Madame Guillotine » blood sisters Kill them all if they won't eat cake Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:19:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 » blood sisters 32 32 Self publishing – three years on… Fri, 14 Mar 2014 12:44:30 +0000 princess cover

The Secret Diary of a Princess, my first ever book! It’s available for less than the price of a coffee from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

My husband is a pretty thoughtful guy, which I’ll admit that I do tend to take for granted after ten years, but even I was very taken aback this weekend when he insisted upon taking me out for a celebratory pie and cider lunch to mark the third anniversary of my foray into self publishing. How cool is that? Especially as I had NO IDEA what he was on about. Okay, it makes sense that I must have had a start date of some sort way back in the mists of time but I’ll be ding dang jiggered if I can remember when it is.

Still, at least SOMEONE remembers stuff like that for me, eh?

Anyhow, although almost a week has passed since the aforementioned anniversary that I didn’t remember but was totally up for celebrating anyway, I thought that I should probably mark it with some sort of blog post as well as that is what I DO. Plus, I could really do with some extra book sales right now as there’s this really fancy dress that I want to buy…

Here then, without further waffle and ado are TEN THINGS I HAVE DISCOVERED (not always willingly but still) SINCE EMBARKING ROUGHLY THREE YEARS AGO (allegedly and according to my husband) ON THE GREAT ADVENTURE THAT IS SELF PUBLISHING.


Blood Sisters, my second book! It’s a bargainous couple of pounds/dollars from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

1. It sucks. No, wait, hear me out. What I actually MEAN is that, like all things that bring in a massive sense of achievement and reward at the end, it isn’t particularly joyous all the time. In fact, it’s really REALLY hard work. Don’t be fooled by the gung-ho ‘write and book and slap it up on Kindle, job done’ chatter of self publishers on Twitter into thinking that you’re in for an easy ride. It’s actually a pretty hard slog to get everything right and there will be many MANY times when you feel like jacking the whole thing in and taking up birdwatching or, I dunno, jumping out of planes without a parachute as a hobby instead. I know that I have had a couple of lengthy periods over the last couple of years where I have felt really quite desperately down about the whole thing and have even temporarily given up writing (I’m just emerging from one in fact) because it just feels too painful and hideous and soul destroying to carry on. I do it though because ultimately and at the end of the day, I LOVE IT no matter what a vicious bitch it might be.

2. You need to be willing to change. You know that lovingly crafted blurb, that cover, the price you spent ages thinking about? You have to be prepared to change it. Here’s the thing: you are ON YOUR OWN, buddy and don’t have the might of a publisher behind you which means that although you are free to make your own success (and keep the rewards all to yourself – yipee!), you are also free to rampage at will and make your own mistakes. And let’s be clear – mistakes will be made. Possibly in abundance, although you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear that they lessen as you get more experienced. What you need to do is KEEP AN EYE on your books and everyone else’s. Okay, not everyone else’s – just the ones that you feel are the closest peers to your own. If sales take a sudden dip, be ready to change the price or shake that blurb up a bit. If other writers in your genre all seem to have a certain style of cover, be prepared to change your one to fit in. I suppose that what I’m actually saying here is DON’T BE PRECIOUS about your work, be flexible. Honestly, when I first started out three years ago, I didn’t have a CLUE what I was doing and I didn’t have ANY publishing experience to help me on my way either – I had to learn everything on the job and gradually, thank goodness, I got much better.

3. People will be hard on you. Oh crikey, are they hard. As I mentioned above, I am just struggling my way out of a long period of not really writing very much at all and, if you know me on Facebook, you’ll probably have seen a couple of ‘THAT’S IT, I’M NOT WRITING FOR PUBLICATION EVER AGAIN’ type posts over the last nine months or so. I’m kind of over it now but it’s been a tough time and basically all started because of a couple of people really knocking my confidence. Now, they didn’t say anything bad about my writing itself (they were, in fact, extremely complimentary about it) but my business model took a battering. You see, I had it pointed out to me that although my writing is good, my self publishing stinks because I am rubbish at promoting it. Also, and this really upset me, another writer pointed out that if I carry on self publishing my books, people will eventually assume that I do so because I am rubbish and no one else wants to work with me NOT because, as is the truth, I just happen to really enjoy it. I was crushed. And then gave up writing altogether. Okay, there was rather more to it than just that but it was pretty awful. The thing is though, and this is why I’m making myself talk about it now, this seems to happen to a lot of self published writers – they are damned with faint praise, they are undermined by the backhanded compliment, they are blind sided by possibly well meaning but not at all helpful ‘advice’. Don’t let people do this to you. In my case, I just won’t talk about my writing or my plans for it with anyone other than my husband any more (he’s not a writer so has no vested interest in making me feel anything other than pretty good about myself as that makes life easier for him plus he bought me my MacBook Pro and likes to think he’s getting a good return on this investment) because I no longer want to find myself in situations where I am made to doubt that what I am doing is RIGHT FOR ME.

