it’s fair to say that numbers have dropped a little over the past week (sold 30, 17, 13 of FtF Sat, Sun, Mon). And UH numbers are averaging at about 4 a day. I’m still not completely clear how the advertising works, but I’m still spending £5 a day on Facebook. I need to sell another 35ish books (out of 755) to pay back my advance, so that’s something to look forward to. Hopefully in the next couple of days.

So that’s us. Hope all is well with you.

Still writing…

Soooo much to tell you! First have a look at what C can produce with a pair of knitting needles. Fab. She should really make these to order. Anybody interested?

who's a clever girl?

who’s a clever girl?

We finished off wedding venue and accommodation in Penkridge before we left on Thursday (only the band and the food to sort now), and made our way to East Anglia stopping at the lovely Thetford CC site (mid-week discount for £11.20) where we were able to go for a run in the forest – absolutely my old ago stomping ground, both militarily and also from an orienteering perspective. I fell over (again – fell over on the canal the day before at Penkridge), but other than that no problems.

We had lunch with P&D in their lovely old house near Diss – much modernised with new kitchen etc. S&D turned up for coffee and we had a good old catch up. Aim is to have a big Royal Anglian Minden reunion in early December at the Randall’s ranch. We stopped off at a CL near Cambridge on Friday night and again near Banbury yesterday, both running 3.5 miles down the road in fab weather. Today we stopped off at P&K’s to pick up the car and now back in Bristol. Phew!

the East Anglian crew

the East Anglian crew

Good news is the new solar panel is working. This morning in good, but low sunshine, both panels were sticking in 11 amps, that’s 6 amps more than the old single panel has ever done on its own. 11 amps is a lot of amps and bodes well for wild camping in France. Hurrah!

Next book 3. Really excited here. Am close to finishing Chapter 5, and aim to have Chapter 6 finished before we get on the ferry late next week. If I stick to my schedule (and can I say, it’s not without hard, but exciting, graft) Christmas looks an easy meet. And I have already sorted the Epilogue – which is going to be stunning. Even if I say so myself.

Finally, the other two? I’ll leave you in a second with the latest two US reviews for Fuelling the Fire. The second one is interesting – I’ll let you come to your own conclusions. But, for the record, last week I sold an average of 17 FtFs and 4.5 UHs. Yesterday, the start of a new week, I sold 30 FtFs and 5 UHs. So numbers are good!

Anyhow, I’ll leave you with the two reviews. Enjoy!

Five stars. Unique, compelling, surprising. Why was I reading about someone who reviews photos for a living? There is no way that would satisfy what I wanted out of a suspense novel. Amazon made a mistake referring me to this author. I stayed with it and what I experienced upon finishing was strong enough for me to express my gratitude. What a great discovery! Before reading I noticed the absence of reviews which led me to believe they were composed of the author’s friends and family members. Bad sign, so why did I press the buy button? Any buyers remorse was utterly shattered. Expectations were met. My world has changed – well maybe that’s too strong. This is certainly true – I have been converted to a raging Sam Green fan! Well done!

One star. Politically correct, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish rubbish. The author has talent, I’ll grant you that, though there are anomalies (British slang in the mouth of an American; references to German “royalty” when “aristocrat” is meant). But the real problem with this book and its author is political. The really bad guys here are not vile Muslim terrorists but a sinister, Hebrew-speaking, Christian sect which supplies weapons, training and tactical expertise to the Muslim terrorists so that the latter can be far more effective than hitherto – and thereby mobilize the western world once and for all to destroy Islam.And of course – it seems almost unnecessary to say this! – the real cause of Islamic terrorism is the presence and the behavior of those devilish Zionists in the Middle East, the ones whose State of Israel has treated the poor Arabs so cruelly. So, this novel is a piece of crap, despicable crap if I may allow myself some hyperbole: and not, I suspect, something that most people who enjoy the genre will want to spend their time on.