Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Example Press Release

Hi all,
Sorry for the delay in putting this post together but I've had a busy week with other writing commitments.

In my last writing post I said I'd give you an example of a press release and here it is. If you go to my website you will find it at the bottom of the writers' resources page. (Click here to see the press release) It starts by telling the editor what the document is. In this case it is a press release. Below that there is a short sentence that hopefully will be of interest to the editor and his readers.

In this case the interesting parts are "local author" for obvious reasons, plus "Izaak Walton" and "fishing."

Izaak Walton was the man who wrote the world famous book "The Compleat Angler" and he just happened to come from my home town of Stafford. Therefore I reasoned that the editor would think it interesting that I'd followed in his footsteps by also writing a book about fishing.

This sentiment is then clarified by the actual title of the piece. What follows that is all of the information required to make it a good read. If you follow the principles of the 5 w's it will do what is says on the tin.

George Mason
Publishing a book about fishing
To pass on angling tips that saw him win two championships
Now, the book has been published and is available
Details can be found on the author's website

The last bit about the author's website is crucial because without that it is just an interesting story. Remember that when you write a press release for a company you want the story to get the reader to take action. In this case I was hoping that local anglers would see the feature and buy my book.

The objectives of any press release are two fold. One is that it will invite a response from the readers straight away. In that they might purchase a product or service from that company in the near future. The second objective is to establish a positive message about the company and keeping it in the readers mind. Next time they fancy going out for a meal they will remember the article about the restaurant where the chef won a golden frying pan and go there.

Providing an image with any press release is very important. The one at the top of this post is of me posing next to a statue of Izaak Walton that stands in our local park. I am dressed in some of my angling clothes and holding a copy of my book and I also have a copy of Izaak's book tucked under my arm. My wife was the photographer and she used a normal 7 million pixel camera. So good are cameras these days that there is no need to go lashing out good money on a digital SLR unless of course you want to take a picture of an eagle's bum as it flies over a mountain peak in Scotland.

Short Stories
I hope you haven't forgotten about my free short story downloads. I have just uploaded another one which takes form of a monologue more than a story. It was written with humour in mind because according to those who are supposed to me be in the know, "Funny" is always welcome. Well it didn't work for me because it failed to get published. There again perhaps it isn't as good as I think it is. I'd love to hear you comments.
Click here to see the story, "Taking Life Easy."

Friday, 26 March 2010

Ross Bay & Kirkandrews?

Let's get acquainted with another bit of Scotland. This time we have moved to the other side of Dumfries, to an area called Ross Bay where we managed to book a delightfully secluded cottage right by the water. If you look at the photo above you can see the cottage on the edge of the water.It is called Bay Cottage and found right at the end of a long lane. It couldn't have been more peaceful and was such a perfect holiday location I tried to book it again a few years later but it wasn't available any more which is a great shame. It said on the website that it had been let on a short term tenancy, so hopefully it might become available again soon.

Anyway, we spent quite a bit of that Holiday just staring out of the window looking at the scenery and watching the wildlife. We spotted a grey seal several times and were always waiting for it to bob its head up again. I also managed to take a photo of an Oyster Catcher that was sitting alongside a hare on the beach below the cottage window.
Although the cottage was remote it didn't really feel like that because it was only a short drive to the lovely town of Kircudbright. This is where we did our shopping and visited some of the outstanding attractions that the area has to offer. These included art galleries, the Stewartry museum and Hornel's house and studio. Kircudbright has many galleries and has been the home town of many artists, when you visit Hornel's house you not only get to see some of his paintings but you get to walk through his delightful garden which backs onto the River Dee.

I will tell you more about some of the place we visited whilst staying in Bay Cottage in my next Scotland focused post but for now I would like to pose a question. Whilst driving along the lanes between Ross bay and the lovely little seaside village off Kippford,
(Picture above)
my wife and I came across a strange building. We thought it was a derelict church, well we were near a place called Kirkandrews (Kirk is a Scottish name for a church)and thought that it must be the local church that had fallen on bad times. Anyway we photographed it and thought no more about it until I was looking for some photos to go with this post.

Anyway, I like to make sure I get my facts right where possible so I Googled Kirkandrews Church and thought I'd get a lot of pictures confirming that this was the building I'd taken photos of.

Well it didn't I only got one photo that was the same as mine and that described it as being a dairy called, Coo Palace, Corseyard. Now there is strange name for a place. If anybody reading this post has anymore information about it I'd be interested to hear from them. On the left is a picture taken from the building looking down an impressive walled drive, anybody got any ideas?

