Tuesday, 28 December 2010

smashwords & ebooks

Hi all,
In my last post I mentioned that I had just published a free ebook with a company called smashwords.com. Well, I thought it would be worth telling those of you who haven't come across smashwords before a little more about them because the news is all good.

After I'd written and published a print copy of my fishing book: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales, I thought it would be a good idea to publish it in ebook format. My first thoughts led me to amazon, and I published it quite easily through their Kindle platform. I was happy with the results and soon started selling ebooks. Anyway, all was well with the world, I had my book available in print from most big retailers and in an electronic version with amazon, but then I read an article in Writing Magazine about publishing ebooks.

The article suggested several routes that authors could take when looking to publish an ebook and smashwords was one of the companies mentioned. To cut a long story short, I decided to publish my book with them. They have a brilliant website, with free downloads to help authors achieve their goals and they only take a small commission from every book sold.

Publishing with smashwords makes your book available in every ebook format worth talking about. These include Epub, which is the open industry format and used by a lot of ereaders including Stanza.
Other formats include:
PDF = Highly formatted and useful for home printing.
RTF = A format that can be read on most word processors.
LRF = The format used by the Sony Reader.
PDB = A format used by many palm reading devices.

It is by making so many formats available that smashwords is able to distribute books through major retails like: Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel.

It may be of interest to those who are still not sure about the popularity of ebooks when I tell you this. Stanza, which is an ereading apps for iPhones and ipads, has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times.

So if you are an author, and have not yet published your book in an electronic format, I suggest you check out smashwords because you will have nothing to lose. If you are just a reader and haven't yet bought an ereader, it will still be worth having a look at smashwords because they have lots of books available that can be read on your computer. Even better news, many books are free including one of mine which can be seen in the photo on the right. Click here to go to smashwords Here is a link to my free book on smashwords. If you would like to find out more about my books, writing and proofreading services,
Click here

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Barbel + Free Book

Hi all,
What's going on with the weather? Every time I dig my drive out, it snows again and ruins all my hard work. I feel really sorry for those with heating problems, there is nothing worse than being cold. Still that's enough gloom here's is a picture to warm any angler's heart.

Fish are probably the last thing on your mind, but it's time to reveal which fish takes up the number five slot in my top ten fish. Actually, you've probably guessed from the title of this piece, yes you're right, it's the barbel.

The barbel is ranked so high because of it's fighting qualities. I know many of you have encountered barbel in still waters, but it's in rivers that barbel will give you the fight of your life.

They are designed to cope with fast flowing water and they know how to use the current to best effect as soon as they are hooked. The river Severn is well stocked with barbel and it was on this river at Coalport in Shropshire that I had my first encounter with this fish. It was in the early seventies; I'd purchased my first car (a MK1 Cortina 1500 Super)and I thought a fishing trip to the Severn would give it a nice run out.

Anyway, I told my father what I'd read in the angling press about this fish called a barbel, and he agreed to accompany on my trip from Stafford. He thought I'd gone mad when I showed him the two tins of luncheon meat I intended to use for bait. I did offer him some, but he gave a hearty laugh and said, he'd stick with his worms.

I won't bore you with the details, but I remember casting out my ledger and a cube of luncheon meat and setting the rod up at 45 degrees to the river. By doing this I expected I'd see a bit of tremble on the end if I managed to get a bite. Well I needn't have worried about missing a bite because when my first barbel took the luncheon meat I throught it was going to snap my rod in half. I was using 5lb breaking strain line and it took me about ten minutes to get the fish under control. My dad stood by and watched the fight and agreed that the bend in my rod could indicate that I'd hooked a fish of record breaking proportions

I guess you can imagine the look of bewilderment on our faces when the fish broke the surface and we realised it wouldn't weigh much more than a pound. It wasn't a record breaker, but it had been exciting and I went on to catch a lot more of the same. And my dad, well after I'd caught the first five, he couldn't stand it any longer. He chucked his worms in a bush and begged me for a bit of meat.

I've haven't been down the Severn for a long while, because I don't think it is as good as it was in the seventies, but I'm still catching a few barbel in still waters like Baden Hall, near Stafford. The picture on the right shows me slipping the net under another fish. They don't fight as well as those on the severn, but they are as welcome as any other fish and more so than most.

Just to finish, I thought I'd tell you about my free e-book, My Coarse Fishing A to Z, which is available from smashwords.com Click here to go to smashwords website
Or you can also find details on my website Click here where you will find lots of other information and even a free to enter competition

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Kailzie and Traquair

Hi all,
If you remember from my last post about Scotland, we'd just arrived for a week's holiday in the border town of Peebles. Although our accommodation was in a static caravan right next to a busy main road it wouldn't bother is too much because we'd be spending the week taking in the sights that the region had to offer.

On our first day we decided we'd stay close to base and allow the weariness that had come from the previous day's journey to subside. With that in mind we started our day in Peebles and after parking by the river Tweed we took a look around the town. We found it to be a pleasant place, but being a Sunday a lot of shops were shut so we thought we'd come back later in the week, (sadly that didn't happen because we just ran out of time.

After our stroll around Peebles, we took a scenic back road along the river Tweed to Kailzie gardens. If you've been following my posts about Scotland you will know that we like to visit gardens and this holiday in Peebles wouldn't be an exception.

Kailzie Gardens is set is some of the nicest countryside you will find anywhere in the British Isles, and the garden itself was a delight. It wasn't big like Castle Kennedy and it wasn't full of exotic plants like Logan Botanical Gardens, but it was very quiet and had a charm of its own. When we were there we had the place to ourselves which is always nice in a garden, having kids running about playing hide and seek in the bushes sort of ruins the ambience for me. However, that was in 2001 and I believe things have changed and there is now a children's corner and other activities that will bring in more people. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted and the new set up will probably suit a lot of people not everybody can find pleasure in peace and quiet.


After taking in the delights of Kailzie Gardens we travelled a little further down the same road, following the twist and turns of the Tweed, until we came to Traquair House. We knew we'd arrived when we saw the famous Bear Gates which were firmly and unsurprisingly shut. History tells us that Traquair supported the Jacobites cause and was visited by Bonnie Prince Charles who was just popping down to London to reclaim the throne. So impressed by his visit was the then fifth Earl of Traquair, that he proclaimed that the Bear Gates would not be opened again until a Stuart was back on the throne.

So with the front gates firmly still shut, we followed the rest of the visitors and went in through the tradesman's entrance. Traquair House has grown over the years and is now a magnificent building with extensive grounds. When walking around the property one really gets a feel for Scotland and what it must have been like living there all those years ago. It is hard to describe, but the place had an authentic atmosphere especially when compared with some of the homogonised houses that are owned by the National Trust in England.

I guess it has come a long way since it was originally build in 1107 to serve as a hunting lodge for the upper classes of Scottish society. At that time the place would have been surround by thousands of acres of the Ettrick forrest and full of wolves, deer, boar and wild cats.


Beside visiting the house and walking around the grounds, we also took in a visit to its own brewery, which is pretty unique for a stately home. The last thing we did before leaving Traquair was to take a look at the craft shop and while we were in there Terry Anne got talking to one of the crafts people. The upshot was that he told her that if she liked to see beautiful things that a visit to Rosslyn Chapel should be a must. Now this was before the Da vinci code, and we'd never heard of the place, but we would keep it mind for a visit later in the week if we got a chance.

Anyway, having taken a walk around Peebles, strolled through Kailzie gardens and crawled around Traquair House, we reckoned we'd done enough for our first day in the Borders and went back to our noisy caravan for a rest.

This seems like a good time to leave this post, but if you want any more information about me, my books or my writing services, please click here.

Friday, 10 December 2010

E-books and Distribution

Hi all,
On Wednesday I had some good news on the writing front. If you've been following my blog you will know that my Fishing book has been available from Amazon.co.uk, in their Kindle version for quite a while. However, there are other e-book platforms to be exploited, so I decided to find out more.