4. Comparison is the thief of joy. This is a tough one but basically, all I can say is that at some point in the last twelve months I started to feel a bit like that guy, you know the one, who has been with a company, patiently slogging away, for many many years, and has over that time seen everyone else get promoted above him. I’m really struggling with this to be honest and have to continually remind myself why I do what I do (enjoyment, fun, complete control over my work, no deadlines, spending all day at home with my laptop and the cats for company). Seriously though, there are times when it literally feels like everyone else in the world has got an agent and a book deal EXCEPT ME and that can be really tough, not because I want those things but because I feel like everyone is looking at me thinking ‘So what’s wrong with YOU then, Clegg?’ At which point I have to remind myself that I probably COULD have those things but I’ve never really made any effort to get them and that it isn’t actually a ‘promotion’ at all, just a different way of doing things to the path that I have taken and THAT’S FINE.

5. Don’t read your reviews. Oh God, seriously. Don’t read them. The good ones all start to sound the same after a while and the bad ones will make you want to off yourself like Sylvia Plath. Also, isn’t it funny how you only notice the bad reviews? Say you have twenty reviews, with nineteen being really good and one being so horrible that you feel like they might just as well have come round to your house and done something appalling on your front doorstep. What is the feeling you take away from this review reading session? That’s right – the feeling of blank misery that one person hated your work NOT pleasure that nineteen people loved it. And that’s not right and why I don’t bother with the whole miserable malarkey any more. I haven’t read my reviews for about two years now – not because, I hasten to add they were rubbish but because I thought the reactions of other writers (and me on the few occasions I caught sight of a real stinker) to reviews were kind of hilariously, embarrassingly awful. Guys, it doesn’t look good to make a big fuss about someone not entirely enjoying your book and it looks EVEN LESS GOOD to take them on in the comments of Amazon. Just let it go or, even better, don’t read them in the first place. Personally, I feel pretty good about not reading mine and assume that if someone really wants me to have some direct feedback they’ll, oh I dunno, EMAIL me or something so we can have a proper chat about it? Reviews are FOR READERS NOT WRITERS.

6. Pay someone else to do stuff. Now, don’t get me wrong, one of the reasons I enjoy self publishing is because I get to do things that I really enjoy, like messing around with blurbs and making my own covers and what not. I basically see the whole thing as a really awesome hobby that I gives me an excuse not to get a proper job. However, there are times when you really need to think about delegating – editing, for example, is probably best done by someone else and if your Photoshop skills aren’t all that great, maybe paying someone to make a cover would be a good thing too. Also, and this might just be me, I pay an accountant to do my tax return for me because I find the whole thing unutterably painful and tiresome – BEST MONEY SPEND EVER.

7. Be professional. Ages ago I wrote on here about taking Hilary Mantel as my personal writing hero because, as far as I’m concerned, she never puts a foot wrong and makes a brilliant role model for aspiring novelists. The main thing though that I take from her and my inner mantra of ‘What Would Hilary Mantel Do?’ is PROFESSIONALISM. Okay, I’m doing self publishing as a very involving and rather fatiguing hobby but that really doesn’t excuse me from taking it every bit as seriously as writers who are represented by trade publishers. Some of THEM might think that I have no right to take it as seriously, but that’s THEIR problem, not mine. Also, and this never fails to amuse me, people are MUCH tougher on self published authors than they are on their trade published chums – it doesn’t really make much sense to me to be honest as they MUST know that they’re reading a cheap book that has been worked on by usually one, maybe a couple of people at a push, with no financial backing and no resources other than their own skills and YET they are WAY MORE unforgiving of typos, grammatical errors, turn of phrase, inconsistencies and tone than they would be if the same book was more expensive and had a multi million pound publishing house pushing it along. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to expect high standards, obviously it isn’t, but this attitude strikes me as more than a little bit odd.

