Another milestone reached.

Rope Enough Final JPEG 1205

Happy birthday Rope Enough – from baby to toddler.

Another milestone reached. I’ve commemorated the event by splashing out on a professionally produced banner for my social media sites.

Fancy some musical accompaniment to this blog-post? The fittingly titled: Milestones from the unbeatable Miles Davis. (See what he did there?)

Three years ago today – December 5th, 2012 – I released my first book: Rope Enough (The First Romney and Marsh File) as a self-published ebook. Three years seems like a long time that’s gone really quickly. Naturally, I wrote a blog-post to commemorate the event. (Any excuse for a blog-post.) I’m going to include a few excerpts from it in this blog-post. (Any excuse for a bit of padding.) Anyone who would like to see the original here’s the link:

I’ve done it. I’m climbing the ladder to success. I have self-published my first novel. How does it feel? Anti-climactic, actually, if I’m honest. It wasn’t exactly a publisher’s launch party in a major Waterstones with the national press kicking each other for an interview with me. It was more of a, right-the-baby-has-finally-gone-to-sleep-I-might-as-well-make-a-cup-of-tea-and-upload-that-book-tonight-instead-of-waiting-for-the-weekend type thing. Still, it’s done. Done and dusted. That’s the main thing. One down, four to go. I feel a bit relieved because I can move on. It’s a bit like a divorce.

Climbing the ladder to success? If success is viewed as a ladder, which rung am I clinging to now? Am I going up or down? And how long is my ladder? (Very Tao.)

In the blog-post I wrote a paragraph to remind myself of why I self-published. It’s as relevant today as it was three years ago:

Let me just remind myself of why I did it? Why I self-published? I did it because I had no realistic hope, or expectation of being able to get a literary agent interested in my books (see blog posts). I did it because I wanted people to read my books in order that I might get some feedback on them. I did it in the vain hope that I might get downloaded enough and favourably reviewed enough to maybe garner some attention – not me, the books (I have absolute faith in my writing). I also did it because otherwise I was just writing books to go in the drawer of my desk. No one else reads them. And if I got knocked down and killed by a bus tomorrow they would end up in a rubbish sack, then the dustbin and then the landfill site and all of my creative output would have been wasted and lost. (I’m not even going to try to make some crummy self-deprecating joke about that.)

Last week, rather aptly, Rope Enough received its 500th 5* review/comment on At the time of writing it has 894 reviews/comments in total. Rope Enough’s average rating is 4.4*. That is quite healthy. Reader feedback has been overwhelmingly (both statistically and emotionally as far as I’m concerned) positive.

I’ve had some stinkers, of course. You can’t please all the people all the time. That will be the title of one of the modules in my home study course: Self-publishing for Dummies when I get around to writing it.

Goodreads stats are not bad either when one considers that Goodreads’ readers are tougher judges (allegedly) than Amazon readers. Currently Rope Enough has a rating of 3.69 out of 5. I’m happy with that.

Rope Enough has been free to download since its release. Because I had three books written in the series I thought that if I gave the first one away for free – and let’s face it who is going to fork out a couple of pounds for the debut of a vanity self-publisher? – and readers found something to like in it they might be encouraged to pay for the next in the series and then the next. I’m sure this loss leader strategy has helped with downloads. For the time being Rope Enough is still free. (Pricing is something that I’ll be considering in my action plan.)

Comments policy?

So swept up in the euphoria of receiving my first positive feedback on the book was I that I replied to it. And then that became a habit. And then habit became policy. And then with ten books out there and new comments turning up fairly regularly the policy became a rod for my own back. So I stopped it. I wanted to try to make the comments bespoke to each reader depending on whether it was their first Amazon comment or, in some cases, their tenth. It all just became too difficult and I could never be sure that the readers they were aimed at ever saw them. I still value every comment and I read every single one I receive.

(These days my social-media sites: blog, Facebook and Twitter are the best places to contact me and I am always happy to communicate with readers. If anyone ever wants to communicate privately with me I’m on Happy to hear from you.)