Having done some research I found a company called Smashwords.com, that seemed to offer everything I wanted. When I tell you that they will distribute my book to all the major e-book retailers and I get to keep 80% of the revenue from each book sold, you'll understand why that's a cracking deal for any author.

Smashwords, will distribute your book to: Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple ipad, ibookstore, Borders, and the Diesel ebook store, plus all major smart phone platforms via app providers, such as Stanza, Aldiko, Kobo, and Word Player. They also distribute to Amazon for sale in their Kindle store, but I opted out of that distribution channel because I already have an agreement in place with Amazon.

Now, before you all nip over to Smashwords to publish your latest blockbuster, there is something important that you need to know. The standards at Smashwords are very high; books have to be formatted to a certain standard before they are accepted and your book will also need to have an acceptable cover image. Well in my mind there's nothing wrong with that, In fact I actually think it's a great idea because I welcome high standards. After all, if my book is going to be sold through the biggest book retailers in the world, it needs to be damn good and indistinguishable from the books of major publishers.

Right, having told you that the standards are high, don't get all down-hearted because help is at hand. Log onto Smashwords.com, (Click here to visit the Smashwords site) and you will find they have a free downloadable book that will take you through the formatting process, step by jolly step. It's a lengthy book, but following it religiously is the only way to get your book into the premium catalogue that gives you access to the full distribution service.

The process is easy to follow. If you've got a print version of your book just do a "save as" and create a separate copy which will be your e-book. The next thing to do is follow the free guide and create your e-book. The next stage is to join Smashwords and upload your book. Once you have done this, you will be faced with a spinning wheel that says your book is being processed. Don't sit there looking at the wheel waiting for something to happen because it could take a couple of days. The best thing to do is get on with writing your next book and check progress every now and again.

What happens after you've uploaded your book is that it goes into something called the meatgrinder. This apparently is a piece of software that does a rough check on your book, to make sure it is at least something like acceptable. If it gets past the meatgrinder, it then goes into another approvals process that is even tighter. Don't be surprised, if on your first attempt you fail at this stage because that is what happened to me. My sin was that I'd got a paragraph return in mid-sentence and that is not allowed. Anyway I fixed my mistake and uploaded the book again.

And that brings us neatly back to the good news I spoke about at the beginning of this post. On Wednesday, I went onto the Smashwords site and found that my book had been approved for the premium catalogue. Then later in the day, I received an e-mail to say that I'd just sold my first copy, which was fantastic news and hopefully just the first of many. Click here to see my Smashwords page

Having become involved in the world of e-books, I am now considering whether it's worth while bothering with creating a print version at all, especially when you look at the costs involved.

In my next writing post I will give you my thoughts on print versions and information about the book I'm working on which I'll be giving away absolutely free? If you would like more information about me or my books and even a free to enter competion Click here

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Perch

Sorry it's been a while, but it's time for me to keep my promise and reveal the species of fish that can claim the number six spot in my top ten coarse fish. I said it was a fish with plenty of attitude, so what else could it possibly be other than the perch. (the Photo is of Copmere near Stafford; it looks nice, but the fishing is hard)
Old stripey, otherwise known as the perch, has a lot going for it. Firstly, when a perch bites, it bites, it doesn't fuss about with your maggot like an old lady, the perch puts it straight in its mouth. This probably accounts for why the perch was the first fish most anglers ever caught, and therefore the very fish that set them onto a lifetime of pleasure.

The second great attribute of the perch, is that pound for pound, it can put up a decent fight, especially when compared with cissies like bream and the pike.

Perch have also been responsible for many match wins especially on the canal because they often turn up as a bonus fish. Most anglers could have caught a couple of pounds of gudgeon, but the one with the bonus perch was the jammy bugger who went off homw with a pocket full of pools money.

However, having sung its praises, the perch does have a couple of weak points and that's why it occupies the number six spot.Firstly, it is so voracious and has such a big mouth that it often swallows the hook. Now I'm a gentle soul and hate to think I was causing fish any pain, (If I did I'd give up fishing) so a fish that swallows the hook is not a good thing for me. Thankfully I'm so damned good with the disgorger(perhaps I should've been a brain surgeon)I can usually remove the hook without the perch even twitchin a fin.

Secondly, they are a bit spiky. The first thing you learn when you catch your first perch is to make sure you fold down its dorsal fin as you grab a hold of it. However, the perch has more than one spike that it uses to inflict pain on the nasty anglers. Just behind the gills it has another couple of spikes that have managed to get me on several occasions. I know they are there and I don't know if I'm just being clumsy or I'm worried too much about the dorsal fin getting me, but I've been done by the spikes on a perch's gills several times. If you've suffered the same fate, you'll know what I'm talking about.


In my second book about angling, (click here to see details of the first, pictured on the left) which is almost finished, you can read more about the perch, and how my father ended smacking a innocent cow in the face with one. In my next fishing blog I'll reveal my number 5, a fish with whiskers. By the way if you've got an electronic book reader my fishing book is avaiable on Kindle and several other formats that can be found at smashwords at an almost give away price of £2.99. Click here to go to smashwords

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Peebles, Moffat & haggis

Hi
In this post we will be carrying on with our tour of Scotland. For several weeks now we have been travelling around Dumfries and Galloway looking at the area's attractions. Now we are going to move inland across the other side of the M74 to a place called Peebles.

The photo on the right shows a typical view of the countryside in the area.
Peebles isn't a place that many people other than locals are acquainted with. It's quite a large border town, but being between the main roads that lead to either Glasgow or Edinburgh it is seldom found by accident.

We decided to give Peebles a try because it was closer than going to the highlands and it was a inland which would be a refreshing change from the seaside. I suppose it is quite strange that even when we get older we still tend to drift towards the coast for our holidays. It's a bit crazy when you think about it. The sea is too cold to swim in, and sand is only good for kids and ruining your sandwiches. And what's more, if you like to have a good look around the area when you are on holiday, the sea itself restricts movement by about 50 percent. So an inland holiday may not have amusement arcades, rock shops and candyfloss, but you will get 360 degree access to the surrounding area.

The journey to Peebles was simple, we went straight up the M6 and got off at Moffat, which is another border town that is often missed by those travelling north. It has wide streets some lovely pubs and hotels. We had our lunch in one of these and the plaid carpet put us in the right mood for the first day of our holiday. In fact I got right into the spirit of things by ordering a plate of haggis. I would like to say I enjoyed it, but it left me a little disappointed because it was on the bland side. I had expected it to taste a bit like faggots because I thought it was made from all the bits that nobody wanted for their Sunday dinner. I don't know what was in the haggis I had, perhaps it was best Aberdeen Angus steak. Whatever it was, it wasn't what I expected.


After Moffat we carried on up north and followed the majestic river tweed (Photo on the left) all the way to Peebles.We only stopped once more to take a look around a glass showroom in Tweedsmuir, where we purchased a nice paperweight. Eventually we reached Peebles and drove through the centre of town to find our caravan site. We were staying in a static caravan because there wasn't a large choice of self-catering accommodation in the area, especially for holiday makers with a dog. If that wasn't bad enough, I was a smoker, so our choices were restricted even further.

Anyway, we thought the caravan would be fine, because if you've followed us this far, you will know that we don't spend much time in the accommodation. Having said that, it seems we were allocated the worst caravan on the site. There was nothing wrong with the caravan itself, but its position was grim.

The big leylandi hedge at the bedroom end of the caravan failed to dampen the noise from the A703. Now I don't mind a bit of road noise, which is just as well because I live within yodelling distance of the M6. What made this so bad was that on the other side of the Leylandi hedge was a big white sign with a black diagonal line through it. This is one of the best signs the motorist ever sees because it means that they can put their foot down. And put their foot down they did, every driver just as they passed our caravan jammed their foot on the accelerator as if they were being chased by the Loch Ness Monster.

My wife and I would lie there every night listening as each car came out of town with its engine purring like a kitten. As it got closer we would count down to that moment when the driver's stamped his foot on the juice.

Like all bad things in life you don't learn to like these things, but you do find a
way to tolerate them and by the end of the week we hardly knew the road was there.

I think I'll leave you with another photo of the Borders countyside and take a break before we seriously set about Peebles and its environs. If you want any more information about me, my writing services and books, or would just like to read some of my short stories. Click here
Details about print and Kindle versions of my Fishing book are available on the above website. However, should you like an e-book in a different format Please click here

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Proofreading Advice

Hi all,
I just thought I'd let those of you who are interested in writing know that I've added some advice on proofreading to my website.

The cost of engaging somebody to do your proofreading can prove to be expensive. You may also be apprehensive about contacting a stranger, just in case you get roped into something you hadn't bargained for.

Well, I have low rates and some even better special offers for those who have purchased my book, Writing: How to get Started as a Freelance writer, Plus a Guide to Self-Publishing and POD. Click here to see more information about my book.

If you do want somebody to proofread your document, be it just a couple of pages or a whole novel, just send me an e-mail and I'll give you an outline of my proofreading service and quote you a price. Simple and easy, if I don't hear from you again I'll assume you aren't interested and I won't e-mail you again.

Right, that's enough of the advertising because the whole purpose of this post was to tell you about my proofreading tips. If you are hell bent on doing your own proofreading and would like a few tips on the subject you will find some on my website, Click here. They are in PDF format so they can easily be downloaded or printed off. I wish you luck and hope you find them useful.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Red Squirrels


Hi all,
If you've been travelling with me around Dumfries and Galloway I hope I've opened your eyes to the beauty of the area. The fact that it's known as "Scotland's best kept secret" says a lot about it, but still fails to do it justice.

In this post I will tell you about the last day of our holiday on the Isle of Whithorn. In previous posts about Dumfries and Galloway, you will perhaps recall that we've visited a number of gardens including: Threave, Ardwell House, Galloway house, Logan Botanical, Dunskey, Glasserton and Glenwhan. They were all different and all had a charm of their own.

You may have gathered by now that my wife and I like gardens, so it will come as no surprise if I tell you that on our last day we visited one of the best known and biggest gardens in Southern Scotland. Castle Kennedy Gardens sits magnificently just off the A75 before Stranraer. This is a very large garden, but don't go with the expectations of seeing vast herbaceous borders because you could be disappointed. There are some herbaceous borders, but these are mostly confined to the walled garden that surround the old castle ruin. For me this was the best area of the garden. The rest of the landscape is taken up by pools small lakes and magnificent areas of grass. When one walks down from the walled garden to the pond at the bottom of the grassed slope, one gets a real appreciation of how magnificent this garden is.

Although this was the biggest garden we visited, it wasn't the best in terms of catering. There was a cafe, but not what we were expecting to find in such fantastic surroundings. It was a while ago when we visited so perhaps it's been upgraded by now.

Despite the cafe, Castle Kennedy will always have a special place in my heart. While I was waiting in the car park for my wife to use the facilities a red squirrel trotted out of the bushes and stared at me for a nano second, but before I could get my camera up to my eye it scampered off back into the bushes.

To some people this might no be so remarkable, but I was over fifty years old and it was the first red squirrel I'd ever seen. My wife was so envious when I told her about it because she'd never seen one either. I think I was surprised about the red squirrel because all my life I'd been under the impression that the greys had all but wiped them out. Now I understand that there are quite a few places in Britain where the red squirrel still thrives. Besides those in Scotland, there are colonies on Brownsea Island in Dorset, some more in the lake district, some on Anglesey and yet more near Liverpool of all places.

After our long stroll around Castle Kennedy, we got some fish and chips in Stanraer and ate them over looking the harbour, where we could watch the ferries leaving for Ireland. After that we had a very pleasant drive around the North Rhinn. We followed the Banks of Loch Ryan where we saw the hulk of a beached warship that was sadly rusting away. Then we went over the top and followed the almost deserted roads to Black Head Lighthouse where we were able to park the car and have a spectacular view over a rugged bit of coast.

Sadly, another holiday came to an end much too quickly, but that's life. Next time we visit Scotland we will be in my favourite area and I'm looking forward to telling you about it and showing off some beautiful photos.

If you want to find out more about me, my books or my writing services, please Click here to visit my website.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Bossyboots

Hi all,

After self publishing my second book, Writing: How to get Started as a Freelance Writer Plus a Guide to Self-Publishing & POD, I decided to concentrate on my novel, Bossyboots.

I composed a synopsis, my bio and an introductory letter and then polished up the first three chapters until I could see my own face in them. Following that I went through the Writers' and Artists' Year Book and made a list of all the agents who might have a glimmer of interest in what I'd written.

During the next two weeks I sent out the material they'd requested and got on with titivating the rest of Bossyboots. Those of you who've gone through the process of editing a book that runs to 300 pages, will know that this is a task of enormous proportions.

Anyway, this week I managed to complete the job and took a moment to reflect on what to do next. I had nurtured a tiny ember of hope that by the time I'd finished editing Bossyboots, I may have received a telegram from an excited agent asking me to forward the rest of my manuscript with all haste. However, I regret to say that this was not forthcoming and the fire has almost gone out. I still have a few replies to come, but I don't hold out much hope.

If you do happen to be a savvy agent and you are reading this, it's time for you to take action and make a name for yourself. Opportunities like this don't come by very often so don't miss out on another one.

The publishing industry is changing at a rapid rate so getting a publisher to take on a book is becoming more difficult, so it's not surprising that agents don't want to take on anymore clients. They must be finding it very hard to sell the work of those they have already got on their list, so what chance the debut novelist with so many manuscripts awash in the system.

In a way this is good news, because I have my own publishing imprint, I can keep 100%control over my book. Getting it to market will be a lot quicker too.So I've decided to self-publish Bossyboots and I have ordered a proof copy from my printer so that I can proof read it again. I've decided it will be easier to proofread a hard copy of the book rather than try to do it on screen again. With the book I can read it anywhere and highlight the mistakes as I go along.

One of my favourite parts of the self publishing process is in creating a cover. I always use Photoshop Elements because it is simple to use yet gives fantastic results. If you look at the cover of Boosyboots, at the top of this post, you can have your own opinion, but I'm quite proud of my efforts.
By the way, if you do have any comments to make about the cover, please let me have them, any feedback is always useful.

If you would like more information about my books or my writing services,please click here.
In my next writing post Bossyboots will be close to being published, so I will give you an insight into what it's all about. At some point I will also offer a free download.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Bream Tench and Blanched Maggots

Hi, Autumn is with us again, doesn't this picture make you want to get your rods out.
In this post I'm going to carry on with the process of revealing my top ten favourite fish. So far I've covered the eel, which due to its sliminess and hook swallowing capability, came in at number 10. Spot number nine was taken up by the big girls blouse of the freshwater fish world, this is the thickest of all fish and is of course, the Pike.

This week we will start at number eight, a place that is filled by the humble bream. This fish ought to be called old snotty because it doesn't half put some mucus on your line. It is hard to describe the bream's fighting capability because it has about as much fight as a jelly. In fact the bream has only one redeeming factor and if it wasn't for that it wouldn't appear in my top ten at all. The reason it is in my top ten is because they are relatively easy to catch. They will take a wide range of baits and there is no need to worry about fishing the right depth for this fish. All you have to do is make sure your bait is nailed to the bottom. The first shot should also be just on the bottom and about nine inches from the hook. Plumbing the depth is very important when fishing for bream and more can be seen about that in my angling book. Click here to see details
Another thing that I discuss in the book is the need to make sure that you get rid of all the slime off your line after catching a bream. I know it's a bit mucky and it could turn your stomach if you are half way through a bacon butty, but get rid of the slime, because you won't get another bite until you do. Fish might not be the most intelligent creatures on the planet but they do have instincts and if they see a long string of their mate's mucus strung between bb shot and a lump of sweetcorn, they are apt to give it the cold shoulder.

Anyway, as long as you keep your line clean the bream is easily caught and comes to the net very easily. And that is why it's one of my favourite fish. I have won many matches in my fishing career and the bream has played a major part in a lot of them. In fact there is only one other fish that has consistently contributed to the number of competitions I've won. That fish, and you might be surprised what it is, comes in a number two so you will have to wait a few posts to find out what it is.

The Tench is the next fish in my top ten. Like the bream this fish also has a problem with slime, but not quite so bad. I have a soft spot for the tench because it's a good looking fish and a lovely shade of green, unlike the bream the tench can put up a very good fight.

On the downside, they definitely seen to like the early morning approach and are probably one of the first fish to decide that breakfast is over and they'll go and sleep for the rest of the day somewhere under a big patch of weeds. They don't bother with lunch and won't be seen again until they come out for a bit of light supper.

So that's why the tench only comes in at number seven. It is good for the pleasure angler and I've had some good tench sessions, but it's a fish that has never contributed to helping me win an angling competition. This is probably because most competitions start after the tench has had its fill and gone back to bed.

For the record, and perhaps it doesn't seem so good nowadays, but back in the early seventies I caught my best ever tench. It was a specimen of 5lb 4oz and was considered such a specimen at the time that it was reported in our local newspaper.

I know a tench of that size wouldn't get a mention now but at that time any tench over 4lb was considered a very good fish. Anyway I caught the fish at a venue called Copmere, which is just north of Stafford. At the time the fishing rights were with GEC angling club, but I think it is now in private hands.

It was at Copmere, that one of my regular fishing companions introduced me to the joys of blanched maggots. I would hasten to say that it was also the last time I used blanched maggots and hope I never come within sniffing distance of one again. You can find out more about the blanched maggot escapade in my book.

In my next fishing post we'll take a look at number six a fish with attitude.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Dunskey Gardens

Hi all,
There is no doubt about it, the south western corner of Scotland has some spectacular gardens. In this blog I have previously described visits to Logan Botanical gardens and the wild splendour of Ardwell House. We have been to Glenwhan and seen what beauty can be wrought from virtually nothing..The garden we are visiting today, Dunskey, may not be as well known as some of the gardens in the area and that's a shame because it's one of my favourites. This garden has got it all; the usual flower beds and ornamental ponds etc, but it has so much more
I'm sure we can all appreciate well planted herbaceous borders and specimen plants and it is heavenly to walk about taking in the scents and admiring the planting combinations.
However, when you've taken all that in, Dunskey has something extra to offer, especially for those who visit during May. Beyond the lovely garden you will find a pathway that leads to two, small scenic lochs. Between the two you will find a path that meanders through the most delightful bluebell walk I have ever trodden.

The second loch, complete with boathouse, is in a glorious setting that is enhanced by the careful intervention of a top class gardener. I would recommend any visitor to Logan, Ardwell, Glenwhan and Castle Kennedy, to take a look at Dunskey because it is wonderful.

I think that being less well known adds to it's charm because it hasn't been commercialised at all. Whene my wife and I walked this garden, we must've been there for the best part of two hours and we never saw another soul. Peace and quiet in perfect surroundings, what more could anybody want?

Dunskey gardens is never far from my thoughts. In fact I was so impressed that I use one of the photos for the desktop background on my computer. So now, whenever I switch it on, I'm transported back to paradise.
For more information about me, my books or writing services, Click here

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Good News

Hi all
Finally the distribution gremlim has been put to the sword and my book is now available. "Writing: How to get Started as a Freelance Writer Plus a Guide to Self-Publishing & POD" can be purchased in paperback from most on-line retailers for only £7.99. If you go to Amazon via my website (link at the bottom of this post) you will find that it also includes delivery, which makes it a bit of a bargain.

However, I know many people don't like to spend more than a fiver on anything so here is some more good news. A kindle version of the book is now on sale at Amazon for the really low price of £4.20. For a book that is packed with so much information, that has got to be good news.

Here's just a reminder of what the book is about. The first part is aimed at those who you want to take up freelance writing. They may not know how to get started, or even worse, they may be showered with so many opportunities and ideas that they can't see the wood for the trees.

The writing game is awash with so many ideas that many a would-be writer just gets drowned before they find dry land. My book shows the best way to get started and move on to become established. I don't like blowing my own trumpet, or using well worn cliches, but I've been there and done it. I wasted more time than I care to remember chasing false hopes. The truth of the matter is, too many opportunities were waved in front of this gullible face and like a hungry fool I snapped at most of them. My book helps you avoid the traps and concentrate on areas that can bring success.

The first part of the book is dedicated to making sure the would be freelance writer doesn't waste precious time. It provides a clear strategy that will lead to publication and just as importantly, getting paid. Somebody said, "Only fools write for nothing" and I reckon they were right.

The second part of the book takes a look at the options that revolve around self-publishing. When most people think about self-publishing they think of vanity publishing and that's a mistake. Don't let anybody try to convince you that self-publishing is for failed authors with enourmous egos, because it isn't.

More good news; times have changed and self-publishing can be not only self-satifying, but also a lucrative enterprise for a lot of good authors. Let's face it, there are lots of brilliant authors out there all banging away on their keyoards day and night, but only a few get a tradditional publishing deal. Publishers want to make money so they are conservative about taking on new writers, which means the debut novelist has little chance of being spotted.

Anyway, regardless of how good your writing, getting a publishing contract is not going to happen for most writers, so this brings us back to self-publishing. My book examines 6 different models that any would be author could try. These range from handing your manuscript over to a company who will do everything for the author at one end of the spectrum, to the other end, where the author takes his book files to an independant printer. It also discusses in some detail the opportunites that are offered by internet companies like Createspace, Blurb and Lulu. These companies and others like them will allow the author to produce and publish a book for less than £10 so that can't be bad can it. Obviously, there are pros and cons and a lot will depend on the authors own circumstances and expectations, but it can be done and it is easier than you think and my book will show you the way. I have done it twice and you can see the results on my website.
Anyway, I'll leave you with the link. Goto my website
I also aplogise if this post seems like an out and out plug for my book, but I know many people who read this blog are intrested in writing. Those of you who are waiting patiently for the next post about my tour of Scotland will be pleased to know that it will be out in a couple of days.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Top Ten Fish Chart

Hi all,
A couple of posts back, I showed you a picture of a fish. Not only was the species of this fish unknown to me, but it must be the ugliest fish I've ever caught. I've shown it again here so that new readers can see what I'm talking about.
Anyway, during the same fishing session on the doughnut pool, at Baden Hall fisheries nr Stafford, I also caught what I think is the most handsome of all our fresh water fish. I won't tell you what it is straight away because I thought I'd give you my top ten fish and you can see how they compare with yours.

So let's get down to it.

10 The last spot in my top ten goes to the eel. Slithery and covered in slime; it invariably swallows the hook and that is very annoying. The eel is also surrounded by folklore and I heard that if you caught an eel the best way to keep it still is to dig out a small trench in the shape of a cross and lay the eel in the vertical part. Apparently, so the wisdom goes, it will never move again. Well, I tried it after catching a specimen of about 2lbs. I thought I'll take this beauty home for my dad and so I dug out the trench in the shape of the cross and laid the eel in it on its back as per instruction. I think rigor mortise must have set in straight away because it went as stiff as a blacksmith's hammer. Pleased that I'd learnt something new I went back to enjoy the rest of my fishing session. Perhaps you can empathise with my disappointment when I tell you that about three minutes later, the eel slithered past me and jumped back into the water with all the grace of a high-board diver. It did two and a half somersaults, with twisted back flip and I'm sure it paused to wink at me as it entered the water without a splash.

