Free Short Story Book

First of all, I apologise for being quiet lately both on the blog and on social media. The reason is because I’ve been working hard towards meeting my publishing deadline for my next book, which will be the first book in a new trilogy. More news will follow on that later but in the meantime I need to continue promoting my existing books.

As part of my book promotion, I’m pleased to announce that my short story, Crime, Conflict & Consequences is now permanently free on Amazon UK and Amazon.com. Here is the Amazon link: http://viewbook.at/Consequences. There is also a preview of the first chapter of Slur in the back of the book so if you haven’t yet read any of my books, here is a chance to sample my writing free of charge.

Crime v3

Crime, Conflict & Consequences is also free to download at Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, 24 Symbols, Thalia and Inktera. I don’t have a link for Apple but here are the links for the other stores.

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

24 Symbols

Thalia

Inktera

To give you a preview of Crime, Conflict & Consequences, here is the book blurb:

This entertaining collection of 10 assorted tales explores a variety of genres with stories of crime, love and family dilemmas. There are also a few twists and surprises along the way. The common thread running through each story is – consequences.

  • In HELD UP our heroine is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes a witness in an unusual bank robbery.
  • In ISLAND OF DREAMS Joe and Bev are looking forward to returning to the island they visited on honeymoon 34 years previously. Will it still be the same?
  • In WELCOME ABOARD find out how Helena copes with the job from hell.

These short stories are a great introduction to the work of Heather Burnside. Each one makes an enjoyable quick read with a satisfying conclusion.

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It’s only fair to warn you that my novels are quite different from the short stories. Whereas the short stories cover a variety of genres and writing styles, my other books are gritty crime novels. However, the excerpt from Slur, which is in the back of the short story book should give you an idea of what is to follow.

Bye for now and happy reading.

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Playing with Words

As a writer I love playing with words and I love words themselves. I know – weird aren’t I? Some words I love more than others. With certain words it’s because they have a lovely sound to them. With others it’s because they suit their meaning so well that no other word would quite suffice. There are many words that are so powerful and descriptive that they can transform a whole paragraph. In fact, ‘transform’ is one of the words on my list. Here are some of my favourite words:

Words 1

–         Expertise – It’s like experience, knowledge and skills all rolled into one.

–         Transform – it’s more powerful than ‘change’, don’t you think?

–         Incongruous – I love this one, it’s says exactly what it means.

–         Onomatopoeia – This relates to the use of a word that sounds like its meaning. What I love about ‘onomatopoeia’ is the sound of the word, the use of four vowels together and the fact that very few people can spell it. I can’t think of any other word that uses four vowels together – no doubt someone will put me straight on that point. I believe it stems from either Latin or Greek so there could be other four-vowel words that have been adopted by the English language.

–         Detract – I feel that no one word captures the meaning of this word in the same way. Although you’ll find alternatives such as ‘lessen’, Words 2‘diminish’ etc. in a Thesaurus, ‘detract’ means more than that. For me ‘detract’ makes me think of moving away from something or taking away from something, especially when used as ‘detract from’.

–         Encapsulate – I just love the sound of it. Again, no other single word does it justice. ‘Summarise’ is used as a synonym, but ‘encapsulate’ is more than that; it’s the act of taking all the components and bringing them neatly together as though in a capsule.

–         Retrospect – To me this word means more than just ‘reflection’, it’s looking back but also learning from past mistakes. Again, no other word conjures up the precise meaning.

–         Basically – It’s an excellent opener for a sentence and leaves the reader full of expectation of what’s coming next. It can open up an explanation, a conclusion or a summary. ‘Basically’, it’s a really useful word, but unfortunately I realise that I do tend to overuse it.

–         Divisive – Another powerful word, which was overused on the death of Margaret Thatcher – it was definitely the media word of the week. Now, whenever I hear that word my brain automatically connects it with Margaret Thatcher.

–         Replicate – Sounds more sophisticated than duplicate or copy.

Words 3

–         Proclivities – Means tendencies or inclinations but it’s often used in a negative way so it’s usually the word of choice if someone has perverse sexual tendencies. This word always makes me smile because of my mucky mind. It reminds me of Les Dawson (one of my all time favourite comedians) who said that some words are just funny because of all the connotations associated with that particular word.

Do you have any favourite words? What are your favourites and why? I bet you can think of some that I love but I’ve forgotten about – alas, the middle-aged memory isn’t what it used to be!

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Excerpt from ‘Danger by Association’

As we’re drawing closer to the launch date of 24th June for ‘Danger by Association’, I thought I would share an excerpt with you. In this first chapter Rita has returned to Manchester to attend her brother’s wedding.

After the trauma of her previous visit (as shown in ‘A Gangster’s Grip’), Rita regarded her return with trepidation. This trip won’t be any better for her because her son is in danger. As you can see from this first chapter, there are already signs of trouble, which intensifies as the book progresses:

Danger

Chapter 1

Saturday 8th June 1996

Rita walked in front of her family and greeted them before taking her seat at the front of the church. Her mother, Joan, was seated to her left, resplendent in her new outfit from C & A. To the left of Joan was Rita’s father, Ged, looking uncomfortable in his one best suit. As Rita cast her eyes across the front pew she noticed him loosening his shirt collar and adjusting his tie.

