Christmas survival guide for authors

Christmas Survival Guide for Authors with thanks to the lovely Sue Moorcroft. Have a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you all in the New Year!

Sue Moorcroft blog

  • photo(9)Attend as many Christmas parties, lunches, dinners, meet-ups, writers’ days and readers’ days as possible. They can be offset against your tax payment as ‘networking’ and/or ‘research’.
  • Do as little Christmas hosting as you can get away with (unless you can invite people who you can put in your books, of course). You need the Christmas period to refill your well of creativity and running round screaming ‘The turkey isn’t cooked!’ is detrimental to artistic output.
  • photo(53) copy 3Delegate Christmas shopping/wrapping. You have to write as much as possible before Christmas  to free your mind to enjoy the festivities.
  • When you hear anybody say, ‘I can’t think what to buy for so-and-so’ instantly suggest the title of one of your own books. Offer to sign it. And supply a bookmark.
  • photo(9)You know how a Christmas cake is ‘fed’ alcohol at regular intervals? And it makes it richer? Why not try regular alcoholic…

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Christmas Marketing Opportunities for Indie Authors

Christmas Books

Christmas for indie authors is the perfect time to interact with their readers. Savvy marketers have already built up a sizeable group of potential readers via their email newsletters. This is the ideal moment to send out season’s greetings and to offer a free Christmas short story to subscribers. Great strides have been made by those authors who treat their readers as friends. By adopting a conversational tone in the newsletter and giving readers value, authors generally see a huge leap in sales further down the line.

Discounting one of your books and promoting it via Book Bub is a great way to sell books at this time of the year. Especially in the post-Christmas period when people are looking for something to read on their new eBook readers.

Another way for indie authors to promote their books during the festive season is to cultivate a good relationship with their local indie bookstores. Even bookstore chains, quite often, are happy for indie authors to set up a table and do a book signing.

If you still send traditional Christmas cards, why not slip in a small leaflet about your books? And newsletters to faraway friends can always contain a link to your website.

Most indie authors have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. One way to get readers involved is to hold a Christmas giveaway of one of your books. People love a signed paperback and, if they enjoy it, they might buy your next one! Giveaways can be hosted on Rafflecopter.

Local radio is another way to be more visible at this time of the year, especially if you have a Christmas-themed story. And why not try the local press? Indie authors need to be proactive, and those who are proactive in promoting their brand are the most successful.

I wish to thank my indie author friends Mandy Jackson-Beverly, John Holt, Michelle Mc Loughney, Shweta Choudhary, Pam Howes, Ariel Marie, Joy Wood, Jan Ruth, Gisela Hausmann, Todd Speed, Tom Winton, Harriet Steel, Alex Martin, Ann Swinfen, Jo Raven, Prue Batten and Malika Gandhi for joining in a lively discussion on Facebook about the best way to promote books at this time of the year.

This post is reproduced from my contribution to the Asian Books Blog.

My Monday Guest, Ann Bennett, Author of Historical fiction set in S.E. Asia

Today I’m absolutely delighted to welcome back the lovely Ann Bennett.

ann photo No2 edited

 Please introduce yourself to my readers, Ann.

I’ve been writing on and off for over twenty-five years, and had written numerous short stories and three full-length novels, none of which had seen the light of day, before I discovered the peer review site YouWriteOn in 2011. The experience of receiving feedback from writers on the site helped me finish The Pomelo Tree, which had reached the top of the YWO charts, and eventually became Bamboo Heart. This book was published by Monsoon Books in 2014. I went on to write Bamboo Island and Bamboo Road. The trilogy is about the second world war in SE Asia, experienced from three different viewpoints. It was inspired by researching the experiences of my father who was a prisoner on the Thai-Burma railway. Bamboo Island is out on kindle now and will be published in the UK by Monsoon in paperback in March 2016. Bamboo Road is likely to be out a year or so after that.

Is there anything you would like readers to know about you.

I was over the moon (almost literally) when Bamboo Heart won the prize for fiction in the Asian Books Blog inaugural book of the Lunar Year in 2014 –
the year of the horse.

Bamboo Heart

So, are you a morning person, or a midnight candle burner?

