Saturday 26 July 2014

The PINK SOFA welcomes Rosalind Adam

Rosalind Adam is a Twitter friend, fellow blogger, fellow ex-teacher, writer and researcher. She has cats, a great sense of humour and is always there to support and encourage her friends. I am extremely lucky to have met her, and count her as one of my inner circle. So when she announced that she had a new children's book out on Richard the Third, the PINK SOFA, who is in the throes of updating its ''Sofas & Upholstery Through The Ages'' book, insisted she had to pay a visit to the Writing Attic.

''Thank you, Carol, for inviting me onto your squelchy pink sofa. It’s… erm… very pink, isn’t it! And I see you’ve provided a glass of mead to loosen my tongue. *Slurp* Delicious! *hic*

Thank you for your kind words about my new book. I must admit that I’ve had so many positive responses from people since The Children’s Book of Richard III was published but it wasn’t always that way. It is so frustrating that mainstream publishers don’t have the vision to support this kind of project.

When I first had the idea to write a children’s Richard III, I approached the publisher of my Children’s History of Leicester. They couldn’t commit to it. I wrote submissions to all the usual mainstream publishers. Nothing. Even our local literary agent tried but failed to get it placed.

It took the conviction of a children’s bookshop owner, Lynn Moore from The Reading Shop, Oadby, Leicester, to see that this was a highly marketable idea. She put up the money and, in effect, became my publisher. It was the beginning of an excellent business partnership. I settled down to write the book and, being an ex-primary school teacher, I sprinkled in a little science, two sides of an argument, some detective work and I even included a bit of creative writing; a post-battle interview with Leicester’s very own Witch of Daneshill.

Now all I needed was an illustrator and thanks to Twitter I soon found one. Andrea Povey, known on Twitter as @Richard1483, mentioned, during a casual Twitter chat that her daughter, Alice Povey, had recently graduated from university with a degree in illustration, specializing in children’s book illustrations. I knew then that I’d found our illustrator. Isn’t Twitter amazing!

The exciting part of self-publishing was that Alice and myself were free to develop the book in our own way. Lynn took a back seat at this stage, her contribution coming into its own with the checking and proofreading. There were so many things that we had to learn; registering for ISBN numbers, creating the correct number of spreads, liaising with printers, but by far the biggest task is selling and distributing. We made the decision not to put the book on Amazon. I know that a lot of people find Amazon quick and easy to use but Amazon do not offer a fair deal. After working so hard to produce the book why should we let Amazon take the biggest share of the money and leave us with mere pence per book? If everyone accepts Amazon’s terms then, sooner or later, they will destroy all the bookshops, certainly here in the UK, and that would be a truly sad day for us all.

The book is available from The Reading Shop at but, if you would rather not buy online, a friendly salesperson will take your order and arrange for the book to be delivered by ringing 0116 2717077 during working hours.

Ooh! Carol! I see you’ve already got a copy. Hand it over and I’ll sign it for you. Thank you so much for having me on your very pink sofa. There is just one more thing. I hope you don’t mind me asking but have you got any more of this delicious mead? *hic*''

While mead refilling takes place, you can contact Ros via Twitter @RosalindAdam, check out her blog: or befriend her via Facebook.

Saturday 19 July 2014

More Twitter for Fledglings: Followers & Following

This is the second in a series of occasional short posts in response to requests from some Crooked Cat writers who are about to launch themselves into Twitter or who are finding it a tad perplexing to get to grips with. You can read the first post, Getting Started  here. This week, having got our Twitter page set up and running, we're going to look at how to acquire Followers, and how and who to Follow.

The first thing the fledgling will notice as they step out into Twitter is that everybody else has FAR more Followers than they have. Some have more than the population of a small Middle Eastern country. This can be disconcerting, but do not be discouraged. Many of these people have been on Twitter for years. And they all started out exactly where you are now. So, let's Tweet ...

A Basic Tweet Guaranteed To Get A Response

Morning/Afternoon/Evening + comment on the weather + comment on what you are doing/eating + question about what they are doing/eating.

Within a few seconds, someone will have Tweeted a reply. You then reply back .... and there you are.
Conventional wisdom would now say: FOLLOW THEM. But I am going to go against conventional wisdom. This is my advice - and it applies to everyone who Follows you:


My publisher
Click on their profile pic.
Click on 'Go to full profile' and scroll down at least 18 tweets. Do not follow if:
1.They only tweet links to their own books.
2. They never seem to chat or engage with anybody.
3. They hold extreme views that you do not share.
3. They retweet links to things you may not want to see reappear on your twitter feed or be seen by your potential readers, such as weird stuff/explicit pornography.