Furthest away from Rita, and occupying the inside seat of the pew, was her brother, John, nervously awaiting his bride-to-be, with his best man Tony buoying him up. Rita smiled at John before switching her attention to her husband, Yansis.

Rita felt mixed emotions as she thought about the absent family member. It was five years since her sister, Jenny, had died but on days like today she missed her more than ever. This was the first time Rita had returned to Manchester since Jenny’s death. She lived in Greece, where she and Yansis ran a restaurant.

Her sister’s demise was such a traumatic event that Rita had taken a lot of persuading before she agreed to return to Manchester. But how could she miss her brother’s wedding? So here she was. But only on the condition that she went nowhere near the Riverhill Estate. The place where it had happened. The place where her parents still lived.

Although Rita no longer lived in Manchester, she thought of her sister daily. She always would. Every time she looked at her son’s face she was reminded of Jenny. Because, even though Rita and Yansis called Daniel their son, it was Jenny who had given birth to him. As Rita thought about Jenny, she gazed with affection at Daniel who was shuffling impatiently in his seat between her and Yansis.

“It won’t be long now till the bride gets here,” she whispered as she took in his familiar features and gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

As though in response to her words, the organist began to play the wedding march. Rita, along with almost everyone else, turned to see the bride walk up the aisle, which was lined with exquisite blossoms in a delicate pink and white colour scheme.

Rita had never met Paula in person; she had only seen her in photographs. She was a stunning girl, and Rita felt happy for John who gazed proudly at her as she approached. Paula looked radiant in her beautiful off-the-shoulder wedding gown with sweetheart neckline. The onlookers were captivated as she progressed down the aisle, the layers of tulle flowing from a tiny fitted waist against which she clutched a lovely bouquet. Yes, John had definitely done himself proud and, if her parents were to be believed, Paula was a lovely person too.

As the bride drew closer, Rita caught the eye of her best friend, Julie, sitting a few rows back with her husband, Vinny. A few seconds later, the bride joined John at the front of the church, and the wedding march died down. The congregation cleared their throats and hushed their children, and the vicar allowed them time to settle down before beginning the ceremony.

Joan had already broken out her tissues and sat sniffing throughout the entire service. Rita wondered whether it was through happiness for John or sorrow at her missing child. Maybe it was a combination of the two. Rita’s mind wandered again to the last time the family had been together, apart from John who had been stationed abroad in the army.

The hospital. The endless wait. Desperately hoping she’d pull through. The devastating news from the doctor. Rita stopped herself, determined not to succumb to tears. This was a happy occasion and she’d make damn sure she enjoyed it. She tried to ignore her mother’s whimpering as she focused on the ceremony.

Once outside, the emotional strain was forgotten amidst the excited chatter, words of congratulations and organising the photographs. Rita was too busy to think about emotions as she and Yansis had resolved to keep Daniel clean and tidy at least until the pictures were taken.

Although he was a good child, he was a typical five-year-old boy. Carried away by the novelty and excitement of the occasion, he was more intent on racing around the manicured church lawns than posing for photographs in a stuffy suit.

“Oh, it was lovely wasn’t it?” said Julie as she and Vinny joined them on the lawn after the photographs had been taken. “I was filling up when she walked down the aisle in that gorgeous dress.”

“Don’t be so bleedin’ soft, you daft sod,” said Rita. “You’re supposed to be happy, not crying your eyes out. You’re as bad as my mam. I think she went through a full packet of man-sized by the time it was over.”

“You’re bloody heartless you, Rita,” laughed Julie.

They circulated for a while, chatting to friends and relatives until it was time to go to the wedding reception. Then they crowded into a minibus, which John and Paula had laid on especially for the occasion. Within minutes they arrived at the venue, which was a hotel.

It wasn’t long before they were all seated ready for the wedding breakfast. But they had to go through the speeches first. This was the moment Rita was dreading. She knew it would be emotional. John was bound to mention Jenny. There was no way he would ignore her absence.

Unlike the church service though, where she had a front row seat, Rita was now surrounded by people on all sides. If she became overcome by emotion it would be difficult to hide. And she didn’t want to get upset. This was John and Paula’s big day, and despite Jenny no longer being with them, it should nevertheless be a happy one.

After dreading the speeches, she was surprised at how smoothly it went. John handled the matter well and she felt proud of him.

“I want to propose a toast to all our loved ones who sadly can’t be with us,” he said as he held up his glass. Everybody raised their glasses in respect and John quickly added, “I’m sure they’d want us all to enjoy this day so I don’t want to see any tears.”

Rita’s mother took a deep breath and shoved her tissues inside her handbag.

