Create Your Own Kindle eBook Cover

coverLOWreghalfsizeYou may have heard the old adage which says you should never a judge a book by its cover, but the publishing world knows that Old Adage is wrong!

Readers do judge books by their covers. Until they dip inside, the cover is the only information they have to go on and if you don’t grab them with an enticing frontage they will quickly move on!

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Keep Write On To The Final Stop!

write a novel in a day workshop members

The team of writers who took part in Ashby Arts Festival ‘s Novelettathon.

The killing tree

A novel written in just one day
by a team of arts festival writers!

It’s amazing how many writers you talk to who admit that they have at least one unfinished novel in their drawer.  I currently have three, but I’m well on the way to finishing them after being forced into an arts festival project which called for a novel to be written in a day.
This is how it came about.  Knowing that most novel writers never get beyond chapter three before their initial burst of creative enthusiasm fizzles out like a damp match I hit upon the idea of organizing a novelettathon which involved writing a novel in a day.  This formed part of the literary events at my local arts festival who were delighted with the idea as they realized that this would be something the press would get excited about and which would generate some free publicity. Continue reading

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A Plate Of British Stew …

beef stew

Beefy British White stew made with
an assortment of root vegetables

Wouldn’t do us any harm!  According to the  song, Nelson’s Blood, it’s Irish stew, but I can’t have that since I’m a breeder of British White cattle.  In my emphatically biased opinion, there is no better beef on the planet and probably the universe if the boffins were ever to prove the existence of parallel universes!  I will further add that beef from any of our native breeds is the creme de la creme of beef and here’s why.
Almost all native and rare breed cattle are naturally reared on little more than grass, hay or silage.  They are allowed to mature in their own time, typically between 30 – 36 months and when butchered, the meat is hung for between 2 and 3 weeks or even longer.

british white cattle

British White cow with twin calves and a visiting playmate!

root veg

Typical ingredients of a hearty, winter stew

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Not Yer Average Creative Writing Workshops!

Not only have I run creative writing workshops, but I’ve attended a fair few as well.  They are enormously beneficial for writers of any level, but they are often hugely entertaining in quite unexpected ways.

Fire!
My very first ever creative writing workshop almost proved to be my last as half way through the course the building had to be evacuated when the fire alarm went off!  It was a fiction writing workshop held, along with other courses, in a former old people’s home.
One of the exercises involved drawing a character name from a hat and then giving a verbal portrait while holding a lighted match!  You can imagine how this concentrates the mind!  In spite of extreme care, there were one or two nipped fingers!  To her credit, our tutor was quite safety conscious and made us hold the matches over a small bowl, which alas, did not contain any water.  If it had the partly spent matches would not have ignited during our lunch break and triggered the smoke alarm!
Oblivious to the drama, our little group sat happily in the sunshine munching our sandwiches and wondering which classroom was burning down!  A slight exaggeration as the only damage was a heavily scorched table and the loss of our morning’s writing prompts.  I often wondered if that little episode robbed me of a best seller!
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Does This Count As Fame?

lambs for the freezer

All you need to know about keeping and
rearing lambs for home consumption.

Like most writers I prefer writing books to flogging them which means months often pass before I think about looking at Amazon sales stats or reviews.  Imagine my surprise, nay shock when I finally got around to checking on how the babes were doing and finding that Lambs For The Freezer, A Guide To Small Scale Production is being advertised as “collectible!”

I didn’t know such things existed and certainly not for a book that was only published three years ago!  There it was though, listed at £14.99 which is £1.50 more than the normal selling price along with 3 used at £11.33 and 22 new from other vendors starting at £8.03.   

What makes this particular copy “collectible” I’ve no idea!  The vendor doesn’t say. There is no mention of an author signature which isn’t surprising as I only ever signed two copies of this book and I know where they are and there has only been one print run so it can’t be anything to do with first editions either.

Whatever the reason, I’m not complaining.  I rather like the idea of casually dropping out the fact that I am now a collectible author, preferably at some literary lunch littered with publishers and agents! 

Fortunately I have some good reviews to back up my claim which was another surprise as I haven’t done anything to promote Lambs For The Freezer during the last two years. 

Curiously, two of the reviews have been written during the last couple of months.  I would guess someone, somewhere is doing a promotion, so whoever you are, thank you very much!

