Celebrating Success and Searching for Motivation

Achieving great rankings

Achieving great rankings

My Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes promotion ended this morning and it couldn’t have gone better. I had around 2,500 downloads and reached some great numbers in terms of ranking:

#8 in the Romance category on Amazon.com

#10 in Contemporary Women’s Fiction on Amazon.com

#39 on overall free downloads for Amazon.co.uk

#15 in Contemporary Romance on Amazon.co.uk

Now I know these numbers don’t mean a great deal. The majority of people who downloaded the book won’t read it, even fewer will leave a review. However to get that many downloads in two days, when the book only has one review in the US and none anywhere else (and virtually no promotion other than a few tweets and status updates) gives a little ray of hope that at least my blurb and front cover are okay (Though hubbie tells me the title makes people think the book is depressing.)

I see free promotions as more of a banner advert, getting my name in front of people who wouldn’t otherwise discover me and my writing, than a way to get new readers. I know myself that I download dozens of books I’ll never read. Time will tell whether it works as a strategy, but if nothing else it’s a nice feeling to see yourself on the first page of the bestsellers! 🙂

Making it on the first page!

Making it on the first page!

It also makes me see the benefit in loading a book up for preorders via Smashwords. If I could sell enough copies in the weeks prior to release, then that splurge of sales on day one of release would do wonders for initial rankings. Of course, I have to finish my next book for that to happen and, boy oh boy, am I struggling. I’m still tired and scattered from the medication, and I just can’t seem to pin myself down to the hard graft of revisions. I know if I’m not careful weeks will turn into months and, like the box of kids’ things waiting for me to sell on ebay, it will become an insurmountable task to get back to work.

I wanted to get my first draft to the editor by Easter, so I could take the two weeks off to clear my mind, ready to work on the revisions when they came back, and give the children my attention during the school holidays. Ho hum, that gives me five weeks to add thirty thousand words and fill all the plot holes AND get it to Beta Readers. Hmmm some mountains are too high. I think it might be that which is freezing my mind. Needing to work around the school holidays is adding a new dynamic to my already-fragile motivation! Oh well, every mountain is climbed one step at a time. I just need to write ten words today and it will be twenty tomorrow.

But first I might walk the dog!

Monkey Mailing Lists and Mind-numbing Stats

Finally set up a mailing list

Finally set up a mailing list

I’ve spent the last 24 hours catching up on all the internet-based work tasks I’ve avoided since about Christmas, when illness drove me away from Twitter and to the comforting arms of a good book.

My free promotion for Dragon Wraiths started at 8am yesterday and, in the hopes of making it more successful than my countdown deals (which resulted in one single, lonely, sale) I knew I would need to have an online presence.

There isn’t much you can fix in a day, but I did my best. I woke up my dormant twitter account, caught up on my writermummy facebook page and finally wrote the Goodreads reviews on all the lovely books I’ve read in the past few weeks (some of them, anyway, I still have a couple more to do).

The first day of my promotion has been okay, considering the lack of preparation. I even made it to number 1 in a category in France! You take success where you can! I don’t regret my six-week sabbatical from Twitter. I realised it wasn’t the platform for me: I got out much less than I found myself putting in. In the writer’s journey I’ve realised that I am happy with a slowly-slowly slightly haphazard approach while I concentrate on improving my craft and raising my kids. I intend to read the Kristen Lamb book I got for Christmas at some point, and I am implementing tips on sales and marketing I pick up on blogs and forums, but you can only do what you can do.

Reaching #1 in a category on Amazon.fr :)

Reaching #1 in a category on Amazon.fr 🙂

One thing I have finally got around to, however, is setting up a mailing list for people to sign up to if they want news on promotions and new releases. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages but was galvanised into action by realising that there are forty people on Goodreads who have marked Dragon Wraiths as ‘to-read’ and I have no way to tell them it’s currently free. I’ve been shy of creating a mailing list before, seeing it as a bit spammy, but now I can see there might actually be some people who want to know when I’m running a giveaway or when my next book will be out.

I’m still figuring out the ins and outs of Mailchimp, the provider I selected after a ten second internet search at 1am this morning, but I’ve tested the form and it seems to work (except it gives out my home address which I’m not thrilled about). If you want to add your email to the list, the link is to the right in the margin, or click on the image in this post, and I promise never to be spammy. 🙂

Now I’m off to see if I’ve reached the top ten in any more random categories on Amazon (I’m doing well in Coming of Age and Sword and Scorcery). It’s my favourite part of a free giveaway!

Organised Chaos: 2013 365 Challenge #260

What's the time, Mister Wolf?

