Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Read an e-book week - free books

Download free e-books from smashwords for 'Read an e-book week' 

FROM March 4th -10th
If you visit smashwords and enter the Coupon Code RE100 for any of the books below,
 in the format of your choice, you get the book free, instead of the usual $2.99 or $3.99

  Enjoy reading!

Book reviews are always appreciated by me and other authors, on amazon, goodreads or smashwords - or all of them.

Someone to look up to - dog story, based on true life
4.5 years - WW2 POW memoir

From Bedtime On - poetry

Song at Dawn - medieval historical novel
On the Other Hand - teen fiction/faction about left-hander

How blue is my valley - travel/autobiography in France and Wales
Snake on Saturdays - saga/romance

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be happy with your dog - the Dogmasters' Credo
Hot off the press; bestselling author and dog-trainer Michel Hasbrouck, and his dogmasters, have just published their credo and it might shock dog-owners who have suffered the 'Don't do this' and 'Don't do that' school of modern dog-training. This is our philosophy and believe me, if you've trained with Michel or his dogmasters, this is all true.


The French version

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Meet B.A.Morton, Yeovil prize winner, a British crime and romance writer

Big thanks to B.A.Morton for taking the time to appear as a guest on my Blog to tell us about her prize-winning novel 'Mrs Jones' and about her writing in general.

A new writer with no literary training or background, just a passion for reading and scribbling, B.A. can't ride a bike or drive a car, and computers are a mystery to her, but she can tell a story. She says 'Imagination is a marvellous thing ... sharing it with others is even better'.

'Mrs Jones' by B.A.Morton (Night Publishing) available

A British girl with a secret. A New York cop with a past. And a mob that wants revenge In the slickest, sneakiest twistiest-turniest hard-boiled crime noir novel to come out in a long time, ruggedly pragmatic but honest cop Detective Tommy Connell picks up an English girl, Mrs Jones, who claims to be the witness to a murder, and promptly falls in love with her. Well, Mrs Jones, whoever she is, must be very attractive because an awful lot of people seem to want to get their hands on her if they can prise her from Connell's determined grasp, including some prominent representatives of organised crime and the Feds. Detective Connell definitely has his work cut out here if he wants to end up with the body of Mrs Jones, dead or alive, that's for sure. All-in-all it's probably safe to say he hasn't a clue what is going on. It is probably equally safe to guess that Mrs Jones does. Not that 'safe' is quite the right word to use here or, there again, maybe it is. 

amazon uk

Interview with B.A.Morton

 Good morning, B.A.
In French, B.A. is what we call a German Shepherd dog, a Berger Allemand, so the name suits a crime writer. Why did you decide on the gender-neutral author's name?
 Initially I felt it would avoid any gender stereotyping…women can’t write crime can they? I quickly realized that there is no protecting your real identity, if you’re to successfully promote your work.

You're described as a 'crime and romance' writer. Tell us about the romance.
Romance is part of life, in varying degrees. Sometimes it will take centre stage, most often it  simmers quietly. I find it difficult to create a character without showing how they might respond to a variety of challenges, love being just one of them. I like the “will they won’t they” scenario as a side dish rather than the main course.

There's a lot of talk about 'genre writing'. What does this mean to you? Do you think you've found your genres?
I’m not convinced that you can write in one genre only. Life encompasses many things. Most writing reflects this. I write what I like to read, which is primarily character-driven crime thrillers and historical fiction/fantasy with a dash of romance and humour thrown in for good measure. I think genre labeling is useful for marketing and helpful for readers to find what they enjoy amidst an overwhelming mass of available books.

So now we know you're a woman, what other secrets are you willing to share about your life?
 I’m a Geordie girl. In my time I’ve been a civil servant, nursery nurse and even did a stint at a greyhound track. I like creative hobbies, the outdoors and medieval history. I can be bribed with chocolate J 4yrs ago my hubby and I sold up and escaped the rat race to live in the beautiful Northumberland National Park. Our home, which is built on the foundations of a medieval chapel, features in my historical fantasy book 'Wildewood'. I’ve been a scribbler most of my life, but only began writing seriously after our move to the country.

'Mrs Jones' was published on Createspace and Kindle at the same time by your publisher, Night. How has this worked for you? What if anything will you do differently with your next book?
'Mrs Jones' is published through Tim Roux at Night Publishing, an Indie Publishing Company which produce e-books, and use Createspace and more recently Lightening Source for paperback production. This has worked well for me as a new author. Night provides a strong support group via fellow Night authors along with promotion and advice. Night edit, publish and provide e-book promotion. The only downside so far, is the delay in getting paperbacks onto Amazon UK. Independent publishers don't have the overheads of larger publishers so they are definitely more willing to take a risk on writing that's not genre-specific. Night now has almost 120 books to its name, but is still a small press compared with the big publishers.

