Wednesday, 22 March 2017

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

With both Mother's Day and Easter galloping towards us at great pace, retail businesses are falling over themselves to offer us the best deals so I have an excellent selection of money-saving offers and discount codes for you this month.

I'm starting with a generous 35% off promotion at The Body Shop, but you need to get your skates on to take advantage of this offer because it finishes at 9am on the 27th of March. Use checkout code 14666 to activate your discount. Certain product ranges are excluded from the offer so do double check first to avoid disappointment! Further details are available on The Body Shop website.

New accessories retailer FY stocks an eclectic range of jewellery, beauty products, home decor and stationery items. Featured in lifestyle magazines including Stylist, Vogue, BuzzFeed and Sleek. FY is the perfect place to shop for a fashionista Mum! Even better, you will get free worldwide delivery for whatever you choose to order and, if you sign up to the FY newsletter before placing your first order, you will be entitled to a 10% discount. Check out FY's Mother's Day selection and maybe pick up a treat for yourself too.

If spring weather has your thoughts turning to the great outdoors then this Alloutdoor offer might appeal. Whether you’re off for a short weekend break or a lengthy cross country journey, Alloutdoor have the products you need. With over a decade of experience founded on a passion for adventure they know the value of the right gear for the right job and have individually selected the best brands and products from around the world to ensure you have the essentials at your fingertips. From tents to backpacks, clothing to accessories, you can find pretty much everything you need here and get a 5% sitewide discount with the checkout code ALLOUTDOOR5 which is valid for all customers throughout March. Happy travels!

Homewares, jewellery, gifts and clothing with a luxurious and historical theme can be found at Museum Selection which is a beautiful website I recently discovered. They offer worldwide shipping and I love the gorgeous designs of far too many items here! As a seasonal incentive, Museum Selection are offering a 10% discount for new customers across their website shop. Simply use the discount code SPR17. I'm not sure how long this code is valid for though so don't wait too long to take advantage.

And I think I will finish up with a superb Easter chocolate offer from Thornton's. If you're the type of person who can do their Easter egg shopping ahead of time and NOT then need to do it all over again just before the day itself - that's so not me then! -  hop over to this Special Offer page where a variety of chocolate eggs and Easter treats are 2 for £10 or a generous 5 for £20. The choice includes filled dark, white and milk chocolate personalised eggs and very cute milk or white chocolate rabbits.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

A Sunday afternoon cycle - Vinaros to Cases

Machine gun post near Cases 
We cycled all the way to Catalonia today! Yay us!
Admittedly this feat only actually meant about a three hour pedalling round trip, but it was fun to pass under the Welcome to Catalonia signpost on the N340.

We drove from Calig and parked near the outward point of our previous Benicarlo to Vinaros cycle so we could continue along this stretch of the coast. It was a glorious day so the promenades and restaurants were packed. Fortunately the car park is huge so we had no trouble finding a space and unfolding our bicycles. The route is on roads through the edge of town for the first 10-15 minutes which could have been hairy were we in the UK, but here drivers are patient with cyclists and gave us a wide berth when they did pass. Eventually, just after an uphill curve, we spotted the beginning of a dedicated cycle path and this continues all the way into Cases. There were stunning sea views all the way!

View from the Vinaros-Cases cycle path 
After detouring to zoom round a potential campsite for next year, Camping Estanyet, we pedalled into town. Cases was even busier than Vinaros. We paused at a little Tourist Office kiosk to pick up a couple of local hiking maps, pleasantly surprised at its being open on a Sunday, before continuing straight on as far as another campsite, Camping Cases, which didn't look as promising for future trips. We didn't immediately realise that this was about as far as we would get. We tried cycling further, but had to rejoin the N340 which was heading to a grim-looking industrial plant and wasn't fun. We decided to about turn and look for lunching opportunities in Cases.

It soon struck us that, while we might have enjoyed the excellent cycle path facility, we hadn't seen any bike stands or bike parking since Vinaros. A quick zoom around Cases revealed only one bike hoop which had a restaurant table so close to it as to be unusable. Despite many cyclists, there was nowhere to lock up bikes and weirdly, none chained to railings or lampposts either. Where were they all? Hmmm! Fortunately we hadn't been sure whether any food places would be open - they all were - so had packed an emergency apple! We ate this on the prom, hoping it would provide energy enough for our return to Vinaros.

Machine gun posts near Cases 
I was intrigued by the sight of these two Civil War machine guns posts just outside Cases. We had seen them on the way in and couldn't work out why they were just offshore. You can see in the first photo that Curious Dave nearly got his feet wet in reaching one to peer inside! According to a handy signboard (in four languages!) the concrete emplacements originally faced out to sea from above the waterline and were part of extensive anti-fascist defences along the beach here. Since the 1930s, sea moving the shingle underneath has turned them around so they now seem to glare inland. As well as these two, there was another single post about half a mile further on.

Once back in Vinaros we were pretty tired. It turned out that the 'flat' cycle route had been slightly downhill on the way out! We thought again about lunch, but couldn't make a decision so instead treated ourselves to coffee and cake (and a caipirinha for Dave) at The Royal Bar before heading home.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Walking the PRV201 from Sant Mateu

We're into our last week at Camping l'Orangeraie now and have both loved this beautiful tranquil campsite. The glorious hot sunshine is an added bonus - we'd started to think the might be our first sun-free winter! On Thursday we returned to nearby Sant Mateu for a good tapas lunch at Bar Moderno in the Placa Major - I can recommend the delicious Ensalata Mixta - followed by what was supposed to be a 11k walk following in Roman footsteps and viewing the ruins of a medieval mill.