Remember, as a writer, you are a ''brand''. If you have a publisher, you are also part of their ''brand''. It is incumbent upon you to ensure that you do not lose your or their 'rep'. If you check my Amazon page you will see that I write mainly teen and YA books. I have a lot of underage kids following me, plus their parents. I therefore have to be careful whom I follow and what I retweet (a future blog). So I don't engage with people whose site content I deem inappropriate, or whose comments I find offensive.

OK, so you've checked them out, and they seem fine. Click on Follow. You can now, if you wish, click on their Followers or Following icons and find other people. The words ''avid reader'' should get your antennae twitching. Remember the 'check them out' procedure and adhere to it. You can also check out Twitter's  'Who To Follow' list on the left of your screen.

For a more specific search, you can go to the 'Search Twitter' box at the top right of your tool bar and find people in your genre. Use a hashtag #. Type #Crime or #YA etc. Do any of these things for 10 minutes every day and you will soon build up a good list.

If/when someone follows back, spend a few seconds acknowledging. Make it personal.
 Thanks + name + liked XXX in your bio + comment about me + question about weather/life/work/part of world they live in.

Finally, there are loads of links and sites on Twitter promising to get you 1000's of followers free or for a small amount of money. Forget it. Do not buy Followers. Ever. Better to build your own list. Your Twitter account,when used correctly will generate its own Followers. Just give it time and work at making it work.

Next post in a few weeks' time will look at varying content, and other ways of connecting with people. Meanwhile if you have anything to add to this specific topic, please share it.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Twitter for Fledglings: Getting Started

My publisher
Recently I was asked by some Crooked Cat writers who are just launching themselves onto Twitter for the first time, or have not found it as easy as they thought, to share my tips and advice on how to use Twitter. At their prompting, this is the first in a series of short blog posts. Frankly, I am NOT an expert so I will be referencing other people from time to time. Nor do I have the definitive answer.

There are as many ways to use Twitter as there are people using Twitter. Please read on quickly as I'm not sure that analogy worked. Whatever. I hope that those visiting these blogs who are far more expert than I am will chip in with their comments. On Twitter, I've traveled the world, met fascinating people, made good friends and sold an awful lot of books. I love it, and if I can get you, the fledgling to love it too, then it's mission accomplished. For this first post, we are going to look at setting up your Twitter site.

Getting Set Up
There are 3 areas to consider: Your Avi, your Mini-bio and your Header pic.

1.Your Avi
This is the thumbnail picture of you and it is important as it is the first thing people will see. I strongly advise you, unless you are wanted by the police in every known country, continent or galaxy, to use a picture of your face, NOT an egg, a pet,or your kids. Preferably a high res. pic, and with you looking vaguely pleasant and sentient. I do my best, you can do better. As close up as you can get and with an uncluttered background, as it's quicker to spot you. Twitter allows you to zoom, position and crop the picture, which makes it easier.

Some people use their book covers as their Avi. I wouldn't. The reduction is so small it becomes insignificant. Save that for the Header pic. Obviously, there are exceptions to the ''full face''. My friend @JonGardener has a picture of an eye on a red background. It looks scary, but fits in with the fast-paced high-action sci-fi ebooks he writes.

2.Your Mini-bio
This is the second thing people will turn to, so again, it is worth spending time getting it right. Here are three examples to start you thinking.

Getting nowhere slowly. Artist, writer, poet, barn-owl lover and aspiring Spaniard. Novels - Fraud, Simone Simone

Romantic Husband, Heroic Dad, Maker of Mischief and Purveyor of Utter Tripe. Interesting past. Now the author of The Michael Prentiss series of thrillers.

Writer & blogger. Victorian novel: Diamonds&Dust publ Crooked Cat Books. Outspoken local activist. Love 2CVs, cats & cake. Amazon page: 

You will see they all have certain traits in common: First, they define what the person does i.e Writer... artist. This is important as you want, among other things, to draw people to your books. Next, they give you an idea of the person behind the pic: barn-owl lover, Heroic Dad, Outspoken local activist. All these will attract like-minded or curious people. Finally, they reference actual books/sites. The professional bit, but, you notice, stowed away amid the rest of the bio.