By the way if you want to have a look at some of my other photos and art galleries here is the link.
Here's a link to our website, showing some of our paintings and a few of my photos.
Writers, my next post will be just for you and will be out shortly.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Big Pike & Long Poles

I hope you like the photo above, it's just to remind you that warmer weather is just around the corner (he wrote with optimism) and even I will be thinking about getting my rods out soon.

When I say rods that isn't sticktly true, these days I only use one. Even when I think back to the days when I used to be a keen match angler and fished twice a week when I could, I still only used one rod at a time. I've tried using two rods, one ledgering and one on the float, but I found it hard to concentrate and invariably missed a bite on one while I was faffing about with the other.

These days when I see a group of anglers fishing a match on the canal it's as if they have all been cloned. Every one of them is using a long pole to winkle out a few fish from the far side.

I guess I was lucky in as much as when I was a keen match angler in the early seventies, the really long, light poles that we see now hadn't been invented. Poles were though becoming fashionable, but they were very heavy and not long enough to fish the far bank of the canal.

During this time every angler had to make a decision regarding what sort of a set up to use. Basically he had three choices, he could use a short pole, a medium pole or the good old-fashioned rod and line.

Some anglers who where entrenched in their ways would use the rod exclusively because they had no time for roach poles, but that was their loss. If you are interested there is a tale in my fishing book about an angler who stuck to the rod and line well after poles dominated the canal. He fished the far side for carp with a lump of bread flake and a notion that one good fish would mean sucess.Click here for book details

Anyway, I would set up the longest pole I had which would allow me to venture just beyond the middle of the cut and I would also set up a rod with a waggler float to fish the far side. My main line of attack was always a short whip just over the near shelf and I would use that to whisk a quick stream of gudgeon into the net. By the time the bites slowed down I'd have a nice base weight for the match and could then explore my options with the rod and other pole.

That all seems to have gone now, every angler is fishing to the length of his longest pole, the decisiom making element as reduced considerably.

It was inevitable I suppose but I can still remember how it used to be as we all lined up for the draw. It seemed like every week that one of the lads would brag that he'd just bought a new pole. It was always a few inches longer than the previous best or a few ounces lighter. It was also a good few pounds dearer but that didn't seem to matter in those days. Eventually after a couple of years poles got long enough to reach the far side with ease and I guess this is when match fishing lost its attraction for me.

Sorry there was no space for Scotland or writing in this post but there will be in the next which will be out in a couple of days.

Before I go I'd just like to sing the praises of Craig Humphries. He managed to catch a whopping 42Lb 8oz pike from Hickling Broad just before the season came to an end. Well done Craig.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Dumfries & Press Releases

********Another picture from Threave a beautiful Scottish garden*******
I'd like to carry on from where we left off last week on my tour around Bonny Scotland. One of the biggest problems faced by those holidaying in Dumfries and Galloway is the number of attractions. Whilst staying in Mouswald which is on the East side of the town of Dumfries we were simply spoilt for choice.

The town itself is very picturesque with many fine shops and restaurants but no visit would be complete without a look at the camera obscura. This wonderful invention allows the viewer to get a birds eye view of the town without walking anywhere. Whilst in the town we also visited Robbie Burn's house in aptly named Burn's street. It's small, but contains some of his old bits and pieces so worth a look.

However, as nice as the town was we didn't linger too long because the splendid countryside beckoned. We took a trip out to New Abbey to see Sweetheart Abbey. This monastery was built by lady Derguilla of Galloway in memory of her late Husband John de Balliol. She loved her husband so much that when he died she had his heart embalmed and she carried it around with her in a special ivory and silver casket. When she died she was buried in the Abbey and the casket was buried with her.

During that holiday we also visited the Wanlockhead mining village and the lovely little town of Moffat. We lunched in a tartan carpeted pub and I tried Haggis for the first time. As it happens it would also be my last as I didn't find Haggis very rewarding. I always think that if a food hasn't managed to make its way around the world like beefburgers, chips, lasagne, and goulash etc then it isn't going to be very good.

If somebody asked me what it tasted of, I would have to say weak faggots. (Please note any Americans that might be reading this. Faggots in England are big meatballs made from bits of meat and offal they are nothing like American faggots)

In a country that has so much prime beef stock it is hard to see how haggis ever got on the menu. But there again I suppose it started off as cheap food for the masses just like faggots and sausages did South of the border. In just a couple of weeks I've managed to mention the only two things about Scotland that I don't particularly like, that's Bagpipes and Haggis. With them out of the way we can concentrate on just the good for the rest of the journey.

