Tag Archives: writing

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.

Get your free copy of Heronfield for Kindle today!

Today is the first day of my free give-away of Heronfield for Kindle!
Please do grab yourself a copy – I hope you enjoy it.
If you would like to write a review and let everyone know what you thought of the book it would be much appreciated.
Happy reading!

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

Amazon book review policy

I hope you saw the recent 5* review for Heronfield given to me by AS, for which I am very grateful. But did you also notice his/her comment about their review not appearing on my book page on Amazon?

Do you think that Amazon are right to only publish reviews from people who bought the book on their store?

Is that fair to the author and/or the reviewer?

Is this the best way to ensure that only genuine reviews appear?

Whether you are a writer or reader, publisher or editor or just someone who likes to express their views in open forum please do let me know what you think.

If you disagree with Amazon’s apparant policy then perhaps you should let them know what you think too!


If it’s news – Shout It Out!

Shout It Out!

Heronfield can now be found on the Shout It Out website
To find it just look under the Historical Fiction section in the books category (for some reason they don’t seem to do a direct link at the moment!)
It is great to see my book appearing in more and more places. Hopefully that will lead to more and more readers 😉

Another five star review for Heronfield

Thank you to AS for the review which can be found on my Review page along with others.

Here is what was said:

Review by AS

A real page turner I would give it 5 stars *****

I have tried to review this book on Amazon but so far my review hasn’t appeared so I will do it here.

I was given a copy of Heronfield as a gift and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t know much about the Second World War but found that I learned a lot from this story through the experiences of the characters. I liked the short linking passages which showed how this story fitted into the world situation at the time but without any loss of pace.

I was impressed with the way the author carefully created her characters so that they could each portray one aspect of the war – fighter pilot, nurse, secret agent, the French Resistance, the Americans in Britain, the concentration camps – yet their lives were all carefully linked and interwoven in a very uncontrived way. The main storyline was very ‘real’ in the way it showed how duty and misunderstanding must cause problems in war time situations. I found myself really rooting for the two main characters and it was hard to put the book down!

All in all, a very enjoyable read which I would thoroughly recommend.

(Hopefully Amazon will soon be showing all reviews posted!)

Christmas 1940 at Heronfield…

The story so far…

Heronfiled House has been transformed into a convalescent home for the duration. The Kemshalls, who own the house, have moved out into a Lodge at the end of the drive. The Kemshall’s eldest son, David, was a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain. He was recently shot down and killed. The younger son, Tony, experienced Dunkirk and is training to be sent into France with the SOE.

Up at the hospital Sarah Porter is working as a VAD, her mother and boyfriend live in Coventry and she misses them dreadfully, especially since experiencing the bombing of the city while home on leave. Over the months she has become friends with Tony Kemshall who wants much more than friendship from their relationship.

Christmas 1940 is rapidly approaching. A tree has been brought up to Heronfield House by Sir Michael who does not feel like celebrating Christmas this year but knows that he must go through the motions for the rest of the family. Some of the nursing staff have been given two days leave but the remainder, including Sarah, are staying on to care for the patients; their celebrations will begin at the dance to be held in Marlborough on Christmas Eve and continue with Christmas dinner at the hospital with all the patients.

Christmas Eve dawned clear and bright and an air of expectation pervades the whole hospital. The rounds were completed early and the auxiliary staff have completed their work now that dinner had seen served to the patients and cleared away. All that remains is to serve tea to the patients later in the afternoon and then the women will be free to go into Marlborough. The afternoon is spent bathing, washing hair, beautifying, for the chance to go to a party comes rarely in the secluded precincts of Heronfield House…

Sarah was sitting in front of the mirror, perusing the face which stared back at her. She smiled wistfully. How she wished she could be back in Coventry for the next few days. She had never been away from home at Christmas before and knew that she was going to miss the midnight service followed by a glass of sherry before bed; then the excitement of present opening beneath the tree after breakfast. She was glad that Mr. and Mrs. Cook would be with her mother, she would hate for Alice to be alone on Christmas Day. Sarah began to brush her hair vigorously. What she would miss most of all, she had to admit, was seeing Joe.

The door opened and Jane entered, quilted housecoat tied tightly around her waist and hair wrapped in a towel.