How many books now?

Three years on: I now have ten books available to download from Amazon: five R&M Files, three Acer Sansoms and two Booker & Cash stories. I have two more R&M’s written and in post-production, one Acer written and in post-production, a R&M short story that I don’t know what to do with and I’ve just started B&C#3.

The books that are out there haven’t all been written in the three years since publication of Rope Enough. The first three R&M Files were written before I released the first one into the wild. And so was the first Acer Dirty Business. (Lots of information about all that in my blog-post archives.)

Why no hardcopies? 

Because this is a diary I must be completely honest with myself. The main reason that I have not done anything about organising print on demand copies of my books is because when I pressed the upload button that started my self-publishing venture (three years ago) I had a vain hope that I might get picked up by an agent or a publisher who just happened to be trawling through Amazon and who took a look at my books and thought I was worth a punt. And then they would take on the responsibility for all that. (That notion seems so naive and utterly ridiculous to me now that I’m a much more informed self-publisher.) It does happen, but books and writers must prove themselves first with sales figures and then the smell of potential profits to be made attracts the agents and the publishers in the same way that blood in the water attracts sharks.

It didn’t happen for me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t cry in my beer about it. I’ve come to realise and accept that while my books are not crap my writing is not good enough in a genre that is bursting at the seams with top quality writing, plotting and characterisation. I’m happy with what I write – I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the books in all my series – and I think that there will always be a place for fairly short, light, unchallenging reads, especially now that the self-publishing marketplace has presented those opportunities.

Anyway, I promised myself three years of doing what I was doing and if no one came knocking then I’d put things in train to get physical copies of my books published. Perhaps this attitude, this conceit, of mine hurt my sales and in turn my Amazon sales rankings. Who knows? I can’t regret it though. What would be the point?

Now those three years are up, the organising of physical copies of my books is on my action plan.

What have I got out of it all?

1) Writing, self-publishing and all that has come with it has given me more pleasure than I could have imagined. Probably the greatest pleasure I have found in life after having children. And I’ve tried a lot of things.

2) I’m not working anymore. I honestly wouldn’t have imagined that three years ago. I’m writing full-time. That’s not because of the wheelbarrow loads of royalty payments I’m receiving every month but because I decided, and could afford from my teaching earnings, to take a year out, just, to follow my passion. One thing this writing/self-publishing venture hasn’t made me is rich. Not even moderately well off. In fact if things don’t pick up and soon I’ll be looking for a proper job next year. G..u..t..t..e..d. But let’s focus on the here and now.

3) Writing and self-publishing has provided me with things in life to get excited about. And I am excited about the future of my self-publishing venture. I strongly believe that if I buck my ideas up with self-promotion when I return to the UK I can get physical copies of the books into people’s homes and onto their bookshelves. As a bibliophile, book-lover, book-collector and lover of the written word generally, that would make me very, very happy.

4) In May of 2014 I learned that I had been listed on the Fantastic Fiction website, which was pretty thrilling. I just wish I’d been able to provide a better photograph (something like me hunched over an old typewriter, cigarette hanging from the corner of my mouth, squinting through the haze at what I’ve just typed. Maybe a half-empty bottle of good scotch to the side and a tumbler tinted with the residue of my last snifter. Instead I had to crop something from my last wedding shoot: me in a monkey suit being attacked by a moth.) Maybe a proper, professionally taken author photo should figure on my action plan. (More on the action plan next week.)

5) And let’s not forget the blog. I’m attached to it – my writer’s diary. Through the blog I’ve communicated with readers of my books from all over the world who’ve taken the time and trouble to get in touch over the reads. I’m so happy that they have. I never tire of learning that someone has enjoyed something in one of my stories. Like most things in life positive feedback on what you’re doing is worth its weight in the encouragement stakes.

6) I’ve graduated from writing at the dining room table, the kitchen table, my lap in the locked bathroom and bed to my own writer’s desk in my own writer’s room. That’s nice.


