Yes, I Am Still Writing … Romance’

Why shouldn’t I write romance? After all, it is one of the top-selling genres. Then again, it could be compared to Hollywood, and the number of would-be actors who are working low-skilled jobs whilst ‘resting’.

It is my own belief that the worse the world seems around us, the greater the need for us to believe that there is something better. That’s where romance comes into the picture. Then again, there are things like this:

Go on, click on the rose and see where it takes you. This is something that pops up on a regular basis. As a self-published author, one might think I would run a mile from initiatives such as this. However the fact is that even M&B have to find new talent. This is how they do it, for their specific sub-genres.

Okay, so there are rules. They are looking for clean romance. No swearing and no sex. The books are 50,000 words long, which is only just above a novella. They want strong successful women and men who match them. Sweet romance. In return, even if you are not what they are looking for, you will receive editorial feedback.

That’s guaranteed editorial feedback.

What is not to like about that? So, before you diss romance, take a look at what you might gain from some of the initiatives out there.



img_0731Amazon. com:






img_0048Amazon. com:


Time to Reboot

After discovering that something had gone horribly wrong with the publication of one of my books, I had taken the ‘drastic’ step of unpublishing them until I could upload copies onto the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system. Drastic? According to the Amazon system, it meant losing any and all reviews. Since reviews are the lifeblood of any aspiring author, this would be another one of those indie author suicide moves, right?

Err, no.

Let’s face it, I was nowhere near the top 10,000 let alone the top 10. So, I had nothing to lose. Unpublish my books is what I duly did.

What was more important was ensuring that my potential readers (and reviewers) saw the best work I could offer. So far, I have two books back up: Beta and Merysekhmet.

Both are the ‘second’ books in their respective series. This means I can focus on the respective series ‘Volume 1’, Alpha and Cysgodion

Beta introduced two key characters from the Cwn Annwn side of the story, Bran Cadwgan and Owain Cadwaladr, a name which sends my computer’s autocorrect feature in paroxysms of confusion. That’ll be the Welsh language for you then. It also introduced the apparent ‘baddie’ in the brother of the one of the female main characters, Casimir Gosselin, the brother of Detective Alix Gosselin. Since Cysgodion is the story of Casimir, it was best his reputation was established sooner rather than later. Alpha explained my interpretation of the Welsh legend of the Cwn Annwn.

In comparison, Merysekhmet introduced a ‘new’ character, from the perspective of the overall series arc: Ramses Tariq-Omari. Undoubtedly, there are references to events occurring elsewhere, much of which will become clearer in subsequent books. Whilst both books may be read as standalone novels, it is inevitable when writing about a group of individuals, that there will be references to the stories of other characters. One can but try to balance those references. Both books are out for review. img_0048To the best of my ability, I have corrected the errors in formatting etc, but until a purchased copy is reviewed, I won’t know for certain.

Whether the relaunch will be worthwhile remains to be seen. However, it gives me an opportunity to learn from mistakes:

* Are peer to peer groups worthwhile?
* Is advertising on social media worth the variable cost?
* Which forms of social media are better?
* How do I convert followers to buyers and active readers?

What my experience has shown me is that it is better to concentrate on a selected few social media outlets. Many of these companies are now cracking down on perceived Spam, so advertising on every platform could compromise a Facebook account, for example. I have seen this happening with other authors. It could also result in the loss of Amazon reviews, rather than gain. If that happens, the behemoth that is Amazon does not seem to have a right of appeal. They decide. You, the author either wins or loses. Which forms of social media are better? That depends on your demographic. The last point of converting followers to buyers in a bit more difficult. One thing that is important is back-catalogue. So, rather than ignore those short stories, you may find that it encourages readers to buy the actual book.


Amazon. com:

Amazon. com:


Let’s start at the top, people!

Begin at the beginning, said the Queen of Hearts to Alice. A wise suggestion, but what defines the beginning. The internet is chock full of tales of warning and woe about self-publishing authors who make mistakes, I am not going to regurgitate some generalisations. This is MY story. If you can find something relevant and useful, then well and good.