Our walk started out well. The route is the PRV201 (map and more info here) which has fairly frequent new signposts as well as yellow and white stripe markers. It starts out going away from the town along the Sendero Via Augusta from Placa de la Pietat in Sant Mateu where there is parking and a signboard showing a map of the town's several walking routes. Our first historical spot was the Pont de la Coma, a small old-looking bridge over a river that actually had water in it! (rare for this part of Spain!) The short concrete pillar you can see to the right of the bridge was moulded with the words 'VIA AUGUSTA' and its wheel symbol so we guessed there was a bridge or ford here in Roman times too - although this one looks more recent.

Pont de la Coma 
Moli Vell 
We continued a while longer, enjoying the scenery and pretty easy walking. Disappointingly though, shortly after crossing a larger road the PRV201 led up through a farmyard which had fenced across the path temporarily in order to move cattle. We decided to retrace our steps to the road and make a short detour. This cut across the middle of the walk meaning we missed out hill country views, but were able to proceed in the 'wrong' direction as far as the Moli Vell. This fifteenth century Old Mill is now in ruins and you can probably just make out its two stone constructions in this photo. It's big and sits above what is now a dried up rambla. We got a good idea of how fast water still flows along here in flood times though from the numerous tumbled boulders.

After exploring around the rambla for a while we turned back towards Sant Mateu and continued the walk as though we had done the whole loop, passing a spring and just about being overtaken by a jogger running much shorter loops up and down a steep hill - in this heat! We appreciated seeing a different aspect to this area from the coastal and agricultural areas.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Cycling from Benicarlo to Vinaros

Artichoke fields 
At the end of February I blogged about our day cycling from Benicarlo along the seafront to Peniscola. Now we have done the opposite journey - starting again at Benicarlo, but this time cycling to Vinaros. We anticipated similar scenery so were pleasantly surprised that our green route mostly sent us through agricultural land a little way back from the coast. At one point, all we could see between our cami and the sea was endless artichoke plants!

Vinaros experienced its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries when extensive fortifications and navy yards were built. Its prosperity continued for another two centuries thanks to ship building and Valencian wine trade, but the town suffered a strong decline in the early 20th century when phylloxera devastated the region's vineyards. Now Vinaros relies mostly on tourism and fishing. It's is known for its prawns and this industry is celebrated with a huge iron statue on the town outskirts by the bullring. The giant shrimp is the work of Lluiz Ferrer who lives nearby in Sant Jordi. If you visit Sant Jordi, apparently his is the madly painted house!

Giant shrimp sculpture by Lluiz Ferrer 
Do you see that gorgeous blue sky in the shrimp photo? This was taken about half past twelve and depicts the weather as it had been all morning. We kept cycling along the seafront promenade from the bullring and passed numerous cafes, restaurants and shops, most of which were open and busy. Once past this commercial area, we decided to keep cycling, crossing over a river and passing a motorhome freeloading area before we suddenly ran out of road. We could have turned into a residential area, but looking ahead across a small bay we realised that we couldn't see very far anymore! A thick sea mist was rolling in! I did take a photo, but it was so misty that the picture is just a grey square.

Vinaros seafront 
Somewhat disappointed, we headed back into Vinaros with out minds turning to lunch instead. After a brief stop for Dave to relax in a fabulous concrete seat - there are several of these along the promenade - we decided upon Cop De Mar as our lunch spot. Dave had chipirones and I had one of the best salads ever. When in Vinaros, eat Ensalata Mandragora at Cop De Mar!

Suitably refreshed, but getting a tad chilly from the encroaching mist, we did cycle round a little of Vinaros for a couple of blocks back from the seafront. It is a pretty town with decorated buildings and more sculptures in public spaces. I liked the fountain pictured below. We had to cut our meanderings short and head back to the car because we didn't fancy cycling in the thickest of the mist and it was showing no signs of dispersing. Once back inland at our campsite we had glorious sunshine again!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Top Five Etsy Finds - Daffodils

Edible Cake Toppers by CakeCandyCo 
I'm feeling distinctly springlike as I write this post and what could be more indicative of the season than great swathes of sunny yellow daffodils! I hope we return to the UK in time to see the displays this year. In the meantime though, I had took a scouting trip around Etsy and discovered in just how many inventive ways daffodil flowers can be recreated. If you're in need of unusual Mother's Day or Easter gifts, these five of my favourites might fit the bill.

First to catch my eye were these edible cake toppers at CakeCandyCo in West Kilbride. This particular Easter assortment includes 1 pink bunny rabbit, 1 yellow chick, 9 white daisies, 3 pink daisies, 6 yellow daffodils and 6 green leaves. Other packs solely contain daffodils and all the cake toppers are handmade from sugar paste (suitable for vegetarians and gluten free). The perfect adornment for homemade cupcakes!

The Easter Cake Decoration Pack is for sale at £8.99 plus shipping.

Daffodil Brooch by ElliesThingsShop 
Ellen Moore is the creative inspiration behind ElliesThingsShop in Dereham and I love what she makes by recycling drinks cans. Ellen says, "I love to upcycle materials that other people would throw away to create new beautiful things. The first things I made from cans were flat pieces of wall art, and I decided to make my art wearable and functional by branching out with some 3D brooches."
This little Daffodil Brooch measures just 6cm across and is wonderfully detailed. As well as a Spring gift, it would also be ideal as a 10th anniversary gift - the 10th is symbolised by tin! "The petals are cut from a yellow can. The trumpet is orange and I have added green leaves. I have cut and sculpted each piece to give the flower some depth. The stamens are resistors. The pieces are sewn together and I have backed it with yellow felt and a large brooch pin. The pin has a safety catch making it harder to lose."

The Daffodil Brooch is for sale at £20 plus shipping.