I have a few, but then again… well, actually I will mention them.

1) I regret not having the first three R&M Files at least proofread before I released them. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Title of module two in my home study course: You must at least have your work professionally proofread before self-publishing.

A quote from the blog of three years ago:

The hardest part of it all has been the proof reading. I must have read the book five times in the last two weeks and every time I’ve found typos, or words to change. In the end I’ve had to stop. One has to say enough is enough and move on to the next project (why does everything remind me of divorce tonight?) which I have. I’ve already started on the second proof-reading of the third draft of the fourth edition of Making a Killing (the second Romney and Marsh File). I must be improving technically as a writer because there is a lot less red ink in the margins of this book, so far.

And I still missed a lot. But generally readers have been fantastic: supportive and helpful with their comments. I asked for corrections to be pointed out to me and lots of readers did in the nicest possible ways. It’s testament to the feedback of readers who helped me with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors that I corrected in further edits that I haven’t had a comment on Amazon mentioning any of the above for a very long time. It’s a bloody relief as well.

2) I regret not hunting readers down for their email addresses from the beginning so that I could pester them with new releases. I reckon I’d have a good few by now and I’ve learned from other more self-promotional savvy authors than me that a big email list of readers potentially interested in downloading your latest books is an essential for success in statistical and monetary terms.

3) I regret not being more social-media savvy, or rather I regret not being bothered to be more social-media savvy. These days I am a firm believer that you don’t even need to write a great book to be a successful, in financial terms, self-published author. You just need to work the systems well. I’ve seen it and I continue to see it. It’s that that gives me hope that if I can shake my self-promotion game up a bit I can maybe get another year’s sabbatical out of this.

What’s next?

I have an action plan of sorts. That might surprise a few people. Above my writer’s desk I have some sticky notes with ideas stuck to the wall. I’m adding to them, too. (Yeah, I know – an action plan on sticky notes… on a wall. Next week I’ll be sharing my ideas for the action plan.)

How do I feel about it all?

So, another milestone reached. But aren’t milestones markers on the way to somewhere? I have no idea where I’m going with my writing – it’s a bit of a magical ‘mystery-writers’ tour. (See what I did there?) But as the famous literary figure, Robert Louis Stevenson, at least once remarked: “Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”

I’m going to leave the final word of this celebratory blog-post to another famous literary figure, ahem, Detective Constable Peter Grimes. He doesn’t often say much worth remembering, but in Joint Enterprise he had this to say about immortality:

‘We’re all going to die, gov. Most of us will leave no mark of our existence behind what-so-ever. Not a stain or a smudge or a smear on the face of history. I think that’s sad. If I can be part of something that survives long after I’m dead then I’ll have achieved a form of immortality. I’d like that.’

I feel that I’m on my way to achieving that. (Oh look, I got the last word after all.)

A Room of One’s Own (Finally!)


I’ve been writing for about six years now. Like a lot of writers starting out I’ve had to make do with finding space for my hobby where I could along the way: the dining table, the kitchen table, the school library, the staff room, the coffee shop  – the usual suspects.

The Guardian do/did a regular feature on famous writers’ rooms. As a reader and a writer I’m always interested to see what other writer’s spaces are like. I’m expecting a call from that esteemed news organ any day now because…

I now have my own writer’s room! Last weekend I went to Ikea and bought a desk and a chair and a lamp. (Ikea is awesome. I want to throw everything out and start again. Every room.)

I don’t want a lot else in my room. Certainly not too many distractions. A comfy chair for reading. Check. (Not included in this photo) My guitar for musical interludes. Check. A bookshelf with shelves of inspiration, just to get me in the mood and remind me why I’m there. Check. Oh, and the trusty old laptop, of course. Check.

We’re on the top floor of our building. I’ve got a small balcony off my writer’s room and despite Ankara being incredibly hot at the moment (38 degrees today!) I get a lovely breeze. The one problem with the top floor (sixth) is the pigeons, or rather pigeon shit. But I’ve worked out how to get rid of them. I only have to reach for the guitar – I don’t swat them, I play it.