Daniel was fidgety during the meal and couldn’t wait to run around outside with his newfound friends. Fortunately, the wedding reception was in a hotel within its own grounds so he could play out safely. Once he had eaten enough, Rita and Yansis let him go. Then it was time for the adults to relax. While Daniel played outside, Rita and Julie chatted to some of Rita’s older relatives. They were all interested in Rita’s life in Greece and she enjoyed telling them all about it, as well as discussing her wider family.

When the meal was finished, Rita, Yansis, Julie and Vinny found somewhere else to sit while the hotel staff cleared the tables ready for the evening reception. Yansis and Vinny soon struck up a conversation while the girls chatted amongst themselves.

“That grand aunty of yours was a card, Rita,” remarked Julie. “She could hardly take her eyes off Yansis.”

“I know; did you hear what she said?” Rita asked, before answering her own question. “‘I’ve always liked the Mediterranean men myself. They’re really sexy.’ I had to wedge myself between her and Yansis to protect him. She might be in her seventies but there’s life in the old girl yet.”

Rita and Julie laughed heartily, and Rita soon felt as though she had been teleported back ten years. To the good times of her younger days. All the great nights out she had spent with Julie and the girls. That was before life got in the way, and a series of traumatic experiences had changed her and Julie irrevocably. But today she was going to be relaxed and carefree.

“There are some right eccentrics in our family, Julie,” Rita continued, “The bloody Addams family have got nothing on us.”

Then, spotting her Aunty Irene heading towards them, she added, “Talking of which, here’s one now, Aunty Irene, my dad’s sister, got a tongue on her like a viper.”

She whispered the last few words as her Aunty Irene came within earshot.

“Hello Rita, I thought it was you,” she announced once she reached them.

“Hello Aunty Irene,” sighed Rita.

“Well, aren’t you going to introduce me then? I’ve never met your husband; I wasn’t at your wedding. Is this him?”

Rita made the introductions, and Yansis, Vinny and Julie shook her aunty’s hand politely. Once Aunty Irene had the attention of everyone around the table, she asked Rita, “Was that Jenny’s son I saw earlier? Good-looking little lad, isn’t he? Takes after his mother.”

“No!” said Rita. “You saw Daniel, my son; mine and Yansis’s.”

Yansis, Julie and Vinny looked on, aware of Rita’s feelings about Daniel, as the aunty continued.

“Yes but, you know what I mean.”

“As far as Daniel is concerned, me and Yansis are his parents and I don’t want anyone telling him anything different.”

“But surely he’ll have to find out eventually?” Aunty Irene asked. “He’ll know there’s something amiss; even Yansis isn’t as dark as Daniel.”

“He’ll find out when he’s old enough and when we decide to tell him. But that won’t be for a long time. He’s only five years old, for God’s sake! It’s too much for him to take in.”

Rita could feel her temper rising but she tried to hold it in check. She didn’t want to spoil her brother’s wedding by having a set to with her Aunty Irene, but her aunty wasn’t finished yet.

“Alright, I can see you’re upset. I know you don’t want to be reminded about Jenny. It was a sad day when she died. Your mother and father were broken-hearted, and when you took that little boy away they were beside themselves …”

“What do you mean?” Rita cut in before she had a chance to carry on.

“Well, you weren’t here of course. You’d taken him all the way to Greece, but I was the one having to console them when they were missing him.”

“You could have bloody well fooled me!” Rita snapped, unable to put up with her aunty’s venom any longer. “My dad couldn’t get rid of him quick enough. He was too frightened of him cramping his style. So don’t you go telling me they were pining for him! And as for you; we only bloody see you at weddings and funerals.”

Her aunty was speechless following this outburst. Rita was about to continue but, before she could say any more, she felt a tug on her arm.

“Rita, didn’t you want to go and talk to John and his new wife?” asked Julie. “There’s nobody with them now. Come on while we’ve got a chance.”

Julie’s words brought Rita to her senses. She stood up, grabbed her handbag, slammed her chair underneath the table and walked away with Julie. As they were walking off, Rita could hear her aunty shouting after her, “That child should be here with his family; not miles away, living with a load of strangers. What you did was wicked!”

“Did you hear that?” Rita asked Julie, “The cheeky cow!” Rita turned, about to retaliate, but Julie kept a tight grip on her arm.

“Don’t rise to it, Rita. Don’t let her spoil your brother’s wedding. If you go back, you’ll be letting her win. Come on!”

For a few moments Rita hovered, indecisive, but Julie’s insistent tugging at her arm persuaded her to keep walking. Rita didn’t head straight for John and his bride though. She was too annoyed, and needed to calm down first. She and Julie made their way outside the room where they found some ladies’ toilets in a different part of the hotel. Rita wanted to vent her anger without being overheard.

Once they were inside, they checked the cubicles. While Julie tapped on each of the doors to make sure they weren’t occupied, Rita hammered and kicked at them. It was her way of letting go of her rage at the same time. She had just moved away from one cubicle and was attacking the next one when the door opened. A young woman emerged looking terrified. Without making eye contact, and not even stopping to wash her hands, she swiftly exited the ladies’ toilets.

“Bloody hell, Rita; you’ve frightened the life out of the poor sod!” said Julie.

