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Prestatyn 09 004Well that’s the holiday period well and truly over.

Before I went down with the swine flu I did take a couple of holidays- the first in Menorca at a Thompson Gold hotel, the second at the other end of the market at Pontin’s in Prestatyn.

Normally we would take two weeks in the sun. The reason for this total departure was that this is our first real summer as foster carers, so we took our first tentative steps into the world of the family holiday.

I am surprised at the extent to which I enjoyed the second holiday.

The accommodation was basic, but in a quiet location and we had one of the best weeks weatherwise of what has been a drab and dismal summer.

The social club, where the evening entertainment took place was, not to put too fine a point on it my idea of spending eternity in one of the lowest pits of hell: dirty, cramped and noisy. But with full days out on the beach and visiting local towns, we didn’t need much entertaining at night.

The best thing was the standard of activities for the kids during the day- a full programme including archery, zip-wiring, quad biking- which our foster son loved perhaps only slightly more than we enjoyed watching him.

I even managed to get some reading done: Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz. Although I have read loads of his books I have for some reason only just got round to this, which is perhaps one of his best and the first in a series. Spooky, humourous, thrilling and in places extremely moving. Loved it.

So would we go back to a British Holiday camp? We’re already planning the next one. Like any holiday, you have to take from it what you want and leave aside those things which just aren’t your cup of tea.

Not that I could totally leave behind my week in the sun…

A Crystal Meth True Story.

I have often wondered over the past few months if any of the 400+ books published by YouWriteOn so far would break away from the pack and achieve high sales and sustained Amazon rankings.

This week, I heard that ‘Tweaking the Dream’ by Clea Myers was starting to do exactly that. Since the book was featured in The Sun newspaper it has maintained a consistent position within the top 10,000 books on When I researched the Amazon rankings earlier this year I discovered that a book that could do that would be considered a success by any small publisher.

My first reaction upon hearing about Clea Myers’ success was that it was a cause for celebration for all of us in the YouWriteOn stable. Having said this, any celebration of  ‘Tweaking the Dream’ as a triumph for POD publishing must come second to a far more important triumph: this book is getting the truth out there about the evils of Crystal Meth. It is Clea Myers’ own story about her descent into Hell through her use of the drug, and if any of the YWO books go on to greater things it would be good to know that it is one with such an important message.

You can read the Sun interview here:

Visit Clea’s website here:

I have the immune system of a blancmange.

I once asked my Doctor if there was anything I could do about this and his answer was that you get what you’re born with.

I still persevere with a healthy diet- I will usually choose fruit over chocolate- but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. If there is anything going I can be certain to catch it, and it will take ages to shake off.

Hence, with the outbreak of swine flu I knew it was only a matter of time.

I had spent most of Summer with a cold which would disappear for a few days then return like some mangy homing pigeon. I had even joked with a colleague: All I need is aching joints and I could take a week off with swine flu.

Two weeks ago I started to get the cold symptoms again. Thinking it was just the cold coming back I drove into work. As I pulled in I started to get chest pains. I began to wonder if it was a heart attack, but as the pains eased I got out of the car and found that I was distincly wobbly.

Going into work I chatted to some of my colleagues, but the whole scene felt hazy and unreal. Then came the diarrhoea, so at that point I decided to phone the swine flu helpline.

After answering the questions I was told in no uncertain terms to go home, go to bed, and get a friend to pick up Tamiflu using the code number I was given.

The use of non-medical staff to diagnose swine flu has led to some criticism, although it is understandable that people flocking to surgeries would not be a good idea. It is also impossible to say with certainty if something is swine flu without tests having been made. As mine has gone over a week I needed a doctor’s note, and the note says ‘flu like illness.’

It certainly is ‘flu-like’ in that the worst symptoms are tiredness and lack of energy. I’m only just managing to spend more than an hour out of bed and still haven’t eaten a full meal after two weeks.

As I work with vulnerable people I am having to stay away, and as our household consists of myself, a child, and a wife with chronic asthma, I’ve spent most of my time in my room. Thank goodness for my laptop, and for friends who have gone for my medication, done little bits of shopping and sent over loads of films to stop me going ga-ga. I did make the mistake of starting to watch one called ‘Doomsday’ which was about the population of Scotland being wiped out by a virus…

My wife Alison has done a fantastic job of ‘barrier nursing.’ If she picked this up it could have very serious implications. I just hope that I can eventually get out of the habit of carrying antiseptic wipes everywhere.

Having access to the internet I have also managed to find things out about swine flu.

It is generally lasting only a week. As I said, my immune system came from the bargain basement, and I can be guaranteed to hold onto things.

It is affecting people to different degrees. I’ve only had real flu perhaps twice in my lifetime, and I have to say that I have had worse than this. Swine flu is just flu- there’s nothing different about it, and it will kill people at the same rate as any other flu. As with everything else in today’s world (pause for fit of sneezing to subside and wait for snout to emerge…) it is hyped up by media hysteria.

So… I’m just waiting now for it to go, so I can get back to normal life and work and stop feeling bored out of my skull. If you are reading this do drop me a line- not a ‘there there’ (it is only flu) but tell me a joke or something interesting from the world out there.

