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With friends like mine …

The main obstacle to self-publishing is the publicity. How do you hook people into reading your stuff? Way back in 2012 I was desperately trying all channels to publicize my book, Hillary’s Angel. An IT friend persistently told me to start a blog. Eventually, six months later, I did.

It was scary. Blogging didn’t come naturally at first, but one day I woke up with the realization that it had become a hobby — something I actually enjoyed. However, 18 months later I still have no way of knowing if it has helped sell any books. I tried unsuccessfully to get feedback from Amazon (at one stage there was a nifty chart on my Amazon author’s page, which sky-rocketed whenever I made a sale, but that was taken down for “upgrading” months ago and never replaced) and I’ve not had a whiff of a royalty from them to date.

The idea is (or, rather, MY idea is) that people who read my blog will think WOW I’d like to tuck into more stuff by this magnificent blogger and will then click on and download my Wonderful Book. Certainly I’ve really enjoyed several self-published books that I found on WordPress. Some great writing is not being published via the old-fashioned/conventional channels. In fact, it’s often better than the stuff in the bookstores (and a whole lot cheaper). But in my case I only have positive evidence that blogging has helped me sell one copy. 

In another way (ie not sales related) I do have concrete proof that blogging has helped me publish. Early on it connected me with another first-time self-publisher who was far more blog-literate than I was and incredibly supportive with no prospect of financial reward (which still amazes me). 

Indirectly, thanks to her encouragement, on 21 December I finally delivered another book. This time I published with Smashwords (following my blog-friend’s example) in ebook format only. This is SELF-PUBLISHING in the true sense of the word. Along with the (minimal) effort and the risks involved it has one major advantage: I can now tell exactly how many books I sell. This time around I’m not uploading to Amazon and I’m not asking folk to review me (if they do it will just be a bonus). So for me 2014 will be an honest experiment to see if blogging really DOES help self-publishers connect with readers.

That said, I can tell you what (in my experience) does NOT sell books. First and foremost, a book launch. Rubbish. I had a great party, but didn’t sell a single copy. In fact, if you asked my friends I don’t think they’d be able to tell you why we had the party in the first place. Secondly, book reviews. I had at least three four-star reviews but suspect I was the only one who read them. Next, bookshops. As a self-publisher I found it next to impossible to get bookstores to sell my books. (Another reason why I’m opting for ebook-format only this time round.) I sold three books at each of the two stores that very kindly put Hillary’s Angel on their shelves.  

Then we come to “friends and family”. All the publishing guidelines recommend that you do NOT give friends and family copies of your books. Thing is, they don’t tell you how to get these friends and family to buy their own copies. In the end I gifted copies to most of mine.

So what do I hope to achieve by the end of 2014 (apart from the obvious massive sales to all you supportive WordPress bloggers)? Well, firstly, I’m already deep into a Mills and Boone type romance (publish or perish) to be published anonymously. And secondly (and sadly) I’m thinking of awarding a special prize to my friends for the most inventive excuse for not buying my books. The list is growing daily. (And yep, that would be a book prize.)  

On a more serious note, so far I’ve sold two whole copies of my new book Upside Down. Both to family, who bought them solely in an attempt to “cheer me up”. One was bought by my daughter, who doesn’t read books anyway, and one by my husband when he heard I’d reduced the price to $1. No, these are not tears of joy …

Weekly photo challenge: One

A walk in the park
Some day when life’s edges unravel
go bravely without a backward glance
memories implode cascading in
aromas of apples and croissants
unmade beds siestas “Closed at Noon”
treasures once so carelessly exchanged
tucked into a beaded evening bag
for a stranger to rediscover
dust off at some future antiques fair
reminding passers-by that affairs
have a way of coming to an end
heaven forbid that steely scentless
state reserved for others less loving
one day when we part it will be a
good-book-waiting goodbye a walk in
the park where we’ll leave regret behind
like a roses on our favourite bench

Weekly photo challenge: Grand

My grand old man took these photos:


Of all the mountains
big or small,
scenes or vistas,
the grandest view
I’ll ever see
is one my dog
can share
with me.

Weekly photo challenge: Let there be light!

Jersey’s Glass Church has the most effective use of glass and light that I’ve ever seen. Of course, that’s to be expected, because René Lalique used moulded white glass, or verre blanc moulé-pressée for most of the furniture, including the font, windows, altars, crosses and screens. Even the Lady Chapel, ceiling, lights and vestibule feature his work. He was commissioned by Lady Trent, to create a new interior for St Matthews in memory of her late husband, Baron Trent, founder of Boot’s Pharmacy. It took two years and was completed in 1934. Jersey architect AB Grayson, who is well known for his Art Deco style houses, designed the pews, pulpit and lectern.

The web of success

Daily Prompt: Fear Factor

People are afraid of all kinds of things: spiders, the dark, or being enclosed in small spaces. Tell us about your greatest fear — rational or irrational.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us COURAGE.


I am afraid of success. There, it’s out. All my life I’ve been running away from it — the bogeyman of Achievement. Failure? Pooh, nothing to it. But success?! That’s a very scary creature, which could tie me up, inject me with paralytic poison and eat me alive.

Failure’s fine. You storm in, grab it by the balls, get knocked flat on your back and have a bit of a laugh afterwards — well, maybe a shaky snigger. But success scares me so much it’s been easy to keep my distance. Believe me, success is a white hot number that should be tiptoed around to avoid being scalded by the steam, burnt raw by the toxic fumes, or losing your eyesight in the glare.

