Thursday, 28 November 2013

An unusual story - About Sophie my dog. It's not really a ghost story. It's different.

My beautiful Sophie

This was so strange. I went upstairs and walked into my bedroom, I heard Sophie my dog come upstairs and I called to her, saying. ‘I’m in here, Soph.’ Silence, I looked out of the door, no Sophie, I looked in the other bedrooms, and in the bathroom. No Sophie. I realised that she was still downstairs. I know that  I did not imagine this happening. Sophie was in the lounge. Now, if she had come upstairs and decided to go back down. I would have heard her wouldn’t I? I didn't. 
Perhaps, because I thought that she might follow me upstairs I imagined hearing her! I know I didn't though. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Ghosts Church Bells and other thoughts - added to yesterdays blog

I've been collecting ghost stories since the 1980s. I have always found the subject fascinating. No-one really knows whether ghosts exist or not. This only adds to the intrigue for me.
Having researched the subject for many years I have found myself becoming a tad sceptical of some ghost stories that are published.
I have collated stories for over twenty-five years, mainly because I thought it would be useful for ghost investigators in the future. I even collected the one-liners. In fact I have had quite a lot of feedback on the stories over the years. People have contacted me saying a similar thing had happened to them at certain sites which I have mentioned in the stories. This proves to me that my collection is worthwhile.
When land at Blithfield in Staffordshire was flooded, in the 1950s, for a new reservoir, stories started to be told that people could hear church bells ringing around midnight. Rumour, had it that a village had to be abandoned due to the water board buying the land for the proposed reservoir.
I did not live in the area until the late 1960s, and many years later when I collected the stories of the haunted reservoir there was no internet or information regarding the story. In good faith I published the story of church bells being heard at night. I only discovered a few years ago that there was no village, and no church; just an old mill and a cottage were actually on the land that was flooded.
Now, this leads me to wondering how people could hear church bells by the reservoir in the dead of night? Is it purely down to their imagination? Perhaps, knowing the story they really do believe they can hear them. Turning the story on its head, maybe they do hear them and the place is actually haunted by ghostly church bells. I don't know. My story is only hearsay, or you could say, rumour via the grapevine. Stories get lost in time, just as the ghostly church bells have.
Since The Most Haunted series appeared on the television, the ghost-story world has gone plain silly. A few people have jumped in and started publishing books of ghost stories that are far from interesting. One or two authors have also been publishing stories that are already in books. I'm sure readers must find this annoying. I know I do. Particularly if the stories happen to be from my books.
I have always been of the opinion that if a ghost returns it will go to the place where it spent its happiest years on Earth. I wouldn't think that it would hang about a dark, cold graveyard. And, if there is an afterlife, the spirit will not be lying in a coffin in the churchyard. It will have left the earthly plane at the moment of the death. So why all the stories surrounding ghosts in church yards? This is all down to films, books, and  television programmes. It makes for good reading and viewing. A haunted grave site with a church as a back drop, add misty conditions; what could be a more spooky and atmospheric setting? It's all a bit old hat now though. Let's face it, in our earthly lives we certainly do not revisit places where we were unhappy. Well, I know I wouldn't.

Most Haunted, was aimed at the youngsters. I've always thought that a valuable opportunity  was missed with this show. If presented correctly the younger generation would have understood more about ghosts and the correct way to investigate them. Most Haunted, well, the ones I saw anyway were simply a scream time.
This led to a plethora of poorly researched books hitting the market, and more unrealistic programmes being shown. It became boring very fast. Sensible researchers were shoved into the background as the media-savvy authors and investigators gave out silly stories. This is when ghost and angel orbs became fashionable. I found these stories funny, but on a more serious level again I felt sorry that people were being misinformed. Ghosts have been 'seen' since time immemorial, as have angels. Why would they suddenly start appearing in orbs? It does try your intelligence when people expect you to believe in things like that.  
Blithfield Hall, is not far from where I live, and it has been mentioned recently in two books. The books say that there are at least five ghosts that haunt the premises. 
Nancy Lady Bagot, who survived her husband has looked after the affairs at Blithfield since 1961. They came to Blithfield in the mid 1940s. Sadly Nacy Lady Bagot died in 2014. She will be missed by many. She was such a pleasant person.
I decided to write and ask Nancy, Lady Bagot if there were any ghost stories linked to Blithfield. After all if  anyone would know, she would!
She kindly wrote back to me saying that in all the years that she has lived at Blithfield she had never seen sight nor sound of a ghost. Neither has anyone else, apart, that is from a friend who was staying one night. The friend thought she heard a disturbance, nothing more. It wasn't really a ghost story, but Lady Bagot was being helpful. I have written to her about one or two matters in the past and found her more than helpful.
I know I'm beginning to sound sceptical, but surely if a family have been in residence at Blithfield for near enough sixty years they would know that if their home was haunted. 
I accept Nancy Lady Bagot's story but certainly not the stories in the above books. They have gone on rumour,  and silly stories picked up and passed down through the years.
The books mentioned have picked up on stories of grey ladies. Now, when I read or have written someone's story myself about grey or white ladies, I think nowadays, surely it would read better as a ghost dressed in grey or white clothing.
In one book I recently read, the fact that a woman goes into a public toilet and the hand dryer starts up, is written as a ghost story! I found this hilarious.This is not  a ghost story. Hand-dryers do come on when you walk past them. I've had it happen numerous times. I never thought that there was a ghost about. Our television changes channel sometimes I don't immediately think that our house is haunted. I would have thought that the author would have realised electricity does things like this from time to time. The author goes on to mention that he knows that public toilets are haunted. Really? Does he believe a ghost is  going to spend his/her afterlife haunting toilets? I think not. I would say he is lacking in experience regarding ghostly matters.
I shall in the future be publishing various stories that do not in my opinion add up as to what a ghost story should be.
The West Midland Ghost Club is a group who have been investigating ghostly occurrences for over twenty years. You can find them here.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