Daffodil Bouquet Necklace
by CarolSmalleyDesigns
For a bold and long-lasting statement necklace you need look no further than the beautiful craftwork of Carol Smalley at CarolSmalleyDesigns in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Carol has been making jewellery for many years and loves creating every piece. She is often inspired while walking her two gorgeous rescue dogs in country parks and woodland, using this time to take in the wonders of mother nature.
I love the intricacies of this Daffodil Bouquet Necklace which Carol crafted by hand. The lovely spring bouquet itself is 10cm tall and features variously sized lucite flowers in orange, yellow and white, together with faceted crystal rondelles and chartreuse coloured copper wire. Carol then handmade the jump rings and connected them to make the 45cm chain. Its clasp is also handmade.

The Daffodil Bouquet Necklace is for sale at £25 plus shipping.

Leather Daffodil Brooch by PresentPerfectStudio 
Another Daffodil Brooch which would make an ideal anniversary gift is this leather example - the 3rd anniversary is symbolised by leather. Created by Svetlana Faulkner at PresentPerfectStudio in Stamford, this stylised daffodil brooch has its own charm and character. It was expertly crafted using thin genuine leather in warm hues and is sure to brighten its recipient's day. Just pin this hand made piece of spring to your trench coat and enjoy! The daffodils have been hand made completely from scratch using real genuine leather in complementary colours. The daffodil brooch is not waterproof, can not be washed, dry cleaned, ironed or creased, but just requires handling with love and care. It measures about 11 cm across and it is finished with a secure brooch pin.

The Leather Daffodil Brooch is for sale at £120 plus shipping.

Felt Daffodil Bouquet by CharlieLaurieDesigns 
As a particular fan of textile arts, I couldn't complete this post without including this vibrant felt flower arrangement by Charlotte Laurie at CharlieLaurieDesigns of London. It's perfect for a spring wedding! The bouquet is made using yellow and green organic felts with yellow buttons and Charlotte says "it's just like a real life daffodil only it lasts a lot longer!" Each flower is 85mm in diameter and each arrangement contains six flowers and six leaves. Each arrangement is a one off made to order and other sizes and colours can be arranged on request.

The Felt Daffodil Bouquet is for sale at £34.99 plus shipping.

I hope you enjoyed this daffodil-themed post and, at the very least, you are now feeling in a Springtime mood too! This st does contain affiliate links so, should you be tempted to click through and make a purchase, I would receive a small percentage. Alternatively, if you are now inspired to sell your own creations, open yourself an Etsy shop through This Link Here and we'll both get 40 free listings!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Guest post: Basic PR on Social Media for Authors by Henry Roi

I saw the following essay on Liz McKeown's Creative Writer's Boost blog a few days ago. Liz is the author of indie novel Recycled Prisoners and I know Henry Roi from his PR work at Crime Wave Press. I've reviewed several good Crime Wave Press books on Literary Flits so was interested to read his take on indie and small press book publicity. Not being an author myself, the effort required for successful book marketing on no budget astounded me. Getting blog readers is tough enough and that's for just a few hundred words! There's far more to this authoring lark than 'just' writing a book. Henry proposed sharing his essay here too which I am delighted to do. Having blogged myself about finding indie author books from a reader's perspective, I can now turn the tables:

Basic PR on Social Media for Authors: no-cost marketing that works by Henry Roi

Here's the deal: You have a published book and you need to get sales. And you're full of questions.

What's the best way to promote a book? Do I need to hire a social media marketer or spend a lot of money advertising? How do I get book reviews and author interviews? Where do I start?

Finishing a book is a momentous event. All that work, the research and brainstorming, the writing and rewriting… and rewriting. The edits and queries and simultaneous submissions and rejection letters… and more rejection letters. Then, ding ding ding, you hit the Literary Lottery and sign the coveted Publisher’s Contract. Or, after the first couple of rejection letters, you completely freaked out and embarked on a different venture, studying every article and pro tip you can find on the very excellent alternative: self-publishing.

However you achieved it, you are done, and with a glance can walk past your bookshelf and snatch a taste of euphoria like a chocolate lover doing drivebys on a bottomless jar of M&Ms.

You can kick back, relax, enjoy the accolades and plan to spend your royalties in a place where your fame won't interfere with your privacy.

So, yeah. That's a bunch of (BLEEP). I'm glad you caught on. Since you're still rooted in reality (or recently returned…) let's get out our note pads and discuss a few things that will help you get yourself rocking - and your book rolling! - out there in the brutally competitive book market.

The best way to sell your book is by promoting yourself. A well-written, professionally edited book with a sharp cover graphic is important, of course. But no matter how good you write or how attention grabbing your book design is, if you aren't likable or don’t put in the work to make yourself available, your target audience will never discover you. You won't make sales. Your publisher won't, either.

Making you, the Author, marketable, is vital.

Let's say you aren't the type to go on book tours or can't afford it. You don't have an agent or anyone familiar with the business to pitch for you. You have social media accounts, though you aren't sure how to best use them. And even if you were an expert FB user, you have no idea how to sell yourself.

Shouldn’t I let the publisher handle all the PR?

No. You have to make yourself available to readers and genre fans. To do that you have to create content and get it circulating on social media, blogs, and in the search engines where your audience goes to hunt books. You want them to give a flip about another book (yours) in a market bursting with them.

Your publisher will appreciate the help. I've yet to hear of a publisher denying one of its authors marketing content. Always use their graphics and digital files, except when sharing your work from blogs or Amazon. Any posts, tweets, interviews, etc., your publisher has generated can be recycled. Keep a document for logging down the links and periodically re-publish them. If you are self-published, you can create high-res graphics on free-to-use websites.

My favorite is:
Another good source is:
Shop there for royalty-free, high-res graphics.