What’s the time, Mister Wolf?

I’ve always been grateful that, as a family, we’ve been able to get by without me earning an income: but never more so than today. Even with hubbie available to do one of the child-care drop-offs this morning, it was still a crazy day.

As it was our wedding anniversary, we met in the coffee shop at 9.15 – me having dropped our son at preschool a few miles away, making sure he had packed lunch, coat and slippers, and he having dropped our daughter at school round the corner, running the tears gauntlet I have thus far avoided.

In the coffee shop we sat side by side in the sunshine in virtual silence, hubbie editing his book, me finishing my post and trying to figure out why suddenly everything was in italics, whilst we both listened (not through choice) to two ladies discussing why one had been deselected as bridesmaid. I’ve learned to block out most coffee shop chatter when necessary, but having been deselected as bridesmaid the one and only time I was ever asked, I had some sympathy.

Laundry Mountain

Laundry Mountain

Once my post was written it was time to go home, chuck some laundry in the machine, and strike something off the writing to-do list for half an hour, before heading back into town, armed with a second packed lunch, to collect my daughter, who is still on half days at school for two more weeks. (Yes, I should have just stayed in town, but I didn’t think, and had to go home to collect her lunch).

Then, with no lunch for me because we ran out of bread, we headed to another nearby town to pick up my bookmarks and buy birthday gifts for my daughter’s friends. Finding the printers proved a challenge and the bookmarks barely worth the effort – poorly trimmed with tick marks still in evidence, though possibly my mistake when I sent the artwork.

Daughter insisted on doubling the party gift budget and would not be moved so in the end we left with giant gifts for the next two parties. Please don’t let her make too many friends at school or we’ll be bankrupt by Christmas.

Front of the Bookmark

Front of Bookmark

The rather busy back!

The rather busy back!

After a fruitless search for a shark cake or shark balloons for son’s party this Saturday we went to pick the boy up from preschool: 3pm and I was exhausted. Again thankfully hubbie helped a bit by taking son to the post office while daughter taught me my numbers and letters (!) and helped me prepare dinner.

Hubbie played What’s the time Mister Wolf? with the kids while I cooked tea, then I played with them while he crashed from exhaustion. After dinner he admitted to being poorly and disappeared off to bed leaving me to clean the kitchen, wash the lunch boxes and water bottles, and make sure daughter’s school bag is ready for the morning, before going out for another half hour of ball games.

Finally dragged hubbie out of bed twenty minutes before kids’ bedtime, so I could walk the dog. Collapsed on the sofa at 8.30pm with all my post yet to write! (I ended up writing the Claire part this morning, while hubbie did the school run, and little man sang “Bananas in Pyjamas” on loop.)

With extra help, and no job to go to, I just about managed to survive the day, having done a whopping 60 mins work (not including the 2-3 hours I’m about to spend writing this post!) Could I do all that and have a job? No way ho-say as my kids would say.

So, working mums, I salute you. Hubbie, I thank you (and who knew every cloud had a silver lining when you were laid off?). Dad, I miss you, but thanks for posthumously funding my Stay at Home Mum life. I hope you approve. As a stay at home dad and self employed mechanic, I’m sure you would have understood.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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As Claire gazed at the scene in front of her, the early start seemed worth every ounce of effort. Like a mystical mirror, the lake stretched out flat to the horizon. Either side, dark trees framed the scene, both above and below the water’s edge, creating an expanding line of perspective towards her. At the vanishing point, the mountains took over; climbing away to the sky. In the distance, Mount Cook and Mount Tasman fought for brilliant in hues of grey, blue and white.

Mt Cook and Mt Tasman

Mt Cook and Mt Tasman

Claire breathed in the morning air, and watched the puff of cloud as she exhaled. She pulled her jacket closer around her as the icy air prized open her foggy brain. This far south, winter had the island in its grip and she was in no mood to linger, despite the beauty of the scene.

All around her, Claire heard the chatter of disinterested tourists. She could see one or two photographers desperate to grab the perfect picture of absolute stillness and reflected symmetry. She wondered how they could stand the influx of tourists, come to take their quick snaps and move on.

How many visitors accidentally snap the perfect shot, not realising others have waited hours and days for the privilege?

Claire looked at the picture on her phone. It probably wouldn’t pass a perfectionist’s eye, but it looked damned near perfect to her: a magical place.

Shame about the noise.

Unable to stand it any longer, Claire headed back to the bus and the travellers who hadn’t even bothered with the walk but were tucking into breakfast in the café. As she arrived at the car park, she saw a girl load her camera into her bag and climb into a rusty red hatchback.

