Spot the difference.

Unhappy Families (Large)

Available to pre-order now here Amazon UK and here Amazon US.


I’ve taken some good advice from a reader. (No I’m not going back to teaching.) I’ve created a Facebook author page. I wish I’d done it years ago. I’m an idiot for not. It offers lots of possibilities for a perspiring writer. Please go over and have a look at the below link. In case you’re wondering what’s in it for you (don’t we all?) it is only on my FB author page that you will be able to see the covers for A White-Knuckle Christmas (Romney and Marsh File #7) and Deep State (Acer Sansom #4). They are both in the photo albums section. If you do stop by PLEASE click the ‘like’ link.


A few weeks ago I posted this image. For this photo shoot I was engaged in my own round of proofreads and edits for Unhappy Families (R&M File #6).

nice work

Here’s me today. Anyone got time on their hands for a game of spot the difference? (Me neither.)


Did I mention the heating’s stopped working? And this was Ankara last week. It might look sunny out there but it’s bloody freezing!


This week I received the proofread copy of Unhappy Families (R&M File #6) back from my gentleman friend. It’s now available for pre-order here  Amazon UK and here Amazon US.

When the books come back from proofreading they need formatting for uploading to Amazon. This is my least favourite task in the whole self-publishing process. It’s onerous and boring and time-consuming. I refer closely to the Smashwords style guide. It’s never let me down yet. Basically it entails:

  1. Copy and paste the whole document into a new MS notepad document. This will get rid of any glitches in the document that have come from it being worked on on multiple computers. (This is called the ‘nuclear method’ and it cleans the whole document up.)
  2. Copy and paste that all back into a new MS word document. (Trouble with the ‘nuclear method’ is it removes all previous formatting. So the italics have gone along with any oversized font for chapter numbers and newspaper headlines etc; paragraphing and spacing also needs redoing and asterisks used to denote change of scene etc have been aligned left. I like them centred.)
  3. Redo all the things that were lost in the creating of a new document. (See 2)
  4. Create the front matter.
  5. Create a hyperlinked table of contents.
  6. Make sure that there are ‘x’ number of spaces between every chapter end and start and asterisk and chapter number to chapter start.
  7. Create end matter (book links, letter of thanks begging for feedback).
  8. Then it needs reading again on a Kindle to make sure that everything has been done properly. (There is always something to change and I have never read one of my books at the last stage [this one] and not found something to change in the story – a word, a line. Example: I’ve just removed a paragraph from R&M#6 because it didn’t add anything.)
  9. Update word document with these final tweaked revisions and guess what? Read it again on Kindle to make sure I didn’t bugger anything up when I did the revisions.

I have to get this book to Amazon by Wednesday or I’m in trouble with them. (They demand it ten days before publication day in the case of a pre-order.) I’m halfway through the first read through of the formatted ‘finished’ book. The hard copy of the manuscript has got purple ink all over it. (I’m working in purple crayon today, even though it hurts my eyes and I suffer from a crayon allergy that brings me out in hives [part of my PTSD from working with small children for too long], because The Halfling has hidden all my highlighter pens.)

With so much to do on top of everything else all this begs the question: why am I messing around taking pictures of myself in silly hats?


R&M#6: off to a flying start!

UF no2

Just before I tiptoe off to bed I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude to everyone who has pre-ordered a copy of Unhappy Families (Romney and Marsh Files #6). Thank you all so much for your support of my writing.

The book only became available for pre-order today and the response has been something for me to get a bit mushy about. As you can see from the screen grab it’s gone to #2 in Amazon’s Hot New Releases category. That’s just word of mouth, a mention on my blog, Facebook and a few tweets.

I’ve also had some wonderful messages on my social networking sites. It’s been good to hear from readers who’ve been following the series and who are looking forward to the latest installment.

I couldn’t be happier. Thanks and goodnight.

Christmas Joy anyone? (And the rest of Dover CID, of course.)

Unhappy Families (Large)

Unhappy Families (Romney and Marsh File #6) is back from my gentleman friend. Everything else will now go on hold while I format the finished article, read it through again and pester readers to buy it.

I have organised Amazon’s pre-release purchase function. Release date: December 27th. (Amazon insist on having the completed book ten days in advance of the publishing date. I thought about going for Christmas day but that would put too much pressure on me all things considered and, let’s face it, who’s going to be reading books on Christmas day?) Here are the links for Amazon UK and Amazon US

Please buy it. Please tell all your friends with ereaders to buy it. Please share your love of the R&M Files on your social-media sites. Let me know here, on Facebook or Twitter that you’ve pre-ordered and I’ll thank you personally – be happy to! Thank you.