So where was my beginning in my wild ride through being a self-published author? One evening, I was sitting in the restaurant of this hotel:

Yes, this very hotel. The Holiday Inn at Scotch Corner, on the junction of the A1 and A66. As you might have guessed by the style of the building, a hotel has been here for a good few decades. It has become my home from home in the seven years with my present employer, in a job involving a lot of business travel. So there I was, trying not to laugh out loud at a three way online role play I was writing with one writer from Sweden and one from America who was in Afghanistan at the time. I didn’t feel lonely in the hotel, because of people like that, people with whom I might write and forget my day.

But life is full of bumps in the road, and the online roleplay world is full of drama queens. I broke away from that original group, after I trusted the wrong person. For years, I had had my own ideas for my own stories, stemming from dreams I used to have as a child. Having realised that writing was an excellent way to de-stress, I decided the time had come to put those ideas into written stories. That was the start of Fane Anghelescu, a Hellhound, and of Gavril Negrescu, the Alpha of the Cwn Annwn.

Legends had always fascinated me. Legends and people watching. Humans are not all the same, so I asked myself why should Hellhounds all be the same. I was accused of copying the ideas of the roleplay group from which I had split. However, that individual had a penchant for sex and violence, preferably together. Hardly deep and meaningful. My Fane was much more that that. A Hellhound, so in theory a creature of Hell. Yet, like humans, he was different from the stereotype of his breed. As I was writing paranormal romance, there was bound to be some … okay, a lot … of sex, but, like the violence, I did not wish to make it gratuitous. As for Gavril and his Cwn Annwn, no one else has written a story like mine. That is not boasting, but the simple fact. The Cwn Annwn are the spectral hounds in service to Mallt-y-Nos. My twist was that they were charged with hunting down evil souls for her to judge, but also protecting the innocent. They were also not immortal, thus ensuring that the stories could run the gamut of emotions.

That was the start. A year or so later, I was in the process of trying to publish a fourth book, which was something of a spin off, using the same characters and a few others, but also introducing new characters.

Sekhmet: inspiration for Merysekhmet

As a result of my interest in the Egyptian pantheon, I decided to create a new character, a lion shifter in service to the goddess Sekhmet, who was both a warrior and a healer. Originally, I planned to make him an Anaesthetist, but I found it a bit difficult to work an anaesthetist in the battle scenes, so I made him a surgeon, at least in this century. As he had been around for a couple of thousand years, being a healer covered a lot of different descriptions over time.

That was when some very annoying problems occurred. When copies of “Merysekhmet” were purchased, it became clear that the wrong version had been pushed out to the buyers. In order to upload a pre-sale, one has to load a document of a similar length to have the same page-count. Unfortunately, it was this draft document which my readers were being sent, rather than the final version. Several attempts later, and it became clear that the easiest solution was to unpublish the book and start from scratch.

Begin at the beginning. In the end, I decided to unpublish all my books from all outlets and go through a laborious process of reformatting. The first book, “Bound”, had been written in role-play format, with alternating character points-of-view. It did not match the other books, written as they were in third person, and I wanted to change that. There were other historical events which I wished to include in “Alpha”. The third book, “Beta” originally included the trial of those responsible for the smuggling ring and was a way of introducing Casimir Gosselin. Things went a bit pear-shaped as we say in the UK, when a co-author decided t9 mess with the storyline. She didn’t appreciate that these were pre-planned (more or less) novels.

This was key, because Casimir was one of the most complex characters I had conceived, and certainly one to rival Fane. Then again, it did transpire that they were related. But if I explain that, then you lose a reason to buy the book. So, nope, you have to wait. If I didn’t include the trial, then how would I introduce Casimir? And he did need to be introduced because events involving both Casimir and Fane were key for “Merysekhmet”, “Toho”, “Medved” and “Ma’iitsoh”.

The upshot was, the continuity of the series was out of sync, and that was bugging me. Ultimately, it came down to the series didn’t feel right anymore. Some might say but if you unpublish, you lose reviews? Well, I never expected to make my fortune from writing. I have sold a few, but not huge numbers, and the only ‘reliable’ reviewer was my pet troll. Time to hit unpublish.