Not that I’ve ever looked success in the eye myself. Far too risky. The closest I’ve got was a slight singe of the fingertips that shot my anxiety barometer into the ether. I couldn’t type for weeks afterwards. Plus people avoided me … from fear of infection? (One friend has never forgiven me to this day.)

So there’s nothing irrational about my fear of success. If you’re still in doubt, just look at all the lives that have been ruined by an excess of achievement: Caesar, Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon … I could list a few film stars too, but don’t let’s go there (I was at school with one who’s not a particularly good example). I understand that she’s known as the bitch-goddess. I’m talking about Success, not the fairy queen from my drama class (who, in her mature years, has now morphed into the wicked witch). Oops! See how the mere mention of that rarefied atmosphere loosens the bowels of civility? I’m normally the very pink of politeness. (And you should see what success can do to morality.)

OK, here I go, taking all my courage in both hands. Let’s imagine that I’ve been infected by some terrible, life-changing virus of success. How would that affect me?

(1) For one thing — I could never show my face in polite society again, because success is the one unpardonable sin against humanity.
(2) I’d have to attend celebrity cocktail parties, wearing uncomfortable clothes, makeup and (heaven forbid) High Heels. And I’d have to read some of those scary news magazines I subscribe to, so that I could make Proper Conversation.
(3) No one would ever tell me any gossip ever again. I’d BE the gossip.
(4) I would be expected to REPEAT the performance that earned me the success. The pressure would be on.
(5) I could never be sure if people liked me for my homespun self or just wanted to breathe in the aroma of my toasty roasty success.
(6) I might be tempted to have a face lift to please the press. And anyone who’s watched a reality show knows what happens to people who have face lifts.
(7) I would have to stand up for my principles. No more going to ground to lick my wounds. It follows that I’d have to decide what my principles are. And give interviews. And go to meetings.
(8) I would have to employ brokers and personal trainers, and Staff. (On the upside, someone else would answer the phone.)
(9) I would never be alone again.
(10) Someone else would write my blog for me. Perhaps they’d even decide my likes and follows for me too. Aaaaaarghh!!!

Benjamin Franklin summed it up nicely: “Success has ruin’d many a man.” No matter. I will be fighting it off on the beaches. Bring on the spider!


Going, going …

Daily Prompt: To Boldly Go…

An impending new year gives rise to reflection and goal setting. What will your goals for 2014 be? It’s never to early to start thinking about self improvement!

Photographers, artists, poets: show us CONTEMPLATION.

To keep this simple, here are my resolutions in pictures:

In 2014 I will

reduce my intake of refined sugar

look before I leap

count my blessings (especially the little ones)
watch out for angels in disguise

listen more than I speak

keep a record of miracles

AND clean out the fridge regularly.


Daily Prompt: Simply Irresistible

Tell us about the favorite dish or food that you simply cannot turn down.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us TEMPTATION.


My something delicious
is marshmallow fishes —
those pink and white squishes
that bend to my wishes.
They dirty no dishes
(don’t even need tissues).
Look them up in Confucius,
who lists things auspicious.
They melt me like kisses
and dissolve sticky issues …
But they ain’t too nutritious.

Innocents … lost

Daily Prompt: Close Call

Tell us about a bullet you’re glad you dodged — when something awful almost happened, but didn’t.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us CLOSE.

Life is a series of close calls. The “something awful” still happens, only not to you. It shocks us when friends and family don’t get it. For them “almost” has no meaning — it’s as if it never happened. For us it’s a reminder of our mortality. There’s no “relief” that we dodged the bullet, no gladness, only sadness and a vague guilt.

On the morning of August 7, 1998, we left our Nairobi hotel and headed for the city centre. Someone needed the bank, as one does on the verge of a trip into the wilderness where there’s nothing to spend money on within 100 km. I remember being vaguely irritated. Why now, in rush hour? They should have drawn money the day before. I think we double parked. The US Embassy was right next door. When at last we headed out of town to Mount Kenya, it must have been some time after 09:00 but certainly before 10:30. I can’t remember the exact time. All I know now is that at 10:30, 900 kg of TNT was detonated in a truck in the parking area behind the US Embassy, killing over 200 people and injuring thousands. The bank and the embassy took the brunt of the blast.

At the time we knew nothing of this. When, after ten days away, we emerged from the sanctitude of a mountain paradise, the national flag at the information centre was at half mast. It was our first indication of the tragedy. The nation was in mourning. We returned to Nairobi to find the city centre still a no-go area. The chaos was unbelievable.

At our Nairobi hotel, life went on, hustlers, businessmen, tourists, the usual rubbish, but all now empty, dark and desperate, because irreplaceable lives, routines, careers, futures were destroyed.

Haiku moments

Everyone in bed
except one TV watcher
snoring in his chair


Everyone on line
Since I can’t do my banking
I write poems instead


Everyone leaves town
Some folks stay home for Christmas
Just for that reason


“Everyone has one!”
Mom says that’s good reason why
I should go without.


Everyone who wins
is envied by millions who
did not even play


Nothing beats blogging

Daily Prompt: Playtime

Do you play in your daily life? What says “playtime” to you?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us PLAY.

For me, the best fun’s not found in playing with our pup
cycling through the Cradle of Mankind
walking the dogs down the dragReading Book
taking a horse for a hack
surviving Scrabble or
even swimming. For
me, nothing beats
blogging but
a good