My chief aim when putting out a new book in one of my three series (after trying to make enough money to extend my sabbatical [just the thought of having to go back to teaching has got me hiding under my writer’s desk, quivering with the PTSD that too many years in the job have left me burdened with]) is to release a work that does not let the side down. I am confident that this latest addition adds positively to the R&M Files canon.

A word of caution: Unhappy Families works perfectly well as a stand-alone read and much as I want it to be downloaded and read and enjoyed, for a reader to get the most out of it (and there’s plenty to get) I sincerely recommend that you don’t read it until you’ve read the other books in the series. (And that’s not me just trying to get everyone to buy the other R&M Files. But if that’s what it takes… )

Finally for today my apologies in advance: I’m trying to make a living out of writing these days. A big part of that is self-promotion (who knew?) and so I will probably be pushing R&M#6 here and about the web up until its release date and beyond…

Now, here’s the blurb:

Dover CID is enjoying a period of relative calm.

That is until DI Tom Romney gets linked with a disturbing find in a dead man’s flat; DS Joy Marsh gets involved with things that go bump in the night; DC Peter Grimes gets friendly with a ride-along author; DC Derek Spicer gets drunk and Superintendent Vine gets taken in by a ruse.

Can the members of Dover CID come through their individual trials unscathed or is it the end of the line for someone?

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!)

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.

Eight days and counting!!!

Only eight days until Particular Stupidities (Romney and Marsh File #5) hits the virtual shelves. It’s still available for the special pre-order price of 99p. On the same date (30th July) I’m also the focus of an author Q&A over at the excellent and fast-growing Facebook group Crime Book Club run by the wonderfully supportive and energetic Louise Hunter. I’m doubly excited and doubly anxious in equal measure.

In response to my last blog-post, in which I expressed concern that I’m not finding (making) any writing time while I’m on holiday back ‘home’, I had a comment suggesting that it was likely the visit would still be useful to me in a number of ways, not least of which was reassociating myself with the area in which I base most of my books. How true that is. As well as the day-to-day living here where I’ll just absorb things through a kind of osmosis I’ve had a couple of more deliberate and direct experiences to share.



I attended a talk in one of Romney Marsh’s fourteen medieval churches. (Fourteen! That seems quite a high number to me for the size of the Marsh. There are four recorded ruined churches here, too.) The talk was held at St George in Ivychurch and was titled: Tracing Your Ancestors Through Death Records. It was fascinating and I’d have been glad to attend in any case. There’s a great pub next door, too. (Link to the speaker at the bottom of the page. [And the pub]).



I was there because another reader who keeps in touch let me know about it and suggested it might be of some use to me in my writing. Thanks to him. It was a spookily serendipitous suggestion, actually, because I had been kicking around a Booker & Cash plotline about someone getting in touch with Jo Cash to see if she’d be interested in some historical detective work – locating ancestors type stuff. In that respect the talk was really useful and the speaker was happy to follow up with a very detailed emailed handout. I’m that much more excited about getting stuck into the writing project. (It must have been a good talk – I bought the book.)

I’m not a remotely religious person, in fact I’d go as far to say that I am a practising atheist, but I do find churches special and interesting places. The architecture, the times they’ve lived through, the graveyards and the history attached to them all combine to make them buildings I’m always happy to while away some time investigating their features and enjoying the surroundings.

It was my first visit to St George church. Having just Googled the link for the Marsh churches’ trust I’m encouraged to visit a few more before I push off back to Turkey.

Again, rather serendipitously, one of Dymchurch’s oldest living sons (He’s in his nineties and still gets about courtesy of his mobility scooter.) dropped by the other day to let me know that the Dymchurch Heritage Group had their meeting and reference room open for a couple of hours. I went along to discover an Aladdin’s cave of fantastic material related to Dymchurch history. I couldn’t help seeing future Booker & Cash stories everywhere. Again, I became quite excited with possibilities. The custodians on duty were fantastically helpful and generous with offers of access to their material.

So, yes, I might not be writing but simply being back in Booker & Cash country could prove to be worth it to me the writer as well as me the human being.

(I’m writing this on the laptop in the lounge while my youngest sleeps off the bracing morning walk in the breezy sunshine on the new sofa. He looks so angelic when he’s dozing. He’s just caught my attention because he’s obviously dreaming about doing something energetic – his little limbs are twitching. He now has my full attention and I’m not smiling indulgently anymore. I’m experiencing mild panic. I’ve just noticed a large dark patch on the upholstery underneath him that wasn’t there when I put him down. I just have to hope that his mum doesn’t come home before he wakes up and I’ve had a chance to flip the cushion. A spray of Glade and it’s our secret.)

Some links: