Monday, 1 September 2014

Book Review: Createspace and Kindle Self-Publishing Masterclass by Rick Smith

In the minefield of books, it is difficult, if not near-impossible to select a book you will be happy with. Sure, you can go by the reviews, but ultimately, you go with your gut (unless you have bags of time and money) and with Amazon's Look Inside feature, or the sample you can send to your Kindle, you can get a good feel for a book without actually buying it.

If you are an author, at whatever stage you find yourself, at best, this book will certainly help you sell more books and at the very worst,  you will have learned something about the dark arts. I'm not talking about witchcraft - I am talking about Marketing.

This book is the perfect guide to assist authors who want to publish on Createspace. It's amazing what assumptions people make - the typographer for one of my books said 'Oh all you have to do is send me your Createspace template'...I had no idea what she was on about. That was more than two years ago now (scary) and I can say I do know more about Createspace and what it does.

There are no assumptions that I could find in this book, just clear, concise facts and it is a truly excellent step by step guide to help with publishing on Amazon, which is the easy part. The dark art of Marketing, however, is covered extremely well here and even though I majored in the discipline, that was years ago before the age of social media. The basics of marketing and sales have not changed since the dawn of time. There is a market and there are sellers that operate within that market.

All one has to do, is provide supply for the demand. What demand though? How can you create demand for your book? My other half has a way of putting it, whenever I go into overdrive about one of my favourite books:-

"Whichever book you have, you will still want a new one, a new story, a new adventure. People always want something new."

That's true, and I feel she is right on this. I may love Lord of the Rings, but people will always want the new Lord of the Rings, the new Hunger Games, the new Harry Potter. Dare I say....the new Dark Winter book?

This book helps someone like me....who admits to not being very good at promoting or marketing himself. That's not because I lack confidence - it's more about that I don't want to be a nag, and I believe that if people want to read my books, then they will. I just needed a push to say 'hey, read my book' once in a while, whilst hopefully being supportive to others.

Rick Smith has organised the thoughts we often have, turning them into meaningful actions, and you'll find yourself doing it.

I am trialling a few things from this book:-
  • Doing the Createspace edition first, not the Kindle version
  • Joining relevant groups without being a PITB (pain in the butt)
  • Taking myself seriously as a writer and involving people I know in the process

The last point is very relevant for me. My first non-fiction book came out in 2011, and it was a full two years before I had a meaningful non-fiction book to push out. Two years! Now I do believe in quality over quantity, but we can write more faster than we do. It's shameful when you think about the time we waste.

I have the Kindle version of this book, but I am inclined to purchase the paperback as there is information that may get by you on the e-book. The print edition would force to write your little darlings. Yes, the words nag at you, but unless you park yourself in that chair and disconnect the internet - the words will not get done. Once they are done, you will need a constant reminder to push the book out.

Things I loved:-

"People frequently fail at new things they attempt simply because they do not have a system to follow."
True. Give yourself a system, and follow it, follow it. Follow. IT. (That's enough of the CAPS fury!)

"99c/99p is the new free." 
Yep. 'Free books' don't have a value attached and I am not certain they create run-on sales. My first non-fiction book sold just fine without a free book promotion. That doesn't mean I haven't done one; I have, just in my view they do not work. Rick is right - 99c does at least give you a bump up in the early weeks when you are trying to get traction.

"Even in the lower reaches of the top 10k, you'll be moving anything up to 500 units a month."
Doesn't that motivate you to get there too?

Finally, I have to say thanks to my good friend and fellow author Elizabeth for recommending this book. You see, friends, recommendations are so important. We need them. So get reading, get reviewing, and get productive making the best book you can. Give the readers a professional, awesome book that they will happily recommend too!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Dark Winter Giveaway - The Countdown

There are two days to go on the giveaway for Book One, and just over one month until Book Two arrives. So you need to read this first! If you only want the Kindle version, grab it here:- Dark Winter Kindle Version

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Dark Winter by John    Hennessy

Dark Winter

by John Hennessy

Giveaway ends August 29, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, 25 August 2014

Paranormal Haunts #2 - A Visit to Baddesley Clinton

A view of the house of Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire.

This is one of the back views of the house with the main garden.

Inside the house, you can see a shot of the library. The bookshelves are on the other side of the room. Have a look at the carpet.

Can you see the close-up of the carpet? On this patch is a section of dried blood.

In 1438, John Brome, the Under-Treasurer of England, purchased the manor house. It later  passed to his son, Nicholas, who is thought to have built the east range of the property, which is the main entrance. Nicholas is also responsible for the extensive rebuilding of the nearby parish church dedicated to Saint Michael, done as penance for killing the parish priest, a murder reputed to have taken place in the great house itself.

Apparently he killed the priest for having an affair with his lover, and the blood above is on the floor in the photo above. England in these times was quite brutal, any knowledge of England from 1200AD-1600AD would reveal the country to be quite effective in how it dealt with criminals.

In Brome's case, he clearly wasn't felt to have paid full penance in his life. So in death, he was buried standing up, which still chills me when I think about it!

I do like the beams inside the property.

The stain glassed windows are a big feature of the house.

A very ornate set of bellows for encouraging heat in the fireplace!

The fireplace was built by the Ferrer family, who owned the property in its later years before handing over to the National Trust.

Scare rating: 4 out of 5

It's fair to say that this is a truly lovely property in a beautiful part of Warwickshire. I did feel particularly sensitive to the bedroom, where it is said that footsteps can be heard but no-one can be seen. The library, with the blood on the floor...I was expecting it to be darker in colour, and maybe because it was busy in that room with lots of people it felt less foreboding. It certainly has got something about it, which is hard to define.

Perhaps the most unsettling feeling I had was in climbing the stairs. I imagine a lot of issues in the household got sorted upstairs. Maybe there were more killings than we know about. It remains a scarily beautiful house, one I would go back to again.

Check out the supernatural ice-cream that on sale too!

More photos below.

A stuffed animal. Run!

One of the many paintings in the house.

The powder room.

Let's finish with a nice image for once!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Back Cover Preview - Murderous Little Darlings

Murderous Little Darlings is the first in a series of vampire novellas I am writing. Book One comes out on Halloween this year. This may not be the final cover, but I like that three vampire bats feature on the back cover. I may have to tweak font colours, but maybe you can tell me what you think!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Book Review: Embers & Ice (Rouge #2) by Isabella Modra

    "Everyone is wrong about hell."

Rouge#1 was a throughly entertaining ride which introduced us to high-kicking heroine Hunter.

Rouge#2, which is a continuation of the story, is even better. Titled Embers & Ice, and complete with yet another stunning cover, one wonders if it could match the first story, or hopefully - better it?

I bought the paperback version of this book, and it is truly awesome to have on my shelf.

From the very first line:-

"Everyone is wrong about hell."

you, dear reader, will be hooked.

Embers & Ice raises the intensity of the first and then some. I relate it to being thrown into a cement mixer at high speed and ejected at said speed. That's what this book is like. I may have mentioned in my review of Rouge#1 that you could definitely see this on the big screen.

The author, Isabella Modra, is in clear command of her universe and you can tell she had great fun pulling us along with the story.

There are no filler chapters in the book and even though it ends with a 'what the hell happens now' scenario, you will want to know what does happen. Middle books of series are so hard to write - they are not the first nor usually the last in a series. Thankfully this is a fantastic middle book, and sets up the finale which I am sure will be awesome when it finally lands.

In addition, the paperback version is beautifully presented. The typeface is gorgeous and totally relevant for this kind of tale.

My favourite scene in the whole book was between Hunter and Will. Not to give the game away, but Hunter uses her incredible fire power (literally) to turn the tables on Dr Wolfe (a cool bad guy, but you'll hate him anyway).

Why I loved this book:-

Fantastic story.
Great characters that are not limited to only the main protagonist.
Hunter is a fantastic, believeable heroine. She is not needy, is tough as nails (but not in a plastic, predictable uber-heroine kind of way) and just keeps on going. Why wouldn't you root for her?
Romance is there, but thankfully kept to a minimum. This book is all action.
The bad guys are cool. You hate them but you cannot ignore them.

And here is perhaps the best praise I can give for this book:-
Katniss Everdeen has a new competitor for my heart and mind!
I'd like to see Saoirse Ronan play her in the movie.

I cannot stress enough how important reviews are. This book, and its counterpart, deserves to be read by many people. It's perfect for YA, but anyone with a pulse will enjoy the stories.

Bring on Book Three. We are waiting!

In summary: My favourite YA book of 2014 by a country mile.

Author Website:

Amazon Page for Embers and Ice 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Paranormal Haunts#1 - A Visit to Snowshill Manor

Snowshill Manor House

Set right in the heart of the Cotswolds, Snowshill Manor is a fascinating retreat, that, as ever with these places, is pretty hard to find, even without the map. I visited the place yesterday. It's about 50 miles from where I live.

I've wanted to go for ages, having heard about the ghost in the greeen dress in Ann's Room, or the duel that two men had in the most uppermost room. One died, of course, and still haunts the place today.

Scare rating 3.5 out of 5 :-

I'm undecided about this one.The house certain has 'something,' - I wasn't scared there but it just has a feeling of claustrophobia about it. But that is the case for many of these old houses. But there was plenty here which with to help my writing. Sometimes you simply have to get away from typing and get out in the big world.

This is from the National Trust website:-


Snowshill Manor is a Cotswold manor house packed with extraordinary treasures collected over a life time by Charles Wade

Inside these rooms you can discover this eclectic collection that he restored and displayed. We have maintained the atmospheric settings he created with low lighting and few labels. From tiny toys to Samurai armour, musical instruments to fine clocks, thousands of objects are laid out for you to see just as Mr Wade intended.
The garden is the perfect place to unwind and explore hidden vistas, quiet corners and unexpected delights including Charles Wade’s uncomplicated home, the Priest’s House.
“Let nothing perish” was his motto, and his life was dedicated to doing just that. From the everyday to the extraordinary, you can discover his passion for craftsmanship, colour and design."

Beautiful views of the Cotswolds surround you.

These quotes are dotted all round the place, from the house's most recent owner, Charles Paget Wade.

Look at the strange trees!

More wisdom from Mr Wade

Sheep enjoying themselves. I wish it would stay that way for them!

When writing a book, you need details. Even something as subtle as brickwork, and how you describe, can make it feel so real to the reader. The reader then becomes more involved, so that merely reading the book becomes replaced by a much more enriched experience.

Another view of the Manor.

There were apples, plums and tomatoes for sale. The honesty box for those who would pay (we did!)

Stunning views of the Shires. I think we are very lucky in England to have such views available to us.

One the many curiousities kept by Mr Wade, who was collecting since he was seven years old.On the first floor there is a rather stunning but scary collection of life size Samurai warriors which lay in the dimly lit Green Room. Charles Wade acquired them once the Second World War had ended. 

The site was full when we arrived. So many people visit these places!

Says it all.

I love the detail of this wooden door which adorned the priest's house.

You can enjoy more pictures down below, or find out more about Snowshill Manor here:-