No, I'm not much for eels, they go into the same category as crayfish and bullyheads they're just not worth catching.

9 Now some of you may be surprised by the fish that occupies my number nine spot; it's the pike. The only good thing I can say about this fish is that mother nature gave it some lovely markings. The pike is a beautiful fish, well at least from its gills to its tail. The bit at the front however, is down right gruesome and reminds me of my auntie Ethel. Here is a fish that promises so much; it looks ferocious and promises a good fight, but even on light tackle it comes to the net like a damp sack.

Going beyond the lack of fight, the pike must also be rated alongside the most stupid of all fish. In my book "Fishing: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales" I dedicate a whole chapter to talking about the stupidity of the pike, but let me just tell you this. Many years ago I was spinning for pike and, during a moment of poor concentration, I cast my lure into the bottom branches of a tree that was hanging over the pool. As I stood there cursing at my own stupidity, a pike jumped out of the water and hung itself on my spinner. I couldn't believe what I was seeing or believe how daft or hungry Percy the pike was. Anyway, Percy thrashed his tail in the water with such gusto that it managed to shake itself free. Meanwhile I pinched myself and hurried around to the tree to retrieve my spinner before a duck or a moorhen should get caught on it.

If I tell you that before I got to the spinner, Percy the Pike jumped out of the water and hung himself on it for a second time you will understand why I think Pike are the most stupid of fish and not really worth the bother of getting the rods out for.

I'm afraid that if you want to know which other fish come in my top ten, and which I rate as the best of all I'm afraid you'll have to wait until my next fishing post.

Meanwhile, if you want more information about my books, please take a look at my website. You will find a free download of a sample of my fishing book and notice that it is available in a Kindle version. The price of the Kindle version was an introductory offer and almost a give away. If you want to take advantage of this very low price I suggest you get in quick because the price will be going up shortly to something more realistic and sustainable.
Click here to go to my website

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Cous Cous in Portpatrick

Hi all,
Have you ever been on holiday and thought this is the place for your retirement? Well, my wife and I got that feeling when we visited Portpatrick for the first time. I know a lot of people think of Devon, Cornwall or even Spain when it comes to retirement, but for us Portpatrick seems like the perfect place.

Set on the west side of the Rhinns of Galloway, the small harbour town is bathed in fresh air from the Atlantic much the same as Devon and Cornwall. But, it has other charms because although it is on the coast it has not been commercialised at all. When taking a walk around the town one becomes very relaxed, it's very pretty, but doesn't attract hoards of visitors.

I am not surprised tourist levels are low because not many people know of its existence. Actually, it wasn't always so quiet in Portpatrick because originally, this was going to be the main port serving Ireland. However, the project to build a big port was transferred to Stranraer, which occupies a better situation not far away on the east coast of the Rhinns. Sitting at the bottom of Loch Ryan the port at Stranraer provides a safe haven from even the worst Atlantic gales. And so it was that Portpatrick stayed as a small harbour town while Stranraer grew to be a big ferry port.
On our first visit to Portpatrick we needed to find somewhere to eat. Now like I've said, this is a small town and uncommercialised, so the choices were few. We didn't particularly want to eat in a pub, so we chose a small cafe in a conservatory that overlooked the harbour. See the photo on the right.

The thing is, we almost walked out after we'd sat down and read the menu, because at that time it wasn't our sort of grub. Well to be honest my wife, who is more refined than me, quite like the sound of what was on offer. I grew up in a council house and I can tell you now that goat's cheese, bean sprouts and cous cous were not on my mother's menu.

Anyway, my wife talked me into having some sort of salad with cous cous. I was partly persuaded by the elevated position of the conservatory as the view would keep us amused while we waited for the food. We didn't have to wait long and our delicious food was soon on the table and I would have to say that I was enjoying the cous cous as much as the scenery, when an almighty bang seemed to rock the very foundations of our dining room. I am pleased to report that it wasn't just me that let out a gasp of fright and that it didn't trigger off the heart attack that I was to suffer a couple of years later.

I guess we and the other diners were just on the brink of wondering what the noise could have been when our host appeared from the kitchen and explained what was going on. Apparently the bang was caused by a maroon that had been let off to tell the local volunteer lifeboat men that their services were required immediately. We all sat enthralled for the next five minutes as various men arrived at the harbour and made the lifeboat, which was moored along the harbour wall, ready for action. They came by a variety of means, some on foot, some in cars and one on a bicycle. As the crew members arrived we were given a running commentary by our host. I can't remember the actual names and I've made up the details, but it went something like this.
"That's Johhny Mcduff, he's the helmsman. He works in a local garage. Now him just arriving, he's been on the boat for over 20 years, his name is McConney and he operates the wireless. Now see that bloke with the beard arriving on the bike, you wouldn't think it, but he's a solicitor and he's the captain."
And so it went on, we felt honoured to be part of such a scene and our excitement was raised even higher when the solicitor opened the throttle wide and with its bow in the air, the lifeboat crested the incoming waves and roared out to sea. In the picture on the left, the lifeboat can be seen moored against the harbour wall.

Eventually, we got back to our cous cous, and were presently informed by our host that a ship that was taking part in "The tall ships Race" was in trouble somewhere out in the Atlantic and the brave men of Portpatrick had gone to their assistance.

Last year we returned to Portpatrick and although the town was as charming as ever, we were disappointed to find that the cafe is now a private house. Change is a funny thing; something so small can have a quite an effect on one's soul. Still the memories will be with me for life and I'll just have to find a new haven when my days of toil are done.

Here's just a reminder that more information about my books, freedownloads and writing services can be found on my website.
Click here

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Glitch in Distribution

Hi all,

Those of you who are following my writing posts may have noticed that the content recently has concentrated on fishing and Scotland. The reason for this is that I was hoping by now to be able to announce that my new book is available from Amazon and other on line retailers, but it is with some disappointment that I have to report that some thing's gone wrong in the distribution department. I am trying to get it sorted out and hopefully my book "Writing: How to get Started as a Freelance Writer Plus a Guide to Self-Publishing & POD" will be available soon.

I suppose I should've expected something to go wrong because the rest of the self-publishing process went as smooth as clockwork. If the book is made available before the end of this month it will have only taken 9 months from blank page to publication. I think that's pretty good as it can take longer to have a baby, and by comparison, writing the book was completely painless. I believe it's possible to write and self-publish a quality book in less than three months, if you get stuck in.

I know lots of people say they want to write a book, and they probably could. However, any would be author should not underestimate the commitment that is required. Writing a book isn't for the faint hearted; you can't do a bit then leave it for a while because if you do, it will never get finished.

I have written four books in total and I can tell you that the only way to write one is to have some discipline. Whether you do it part time or full time is of no consequence, but you must get stuck in and write every day. When I wrote my first book, I set myself a minimum of 6000 words a week and wrote for two hours almost every night. I kept a spreadsheet so that I could keep an accurate tally of words produced and used it to charter my progress. I am pleased to say that every week I hit my target and most weeks I surpassed it.

So if you want to write a book there is absolutely nothing stopping you, all you need is will power. Sit down every day and write until it is finished, don't go back and start editing it because you will lose the flow. When the book is completely written you can edit and proofread it until it is perfect, but finish writing it first.


My first non-fiction book, "Fishing: Learn from The Tips and Laugh at the Tales" is available from amazon etc and a free sample download is available from my website.

I hope the distribution problem with my writing book is sorted out soon and will let you know via this post when it's available. For those of you who are interested in Scotland my next post will be about Port Patrick, which must surely be one of the most picturesque harbour towns in the Rhinns.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Ugliest Fish

Hi all,
I managed to find time to get my rods out again last week and I'm pleased to report that I had a good day's sport. However, one of the fish I caught was the ugliest fish I've ever seen. I've included a photograph so that you can see what I mean.
The sad thing from my point of view is that I couldn't even recognise the species; this is especially embarrasing seeing how I not only write about the subject of fishing, but have also written and published a book on the subject.