Don't ever use low-res graphics for promotions.

If you don't already have an Amazon Author Page, have a look at some from bestselling authors as references and set up your own. A polished bio no more than three paragraphs, a sharp, punchy book description, and upload your author photo. Just the one. No cars, siblings, spouses or pets. This is about you. Be sure to update the events section and share updates on your Facebook Author Page and Twitter account.

Yep. You need those, too. New ones. Again, have a look at the bestselling authors, see how their FB and Twitter accounts look before you do yours. Add your Amazon Author Page link in the caption of your cover banners. When someone clicks to view it, they'll see your link. It's also a rich spot for search engine indexes.

Let's assume you have the basic social media accounts ready for business. Now that you have them, when will you have time to work on them? Take a breath. Developing a search-and-share routine is the key to running multiple sites without ruining your eyes from screen time.

Stay off Facebook! You won't sell very many books there. You have to establish a daily routine, though, right? That takes time. Once you get faster, have your search-and-share spots mapped out, and know where to find friends lists to request-bomb, get through your routine and leave. Ignore all the fun stuff until you finish working.

Post daily. At least one post (don't spam your Author Page) about you, your personal interests - arts, hobbies, inspirations, etc. - excerpts from your book, and, of course, book reviews and author interviews. Don't use hashtags on FB book/author posts. Keep those clean with double spaced paragraphs and no typos.

Whoever likes or shares your posts or Page, reciprocate. Go to their Page or personal account and like or share something. Doing so will put your content - your future book promotions - in their news feed. Respond to all comments you receive. At least the bare minimum. If someone shares your post, say thank you or share one of theirs. Cultivate share/tag partnerships with as many as fifty friends, preferably ones that get a lot of traffic on their accounts. Tag them when you post promotions. They tag you in their promos. Quid pro quo.

A couple times a week invite friends to like your Author Page. On your personal FB account, begin growing your friends list so you have people to invite to your Author Page. Avoid porn accounts and unstable people. Drama is fine for your fictional characters, though has a tendency to run off readers and bloggers, and sales and your reputation poof on their unfollow buttons. Find reputable people such as known authors and bloggers and scan  their friends lists. Friend request away.

Join Facebook Groups that cover your genre. At least twenty. Share your book promotion posts in your Groups a few times a week. Find popular authors in the groups by looking for posts with numerous likes and comments. Like, then share those on your personal account. Everyone that liked or commented on that post will receive a notification with your name on it. Getting your name out there is pointless if you don't maintain the circulation; old content gets buried under a mass of news and becomes irrelevant.

It sounds like a lot, and is at first. You're doing all this to build your friends list, get your posts in their feeds, and invite them to your Author Page. Keep it rolling and you'll have thousands of people on your list who read books.

So, why do all that work if there's no sales? Even with five thousand friends, your posts would only reach a few hundred. Reciprocate likes and shares to increase the numbers reached. On your Author Page, let's say you've been established a few years and have tallied up two thousand followers. That doesn't mean your posts will be seen by all two thousand. FB limits reach to only a small percentage of your followers. You have to pay FB to “boost” posts if you want more reach.

Don't pay them. You won't sell enough to get your money back. If you boost a post, it should be a newsletter (you should research reasons for having a newsletter) signup post, and don't spend more than $1/day. Stay away from China, Mexico and the Philippines when selecting countries to reach.

Then what's the point of establishing myself on FB?

Authors need to start thinking of themselves and their works as one package, a brand that needs a public face in a central hub of resources. There’s no better platform for that than FB.

Okay. I'll quit screwing with you and tell you why you just went through all that tedious mess to establish a search-and-share routine and missed all the cat videos and SNL parodies of the president. The reason: to build a list of book reviewers.

Out of your (eventual) thousands of friends, only a small percentage will accept your invite to like or follow your Page. Reciprocate, then send them a private message and offer them a free digital copy (PDF or Mobi) in exchange for a review on Amazon.

Write and polish a brief form letter you can send to everyone that follows you or likes or comments on your posts (well, not everyone. Most everyone). Start your letter by thanking them for their interest, and say you would like to include them in a special offer: a free copy of your book. Ask them to show their support of indie, self-published, etc., authors by leaving a review on Amazon. Provide your email address (a new, author/book stuff only one) and ask them to contact you when they post the review so you can share it on social media. If they agree, get their email address and send them the digital book.

[The form letter I send to new Crime Wave Press followers is included at the end of this post. Read it. The special offer stands good for anyone on Stephanie Jane]

It's important to keep the reviewers’ names and email addresses. A spreadsheet or docx works fine. Over time you will grow a list of emails you can send promotions to.

So all that for Amazon reviews?

Absolutely. Imagine seeing your book on Amazon with forty reviews. Not bad for your first year out, right? It appears to be selling. If it only had five reviews, well, guess what? Customers shopping for books in your genre will pass your book over, searching for a higher number of reviews. In marketing, it's called “social proof”: If everyone is doing it, then it must be the thing to do. Amazon kicks everyone’s ass in book sales. Higher number of sales gets your book ranked higher in the category your book is listed in. Do customers buy books ranked in the two hundred thousands? Hell no. They buy the books with the best rankings.

More reviews = more sales = higher rankings. Once you have fifty reviews, Amazon will automatically include your title in their promotional catalogs that are seen by shoppers everywhere. Every few months, schedule a book giveaway or $0.99 sale. Not for royalties. To generate sales and climb the rankings in your category.

Several websites offer free hosting of giveaways and $0.99 sales. Utilize them. Schedule a sale, list it everywhere, and hope you push a couple hundred or more in forty-eight hours. Keep an eye on your ranking. A hundred or more sales in two days will jump you way up there. But only briefly. During that time shoppers of the high rankings will finally see you, and you can share screenshots of your category ranking on social media, showing everyone that Amazon ranked your book in the Top 5, next to the BestSellers. Take full advantage of the attention.