What they say about Lambs For The Freezer – A Guide To Small-Scale Production

I’m considering keeping sheep and this book has been very helpful for the novice, particularly in pointing out the pitfalls! 4 stars, 19th November, 2013

Having acquired 2 newborn lambs quite unexpectedly I needed some information on rearing them with the possibility of either eating or breeding. Great information, easy to understand, good advice.  5 stars 5th Jan, 2013

Bought for my husband who seems to be learning a lot from this…just as well as the sheep are already in lamb! 4 stars, 31st December, 2013

You can see these reviews and more details of Lambs For The Freezer – A Guide To Small-Scale Production on Amazon.

 

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Fussy Librarian To Feature The Inbetween

the inbetween

The Inbetween
a dark age story of
myth & magic
featured on the
Fussy Librarian

With the Winter Solstice fast approaching, it seems quite appropriate that my dark age story of myth and magic, The Inbetween is being featured this Friday at The Fussy Librarian.
You’ve probably never heard of the Fussy Librarian, but it’s a new website which offers personalized ebook recommendations.  What makes this different from other services of this kind, is it isn’t a free for all accepting all comers.  This means you won’t be faced with a lot of trash from self deluded writers with more marketing skills than literary ability!
All books listed on the Fussy Librarian have at least 10 Amazon reviews and an average 4 star rating.  The Inbetween has 12 reviews and 4.5 star average so had no trouble getting accepted.
For readers, there are 40 genres to choose from and you can indicate preferences about content such as how much, if any, sex or violence you want in your reads.
As far as writers are concerned, they publish regular newsletters with new listings so another useful marketing avenue as long as your book is up to standard.
Worth a look for both writers and readers, especially with Christmas coming up.  http://www.TheFussyLibrarian.com

The Inbetween is available for Kindle from Amazon. THE INBETWEEN

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Figgy Pudding Or Not!

flash

A canine thief with a taste for Christmas cake!

I come from a long line of farming and country stock which has included some notable cooks, (and it has to be said), some forgettable ones! The one thing they all have in common is that Figgy pudding doesn’t figure in their culinary repertoire!

I, being a staunch traditionalist, am carrying on this practice.  Like the rest of the formidable women in my family, some of which rose to the higher echelons of the W.I. I see no need to suffer a dish of mashed figs and bread when we have the expertise of hatchet-faced Delia and the like to draw upon which is why I decided, a couple of years ago, to give her Christmas cake recipe a whirl.

Personally I relish Christmas cake with as much enthusiasm as I do Figgy pudding, but there is the ancestral honour to up hold.  I cannot let the side down when the extended family gathers around the table over Christmas and casts a critical eye over my efforts.

Delia’s recipe seemed like a fail safe dream, moist, stuffed with fruit and best of all liberally laced with brandy.

Slight problem re the brandy. Neither Nearest and Dearest or me drink the stuff, though almost everything else seems to go down our necks without too much trouble! Although I am a traditionalist, I am also totally disorganised when it comes to cooking which is why I am a fantastic improviser.  Whiskey we have a plenty so whiskey it is.

Mixed fruit liberally soaked in whiskey!

Mixed fruit liberally soaked in whiskey!

Soak fruit over night, says Delia in three table spoons of the stuff.  Three table spoons?  She can’t be serious!  That’s no more than a gnats eyeful!  Searching through the pantry I found we had an unopened litre bottle so four or five good sloshes went in with a nip or three for me!

Next day, take two paracetamol, shout at N & D for jangling change in his pocket and have to be forcibly restrained from killing No. 2 son who has eaten more than half the soaked fruit mixture consisting of raisins, currents, sultanas and cherries amounting to over 3 lb of fruit.

Replace fruit which now consists mainly of currents since we are out of raisons, cherries and sultanas and more sloshes of whiskey.  Do NOT have a nip or three and wonder if I should add a drop of water to the bottle as we are well into the last third.

Have heated argument with N & D who seems to have developed psychic powers.  He is convinced I am going to burn the thing and proceeds to lecture me on the importance of correct oven temperature, proper preparation of the tin with protective wrapping and the necessity of staying around while it is cooking.

I retaliate by reminding him that his one and only attempt at festive baking, (done in the microwave), produced something resembling furnace clinker.  He had the temerity to say it was my fault for not relaying the instructions properly!

xmascakeweb

Successfully cooked to perfection!

Four hours later, cake emerges done to perfection.  For the first time I allow myself to think that my faint hope of becoming the queen of the Kendrick cake makers may well become reality this year!

Silly woman!  What is that saying about pride before a fall or rather thieving dogs and Christmas cakes?  By the time No. 3 son’s dog was discovered, she had eaten half the cake and the kitchen was covered in fragmented tin foil!