But, I had learnt loads in the past year which I intend to use. So, I will be back. The stories will be the way that I had envisaged them in the first place. And, I shall also make use of some of those lessons I learnt along the way.

In the meantime, you can find snippets and other details on either my Author page or my Hunter’s Arrow page

Racism in Novels

Two months since I wrote a piece for my blog, so I thought, let’s go for a nice, lightweight subject. Racism? That’s my idea of a light subject? Nope. Anything but. “To Kill A Mockingbird” has been removed from schools in Biloxi, MS because it made people uncomfortable. Well, that is what it is supposed to do. [Note to self: send a copy to my cousin, so her kids can still read it].

Those of you who have seen my profile picture (A Year of Selfies) will notice that I am not Caucasian. Born in London of parents of Indian origin, I have a relatively light skin, but trust me, growing up in what was an Irish neighbourhood (Wembley), I was fairly obvious. I had all the racist teasing which included not being allowed to join the girls’ games in primary school. So what? Boys were much more fun. Who needed dolls when you could play wargames.

As an adult, I can react accordingly to racisim. There was that group of Indian doctors, who called me ‘BBC’: British-Born and Confused. I told them I wasn’t confused. It hurt though when a child in my son’s Cambridgeshire primary school called him a ‘Paki’. My son had the perfect retort, which was that of the twelve nationalities in his family tree, Pakistani was not one of them.

But on to the subject of this blog: Racism in Novels. I am a member of several author promotion groups on Facebook. I write in what is admittedly a crowded genre of paranormal romances, but when you look at this link, using the keywords paranormal shifter romance, what do you notice about the book covers? All the characters are Caucasian. Yet, in terms of race, what could be more different that being of different species, let alone different skin colour? Even when the shifter animal comes from a species on a continent with darker skins such as African or Indian, their faces are still pale.

I am guilty of this. Only on one of my current books do the characters show racial differences, namely Merysekhmet (Amazon link here). Ramses, as his name suggests is Egyptian, and Elizabeth is a dark-haired American.

The question is why does this happen? Is is ‘market constraint’? Does it bother a potential reader that the cover might show a mixed race romance? I would like to think not, but if that were the case, why don’t we see more covers with mixed race characters? Does it mean that a cover with a mixed race couple sells less? Or, are our readers not so narrow-minded.

I am not sure I know the answer. However, in these days of the #takeaknee protests, not just in the USA, but also in Germany, understanding race and how non-Caucasians can be disadvantaged, is absolutely key.


How can the status quo be changed if we are surrounded by the ‘ideal’ being a Caucasian couple, regardless if it is a M/F, M/M or whatever else.

The next time you buy yourself a book, just consider that.


“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn $0.99 or free on KU: £0.99 or free on KU:

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn $3.00 or free on KU: £2.99 or free on KU:

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn £1.66 or free on KU $2.58 or free on KU

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
A $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited
Amazon UK: £1.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited

The Arrows of Retribution

Thoroughly enjoyed archery tonight, with 30m and 50yd targets used. For those that don’t know me personally, I have three longbows. The draw weights are all at 28″ draw length: “My Lady” (in the picture), 33lb, “Bronwen” (Neolithic Holmgaard replica bow), 33lb and “The Beast”, 40lb. Yesterday, I was using My Lady.

I don’t shoot a modern bow after discovering my eyes can’t ‘work’ with sights. Plus I like the feel of my yew bows. Most archers will shoot rounds of six arrows per end with a view of scoring sufficiently for a classification e.g. third, second, first, bowman and master bowman.

I was taken to task yesterday, albeit quietly, for loosing nine arrows per end instead of six. However, as I don’t shoot recognised rounds to aim for a classification, it doesn’t matter if I loose ten arrows in an end to everyone else’s six arrows. I will have finished my end before all the recurves have shot. I loose my six, and check if I have time for the remaining arrows in my quiver. I am not holding up collecting the arrows, since I will have left the shooting line before the last recurve.