In common with most writers I’ve also had to shuffle time for my writing. Make and grab opportunities. I’m still doing that. The Halfling doesn’t start school until the beginning of October. Then, in theory, I should be good to crack on at pace with something in peace and quiet.

And finally, like the mercury in my balcony thermometer, the word count continues to rise slowly on R&M#6. I dawdled through the eighty-thousand word barrier yesterday. This could be the furthest I’ve got into a book without having a title for it. (I hope I haven’t got writer’s-title block! Not when I’ve just got my own writing room! Oh the irony of it!)

What a noodle!


I’m finally cracking on with some writing. R&M#6. It’s going really well. I’ve mentioned here previously that before I packed up for the summer hols I’d managed about fifty thousand words towards it. In five days (three of those were spent reading and trying to understand what I’d written, why and where it was supposed to be going) I’ve bumped that up to over seventy thousand. I think it’s going to be the biggest and bestest R&M File so far. Either that or it won’t.

Because of my in between homes circumstances I’m taking the laptop into my brother-in-law’s restaurant. He lets me use his office all day. (internet plus peace and quiet.) It’s been great. And the staff here are great too. Too great sometimes.

I wonder how many readers are familiar with Turkish hospitality. I’m willing to bet that there isn’t another nation on Earth as generous with food and drink when they have guests, especially when the food and drink belong to someone else.

I mention this because, being a valued family member, instructions have obviously been left with the manager that I am to be ‘looked after’. A steady train of food and drink from the impressive menu finds its way up to the office at regular and frequent intervals. If I’d been left alone I might have finished the book by now! But I don’t want to sound ungrateful.

Trouble is the more I eat the more they bring. It’s almost as though I am insulting them when I clean my plate. They think they haven’t brought me enough. So up comes a dessert with about ten thousand calories in it just when I’ve polished off stuffed peppers, rice, kebab, gallons of tea and coffee and lemonade. Even in my crap Turkish I know I’m telling them I’m full up but they just smile knowingly and return five minutes later with something I haven’t had yet.

It got to the stage that as soon as the office door was closed I was looking around for places to hide the food. When I ran out of those I started putting it in my laptop bag. That’s fine with solids and the like but things become more challenging when sloppier foods are involved.

Take Wednesday for example: I came in to the ‘office’ a bit late. After lunch. On the way in I’d munched a simit, polished off a family bag of crisps (I was just in the mood) and finished with a banana to make me feel better about the crisps. (Something about that combination that gave me a swollen belly.)

The laptop had barely had time to power up when there was a tap at the door and in came a smiling waiter carrying a tray with a great big bowl (more of a tureen) of chicken noodle soup. Now this stuff is a house speciality and it’s very good. So I got slurping. But soon realised I wasn’t going to finish it. And they’d be back for the tray soon. (They like to see how quickly I can eat, I think.) What to do with the remaining half-a bowl? My brother-in-law does not have a single plant in his office.

A brainwave: I still had the empty family sized bag of crisps packet in my bag. Those bags are waterproof. They have to be. So without delay I poured the remains of the soup into the bag, folded over the top and carefully stood it up inside my laptop bag. Perfect. And just in time as it turned out. My friend was back and looking happy that I’d done the lot. I smiled back desperately trying to communicate that I wanted nothing else.

It worked. I was not disturbed again.

She-who-must-be-dismayed rang a couple of hours later wondering when I was going home. Time had flown. I said I was on my way. I packed up and headed off down the stairs.

I walked through the kitchens and into the eating area, which was quite busy by then. I smiled and nodded to the staff who seemed a little distracted and not as friendly as usual. Maybe they were just tired, I thought. As I got to the front door I heard someone laughing behind me. I turned to see what was so funny.

If you can’t guess I’m not going to tell you. But here’s a clue: you’ve seen the trail a snail leaves behind it.


Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

Yes, it’s another pool story!