This realisation caused a break in the tension and Rita stopped kicking at the doors, “I’m sorry, Julie. I didn’t mean to go off on one. But thanks for pulling me away; it’s a good job you did.”

“I know you, Rita. I could see she was annoying you.”

Rita fished inside her bag for her cigarettes and lighter while sounding off to Julie, “She’s a cheeky cow! What business is it of hers? I wouldn’t mind but when I was at home she hardly ever came to see my mam and dad, so what would she know?”

Julie gave her time to let off steam. They knew each other so well that Julie could predict exactly how she would react. After a few minutes of venting, she began to settle down, “Eh, I hope Yansis and Vinny were alright being left with her.”

“Don’t worry about them two; I’m sure they can handle her. She probably went off with her tail between her legs once you’d given her a piece of your mind.”

“I’m not so sure, Julie. She’s a nasty old bitch by all accounts.” Rita then apologised again, now she was feeling calmer. “I’m sorry Jules, I didn’t mean to go off on one.”

“It’s OK, Rita. It wasn’t your fault; I’d have felt the same.”

“Look, I’m not gonna let that evil old cow get to me. This is our John’s wedding and I’m gonna bloody well enjoy it.”

And she meant what she said. Once she had finished her cigarette and calmed herself down, they returned to the reception, passing her dad on the way. She couldn’t fail to miss him; he was so loud. But she wasn’t going to let that worry her.

She could have become irritable watching him make an arse of himself, boasting loudly about his latest scam, but she wouldn’t. She could have focused on her dead sister, but she wouldn’t. No, she was going to make the best of things. After all, that was what she had come back to Manchester for: to enjoy her brother’s wedding. With that in mind, she and Julie went off to chat to Rita’s brother and to introduce themselves properly to Paula.

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‘Danger by Association’ is already available in print from Amazon. The Kindle version will launch on 24th June, but you can pre-order your copy here.

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Why Thinking Time is Important for Authors

Recently, while writing my third novel, I reached a bit of a standstill. I was following the outline that I had written but it felt a little like painting by numbers, and I didn’t have the enthusiasm that I had for A Gangster’s Grip. In fact, because of this situation I had put off writing for a few days.

With my first two books I was so enthusiastic that the ideas were spilling out of me. I would wake up with an idea for a scene later on in the book or it would form while I was out at the shops or taking a shower. However, with my third novel things were different. 18,000 words in and this still wasn’t happening. To complicate matters, I needed to do some primary research but I didn’t want it to halt my flow while I was waiting for the answers.

What if

Thinking TimeIn my search for inspiration I started reading a James Patterson novel and going over some of the notes from my writing course, but it still wasn’t happening. So, I put the books to one side, lay down on my bed, shut my eyes and thought about the plot so far.

What had happened up to now? What direction was the novel heading in? How could I inject some suspense and excitement on the way to reaching my final destination (as I already had the ending worked out)? How could I write my way around the scenes requiring research while I awaited answers to my research questions?

N.B. You’ll note that I refer to ‘scenes’ rather than ‘chapters’ because I like to think of ‘scenes’ while I am writing. This helps me to visualise what is taking place. I haven’t yet allocated chapters but I will come to that later. With my first two books I divided them into chapters as I went along but then found that I had to make some alterations at the end, so I’m trying a slightly different approach this time.

Whilst lying on my bed I went over the scenes I had already written in my mind. Then I started thinking about the scenes that were to follow. I decided to write the next scene based on assumptions but highlight it so that I could easily make changes once I had received the answers to my research questions. Once I had decided how to go forward with that scene, I found that the rest fell into place, and ideas started to form for subsequent scenes. I picked up my small notepad and within a half hour I had several pages of notes.

 

Notepad

That half hour or so was worth so much more than hours spent at a computer keyboard willing the ideas to come. It’s great to be able to sit at the computer and hammer away on the keys when you already have a few pages of notes to guide you along. The notes should keep me going for a few more thousand words but if I come unstuck again, I’ll try employing the same tactic.

I’d love to hear from other authors regarding this topic. Have you ever come across a similar problem and, if so, how have you tackled it?

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Are Big Publishers Compromising their Authors?

I read a book recently by one of my favourite thriller writers but was disappointed because it wasn’t up to his usual standard. The book extended to 500 pages in print but I felt that it should have been no longer than 250 – 300 pages. At 250 – 300 pages it would have been a good book but for me there were too many forced twists that were unconvincing.

To illustrate my point, here is a brief synopsis:

The protagonist worked for a protection agency in the US and he was assigned to protect a family from someone who wanted to obtain information bypolice-man-standing-smiling-12425-svg violent means. At first it was suspected that the father would have the requisite information as he was a law enforcement officer but it transpired that it wasn’t him. It may have been a convincing twist if played only once but that twist was carried out repeatedly. The author worked his way through each member of the family, four of them altogether, until eventually the person holding the information turned out to be the 16 year old daughter. Without all these unnecessary additional twists it could still have been a very good plot, which leads me to believe that the fault doesn’t lie with the author.

