Category Archives: Writing

Thank you Whispering Stories for a lovely Author Interview

I’d like to thank Stacey for her lovely write up of our interview about my life and writing. I do hope  you can take a look and find out a little more about me and my writing.

As most of you know I now live back in the UK but the beautiful photo of ‘where I write’ is actually the view I had from my desk at Lakeside where most of ‘The Cavalier Historian’ was written. I was very lucky to have probably the best view in the world from an office!


A new book is on the way!

I am currently enjoying researching for a series of novels about the experiences of a war correspondent during the Second World War. As an introduction to some of the main characters I have written a novella. Set in Berlin on the night of 9th November 1938, Kristallnacht, ‘One Night In Berlin’ has recently been proofread by the excellent Maxine Linnell. I am now working on a cover for the book and hope to have it with you very soon.

Please check in here again over the next few weeks to find out how you can get your free copy of ‘One Night In Berlin’.

Her style of writing reminds me of Nevil Shute

Yet another 5* review for Heronfield.
However, in my mind, the number of stars is far outweighed by the very kind comment about my writing style.  To be likened to such a great author as Nevil Shute is truly an honour.  Thank you lizziep
5.0 out of 5 stars authentic, 1 Nov 2013 By lizziep
This review is from Amazon
Having read a number of books set in the war, I started to read this book with a certain amount of trepidation – too often authors are not able to convey the real sense of what it must have been like to be in that situation. “Heronfield” was a most ‘pleasant’ surprise (I use the word ‘pleasant’ in quotation marks as I have to admit that some of the descriptions were unpleasantly graphic – but even this added to the feeling of reality and authenticity) in that it was obvious that the author had not only spent a great deal of time researching her subject, but had complete immersed herself in it. From the descriptions of pre-war life in the big house, to the description of life in an interment camp, the whole novel had a feeling of authenticity and was able to indicate to me what it must have been like to have been alive during that whole dreadful period – not just a serving member of the forces, but also the civilians living (or existing) back at home and how they coped. Ms Balchin is a relatively new author, however, her style of writing reminds me very much of the style of Nevil Shute – an author I have gone back to time after time. I suspect that Ms Balchin will have a similar effect.

Another great review for Heronfield!

If you want action, adventure, romance, and history all rolled in to one absorbing read give this a go.

4.0 out of 5 stars I’d give this 4.5 stars if I could!
31 Oct 2013
By Sarah
Another book I downloaded to my Kindle while listed as free, and while I very rarely give 5 star reviews this almost managed it! Set during WWII Heronfield is set in a stately home that is commandeered for the war effort. I’d almost class this as an epic saga, we cover the whole of WWII with the characters but without ever feeling like it’s dragging.
I found Tony’s central story line pretty gripping and was really annoyed when the other characters interrupted, then almost couldn’t bear to leave them to get back to Tony!
I love my books to be character driven and this ticks the box, however there is a huge amount of historical fact woven in to the novel, the author explains this in the preface and it’s worked into the fictional story line quite well. Some of the historical info is less necessary to the plot but it does give an idea of the scale of the conflict and is interesting.
There was nothing really wrong with the story but I’m not a huge fan of massive literary coincidences and two of the male characters run into each other towards the end rather conveniently. I’ll say no more as I don’t want to give anything away but the world is a big place so it lost half a star for that.
This is a self published novel so don’t expect perfection, having said that though it has been written to a very high standard and I would highly recommend even the paid version as you get a lot of book for your buck. I believe that the author’s website states the book is being given a professional edit and I think it will benefit a little from the final polish.
If you want action, adventure, romance, and history all rolled in to one absorbing read give this a go.

Thank you Sarah for your great review on Amazon. I understand what you say about ‘literary coincidences’, they can sometimes spoil a good story. I did a great deal of detailed research for the book and would just like to put your mind at rest – The SS did send people who did that type of work to ‘that place’ towards the end of the war; the other character was with a unit that was in the area on that day. So while it was a big coincidence, it was not impossible that they would meet there!

For anyone who has not read Heronfield and wonders what that is all about – maybe you’re missing out on something!

Another 5* Amazon review for Heronfield!

Thank you for your kind words P J Sowler. Your comments have been noted and Heronfield is back with a very experienced proofreader/copy editor. Fingers crossed that the changes will be available in print for Christmas! Please do update your Kindle version in the new year.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Wonderful! October 25, 2013
By P J Sowler
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase

What a fantastic read. Just the sort of story I like. Set in WW2 it not only gives plenty of facts but a great story too with the right balance between the two. My only criticism is that it could have been edited better but certainly didn’t spoil it for me. More please.

Should a new author self publish? A brief introduction to self-publishing an ebook.

Just a few years ago the question ‘should a new author self-publish’ would have received a very different answer to the one I am giving today. In the past you would have exchanged the term ‘vanity publish’ for ‘self-publish’, and that is a whole different kettle of fish.

There are still plenty of vanity publishing companies out there – do an internet search and you will find yourself inundated with names. So, is vanity publishing a good idea? It was the only way to self-publish when I first contemplated the idea and, personally, the thought of paying a substantial amount of money to have my book published and then to have to sell copies myself from ‘door to door’ so to speak did not appeal to me and I decided not to go down that route. That left me with the usual task of trying to find an agent who would then try to find a publisher which, for many, is an unfruitful search; even some of the most famous authors have had their books rejected time and time again by agents. Finding an agent and publisher, then getting the book published is also a very long-winded process and it could take a year or two for you to see your book in print (assuming you can get an agent in the first place of course!) Self-publishing an ebook is much more appealing for many a new author who wants to see their book out there in weeks or months not years!