Is 'Mrs Jones' part of Kindle's exclusive publishing? What are your views on KDP?
Yes Mrs Jones is currently enrolled in KDP. The book achieved 15,000 downloads during the five day free promotion and went on to reach number 87 in the paid kindle chart. KDP provides the boost to take your book where it will be seen. The higher the rank achieved, the more chance of browser sales. 'Mrs Jones' will also receive payment from Amazon for any loans made to their premium customers during the promotional period. There is of course a 90 day tie-in which prevents the book from being loaded onto other e-book sites. I would say my experience to date of KDP has been a positive one.

Are you worried about other booksellers not stocking amazon titles?
To be honest, bookshops in general are wary of POD and anything that's not backed by a big publisher. Amazon is the biggest market place so I'm not worried at the moment. Ask me again in six months when my paperbacks have had a chance to sell...or not. In the first two days of the promo, 'Mrs Jones' was borrowed 70 times. I won't know until the end of the 90 days what the total
amount of borrowing was or indeed how much that is worth in real terms. Looking at the numbers that have taken up the KDP offer, I suspect the $500,000 cake has been reduced to mere crumbs. 

The value of KDP as I see it, is getting your book high enough in the ranking, even if for a matter of days, to publicise and promote it. The more folk who download, whether for free or paid, the more folk are introduced to my writing. Which is particularly useful with the next book being mentioned in the back:) 'Mrs Jones' will be withdrawn at the end of the 90 day period to allow it to be sold through all the other outlets via smashwords.

You mix British and American characters and cultures in 'Mrs Jones'. How did you manage to find the voices for people from such different backgrounds? Were there any difficulties?
Good question. It has proved extremely difficult, not only with Brit/American language, but remember…I’m a Geordie…I don’t even speak EnglishJ It has been an education, which I may master, then again I may die trying, but I’ll certainly give it my best shot. To be honest the hardest part is culling the Geordie-isms which come so naturally, they remain unseen to me. A good reason for that extra pair of eyes.

At one time 'Mrs Jones' was posted on Harper Collins authonomy site. What were your experiences with authonomy? Would you recommend other authors to use the authonomy site?
Authonomy introduced me to the world of writing. Prior to me joining, no one had read my work. 'Mrs Jones' benefited immensely from constructive critique and I made some good friends. But as a means to publication by Harper Collins, it remains a pipe dream and in my opinion a waste of valuable time which could be better spent writing and honing the craft. It can be harsh, but the real world is harsher, so in that respect it is a good place to learn and develop resilience.

What are your writing habits?
I work part-time so I tend to write in the evening, often into the early hours. I don’t write a set amount, I write when the muse takes me and stop when I run out of steam. I have at least four manuscripts on the go at any one time. When I reach an impasse with one I’ll refresh myself with another. I enjoy research and gather extensive details and chronologies to ensure any facts used are accurate.

What are your top tips for other writers?
 Don’t try to write what you think publishers want. By the time you’ve finished it, publishers will be on to the next best selling craze. Write about things you know, or would enjoy reading about. Get it down in whatever garbled state it comes out of your head, warts and all. It’s your story, your voice. Then go through it so many times, that you know each line, each expression, every mood or preference of your characters. You’ll get to the point where you change things because you know in your heart that your character wouldn’t do or say that. I’ve changed whole plot lines to accommodate a developing character. When you think it’s complete let someone else read it. They will undoubtedly see things you’ve missed.

What have been your best moments as a writer? Why do you do it?
Having success in the 2011 Yeovil Literary Prize was a huge confidence boost. For the first time my work had been judged by professionals in the industry, who'd read 15,000 words of the novel to which they awarded 2nd prize. Being published, of course, was a wonderful moment. But possibly the best moment of all, was holding a copy of 'Mrs Jones', my first book, in my hands…wow! I write because I have stories leeching out of my pores. I like to share them and hope others might enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

You've promised a sequel to 'Mrs Jones'. Can you give us a hint of what will be in 'Molly Brown'.
'Molly Brown' takes the characters from 'Mrs Jones' forward by about 18 months. Connell’s on the trail of crooked cops and a serial killer. A vulnerable child with an obsession for the Wizard of Oz throws in a curve ball and Connell risks his life and his relationship with Lizzie as he seeks to save the child and the day. There are delicate plot threads which link this to the first story, and indeed to the third book, but all can be read as stand-alones.