A little more about reviews - with indie authors in mind.

I noticed on one of the Amazon forums they were discussing reviews, in particular about self published books, and the errors they contain. I recalled reviewing a couple of self published books and why I gave them five stars, despite them having grammatical errors.

I recall reviewing a s/p book once. I came across the young woman on F/book -some of her friends were on my F/book page. I read her page for a while, and developed a tremendous admiration for her courage. She had breast cancer.
I read her book, it was a harrowing account of what she had endured when she joined the army at eighteen. She'd joined because she wanted to serve her country, as her father and grandfather had. No girl should endure what she went through at the hands of eight men.
  The person she eventually married abused her terribly. Despite suffering all she did she still went on to help others as much as she could. After her divorce her abusive husband kept the rights to her book. The book had errors in it. I wasn't bothered by them at all.
Eventually she was given the all clear from her breast cancer. I read her second book. It was an inspiration, again it contain errors, I wasn't bothered because I admired her tremendous courage that through everything she had suffered she still managed to encourage and inspire others through her writing.
I became her friend via F/book and exchanged many private messages. Never once did she ever complain about what had happened to her in the army or her illness. Even when the cancer returned, she still helped others as much as she possibly could. She died a few months ago, she was just 36. I and many others will always miss her. Her books were not pity me books.
Her books were not perfect, but I don’t look for perfection, when reading, . I did not expect to read what I did when I read about her life in the army, but her courage and determination to get justice was inspirational. As was her second book and her fight with cancer.  She did not deserve all she suffered in her young life. She spread sunshine and happiness throughout her life, not bitterness, no reproaches, or pity me. She was different. I was fortunate to know her. 
If I could have given her a gold medal and fifty stars I would have.
Of course the above does not mean that I think books trad or s/p are acceptable if they are littered with errors. It the text engages me then I will read it.
Indie authors have come in for a lot of stick over the last few years. Some deservedly so, others not. It's the way of the world and we just have to accept that we can't please all of the people all of the time.
I recently read a well known TV personality's autobiography. I was quite disappointed with it. To me it did not do him justice, his character did not shine through at all. I think much of it was ghost written. Unlike these two books, both self-published but well worth a read.
Hazelnuts & Moorhens No, I do not know this author. I only wish I did. He comes across as a very nice man.
The Age of Innocence  No, I didn't know this lady either, until after I had read her book. I'm proud to say she is my friend now.
I never normally make the point that a book I read or occasionally review is traditionally or self-published. I'm not interested, life's too short to keep harking on about such unimportant matters. I've mentioned it here to make a point.

Friday, 8 November 2013

A very quick trip through my publishing journey.