Key vocabulary: porte = door, sick (sik) = fuck. (Things should become clearer by the end.)

But first a bit of background.

I’m sure my big sister won’t mind me sharing a funny story about something that happened to her several years ago. This is the way I remember her telling it.

‘We were coming back from a driving holiday in France and we were late for the ferry. We eventually got to the port town and it was touch and go whether we would make our sailing. To make matters worse we got a bit lost. Stress levels in the car rose. As we were passing someone who looked like a local I told my husband to stop the car. I jumped out, ran up to the Frenchman and shouted at him: ‘Ou est le port! Ou est le port!’ (This would have been OK is she hadn’t enunciated the ‘t’ at the end of ‘port’ turning it into ‘porte’.)  He shrugged, like a Frenchman, mumbled something about the crazy English and hurried away.

For anyone who doesn’t have the necessary rudimentary grasp of the French language or who just doesn’t get it, like me when she told it, in French ‘port’ (silent ‘t’) means harbour but ‘porte’ (that’s with the ‘t’ sounded out) translates as door. So my sister had been shouting at the man in the street, ‘Where’s the door? Where’s the door?’ No wonder the guy was freaked out.

Back to my new pool story. Yesterday, the Halfling and I ventured back to the pool at the local fitness centre. (Incidentally, they said Ankara was boring. They were right. It is. It’s been clear blue skies, gentle breezes and thirty plus temperatures every day. Can’t say I mind that kind of samey. It’s like living in LA.)

We’d been splashing around for a good while when the pool attendant hurried over and gave me to understand that we would have to get out. My body language asked why. He pointed over to the other side of the pool. Someone had thrown up in the shallow end. We got out. Quicker than if they’d released a big shark.

When I looked around I noticed that there were only about five people in the area. And I was the only one with a child. No one looked to be taking responsibility for what looked like barely digested cat food floating on the surface of the water. (The culprit had obviously front-crawled it out of there in their embarrassment.) It occurred to me that they might think that it was either my son or me – a cultural difference, perhaps: we’re British, of course it’s all right to throw up in the public baths and carry on as if nothing had happened. For an encore I take a piss of the diving board.

Anyway, where was I? Yes, because I was worried about our reputation and status as new members and foreigners, I tried to right any hastily drawn wrongs that might be present. I approached the pool attendant, pointed in the direction of the flotsam (or is it jetsam? I get so confused with those two.) and said in my best broken Turkish: ‘Benim yok sick.’

If you refer back to the key vocab you will see that ‘sick’ in Turkish (spelt sik) means fuck. Like my sister, I had muddled up my languages. A stress-related reflex, I dare say.

When I related the episode to she-who-must-be-dismayed later in the evening, she explained that ‘Benim yok’ when coupled with the word ‘sick’ in a sentence could be interpreted as, ‘I do not fuck.’ Judging from his reaction that was his interpretation.

I’ll give it a week before I go back. Not because I can’t stand the thought of swimming in someone else’s vomit but because I think staff work a rota system at the fitness centre and next week he’ll be in the car park. I don’t drive.

Living the dream.

I’ve used this blog title before. Back then I was writing about someone else. This time it’s about me.

‘The Dream’ in this instance, as those familiar with my blog will know, is writing full-time. Summer holidays for teachers, not pupils, in Turkey ended last Sunday, so I’ve been officially ‘living the dream’ for a week now… and I haven’t written a word towards my next book. Still, I’m giving myself an academic year (that’s just a time reference) and it’s early days. I’m getting used to my new status as a full-time author (unemployed, as she-who-must-be-dismayed never misses an opportunity to remind me).

It occurred to me today that work colleagues from last year will be back catching the sweat box on wheels for an hour’s commute in Istanbul’s noisy, nose-to-tail traffic to teach summer school to those kids whose parents aren’t away and who have had enough of their offspring hanging about the house, and to generally loaf about the campus avoiding the management and not working on displays that ‘simply must be done’ all day before repeating the transportation ordeal to get home. My thoughts are with them.