“I can’t wait to get to the dance.” She waltzed excitedly across the room as she spoke. “I hope there are plenty of handsome young men there.”
Sarah laughed.
“None of them will dance with you if you look like that!”
Jane sat down on the bed and began to towel her hair dry.
“You wait ’till you see me tonight! They won’t be able to resist me!”
“I hope so. Then at least you’ll have a happy Christmas.”
Jane stopped towelling her hair and gazed thoughtfully at her roommate.
“Won’t you?”
Sarah shrugged and smiled.
“I suppose so. It’s just that I’ll miss Mum, and Joe.”
“There will be so much going on here that you won’t have time to be homesick.”
Sarah put down her hairbrush and made her way over to the wardrobe where she took out the red dress which she intended to wear that evening and hung it on the back of the door to allow the creases to fall out. There was a knock on the other side of the door, which startled Sarah and made Jane laugh.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Carol. Is Sarah there?”
“Yes. Come in” Sarah replied as she opened the door to the young nurse who came in, smiling broadly.
“There’s someone to see you. I think he’s come down from Coventry.”
Sarah’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Joe? Joe!” She turned and rushed over to Jane. “It’s Joe Jane!”
Jane laughed.
“I had gathered that! Now get down there before he goes back to Coventry!”
As Sarah rushed from the room Jane smiled mischievously at Carol.
“It must be love!”
Sarah stopped at the head of the staircase and looked down into the hall. She knew it was a moment that she would remember for the rest of her life. The tree was bright with baubles which twinkled merrily beneath the lights, holly hung above the mirrors and picture frames, streamers hung from the ceiling and in the midst of it all, standing straight and tall beside the green, silver and gold of the tree, was Joe. Smiling radiantly Sarah made her way down the stairs and into his arms.
“Joe! It’s so good to see you! What are you doing here?”
Joe smiled down at the girl in his arms. Her happiness radiated from her like the light from a candle in a darkened room and he felt a surge of pride to know that she was his.
“I just couldn’t face the thought of Christmas without seeing you so I came down. I can’t stop long, the last train leaves at six o’clock.”
“But that only gives us an hour or so!”
“Then let’s not waste it. Can you get away?” Sarah nodded and he continued. “Then get your coat and let’s go for a walk.”
Sarah rushed upstairs for her coat and was back in minutes. Breathlessly she took Joe by the hand and led him out of the house and down the gravel drive.
“You didn’t tell me that Heronfield House was so big and beautiful.”
Sarah smiled.
“It’s another world isn’t it.” They passed the Lodge as she spoke. “The Kemshall family who own the House are living in the Lodge for the duration. It must be quite a change for them.”
The two young people were so engrossed in each other that they did not see Tony Kemshall who stood a little way from the drive and watched them walk out through the big wrought iron gates. They looked so obviously in love that he knew at once who Sarah’s companion was. Turning back towards the Lodge he frowned unhappily, his plans for the day suddenly disrupted by the appearance of his rival.
Sarah and Joe walked slowly down the road going nowhere in particular, just glad to be together.
Sarah sighed happily.
“This is one Christmas I’ll never forget.”
Joe stopped walking. They were beneath the spreading branches of a chestnut tree, bare now in the winter sunlight.
“Perhaps I can give you another reason to remember today.” Joe reached a hand into his coat pocket as he spoke. “I realised during the bombing that life wouldn’t be worth living for me if you weren’t there to share it.” He took a small blue velvet box from his pocket and opened it so that Sarah could see the ring that nestled inside, diamond shining brightly. “Would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”
Sarah said nothing. Her eyes were fixed on the ring, her throat constricted by emotion.
“You don’t have to answer me now. You can think about it and give me your answer when I next see you.”
“Oh Joe.” Sarah’s voice caught in her throat. “I don’t need to think about it. You know I love you. I can’t think of anything I’d like more than to be your wife.”
Joe smiled happily as he took the ring from the box and placed it on Sarah’s finger.
“Oh, it fits perfectly!”
Joe grinned.
“I thought it would. I asked your mother what your ring size was when I told her I was coming down.”
As he took Sarah in his arms and placed his lips on hers Sarah thought that her heart would burst with happiness.