Twitter should be used for the same purpose: adding to your reviewer list. Although, you can actually sell books on Twitter; they don’t limit the reach of tweets or require you to pay them. Google search for a list of hashtags used specifically for selling books. Don't use more than two, sometimes three, hashtags per tweet. Use full sentences when possible. Find catchy lines in your Amazon reviews to quote on book tweets.  Using graphics with tweets gets more responses. Gifs work great, too, and there are plenty book related Gifs.

Find reputable people on Twitter and look at the people they follow, not who are following them. Go crazy with the + button. People will follow you back. Send your form letter to new followers if they look like potential reviewers.

Doing author interviews are the most effective way to sell books. The only expense is the effort to answer questions. And author interviews are generally hosted by bloggers with followings of serious readers. Your reviews on Amazon will be seen by millions of shoppers. Your author interviews will be seen by hundreds (or even thousands)  of readers, people who visit and follow book blogs to read reviews, interviews and other features published by  bloggers they trust.

You can find listings of book blogs that cover your genre. Contact the blogger directly with your form letter, though customize it for each blog. Do they only do book reviews? Offer a freebie for a review on their blog. Do they host interviews or guest posts? Those are what to shoot for. Pitch your work but let it speak for itself. Read author interviews. A lot of them. Familiarize yourself with the type of info bloggers want to learn about you and your book. Then pitch yourself.

Keep all contact info and links to your book reviews and interviews on your spreadsheet. That will be a single source you can work from to post on social media. Utilize apps like Buffer to schedule tweets, and schedule posts for your Author Page on FB, too. If you aren’t able to be on FB and Twitter daily, you can schedule content publication for a couple days or more at a time.

Some days I don’t have an hour or two for search-and-share. What should I do? It's one or the other, not all.

Don't sweat it. Spend a little time searching for good book blogs to send your pitch to. That is far more important than Facebook or Twitter. The reviews bloggers publish on their sites are usually posted on Amazon (request it specifically in your pitch) and Goodreads. And interviews that get sales usually result in reviews on Amazon.

What if my book is listed in Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books and other stores? Should I use links from those stores in promotions?

No. Forget about those. Direct all traffic to Amazon. Don't even share from your publisher's book page. Always share from Amazon. Sales elsewhere take away from your category ranking.

Here's the bottom line: you have to get Amazon reviews. Use FB and Twitter to get them. Getting reviews on blogs (hopefully) earns sales and Amazon reviews. On blogs, author interviews get more hits than book reviews. The quality of the blog and the number of followers is the deciding factor. Radio blogs that host authors are a great way to reach large audiences. I recommend Authors on the Air:

Set up a Google Plus account. It operates like Facebook, though you don't have to worry about growing a following and cultivating share buddies. The sole reason is to post your book and author content in a place where it’ll be indexed in Google’s search engine. This is where you go hashtag crazy. Tag everything - author name, book, genre, sub genres, and anything else you want.

That should get you started. And you didn't even have to hire a PR person for assistance.

Henry Roi
PR Manager, Crime Wave Press

Follow us on Twitter: @crimewavepress


Reviewer Form Pitch

(Person’s name),

We appreciate your interest in our works and would like to include you in a special offer.

As you likely know, we are Crime Wave Press, a small independent publisher of crime fiction. Our website, featuring all our published titles, can be found here:

We are currently expanding our list of reviewers and we'd like to know if you are interested in being part of the Crime Wave Press review family.

Reviewers can get free review copies (mobi or pdf) of any of our titles they like to review. Furthermore we will contact our reviewers offering pre-release review copies of new titles when they become available.

We have just published 4 new books and we are hoping you'd like to review one or more of these titles:

Brace yourself for HEIST, the sequel to our prison escape thriller SHANK, written by Roy Harper, who gained nationwide notoriety for two highly publicized prison escapes, HEIST is the second novel in a two-part series that centres around David "Tool" Roney, a dangerous man who is doing life for armed robbery and consumed by only one thing – escape.

SAIGON DARK by Elka Ray is the gripping, frightening story of a mother who loses her child and picks up a street kid in its place. A decade later she receives a note: 'I know what you did'.

Benedict J Jones, author of Skewered and other London Cruelties and Pennies for Charon, both featuring anti-hero with a heart Charlie Bars is back in THE DEVIL’S BREW. Expect horse mutilation, dog fighting and a family of maniacs in the bleak Northumbrian countryside.

Tom Vater republishes his second acclaimed Detective Maier thriller with Crime Wave Press. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN MIND takes the former conflict journalist turned detective to Laos, against the backdrop of the CIA’s secret war in the country in the 1960s and 1970s.

Thank you for your interest. Do let us know if you’d like to review any of our titles (new or old) and we will be pleased to send you the relevant file(s).

Please contact:

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Four tasty pie recipes for #BritishPieWeek

Dave's Spinach Pie 
Not quite sure how it happened out here where we mostly avoid Other People, but Dave and I have both managed to catch a lurgy cold this past week. Actually, to give credit where it's due, Dave caught the cold first and shared it with me - which was nice of him! Anyway we've been craving comfort foods to make us feel better despite neither of us having much energy to care about cooking! I looked through my recipes and a good pie would be just about perfect right now. So in celebration of British Pie Week, I would like to invite any reader to come out to Calig and bake one of these delicious pies for us! (You'll need to bring your own caravan!) Click on the photos or the titles to go to the full recipe.

