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.
Click here to see my painting and photos
Or click here to find out more about my books and writing services.
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.
Here is a reminder that you can see some more of my photos and paintings at the following website.Click here for paintings and photos

If you want more information about my books or writing services,
Click here for books and writing services

Thursday, 12 August 2010


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

Friday, 6 August 2010

Logan Botanical Gardens

Hi all,
In this post I will carry on with our tour of Scotland. We are still in Dumfries and Galloway and staying on the Isle of Whithorn. I have already described how this area is rich in gardens and today we will continue with that theme and visit Logan Botanical Gardens.

Logan Botanical Gardens are in a lovely situation towards the southern end of the Rhinns of Galloway. If you look at a map of Scotland, it's in the extreme left hand corner and looks like the head of hammer. It took quite a while to drive to Logan Botanical Gardens from our base on the Isle of Whithorn, but that didn't matter because the scenery is so good and the miles just fly by. The journey might also have been quicker if we haden't stopped to walk our dog along the deserted beach at Sandhead and then take a stroll around Ardwell House Gardens.

By the time we got to the gardens at Logan we were both ready for something to eat and hoped for a reasonable cafe. We should have worried not a jot because there was a lovely little restaurant; the food was excellent and equalled by the ambiance of the conservatory we dined in.

Having satisfied our need for refreshment, we set about the garden and enjoyed it very much. Logan was very different from Ardwell. Ardwell's charm comes from the fact that its beauty is born out of a natural look. Nature was responsible for the delight of Ardwell, although I suspect that it is given an unseen helping hand by somebody clever. Logan's beauty on the other hand comes from the other end of the spectrum where nature is tamed. For the most part this garden is kept in immaculate condition, every plant is perfect and one suspects that each plant is also in the perfect place.

One is left with the feeling that those who are attending to the needs of Logan Botanical Gardens are not just gardeners, but highly skilled, horticultural engineers. The other thing about Logan is that it's full of plants that are different and not normally seen in other gardens in Scotland, well at least not on the same scale.
Have a look at the gunnera in the photo on the right and you will see what I mean. And I am sure you've already noticed the photo at the top of this post; it could have been taken somewhere tropical, but it wasn't, this is Scotland.

The exotic nature of the plants the garden contains is helped by the conditions. The area is close to the coast, so it rarely sees frost, and it is bathed by a warm air current that comes up from the southern Atlantic.

We enjoyed our trip around Logan Botanical Gardens and I'm sure the memory will stay with us forever. Here's just a reminder if you would like to see more photographs or take a look at some of out paintings please visit our website. Click here In my next Scotland post we'll have a little change from gardens to what else we found in Dumfries and Galloway to satisfy our need for entertainment.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Fishing Tackle, The Stool

Hi all,
Yesterday, my mind drifted back to my early fishing days and how easy it was to carry my fishing tackle. It was easier for two reasons; firstly I was a lot younger then and could bend over faster than a leapfrogger's mate, and secondly, because I was a poor country boy I didn't have much tackle to carry.

It's this second point that is the purpose of this post because I'm wondering if the number of times I go fishing every year is related to the amount of tackle I have to carry. Sometimes the thought of humping (This is good old-fashioned humping I'm talking about) all my tackle into the car and up the river bank is a bit too much for my worn out body to take.

Fishing in the olden days used to be a lot simpler because the amount of tackle taken was just enough for a day's fishing. Nowadays you will see some anglers with enough tackle and other luggage to see them through a week's self-catering in Lanzarote.

In the sixties my fishing tackle consisted of just a rod and a knapsack that I also used to take my sandwiches to work. I am sure some of you will remember these bags, every workman had one slung over his shoulder as he cycled to work for another day at the grindstone. In my father's case this was actually true because he toiled away for years at the Universal Grinding Wheel Co in Stafford. That was until he came home one night and announced that we were emigrating to Australia, but that as they say, is another story.

The knapsack contained: my reel, a couple of floats, lead weights, hooks, a jar of worms and some bread paste that I'd made the night before. The only other item it contained was a small folding stool that was made from metal and canvas. The stool was an interesting bit of the tackle, because if you didn't have one the only option was to stand all day or sit on the bank. The latter was non-preferred because even in those days we were always worried about getting a dose of the farmer's. Piles were associated with sitting on cold surfaces and damp grass certainly was cold even in July.

It's funny now when I think about the size of that stool, and how I'd manage to perch on it now that I weigh over 13 stone. The passing of the fishing stool will probably go unnoticed by most people and that's a shame because it did have two good points. Not only did it manage to put a six inch gap between the damp grass and your bum, but in the winter such was your sitting position, you could keep your ears warm with the insides of your knees. With that vision placed firmly in you mind I'll leave you to wonder at how much discomfort we endured for our sport.

Here's just a reminder that you can get a free download of an excerpt of my fishing book "Fishing: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales" from my website.
Click Here
In my next fishing post I'll examine how much tackle I carried in the seventies and eighties and what replaced the fishing stool.