The girl caught her eye and smiled, seeming to say, “Rather you than me on the bus.” She couldn’t disagree.

*

Autumn colours at Wanaka

Autumn colours at Wanaka

Claire climbed down the bus steps, grateful that it was for the last time that day. She felt like she’d done nothing but get on and off the bus, to marvel at one tourist attraction after another until they all blurred together in her mind. She had no idea how she would identify which was which in her pictures when it came time to write the blog. For now she was just happy that she had at least twelve hours before she had to get on the bus again. It felt like escaping from jail.

Wanaka town was bigger than she’d expected; a sprawling collection of buildings spread out along the lakeside. The lake itself shone beneath the blue sky, framed by tall trees still bearing the orange hues of autumn. Claire imagined it must have been spectacular a few weeks before.

A feeling of snow pervaded the air, and it wasn’t hard to imagine the town as a winter resort. It seemed odd that a few weeks earlier she’d been in her shorts: the difference in climate from north to south was much more than she was used to.

Dumping her rucksack in her dorm room, Claire declined Bethan’s suggestion to go for a drink, and walked in long strides down to the shore. Her shoulders itched with a need to get away from people. Following a cycle path, Claire walked around the edge of the lake, beneath the autumn trees, kicking at the fallen leaves beneath her feet.

The further she got from the town the lighter she felt until, at last, the buildings were out of sight and she felt like skipping. It was too cold to sit and admire the view so she kept walking, intent on nothing but solitude.

This is crazy. It’s the beginning of summer at home. Why am I freezing my arse off on the wrong side of the world? Yes, it’s beautiful, but so is Scotland or Wales or the Lake District. Why did I travel the UK in winter only to do the same a few months later here in New Zealand? It’s official; I’ve lost the plot.

Lake Wanaka at sunset

Lake Wanaka at sunset

Claire spotted a bench overlooking the lake. Perching on the edge she pulled out her phone and checked the itinerary she had downloaded for the bus trip.

Another ten days until we’re back in Auckland, although at least it will probably be warmer back in the north. She read through the schedule again. I wonder if I could fly home from Christchurch.

Suddenly getting home seemed more important than anything else. Even though she knew there was no one expecting her, no job or car or house to return home to, she needed to be back where she belonged.

Vowing to call the airline company in the morning, Claire jumped down from the bench and began striding back to town.

***

Serious Blogger? 2013 365 Challenge #255

There goes the diet again!

There goes the diet again!

I went into my blog today without realising I wasn’t logged in, and was surprised to see an advert within my text. I guess I knew that WordPress made money somehow from free blogs, but I hadn’t thought much more about it.

Apparently it costs $30 a year to remove the adverts, and now I’m wondering if I should pay it. When I clicked on the advert it said “you may be seeing this ad because the blogger is making money from their site” or words to that effect. Oh I wish I was making money from my blog! Then I wouldn’t feel guilty at the time it takes away from my family or from writing my novels. Not that I would give up writing my blog for anything.

One of the posts I linked to yesterday was When Blogging Doesn’t Work – on the Writing by the Seat of my Pants blog. It challenged the widely held belief that authors need to blog; explaining that it isn’t always necessary, particularly if you are blogging just for the sake of it rather than because you enjoy it. This was my comment:

Baking cookies with my girl

Baking cookies with my girl

“I started my blog without really understanding why, except that I needed one if I wanted to be an author. Then this year I started a daily blogging challenge – writing a novel in daily installments on my blog – and even though it’s been a right pain at times, I have enjoyed it immensely. It probably hasn’t given me a huge surge in blog followers, but it has improved my ability to write to a deadline and copy-edit quickly: benefits I hadn’t envisioned in the beginning. In fact, I may even do it again next year (although I suspect my family may beg me not to!!)”

I forgot to add that, through my blog, I have met such an amazing group of people and that my blogverse feels like a happy place where I enjoy spending time.

So, should I let advertising intrude on my happy place? Should I let you, my followers, think that I’m trying to make money from you, when I’m not (unless you want to buy my books, and then of course that’s just fine!)

Is it worth $30 a year to keep my blog pure? I’ve toyed with the idea of buying the full package and having my own domain name, but until now I’ve been perfectly happy with the free blog. I guess it’s just one more question in the long list of queries associated with self-publishing and being a writer: and one more thing to add to the list “Things I would do if I had more money”!

What do you think? Are the adverts annoying? Do you even see them? Am I worrying over nothing? Do tell.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire gazed out the window as the ocean crashed against the shore, raising spray that would envelop the bus were they just a bit closer. She’d heard that the west coast was nicknamed the wet coast, and that seemed about right.