8. Enjoy your freedom. Honestly, you should hear the things that trade published writer chums tell me about not having control over their blurbs, promotion, deadlines, covers, titles, you name it. It’s really quite dispiriting to be honest and makes me pretty relieved that I can do my own thing. Embrace it therefore, my self published amigos and enjoy the freedom that you have over your own work, even if you never get to see it stacked high in Tesco on a 3 for 2 or whatever.

9. Be nice. This is actually pretty important and goes with the whole ‘be professional’ thing above – in fact, so IMPORTANT did I think it that I decided that it really ought to have its own little bit just to underline the point that as a self publisher you are also a SELF PROMOTER and have no one other than yourself to hide behind when it all goes wrong. The other thing is that the publishing industry seems to be a really REALLY small world with everyone knowing everyone else, which means that if you are rude to Agent A then Agents B through to Z will probably get to hear about it. Mutter in private by all means but keep your public face nice and polite and friendly because even if you’re as happy as pie self publishing right now, who knows where your career might eventually take you and that meteoric rise to FAME AND FORTUNE is going to be a whole lot easier and more pleasant if you haven’t started out before you even really began with a reputation for being ‘difficult’. So BE NICE.

10. HAVE FUN. Guys, this has actually been a lot more doom and gloomy than I’d originally intended and I’m very sorry about that. It’s been a tough twelve months and things look set to be even tougher still so I guess I’m just not feeling all rosy and optimistic about the whole thing right now. I always said that I’d give up self publishing when it stopped being fun and, to be honest, it really did stop being fun last year thanks to one thing and another until I took control and steered away from the people and situation that was making me rapidly lose faith in myself. The main thing though is that I’m back to writing and you know what, it’s starting to be lots of fun again, which ultimately is all that should really matter.


Before the Storm, my third book! It’s cheaporama on Amazon UK and Amazon US right now!

So where am I now with the whole self publishing business? Well, to be honest, I just don’t know any more. I have a completed novel set during the Jack the Ripper murders all ready to roll but haven’t quite decided what I want to do with it – it’s had agent interest but I’m still not really convinced that trade publishing is for me – however, there is still that niggling feeling that I’m staying behind while everyone else is being ‘promoted’ up so I’m waiting for another month before I make any definite decisions. In the meantime, work is carrying on with my Sophie Scholl book (heroism, romance and woe in Hitler’s Germany) and a couple of other projects that are currently still at the embryonic ‘development’ stage. I’ll keep you all posted about how it goes!


Minette, my fourth book! It’s available for Kindle from Amazon UK and Amazon US and is cheap as chips.

Anyway, enough of all this! Here’s to the next three years! I wonder what they’ll bring…

ps. BUY MY BOOKS. I’m not joking about the dress.

‘Frothy, light hearted, gorgeous. The perfect summer read.’ Minette, my young adult novel of 17th century posh doom and intrigue is now £2.02 from Amazon UK and $2.99 from Amazon US.

Blood Sisters, my novel of posh doom and iniquity during the French Revolution is just a fiver (offer is UK only sorry!) right now! Just use the clicky box on my blog sidebar to order your copy!

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Blood Sisters paperback! Sun, 14 Apr 2013 13:10:56 +0000

The paperback edition of Blood Sisters is due to be released in the next couple of days, which apparently means that copies will be winging their way all over the globe which is all VERY exciting!

As I’ve said before, I’ve never been all that hung up on having actual physical copies of my books but that all changed when I opened a box containing copies of Blood Sisters and saw just how beautiful they are.

I’ve just signed the first few copies, which was really odd. I actually had to Google ‘How to sign a book’ to see how to do it properly! Anyway, I hope you like the encouraging message I wrote inside!

Don’t forget that this is an extremely limited run of copies with just one hundred being pressed so when they are gone, that’s it and they are gone for good!

I can’t believe I only just noticed this front page! This is actually a really beautiful edition and I feel a bit weird that it actually contains MY VERY OWN WORDS.

You can order your very own copy via this very handy form!

Shipping Destination

ps. Don’t forget that Minette, my novel about Princess Henrietta-Anne Stuart, the youngest and favourite sister of Charles II is now out and available to buy from Amazon UK and Amazon US for the merest peanuts. It’s got more POSH DOOM than you can feasibly shake a stick at as well as guest star appearances from Prince Rupert, Athénaïs de Montespan, Louis XIV, Cardinal Mazarin and all manner of glamorous seventeenth century sorts! Please fund my addiction to GIN, curry and ironic perspex jewellery by buying a copy!