With the development of technology over the last few years ‘self-published’ now takes on a whole new meaning, I really can publish my work myself, and it is an exhilarating experience. The question now becomes ebook, print or both?

There are many options out there. Again an internet search will leave your mind reeling and you will begin to wonder where to start, or maybe even whether to start. I’ve been through all that and would say that if you are happy with your writing and think that other people will be interested in it then get out there and have a go. It need not cost you anything so if you make a mistake – so what? It was an experience to learn from and build upon.

I will begin with the ebook market today. When I decided to self-publish my novel ‘Heronfield’ I looked at all of the options and decided to publish through two companies. Amazon and Smashwords.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
I decided to go with KDP because, like it or not, everyone the world over knows Amazon so if your book is sold there you are likely to get far more people stumbling across it, and hopefully that will lead to far more sales.

You can hire a company to help you format your book for KDP, or you can have a go yourself. I would not call myself an IT expert, but with a little time and patience I was able to format Heronfield and have it accepted by KDP at the first attempt. If I can do it anyone can! KDP provide a clear guide on how to format the book, just follow that and everything should be OK.

That is fine for the manuscript, but as your book will be seen on the internet you will need a cover, and it will need to be attractive and attention grabbing. If people are not intrigued by your cover they will quickly move on to something else so, unless you are a great artist, I would advise you to get an expert in to do it for you, it is well worth the cost.

Before you click the button to publish take a look at the Kindle Select Programme. If you choose this you are committing to sell exclusively on Amazon for a period of time and allowing people to download your book from the Kindle library; you will receive a payment for this. Weigh up carefully if this is the route you want to go – then make sure you click on the appropriate button!

Before you know it you will have a book for sale on Amazon!

That takes care of Amazon and Kindle, but what of other formats? Do you want people with a Nook or iPad to be able to read you book? I looked long and hard at the different formats I would need and I must admit I found it daunting. That is why I decided to publish on Smashwords.

Smashwords was a pioneer in ebook publishing and is currently the largest distributor of self-published ebooks. It is easy to format your work, just make sure that your Word document is formatted as described in the Smashwords guide then upload it and their ‘Meatgrinder’ tool does all the hard work of formatting it for different ebooks for you. Upload your cover as well and you are ready to go – you can sell on Smashwords and also have them distribute to other ebook sellers for you. Suddenly you find your book for sale on Barnes & Noble, Apples iBooks, Sony Kobo etc. etc. – all from one upload!

So, there you go, you have a self-published ebook in multiple formats and it didn’t hurt a bit! But do you have your ISBN? The ISBN is a unique identification number for your book, and you need a different one for each format – print, Kindle etc. This is another of those things that a first-time self-publisher can find daunting; Smashwords has a good guide to ebook ISBNs which you might find useful if you need to take a more in-depth look at this topic.

Most companies will issue an ISBN when they publish your work (either free as part of the package price), or you can purchase your own list of ISBNs and issue them to your work each time you publish something new or in a new format. Be aware though that whoever issues the ISBN will be listed as the publisher. If you want to be your own publisher rather than Smashwords, KDP or someone else then you will need to buy your own ISBNs.

This is something that you need to look at carefully when putting your book on the market and setting the price. Smashwords and KDP can give anything between 60% and 80% depending on different criteria, so read their guides carefully. Whatever you get it is likely to be much higher than any royalties made through traditional publishing.

So, there you have it. I took a deep breath and decided to self-publish, and thoroughly enjoyed the process! For me KDP and Smashwords do what I want at the moment but I may decide on a different approach in the future. If this article has encouraged you to try the self-publishing route then please remember to look at other companies and formats too before making your choice.

Good luck and let me know when your book is out there!

(I plan to do a short blog on self-publishing in print soon so watch this space).

Cooking your books!

If you follow me on Twitter (@DorindaBalchin) you will have seen my recent re-tweet linking to Paul Dorset’s article “Letting the book ‘cook’”
Paul advocates finishing a book and then putting it aside for at least a month whilst doing something else. As Paul says:

So why do you want to let the book cook? There are a couple of very good reasons. Firstly, it’s easier to see the story better from an editing point of view when you approach it fresh. A break of at least a month will give you that perspective. By the time you come to read it again you won’t remember everything and it’ll be like reading it for the first time. You’ll quickly spot those places where the pace isn’t quite right or the characters are inconsistent, or something needs to be changed around. Trust me. And that brings us onto the second reason. When you read the book a second time it will probably actually feel pretty good. What I mean is that time helps the book get better! Well of course it doesn’t but it does feel that way. You wrote the book in the heat of the moment and just put pen to paper. Your emotions were raw. If you go back and tweak it immediately you’ll probably change small pieces here and small pieces there, and you may even ruin the effect you were trying to achieve. Coming back to the book after a break will allow you to read it as it was intended to be read, with full-on effects. Sure, you’ll find some spelling and grammatical mistakes, but you’ll probably be surprised at how close the rest of it was to what you were trying to do. Trust your instincts! If you know how to write, you probably wrote a pretty good first draft.

I have always been a believer in letting my work ‘simmer’ a while on the back-burner and coming to it again with a fresh eye. My new book. ‘The Guardians’, has just finished ‘cooking’ and now I’m moving into the next stage – the final edit.
After that there is the cover and formatting, but I hope it won’t be long now before the finished article is available for you to read!

UPDATE: ‘The Guardians’ has been published and is now available on Amazon