Dave's Spinach Pie (pictured above) sounds healthy, but is actually a cheese fest wrapped in buttery puff pastry! The spinach content would count as one of your five a day though and the recipe is vegetarian so suitable for Meat Free Mondays. The pie was inspired by traditional Greek Spanakopita but Dave's version uses cheddar in place of feta cheese and puff in place of filo pastry.

Leftover Lamb Pie 
Leftover Lamb Pie is a great Spring recipe and is a frugal way to use up roast dinner leftovers. I first saw a version of it in a vintage Meat Dishes (500 Recipes) cookbook and the skills and ingredients are basic so it is quick and easy to put together. We normally pair roast lamb with quartered mushrooms for a rich filling. You could use bought shortcrust pastry instead of making your own, and both the cooked meat and the vegetable ingredients would be interchangeable to use up whatever is to hand.

Smoked Salmon Pie 
For fish lovers, Smoked Salmon Pie sounds decadent, but actually uses one of those cheaper trimmings packs so is pretty cheap and cheerful. Its layers are a bit of a faff to do so I normally allow myself a good hour from start to table. It also has the longest ingredient list of these four pies, but don't let that put you off because most of the items are store cupboard staples. Also don't be tempted to add any salt! This is omitted from the recipe by design not by accident. The salmon and cheese combined contribute plenty of saltiness.
I think I remember the original version of this pie I saw - that someone else had made - was shaped as a fish, complete with eyes and scales drawn into the pastry. I have never felt that ambitious, but it could easily be suitable for a dinner party were you prepared to go to that much effort!

Key Lime Pie 
No pie roundup would be complete without a dessert option and Key Lime Pie is Dave's favourite. His friend Lyekin in Hailsham makes the best, but I was pleased with how mine turned out too. Using ginger biscuits for the base and sides adds an extra depth of flavour that I loved. It was possibly too limey though - you could easily get away with three limes' worth of juice rather than the four listed. I'm not sure if a Key Lime pie should still be so called if the limes aren't from the Florida Keys? EU Protected Geographical Indication law probably doesn't apply in this instance!

Feel welcome to link to your own favourite pies in the Comments.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

No Fracking Way march happening right now! #nofrackingwayuk

I received an email yesterday evening from Andrew Cooper, one of a group undertaking a No Fracking Way protest march across Yorkshire and Lancashire this week. Regular blog readers may already have read my anti-fracking posts and will know I am a keen walker so I am happy to support this protest, albeit virtually and from two thousand miles away.

What is the No Fracking Way?
The ‘No Fracking Way’ is a 5 day protest march from the Yorkshire Fracking site at Kirby Misperton to the Lancashire Fracking site at Preston New Road in Blackpool. A core group of Green Party activists are walking the 120 miles between the 2 points starting on Wednesday 8th March and finishing on Sunday 12th March. Along the way these walkers will be highlighting the dangers of Fracking to local communities and the global environment. They will also be talking about cleaner alternatives to Fracking such as the different types of renewable energy, and how energy efficiency programmes for our homes can help reduce how much energy we consume.

As well as the walk itself, there are events planned en route including evening gigs and talks in York, Harrogate, Skipton, Burnley and Kirkham. Check this page of the No Fracking Way website for details.

And if you want to join part of the walk, No Fracking Way left Kirby Misperton at 7:30 this morning (ouch!) on a 29 mile hike as far as Brafferton. Further days' walks are broken down into between 19 and 25 mile segments and there is a detailed break down of the schedule Here.

Monday, 6 March 2017

It's Smashwords Read an Ebook Week!

The ninth annual Smashwords Read an Ebook Week promotion kicked off yesterday and runs through to the end of the day on March 11th. Now in its twelfth year, tens of thousands of Smashwords authors, publishers and readers participate in this global ebook celebration which offers a wide variety of free and deeply discounted ebooks. You can find a promotional catalog on the Smashwords home page and be sure to check back often because thousands of new books will join the promotion during the week. The catalog enables readers to browse by coupon discount or to filter by category, bestseller status, word count and other factors.

Smashwords has so many independently published ebooks that the choice can be overwhelming! If you like the idea of supporting an indie author during Smashwords Read an Ebook Week, but are unsure where to start, I have linked here to a selection of books that I enjoyed:

The Society Of Paranormals Series by Vered Ehsani is fun steampunk set in late Victorian Nairobi. Start with Ghosts Of Tsavo which is free or splash out on the very reasonably priced three volume boxset.
Read my Vered Ehsani reviews on Literary Flits.

Crime fiction fans should take a look at Tin Larrick's books. I discovered this accomplished author when I lived in Eastbourne. All four of his Smashwords novels are free and my favourites are Manukau Bluebirds and Devil's Chimney.
Read my Tin Larrick reviews on Literary Flits.

If horror fiction is more to your taste, try Mark Benjamin's vampire novel A Change Of Heart. I'm also looking forward to his short story, The Curious Case of William Alexander Redwood, which can be preordered before its 3rd April release date.
Read my Mark Benjamin reviews on Literary Flits.

Young adult books are especially prevalent on Smashwords and I have chosen a more unusual example to feature here. Mahi Wasfy is an Egyptian author and her In The Heart Of Cairo gives interesting insights into the city and Egyptian culture. This novel is currently free.
Read my Mahi Wasfy reviews on Literary Flits.

I'm eagerly anticipating discovering other good reads during Smashwords Read an Ebook Week. Let me know what great books you find!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

#WorldReads - five books from Turkey

If this is your first visit to my WorldReads blog series, the idea of the posts is to encourage and promote the reading of global literature. On the 5th of each month I highlight five books I have read from a particular country and you can see links to previous countries' posts at the end of this post. Feel welcome to Comment your own suggestions too.

This month's country is Turkey.