The following day we visited Thomas Carlyle's house in curiously named Eccelfechan and the charming savings bank museum in the village of Ruthwell.
It wouldn't surprise anybody that the first savings bank run on business principles was founded in Scotland in 1810 by a man called Henry Duncan. We visited a lot of places during our stay at Mouswald but like all holidays in Scotland it isn't just the attractions that are so pleasing it's also the countryside that surrounds them. Here is a typical almost roadside waterfall. My next post will come from the other side of Dumfries and will include photos of the beautiful cottage that we stayed in. It was so close to the water we were able to watch grey seals bobbing about and catching fish, but now it's time for me to get on with the writing part of this blog.

Last week I talked about how writers can make money from writing press releases so I thought I'd continue the theme and tell you how it is done. Please see my last but one post if you want this to make sense.

Big businesses write press releases to get positive publicity, while the editor needs to fill his paper with copy that doesn't look like blatant advertising. Most smaller businesses however do not understand the benefits that come from press releases and this is where you come in. Produce a direct mail shot (a letter) that explains how beneficial a press release would be for their business. Then arrange to meet the business manager to see if you can come up with a story that would be of interest to the local community.

To gather material for your article you will need to ask some questions. Has the business or any of its employees won any awards recently or has the company got a new product with some unique benefits etc? Have they been in business for a number of years that could be linked to an anniversary?

These are just a few of the topical hooks that can be used to hang a story on. There are many more and it is up to you and the business manager to come up with something that you can write about that will also be of interest to the editors you are aiming it at.

Write the article with the most important facts first but try to make it entertaining for the reader. They need to be drawn in, it mustn't look like an advert, this isn't the place for stringing together a lot of fancy attributes.

In my next post I will give you an example of a press release in fact it was one that I sent out myself to publicise the publication my book about angling. If you want more information about that book or the writing book that will expand on some of themes from writing part of this blog, please see my website.
Click here to go to my website
Incidentally you can print off a free sample download of my book from the website.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Jolly Green Giant

Warmer weather is on the way, I think it might be time to get the tackle out again.
Hi,I was reading last week about how tackle shops are having a hard time and many are closing down. They'll probably manage to hang on longer than your local boozer but they all seem to be going down the same pan.

Anglers we are told, are not buying as much tackle as they did before the recession and maggot sales have also slumped to an all time low. So whats going on? Is it just the recession or are there other causes?

It could be that angling is being affected by it's own success, you only have to look at the number of fisheries that have sprouted up over the last few years. It is no coincidence that the reason that so many new ones have been established is because it is seen by many an entrepreneur as easy money. I won't go into the cost of day ticket versus versus joining a club in this post but I will give you my views in my next blog on fishing.

Let's go back to bait because that is where a lot of tackle shops make their money. If anglers aren't buying, maggots, pinkies and squats what are they buying and why?

Well the answer is everything else. Go on-line and stick "Fishing Bait" into google and you'll come up with over 4 million results. The choice is endless so it's no wonder the sale of maggots is going down. In the eighties when my fishing career was at its peak all of my fellow anglers and myself included used maggots, pinkies, casters and squats almost exclusively especially if we were fishing in a match.

I don't fish as often as I used to but it is a long while since I bought a maggot, in fact it's over 10 years. So if I'm not buying them I'm not surprised other anglers aren't either.

So what am I using and why? Well I've gone back to basics and now I usually only take three baits with me. Bread, luncheon meat and sweetcorn and I use the latter more than the other two. The reasons for using sweetcorn so much is that my fishing habits have changed. I no longer fish matches and I am no longer excited by catching a succession of little fish. Indeed I fish only for pleasure now and the last thing I want is a bite every 30 seconds like it used to be in the old days.

I have mellowed with age and don't mind waiting a couple of minutes for a bite now. And I'm not after monsters either, fighting big fish always gives me arm ache. I don't know if I'm alone in this but I'd much sooner catch 4 carp weighing 2 pounds each than catching 1 of 8 pounds. There are other reasons for using sweetcorn, it's cheap, it stays on the hook, it's easy to loose feed and last but not least fish love it. Just make sure you use the tinned variety, the frozen stuff it isn't half as effective. If you want proof about how tinned sweetcorn catches more fish than the frozen stuff, you can read more about it in my fishing book.
Click here to see more details about my book and how to get a free sample download

For now I'll leave you with a picture of a nice carp coming to the net. It was unable to resist a single grain of Jolly Green Giant.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Left at Gretna

Hi, I hope you like the photograph above, it was taken in Threave gardens in South West Scotland. Doesn't it look green when compared with what we've got in our gardens at the moment. Still spring is in the air, I can smell it. There will be more about Scotland later but first I will start this post with a bit of advice about making money from writing.