Probably neither. I like my sleep at both ends of the day, but if I had to choose I’d work into the night as I have a horror of early starts (unless it means the start of a long journey to somewhere exotic).

If your life were a movie would it be considered an action film, comedy, drama, romance, fantasy or a combination?

Probably a comedy (or a disaster movie – depending on your mind-set). I have a huge family and am the youngest of six daughters. My parents were both quite eccentric and there was always something happening when I was a child that was either life threatening or hilarious. We had an old caravan and an ancient Morris Oxford to pull it. Dad, having learnt to drive armoured vehicles in the army, never managed to grasp that the Morris Oxford wasn’t suited to pulling a caravan up steep mountain passes, through fords or along beaches with the tide coming in. I lost count of the number times we got stuck and Dad had to uncouple the caravan, find a farmer to tow it out of whatever scrape he’d got it into, while we girls followed behind carrying all the contents (gas cylinder, bedding, loo bucket etc.). He also had a bubble car and would collect us from the school bus in it (much to our embarrassment). Once the vicar asked for a lift and we all squashed in; Dad driving, my sister and the vicar crammed on the front seat and me crouching on the back shelf. Half way up the A5, as the bubble car struggled up the hill past Towcester racecourse, the vicar’s bowler hat blew off out of the ‘sun roof’ and got squashed under a lorry. Things like that were common place.



Hahaha! That’s hilarious, Ann. Let’s talk about your books now. Which of your own characters was your particular favourite?

I love Tom n Bamboo Heart. It was really difficult to write from the point of view of a man, but it was the only way I could get the reader to experience the Fall of Singapore, the horrors of the Thai-Burma railway and the Japanese hell-ships first hand. I’m not sure I got it exactly right, only someone who was there could tell me that. I tried to see those events from the perspective of an ordinary man, not some sort of super-hero, who would have had normal human fears and failings to overcome.

He’s a wonderful character. So, when you are writing, how do you handle writer’s block?

I just keep going. I force myself to do a little bit every day. When I have writer’s block, I might only manage a few sentences, but I read somewhere that if you want to achieve something, you need to apply your mind to it regularly. That seems to be more effective (for me at least) than working in bursts for a few days then leaving it for months to go cold.

That’s great advice. Do you write long hand first, or does it go straight onto the computer?

My ideal is to write it out long hand first, then hone it by typing it up. For a long time, it felt like cheating if I didn’t do that. Increasingly, though, I find I’m able to go straight to the computer (though I would always have a plan written out in longhand beforehand).

Are you a “sit down and play it by ear” kind of writer, or do you need a structured guideline, or maybe a little of both?

A bit of both really. I do try to plan as much as I can, and will always have a full plan of the book before I start to write, but ideas come to me as I write, so I often change my plan as I go along.

So do I. Is location important in your books?

Location is very important. I love South East Asia, so my Bamboo Trilogy is set there. IMG_20150905_150032


I have spent a lot of time in that part of the world over the years, mainly Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. I’m fascinated by the culture and this history of the region – I’m even learning Thai which is quite a challenge.


Ann in Asia



Writing about the region is a way of going there in my imagination if I can’t be there all the time. I hope people who read the books think that too!


Ann Thailand

Absolutely. What are you working on now?

I’ve got two projects on the go at the moment. Firstly, I’m editing and finalising the third book in my WW2 SE Asia Trilogy, Bamboo Road. It is the story of a Thai woman, Sirinya, a member of the Thai resistance who makes huge sacrifices and risks her life to help the allied prisoners of war building the railway. It is a story of war, love and hope. Like the other books, it was inspired by true events, but the characters are fictional. When I did my research for Bamboo Heart I was struck by how many Thai people took great risks during the Japanese occupation and how little that has been recognised here in the West, particularly in fiction.

Monsoon have already mocked up a cover for the book:

Bamboo Road lo-page-001

The other book is in its very early stages. Its working title is ‘The Foundling’s Daughter’ and it is the story of three women separated by decades, whose lives are all affected in different ways by mysterious events at an orphanage in the 1930s. This one is set partly in England, but it also has an Asian angle (of course). One of the three characters is the wife of a British officer in the Indian Army in the days of the Raj.

Sounds fascinating. Tell us about your new release, Bamboo Island.