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Weekly Round Up! Sun, 31 Mar 2013 20:33:19 +0000


Hello there! Hope you’re all enjoying the Easter weekend! We’ve got glorious weather here in Bristol which I hope augurs well for the rest of spring. I’ve even managed to do a spot of baking for the occasion – these are banana and lime cupcakes decorated with seasonal aplomb with mini eggs and some punky looking chicks.

We’ve had a fairly busy week here at Guillotine Towers with a trip to the new Thali Cafe in Southville on Tuesday night for their opening shindig. It was a lot of fun and we managed to make the most of the delicious curried finger food making the rounds – I’m afraid all thoughts of my diet were forgotten as I crammed skewers of paneer into my mouth and got rather drunk on Indian lager from the free! bar.


Anyway, if you’re in Bristol then I’d definitely recommend a trip to one of the Thali Cafes in the city – it’s a great chain with a really quirky but delicious menu. My metal four tier tiffin, which I use for their takeaway service, is one of my most prized possessions!


The other top excursion this week was to see my all time favourite band Mesh play at the Fleece in Bristol. I feel very fortunate to live in the same city as my favourite band as it means I get to go to their ‘home town’ gigs which have a really amazing atmosphere. Last night’s show was no exception and they played for two hours which on one hand was BRILLIANT but on the other was a bit exhausting – I was actually begging them not to come back on by the end (and then greeting each encore with a ROAR OF APPROVAL of course). I almost died though as I don’t think I’ve danced quite so much for AGES. It was also nice to get to hang out with my chum Andrew for a few hours as well as I haven’t seen him for ages!

In contrast, I didn’t think very much of the support band Inertia, who are probably very good but not really to my taste. They seemed to be on stage for a very long time, so long in fact that I ended up fancying their keyboard player due to an acute case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Anyway, this is my favourite track from Mesh’s new album. I’ll leave it to you to imagine my UNTRAMMELLED JOY when they played it last night. I do most of my writing to Mesh tracks so I came away BUZZING with ideas, particularly for the Ripper Book which has a VERY Mesh heavy playlist on my iTunes account.


As you may have noticed in my earlier post, I’ve changed my hair colour a bit! I decided that pink was getting a bit boring now (I’ve been dying my hair pink for almost twenty years now so it was about time I gave it a rest really!) and so opted for a more red shade (Special FX Cherry Bomb if you speak hair dye) this time, which I think has worked out quite well!

In writing news, the paperback edition of Blood Sisters is now available for pre-order and the first forty copies will be signed by my own fair but clutzy hand. You can make your order via the box at the bottom of this post and they’ll be shipped out all over the globe from the fifteenth of April.

I’m now free of Amazon Prime and Kobo users can now get Blood Sisters and Before the Storm from their site with The Secret Diary of a Princess coming soon. All books will also be available from Apple, Barnes & Noble and Sony in the near future as well.

In other writing news, Minette is now almost completely finished and ready to be seen so I’ll have some news about that soon as well!


Anyway, I think I’m done. How was your week? Get up to anything interesting?

Pre-order your copy of Blood Sisters, my not really romantic at all tale of POSH DOOM, beheadings, woe and INIQUITY in Revolutionary Paris today!

Shipping Destination

Ps. If you’ve read and enjoyed one of my books then please consider leaving a review on Amazon, however brief as it really does help spread the word!

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Pre-order the paperback edition of Blood Sisters now! Mon, 25 Mar 2013 22:10:59 +0000

Thanks so much for all the good wishes about the upcoming paperback special edition of Blood Sisters! I’m thrilled to announce that it is now available for pre-order with copies being shipped from the 15th of April onwards.

I’ll be signing the first forty copies so make haste if you want to own one that I’ve scribbled on in a gin sozzled haze at my very own kitchen table. Crikey, who WOULDN’T want that?!

Just use the PayPal form below (which I’ve also popped on to the sidebar) to pre-order your very own copy of POSH DOOM, iniquity and woe in Revolutionary Paris.

Shipping Destination

Please don’t forget that the books aren’t due to be sent out until the 15th of April so don’t get all cross if they don’t arrive before then! Thanks lovelies!