It isn’t the first time I have noticed this; the same thing has happened with other good authors. When I checked out the reviews of this particular book they reiterated what I was thinking and cited examples of other popular and talented authors where this sort of thing had happened. I’m not convinced that it’s because the author has run out of ideas. Take the above example; it would still have been a good book if it had been much shorter. No, I think the problem may lie with the publishers and here’s why:

When I studied for my writing course many years ago we learnt the way in which the major publishing houses operate. Once an author has signed up with them they will require the author to produce a set number of books over a certain time period and will also specify the required minimum word count per book. Therefore, on occasion authors may be forced to stretch a plot beyond the bounds of credibility.Clipartsalbum_16620 Books

At that time (about 15 years ago) I was informed by my tutor that publishers wouldn’t consider any novel of less than 80,000 words. In fact, the trend was for novels in excess of 100,000 words. I don’t know what the current requirements are but, in view of the above, I wonder whether these are still the same.

While I would be I liar if I said that I wouldn’t consider going with a traditional publisher if I was to be given the opportunity, the above is one of the factors that I would have to think long and hard about. Here are some other factors that are worth considering should you decide to follow the traditional publishing route:

  • How do the royalties compare to the rate you receive as an independent author?
  • Would any increase in sales compensate for the fact that this rate would be substantially less than the rate of 70% (in most cases and after VAT) currently enjoyed by authors independently published through Amazon?
  • How much promotion would your publishers undertake on your behalf?
  • Would your book be stocked by major book store chains?
  • Would you have any say in the choice of book cover design and the book’s title?
  • How much advance would you receive?
  • How long would you have to wait for your royalty payments?
  • What would the time lapse be between completion of the book and publication date?
  • Would you be expected to make public appearances etc.?

What ifFor anybody who is offered a contract with a major publishing house it is easy to become so carried away with the excitement that you lose objectivity and don’t think about all the implications. As independent authors we have autonomy and are used to making all the decisions ourselves. I therefore think it is important not to lose sight of this and I wonder how it would feel to have all of these decisions taken out of our hands.

On the one hand it would perhaps free up more time to focus on writing because you might get more help with editing, proofreading, formatting and promotion. However, on the other hand, how would it feel to be told, for example, that you couldn’t use your own title for your own book?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

My First Kindle Countdown Experience

From 20th November until 22nd November I had my first Kindle Countdown promotion for my novel SLUR, pricing the book at 99p in the UK and $0.99 in the US. My objective was to increase visibility, particularly in the US as the bulk of my sales to date had been in the UK. I also wanted to sell more copies of SLUR. With this being my first KCD I made a few mistakes but learnt a lot as well. I am hoping that by sharing my experience, other people may be able to learn from it too.

Visibillity

In order to raise awareness about my KCD I put notifications on social media including a few readers’ groups. I also posted notifications on several sites offering free advertisements and took out two paid advertisements. As far as I am aware only two of the free advertisements were posted during the KCD and unfortunately one of those advertised the book as free.

A Few Problems

On the first day of my KCD there were no sales at all and I managed to work myself up into a frenzy when I noticed that Amazon.com were advertising the book at $1.55. As I didn’t want to mislead any potential purchasers I quickly wrote to the advertising sites and asked them to change the price. At the same time I queried this with Amazon and was later told that the reason the price showed at $1.55 was because I had set the start time for my UK promotion a few hours earlier than my US promotion. I honestly couldn’t remember because I had set up the KCD several weeks before, but I had obviously done it because of the different time zones. Amazon had therefore adjusted the price in line with the UK price.

Even when the start of my US promotion kicked in, I was still viewing the price on Amazon.com as $1.55. Amazon assured me that it was because I was viewing from the UK and they sent me screenPanic shots to verify that the price showed at $0.99 in the US. Although this was a relief it meant I had to send another email to the advertising sites telling them to keep the price at $0.99.

The other problem that was stressing me out was the fact that the screen (Amazon.com) was constantly trying to reload when I attempted to view the Kindle version of my book. I was obviously concerned because I knew that this would make it extremely difficult for anybody to download the book, and I felt that most people would give up.

I want to thank Martina Munzittu, Pauline Wiles and Alice Huskisson for putting my mind at ease. Martina was particularly helpful and I hope she didn’t mind fielding my constant panics. Big thanks too to Pauline for checking the US site and reassuring me that there was no problem with uploading the book there. Thanks also to everybody who retweeted about my promotion.

Paid Advertising

DollarsIt wasn’t until the end of the second day that my US sales started to kick in. This was in fact the day when my advertisement on the most popular site went out. I won’t disclose which site it was because different things work for different people and genres, so I don’t want to push anyone into something that might not work for them. If anyone wants to email me (dianewriting@gmail.com) for the details though, I’ll happily oblige.

My second day was a Friday and I was actually out in the evening (I needed a drink after all the stress). When I returned home at 12, I checked my downloads a couple of times. The books were downloading at a rate of four every half hour and had reached 35 by the time I went to bed. I therefore expected them to reach over 100 by the time I checked again the following day. I knew that the advertising site sent an email newsletter out late in the evening and thought that perhaps some UK subscribers might open it on the Saturday. However, I was a little disappointed to find that the total downloads for the Friday reached 58. I can only assume that they slowed down as it reached evening in the US with it being a Friday.