I know some fisheries are stocking their waters with some exotic fish like ghost carp so perhaps it was one of those. I've never seen or caught a ghost carp so I guess I can be excused for not recognising one of them. The thing certainly looked ghost like to me.

Parts of it also looked sort of gold fish like, especially where the colouring wasn't faded. If it wasn't a big goldfish or a ghost carp, then I guess it could've been a very ugly orf. I know that some waters stock this species and indeed I caught one of them back in the 60's from a lake at Woburne Abbey. This was the same day that Edgar, my brother, hooked me through the cheek with a size ten. I was only a lad at the time and because it was a barbed hook (they all were in those days) I was taken to the doctors to have it removed. But, that as they say is another story and one that I may tell you about in a future post. Anyway, back to the the ugliest fish in the world. If anybody reading this post can identify the fish concerned perhaps they'd let me know what it is and I'll pass the information on to those who are as ignorant as me.

Having told you about the ugliest fish ever, it might also be worth mentioning that during the same session, I also caught a fish that I think is strikingly handsome. If ever they had a miss world contest for coarse fish, I'm sure this one would take the crown. Most anglers have there favourite species, and I'm no exception, so in my next fishing post I'll give you a run down of my top ten.

Here's just a reminder that a free sample download of my book, "Fishing: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales" is available from my website. You will also find there, information about my book which deals with becoming a freelance writer and self-publishing. Click here to go to the the website.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Logan Fish Pond

Hi
In my last post about Scotland we visited the spectacular Mull of Galloway with its light house, sea views and a cliff top cafe. If I've whetted your appetite and you do find yourself in the area, there is one place that you really shouldn't miss. Not far from the tip of the Mull of Galloway you will find Logan Bay, and a small attraction called Logan fish pond.

Logan fish pond, is something that contemporary chefs would be proud of. In 1788 the laird of Logan, Andrew McDouall had a brain wave. He decided to take advantage of a blow hole in the rocks that was found on the foreshore of Logan Bay and over a period of twelve years he employed a gang of workmen, armed only with hand tools, to excavate a pond out of the solid rock. The project was completed in 1800 and a variety of sea fish were introduced to their new home. Once in the pond, they were fed and lived quite happily until their day came to be chosen for the table. The sea water in the pond was kept clean and changed automatically by the tide twice a day, and the laird who lived nearby was guaranteed a supply of fresh fish.

Visitors to the fish pond can now enjoy the small gift shop and buy bags of food to feed the fish. It's quite magical to see big sea fish darting up for the food. I'm a coarse angler so not very good at recognising sea fish, but when I visited I think I saw, cod, pollack, wrasse and a turbot. As well as the fish in the big pond, there are also some aquariums where the visitors are allowed to touch the inhabitants. My wife picked up the starfish you can see on the right, but being a bit of a sissy I declined.

After visiting the fish pond we had a short walk along the beautifully sandy beach! Now, you may have noticed that I finished the last sentence with an exclamation mark and I'll explain why. My wife and I like to stroll on quiet beaches and pick up anything we find interesting; a pretty shell, an oddly shaped or coloured pebble and that sort of thing. Anyway the first time we found ourselves in Logan Bay, we thought we'd discovered a beachcomber's heaven. All manner of flotsam and jetsam was washed up the beach along the high tide mark. In fact there was so much stuff on this beach that after picking my way through some of it, I asked a local what was going on and was surprised by his answer. Apparently, across the sea in Northern Ireland, they have a rubbish tip that is situated near the coast and the wind blows lots of the rubbish into the sea. In turn, the prevailing tides takes all this crap out to sea and dumps the stuff in Logan Bay. Suddenly, beachcombing lost its charm and I don't think it will ever be the same again.

I think it's a disgrace, especially when we read in the papers that people are being fined for discarding their cigarette ends. To let all that rubbish enter the sea and allow some of it to foul one of the most beautiful areas of the country is criminal. By the way, I'm not defending those who drop their fag ends, I deplore any type of litter, I'm just making a comparison.

Anyway, I had the pleasure of visiting Logan Bay again this year, a photo of the harbour can be seen on the left, and was extremely pleased to find that the beach was as it should be. I don't know if it was down to the wind, tide or if it had been sorted altogether, but I was pleased to find that the beach was rubbish free. We also had a nice walk along the harbour wall and watched a flock of gannets as they plunged like darts into the blue sea in the middle of the bay. And so concluded another enjoyable visit to the Mull of Galloway and Logan Bay.

Here's just a reminder that if you want any further information about me, my books, or my writing services please click here.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Ffestiniog and the Demon Driver


Hi all, the photo above is a view of Barmouth, taken from Fairbourne.
Okay, it's time to carry on with the trip to Ffestiniog to do a bit of fishing. The first question you might ask is why anyone living in Staffordshire would want to go all the way to Ffestiniog to do some fishing? Travelling seventy odd miles to wet a line in a remote area of North Wales, could seem a little eccentric.

The answer is simple, and I'm sure that anglers old enough to remember split cane rods will still be feeling the pains of the closed season, a time when fishing wasn't allowed anywhere. It wasn't too bad during March and April because it was still a bit chilly in those months, but once May arrived and the sap started to rise, the need to go fishing bought on a bad case of cold turkey. So our trip to Ffestiniog was like a drug, we needed to feel the pleasures of the rod and couldn't wait until June.

We wouldn't be catching coarse fish, because the lake in Ffestiniog was trout only, but we would be allowed to use our coarse fishing tackle and coarse fishing bait.

Three of us set off early one morning and I would like to report that the journey was good and the scenery splendid. However, the trip for me was a nightmare. A friend of a friend called Dave had offered to do the driving and at the time it seemed like a good idea to accept. If only I'd known that he drove as if he was taking part in the Monte Carlo Rally (if you can remember split cane rods you will also remember this annual event too). It was flat out all the way, late breaking and overtaking at inopportune places. By the time we got to Festiniog I was suffering from nervous exhaustion and my arms were aching from having to hang onto the back of the passenger's seat. My Friend Paul, who sat in this seat seemed to take Dave's driving in his stride; perhaps he was either used to it or there againn he was probably numb with fright.

It didn't help that we went thirty miles out of our way. Each of us assumed that one of us knew the way and Dave being Dave just put his foot down and headed for Wales. Those of you from Stafford will know that to get to Wales you first go to Newport. Dave the driver did this, but then went straight on when a turn to the right would have been favourite. Because we were travelling at such a speed we were in a little village called Knockin before anybody thought to consult a map and we realised that we were well off course. Anyway we had a laugh at the sign over the village shop which is aptly called "The Knockin Shop," and then returned whence we came to pick up the A5.

Now I don't want you to go running off with the idea that I don't like speed because that isn't true. I'm as happy as the next man to be going fast; I just think that speeding is okay if done in appropriate places. If I tell you that I was once the proud owner of a Ford Capri you will understand that I know all about speed. It's a shame about that car, but when I married for the second time, my new wife and I couldn't afford to run two cars so I gave my beloved Capri to my son. He kept it for a few weeks and then traded it in for a Citreon that had suspension that he liked to play with. I can remember him showing me how he could raise the suspension on one wheel and lower it on the other. Now that isn't what I call a good swap and I still haven't got over it.

Anyway, we were soon walking around Ffestiniog lake looking for a suitable spot to fish from. We went over the dam wall and across to the far side opposite a strange building that had huge pipes coming out of it. The landscape around the lake was like a moonscape. There wasn't a blade of grass to be seen anywhere. The whole lake was surrounded by banks of loose rocks which varied in shape and sizes. Actually these rocks came in handy because after tackling up with a ledger rig and casting out it became apparent that the rocks could be put to good use. I built a nice little rest for my feet and a table for my coffee that was so skillfully built that a stone waller from Derbyshire would've been proud of it.