There was also the little matter of N & D’s single malt, but as this is almost the festive season, we won’t go there!

christmascakeweb

One I made later … this one escaped canine jaws!

Not one to be deterred by a little set back such as a half eaten Christmas cake, I set too and made another which has to be the most expensive cake ever to grace our festive table!

 

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Cunning Folk

Grimry, the grimoire used by Joe Dancer

Grimry, Joe Dancer’s spellbook.
Possibly a grimoire or book of magic.
The present whereabouts of this book is revealed in the Digfield Conjuror.

Don’t you just wish you could go back in time?  To see those life changing moments in history when the world did a cartwheel and turned civilization on its head would be amazing, but I would happily settle for the ordinary, every day events and activities which made up the humdrum lives of our ancestors.

Unfortunately, time travel is still confined to the fiction writers, but the next best thing is a direct link with the disembodied spirit of a feisty ancestor which is what I have in the shape (or should that be shade?) of Aggie Smeeton.

A recent run in with the NHS prompted this conversation!

Aggie:  Yer mean t’ tell me you ‘ave to wait eighteen wiks to see a doctor?

Me: Well he is a specialist, Aggie.  You can get appointments for every day aches and pains in two or three days.  Some times a day if it is urgent.

(Aggie dissolves into a fit of laughter, not a pleasant experience I have to say as she sounds like a drain coughing up flood water!)

Aggie: Yer call that progress?  You didn’t ‘ave to wait no eighteen wiks to git a cure in my time.  If yer couldn’t fix it yersen your took yersen off to the cunning folk, they’d soon git yer sorted.

Me: Cunning folk?  Is that a colloquialism for doctors?

Aggie: A what?  Never ‘eard of colloc … collocis … whatever yer call it.  Cunning folk don’t be physicks.  You ‘ad to ‘ave money fer them and they weren’t a sight more use than anyone else.  No, the cunning folk were the ones you went to when you were badly.

Me: Oh, white witches!

Aggie: You didn’t never ‘ave to call ‘em that!  Likely they’d put a ‘ex on yer if they heard ya!  Most folk thought on witches as bad, evil creatures and cunning folk weren’t like that.  They didn’t never do ‘arm and most on ‘em wouldn’t tek money fer what they did.  You paid ‘em with a bit of snap.

Me:  Snap?

Aggie: Aaarh.  Cheese, bread, bacon, ‘am summat like that.  Fancy you bein’ descended frum me and not knowing what be snap!

Me: Of course I know what snap is Aggie, it was just my subtle way of getting you to clarify it for the sake of my readers without interrupting the narrative.

Aggie:  Well yer’ve just done that now ain’t yer?

Me:  Suppose I have where were we?

Aggie:  I wuz tellin’ yer about cunning folk.  They wuz common then and alwuz ‘ad bin frum what I ‘eard.  Joe Dancer’s fayther and grandfayther were cunning men and if I recollect rightly, so were one o’ ‘is aunts.

Me: I thought you said the cunning folk didn’t do harm?  If you’re telling the truth in the Digfield Conjuror, Joe seemed a pretty nasty character to me.

Aggie:  Well there always be exceptions to rules and Joe ‘e were one.  ‘e were the seventh son of a seventh son so ‘e were ‘specially powerful and a lot of folk used to goo to ‘im fer all sorts of things ‘cause ‘e generally got the raight on it.

An’ anuther thing, cunning folk, they did low magic, but Joe, he were more eddycated than most on us and he could do ‘igh magic, like read the stars fer instance.

Me: Wow … he was an astrologer then?

Aggie: Ar, reckon you’d call ‘im that, but it weren’t all in ‘is ‘ead.  ‘e ‘ad this book which used t’ impress folk.  ‘e called it Grimry.  When you went to see ‘im, ‘ed alwuz say summat like …

“I do ‘ave the very thing fer that missus, but fust let’s ‘ear what Grimry ‘as to say.”

He’d then fetch out this little leather book and shuffle through its pages ‘till ‘e got to what ‘e wanted and then ‘e’d tap the side on ‘is nose wi’ ‘is finger and say …

“Ah, thought so, Grimy say oi be raight!”  ‘e then mix yer up summat or mebbe gi’ yer a charm.

Me: Grimry?  How amazing.  I wonder if Grimry was a grimoire?

Aggy: Grimwar?  What be that then?

Me:  A book of spells, charms, magic.

Aggy:  Ar, it were that all raight, but more ‘n that.  There were recipes in theer fer coughs an’ fevers and things.