Saturday was the last day of my promotion and although I didn’t have any advertising that day I had a further 18 downloads and one borrow. However, these were all from the US and none of them were from the UK. I mistakenly thought that the advertising sites had subscribers from both territories but apparently not.

Sales Rank

In terms of rank, the book did very well. The best overall rank that it achieved in all paid books in the US was #3456. For individual categories, the highest ranks that SLUR achieved were as follows:

Kindle> Mystery, Thriller and Suspense> Thrillers> Historical #10

Kindle> Mystery, Thriller and Suspense> Thrillers> Crime #67

Books> Literature & Fiction> Genre Fiction> Historical> Thrillers #28Sales Slump

The day after my promotion ended I had one sale and one borrow in the US followed by another sale the day after and another borrow the day after that. SLUR then dropped out of the top 100 for all categories and I haven’t had any US sales since. However, I’m still getting the odd borrow so my sales spike must somehow have meant that SLUR is now visible in the Kindle Lender’s Library. I have no idea how that works or how it impacts on rank. N.B. All these figures refer to US downloads. None of this promotional activity affected my UK sales at all.

Lessons Learnt

1. Don’t panic. Amazon.com looks completely different from the UK than it does in the US.

2. Not all paid ads are useful but some of them really pay off. With time I will learn which ones give the best returns.

3. I need to find more advertising sites that are specific to the UK. Tips anyone?

4. In my opinion social media is not near as effective as it was a couple of years ago for book promotions. Perhaps this is down to the fact that it is becoming saturated with book promotions, or perhaps people respond more readily to free book promotions rather than promotions for cut priced books. It may also be down to the fact that in fiction terms I am still relatively unknown.

5. A KCD alone will give a short-term spike in sales but for long-term gains it has to be combined with other promotional efforts.

6. It would have been better to run my most fruitful paid ad at the weekend.

7. To maintain a top 20 position in even one of my chosen categories in the US I would probably have to be selling about 50 copies of SLUR a day. Unfortunately there aren’t any less competitive categories that fit my book’s genre.

Thought Sharing

I would love to hear your views on Kindle Countdowns especially if you are experienced in running this type of promotion. What was your experience like and do you think KCDs are effective as a promotional tool?

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Slur Chapter 2

Here is chapter 2 of Slur. If you missed the blog post showing chapter one, you can find it here or read the pdf, which you can find on the books page of my website at: http://www.dianemannion.co.uk/books.html. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the box that reads, ‘Read a sample chapter’.

I have now fixed my official launch date as Friday 19th September and I’ll be throwing a big online launch party with competitions and great prizes. For those that can’t make the Friday, I’ll be re-running some of the competitions on Saturday 20th September, because most of the competition answers don’t have to be in straightaway.

If you’re tempted by the first two chapters of Slur and don’t want to wait till launch date, the book is already available to purchase online at: http://viewbook.at/Slur.

SLUR – Chapter 2

Friday 20th June 1986Make-up

It was Friday night, the big night out of the week. Julie was sitting at her dressing table putting the finishing touches to her hair and make-up. When she was satisfied that she had achieved the desired result, she pouted her lips and kissed her reflection in the mirror, saying, ‘you’re gonna knock ’em dead tonight – you sexy beast.’ She was disturbed by the sound of a, ‘tut tut’ coming from the doorway of her room. It was her mother, Betty.

‘Julie Quinley, I don’t know. You get dafter by the minute. When you’ve finished dolling yourself up, Rita’s downstairs waiting for you.’

Julie took no offence at Betty’s comments as she was accustomed to their friendly banter. She turned in her chair, gave her mother a beaming smile, then dashed across the room and planted a kiss on her cheek, saying, ‘Here I go, don’t wait up!’

She headed downstairs to find Rita in the hallway. As they greeted each other, Betty passed them on her way to the living room. Julie stepped away from Rita, allowing her mother to pass. As she did so, she noticed what Rita was wearing. “My God, she’s really gone to town this time!” she thought, observing Rita’s white lycra mini skirt, low cut red top and towering, white stiletto heels.

‘You look nice Rita,’ she commented politely.

‘Oh thanks,’ Rita replied, preening herself.

Julie then heard the sound of voices coming from the living room. She put her fingers to her lips, motioning Rita to keep quiet as she led her towards the living room door while they listened in on Bill and Betty’s conversation.

‘She’s at it again, is she?’ Bill asked.

‘Aye, she’s only kissing the bleedin’ mirror now. I swear she gets more puddled by the minute that girl,’ replied Betty, in an amused tone.

Julie looked at Rita and managed to stifle a giggle as she heard her father grumble, ‘I can’t understand it me, young women out till all hours of the night up to God knows what, and with all these dubious characters hanging about.’

‘Yes, I know your feelings Bill, you have mentioned it once or twice.’

