Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Carol and Bev on sweets from the 80s

(Carol and Bev are characters from two books by Bev Spicer:  'One Summer in France' and 'Bunny on a Bike' both available as ebooks on Amazon and soon to be in paperback).

Carol:  Bev Spicer, polyblonde and crazy retro tart, what is our specialist subject on this fine but rather dreary Wednesday afternoon?

Bev:     Today we shall be talking about sweeties from the 80s my little Devonshire divvy.

Carol: Fart a dart!  That's not a bag of samples is it?

Bev:     Hands off!  This is realia.

Carol:  What?

Bev:     It's a teaching term, for when items can be brought into the classroom to demonstrate a point, or make a lesson more interesting, more real.

Carol:  I'd like to see you take a bag of sweeties and chocolate into any classroom these days and come out unharmed.  What've you got?

(Bev tips out the sweets onto a table.)

Carol:  No way!  Bar Six!  It still looks the same - orange paper over silver, Cadbury gold.  Let me just run my fingernail along one of its runnels...

Bev:     Couldn't stand it!  My auntie always brought it for a treat and I had to get rid of it without her noticing.  Tried to flush it down the toilet once, but Mr. Cadbury must have thought of that - bloody wafer wouldn't sink, had to fish it out again and shove it into the rubber plant.  Yuk!

Carol: Most wafer biscuits are just made of polystyrene, I reckon. So, one for me.  What else is there?

Bev:     This one was my favourite for a while.  Caramac.  I liked to press a square of it up onto the roof of my mouth and let it melt whilst pretending it wasn't there at all.  Made talking kind of interesting.  In the end, it went into a kind of fecal sludge and I pressed it through my teeth.  Drove my sister up the wall.

Carol:  Happy days!  I did the same with Dairylea - everyone did.  Remember blue smarties?

Bev:     Shame!

Carol:  Yeah. Ridiculous overreaction.  Embarrassing.  Still get them in Russia, I'm told.

Bev:     You'd think a bit of blue dye would be all right.  I mean how many would you have to eat?

Carol:  Blue gobs are a thing of the past.  Sadness and woe.

Bev:     What about these?

Carol:  Milk Tray!  My mum loved those.  Specially the coffee ones.  She used to watch that bloke dressed in a black woolly, diving off cliffs, swimming through shark infested waters to deliver them, miraculously bone dry, to some fairly old bird with a frilly-cuffed blouse.

Bev:     Did you see that the shark had no teeth?

Carol: Swiz!  Gummed to death!  That reminds me of the Flake ad.

Bev:    Which one?

Carol:  The only one! Girl in a field of sunflowers, gypsy dress, caravan.  Looks like she's giving it a bloody good blow-

Bev:     Okay!  No need to spell it out.  Anyway, there was a worse one than that later - in the bath, overflowing, naturally.  Much more indiscreet.  Rick loved it.

Carol:  Ah, but you're forgetting about the millisecond flash.  My boyfriend at the time told me about it.  Got banned pretty quickly.  Tried Googling it not long ago because I was suspicious of the way the breakfast news presenters were looking at each other.  Far too steamy.  Bound to be something fishy going on, I thought.  Anyway, I did a search and guess what?  Nothing.  Nada. Not a mention.

Bev:     Never heard of it.

Carol:  Widely used in the 80s, my lovely trollop,  lots of filthy images too quick to see, but registered by the hungry old crocodile brain and used to work the audience into a frenzy.  Christ knows how many Flakes I got through in those days!

Bev:     Enough!

Carol:  Obviously affected you badly.  Not a Flake type of girl?

Bev:     Finished?

Carol: Give me that dipped one and I'll show you how it's done.

Bev:     One end each?

Carol: You're on, you dirty bugger.  Bath?

Bev:     Rather have these?

Carol: Poppets!  Mint flavoured!  Now you're talking!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Promotion results for 'One Summer in France'.

Right!  It's time to reveal the results of my free three-day promotion of 'One Summer in France'.

Before I do, I'd just like to thank the people who tirelessly supported me and kept me going during the process.  I did make a list of all the people who put me on their blogs, websites, retweeted me, chatted to me and generally made things happen.  I am more grateful than I can say to everyone who took the time to help.  I will work to support my fellow writers and book-promoting sites as they have supported me.  Thank you.

