Back to cosy and off to the Canaries

thirteen fourteen kindleTomorrow Thirteen Fourteen Maids a-Courting sidles into the family—sidles, because it only officially joins the gang on May 1st. There was a time when I was truly organized, and had interview launches in blogs much more widely read than this one, and begged my beta readers to give me reviews (good or, gulp, bad). When I asked people buying at the introductory price to please spread the word. When I even sacrificed one of the earlier books as a freebie to whip up excitement in the series as a whole.

You can of course only do that so many times before you exhaust all your options and become too shy to ask again. I’m no longer remotely organized, and when Eleven Twelve scrambled aboard in breathless haste, making its vital Halloween date by the skin of its fangs, it did so with hardly any launch help at all. It had to make its own friends (and enemies, sadly, but it was controversial, and although I titled it appropriately, and put a warning in the Amazon blurb, and even in the book itself, I managed to shock and upset a couple of readers) with very little support from me. I am rubbish at marketing. My skills boil down to a blog or two, offering a lower price for a few days, and intermittent tweets.  Oh, and crossing my fingers.

That may be about to change at some time, as I’ve heard about a cooperative indies group which combines publishing forces. Some indies could sell bibles to atheists. Some can edit, some can illustrate, and some are a fund of good advice and experience. Gathering a good group, where the members take on each other’s books and burnish them to a brilliant shine, then work together to market them, is probably the only way to survive and grow in a flood of millions (literally millions) of books where the best are often unrecognized, the worst give us all a bad name, and some diamonds in the rough never get to shine as they could.

I’m not being coy about the name of the group, just cautious: I want to find out more before I start wholesale recommendations. I’ve heard they are extremely picky about the books they take on which sounds both promising and, of course, alarming. Perfect world, I’d want them to consider one of my books (which are brilliant) as a borderline decision, because their portfolio is that good.

Until then, I’m still paddling the indie canoe, telling you that you really, really want to buy Thirteen Fourteen and you can pre-order tonight at promotion price, buy it from tomorrow on promotion price, or wait until it goes to the usually tooth-thirteen fourteen kindlerattling full price on May 1st. It is sunny, and cheerful, and mostly far from Scotland, set as it is in Tenerife: back to cosy, while still being true to our rather alarming world: and fun. Trust me. Gamble your 99c. Pack your sun-cream. Go on holiday.

Just click on the cover.

Going bananas

The die is cast, and Thirteen Fourteen Maids A-Courting has been loaded on Amazon, officially publishing on May 1st, unofficially available a few days before that, at the pre-release price which is a touch under what you would donate at the office for the birthday of someone you barely know.  Here’s a thought. Buy them my book instead?

You can pre-order by clicking on this cover pic on most Amazon sites, then you won’t miss the intro price. The cover was created by Lacey O’Connor from a photo I took of Los Gigantes, a fairly typical Tenerife picture.

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However, this isn’t the blog where I nestle on your lap and try to slip my hand in your pocket. That follows in a couple of days and shouldn’t be missed. This is a blog for those who haven’t been to Tenerife and might be intrigued enough by my descriptions of the banana plantations to want to look up a few photos.

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You won’t find many. For some inexplicable reason the plantations, which are everywhere and spectacular, are not on websites. Since they fascinated me, and play a distinct role in the book, there was nothing for it but to produce a banana plantation blog, even though I am a poor photographer with a cheap camera and an unrivalled genius for capturing unwanted poles, overhead wires and bits of cars.

Tenerife is a volcanic island, and there are very few places where you aren’t on a slope. As bananas are conservative, and like life on the level, the plantations have to be built up to keep them as flat as a billiard table. The retaining walls are often built of volcanic rock, and the effect is extraordinary. Once you are out of the tourist centres, they are everywhere, even cheek by jowl with built-up (non-tourist) areas.

Some plantations are neatly terraced. Some are neglected. Some balance on the edge of ravines (it is a challenging landscape, once away from the beaches) and others line the highway. They’re quite something.

Introducing the banana plantations of Tenerife.

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Oh, why not. A mountain and ravine as well. In for a penny, in for a pound. It isn’t a pretty place. More – gobsmacking.

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Steampunk rocks

You know when you buy a new car and suddenly start noticing how many of the same colour or make are on the road? I own a Toyota IQ and would have sworn I had never seen one before I bought mine. Well, they aren’t all over the place, but I’ve seen several since. (The other ones are usually tidier. And cleaner.)

It was the same when I started writing my steampunk novella. It has pretty much grown organically, one of those books that wakes you up in the middle of the night with a must-not-forget idea, and I would have sworn there was hardly a book out there in the genre. Huh. Hundreds, that’s all.

The most frustrating thing about the genre is the number of people determined to put it in a box, label it, and give it rules. If I mention it, on Twitter especially, you may be sure at least two people will sternly tell me which guideline books I must read first.

Okay, my usual books are whodunits and there is most definitely a set of rules for classic detective fiction, but (a) that’s been hugely popular for a hundred years and more and (b) the rules are actually way more flexible!

Steampunk has to have Victorian clothing? Come on. Brass and clockwork? Surely optional. It just hasn’t been around long enough to have such dull restrictions. For my money, there is steam technology, there is exuberance, and there is an SF overlap that takes it out of the Victorian / historical era. THAT’s steampunk.  At its best it is absolutely joyful.

Anyway, Place is out with my wonderful, brilliant, long-suffering readers at the moment. So far so good, the feedback is very positive (albeit occasionally puzzled, especially with the regular whodunit beta readers).

Here’s the cover and the planned blurb. I’d love your comments. Just don’t tell me I broke the rules. I didn’t break my rules!

No Place like Place_kindleA laughing love affair was the very last thing Abby expected to enjoy on Place, an unfashionable planet with a tiny mining community. She’d been told the community had a decidedly retro lifestyle, the bugs were as long as your arm, the camels looked as though they were on steroids,  and the neighbours were stone-age goblins, but no-one had mentioned the rather yummy Brad. Her doctor had tried to offer a thread of hope when he recommended Place; life in a dead-and-alive backwater was her last hope of survival. Young, adventurous, not prepared to write off her only option without a fight, she reluctantly agreed. She hadn’t expected to find a life that would utterly delight her.

She also hadn’t been told about the Talia, because no-one knew about them. They were several thousand years away in space and time, and no-one in Place would ever suspect their existence, but the Talia were even more interested in Place than she was.

This light-hearted steampunk novel, first in a mini-series of three, introduces the eccentrics and absurdities of life set in a future our great-grandchildren will know, but lived in a way our great-grandparents would have found more familiar.  

The Talian story is entirely separate and the chapters headed with their spaceship can be skipped altogether without affecting the main story.  SF fans, though, should enjoy the double thread.