The heavy grey skies and angry sea soothed her, as if their rage forced her to be calm. Rain poured down the windows, enhancing rather than marring the view. Claire could see tree-covered hills climbing upwards from the other side of the bus. She curled in towards the window and let the weather entertain her.

The bus slowed and Claire roused herself to see why they had stopped. The driver explained that they were at a seal colony and anyone who fancied braving the rain was welcome to have a look around.

Claire uncurled herself and searched in her bag for a raincoat. Making her way to the front of the bus she realised she was the only person getting off. She was about to sit back down when a giggling couple from the front also disembarked. With a twisted smile, Claire decided she would run, if need be, to get away from them.

Outside, signposts led her down a walkway, slippery in the rain, towards the seal colony. All around her tall spiky plants stabbed at the sky.

There was no one else around as Claire followed the path to the viewing platform. Wind dragged hair across her face and the rain blew in sideways.

This was a stupid idea. I should have stayed on the bus. Knowing my luck they’ll leave without me.

Blinded by her wet hair, Claire almost walked into the railing. She rested her hands on the wood and searched the rocks for seals.

If they’ve got any sense they’ll be hiding in a cave somewhere out of the weather. Even if they are there I’m not going to see them through this.

Heaving a sigh that was swept away on the wind, Claire turned to walk back to the car park. Her stomach roiled like the pewter-grey waves and an almost overwhelming urge not to get back on the bus swept over her. The rigid routine, the upholstered seats, even Bethan’s unending good humour, felt like a cage that she was finally free from.

Claire pulled her hood tight around her face and leant in to the wind. With no seals to see, she knew there was no option but to go back and get on with her trip. Retracing her steps she didn’t notice the sign until she walked into it.

Who puts a bloody signpost in the middle of the footpath?

She rubbed her head and looked up at the offending pillar. It was one of the tourist signs, like she had seen at Cape Reinga, showing the distances to places near and far.

London 16,286km. I don’t think I wanted to know that. I might as well be on the moon.

It was a long way home

*

Back on the bus, Claire felt like she’d gate-crashed a party. All the passengers who had decided to stay warm and dry were gathered in groups, chatting and laughing. Claire sidled up the aisle to her seat and slid in to skulk by the window.

“Claire, you’re back!”

Claire turned as Bethan bounced onto the seat next to her.

“How were the seals? Nice and dry I see.”

“Ha ha. What did I miss? Feels like a festival in here.”

“Everyone’s discussing their fancy dress costume for this evening.”

“Fancy dress?” Claire groaned. Now she really wanted to get off the bus.

“Yes, apparently we have to source our outfit in town later, before we get to the Poo Pub tonight.”

“Poo Pub?” Claire felt like a parrot, but she didn’t know what else to say.

Maybe I sent Josh away too soon. Fancy dress and silliness are much more his thing than mine.

Claire wrapped her arms around herself and curled into the window. It was going to be a long day.

***

Write More Books: 2013 365 Challenge #254

What I was doing today when I wanted to be writing!

What I was doing today when I wanted to be writing!

I keep reading blog posts on the importance of writing and releasing new books to boost sales of existing works. Posts like this; Marketing: “Why Isn’t it Working?” by Chris McMullen (point 12)  or this, Why Slow is Good for E-Publishing by M T McGuire or this How to Sell a Million Books, suggest that one of the key things an author needs to do to succeed is to write more books.

A post by August Wainwright, guesting on the blog No Rules Just Write, explains how an author need not sell books on the scale of Stephenie Meyers, Suzanne Collins, E L James, J K Rowling or Amanda Hocking (yes my choice of female authors is deliberate – read this post) to make a career out of being a writer. Mostly one needs to be prolific. As the post states: “Slow growth is the sustainable way to success as an author”

I'd rather be writing

I’d rather be writing

The key is to write good books and keep writing them. A sale a day (I aspire to a sale a day!) doesn’t sound like a lot until you multiply it by ten or twenty and project it over a thirty year curve, knowing digital books can be in print forever.

I love reading these things because they support my own goals and ambitions. I don’t actually want to be the next “insert big name here.” I want to earn enough to consider writing a career and still be able to do the school run. I’d have to be selling thirty books a day to come close to even a modest income (not factoring in editor/proofreader/cover costs). That feels a long way off. But entirely doable.

In the post, August Wainwright talks of writing novellas, which makes it easier to write the projected 8 books a year his figures are based on. Reading the post it seems tempting to write novellas but it’s not my current skill set. (That doesn’t mean I can’t learn!)