What’s next?
I’ve already begun the third Connell book and 'Wildewood', which is due to be published this year, is the first of a trilogy, so, plenty to keep me busy. In addition I have two darker crime thrillers which I’m currently working on. One of which is set in the north-east of England, my own stomping ground.

Congratulations again on the Yeovil Prize - a really great achievement. The judges' comments can be read  here

I believe people can meet you in the flesh at the Yeovil Festival?
Yes, I’ll be at the Yeovil book festival in Brympton, on 20th April 2012, reading from my books and chatting about the highs and lows of the new author.

Thanks, B.A.! Hope you get plenty of readers coming to meet you at Yeovil.

My review of 'Mrs Jones' will be on the blog shortly.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Dog Booker Prize for Fiction

There's a category for 'Best Supporting Role' in the Oscars and I think there ought to be a similar category for all those canine characters whose presence enlivens a novel - not the main characters but the ones who steal the show when they get the chance. So forget the Man Booker, with its prima donnas and petty controversies, and welcome to the Dog Booker, where the winners are all boot lickers and tail wagglers.

You're welcome to post nominations and I'll add them to this blog during 2012.

Drum roll. This award is dedicated to all the dogs who were badly written, especially those who died as mere plot devices, intended to jerk a tear and show the threat to the main human characters, who usually forgot about their dead dog within 30 seconds of car chase.

This year's award is especially dedicated to the red setter in the Janet and John books* by which I was punished at school in the name of learning to read (despite the fact that I already could).Younger people will have suffered the Peter and Jane version*. All of us will remember forever that symbol of the perfect family; a Mummy, a Daddy, a brother and sister, and that red setter in the garden, playing with a ball. Yes, the ball was red too (red being a monosyllable composed of three graphs, and therefore appropriate vocabulary for a six year old child, who in another century would have been allowed to learn to read in three languages - or not at all).

Who can forget the immortal lines:-
'Look Peter.
Look Jane.
See the dog.
See the dog run.
See the ball.
See the dog run with the ball.'

I will never know your name, red setter, but I know you deserved better and I apologise, on behalf of all writers.

The nominations so far for 'Best Supporting Canine Role in Fiction' are:-

Timmy in 'The Famous Five' by Enid Blyton - as Timmy is actually one of the famous five, it's a moot point whether he's a minor character but as I'm the one who makes up the rules, he's nominated. A brown mongrel with a very long tail and loving brown eyes, Timmy sorted the numerous criminals of Dorset by tying them up, stealing their plans or reporting them to the CID, and then he'd be back for a cuddle in the cove, while his loving owner George (short for Georgina) cracked open a (ginger) beer. In those days criminals always had written plans, without which they were lost. As lovable hero dogs go, Timmy is right up there with Lassie - nostalgic idealism. 5/5 barks from me for being one of the dogs you meet as a child and never forget. Incidentally, why were interesting girls, like George, always 'tomboys'? Conversely, being 'girlish' was not really complimentary about a boy.

Bouncer in 'The Reluctant Widow' by Georgette Heyer - I love this dog! A large English 18th century hound, he is all youthful exuberance, misdirected (from a human viewpoint) into all activities dirty and destructive, chasing game away instead of to hunters, disappearing for his own pleasures when required on guard duty and more dangerous when obeying orders than when ignoring them. We first meet Bouncer when the young man who owns him carelessly orders him to 'guard' without clarifying what or whom is to be guarded, and Bouncer dutifully prevents our heroine from stirring one dainty ankle's length from her chair throughout the day until Bouncer's master returns. Bouncer excels at night watch, when his mere presence is enough to deter intruders - and of course anyone in the house who wishes to move from one room to another. Gets 5/5 barks from me - a real dog.

Nighteyes in the fantasy 'Assassin' series by Robin Hobb - although a wolf, Nighteyes deserves his place here because seeing through his nighteyes is very much an imaginative leap into the canine world by the human, Fitz. The boy training to be an assassin is unable to hold back bonding with the wolf despite the laws against this old magic, and despite the risks of entering too far into a wolf's way of life. Nighteyes is a raw force of nature, fierce and loyal, unequivocal. If you want to lope deeper into twilight, the time 'entre chien et loup' as the French say, 'between the dog and the wolf', and start to wonder why you would want another human in your life at all, when you could be part of the pack, you'll love this canine character. 5/5 barks for this dog-ancestor. You're not sure whether he's turning you savage more than you're taming him.