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A sight to gladden any author’s heart… Wed, 20 Mar 2013 14:00:45 +0000

Apparently there is NOTHING ON EARTH quite so satisfying as being given a big box full of copies of your very own book, all pristine and new and waiting to be signed. Who knew?

I’ve always said that I’m not at all hung up on the famed mystique of seeing your book in physical form but actually I had NO IDEA just how satisfying it feels to really hold it in your hand, flick through the pages and actually be able to TOUCH your own words. It’s pretty bloody amazing actually.

Many many thanks to Clive Birnie of Burning Eye who has done a superb job not just with the cover but also with the text itself. It’s a genuinely beautiful piece of work that I can’t wait to share with you all.

Oh it is so exciting!

Blood Sisters is due to go on sale around the fifteenth of April and will be available to both UK and international buyers from here, the Burning Eye site and Amazon. There’s also a good chance that there will be special edition paperback versions of Before the Storm and The Secret Diary of a Princess: a novel of Marie Antoinette as well at some point in the near future!

Right, I’d better get to work signing these books!

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Coming soon… Mon, 18 Mar 2013 16:52:41 +0000

I know that a lot of you will be pleased to hear that Blood Sisters, my original novel of POSH DOOM and aristocratic iniquity during the French Revolution will be available thanks to an exciting collaboration with the superb Burning Eye as a limited edition paperback in the very near future, which should be good news for those of you without Kindles who have been asking when you’ll be able to read my books!

When the beautiful Comtesse de Saint-Valèry is dragged unwillingly from her Parisian home in the dead of night, her three young daughters are left to an uncertain fate at the hands of their father in a world that is teetering on the very edge of Revolution.

Cassandre, the eldest is a beautiful and heartless society beauty, trapped in an unhappy marriage and part of the dazzling court of Versailles. Lucrèce, her twin, is married to a man she adores but he pushes her away for another woman. Meanwhile, Adélaïde, the youngest, rebels against the destiny that her position in society appears to have doomed her to.

As the horror, turmoil and excitement of the French Revolution unfolds around them, the three very different sisters struggle to survive the bloodshed, find love and discover their true selves…

What some of my favourite writers had to say about Blood Sisters:

Melanie Clegg draws readers into her world, and holds them fast. Her
storytelling left me longing for more.
’ — Susan Higginbotham, author of The Stolen Crown, Her Highness, The Traitor and The Queen of Last Hopes.

A gripping tale of the French Revolution.‘ – Catherine Delors, author of Mistress of the Revolution and For The King.

Utterly gripping and compulsive reading from the first page, this is lavishly written historical fiction set in the French Revolution. Three aristocratic sisters attempt to survive the Terror as their pampered lives are changed forever. First class.‘ – Victoria Lamb, author of Witchstruck, The Queen’s Secret and His Dark Lady.

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Minette is finished! Fri, 01 Mar 2013 14:45:01 +0000

Henrietta Anne, Duchesse d’Orleans, Lely, 1662. Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London.

I’ve been a bit quiet on here, I know, but I promise that there’s a really good reason for this! No, it doesn’t involve GIN or eels or shoes or ANY OF THOSE THINGS. No, the reason is that I HAVE JUST THIS MINUTE FINISHED WRITING MY FOURTH NOVEL.

Yes, that’s right, Minette, the first of a two part series about Charles II’s youngest sister, Henrietta Anne Stuart, Duchesse d’Orléans is all done and dusted bar some major editing and polishing before I send it off on a bit of an adventure.

I don’t, I’ll be honest, know when you’ll get to read this book as there’s a small chance that it might not be self published like my other novels but hopefully I’ll be able to let you all know its fate soon! Personally, this is one of the many reasons I love self publishing – knowing that, allowing for editing and weeping over fonts, the book won’t take so long to fall into the hands of your readers.

Henrietta Anne, Duchesse d’Orléans, Nocret. Photo: National Gallery of Scotland. I’m going to stand in front of this for AGES when I go up to Edinburgh this October. It’d better be out on display!

This book has been a JOY to write. Really. An absolute JOY. I was already smitten with Henrietta before I started but now I think I am honestly in love with not just her but also her whole ridiculous, ramshackle, wonderful family. I hope my readers love them too. I was going to say ‘warts and all’ but that would be kind of WRONG in the circumstances, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, yes, a writer has to consider themselves blessed when they get to write a book that incorporates such wonderful characters as Henrietta Maria, Charles II, His Royal Hotness Prince Rupert of the Rhine (and his equally fabulous brother Edward and sister Louise), Louis XIV, Athénaïs de Montespan when everyone was still calling her Françoise, Lady Castlemaine, the super hot Armand de Guiche, La Grande Mademoiselle, Marie Mancini, Cardinal Mazarin, the fantastic Stuart siblings James, Henry and Mary and crikey SO MANY people. It was so much fun to resurrect them for a bit.