I might not be writing per se but I have been thinking about it. While I bobbed and bounced about at the mercy of the extraordinarily powerful jets in the local leisure centre’s Jacuzzi – something the size of my old bathroom (the Jacuzzi not the leisure centre), as I doggie-paddled my way up and down the almost empty Olympic sized pool (most citizens who can afford this level of city recreation are all firmly ensconced in their coastal summer homes at this time of year), as I recuperated on pool-side sun-loungers under parachute-sized canopies, sipping iced drinks served by puce and perspiring waiters… . And they said I wouldn’t like it here after Istanbul.

But this new life, like any good life, is not entirely without its challenges. Take Monday for example – my first day at the pool. As my level of Turkish as a spoken language is on a par with George W Bush’s command of English I was escorted there by a family member, someone who is also a member of the establishment (not that establishment), and given a quick tour. The Halfling and I were then left alone to get on with it.

It’s a long time since I’ve visited a swimming pool. (These days I’m not too keen to become an ingredient in human soup. [I was put off years ago at my local baths after I’d dived to the bottom of the pool wearing a snorkelling mask. It was like looking under my teenaged-son’s bed.]) Not much has changed but one notable difference is that the lockers here require the punching in of a randomly generated four-digit code in order to lock and later unlock them. The locker room felt like being in some trendy bank’s safety deposit box vault. Back in the day, I remember locker keys on rubber bands that went round your wrist or your ankle. One in five fell off or snapped.

The Halfling and I swam and messed about for a couple of hours quite happily. We then returned to the changing rooms to dry off and change, like you do, before catching a taxi home. Only trouble was, the four-digit code I was sure I’d used to lock away everything we had except our flip-flops and a single towel didn’t open the locker door. Running with a mixture of sweat and what smelled like neat chlorine, I tried it three times and then, like most devices today that have denied access three times in a row, the electronic mechanism starting emitting a shrill and deafening alarm. Not knowing what else to do, I naturally panicked and, scooping up the Halfling, cowered inside one of the toilet cubicles. I still don’t know why I did that. He started crying. I put my hand over his mouth, which just upset him more. Enough to bite me and draw blood. Employees came in and investigated. There was much muttering in guttural Turkish. The alarm was disabled. And eventually the Halfling and I found ourselves alone once more.

After I’d washed my wound in the sink I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t call the staff back to assist because not only would I look like a complete idiot but I’d have some explaining to do. And other than ask people how they are and commenting on the weather my Turkish… well it’s no secret, is it?

In the end I decided to take the Halfling back to the poolside, act normal and think about things. So we did. We were still there five hours later – starving, dying of thirst, beyond irritable, hot, bothered and no longer speaking to each other – when the family eventually came looking for us. It all got sorted out in the end. Turns out I was trying to open the wrong locker.

That hasn’t been my only leisure centre related experience worthy of note. The following day the three of us trundled off to the baths once more. (I wasn’t going alone again.) Overlooking the pool is a sauna. A wall of quadruple-glazed patio-door-sized windows separates the two. While she-who-must-be-dismayed and child frolicked in blissful ignorance in the blue stuff I thought I’d work up a sweat the easy way – by sitting on my backside in artificially high temperatures with a book for a few minutes. I quickly realised it was too hot in there for me – the door had barely clicked shut behind me before I could feel the scorching heat taking the lining off my lungs with each shallow inhalation. It was like breathing in front of an open kiln. The pages of my novel started curling in on themselves immediately. I decided not to stay and punched in the four-digit code that should have let me out but, yes really, nothing happened. Nothing also happened after I tried unsuccessfully to input the code three, four and five times. No helpful alarm. Typical. I remember snatching a look at the thermometer and if it is to be believed it was a hundred and three in there. At risk of death by sauna, I ended up banging my fists against the obviously soundproofed and steamed up windows looking, I imagine, like someone who’s realised they’re trapped in a research lab with an escaped deadly virus or zombies.