Jiggs in 'Bravo's Veil' by Michael Croucher - It's WW1 and Paul is an evacuee in Cornwall, far from his family in London, and attacked by the same bullies who came on the train with him.  This time, however, the gutsy little dog of his host family is there as back-up and every child's dream dog comes to life. Jiggs is best friend, protector and confidante. He keeps the nightmares at bay just by being there. When I heard these lines sung by Francis Cabrel, I thought they were about my dog 'Je suis le guardien du sommeil des ses nuits/Je l'aime a mourir' (I am the guardian of her night's sleep/ I love her and I'd die for her). 5/5 barks for Jiggs, for being best friend for a lonely child.

Nici in 'Song at Dawn' by Jean Gill - yes, I'm nominating my own character. If this was a real award I'd get a friend to nominate my book but I thought I'd take a short-cut. This dog was the catalyst tow riting the novel at all. I was reading an American book about troubadours and found this; 'It is rumoured that there was a female troubadour travelling in the south of France with a big white dog'. How could I not write this story? Nici is a Pyrenean mountain dog, too fond of people to be any use guarding sheep, and his name means 'Stupid' in Occitan. He hooks up with a runaway girl and mostly does his own doggy thing, but turns up for food and night duty in her doorway. He ignores insults and orders alike, makes his own mind up about what's best and he is just there, a presence. A reader said to me, 'It's a pity you didn't do more with the dog.' I am writing Book 2 at this very moment and Nici is alive and well, living in Die with his troubadour mistress. 5/5 barks for being a big white dog and behaving like a big white dog.

You've noticed that they all get 5/5 barks. Well, I nominated them, didn't I? If you're barking too, post your nominations. The prize is the prospect of international fame. (My lawyers cautioned me against offering international fame itself rather than the prospect, which is sufficiently intangible and more than enough for most writers to live on, never mind their fictional characters.)

French Language Nominations
Thanks to the readers who suggested
Idéfix/Dogmatix in the Asterix books by René  Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - the punning pooch belonging to Obelix in the cartoon series. A little black and white mongrel with rabbit ears and a happy face, Idéfix (Dogmatix in the English translation) first makes his appearance as a literal running joke. He is also the first canine ecologist, defending his  beloved trees with tooth and claw, in true Celtic druid manner. Possessively close to his master, he is won over by Obelix's adored Panacea when she kisses him.

Bill in Boule et Bill by Jean Roba and Maurice Rosy- a cocker spaniel whose actions speak for him. Bill is the sort of dog who likes sleeping on sofas and hates baths. Bill would do anything for his boy master - except get in a bath. He even has his picture on an album cover - Pink and Blue's Night Slave. As a title character, Bill isn't minor, but I'll allow him in as a foreigner.

Milou/Snowy in the Tintin books by Hergé - as the English translation 'Snowy' prosaically suggests, Milou is white, a fox terrier, who is yet another master-loving boy-saving hero. However, as well as the endearing cartoons, his weakness for alcohol and fear of spiders distinguish him from the run-of-the-mill, as does his tendency to think in sardonic thought-bubbles. 

News flash - in the film world it looks like Martin Scorsese has won his case to nominate Blackie, the snarling doberman from 'Hugo' for the Golden Collar Award. Scorsese thought it unfair that the cute Jack Russell from the silent film 'The Artist' should be an automatic choice and Blackie should have to fight to be appreciated. Uggie is still front-runner but if they both turn up at the Awards Ceremony, I know who I'd put my money on.

*If you haven't read it before, this poem by Wendy Cope is the funniest take on Peter and Jane ever. Wendy Cope was lucky enough to meet me once was a primary school teacher who suffered these books even more often than her pupils.

Reading Scheme
Here is Peter. Here is Jane. They like fun.
Jane has a big doll. Peter has a ball.
Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!
Here is Mummy. She has baked a bun.
Here is the milkman. He has come to call.
Here is Peter.Here is Jane. They like fun
Go Peter! Go Jane! Come, milkman, come!
The milkman likes Mummy. She likes them all
Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!
Here are the curtains. They shut out the sun.
Let us peep! On tiptoe Jane! You are small!
Here is Peter. Here is Jane. They like fun.
I hear a car, Jane. The milkman looks glum.
Here is Daddy in his car. Daddy is tall.
Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!
Daddy looks very cross. has he a gun?
Up milkman! Up milkman! Over the wall!
Here is Jane. They like fun.
Look, Jane, look! Look at the dog! See him run!