His Royal Hotness Prince Rupert, Count Palatinate, Honthorst, 1641-2. Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London.

Minette is very similar to The Secret Diary of a Princess in that it tells the heroine’s story from her childhood until her wedding day but it’s rather different in that it’s not in diary form but is rather in the first person and is also written in a totally different style. It was an eventful time for the Stuarts as they experienced exile in mainland Europe in the aftermath of Charles I’s execution and the Royalist defeat in the English Civil War and Henrietta herself was something of a real life Cinderella who often experienced true poverty and want until the restoration of her brother, Charles II drastically improved both the family’s finances and their prestige.

Anyway, the plan now is to start either jump straight into book two, which is currently tentatively entitled Madame and will cover Henrietta’s life from her marriage to her death OR take a break to write the long awaited Ripper Book. What do you think?

In other writing news, I got to see the typeset of the upcoming print edition of one of my other books last week and let me tell you, it looks AMAZING. I’ll be back with more news when it’s all official and has a release date and everything. I’m working with local Bristol press Burning Eye Books for this and it’s been a lot of fun.

Henrietta Anne, Duchesse d’Orléans. Photo: Royal Collection.

In the meantime, my other books The Secret Diary of a Princess: a novel of Marie Antoinette, Blood Sisters and Before the Storm are still available on Amazon US and Amazon UK and have been getting some rather lovely reviews lately (if you get the chance, please do leave reviews not just for my books but any that you have enjoyed, it really helps!). It’s now twelve months since I gave up my job to become a full time novelist and I don’t think I will ever stop feeling truly grateful for the support that enables me to do what has to be the best job on earth. Well, the best job bar one that involves getting close to Tom Hardy anyway…

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My writing year 2012 Mon, 17 Dec 2012 14:38:49 +0000

The end of the year is fast approaching (and if certain people are to be believed, the end of the world too) and I think it’s time to take stock of my progress as a writer over the last twelve months. I probably should do this privately but decided that I’d spill the beans publicly as I know quite a few of you are thinking about making forays into self publishing at some point. Also this is my first year as a full time novelist so I thought it’d be nice to share how I got on now that I’m apparently living my dream…

Here goes.

1. I published one book – Before the Storm, which is doing really well although isn’t quite as popular as The Secret Diary of a Princess: a novel of Marie Antoinette and Blood Sisters. That’s okay though, all my books developed momentum in their own sweet time and it’s still selling really nicely and getting some lovely reviews.

2. I galloped past the 20,000 books sold post, which was nice and am still averaging about 1,000 books sold every month. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the giddy heights of 100,000 books sold but wouldn’t that be nice?

3. I started four books but am currently only working on one, which is about Henrietta Anne Stuart, the youngest and favourite sister of Charles II who was also sister-in-law and sometime girlfriend to Louis XIV. It’s going really well, although I’ve written over 50,000 words and I’m only a quarter of a way through, which is a bit worrying. Or would be a bit worrying if I was dead set on trying to have it trade published – one of the beautiful things about self publication is that your book can be as long as you bally well like.

4. I’ve had some wonderful reviews, mostly from people who are complete strangers to me and the rest were lovely surprises – mainly because I find it a bit nerve-wracking when someone I know tells me they are reading one of my novels. I’m genuinely touched when anyone buys one of my books and even more so when they take the time to offer nice feedback. I’ve also had one or two hilariously bad reviews, most notably the one where I was soundly told off because my novel inspired by Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers was clearly um inspired by Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers. God only knows what that reviewer makes of all the Jane Austen sequels and re-imaginings; it probably sends them absolutely stratospherically apoplectic.

5. I gave my books a total re-design and made each one a spanking new cover. I’m rubbish at doing fonts, but I was still really pleased with how they turned out.

6. I got a little mention in The Times for my self publishing ‘success’ thanks to being invited to talk at the first ever Mumsnet Blogfest about my self publishing journey. I really felt like I’d ‘made it’ sitting up there on that stage and it certainly went a long way towards validating my decision not to pursue trade publication.