The nitty-gritty.

I advertised in the usual places, according to the lists made available through the KDP site: and paid for one promotional site (£26), which I won't mention, because I don't think it made any difference.  I did submit to Boobub but they turned me down.  Don't know why, but I'm guessing that I needed more reviews.  Difficult to launch a new book when the rules require lots of reviews.  Never mind though, I might try them again with one of my other books at a reduced price. They are expensive, but seem to achieve a high number of free and paid downloads.

So, I got just under 700 free downloads, slightly more in the UK than the US and a smattering from other countries too.  I was happy with this figure.

In the week that followed the promotion I have had 40 paid downloads, mostly of 'One Summer in France' (29) but also of 'Bunny on a Bike' (10) and one of  'A Good Day for Jumping'.  I have had four new (great) reviews for my promo book so far, for which I am extra grateful.

Was it a good thing to do? 

I am certain it was.  I have a greater chance of marketing a book that has received exposure to 700 people than if I had done nothing.  I would like to have simply reduced the price, but I think a book has to be fairly well known for this to be effective.

I have only ever promoted individual books once.  I don't know what would happen if I tried it twice with the same book - it's certainly not something I would think of doing all the time.  The next free promotion I do will probably be for 'A Good Day for Jumping', which has never been promoted.  After that, I'll probably try some reduced price offers, probably with Bookbub (if they'll have me!), and with some of the more select sites that demand a minimum number of reviews. I don't know how well this will work, but have read various posts that seem encouraging.

I note the new rules for free book promotion recently brought in by Amazon and am glad that something is being done to limit the number of free books out there.  Going free is a strategy, as far as I am concerned, and not a way of life.  But then I'm just doing what I think best and am happy to learn from others along the way.  In an ideal world, where the playing field was level, there would be no free books and authors would be paid for their work by readers who would be happy to shell out a reasonable amount for a good book. 

One thing I can say now for sure is that, if you have a book with a sequel, readers will look for it and buy it if they enjoy the free download.  That has got to be a good thing, don't you think?

Once again, thanks to all who rallied to my support - couldn't have done it without you.

Bon courage!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Free promotion of 'One Summer in France' (prequel to 'Bunny on a Bike' - humorous memoir of a Playboy croupier).

'One Summer in France' is free on Amazon Kindle on 9th, 10th and 11th May.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the wisdom (and benefits) of offering books for free on Amazon (or elsewhere, for that matter).  Some believe it undermines the value of authors' books while others continue to see it as the only way to spread the word to a large number of readers, who will then, hopefully return for more and buy other works by the same author.

I am inclined to subscribe to the latter reasoning, which is why I am running a promotion this week.

'One Summer in France' is the prequel to 'Bunny on a Bike', which has been in the Amazon best sellers list.  I wrote 'Bunny on a Bike' first, after a friend suggested that people might want to read about the 'inside story' of a Playboy croupier.  Judging by the reviews I have received, some people have found it entertaining and have even bought the prequel, which follows the same characters (Bev and Carol) on a three-month study leave from University in the South of France.

If you bought either of my books, I thank you.  If you would like to download a free copy of 'One Summer in France', please do.  I hope you will enjoy it and leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, which will help my writing reach a wider audience.

This is my third promotion in a one-year period.  The other two were for 'My Grandfather's Eyes' and 'Bunny on a Bike'.  These two books have definitely sold many more copies than my other two books (which have never been promoted).  I think of a free promotion as a 'kick start' strategy to increase the visibility of my writing.  And, crucially, to gain new readers.  I love writing, but I also love to be read.  To get a response is an added thrill.

So, 'One Summer in France' is free for three days.  What's it like?  Here's a sample and I hope it makes you laugh:

We chose our spot, mid-distance between the sea and the dunes, and installed ourselves as always, first laying out our towels and then wriggling out of our bikinis, before sitting up to survey the rest of the people sharing our beach.  We analysed tans and chose our own as the best, assessed cellulite and decided that we had none, looked for good-looking men and always found something to put us off each one.  And all the time there was the shushing of the sea and the view of the mountains, the softness of the air, with its refreshing ozone, the smell of our recently purchased Ambre Solaire and the knowledge that we had found our way to a paradise that would soon be just a memory.
But we could not be sad.  We did not dwell on the past or the future.  The present was all consuming and we digested it with relish.