Oh yes, almost forgot. There is one side to swine flu that I feel it is my public duty to warn you about: you may suddenly find that you receive an unusual amount of pig-related merchandise  (cuddly pigs, chocolate pigs, etc.) and e-mail attachments such as this one sent to me by my brother:


Oh well, suppose I’d better just keep using the oink-ment…

I’ve not been able to spend much time blogging recently. In the real world I manage a service for people with profound learning disabilities and am a foster carer. Regardless of how ‘worthy’ that all sounds, I’m actually more of a Homer Simpson than a Ned Flanders, and the idea of lying in a hammock drinking ‘Duff’ beer is most appealing.

So where is all of this leading to… oh yes, I’m short- staffed, over-worked and knackered, so I’m taking a break from my cyberspace activities for the rest of the summer.

(Having said that, in a week or two I may just have to mention my review in the August edition of ‘Lancashire Life’ magazine (circulation 50,000, don’t ya know?))

Until then, I have done a series of  author interviews which you can find on my website at .

I am also reposting on this page my list of ideas for marketing your book, with links to several useful sites. So….



I have spent the last twelve months researching ideas about book promotion.

The fruits of my labours (and advice gratefully received from other writers) can be found below.


The number of ideas and links below may look overwhelming, so before you start to use them you need to formulate a structured marketing campaign. To help you do this I have created a free PDF of useful planning tools which can be downloaded from my website by clicking HERE.    

(Much of the content below has already been included in previous blog posts. New additions are marked with a  )

Another important tip before you set off is to identify your target audience or audiences  . Often in marketing this will refer to such things as age or social class. Another way of finding where your book will be best received is to make a list of the themes of your book, and work out to whom these will appeal. For instance- if you have written a children’s book starring an animal, how about approaching a zoo or wildlife sanctuary to see if it is the sort of thing they sell in their shop. Does your book have geographical settings or themes which would be of interest to people of a particular area?

Once you have planned your strategy and identified your target audience, try some of the ideas below:

1- Not using the internet…

●Contact local bookshops. They may have a policy or even a budget dedicated to supporting local authors. But remember to avoid visiting on Saturdays or at lunchtimes .

● Investigate local groups who may want you to go along as a speaker.

 Make some promotional bookmarks or cards- hand them out, leave them around, always carry a few in your wallet or purse for when someone asks so what are you up to at the moment? I made my own on my computer, with a picture of the book cover on the front, and the details of where to buy it and my website on the reverse.

 Link up with a charity- this is a win-win situation. Offer the charity a cut of your royalties for inclusion in their magazine or newsletter.

● Always have a copy of your book handy- you’d be surprised how many people will ask if they can buy a ‘signed copy.’

Read books on marketing.

 Send a press release to local newspaper(s). Make this about yourself- not your book. This may sound like contrary advice, but you are more likely to get your press release published if it has a human interest angle. (One editor told me that the best press release for a new book is something like: local boy, dyslexic, written off by his school, has now published a book.)

●Contact local radio stations. Like your local paper, they are always looking for content- I know several writers who have done this, and they have never been refused.

● Approach your local library and ask them if they will stock/ help promote your work. Get your friends to request it.

● Approach local book clubs, offer them a chance to ‘Ask the Author.’ 

2- Using the Internet…

There is a wealth of information and lists of sites that you can use on a range of Websites and Blogs. Just Google ‘book marketing’ and ‘book promotion’ and you will come up with enough ideas to last a lifetime.

Visit these sites and get advice from authors who have already been down the same route. Some have newsletters which you can subscribe to.

Contribute to writers’ forums– don’t go on there to announce that you have a book to sell- this will just put people off. Go on to ask questions or contribute, and if you have a blog or website then you will get visits from other forum members.

How about making an audio book on YouTube? This is easily done- all you need is a webcam and microphone (I used a Skype set which only cost me £20.) Just follow the upload instructions on YouTube, and leave details of where your book can be bought. Again, you are guaranteed hits from anywhere on the globe, and if people like what they hear this could even lead to sales.

Have you got a blog? This is free and easy to set up. Write about how you wrote your book, your quest to publish and what has happened since. And don’t forget to Ping! Use a service like ‘Ping My Blog’ or ‘Ping 45’ every time you blog.

Put out an online press release. There are sites where you can do this such as the one set up by wordpress.  Write quality articles for ezine articles and leave links to your other sites. If people like what you have to say they will look you up and maybe even buy your book. 

  E-mail all of your friends and colleagues with information about your book, and get them to email theirs (Keep it with friends and friends of friends to avoid SPAM!)

 Talk about your book on social networking sites such as FaceBook and Twitter. These sites also have groups that might be relevant to what you have written.

And don’t forget the importance of finding your target audience or audiences.  Find groups on social networking sites and elsewhere on the internet that might have an interest in the themes of your book.  This could include interests and hobbies, but it may also be the case that you have written about a geographical area. Does that area have community pages or a FaceBook group?