Joe left Sarah at the gates to Heronfield House and she watched him walk away towards his bus to Marlborough where he would catch the train to Coventry. With a quick glance at her watch she realised that she was late and rushed inside to serve tea to the patients. Sarah worked as though in a dream, her actions purely mechanical as her hands passed out plates and cups, and though she spoke cheerfully to the patients her thoughts were not with them but many miles away. She was going to marry Joe! She had known for some time that Joe was the only man for her and she had though that he felt the same, now this confirmed it. The war seemed so far away at this point in time and almost insignificant as her brain raced with ideas for the wedding and plans for the future. Her new position as Joe’s fiancée gave her a different perspective on the conflict. No longer was it a war that blocked out all normality in life, but something which infringed on life for a time and would eventually go away to leave her and Joe to enjoy life as any young married couple should. The time seemed to fly by as though on wings and Sarah soon found herself back in her room sitting once again in front of the mirror, gazing at her reflection and contemplating the rosy future which lay ahead of her.
The door opened and Jane came in.
“Has Joe gone already?” she asked in surprise.
Sarah nodded dreamily.
“Mmmm. He had to get the last train back to Coventry.”
“It was hardly worth him coming so far for such a short visit.”
Sarah smiled happily.
“Oh yes it was!”
She held out her left hand and Jane gasped in amazement.
“Sarah! Is that an engagement ring? Of course it is! Oh how wonderful!” She hugged her friend happily. “I’m so happy for you. This is certainly one Christmas you won’t forget in a hurry!”
Sarah laughed.
“I’ll never forget it! Now, come on and let’s get ready. We have a party to go to!”

The trip into Marlborough and the early part of the dance passed in a whirl for Sarah. Her friends and colleagues at the hospital had been full of congratulations and she had danced with almost every young man at the party. Sarah had never been happier in her whole life.
Tony came late to the dance. He had wondered if it would not be better for him to stay away as he did not want to watch Sarah with Joe for the whole evening, but in the end he had decided that he would be even more depressed if he could not see her at all. So he had taken David’s red sports car and driven to Marlborough. It seemed strange to be in the car without his brother but Louise had said that she was sure that David would have wanted him to have it and, reluctantly, he had accepted the gift, wishing that David were there and that there was no gift to give. He felt rather conspicuous and alone as he walked into the hall which was a whirl of swirling colours when he arrived. Couples danced energetically to the band which played the latest dance tunes, some people stood at the refreshments table while others admired the huge Christmas tree. He stood quietly by the door watching the festivities and it was some time before he noticed Sarah sitting alone at a table. His eyes widened with surprise to see her unaccompanied but he soon had his feelings under control and made his way across to join her. Sarah’s thoughts were miles away, reliving the time she had spent with Joe that afternoon, and she jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Merry Christmas Sarah.”
As she turned in her chair and looked up at him Tony thought that he had never seen her looking so beautiful.
“Hello Tony. Merry Christmas.”
“Are you alone? I thought I saw you with a young man this afternoon. I assumed it was this Joe you’ve told me so much about.”
Sarah smiled radiantly at him.
“Yes, it was. But he’s already gone back to Coventry.”
Tony smiled as he envisaged the evening stretching before them. If he could only spend time with her maybe she would see how much he cared and choose him instead of Joe.
“Would you like to dance?”
Sarah nodded and Tony’s heart was thumping wildly as he led her onto the floor. It felt so good to hold her in his arms and they seemed to move together as one, as though they had been made for each other. The fresh, clean scent of her hair intoxicated him and he wished the night could last forever.
“Did Joe bring a Christmas present from your mother?”
Sarah shook her head.
“No he only decided yesterday that he would come down so Mum had already posted my present. But Joe did bring me something from himself.”
Sarah stopped dancing and held out her left hand excitedly.
Tony felt the blood rush from his face and his breath catch in his throat as he saw the ring and knew that he had lost her. He forced himself to smile although the muscles in his face did not want to assume those contours. Hiding his dismay as best he could he took her hand in his.
“Congratulations. I can see by the sparkle in your eyes and your radiant smile that you could not be happier.” He swallowed hard, then continued. “I wish you and Joe every happiness. You deserve it.”
“Thank you Tony.” Sarah tipped her head to one side. “Are you alright? You seem a little unhappy.”
A little unhappy! Tony almost laughed at the understatement but there was no way he could explain his feeling to her. Finally he shrugged his shoulders.
“I suppose it’s because this is the first Christmas I’ll spend without David” he half lied.
“I’m sorry Tony. I’m so engrossed in my own happiness that I’d forgotten how you must be feeling.”
“There’s no need to apologize. Now, let me congratulate you properly.”
As the dancers whirled about them Tony leant down and kissed Sarah on the lips for the first and he, assumed, the last time in his life. It was a bittersweet experience, a gentle kiss, soft and lingering, a kiss he knew he would remember for as long as he lived.

For more about Heronfield please click here

Hands on – my first print copy of Heronfield

I’m back in the UK for a couple of weeks and have at last been able to get my hands on a copy of Heronfield. It feels so good to be able to hold it and read it for myself. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if it is really here at last!

Dorinda with a copy of Heronfield