I was pleased to see that Paul was following suit and also building a table whilst keeping one eye on the tip of his rod. The three of us sat in a line contented to be fishing even though after an hour we hadn't had a bite between us.

Having not taken part in the table building stakes, Dave the demon driver, decided he'd move further along the bank and left me and Paul to enjoy the spot we had originally chosen. I guess it came with the impatience of being a fast driver, but the last time we looked at Dave he was wondering off up the bank to try his luck with a fly rod.

After another half hour of nothing happening and a similar period of nothing happening again either, there was a sudden roaring noise and water started pouring out of the pipes on the funny looking building opposite. We didn't know it at the time, but it was all to do with the lake being part of the Hydo-Electric generating system. Apparently they let the water out of a lake on the top of the mountain in the daytime and this is used to generate power. Then at night, when the cost of electricity is lower, they pumped the water back up to the lake at the top again. How this is commercially viable is beyond me, but that's what they do.

I suppose we were amused to begin with especially as we'd never seen water flowing so fast. But it all turned sour when we realised that the water was coming up the bank towards us and in no time at all it came up to my newly built footrest. We had to move our kit further up the bank and our lovely tables were soon under water as well. In fact we were so busy trying to keep ahead of the tide we had forgotten about Dave the driver and turned around just in time to see him trying to retrieve his tackle some of which was floating about on the waves.

The waters carried on rising for the rest of the day and we didn't catch a fish between us. But it didn't matter, we'd had a nice day out and had a good laugh and sometimes that's better than catching a netful of fish. In fact we finished up fishing at Ffestiniog again the following year, but that as they say is another story. I endured and survived the white knuckle ride back to Stafford with the aid of some liquid refreshment, but if Paul ever offers to take me on a trip with Dave behind the wheel, I'm afraid I'll have to decline.
Here's just a reminder that if you are interested in a free download of my book about fishing please click here

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Polishing my novel


Hi all,
During the last couple of weeks I have been polishing up the manuscript of my novel. I've been tightening it up, removing adverbs and generally making it as good as it can possibly be. "Boosyboots" is my first novel and I'm trying to attract the attention of a good agent who will be able to represent me and my fiction books in the traditional publishing arena.

Some of you may wonder why this should be, especially as I have already self-published two books, one of which, shows authors just how attractive this option can be. So what is going on? Have I lost the plot or what?

Well, I don't think so and I'm not a traitor to the self-publishing cause, so there's no need to lop my head off just yet. I am though, a realist, and after working for many hundreds of hours on a novel I want to give it the best possible chance to be read and enjoyed by the world.

Some authors may not realise it, but there is a great deal of difference between fiction and non-fiction especially when it comes down to marketing. Most self-publishing authors rely on the Internet to achieve sales through on-line stores like Amazon. But sales will only come if readers can find their books, and this is done by searching.

If they don't know the ISBN or the name of the author, the only way they can find the book will be by searching for keywords on the subject.

Here's an example. My first non-fiction book is entitled "Fishing: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales" which can be found on Amazon etc.

Because it was my first book, my name and the ISBN would have been unknown to any potential buyer, but they could always find it by doing a search and using one of several of the words contained in the title. If they just put in the term "Fishing" they will get over 100,000 results, and you might not be surprised to know that my book isn't in sight. However, if anybody uses the search term "Fishing Tips" my book manages to come up in the number two spot. It's frustrating not being able to get to number 1, but I don't suppose number 2 is that bad out of over 100,000.

Anyway back to the plot, and consider "Bossyboots" my debut novel. If I was to self-publish it, how are any potential buyers going to find it? answers on a postcard please. The simple answer is, they won't. I would of course do as much marketing as possible, but it would be an uphill struggle with little chance of success.

So there you have it. If you are writing a non-fiction book, then self-publishing is a perfectly good option, especially if you can work hard on the marketing side. However, if you are writing a work of fiction, then getting a traditional publisher behind you is the best way forward. With their expertise and marketing clout and your hard work, it should be possible to make it into a winner. By winner I don't just mean in terms of number of readers either, I'm talking money. Publishers don't do it for fun and neither do agents. So, that's why I'm busy polishing my book up, because if they can't see a profit in it, I'm wasting my time.

I will be posting an article on my website shortly which will go into the subject in more detail. If you want to check it out or find out more about my non-fiction books click here.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Mull of Galloway


Hi all,
Today, we are carrying on with our tour of Scotland and some of you may be pleased that we are having a change from gardens. We are still enjoying our holiday in the peaceful, far south west, and today we will be visiting the Mull of Galloway. Now let me tell you this, if you ever find yourself in the south west of Scotland, please don't miss out on seeing the Mull of Galloway. Obviously, like all places, it needs to be a nice day if you are going to see it at its best, but if the weather is nice your experience will be glorious.

I've traveled quite bit; the Middle East, Greece, North Africa, Singapore, India and I even lived in Australia for 2 years. So I can say I've visited a few places and seen some sites. Well, I'll have to tell you I have 2 favourites and they are both in Scotland. These are the places that have burnt a deep hole in the hard drive of my memory, so they will never be forgotten. The first is my memory of sitting near Duncansby Head, in the far north east tip of Scotland, where I gazed out over John O' groats and a placid blue sea towards the Orkney Islands and the Island of Stroma.

The second, you've probaly guessed correctly, is the Mull of Galloway. It's difficult to describe the beauty of the Mull of Galloway because it truly is awe inspiring. When you stand at the tip you are almost surrounded by the sea; there is just a small slither of land connecting you to the mainland. The Mull, complete with lighthouse, is raised high so that the vista on a clear day is incredible. Across a fantastically blue sea, it's possible to see The Isle of Man, The Lake District and Northern Ireland. It is at times like this when one wishes one had a camera with a wide angle lens so that one could get it all in, but even then it wouldn't do the place justice. This is one of those place that you have to see in the flesh to be able to appreciate it.
Once you manage to stop staring in awe, you can can push your jaw back up and go on a walk around cliffs that abound with bird life. When we were there, the information board said that puffins were often seen; sadly they didn't appear for us.
Anyway, the walk gave us a bit of an appetite, so we called in at the cafe that has been creatively hung on the very edge of a very high cliff. We found the food and service in the Gallie Craige to be very good and I've never eaten with a better view. It has a large floor to ceiling glass window running right along the edge so you get a real panorama. If you suffer from vertigo, just stick to the left-hand side and you'll get the view without the sickness.

I know Chris De Burgh isn't to everybody's taste but whenever I see something truly amazing, the words at the end of one of his songs always come back to me. The song in question is called "Discovery" and the end goes something like this:

One day said Galileo, man will reach the skies
And see the world completely from outside.
There he'll gaze down from yonder
Into a world of blue and green
And he he'll say with eyes of wonder
I have seen, my eyes have seen.

Well, that just about sums up my feelings for the Mull of Galloway.


Sadly we eventually had to leave the Mull of Galloway behind us and head back to our cottage on the Isle of Whithorn. On the way we decided to take a look around the cemetery at Drummore. Now we aren't strange folk, we don't visit many cemeteries or churches for that matter, although when we do, we always feel safe when in such places and generally leave with a sense of tranquility. However, the reason we called in at this graveyard was to see if we could find a unique headstone that we'd read about, that is fashioned in the shape of a lighthouse. We did find it, and although it was smaller than we expected we were glad we went because the view from the top of the cemetery was amazing.
When you think about shuffling off this mortal coil, you think about going down six feet below everybody else, yet here are all these people buried hundreds of feet higher than most living people in Scotland. If ever you could pick a last resting place, this must surely be one of the best.