Why does this matter? Just because you don’t fit the mould (of most archers), does not mean you lack validity.

I use this illustration often. A competitive archer might look at these and assume two groupings, and a reasonable score. Another of my friends saw it as three threat and three heart shots, with my target experiencing a good dose of dead.

Another thought was that the other individual using that target, in her own, was shooting a round. Whether my shooting none arrows to her six meant it might endanger the round she was doing, I don’t know. Benefit of the doubt. So, near in. Mind that you might only have half the picture.

But it still comes down to one thing. Live for yourself and those dear to you. All manner of negative emotions might hiding in the backbiting and bitching. Protect yourself, but consider what drives such hatred. Don’t let the narrow-mindedness of others prevent you from helping.


“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn $0.99 or free on KU: £0.99 or free on KU:

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn $3.00 or free on KU: £2.99 or free on KU:

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn £1.66 or free on KU $2.58 or free on KU

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited
Amazon UK: £2.30 or free on Kindle Unlimited

“Make Yourself Happy …”

How many times have you heard that line? At work, with the classic advice of find a job you enjoy? That is closely followed by ensuring you have a good work/life balance. Companies will have their policies, probably including some of the following in terms of protecting one’s own health:

  • Be aware of issues such as back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, eye-stress and strain
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Mental and physical fatigue
  • Threatening or bullying behaviour

This will be followed by advice to report it to a line manager or HR, because, of course, your employer has your best interests at heart. You might even believe that, in terms of a happy workforce is a productive workforce. The problems occur when the ‘management’ come from a different generation, where ‘risk-aware’ meant ‘get rid of the problem before its existence becomes known by others’.

In the face of that, is it surprising that work/life balance may not exist?

So returning to that idea of balance. Apart from a three year period in the mid-1990s, I have always worked full-time. In the 2001 census, that meant a 60 hour week. Wait just a second. If you work 60 hours, and you sleep 11pm to 6am (35 hours), have a bit of a lie in at the weekend (18 hours). There are 282 hours in a week. Work and sleep is 113 hours. So, that leaves 169 hour as time with significant others.

That’s cool, because that’s 38 more hours spent not working or sleeping. No problem. Balanced. And, as a bonus point, balanced in favour or downtime. But, remember, I am also working this out from:

  1. A working mother’s perspective
  2. Someone trying to write and self-publish her own novels.

Oh, and don’t want to hear that nonsense about shared parenting and the sharing of household tasks. Great in theory but does it happen for the majority. So we will just cut to the chase. Yes, you may well be spending time with your family, but it is eating, shopping, laundry, housework. When do you sit down? When do you relax? When are you not a wife, a mother?

When do you truly have ‘me’ time? When do you have the time to do something just for you?

This was the point that my therapist made to me. When did I do something that made me happy? Writing whilst cooking? Writing when I have insomnia? Thinking about plots when driving? And, it was not just my writing. How often had I put my dream of learning to ride a motorbike? When we are on holiday, do I have the chance to paint?

It made me think. Part of self-publishing is the promotional side. If readers don’t know you are out there, they won’t buy your books. Simple as that. My WordPress stats showed I hadn’t posted for several months. Facebook reminded me that my followers hadn’t heard from me in my author page. The 600+ people following my Hunter’s Arrow page hadn’t heard from me in a while either. That self-promotion stuff takes time.

Time. Timely-wimey. Wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey.

Damn, but the therapist was right. Doing things that I enjoyed had become a guilty pleasure, one that didn’t deserve time in my schedule. This is the reality of being a self-published author, as many of us know. But don’t mistake my words for a whinge. It was a wake-up call, because it is all to easy for our pleasure, the one thing that should make a writer smile, become a chore.

Make yourself happy.

No, that doesn’t mean give up writing if it becomes a chore. For me, what it has meant is when the little voice in my head says, “You can’t afford motorbike lessons.”, there is a countering voice saying, “Yes, you can. After all this time, you can.”