‘Well, she’s twenty years of age for God’s sake! She should be married with a family now, not stuck in some nightclub getting drunk, with a load of riffraff!’

Julie held up her hand for Rita to see as she formed the shape of a mouth opening and shutting, in imitation of her father’s familiar complaining.

‘She’ll have plenty of time for settling down when she’s had a bit of fun and built up a career for herself,’ Betty replied. ‘A lot of women don’t even think about having children until they are in their thirties these days. Anyway, she’s got her head screwed on the right way. She won’t do anything daft.’

‘Huh,’ was Bill’s response, followed by silence.

Julie and Rita backed away. Julie then opened the front door and they stepped out into the street, shutting the door as quietly as possible so that Julie’s parents would be unaware of their eavesdropping. As soon as they were outside, they gave in to uncontrolled laughter.

‘I bet your mam was a right one in her day!’ giggled Rita.

‘She might have been, given half a chance.’

Julie thought about her mother and the tale she had told her many times about her married life. Times had been hard for Betty when she got wed and their finances were fully stretched after Julie’s birth. Therefore, they decided to postpone extending their family until they could afford it.

When Julie was in school, Betty found herself a job in a store in order to bring in some extra income. After a few years of being stuck at home, Betty was a bit apprehensive at first, but she soon settled in and made lots of new friends. This in turn improved her social life and she began to relish her newfound freedom. After that, there never seemed to be an appropriate time to have more children.

However, as Betty reached her thirties and sensed her biological clock ticking away, the desire grew to extend her family before her time ran out. This resulted in the birth of Clare, twelve years Julie’s junior, and now a likeable, sweet girl of eight.

Although Betty was immensely proud of both her daughters, at times she regretted not doing more with her life, and every time Julie thought about her mother’s lack of achievements, she was determined not to make the same mistakes.

As Julie and Rita made their way up the street, on the way to their friend Debby’s house, the familiar clickety clack of high heels reverberated on the pavements.

Julie’s home was in a street full of three bedroom semis in a Manchester suburb. Many of the houses looked dreary and run down, a result of the poverty in the area. The home of Bill and Betty Quinley, however, was one of the more presentable houses in the street. The front garden was well tended and baskets of bright blooms hung at either side of the front door.

Julie’s sister, Clare, and her friends, who were playing further up the street, paused in their play as Julie and Rita approached. For a group of eight year olds, the image of Julie and Rita dressed to go out was a sight to behold, and they gazed in awe as the two older girls walked by.

‘Bye our Julie,’ shouted Clare.

‘Bye sweetheart. I’ll see you in the morning and don’t forget to be a good girl for mam and be in at eight o’clock.’

‘I won’t,’ said Clare, full of respect for Julie who she saw as a role model.

Julie couldn’t help but swell with pride as she sensed the idolatry glances of the young girls, and caught snippets of their conversation on passing.

‘Wow Clare, I wish I could go out all dressed up like your Julie, wearing make-up and everything!’

‘Our Julie lets me wear her make-up sometimes.’

Julie turned to Rita and they smiled at each other on hearing these childish comments. They looked an oddly matched pair: Julie, tall and elegant, and Rita, who was just a year older than Julie, smaller, brasher and louder in every sense of the word. Julie, although slim, was also curvaceous and well proportioned. Her features were sharp but nonetheless attractive.

She usually opted for the sexy but sophisticated look, and tonight she was wearing a shortish pale blue skirt with a matching fitted jacket, which bore the popular shoulder pads of the eighties. She wore the customary white stiletto heels and had a white leather handbag to match. Her make-up was subtle and served to define her striking features, and her blond hair was naturally wavy.

As they rounded the corner at the top of the street, Rita opened up the conversation, by talking about her day at work, which was at a food factory.

‘Me and Debby were talking to Charlie at work today. He’s a card! He told us this joke…What’s white and slides across the dance-floor?’ Then, pausing for effect, she added, ‘Come dancing,’ the double entendre being a reference to a popular TV dancing show around that time. ‘Well, that was it! We couldn’t stop laughing after that. The slightest thing set us off.’

They both laughed at this and Julie replied, unwittingly. ‘Oh I wish I worked somewhere like that Rita. It sounds as though you have a great time.’

‘Why not?’ Rita replied enthusiastically. ‘I can let you know when there’s any vacancies. You should get a good reference from your place and you’ll soon learn the ropes. There’s not much to it really and I can put in a good word for you so it won’t matter if you haven’t got any experience.’

Julie was a bit taken aback by this as deep down she saw herself as being a bit above factory work, but she didn’t quite know how to put her thoughts into words without offending her longstanding friend. So she replied with caution.

‘I’d love to, but I don’t want to waste my qualifications.’

‘Come off it Julie, what’s a couple of ‘O’ levels? Besides, if you decide you don’t like it at the factory, you can always go back to office work. Anyway, you’re a bloody receptionist for Christ’s sake. You’re hardly gonna qualify for the High Achievers Award, are you? I mean to say, I earn more than you do.’