Egg-box alien

Egg-box alien

However, when I look at the words I’ve accumulated for Two-Hundred Steps Home this year – currently approaching the 200k mark – on top of editing Baby Blues and marketing Dragon Wraiths, suddenly writing three books a year feels possible. Whether they’d be good books is another issue and one I’m not in a position to judge. But it gives hope.

The problem is it also makes me fish out an in-progress manuscript (Class Act!) whenever I have five minutes to myself, instead of writing my next Claire installment or readying Baby Blues for print format, or any of the other tough things that need doing. It gives me justification to do what I love, which is to write stories and have them read.

Like every other writer in the universe; this gal just wants to write.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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“What will you do?”

Claire stood in front of Josh and drew circles in the dust with her toe. She’d come down to breakfast to find him waiting outside the hostel with his bag.

“I’m getting a shuttle to Christchurch in about half an hour. I can catch a flight from there back home.”

Without looking, Claire imagined the hurt in his eyes: the sense of betrayal. She couldn’t blame him. Having lain awake most of the night reliving her diatribe, she was certain he couldn’t hate her more than she hated herself. Words of apology filled her mouth but refused to be spoken, in case they broke her resolve. Wrapping her arms around herself against the early morning chill, Claire looked down the road past Josh.

“What about your tour ticket? I didn’t even ask whether you bought a package for the bus? I know how extortionate the prices are; are you out of pocket?”

“Nah. I chucked the driver some dollars, said I was chasing a pretty lady. Guess he figured we’d sort it out one way or another after a few stops. He was right, wasn’t he?”

Claire turned involuntarily to face him, and wished she hadn’t. His pale face and the dark circles beneath his eyes told their own tale. Hugging herself tighter, Claire resisted the urge to run her hands through his unkempt hair. No matter how much she knew she was doing the right thing, it still hurt like hell.

“What will you tell Fiona?”

Josh’s face twisted into something between a grimace and a sneer. “I’ll have to tell her the truth, I guess. It’s not like anything happened.” The bitterness in his voice tore at Claire and she inhaled, ready to defend herself.

“No, don’t bother.” His voice softened and he rubbed at his face as if scrubbing away his ill humour. “I’m being an arse. I deserved everything you said last night. I am being a child. Fiona was always there for me, you know, before the kids. I suppose I came to rely on her. Now she needs me, and I’ve done nothing but cause her agro.”

“Do you need to tell her all the truth? Don’t hurt her just to ease your own guilty conscience. Why not tell her you needed time away to think?”

Claire wasn’t sure if advising Josh to conceal the complete truth was a brilliant idea. But she didn’t relish the notion of Fiona seeking revenge, or throwing her husband out for something he hadn’t done; even if he’d wanted to.

Josh didn’t respond, but Claire was rewarded by seeing a hint of colour return to his cheeks.

“You always know the right thing to say or not say,” he said eventually. “Have you considered a job with the UN?”

Claire felt the seriousness pass, heralding a return to the lightness of friendship. She welcomed it. “Me a diplomat? Not likely: I don’t have an ounce of tact. I’m going to have to think of something, though. I can’t be an unemployed traveller forever. Not least because the money’s going to run out soon.”

“What will you do?” Josh echoed Claire’s question from earlier.

She laughed. “I have no idea. Go home, I guess. Find a job. Go and work for Conor. Who knows? Maybe I’ll set up a bus tour in the UK, so there are fewer unsuspecting girls offering lifts to strangers.”

She wished the words unsaid as soon as she uttered them.

“Do you regret it? Coming to the observatory? Giving me a ride?”

Claire shook her head, unable to speak around the lump in her throat. She winced as the movement aggravated the sore muscle in her neck. Josh reached into his bag and brought out a small white box.

“Diclofenac. For the pain. It’s the least I can do.” He held them out to her and, after a moment’s hesitation, Claire took them.

“Thanks.”

“There you are. Ridding you of two pains in the neck in one go.” He smiled his lopsided grin and Claire felt tears sneak out and dribble down her face.

The sound of an approaching vehicle made them both turn.

“That’s my lift,” Josh said, “the hostel manager’s taking me to the shuttle.”

They stood together watching the car approach. Too soon it was parked in front of them, and it was time to say goodbye.

Claire stood with her arms hanging by her sides as Josh threw his bag into the foot well. He turned and tilted his head, peering under her mane of hair until she met his eyes.

“No hard feelings?”

Claire shook her head.

Josh held out his arms. “Hug?”

With a nod, Claire stepped into his embrace.