In my last post I said I'd tell you about real ways that writers can make money. I am assuming of course that you have a reasonable understanding of English grammar and you are able to spell, otherwise writing isn't going to work for you.

One of the best ways for a freelance writer to make money is by writing press releases for small businesses in your local area. The money is much better than you can expect for writing articles and it isn't that difficult to do. Before we go any further I think it would be helpful if I explained what a press release is and why it's a money spinner.

I'm sure you are all familiar with your local papers, especially the freebies that come through you door once a week. If you analyse their content, you will find that it can be divided into two types. There are the adverts that businesses have paid to be included and then there is the rest, which is made up of news features.

Everybody understands how the advertising works. Businesses and individuals pay to have their ads put in the paper and the more space it takes up the more they pay.

However, when it comes to the news articles that take up the rest of the space in the paper, a lot of people get it wrong. They assume that every newspaper has a team of reporters who are zooming all over the locality finding great news stories for the editor. Sorry to burst anybody's bubble but this isn't how it works.

A large percentage of the news stories that go into every newspaper are in fact press releases. They have been written by or commissioned by businesses and organisations to gain publicity for their products or services. Yes they look like normal news items and so they should, they have been written that way not to fool the editor but to make the reader think that the feature is part of the editorial and not an advertisement.

Think about it like this. Editors need to fill the space in their newspaper but cannot afford to pay for a big team of reporters to gather news features, especially as most of them are giving their papers away. So to fill space editors welcome well written press releases that pass themselves off as news features.

So the good news is you can get paid to write press releases and I will explain more about them in my next writing post. Press releases are also covered in more detail in my freelance writing book which is due for publication in April 2101. More details can be found on my website along with details and a free sample download of my first book which was released at the end of 2009.
Click here to go to my website.
By the way I've added another short story to those already on my website please take a look and let me have your comments. It is called "Just The Ticket" although some might say its just too mushy, I'll let you decide.

Perhaps I'm getting old but one of the great pleasures in my life is getting off a motorway. And if I can get off at Gretna and turn left it is even better. I am starting my tour of Scotland at Gretna Green and will be taking you on a clockwise journey around some of the places I've seen on my holidays in this fantastic country.

Once I'm off the motorway I don't linger in Gretna I leave the pleasures of that small town to elopers and those who are visiting the big outlet shopping village. Buying clothes with designer labels seems to me to be a waste of time and I didn't make a 200 mile journey to go shopping.

I love Scotland but their tourist industry doesn't do it any favours, the last thing I go to Scotland for is tartan and pipers. Still it takes all sorts and I suppose some people expect to find plastic Lochness monsters and tins of Dundee cake in every shop.

I remember the first time I visited Scotland and that journey from Gretna down the arrow straight A75 towards Dumfries. The land was flat at first as we motored along the estuary but it soon changed into lovely rolling hills.

We stayed for the week in a small cottage that we'd rented in the village of Mouswald, and very nice it was too. It was handy for Dumfries and the many attractions that surround it. We had a lovely walk around the wildlife and wetlands reserve at Caerlaverock. We also visited Threave gardens which were splendid, in fact the whole of the South West of Scotland is a gardener's paradise.

We were spoilt for choice with so many interesting places to visit and I'll share some more of my memories with you in my next post.

I'll leave you with a photo of Maclellan's castle in Kircudbright.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


I read an interesting article on the web the other day concerning the Perch. The author of the piece reckoned that old stripey is the most obliging fish around when it comes to breaking records. His observations are that when it comes to other species of fish only a small number of known venues are capable of producing a new record. Where as with the perch a new record is liable to turn up anywhere and might be caught by anyone.

Apparently several large perch and here I'm talking fish over 5lbs, have been caught in recent times. Not all of these where caught by well known or even expert anglers either so there is probably a lot of sense in what he's saying. If you want to read the whole thing I will leave you a link at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, I had to agree that the Perch is a very obliging fish and was responsible for the first real fight I had as a young angler. The encounter came on the small river Sow (pronounced like a female pig) near my hometown in Stafford. The place was below a beauty spot called Shakey Bridges, this is where lots of Stafford people spent their summer's paddling and picnicking during the fifties and sixties.

