Thursday, March 31, 2011

Welcome to Janice Horton - Author Interview

Welcome this week to British writer Janice Horton, who is launching her new book, Bagpipes and Bullshot, on April 1st. This story is a romance that combines the beaches of coastal Texas with the green hills of Scotland. Today, the author talks a little bit about her book, the ebook revolution, and what it takes to stand out in a crowded market.

What inspired you to write your novel, Bagpipes and Bullshot?

I was actually in America, standing on a Gulf Coast beach at sunset, thinking of how the warm breezes, blue waters, and southern lifestyle, were a world away from life in Scotland. No less beautiful but so very different. I knew at that moment I wanted to start a book with two people meeting on that beach, before moving the story back to Scotland, where I could explore those differences. The prologue of Bagpipes & Bullshot is set in a fictional Gulf Coast town where, on that beach at sunset, Innes and Orley meet for the first time.

How did you come up with the idea to meld the Texas plains with the Scottish Highlands?

I needed characters from both sides of the Atlantic for the book to work and a real reason for the American character to want and need to be in Scotland. Once I started asking who and why, Orley came to life, and I wanted to tell her story. The character of Innes, a young Scot who had just inherited the responsibilities of Laird of his Estate, then needed a reason to go to America and meet Orley. So cattle farming became the obvious connection. As I live on a Scottish Estate myself, I knew a local farmer who had just returned from the US, where he had been studying a composite cattle breeding programme. I interviewed him to double-check my idea for this part of the plot and was very excited when I discovered it was viable.

Which of your characters do you relate to the most and why?

I can relate to my whole cast of characters as they battle with the awful things I give them to deal with in the book - but mostly I relate to Orley. You see, I came to Scotland from England, and remember being entirely surprised by the cultural differences between the rural Scottish lifestyle and the urban English life I’d been living. Orley is similarly surprised when she gets to Scotland except that because her culture shock is even more acute, she struggles terribly, which I feel is a nice balance to the growing relationship between her and Innes and which consequentially leads to lots of humour. I’m told by readers there are many laugh out loud moments in the book.

Do you have a day job, and if so where do you find the time to write?

Hah! If only I had one day job – I do in fact have three. I divide my time working as an administrator and book keeper for my husband’s business. I own a graphic design business which I set up when our boys were little. I also work four afternoons a week as a legal secretary for a local firm of lawyers. I steal time to write and I’ve stopped giving myself deadlines. As an indie author I have the luxury of not having to fit in with anyone else’s schedule - but in an ideal world - I’d love to write full time.

What do you think of the ebook revolution? How has your experience been so far?

I think it’s a good thing – but I don’t think it will replace the printed book trade as the doom mongers are predicting. I rather think e-books will fit nicely alongside it. If I want a book ‘now’ I can download it instantly. If I want to travel, I can take as many books as I like on my e-reader and not have excess baggage. As an avid reader, thanks to the availability of e-books, I’m trying new authors and new genres. It’s fantastic. But, if you come into my study, you will see bookshelves filled with my favourite books, many signed, and some by authors I know personally. I also have a special shelf of beautiful antiquarian books and first editions which I’ve collected over the years. In my kitchen, I have a bookshelf filled with cook books – all well-thumbed colourful hardbacks with glossy pages and photographs – I certainly wouldn’t want those on an e-reader, would I? You see, in my opinion, there is room for both and space for all. How lucky we are now to have so much choice in what and how we read!

How do you plan to get your e-book Bagpipes & Bullshot noticed against all the thousands of others on Amazon Kindle?

Okay, this is the plan. I want you to ask your wonderful blog readers to support me by either buying the book on Friday 1st April 2011 (it is $2.24 or £1.38) or by telling other people about it through their own social network. The date is important because it’s the day I’ve asked everyone who might consider buying the book to buy it. It’s very difficult to get new e-books noticed by potential readers unless it features on one or more of Amazon’s Top 100 charts, but because of the way Amazon calculates its sales, just a few sales on one particular day can make all the difference in pushing it through the charts! I’ll be blogging and tweeting all day on Friday 1st April. For direction to all of the other places I’ll be appearing on my Blog Tour throughout the whole day please visit I’ll also be running a prize draw on my blog (Friday 1st April only) to win Kindle beach protectors (an essential and stylish accessory for every Kindle but alternatively you could always use it to protect your camera or phone!) All you have to do to be in with a chance to win is go to my blog and leave a comment.