“I’m going to miss you,” Josh whispered into her hair.

“Me too,” Claire mumbled, before turning to walk slowly towards the hostel. She waited for the sound of the car door, the rev of the engine. As the wheels span in the dust she turned and watched the car drive away.

***

Live at Last: 2013 365 Challenge #251

Playing with the all-important balloon!

Playing with the all-important balloons!

Today I broke a whole bunch of self publishing rules and published Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes on Amazon, even though I’m still doing a final read through and spotting the odd typo. I know I’m heading for the third ring of indie-publishing hell but I have my reasons.

Partly I need to keep moving forward. I reformatted the Smashwords version for kindle this morning, between writing my post and taking over childcare at 9am. I did then spot some odd pink paragraphs which I’ve subsequently (hopefully) fixed – in between making playdough snakes, facilitating home made pizzas, assembling giant pipecleaner craft, playing hide and seek and a taking a trip to McDs because Dobbies ran out of balloons (and, honestly, Mummy didn’t feel like cooking dinner!)

Pink paragraphs aside, the kindle version looks surprisingly okay for a first pass. I usually get to version five on Smashwords before I’ve ironed out all the kinks. If I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s how to use word styles to speed up ebook formatting. (Now I just have to work out how to make pretty chapter headers, like Rinelle Grey’s books have!)

Finally on Amazon

Finally on Amazon

My main reason for rushing ahead with publishing Baby Blues on kindle, rather than waiting for the paper version to be ready and loading both to Amazon together, is that Dragon Wraiths comes out of the KDP Select programme at the end of September. I can’t believe how quickly this three-month block has gone. I’m going to stay out this time and stop being so impatient: I don’t have the time or strength for decent marketing, so I’ve decided to focus on writing more and better books, knowing that Baby Blues and Dragon Wraiths will always be there as back catalogue.

I will run one last free promo on Dragon Wraiths (later this week, if you haven’t already read it) and that will be it, at least until Class Act is ready next year. The reason for one last promo, even though I don’t get as much return from them anymore, is that I hope it will possibly lead people to Baby Blues without me having to offer that for free to increase its rankings.

(Note to self: put free chapter of BBWS at end of Dragon Wraiths!)

I will, at some point, run a competition to celebrate finally finishing Baby Blues – with a prize hamper including a print copy and probably some chocolate – but it’s going to have to wait a little bit, as I don’t have a print copy available yet. I’ll probably figure out the final details of the comp and post about it some time this week though: I guess I can always have it run for a few weeks, until I get a paper copy of my book. The competition will definitely feature parenting stories or other tales of humiliation, in honour of some of Helen’s experiences in the book. If you know any parenting blogs who might like to feature the competition let me know.

As I put on my Facebook page this morning, publishing Baby Blues is feeling more like a sneak than a launch. But, hey ho, life vs writing and all that. At least it’s finally out there.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire sat, awkwardly holding Josh’s hand, staring at nothing out the window. She hoped he had fallen asleep, but she didn’t want to check in case she caught him staring at her again. If she had to endure the soppy, tear-filled gaze one more time she thought she might vomit.

I don’t understand women who go for the new man, in touch with his emotions. Give me some British stiff upper lip any day. It’s not like I was going to drown in three feet of water with the tour guide right there.

In fact, their guide had laughed at Josh’s panic, forcing Claire to play down her own fear. She suspected more than one nightmare in the future might revolve around drowning and being trapped underwater: not experiences she wanted to repeat. But even she could see, in retrospect, that she wasn’t in any real danger.

Someone should tell Josh that I’m not a sick child he needs to save. The only people he ought to be concerned about are his wife and kids.

And yet she still had his sweaty hand clasped in hers. It had seemed cruel to spurn him: like kicking a cat. But she didn’t need Bethan’s sniggers and eye rolling to tell her she’d made trouble for herself.

“Hey, Claire.”

As if hearing her thoughts, Bethan called to her across the coach aisle.

“You won’t be sharing a dorm with us at Westport, then?” She grinned, as Claire flushed beetroot.

“Pack it in. I take it he is asleep?” Josh hadn’t moved at Bethan’s words, and she hoped he wasn’t feigning slumber.

Bethan nodded, and leaned nearer. “He is rather scrummy. Why don’t you just sleep with him and be done with it? The wife need never know.”

“I’d know.” Claire was surprised at the fierceness in her voice. As Bethan recoiled, she immediately said, “Sorry, that came out sharper than intended. You forget, I’ve met his wife and their children. She isn’t some faceless entity with no feelings. She even looks like me, although that’s where the comparisons end. She’s a doctor, and a brilliant parent. I wouldn’t hurt her for the world.”