In my desperation to attract attention before I passed out I looked around for a real alarm button to activate. Finding only a thin length of cord hanging from the ceiling I yanked on that to discover it was part of the mechanism for depositing about ten gallons of freezing water on whoever was standing beneath it. It did the trick; my screams attracted the attention of the Halfling who managed to coerce his mater into clambering out of the shallow end and investigating, eventually. I was saved.

We haven’t been back.


Something more important and more relevant to my authorial existence to record here is that in my last week in the UK I had my first face-to-face author chat experience. Like my online author chat at the end of July it was thoroughly enjoyable and, like the online chat, the time flew by.

It was organised by a good friend of my mums who very kindly hosted the gathering at her home. Turns out that a few people my mum knows are also readers of one or more of my series. (It’s possible she intimidates them into reading my books. My mum can be quite intimidating.) It was suggested that as I was back on the Marsh for a while I might like to make myself available for a couple of hours to meet anyone interested in discussing my books and my writing. What a great idea! It turned out to be one of those rare things – a great idea that turned out great.

My sincere thanks to all those who took the time and trouble to attend. In no particular order: Jill, Dave, Sandie, Geoff, Bobby, Debbie, Annabelle, Ann… oh yes, and mother. (Apologies if I have misspelled anyone’s name.) I was quite overwhelmed by the amount of interest in and positive feedback for my books (and blog). Special thanks to Ann for organising the event and for laying on such a lovely tea. Idiot that I am, I didn’t take a camera or my camera phone with me.

Great online article about my writing to share.

A great online article to share this week. I wanted to reblog it for the best effect but I mucked up and reblogged it to another of my WP sites and, apparently, you only get one shot at a reblog and they can’t be undone if you make a mistake. That’s what the ‘Happiness Engineer’ at WordPress customer support told me. (Didn’t make me happy.) Seems dumb, but there it is. My bad.

Here is the link to the article, which did make me happy!

Back to Turkey tomorrow after a lovely summer holiday on Romney Marsh.

Fweedom of sshpech.

SPOILER ALERT: OK it’s not exactly a spoiler alert but I am going to talk about an aspect of Particular Stupidities in this post and if you haven’t read the book, but intend to, you might like to look away now. Come back once you’ve finished it, perhaps.

Particular Stupidities (Romney and Marsh File #5) has been available for downloading and reading (and reviewing) for a week now. Time to take stock – for the record.

All in all the pre-ordering experience was a good one, despite my pre-ordering-anxieties (see previous post here) and I’ll look at doing that again. Sincere thanks to all who grabbed a copy then and since. Your ongoing support of my writing is much appreciated.

I mentioned feedback. I’ve had some already. Overall I’m very encouraged by it. But not everyone has been thrilled by all aspects of the read. The old adage about pleasing people springs to mind. One ‘particular’ element of the story that has been highlighted by more than one reader as becoming a little tedious is when one of the characters is afflicted with speech difficulties. (I’m really not giving anything away there for any one who hasn’t read the book.) The feeling by those who’ve mentioned it is that it went on a bit too long. On reflection I can’t see how it could have gone on less but I do take the point. That said, when my head hit the pillow last night I’d just read another comment about it and I was thinking things over. And then I started laughing. In the dark. Into my pillow. I was imagining readers trying to decipher the speech as it was written by, as a couple of them have told me, reading it aloud to make sense of it. I can’t deny that I was having some fun with my readers over this. I don’t begrudge myself that indulgence. I can only hope that readers will forgive me. Yes, it might interrupt the flow, slow down the narrative and the reading and I know that a writer should not really seek to be guilty of such things but I don’t regret it. Yet.

As well as last Thursday being publication day it was also the day that I’d been booked to take part in an online author chat session over at Crime Book Club. I was more than a little anxious about the kinds of things I might be asked to explain and account for. It was timed to run from midday to seven-thirty in the evening. The first five hours could have been the quickest five hours of my adult life – they flew by. It was enormous fun. I chatted with some lovely people. I was asked some interesting questions that made me think about my writing. (The second question I was asked, about five minutes in, stumped me for going on an hour [I answered a ton of other questions in that time] and made me fear for what I’d got myself involved in.) It turned out all right in the end. I signed off at seven-thirty exhausted but really happy with the way things had gone. Thanks, again, to all those who took part.