Turkish literature benefits I think from not only the country's turbulent history, but also its unique physical place on the globe. A gateway between cultures, this meeting of thoughts and ideas produces a particularly thoughtful style in many of her authors. I have chosen a variety of Turkish books below and if these five aren't enough to entice you, there will be another Turkish authored book featured on Literary Flits today (post published at noon)!

The King of Taksim Square by Emrah Serbes

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This coming of age tale is set during the Taksim Riots, a national event which completely derails Caglar's attempts to make his Michael Jackson impersonator sister famous! The book is slow to start, but really takes off once Serbes finds his pace.

Love in Exile by Ayse Kulin

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

My second Ayse Kulin novel, I found this tale of love across religious divides more accessible than Aylin. Kulin explores not only love between a Muslim woman and a Christian man, but also love for family, for country, and the peculiarly Turkish husun (a nostalgic love).

Istanbul: Memories Of A City by Orhan Pamuk

Buy the audiobook from Audible via /
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Orhan Pamuk's beautiful memoir of his home city also explores husun amongst other themes. Pamuk jumps from childhood memories to his thoughts on writings by mostly Western authors, to famous Istanbul characters, to the drift of the city over the past couple of centuries from the heights of the Ottoman Empire to relative global obscurity and creeping Westernisation.

Ali And Ramazan by Perihan Magden

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Based on a true story, Magden's novella of abandoned Istanbul children is shocking for its illumination of neglect and abuse recounted in starkly matter of fact prose. It shows a very different side of the city to Pamuk's recollections, yet is not completely depressing or without hope.

Three Daughters Of Eve by Elif Shafak

Buy the book from
Buy the hardback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the hardback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Saving the best for last, this philosophical novel was my Book Of The Month for February this year! I love its explorations of faith and culture, and that I found my own preconceptions challenged by the characters' conversations and actions.

That's it for March's WorldReads from Turkey. I hope I have tempted you to try reading a book from this country! Please do Comment your own favourite Turkish books below and if you fancy buying any of the five I have suggested, clicking through the links from this blog to do so would mean I earn a small commission payment.

If you missed any earlier WorldReads posts, we have already 'visited' Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, ItalyNew ZealandNigeriaSouth AfricaSpain and Sweden. In April I will be highlighting five books by German authors. See you on the 5th to find out which ones!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Walking the almond orchards from Calig

Dave chose our current Calig campsite, Camping l'Orangeraie, as it is further inland than our usual coastal bases which we hoped would give us different walking opportunities. Admittedly we are still less than a half hour drive away from the coast, but very few truly inland campsites are open in Spain in the winter unless they service large towns and cities. Camping l'Orangeraie opened on the 5th of February this year and is slowly filling up now we are in to our second week here. Interestingly, and perhaps because it is a French-owned site(?), there have been absolutely no Spanish people staying here. We are mostly Dutch with a few Germans, French, British and Belgians. I was surprised how happy I felt wandering into Recepcion on the spur of the moment yesterday to ask about staying longer. Not so much because we're staying another week on this beautiful campsite, but because I just knew the French phrases and responses I needed to converse. For a couple of minutes I felt fluent!!

We've now explored several hours worth of the local agricultural tracks and camis nearby. There is a nice one-hour circuit from the campsite although over half of it is along the campsite road - not particularly busy, but tarmac and with not much of a verge onto which to jump away from traffic! Dave spent time Google mapping the cami network the other day and managed to put together a rewarding three hour expedition that took us over towards the hilltop town of Cervera. There was a good view of it in the distance, but sadly just too far for my phone to cope with. Most of our walk was alongside almond orchards where the pretty pink blossoms are now giving way to new green leaves. If the trees aren't almond then they are probably orange or mandarin, many of which are dropping their crops to the ground which seems such a waste. There was a sweet scent of rotting oranges for much of our walk - actually more pleasant to experience than it sounds!

We have also resolved one of our local Questions. We find that travelling raises hundreds of Questions, usually none of which we ever manage to answer - I wonder what that is / what that word means / why this is here? However, we learned that a 'Pou' around this part of of the world is a spring or fountain. Elsewhere in Spain it is 'fuente'. We know this because instead of just seeing yet another handwritten wooden arrow pointing to a Pou, we saw the very thing itself! Pictured is Pou N'Eriol which consists of a large covered well with a lowerable bucket plus a trough alongside. There are shepherds with sheep and goats around here who must make use of these springs for their flocks daily. Several Pou are signed in the area.

Friday, 3 March 2017

We visit the historic walled town of Sant Mateu

Medieval tombstones at the Calvary 
Sant Mateu is mentioned - alongside Vilafames, Onda and Peniscola - in our Castellon Day Trips And Getaways book as one of twelve towns to visit in order to comprehensively discover Castellon province's history. Over thousands of years Castellon has been home to Iberians, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, and chivalric orders such as the Knights Templar so there are traces of an incredible diversity of cultures here.

One of Sant Mateu's prides is 260m of Montesian style masonry walls which are certainly an impressive sight. This section was restored in 1995. Originally 1600m of wall encircled the town at an average height of 6m. It was built between 1357 and 1380 and was the second significant enclosure to be constructed here. An earlier wall protecting the then much smaller settlement around St Peter's Church had been built in the 13th century.

Sant Mateu town walls 
We enjoyed strolling Sant Mateu's streets and noting interesting details such as heavy doors and intricately tiled balconies. There seemed to be a disproportionate number of town houses for sale here, especially away from the centre, with many being in a very poor state of repair and numerous renovation companies at work. A far cry from the town's heyday when it was a rich commercial centre particularly famed for its wool which was exported as far away as Florence! We even saw one demolition site where parts of a kitchen interior - tiled walls and a sink - were still attached and hanging from where a second storey apartment no longer stood.