How does that translate into my writing? It means making it clear that ‘that hour’ is writing time and I am not to be interrupted unless the house is on fire. Similarly, if I put aside time for promotional work. That is a necessary part of my writing. It is not me ‘playing’ in Facebook and social media. It is part and parcel of my wanting to stand a chance of my books selling more than a single copy. I know writing won’t replace my day job, but I would like to have something to show for the time I spend putting pen to paper.

For the record, since my therapist asked me that question, I have booked the motorbike lessons, I have bought the Royal Enfield Bullet in the picture at the top. I have taken time to edit, have critiqued and re-edit the next book I want to publish.

‘Me’ time.

It matters. We owe it to ourselves because no one else will grant it to us.


“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn $0.99 or free on KU: £0.99 or free on KU:

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn $3.00 or free on KU: £2.99 or free on KU:

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn £1.66 or free on KU $2.58 or free on KU

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited
Amazon UK: £2.30 or free on Kindle Unlimited

Pens, notebooks and charging around …

When I looked back at my publishing schedule, I realised it was months since I had added anything to my blog. Even then, I found it difficult to express myself as myself. Depression and anxiety are insidious. You tell yourself that you can cope, but then something tips the scale, and the proverbial chasm beckons.

But now, I have so many ideas bubbling away, that the difficulty is sorting them out. “Wait your turn!” I mutter to all the ideas, as I try to put them in some sort of order.

I have always enjoyed writing with a fountain pen, not least because it was a sign that I could write ‘properly’ as a child. I remember that first pen: a Platignum pen, purple barrel. Unfortunately, my style of writing meant that I ground the nib down one side. Other pens followed. Parker, Sheaffer. Nothing fancy. Just sturdy pens. In college it was a Parker Vector, which unfortunately was stolen by some lowlife. It was shame, because it had a beautifully smooth nib. Still it did teach me that not all pens, and nibs, are created equal.

Part 1 of the Pen Case along with Uncle George’s Parker Victory

Leap forward into my mid-forties, and my love of fountain pens was rekindled because a colleague preferred to use them. Until then, I had a couple of Parkers which just languished in my pen pot. Within a relatively short time, those two long-suffering pens were joined by several others. I went so far, even, to order a replacement nib for one from Australia.

Part II of the Pen Case

Not all of them are inked. Some have standard black. Some not so standard purple, or brown or turquoise. Another has Diamine Blood Orange or Diamine Dark Forest. I have put a pause on buying any others, given that there is a Pen Show in London which coincides with my birthday in October.

And, it doesn’t stop there. Paper … Ah! The delights of paper. I prefer 90gsm paper, but I have Clairefontaine notebooks from Bureau Direct. I have some made by Rob De La Porte (Click here for Rob’s website), and I have the one illustrated above with the peacock feather, found in the sale pile at WH Smith in Newcastle.

So, why am I waxing lyrical about pens and paper? Most of my novels are written either on my Lenovo Yoga laptop computer or on my iPad, the latter courtesy of Uncle George. But, given that my job involves a lot of travelling and waiting around, I found another option. I rediscovered the pleasure of writing longhand. So, what I write may not make it into a novel, but it gives me a repository for those bubbling thoughts, whenever they occur. The process of writing with a fountain pen on good quality paper has meant that I have rediscovered the pleasure and relaxation in writing longhand. The latter surprised me, because my writing had become rather scrappy. Who needs a pen and paper when you can make a quick note with talk-to-text software.

But, there is pleasure and there is relaxation. I am having regular appointments with a CBT therapist, and one of the things he pointed out was what did I do that brought me pleasure? What was just for me? Not work, not family, not for my husband or son? Just for me.

That is writing with a fountain pen. Writing on good quality paper. Writing my stories and the thoughts of my characters. You might consider trying it.


“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn $0.99 or free on KU: £0.99 or free on KU:

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn $3.00 or free on KU: £2.99 or free on KU:

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn £1.66 or free on KU $2.58 or free on KU

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
A $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited
Amazon UK: £2.30 or free on Kindle Unlimited