I’ve got another ten days in the UK and then it’s back to Turkey and flat hunting in Ankara, my new city of residence. I hope we can find somewhere to live and get settled in quickly because I’ve got some books to write.

The Final Countdown.

Barring an alien invasion, in which Martians coordinate their ships to fire bolts of plasma energy upon the world’s sources of electricity thereby destroying life as we know it, tomorrow should see the release of Particular Stupidities (Romney and Marsh File #5).

Two days ago I received an email from Amazon informing me that there were some formatting issues with the book that needed my attention. I can’t speak for other self-publishers but when I get an email from Amazon telling me to do something I feel the need to drop everything, sprint home, fire up the aging laptop, do it, then email them back to let them know how happy I was to respond to their wishes in full. No trouble at all. I regard Amazon as my employers these days and I don’t want to disappoint them and face consequences, sanctions: banishment to the self-publishing wilderness temporary or otherwise, for example. ( I can be a bit dramatic on occasion.)

I looked at my employer’s suggestions and decided that I was happy with my way of doing things but because they are Amazon I was going to comply. In any case, earlier this week I made the mistake of opening up the word document of this book and reading the first few chapters, just to see how it still grabbed me. I found a couple of words that I’d repeated close to each other (that irritates me in a text when there are usually so many synonyms available to choose from) and I thought I might as well take the opportunity to change those while I was carrying out Amazon’s instructions. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t make any changes. The book’s editing option was locked. I was locked out of my own book. My bowels made themselves known to me.

I double-checked the date. OK. No problem. I could email Amazon and they could sort things out. They are always very good at communication – friendly, helpful and prompt. I emailed them. They emailed me back – friendly and promptly – letting me know that there was nothing to be done. Apparently, Amazon’s policy is that when a book is on pre-order it is locked down, protected from all influence and interference, for the three days prior to its release date. My sweat ran cold and freely from every pore followed by the threat of things hot and messy running freely from other places I was struggling to maintain control of.

When I recovered from my swoon my first thought, after exhausting my extensive repertoire of Anglo-Saxon swear words and checking my underwear, was why would they email me with things that need to be done at a time when I can’t do them? My mind was then immediately filled with ‘what if’ scenarios. What if I’d found something very wrong on a final, final check that I hadn’t been able to resist? A wrong name, a missing paragraph, a ‘proper’ formatting issue? I would not have been able to gain access to my book and make the necessary changes. All those pre-orders would go out across the world carrying the errors and the damage to my reputation would be cataclysmic, a bit like what those alien invaders could do to the world. Only worse.

As I said above, I’m happy with the way the book looks (apart from those two words that I really do want to change). But hang on… what if there are other issues? I didn’t read past the first five chapters. Did I thoroughly, thoroughly check everything before I uploaded it? I think I did. I’m sure I did. Didn’t I? Did I? I can’t look now. To find something else, something significantly disastrous, something that I could not rectify because my book is locked down would probably finish me as a fully functioning human being.

My current state of unease exists because I’ve gone the pre-order route with this book. It’s the first time I’ve done that. It’s worth repeating that Amazon insists on having the final copy submitted ten days before publication date. I fully understand why. But for self-publishers like me – mind like a sieve, memory of a goldfish, total responsibility for everything mine – the experience can become quite… agonizing. Anxiety levels quickly move up the scale towards panic attack when the eleventh hour approaches and the doubts and worries stampede in.

Of course, the answer is quite simple and obvious: do everything properly, thoroughly, in good time and then check, check and check again before pressing upload. And I’m sure I did. Except that did I?

Still available for the special pre-order price of only 99p (or the US $ equivalent). This will increase to £1.99 the day after publication.