Other more official sights we explored included the public laundries two of which exist and one of which is still open and even appears to be used. We also popped into both churches which were remarkably not-gaudy and gilted, and peered up at the bell tower, unusual due to its having eight-sides. Sant Mateu council has arranged for small placards at most of the historic sites of interest. Written in several languages, including English, they give a good idea of the town's past and meant we were never in need of a guidebook - which was great because the Tourist Office is shut on Mondays!

Sant Mateu main square 
In contrast to the dilapidated exterior, Sant Mateu's main town square and surrounding streets were an uplifting bustle of commerce and leisure. We sat outside a cafe near the Angel Fountain watching the world go by and soaking up the sunshine, both thinking that this would be a lovely town in which to live! There are predominantly independent shops including several small bakeries, greengrocers and butchers, and the views out over the surrounding agricultural land are beautiful. Sant Mateu is about a half hour drive from our current Calig campsite and we are considering returning on any-day-but-Monday to perhaps explore the museums and treat ourselves to a €12 Menu del Dia lunch!

Those Romans woz ere too! 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Advertiser Spotlight - March 2017

In a brand new monthly feature for 2017, I have done away with the random Google ads which used to appear at the top of my blogs' sidebars and am now offering that space for rent! Four Advertiser Spotlight packages are available each month, two for Literary Flits and two for Stephanie Jane, all for a very reasonable price! Interested? Ideal for book launches or theatre productions, event or business promotion, there's more details of my Advertiser Spotlight packages on this page. I am currently taking bookings for April.

For March however, I have picked four of my favourite affiliate advertisers to promote.

On Literary Flits

     London Theatre Direct tickets for The Miser

“Suspect everybody! Take into custody the whole town and suburbs,” cries the Miser as his hoard is stolen.
Griff Rhys Jones returns to the stage in Molière’s The Miser (L'Avare) showing at the Garrick theatre this spring. Newly adapted by Sean Foley and Phil Porter, Griff Rhys Jones will be joined by BAFTA and British Comedy Award winning comedian Lee Mack, who will be making his West End debut and by Mathew Horne of Gavin And Stacey and The Catherine Tate Show. Performances started yesterday, the 1st of March, and continue until the 3rd of June.
Get your tickets via London Theatre Direct!

Fanatical about protecting his wealth, the paranoid Harpagon (Griff Rhys Jones) suspects all of trying to filch his fortune and will go to any length to protect it. A matchmaker motivated only by money, he sets his sights on wealthy spouses for his children, so his riches are safe from their grubby hands. As true feelings and identities are revealed will Harpagon allow his children to follow their heart, or will his love of gold prove all-consuming? Passion and purse strings go head to head in this rip roaring comedy, by France’s greatest dramatist.

World Book Day at Waterstones

I couldn't not spotlight a bookshop in this post, especially as today is World Book Day! A feature on many British highstreets as well as in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands, Waterstones was founded in London in 1982. I like that stores stock a pretty wide range of titles, considering space limitations, and bargains can be found, particularly when buying a few books at once. Online purchases from the Waterstones website can be delivered free to your local store for collection which is great for receiving larger-than-letterbox-size parcels on weekdays!

I like that several stores are trying to foster bookish communities in their towns by putting on events that are well worth attending. Author talks and book signings are not only fun in themselves, but also a good way to meet like-minded readers. For World Book Day, many branches will be hosting events and working with their local schools to promote child literacy. With every child in the UK and Ireland who is in full-time education entitled to a World Book Day book token, there’s no better incentive to pop down to your local Waterstones and start diving in. The tokens can be exchanged for any one of the ten specially-produced World Book Day books (whilst stock lasts) or redeemed against a full-priced Children’s book or audio book worth £2.99 or more. World Book Day tokens are worth £1 or €1.50.

On Stephanie Jane

The Caravan And Motorhome Club membership

We joined The Caravan Club as an essential part of our UK tour in the summer of 2015. Their network of small and basic Certified Location campsites was perfect for us, both for their price and tranquillity so we soon recouped the cost of our membership. For caravanners and motorhomers wanting more entertainment and facilities, the Caravan Club has a good choice of all-singing all-dancing sites too. Altogether membership gives access to over 2700 campsites and we have stayed at several affiliated ones in France and Spain.

Announced in February, a rebrand to The Caravan And Motorhome Club is intended to better reflect a broadening membership; embracing diversity and reinforcement the sense of community. The Club is upgrading facilities across the entire site network, including having wi-fi on every single site by the end of this year. They already have facilities for motorhomes to empty their waste and refill with water on almost 90% of the network and are expanding their worldwide travel, so we’ll have even more inspiring places to go.

Choc On Choc artisan chocolate gifts

With both Mother's Day and Easter looming into view, it is time to be thinking of chocolate gifts (when isn't it!) and I think Choc On Choc has probably the most original range I have ever seen. My eye was first caught by their miniature books and I was soon also delighted by the ideas of a Chocolate Vinyl And Cassette Duo or a gorgeously detailed Chocolate Cheese Board.

Choc on Choc's unique chocolate designs are beautfully crafted and lovingly hand made in their Somerset factory. Artisans mould each delicious piece from casts made of plaster, a crafting technique which allows for really intricate designs, using best quality Belgian Chocolate - the dark is 53% making it a delightful and manageable taste, without the bitterness you would get from say a 70% dark chocolate. The White is 28% smooth, creamy and delicious! Choc On Choc sell via so you can be confident in their customer service and your purchase.

Do you want to see your event or business featured on my blogs? There's more details of my Advertiser Spotlight packages - graphic placement, blog post and social media promotion - on this page. I am currently taking bookings for April.