“And yet he would. Some fella you got there.”

Claire had to agree, although she felt driven to defend Josh. “He wasn’t like that when I knew him in England. He had some kind of breakdown, I think, and it’s still affecting him.”

“You mean he isn’t just a selfish twat that never grew up, who has run away because life got a teensy bit hard?”

It was Claire’s turn to be shocked at the sarcastic sneer in Bethan’s voice. It reminded Claire that she knew little about her new friend’s history.

Biting her tongue on a retort, Claire was forced to smile. “Show me a man who has actually grown up and I’ll show you a boring bastard who takes life far too seriously.” She thought about Michael and his pompous preaching.

“So, what are you going to do? He did save your life.”

Claire opened her mouth to deny the suggestion, then saw the twinkle in Bethan’s dark eyes. “You cow! It’s so hilarious, sat over there. You try sitting in this seat.”

“Don’t mind if I do!”

“Well, why don’t you seduce him then? Get him off my hands.”

“And break the poor little wifey’s heart? I can’t do that. Why don’t you call this woman and tell her you stumbled across her husband at the lost and found. If she really wants him, she’ll come and collect him.”

“Poor Fiona. She did that once already: flying halfway round the world with three kids in tow.”

Bethan pulled a face. “She sounds like an angel. Too good for him.”

Claire privately agreed. It was clear that Josh had fixated on her as the way out of his humdrum life, but Claire knew it was no more than it had been the first time they met: She resembled the wife he used to know, before children had eaten into their lives.

Not that I can blame him for wanting to evade the responsibility of raising children: it’s not something I’m in a hurry to do. But it seems Fiona does all the work.

She couldn’t deny he came across as selfish and pathetic however which way she viewed it. The sooner she sent him back to his wife the better.

Prising her hand free from his, Claire turned her back on the sleeping figure and tried to ignore the weight of his head resting against her shoulder.

If I let a man into my life again, it will be one who can stand on his own two feet.

***

Smashwords Stats: 2013 365 Challenge #243

Good news for me!

Good news for me!

I received an email from Smashwords this morning with some great information. I’m sure any authors reading have probably seen it, but if you haven’t had a chance to go through it, here are the highlights.

1. You can now complete an author interview on Smashwords (you don’t even need to have published a book, just to be registered with Smashwords).

I’d heard about this from Pat Elliott, who looked into it when releasing her short story collection, At Sanctuary’s Gate. However it was a useful reminder to me to get around to completing it. It’s now about #3 on my to-do list! (After finish August’s THSH and finish proofreading BBWS)

2. The results of Smashwords’ survey are in and they make interesting reading. The key points for me were:

  • $3.99 books sell better than $1.99 books (in numbers, not just revenue)
  • Longer books sell better than shorter books (115,274 words was the good average: Baby Blues and Dragon Wraiths are both around 113,000 words so this was good news, and against traditional publishing advice, which is to keep novels below 100,000 words)
  • The trend has moved away from 99c books but Free still does well. This is interesting in light of the discussion here on the blog earlier in the week.
$1-$1.99 not as effective as it used to be

$1-$1.99 not as effective as it used to be

3. You can now (or will soon be able to) set your self-published book up for pre-order. This is excellent news. The advantages of pre-order are many (see the link), but the key two are:

a) you can ensure your book has reached the premium catalogue before beginning promotion. It can take ages to get out to Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo (In fact, one of my Two Hundred Steps Home books still hasn’t made it to iBooks, which is annoying). Being able to do that in advance means it’s all in place

b) pre-orders go through as sales on release day for Apple and Kobo, meaning an influx of sales numbers all at once. This can be enough to put you on the bestseller list, at least briefly, and will really help rankings.

It’s too late for Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, as it’s already been live for a while (albeit it with the unproofread version. An error on my part that I won’t make again!) but, for Class Act, when it’s ready for publishing next year, I will definitely make use of it. I might even re-release Dragon Wraiths through Smashwords, and see how that works, next time my KDP Select expires.

So, there you go. The world of self-publishing gets better and better. I’m looking forward to seeing what Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes can do outside of the KDP Select Program. I am going to be more patient with this one and not enroll unless sales are at zero for several months. It’s all exciting stuff!

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Sunlight flooded the room, dragging Claire from sleep. The rays of light felt like needles entering her eyeballs and she pulled the duvet over her head with a groan.

You’re too late, sun. We needed you yesterday, not ten foot waves and the roaring forties in full swing.