I suggest before composing your final bio, you go onto Twitter and read as many as you can. You will soon pick out the duff ones. And remember, nothing is set in stone. My bio underwent several drafts before I settled on the current one. And I will change it again when the new book comes out.

3.Your Header pic
This is the chance to draw attention to your books in a colourful and attractive manner. There are some lovely examples of Twitter header pics that do just this. Check out @TerryTyler4  - I don't know how she assembled it, but I'm sure if you ask, she'll tell you. Lovely and bright and eye-catching.

If you don't want to use your covers, try to relate the picture to your books in some way. I have what a friend kindly describes as a 'dodgy Victorian knocking-shop' as I write Victorian crime fiction (@carolJhedges). Again, Twitter will size up the picture to fit the space, so all you need do is decide what you want. It's your shop-window, so make it the best you can. Experiment. And if you don't like it, you can easily change it for something else.

Once you are set up, you are ready for Following people and acquiring Followers. We'll consider those two topics in the next post.

OK, if you have anything helpful to suggest on setting up a site, or if there is anything obvious that I've forgotten, please add it here ....

Friday 4 July 2014

The Pink Sofa welcomes Jo Carroll

There are some people who are so amazing that I stand back in awe and wonder! Jo is one of those people. We met on Twitter (where else). Jo has brought up 4 children on her own, and now, free of domestic duties (tho' a devoted grandma) she is a traveller. Jo goes to wonderful places in the world, and then shares her adventures on her blog and in her books. The header pic tells you all you need to know about her! The Pink Sofa is in awe, and is contemplating abandoning its latest oeuvre: More Upholstery for Beginners in favour of a travel book. I have told it that Travels Round The Writing Attic may not have the same appeal as Jo's marvellous books. It remains unconvinced.

In honour of Jo's visit, there is rum and coffee and Cuban Shortbread Cookies on the coffee table.So, lovely lady, the sofa is yours:

Goodness, a seat on the Pink Sofa – I’m honoured. (If I’m very good, do you think she’ll give me cake?) Many thanks to Carol for letting me creep in and tell you about my travels. 

For those of you I’ve not met before, I need to tell you that these aren’t any old travels. After thirty years in Child Protection I threw all thoughts of work in the air, bought a rucksack, sold my car, found a tenant for my house, abandoned my children and went off for a year. What I didn’t know, when I bought my round-the-world ticket, is that not many middle-aged women do that.

So when I came home I wrote a book about it. Well, there were far too many stories to tell and far too few people listening to them.

Then I went off again. I no longer try to understand what this wanderlust is about. I simply recognize days when I dream of hot streets and dust, of the screech if cicadas or the smell of incense, of the roar of tigers or sips of tiger beer – and know it’s time to get the passport out again.

And why would I stop writing? Most winter trips have been followed by a little ebook. So episodes like my drive down the Siddhartha Highway after a cyclone could become a funny story (even though it was truly terrifying at the time). I could share my efforts to understand the horrors of years of bombing in Laos.

Last winter I went to Cuba. I’ve written about this trip with some trepidation. I was given so much advice before I left: it seemed that Cuba provoked strong opinions and anyone who has been there needed to share theirs. But my Cuba is not their Cuba. I don’t pretend to draw conclusions from such a complicated country. But I have found the story of my trip, in all its wonderfulness and contradictions, the teased it into another ebook entitled VULTURES OVERHEAD.

It has a cover: 

And a blurb:

It’s time for JO CARROLL to pack her rucksack again, and this time she’s heading west, to Cuba.Everyone, it seems, has been to Cuba, or wants to go to Cuba, or knows about it. Cuba, they insist, is on the brink of change. A market economy will finally see off the old cars and rationing. They’ve been saying that for decades. But what face does Cuba present to a tourist in 2014?
She finds salsa, of course, and cigars, and wonderful coffee. But what surprises wait for her when the music stops?

There are pictures on my website here.

This time I’ll not stop there. I know many people who have asked me to produce print books. I’ve resisted that so far, as the ebooks are small and readers could rightly be miffed about being asked to pay a book-price for something so small.

But I now have three ebooks from my last trips. Put together, they are print-book length. So give me a week or several, and you can read about my travels in a ‘real book’. 

Jo can also be found on Twitter @jomcarrroll

Thanks Jo. You are and hopefully will continue to be an inspiration. Right....while Jo has a coffee and a Cookie, it's over to you......