Me: How wonderful!  I wonder what happened to it?

(Aggie chuckles and gives me a pitying look).

Aggie: Oi do ‘ev a pichure on it, but as to where it be now, me thinks you be well advised t’ read The Digfield Conjuror agin!

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Haunting Voice?

lavender61Even though Aggie Smeeton has been dead for almost a century, I wouldn’t describe her voice as exactly “haunting!”  In fact the sound she makes when singing, is more akin to a love-lorn cat on heat than the tuneful rendition of what I eventually made out to be Lavender’s Blue!  Once the realisation hit me, my hackles immediately went up and I could cheerfully have strangled her had she had something to strangle!

Me:  Aggie!  I thought we agreed we would only communicate in the virtual world?

Aggie, (chuckling): Oi don’t be knowing what you mean Sue.  Oi just be singin’ away to mesen like oi used to when oi were a young ‘un.

Me:  Yes, but that song …

Aggie: Oi knowed it be the song your lad be ‘eving at ‘is wedding, but oi don’t be doin’ no spyin’.  I do ‘ev heard it ever so many toimes when oi wuz growing an’ that’s ‘cause Lavender do be the best of ‘erbs fer curing all manner o’ ills an’ there weren’t a cottage door didn’t ‘ev a bush on it growin’ near.

Me: Oh, that good eh?

Aggie: Aaarh, deed it be.  Old Joe used to mek an ointment frum it which were raight good stuff to put on cuts and grazes.  We wuz always gittin’ them one way or t’other, specially the farm chaps, but a little dob o’ that would soon git a scab on it.

Me: So …?

Aggie: What?

Me: How do you mek … er make it then?

Aggie: Well that be fer me to know and you t’ wonder!  Remember oi got old Joe’s book when ‘is story were done and that little cure made me a pretty penny along the way!

Me: But you’re dead!  You don’t need pretty pennies where you are!

Aggie:  Oh don’t oi?  ‘ow would you be knowing where oi be?

Me:  O.K. suit yourself.

Aggie:  Now then, no need t’ git mardie!  Oi’ll gi yer me recipe for sweet dreams instead which yer can pass on t’ yer boy. Not that ‘e’ll be doin’ much sleepin’ on ‘is weddin’ day oi’ll bet!

Yer want 3 parts lavender flowers to mix in wi’ any or all o’ these if you can git ‘em. ‘op flowers, Rosemary, Marjoram, Sweet Cicely and a  couple or three drops of lavender oil.

Git yersen a bit of muslin or silk, that be best, and stuff wi’ the leaves.  Yer put this inside yer pillow and oi’ll guarantee yer sleep like a babe!

Now then, foller me and oi’ll show yer ‘ow it goos …

Lavender’s blue dilly, dilly, lavender’s greeeeeeeeen …!!!

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Try These At Your Peril!

snowdropwebMy long deceased friend, Aggie Smeeton may possess some remarkable talents, not least the ability to speak from beyond the grave, but her knowledge of herbal lore and attempts at self medication beg the question that the cure is often worse than the affliction!

Here’s what she has to say about irregular menstruation and teenage acne!

… that ‘ole book I ‘ad from that Joe Dancer, it didn’t just ‘ave charms and such in it. Theer were cures fer nigh on owt you could think on.  Good ‘uns too.  Tek them snow flowers, fer instance.  They be more’n the pretty maids o’ February … they be moon flowers and is powerful stuff fer treating the wayward courses o’ women.

‘course you ‘ad to know what you were adoing … mek it too strong and you’d a turn up yer toes in an eyes blink and ‘owl the ‘ouse down doin’ it!

‘an another thing, yer dinna want to bring ‘em in the ‘ouse if you could ‘elp it and certainly not afore the fust chicks hatched else you’d be ill-wished the year on.

Then there were lilac, which we ‘ad a growing in our garden both purple and white.  It be blossom thar knows so you don’t ‘ev to pick it, ‘cept at dawn when it be warm and them you ‘ad to know the right words,  but Joe, he done it and used to mek a tonic out on it which he’s selled fer tuppence a bottle.  ‘e said it would cure face palsy, but I never saw much evidence on it.  Aunt Maud took a slug or two once when she were bound up thinking it might clear ‘er out and it did that right enough!  ‘ardly out o’ the privy fer two days!

It were good fer skin though and we dabbed a bit on our Georgie’s spots when he were growing into a man, but that only happened the once, said it made ‘im look a right Mary Jane!  Got rid of ‘is spots fer a bit though!

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