I was about eleven at the time and it was my first trip to the river with my father, up until then my fishing had been confined to a couple of sessions up the local pit where I caught a few tiddly Roach and some Gudgeon. The first couple of hours on the river were uneventful but I ended up catching a big Perch. It put up quite a struggle on my small rod and bent it almost double.

I would have liked to say that I unhooked the fish and put it back into the water but as soon as my dad clapped eyes on it, he decided that he'd have it for his breakfast the next day. I can still remember him getting his rod licence out of his pocket and using it to measure the length of my fish to see if it was big enough to take.

It seems strange nowadays because we wouldn't even think about taking a course fish home to eat, but in the sixties things were different. They even put a inch measure, like a paper ruler, on the rod licence and a list telling you how long each species of fish must be before it could be legally taken from the water.

Anyway my fish was big enough so it went into my dad's knapsack. This ended up being a real waste of a good fish and I'll tell you why. But before I do that let me tell you that my father was a lovely man in many ways but he was apt to going off like a bottle of shaken pop, which he did on the day in question.

When we got home he took the Perch out of his knapsack then strode down the garden and threw it at a cow that was grazing in the field. The Perch hit the bewildered creature smack in the middle of the forehead and he must've wondered what the hell was going on as my dad shouted at the top of his voice, "and I hope your bloody tits fester."

You can read about what brought on my father's anger in my second angling book which will be published later this year. A sample download of my newly published book, "Fishing: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales," is available on my website.
Free sample download and book details.
Note, if anybody has any photos of Shakey Bridges I'd love to hear from them.

I will talk a bit more about the Perch in my next post,for now here is the link to the one I read on the gofishing website.

Link to the gofishing website

Sorry if the none fishing readers of this blog feel they are missing out but writing and Scotland will feature heavily in my next post.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Money Making & Holidays

The flowers on this building are Fairy Foxgloves, I thought they might brighten up your day and remind you that spring isn't far away.
The photo was taken in Kircudbright and when you see these plants looking so pretty it makes me wonder why they don't grow in such profusion on this side of the border. In England the Fairy Foxglove is a rare site, well at least I haven't seen many, please let me know if they are prolific in your neck of the woods.

There will be more about Scotland later but for now we'll start with writing.
You might think my title is a bit curious this week but it is quite simple, if you don't earn enough money you won't be going on holiday.

So can you make money from freelance writing? The answer is a resounding yes, but you need to have dedication and work hard. You also need to be able to recognise real money making opportunities without being enticed into writing for time wasting enterprises.

I hate to use the expression been there and done that, but it sums up the situation perfectly. When I first started out as a freelance writer I couldn't believe how many opportunities there were out there for writers. Not only were there hundreds of magazines and newspapers that needed servicing but also lots of websites. The latter was most attractive even if it was only because no stamps were needed.One was tempted to write articles and stories for the Internet because it was more convenient than writing for magazines and newspapers that at that time still insisted on hard copy.

The trouble with writing for the Internet was that were many routes to take and a lot of them led to dead ends. Some of the companies I wrote articles for folded before I got paid a penny and other had such complicated payment structures that I'll be lucky if I get paid at all. However, don't let me dissuade you from writing for the Internet, there are some good sites out there that do pay. The secret is in spotting genuine opportunities when you see them.

If you can, it might also be wise while you are getting started to stay away from the Internet until you get established. Once you've got going you will be able to spot the the time wasters more easily.

You can read more about writing for the Internet in my new book that will be published in April. In my next post I will tell you about real ways to make money through writing without going near the Internet.
More details about the book.
For the last few post I've been burbling on about the beauty of Scotland and there is nothing wrong with that. But, it seems to me that my Scottish posts have been lacking any real focus so things are about to change. I like to have purpose and direction and to that end I have devised a plan.

Rather than post pictures from anywhere north of the border and wax lyrical about loch and glens hither and thither I have decided to do a tour.
(The photo above is of the river Dee as it runs alongside raiders' road.)

It will start in the South West and I will head around Scotland in a clockwise direction, picking out the places of interest that I have visited on my travels. It won't cover the whole of the country because thankfully I haven't seen most of it yet. Hopefully I still have that pleasure to come.

So in my next blog you can expect to find me turning off the motorway at Gretna Green and heading for Dumfries, I hope you'll find time to accompany me on my journey.

I'll leave you with a picture of Old Mortality. This commemorates the grave of a stone mason called Robert Paterson who spent his time moving around Scotland repairing covenanter monuments. "Old mortality," is also the title for a book written by one of Scotland's greatest authors, Sir Walter Scott.

The grave can me found in Balmaclellan a small village to the West of Dumfies and can be seen easily from the road.