Bamboo Island is the second book in my SE Asia WW2 Trilogy, was released in SE Asia in October and is now available worldwide on Amazon Kindle.

Bamboo Island

Here’s the blurb:

Malaya 1962: Juliet Crosby, a plantation owner’s wife, has lived a reclusive life on her rubber plantation since the Second World War robbed her of everyone she loved. The sudden appearance of a young woman from Indonesia disrupts her lonely existence and stirs up unsettling memories. Together they embark on a journey to uncover secrets buried for more than twenty years. Juliet is forced to recollect her pre-war marriage, her experiences during the Second World War – hiding from the Japanese in Singapore before being captured, imprisoned with other internees in Changi Prison – and the loss of those she once held dear.

How can we find you? Do you have a web page, Facebook page or any buy links?

Facebook Page for Bamboo Heart

Facebook Page for Bamboo Island

Here’s a link to my website and blog

Bamboo Island on

Bamboo Island on

Bamboo Heart on

Bamboo Heart on

Fab. It was lovely chatting with you Ann, and all the best with your books!

Thank you for having me, Siobhan. 🙂

Publishing: A lot of Smoke and Mirrors?

Pertinent words from Jan Ruth.

Jan Ruth

In which I’m made to eat my words as I come full circle through the maze of publishing to discover that the grass isn’t necessarily greener over there; it’s still mostly desert scrub from every direction…


Last year I wrote a general post about the publishing industry which resonated with a lot of independent authors:

It came about through sheer frustration at the lack of visibility and the cost of producing books. A turning point came when a small press offered a contract for Silver Rain. This is it, I thought. This is the change of direction I need… but be careful what you wish for! Don’t get me wrong in that I had huge delusional ideas at this stage. I was simply seeking greater visibility and some respite from the nuts and bolts of self-publishing.

And all the outward signs were good: they took five back-catalogue titles and one…

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My Monday guest, Alys West, debut urban fantasy romance novelist.

Today I’m absolutely delighted to welcome the lovely Alys West.

Alys West (2)

 Please tell us something about yourself, Alys.

I write urban fantasy and steampunk with romance twist. My debut novel, ‘Beltane’, an urban fantasy romance set in Glastonbury, is now available on Amazon. My second novel, a steampunk romance called ‘The Dirigible King’s Daughter’ is available to read on Wattpad. I’m a member of the Write Romantic blog group and started a MA in Creative Writing at York St John University in October. Apart from reading and writing, my favourite things are tea, cake, folk music and ‘The Musketeers’.

Oh, I love all the same things as you. How would you describe yourself as a colour?

I’m going with turquoise.  That’s possibly a slightly obvious answer because at least half of my wardrobe is shades of turquoise, teal and duck egg blue.  But I think it’s a fairly accurate description of my personality as well.  My friend, Sharon Booth, said it reminds her of me as pretty, gentle and calming but has hidden depths like the ocean.  She is my friend though, so she may be biased!

Hahaha! Are you a morning person, or a midnight candle burner?

Definitely a morning person although I don’t think my mornings start quite as early as other peoples.  As far as I’m concerned if it’s before 6.30am then it’s still night!

What kind of music do you listen to, Alys?

I listen to a lot of folk music, particularly Scottish and Celtic folk.  My favourite song would have to ‘The Whole of the Moon’ by The Waterboys.  I’ve loved it since I was 15 and when I saw them perform it live a couple of years ago I was dancing and crying at the same time.

If your life were a movie would it be considered an action film, comedy, drama, romance, fantasy or a combination?

It’s definitely a drama. Over recent years it’s felt a bit too much like living in a soap opera as too really challenging things have happened close together.   I’d really like it to become a romance though so if there’s any nice guys out there with a good sense of humour looking for a red-headed writer in their life then drop me a line…

Aw, how did you come to write your genre of choice?

With BELTANE I set out to write the kind of book that I wanted to read which I couldn’t find in the shops.  I wanted romance and suspense and fantasy.  Surely, that couldn’t be too hard?  But this was five years ago and the only supernatural creature anyone was writing about was vampires.  As a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, I felt vampires were a bit done and I wanted a more organic hero who belonged in the English landscape which is when I came up with the idea of Finn being a druid.

Beltane by Alys West

Which of your own characters is your particular favourite?