Julie resented Rita’s views concerning her choice of career, but tried not to show it. Despite her resentment, she appreciated Rita’s open and frank manner, which she had been grateful for in the past, so she maintained a cautious approach.

‘It’s what it can lead to that matters. I could do a course in computers or something.’

‘Like as if. You’re too busy enjoying yourself to stick a college course. Besides, I could do a course in computers, come to that.’

Julie didn’t wish this to escalate into a full-blown argument but felt that she must assert herself, so she replied, ‘You haven’t got the ‘O’ levels or the office experience.’ Then, realising that she was now becoming a bit confrontational, she tried to lighten the conversation by joking, ‘Anyway, the talents always a bonus.’

Rita, however, was not so easy to pacify. ‘Come off it. All men who work in offices are bloody wimps! You can’t beat a bloke with a good trade. That’s what my dad says and it’s true.’

‘What’s the use of a good trade if there’s no work around for them?’

‘Oh that’s just temporary. They’ll be all right now we’re getting over the recession. It’s all down to that bleedin’ Maggie Thatcher anyway.’

‘Well while all your blokes with a trade are still busy looking for work, there’s blokes being promoted at our place.’

‘Yes blokes, exactly! Anyway, Vinny’s a builder isn’t he and there’s nowt wrong with him?’

Knowing the mood that Rita was in, Julie guessed at what was to follow, and she was reluctant to discuss the subject of her boyfriend Vinny.

‘Yes, he’s all right, I suppose.’

‘But?’ prompted Rita.

‘Well, I just wish he had a bit more ambition, that’s all.’

‘You know your trouble Julie? You don’t know when you’re lucky. Vinny’s gorgeous. Loads of girls fancy him. I wouldn’t kick him out of bed myself! He’s got his own place, and he’s good between the sheets, from what you’ve told me.’

Julie smiled, amused at her friend’s audacity. ‘Well he does know which buttons to press and when to press them, but there’s more to life than sex you know Rita.’

‘Oh yeah? Well when you find it let me know, and I’ll have a double helping,’ Rita quipped.

As Julie laughed, she turned to Rita and said. ‘Let’s stop being so bleedin’ serious! It’s Friday night for Christ’s sake! We’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves, not putting the world to rights.’

Rita decided that she had made her point anyway, so there was nothing to be gained in pursuing the matter. ‘Yeah, you’re right Jules. Come on, let’s go for it.’

They carried on walking for a few moments before Julie asked Rita, ‘What time are we supposed to be at Debby’s house?’

‘Dizzy Debby?  Oh I said it would be about seven by the time we got there.’

‘Don’t be rotten. She can’t help being a bit slow at times.’

‘It’s all right, she’s used to being called Dizzy Debby. It’s her nickname at work. Anyway, there’s an offy on the way so we can grab some booze and have a few before we go and meet your friends. Eh, I tell you what Julie, we’d better make sure we give your friend Amanda a good time, seeing as how it’s her birthday night out.’

‘Don’t worry, we will,’ replied Julie with a smile.

When they reached Debby’s house, it was Debby who answered the door and led them straight up to her bedroom. Her home was in complete contrast to the one that Julie had just left, and the décor was shabby and dated. Julie recoiled as they passed the bathroom and smelt the pungent aroma that emanated from it. She looked at Rita for her reaction, but Rita didn’t respond. Julie wondered why; could it be that Rita was used to it so it didn’t bother her. “No,” she chided herself. “Rita’s home might be a bit untidy, but it was certainly a lot cleaner than this one.

Julie could see that Debby was excited about the forthcoming night out and was anxious to get started. When they entered her bedroom she noticed Debby already had three half pint glasses ready and the sound of Luther Vandross was blasting out of the stereo.

‘Don’t your parents mind you having your music that loud?’ asked Julie.

‘No, they have the bloody tele so loud, they can’t hear it anyway.’

‘Mine are as bad,’ said Rita. ‘Ever since my dad came home from the pub with that dodgy VCR he’s been like a bleedin’ kid with a new toy.’

LagerThe girls seated themselves and began to pour the cans of lager. Julie pretended not to notice the greasy marks that covered the glasses. She inwardly cringed on observing Debby’s choice of clothing, accessories and make-up, but was too considerate to comment. Everything about Debby was overstated, from her fluffy bright blond hair to her fashion sense. All of her clothes were in vivid colours, uncoordinated and clung perilously to her large breasts and rotund hips.

The girls settled down with their drinks and began to discuss music, fashions and other topics of mutual interest. At eight o’clock, in a more animated state than when Julie and Rita had arrived, they set out, giggling, towards the nearby bus stop in order to make the trip to the city centre which was just a few stops away. When they got off the bus they had a short walk to the pub where they had agreed to meet two of Julie’s workmates, Amanda and Jacqueline, at eight thirty. While they were walking along, they spotted two policemen just ahead of them.

‘I think it’s time we had a bit of fun!’ said Rita.

 ———————–

I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be publishing the agenda for the online launch party a couple of weeks beforehand. We’ve got lots of fun lined up so if you can’t make the full day you might want to choose which events you want to take part in.