She tried to ignore the call of the yellow glow and go back to sleep. But the light was insistent, urging her to leave her bed and go outside to explore. It was the first time she’d see the sun in the capital and after a few minutes she threw back the covers.

“Alright, you win. I’m up.”

The voice echoing in the empty room didn’t sound like hers at all. The rasping noise reminded her of her thirst and the long day spent on the ferry fighting nausea. Her tummy rumbled into the silence, recalling midnight hunger that had only increased while she slept.

A glance at her phone told her it was nearly time to check out. Surprised she had slept so late, Claire hurried into the en-suite for a shower. It seemed a waste not to take advantage of the facilities: to stand in the cubicle and not wonder who else had used it since it had last been cleaned.

Maybe I could stay another night. It was rather glorious to sleep in a proper bed.

Claire dug her fingers into her scalp, trying to wash away the memories of her ferry ordeal and the fact that she would have to go through it again soon if she wanted to continue her trip.

Maybe another night wouldn’t hurt.

Then she thought about the sunshine pouring in the window, telling of the beautiful day outside. If she was going to try the ferry again, today would be the day: assuming she could get a ticket. There were another two or three hundred people also on the wrong side of the Cook Strait after the events of the day before.

Deciding she could do nothing while in the shower, Claire rinsed her hair and quickly towelled herself dry. Pulling on the cleanest clothes she could find, and spraying them with deodorant to mask the smell, Claire stuffed her belongings into her rucksack and left the room.

First things first, it’s time for breakfast.

She asked the lady on reception where the nearest café with free WiFi was located, and tried to memorise the directions.

After wandering for twenty minutes she at last found the place and ordered croissants and coffee. There was a booth in the corner and Claire threw her bag on one seat before slumping into the other. It took a moment for her tablet to connect to the internet and Claire tapped the table with her nails. Eventually her email loaded and Claire wondered why she had been so eager to reconnect with the world. There was nothing of interest in her inbox: no new comments on the blog or messages from home.

I don’t know why I thought there would be. The only person who has even noticed my absence is my potential future boss, who I’ve only met twice.

Claire sipped at her coffee and flicked through the emails, pausing at a name that didn’t look familiar. When she opened the message, her hands shook and she plonked her cup back on the table with a clatter. As she read the words the room receded until the only reality was the email on the screen.

Hi Claire,

Sorry for contacting you again. I need to see you. I really need a friend to talk to. I saw on your blog that you were in Wellington and I really hope you still are. I know it’s a long shot, but there’s an event on over the Queen’s Birthday weekend that I’ve told Fiona I’m going to. I’ll be staying at the Travelodge. If you get this email, perhaps you could stop by.

Josh

Claire’s mind pitched and tossed like the ferry that had brought her back to Wellington. Josh, here? Was it fate? And the Travelodge: he’d been staying in the same hotel as her. If only she’d managed to read her emails the night before. Would he still be there?

She gulped down her coffee and quickly consumed the croissants as the words of the email replayed in her mind.

Really need a friend? Last time he said that he admitted to killing someone, albeit by accident. Now what? And telling Fiona he’s at an event, not that he’s come to meet me? More lies.

Even as she sensed the seeds of doubt forming, she pushed them aside. This was Josh. Of course she would see him; that went without question.

It seemed to take forever to get back to the hotel and when she arrived the sweat had soaked through her top and she knew she must stink.

Great. So much for having a shower this morning. This rucksack is too heavy for carrying around in the sunshine. The sooner I get back on the bus the better.

Even as she thought it she wondered what her plans would be now. Josh wasn’t about to come to Picton with her or travel around the South Island. How long would he stay in Wellington? He wouldn’t fly all the way from Australia just for a night, would he?

Her mind twirled with questions as she went to the check in desk and asked the same receptionist who had given her directions earlier whether Josh was still in his room.

She leant against the counter and chewed her lip while the woman called through to check. Her voice murmured too low to be heard and Claire held her breath until she hung up the phone.

“He’ll be right down.”

Claire exhaled and grabbed the desk for support. She wondered if she had time to go and freshen up. She shouldered her bag again and was searching around for a ladies sign when she heard the ping of the lift.

Turning in what felt like slow motion Claire stared at the lift doors as they opened. The person that stepped through was so welcome, so familiar, that Claire had to force herself not to run across the floor and fling herself into his arms. Instead she waited for him to make eye contact, and then she smiled.

His answering grin made her heart flip-flop in her chest and her skin tingle. She took two steps towards him before stopping, uncertain.

“Hi, Claire.”

With a sob she dropped her rucksack and ran forwards.

***