Okay, time to cheer up and leave you with a picture of something pleasant, here are some spring lambs taken not far from Drummore.
And I'll just leave you with a reminder that more photos of Scotland and other places can be seen on my website.
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Books and Writing

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Fun Fishing at Ffestiniog

Hi all,
I was feeling a bit low the other night so I turned on the telly to see if I could find something to cheer me up. Yes, I know that was a silly notion, and no, I don't know what's happened to the telly either.
However, I do reckon that part of the problem is that there are far too many disgustingly overpaid people involved in making the programs. Lots of genuinely talented people would jump at the chance at being a television executive for a fraction of the salary.
What makes television so poor these days is that it has all been done before. There are more channels than ever and us oldies have seen most things so many times we're at the point of absolute boredom. I've had more than enough of seeing stags rutting, boring badgers, or being shown sheep dogs being put through their paces and being spoon fed another box of hungry tits could finish me off. If it doesn't, my end will surely come when I have to witness a twit with a batometer listening to some unseen pipistrelle catching moths in the dark. Perhaps it's just time to come to terms with the fact that telvision is finished I may as well throw the idiot box out of the window. There again how would I get on without the weather forecast and Coronation Street. I knew I shouldn't have got started, but I'll just mention one more thing about the telly and wildlife programmes.

Why is it that so many people are involved in catching animals just so that they can be weighed and then have a transmitter stuck on them. The other night I watched in disbelief as some fool strapped a transmitter, the size of a house brick, to the side of a seal's head. The poor thing probably died of hunger because it couldn't catch any fish with that great lump of electronics tied to its bonce. It seems to me that many of these so called wild life conservationists are much worse than fox hunters. At least those people are being honest about their sport.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Close to me there is an area of wetland that is managed by some wildlife people and our local paper ran a lovely little story about how these people were painting a liquid onto the eggs of the wild geese. This substance made the eggs sterile so the eggs wouldn't hatch. The wildlife conservationist responsible said "We are doing a cracking job controlling the population of geese so that other birds can get a look in." Now excuse me numb nuts, but shouldn't you be letting mother nature sort it out.

I'd love to know why they need to stick transmitters on defenceless creatures? we are told that it's so that we can find out where they go for the winter etc. But we already know that, so what is the real purpose?

Right, let's get back to the fishing. There I was watching a program about Wales, you know the sort. Some overpaid presenter with as much charisma as a terminal depressive, tries to tell us something interesting that we haven't heard before and fails miserably. You can see the embarrassment on their faces as they trot out a load of guff we've all heard a thousand times. Take a tip from me, stick the box on mute and just watch the scenery, it's much better.

Anyway, I reckon I'm stumbling like a mountain goat in my efforts to get to the fishing so I'll bash on a bit. On the night in question one of the segments was about the Ffestiniog Railway and this brought back memories of a couple of fishing trips I once had to the lake just outside Blaenau Ffestiniog.

I guess it was ironic that a depressive presenter should be talking about a place that some have described as being one of the most depressive places in the world. Somebody once told me that the sale of tranquilisers and razor blades had been banned in Ffestiniog to remove temptation. If ever you find yourself there on the last day of your summer holidays, on a day when it's so dank with mist and drizzle that you can almost touch the clouds. A day when the torrents of water are gushing out of the mountain sides and conditions are so bad that you can hear sheep crying.
Well on that day you will realise what real misery is all about.

I'm glad to say that I've only been to Ffestiniog once when the weather was like that and thankfully it wasn't on a fishing day. To be honest though, I'd put up with quite a bit of drizzle to have the good fortune to live there for the rest of the year, because the place is stunningly beautiful.

Sorry, I've been on my soapbox again, banging on about stuff that I can't change. Now I've run out of time to do this post, which was supposed to be about my fishing trips to Ffestiniong. I need to do a proper job 0n the tale, so if you want to find out what happened and the fun we had fishing in Ffestiniog it will be the subject of my next fishing post and I will try to leave television out of it.

I'll leave you with a picture of Penmaenpool, which is not far from Ffestinog, to accompany the one at the start of this post that was taken in the same area.
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Thursday, 12 August 2010

Self-Publishing


Hi, In my last post I talked a little bit about my new book, "Writing: How to get Started as a Freelance Writer Plus A Guide to Self-Publishing." That post was all about the first part of the book regarding how to become a freelance writer.

In this post I'd like to talk about the second part of the book and look at my observations regarding self-publishing. I know that some people still look upon those who self-publish their books with some disdain, but that's their problem.

There is no doubt in my mind that self-publishing your own book is deeply satisfying. Okay, so perhaps it isn't as good as getting a nice fat advance and a lovely contract with one of the big publishing houses, but it still gives you that lovely warm glow that comes from achieving a major objective. Even the most hard-hearted author in the world will succumb to a little smile when they see their first copy and hold it in their hands.

I guess I got into self-publishing the same way as most other authors. I wrote a book, polished it up and sent it out to dozens of agents. At the back of my mind I knew I was wasting my time, but one has to go through the motions to satisfy ones own soul. Now don't get me wrong and run off with the idea that I went about it in a half-soaked way because I didn't.

As an ex production manager I believe that if a job is worth doing then it's worth doing correctly. So I studied the Writers' and Artists' book and looked for suitable agents that dealt with my type of novel. I then listed each one on a spread sheet and listed their submission requirements. These included:
A covering letter
A synopsis
My writer's Bio.
A list of the competition
A list of the reasons showing why I thought my book would sell
A number of chapters that ranged from two, to the whole manuscript.
A stamped, self-addressed envelope for their reply

Getting any permutation of the above documents ready and posting them to a long list of agents was to me even harder than writing the book. Anyway, I crossed my fingers as I dropped each batch into the letter box and waited while they came back over the next six months.

The results of this exercise weren't exactly surprising; out of all the stuff I sent out, only about half bothered to reply, even though I included a SAE. Perhaps some agents are in the business of collecting stamps. Anyway, the whole exercise left me feeling a bit down-hearted with the whole process. I'd laboured at my novel for over 12 months and I reckon it was pretty damn good, (well I would wouldn't I) or at least as good as many other books I've read.

I will tell you about one unnamed agency and perhaps you will see why I became a little bit cynical about the whole submission process.

Some agents only want an introductory letter whereby the author explains what the book is about etc. The agent who is then armed with this information plus what else they can glean from the author's presentation, grammar and spelling, is then able to take the matter further or send a polite no thanks letter.

I sent out several introductory letters and while most of them came back with various comment that all read as "thanks, but no thanks", one went a little further. Now you have to remember that I have only sent this agent a letter of enquiry and nothing else. So here's the rub, 3 months later my SAE came back with the following letter.

Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to read your manuscript. Although it is very well written it is not quite right for our list. We wish you luck with placing it elsewhere.

Now that was very nice of them, don't you think, especially as I hadn't sent them a manuscript. If this was an isolated case I could've put it down to human error, but other communications I had from other agents left me feeling that any success would be more to do with luck than any ability to write the next blockbuster.

I suppose I've painted a poor picture of agents in general, so let me put the record straight. There are good agents, bad agents and lots in between. I did have some nice and sincere comments of encouragement along the way, so it's best to remember that it isn't anything personal. Today's agents are working in a dynamic market place and demanding publishers need to be able to see where the profit is coming from before they will take on any book.Well established authors and celebrities seem to be keeping most presses busy, so newcomers who make a breakthrough are rarer than lottery winners.

So, is it any wonder that so many writers turn to self-publishing, how else will they get their work seen. This brings me nicely to the issue about self-publishing and what it actually means. Most will get it confused with vanity publishing and that is a big mistake because the self-publishing is a completely different animal.

In my next writing post, I'll give you a rundown on 6 options that any author who wants to self-publish will be faced with. These vary from paying lots of money to one of the many companies that will do all of the work for you, to the DIY option, where you can finish up with a book for sale on Amazon for less than a tenner. Now that's got to be good news for any author.For more information about my book please visit my website.Click here