But what about people who don’t have a Kindle? Can they download it for their PC, Mac, IPhone, IPad, whatever?

Yes, absolutely. Go to Amazon and download their free App for PC, Mac, IPhone or IPad and then buy the book Bagpipes & Bullshot. I’ll be forever grateful.

Janice Ho
rton lives in Scotland and writes entertaining and humorous contemporary women's fiction novels which are, for the most part, inspired by the romantic beauty of the heather-filled glens around her country cottage. When she’s not writing novels she writes lifestyle articles and has had work published in national magazines and regional newspapers. She’s also been involved in BBC Scotland's ‘Write Here Write Now’ project. Her next novel Reaching For The Stars will be available soon on Kindle. Her blog is: and you can follow her on Twitter at @JaniceHorton. Her website is at:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mini blog tour

When I first started out with independent publishing a few months ago, I saw people mentioning "blog tours." I had no idea what this meant. I could understand a book tour, where you go from bookstore to bookstore, but what was a blog tour? Well, it ends up it's when a writer appears on a bunch of blogs all at once to promote their book. Now, partly by coincidence, I'm having my own mini-blog tour. In the past few days me and my book have been featured in one way or another on three different blogs:

First is the writer Janice Horton, who is launching her own romance, Bagpipes and Bullshot, on April 1st. Check back here for an interview with Janice next week. Today she was kind enough to feature an interview of me on her blog.

Next I had a very nice review posted yesterday on the Book Loving Mommy blog.

And finally, I was given the opportunity to write a guest post on how it came about that a man is writing romance on the Ex Libris blog. Stella at Ex Libris is also holding a giveaway of one paperback in the U.S. and one ebook for an international reader, so if anyone wants to sign up you can head over there. Thanks!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Paris of the 20's

Perhaps never in the history of literature was there a time and place more magical for a writer than Paris in the 1920's. Rents were affordable, cafes to write in plentiful, and the concentration of literary talent that gathered in the city of lights will most likely never be equaled. Ernest Hemingway chronicled this period in his terrific autobiography, A Moveable Feast, in which we see him running around with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, and many others. Ever since, writers the world over have longed to recreate that type of intellectual and cultural scene.

Sadly, the actual Paris of the 1920's is obviously long gone. Rents are astronomical now, for one thing, and the last time I visited a few years ago, a 10-ounce coke in sidewalk cafe cost the equivalent of roughly eight dollars. Besides that, cafes are no longer so writer-friendly. I had one waitress shoo me off as soon as my eight dollar coke was gone. Forget about lingering over your laptop.

When the iron curtain first fell in the early 1990's, there was much talk that Prague was the new Paris of the 20's. Prague was cheap, and you could linger in cafes all day. There was an excitement as well about going to this place that had been more or less off limits to Westerners for so long. Thousands of Americans flocked there. I visited myself, sleeping on the floor at the apartment of an English-teaching friend. The only thing missing from this potential writer's paradise were successful writers. As far as I am aware, Prague of the 1990's produced no Hemingway's or Joyce's. In fact, I can't name one famous writer who was there at the time, though I suspect some must exist.

By now any claim to the mantle that Prague may have enjoyed has long since faded. In fact, it seems to have proven the point that Paris of the 20's will never be recreated. That hasn't stopped me and many others from searching, however. There are still great cities in Eastern Europe that are cheap, with atmospheric cafes where you can lounge all afternoon over a coffee and take in the old world charm as you tap away at the keyboard. So far I've spent months at a time in quite a few of them, including Tallinn, Estonia, Lviv, Ukraine and Budapest, Hungary. All three have much to recommend them and my time in each has been highly rewarding. I've made some good friends that I plan to go back to visit this summer. The only thing I've never quite been able to find is that community of ex-pat writers. These days, community for a writer means online forums. There is much to be said for that, too, don't get me wrong but even so, I'll still never stop yearning, or searching, for my own Paris of the 1920's...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Negative reviews

A few months back I was interviewed on another blog, and one of the questions was, "How do you react to negative reviews?" At the time I hadn't actually received any negative reviews yet, since my book had only just gone on sale. I hardly had any reviews then at all. Still, I answered the question based on how I imagined I might react. I said that I'd try to learn from it, and that any honest review would provide good insights. Well, it's time to take my own advice!