I absolutely love Finn who’s the hero in ‘Beltane’.  As a druid, he has a connection to the earth and an ability to do magic through connecting with awen, the earth’s energy.  At the beginning of the book, he’s made a terrible mistake and he really pays for that.  But, even when he’s injured and terrified, he never considers giving up.  Because he keeps his powers hidden, when he starts to fall for Zoe he can’t work out if he should trust her with his secret or push her away for her own safety. 

He sounds fab. Have your characters ever taken the story in a different direction than you had originally planned?

Oh my goodness, yes! In ‘Lughnasa’, which is the second book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’ (Beltane being the first) I can’t get any of the characters to do what I planned.  The main problem is Winston, who is a minor character in ‘Beltane’ and then takes centre stage in ‘Lughnasa’ (and boy, is he enjoying that!)  He’s become so wilful that my entire plan for the novel has gone out of the window and, once he started doing his own thing, all the other characters did too.  It got so bad that I put Lughnasa down for a while and wrote ‘The Dirigible King’s Daughter’ just for a bit of a break.  Not that Harriet and Charlie in that book always played nicely either!

The Dirigible King's Daughter by Alys West

Yikes! Is location important in your books?

Location is absolutely key to my books.  ‘Beltane’ is set in Glastonbury which I’ve visited a lot over the past five years.  Even after I’d finished the book, I still felt the pull to go back at least once a year.  It’s hard to put into words but I find that the place is good for my soul. 

Beltane Alys West

My favourite location is Orkney which is where ‘Lughnasa’ is set.  I fell in love with the islands when I first visited five years ago.  They’re a truly magical place and I’m really looking forward to going back next year.  

Orkney Alys West

Lovely! What are you working on now?

I’m about to get back into ‘Lughnasa’, the second book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’, and I’m hoping to persuade my unruly characters that we really do need an ending and that they can’t keep on flirting, plotting and falling out any longer.  Wish me luck with that one as I’m going to need it!

I’m sure you’ll be fine. Tell us more about ‘Beltane’, please.  

‘Beltane’ will be published on Monday 14th December and the ebook is currently available to pre-order from Amazon. 

This is the blurb:

Finn McCloud is a druid, connected by magic to the earth.  He’s made a big mistake; one he expects to pay for with his life.

Maeve Blackwell has plans for a new start, free of the façade she so carefully maintains. At Beltane, the Celtic festival of fire on 1st May, all her preparations will come to fruition.

Struggling artist, Zoe Rose is in Glastonbury to work on the illustrations for a book about King Arthur.  But when she arrives at Anam Cara, the healing retreat run by Maeve, it’s not the haven she hoped for.

Maeve isn’t the warm-hearted, hippy she expected and Zoe can’t help feeling there’s something very odd about the place.  Is it coincidence that the other guests become ill after Maeve’s given them healing?  And why did the Green Man carved on a tree in the garden, which she’d felt inexplicably drawn to, mysteriously vanish during a thunderstorm?

As if that wasn’t enough, the weird dreams she’d had all her life are getting worse.  Every night she dreams of a handsome stranger.  Then, the day after the thunderstorm, she meets Finn. Realising he’s the man she’s dreamt of (not that she’s going to tell him that!) she’s forced to accept that her dreams are premonitions. 

With Beltane fast approaching Finn knows that Maeve must be stopped.  He’s torn between wanting to protect Zoe from the supernatural world and his desire to be with her.  And the more time they spend together the harder it is to keep secrets from her. 

When Zoe’s dreams reveal that at Beltane both their lives will be in terrible danger, it’s clear that only by trusting each other can they have any hope of defeating Maeve.

Looks amazing. Definitely one for my TBR list. How can we find you?

‘Beltane’ will be out on Monday 14th December and can be pre-ordered here

You can read ‘The Dirigible King’s Daughter’ on Wattpad here

You can find out more about Alys West on:

Her website:

Twitter: @alyswestyork

Facebook: Alys West Writer

You can also check out her steampunk board on Pinterest at Alys West Writes 

Alys is part of the Write Romantics who you can find blogging about life, love and writing at

Thank you so much for having me on your blog.  It’s been an absolute pleasure and I’ve loved answering your really interesting questions!

It’s been a joy to interview you, Alys.