7. I’ve been in discussions with a local independent publisher about releasing a very limited run of Blood Sisters in paperback at some point next year. This is VERY exciting.

8. I don’t really want to talk about it as it’s an ongoing situation but I’ve discovered that I’m really terrible at writing to order. This is something I really need to work on.

9. I gave up my ‘day job’ as a researcher at the very start of 2012 so that I could concentrate on writing fiction full time. This was TREMENDOUSLY scary but I’m so pleased that I did it now.

10. Despite thinking that I’m doing better than okay, I’ve still had the odd ‘You’re not a proper writer’ and ‘Your books aren’t real books’ jibes, mainly from trade published writers who seem a bit keen to put me in my place. Oh dear. I do wish they’d let the HMRC know that my books aren’t real as then I wouldn’t have to file a tax self assessment every year on my revenue.

11. I haven’t got an agent. I’ve been contacted by a couple but my heart still isn’t really in it – mainly because I don’t want to lose my freedom but also for disgustingly mercenary reasons, namely that I don’t think it would be to my financial advantage to be trade published. I’d quite like the distribution level that trade publishing would mean (as it would mean no more daily snarky emails, comments, tweets and discussions on Amazon demanding to know why my books are only available for Kindle from Amazon) but I’m a bit wary of the rest of it. The other thing is that I’ve only been contacted by agents in the US and I’d really like to represented by someone in the UK so I can swan off to cosy meetings over lunch in London like my other writer chums.

12. Blood Sisters, my original tale of ‘Posh Doom’ really took off over the summer and is now my most popular book. I’ll admit that it isn’t my favourite of my novels but I’m pleased that it’s finding admirers!

Next year…

1. I hope to finish and publish Bright Star, my novel about Henrietta Anne Stuart. I’d sort of like a trade publisher to pick it up but self publication is by no means my second choice and I probably won’t even bother submitting it.

2. I’m planning to start and hopefully finish the long awaited Jack the Ripper novel as well as another book set during the French Revolution, the Cora Mycroft book and also something set in the sixteenth century which may or may not be about Mary, Queen of Scots.

3. I’m going to carry on having fun with this and hope that my readers will continue to enjoy what I do.

If you’d like to support a starving author’s GIN habit then my books can be found at Amazon UK and Amazon US where they are priced at the princely sum of around £1.54 or $2.45 each.

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Before and after… Fri, 23 Nov 2012 16:06:27 +0000

Photo: Fotolia.

I’m really REALLY pleased with how my new book covers have turned out and although I was a bit resistant to following the current trend for photo cover art, I’m glad that I took the plunge. I’ve had a lot of questions about the covers and how I did them and thought that showing you all the original stock photo and the final finished result would help some of you and also provide a bit of amusement.

The picture above is listed on Fotolia (which is EXCELLENT by the way) as ‘Art portrait of a beautiful female model in a snowy mask. Christmas’. so I think the first lesson here is that you REALLY need to experiment with keyword searches when looking for a suitable picture. Never EVER assume that stock photographers will have ANY grasp of history or art or architecture so if you want something a bit Rococo French (as I did) be prepared to search through ‘Medieval’, ‘Renaissance’, ‘bygone’, ‘old fashioned’ and so so on.

Cover for The Secret Diary of a Princess: a novel of Marie Antoinette.

The good thing about Fotolia is that you can play with the pictures before buying them so I was able to cut it down on the site and see how it would look once I’d removed the obvious blue eyeshadow on the model and so on. I’ve now got a couple of hundred pictures saved on the site, which I think will be suitable for future cover projects, most of which will need to be hugely cut down before they are useable.

Photo: Fotolia.

I loved this photograph, entitled ‘Run’, as soon as I found it and considered using it for The Secret Diary but then realised that it didn’t really fit with the mood of the book but would be excellent for Blood Sisters as it has a really opulent look with hints of danger and suspense. In short – plenty of POSH DOOM.

The finished cover to Blood Sisters, which looks rather different to the original. I’ve had quite a few people ask me why I followed the tiresome current trend for ‘headless’ ladies on my covers and the answer, rather prosaically, is simply that I just couldn’t be doing with the terrible make up that the model is wearing in these photographs – really shiny lipgloss and heavy pale blue eyeshadow and eyeliner. It absolutely HAD to go so I chopped her head off.