Actually, the vast majority of my reviews are still very positive, but I've received three one-star reviews on Amazon UK so far. Today I got a scorcher! "Weak characters, insipid storyline, no chemistry, grammatical errors... what a waste of time and money!" Of course the book only cost .49 pence, but still, I get it. She didn't like it, or perhaps more to the point, she actively disliked it.

I understand that not everyone is not going to like every book, and I shouldn't take it personally, but it leaves me pondering some larger questions. How many people, in their careers, have their performance actively critiqued in public by total strangers? What if there was a review site for every teacher, or police officer, or electrical engineer? I'm guessing they probably wouldn't like it very much, though with the Internet, the world is becoming more like that every day. Reviews are readily available for almost every business, big or small, and I've chosen to pursue a profession where criticism of my work is part of the bargain. Reviews are a very useful tool in letting people know which books might appeal to them and which might not. Nobody wants to buy a book that they probably won't like. Of course, that's also why the sample feature on Amazon and other sites is so useful, but perhaps that's another discussion.

I suppose the bottom line is that if I intend to continue pursuing fiction writing as a career, I'd better get used to my work being critiqued, for better or for worse. Some people will like my work and some people won't, but as long as I continue writing, readers will be sure to let me and everybody else know!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Still amazed...

I still can't believe how well my book is doing in the UK, but I'm definitely grateful. It was about three weeks ago that it managed to climb all the way to the top of the romance bestseller list for ebooks on Amazon UK. It dipped a few times, but amazingly enough it rose back up and is still hanging around at the top. It's also currently number 9 for all ebooks. Of course, now I've probably jinxed myself by posting this, but oh well, I'll enjoy it while it lasts. Just to prove it to myself later, I'll paste a screen shot here of today's Romance Bestseller list:

Monday, March 7, 2011

One year older

I find myself feeling a little philosophical today as I turn another year older. It was forty five years ago on this date that I came into the world, kicking like mad, in Cleveland, Ohio; a born soccer player no doubt. Where has the time gone? When I think back on my life so far, and all of the things I have done, it does seem like I've packed a lot into those years. At the same time, I've always lived a little bit in denial. As my friends have married, bought houses, had kids and settled down, I've bounced around the world like a college kid on perpetual break. Life as a starving writer has been a struggle at times, but I've managed to keep it interesting, working countless different jobs and living all around the world. So where to from here? That's a question I'm always asking myself. One thing I've accumulated in all these years is a long list of friends to visit, in all sorts of places. Hopefully this coming year I'll see as many of them as possible, and maybe even make a few more. So on this day of my birth, I'll take a moment to appreciate the good things in my life; the friends and family that make it worth living. Thanks to all!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some sales figures

I don't like to dwell too much on sales figures, but it is a little interesting to see how things have developed over time with sales of No Cure for the Broken Hearted. It is all one big experiment, I suppose, with independent publishing. So far my book has been for sale for three months. In December I managed to sell 148 copies. In January that went up to roughly 1,500 copies for the month. In February it rose to just over 5,600 copies for the month.

Perhaps most remarkable is that the vast majority of my sales so far have been in the UK. This past month, Amazon UK accounted for 5,338 of my copies sold. For about a week I was in the top 10 on the Kindle bestsellers list there. For several days I was the number one selling romance on Amazon UK.

To me it is somewhat jaw-dropping that my little book that was turned down by just about every agent and publisher on both sides of the Atlantic can be the number one selling romance anywhere. Of course, in some ways it is not a fair contest, because I currently have my price set very, very low. Readership at this stage in my indie career is probably more important than revenue. Even so, I'm thrilled that so many people have found my book, and the reaction so far has been heartwarming to say the least. So thanks to all of my readers out there! Your support is very much appreciated. :-)