‘That bloke’s gorgeous,’ said Carol.
By the time she had added, ‘Don’t look now!’ it was too late.
‘Not bad,’ I agreed, dazzled by the smile he was killing us with.
‘You silly tart!  He’s coming over…’
We hurriedly did our best to hide our bits as best we could, which, when you have no clothes on, is quite difficult. 
The man was more of a boy, probably in his early twenties, with blond hair and not a sign on any inhibitions.  He crouched in front of us and I knew that Carol was trying just as hard as I was to avoid looking at anything other than his face.  Every time he moved, I was unavoidably aware of a delicate swinging, which rang a bell inside my head and started up an awful and unexpectedly retro rendition of My Ding-A-Ling by Chuck Berry.
His name was Sven and he was Swedish.  He was staying at Club Med with two of his mates and wanted to know whether we would be going out in Argelรจs that evening. (I want you to play with my ding-a-ling…)
‘We’re going to Bar Bleu, at about 8.00,’ he said.
It was difficult to listen to what he was saying, as there was a kind of background noise of over-enthusiastic thought processes going on inside my brain, in addition to the indescribably corny lyrics of the song which had invaded my head.  I looked at his mouth, his wonderful teeth, his grey eyes and blond eyelashes and wondered who he fancied most.
‘Sure,’ said Carol.  ‘We should be able to make it.’
He stayed a while longer, telling us that this was only the first leg of his holiday and that he would be going to Ibiza for a week, before flying back to Sweden and university, where he was studying Law in his final year.
I listened, weighing him up as husband material.  Handsome, rich, Swedish.  I rest my case.

Eventually, when we had finished goggling at his perfect ass, we lay back on our towels and sighed in unison.  Then, we spluttered for a while, making ‘I can’t believe what just happened’ faces at each other and having a very serious discussion about what we should wear later. 
‘Did you see his two mates?’ asked Carol.
As this was not really a question, it simply remained for me to utter a very basic growling noise for her to understand my pain.  How would we decide?

Finally, we got out our books and read, on and off.  I had run out of books and so I started on The Railway Children, which was surprisingly entertaining, although it was quite off-putting to have seen the television series and not be able to put Bernard Cribbins out of my mind.  The mother was every child’s dream of what a mother should be.  I lapped up the cakes and homemade presents, the ruffles and the pantaloons, the adventures and drama of the cross-country run and the narrowly avoided train crash.  The Railway Children certainly seemed to have had a much more interesting life than me.  The things I remembered were: being fat, climbing the never-ending Stoneway Steps to get to school, wearing a blazer, beret and tie, snogging a boy call Geoffry in the park when I was 14, not knowing who Joni Mitchell was at a party and wondering why I had to have a father who spent his weekend on top of the Long Mynd waiting for the mist to clear so that he could fly his glider.
I finished the book in one sitting and decided that I had enjoyed it.
Carol was reading A Clockwork Orange.  She had kept that quiet.  I was impressed.
‘I love the swear words,’ she said.
‘It’s ground-breaking stuff,’ I agreed.
‘Yeah, the swear words are brilliant,’ she said, ignoring me, as usual.
It was no use telling Carol that Anthony Burgess had created a language to illustrate the complex relationship between a youth culture and the accepted status quo of the generation in power.  A language which was raw and expressive of the aggression and irony his characters carried around with them.  It was pointless to tell her that the language had a name ‘Nadvat’ and did not consist exclusively of swear words.  Carol had a different outlook on life and would not tolerate interference from the likes of a dullard like me.
I sat up, pondering the undeniable sex-appeal of Malcolm McDowell’s Alex, recalling the scene where, dressed in white fore-shortened trousers, adorned with a most impressive codpiece, bovver boots and the signature bowler, he wallops his cronies in order to assert his leadership.  I recalled the poster featuring the enigmatic drawn-on eyelashes and the tilted, dangerous stare.  He was certainly a dish.

I opened my eyes to the current, less disturbing, panorama and looked around at the people looking around.  Our delicious Swedes were packing up and a couple of minutes later, they came over ...