And what about  business networking sites such as Ecademy and Naymz? As a writer it may come as a surprise to think of yourself as a business- but you have got a product to sell now, haven’t you? So look up some of these sites, get advice from established members who are in PR, and put details about your book and where to find it in your profile.


3-An alphabetical list of places to market your book, to showcase it or to get ideas on book promotion.

I have tried some but not all of these links- so be discerning, especially if any of them ask you for money, and please let me know if you have any bad, or good, experiences.






Is for Confidence coaching…  Work on having a positive mental attitude. Marketing your book will need perseverence- how about getting a confidence coach? I can recommend:



















V          Added 27th April 09





I’m sure that this list is not exhaustive, and new marketing opportunities are emerging on the internet all of the time. I will be updating this from timw to time and would be grateful for any more ideas. So go for it- put yourself out there, have fun… and maybe sell a few books. 

coverChristmas Eve, 1976: a man dies, tied to his bed in a Victorian Mental Institution… Andrew saw what happened. Eddie saw what happened. But their severe learning disabilities prevent them from communicating what they have seen. There is an answer… but it can only be found in fragmented clues about the men’s pasts. Can these clues be put together before one of them becomes the next victim?       
 Tasting the Wind…  Available NOW on Amazon  or for
                                               free delivery worldwide go to: Book Depository






What a weekend…

This is me with my nephew, Matthew.  We went to see him on Saturday. He’s absolutely perfect and beautiful and one day will be primeminister and solve the energy crisis….

No Limits Awards 017


Maybe not. But I will be happy if he is happy, finds his reason for being here, is true to himself, is loved and finds love.

I know now why people still believe in miracles, because the thought that he came into the world is just amazing, and all of the things that he will learn in such a short time can not be explained by anyone on earth because it is nothing short of an act of God.

And that is the opinion of a qualified cynic.

The other thing that was brilliant about this weekend was that we attended the Sefton no-limits ceremony at Aintree race course on Friday night.

No limits recognises the achievements of looked after children. It was a great night, with entertainment, a buffet, and an awards ceremony. The top prize was won by a young lady who had been in foster care and gone on to gain a first class honours degree. It is recognised that children who are fostered or brought up in chidren’s homes often do not achieve at school, so it was an honour to be involved in a ceremony which recognises the achievements of looked after children.

And it was especially significant to us that our foster son (who I call Duane on this blog) won an award for his extra-curricular achievements.

So here I am, this time last year there were no kids on the horizon, and now I am a proud foster dad, uncle and god father.

What a difference a year can make.

I’ve been visiting so many different writing websites this year that I haven’t had time to return to many of them.

Tonight I noticed that someone had come to my blog via Writers’ News. Following the link back revealed a comment on my thread from February, with the following link, where you can find a load of free e-books on book marketing:

I’ve also had some good news: Tasting the Wind will be featured in Lancashire Life Magazine in August. You can find Lancashire Life at newsagents and supermarkets throughout the county, so I’m hoping that this level of publicity will be a great boost to sales.

Summer. And we love nothing better than flying off to restful, idyllic, carefree environments. Places where we can soak up the sun. Places where we can partake of exotic food and drink…

 Places where we can read about the gory exploits of crazed but highly intelligent serial killers.

Odd that. Although we would definitely not want to live next door to one, so many of us find great delight in reading novels about psychopaths- and novelists seem to be continually stretching themselves to find crueller and bloodier methods with which they can dispose of their victims.

This year I read two novels during my one-week break: Velocity, by Dean Koontz, and ‘Book of the Dead, by Patricia Cornwell.

I was on sure ground with Koontz, and I took great pleasure in the fact that (**NAMEDROP ALERT**)   Velocity was recommended to me by Koontz himself. Considering his output, I’m sure that the reply to my letter was sent from the pile labelled ‘send to wannabee authors seeking advice,’ but it did bear his signature (In ink) and has influenced the style of my next novel. Koontz suggested that any new novelist attempting to break into the field should go for the ‘High Concept Novel.’ He said that the only novel of his that he considered ‘High Concept’ was Velocity.

And it is a great rollercoaster of a read. So what would you do if you received a letter which said ‘ If you don’t take this note to the police, I will KILL a lovely blonde schoolteacher somewhere in Napa county. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead KILL an elderly woman.’

I’m sure that in this position I’d just take the note, but in true Koontzian fashion there are lots of good reasons why it isn’t that simple, and a strange logic to how Billy, the hero of the piece gets further and further embroiled. Lots of beautifully ghoulish scenes about how to dispose of a dead body without spoiling your carpet, and a satisfying denoument in which we find that the clues really have been there all along.

I have never read a Patricia Cornwell, and am aware that Book of the Dead is quite a way into the series of Kay Scarpetta novels. This made no difference to my enjoyment of the book, as there were enough references to the characters’ backstories to put you in the picture.

The characters are brilliantly crafted, and in addition to detailed forensics there is immaculate characterisation. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the complex relationships of the major characters are portrayed.

If you don’t like forensic detail- e.g. descriptions of bodies with their skin peeled off and eyes removed- not by the psycho but by the good guys- in order to confirm that abuse has taken place, then this novel is not for you.

I thought it was excellent, and will be looking for more in the series.


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