Never underestimate the power of a Good Cover though. Before I changed the covers of my books a few months ago, Secret Diary was BY FAR my biggest seller and my sales in the US were massively exceeding those in the UK. However, since the change, Blood Sisters is now my biggest seller and my UK sales are far higher than those in the US – which suits me just fine as getting hold of my revenue is much easier that way!

Photo: Fotolia.

Just to follow up on an earlier point, this photograph is called ‘Picture of the elegant woman in Medieval dress’. YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? NEVER trust photographers to put a suitable description on their work when they upload it to a stock site. It’s a lovely set of pictures though so I forgive them.

In case you are interested, here is a full list of the keywords that would variously bring you to this picture – ‘antique, aristocrat, art, attractive, background, ball, baroque, beautiful, carnival, christmas, clothes, dress, elegant, europe, european, fairy, fan, fancy-dress, fantasy, fashion, feathers, female, festive, girl, hair, hairstyle, holiday, indoor, lady, make-up, masquerade, medieval, people, person, princess, queen, renaissance, retro, romantic, royal, snow, snowy, studio, stylish, vintage, white, winter, woman, young, xmas, vintage, hairstyle, baroque, ball, fairy, antique, aristocrat, art, attractive, background, beautiful, carnival, christmas, clothes, dress, elegant, europe, european, fan, fancy-dress, fantasy, fashion, feathers, female, festive, girl, hair, holiday, indoor, lady, make-up, masquerade, medieval, people, person, princess‘. You see what I mean about getting creative with search terms on stock photography sites in order to find what you want?

The finished cover for Before the Storm.

A bit of snipping has completely changed the rather flirtatious look of the original photograph into something that I fondly think is a bit wistful and romantic, which totally suits the mood of the book.

Of course, this wasn’t the first cover that I made for Before the Storm. Ho no.

Photo: Fotolia.

This photograph (entitled ‘Beautiful young woman in medieval era dress on a sunny day outdoor’) is the one that I originally selected for the cover as I wanted this book to have a rather different look to the other two. The novel is based on The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton and is about a group of rather frolicsome English young ladies from the new monied classes trying to nab themselves suitably wealthy AND titled husbands first in the upper echelons of Georgian London society and then, when that all goes wrong, at 1780s Versailles where all things English are still very much the rage and the bankrupted aristocracy can be a bit less fussy about the pedigree of their brides.

All together, this photograph isn’t all that great – she’s got a face load of slap for a start, but I really liked the pattern of the dress and also the outdoor setting. Both of which would ironically prove to be my undoing when it came to designing the actual cover.

Oh dear. I struggled, I really did, but it just wasn’t to be.

In a nutshell then:

1. Don’t trust stock photographers to put suitable keywords on their work so be prepared to HUNT.
2. Don’t just look at the entire picture – expect to cut it down.
3. There’s an easy solution for the Too Much Make Up. That’s right – off with her head!
4. A decent cover can have an amazing effect on flagging sales. If your book seems to be drifting, seriously consider a cover change.
5. Try to think about the mood of your book when making a cover. I fell in love with a picture that wasn’t suitable for one book but turned out to be eminently perfect for another.
6. Fonts are THE VERY DEVIL.
7. You can’t please everyone. There’s always someone somewhere who’ll criticise your work so don’t worry about them, just concentrate on doing your VERY BEST and ignore the miserable sods.
8. Think about where you will put the font before you purchase the picture.
9. There’s a LOT of fun to be had on stock photo sites. Serious MADNESS and terrible photography ABOUND.
10. HAVE FUN. Yes, I COULD always pay someone to do it for me but where’s the fun in that?

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New covers! Sun, 23 Sep 2012 15:05:49 +0000

I’m a bit excited about the new cover for The Secret Diary of a Princess: a novel of Marie Antoinette and hastened here to share it with you all. What do you think? I think it works really well as it plays with the ‘secret’ element and there’s also a masked ball in the book!

This is the new cover for Blood Sisters, my novel of POSH DOOM, aristocratic iniquity, romance and horrible bloodshed set during the French Revolution.

I think I can see now why headless ladies are so popular on historical fiction novels – the model in the original photos that these covers were taken from was CAKED in make up (including very heavy blue eyeshadow) so I had to lop her head off in order to make it look even reasonably authentic. I’m extremely pleased with the results though and am planning to launch a matching completely new look for Before the Storm within the next few days.

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