The following is a quick skip through my publishing journey. I will be expanding on it in the coming weeks.
Ever since I could read I have been addicted to the printed word. I don't just mean reading, I would wonder how the words actually on the pages of newspapers, magazines, and most importantly books.
We were too poor to be able to buy books in those days so I used the public library - along the Moseley Road, Balsall Heath. This started my life long love affair with libraries. It was exciting to me as a child to go into this large space and be able to see so many books and be allowed to choose a couple of books, or perhaps we were only allowed one in those days. It was so long ago I can't remember.
My favourite children's books were Enid Blytons books which included the Famous Five and The Secret Seven series. Another major favourite was Johanna Spyris's classic book - Heidi published in 1880. The first film of the book starring Shirley Temple was released in 1937. Heidi is free at the moment of writing this, it's available on Amazon Kindle. None of Enid Blytons books are free. There are boxed sets available. My sister and I were allowed one comic between us - this was The School Friend.
I remember longing for a John Bull printing set when I was a child. I never had one. My husband told me he did (his family were better off than ours). He said you had to pick the tiny parts up with tweezers. I would have enjoyed experimenting with one of those.There are photographs on the website of the original sets. Type it into Amazon and you get taken to today's printing sets.
I've never lost my love of reading or wondering about printing/printers. I couldn't even estimate how many books I must have read during my lifetime. If I had a £1.00 for every book I would be extremely rich.
It wasn't until I wrote my first booklet back in the early 1990s that I actually dealt with a printing company.
It was fascinating to see an enormous printing press working. Of course I was the other side of the counter. 
One day I went into the printing premises and the man who operated the printing press called me across. He told me that he was just setting up the printer for my booklet. He pulled up a stool and allowed me to watch the process. How I wish I had a photograph of that occassion. 
I do not have a photograph of the original booklet but last year was the 21st anniversary of the book publication so I published this anniversary copy.
Publishing my booklet was exciting and to my relief it was successful. I was asked if I would write another booklet, I did, and I wrote another one, swiftly followed by yet another.
Eventually I decided to collate all the stories into one. But how would I publish my book. I had heard of a publishing company called I gave them a try along with my book Birmingham Girls.
It eventually turned out fine. I did have quite a few hiccups along the way. One major trouble being when the books went online they were very expensive. How would I ever recoup my editorial fees my royalties were almost nil as I tried to keep the price down.
It was only when Kindle entered the market-place giving indie authors control over their pricing that my books finally found the right sales outlet. Everything altered. Being able to upload our work in a jiffy is wonderful.
Although I will always be grateful to Lulu for giving me the opportunity to publish my books there is no comparison sales wise to Kindle. 
I've now left Lulu and recently started changing my books over to CreateSpace. There is no comparison between my previous publisher and C/S.
CreateSpace actually review your work and point out your errors on the preview platform. You are guided through every stage of the publishing process. I did have a few troubles with the cover platform. I worked through it and it slowly dawned on me what I had to do. I hadn't a clue how to make a wraparound cover of my own design. I aim to find out though. C/S do give you a template which you can put your cover photograph in. I designed my cover before uploading it. They provide the spine. They then check that it's okay. Perfect to save you time and money. They do have cover templates if you prefer to use these. The previous publisher hardly bothered with the text file. If your cover does not reach C/S specifications they tell you where your errors are so that you can fix them.
I ordered my proof copy and chose the express service. The proof copy comes from the US, after accepting the copy apparently any orders are printed in the UK.
A Haunted Past Life paperback & Kindle available on this page
My book arrived within a few days. I'm thrilled with it. I had always wanted to publish a novel in the 5 x 8 size. Lulu do not do this size. They do use a 5.5 x 8 size. I'd ordered a couple of proof copies to see what they were like. I was charged £4.00 postage for each item but did not receive a book which I ordered on the 23rd October until today, 8th November. It had been printed in Belgium. I'm still waiting for the other one. I should imagine any customers ordering copies would be disappointed in such a long wait.
My books were uploaded to CreateSpace within 12 hours. 
There is also a help line you can telephone seven days a week. I believe they call you back.
Thank goodness for CreateSpace and farewell Lulu.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

One of my reviews for my book - The Other Place -only 64p!

Available from Amazon Kindle. 

From the start Chrissie is a sweet, but complex girl with many phobias and as a result she's quite a loner. She's close to her sister Babs, and has an imaginary friend Amy, who has become her soul-mate. Becoming fearful she's being stalked, she is also tormented by latent vague memories of something unpleasant having happened to her as very young child. Her weak mother, Lilly and mean stepfather Alf, appear to afford her and her sister no kindness or consideration whatsoever. Babs seems to cope better than Chrissie with this tear jerking situation.

As the years pass, in order to find out more about what her problems are, she eventually goes to see hypnotherapist, Barbara, who helps her to transgress into a past existence. This is where I began to occasionally get confused about which period in time and which character I was reading about. However this eased as the book progressed, and by half way through, I'd become utterly enthralled with Chrissie's two very different lives.
As it dips in and out of the past and present, things do begin to reveal themselves, to slowly answer many of her questions. Mine too.
This book is quite a page turner, and as the storyline develops, involving many twists and turns, Chrissie's emotional journey of self discovery often becomes quite heart-rending.

To find out what happens, where "the other place" is, and what ghosts she has to lay to eventually find peace of mind and happiness in love, you simply must read the book yourself.
I think different people will probably have very different psychological experiences from reading this evocative story. It is masterfully written, and I congratulate Carol Arnall on its uniqueness. It has also converted me to possibly consider reading more of this genre.

                                                                   Out in paperback soon.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

About the Amazon Forums - just my opinion!

So much heated discussion has taken place on  Amazon Forum boards over the years about self published authors. It’s astonishing that when everything else about them has been exhausted the discussion turns to commas etc, and accusing authors of promoting themselves!
I ask myself does it honestly matter. In books definitely yes, on a discussion thread no. In books definitely yes, on a discussion thread no. Particularly when you do not know what difficulties the poster might have regarding sight and other obstacles.
Self published authors like traditional authors have their work checked by proofreaders, and it they can afford it professional copy editors and editors. They can also have their work professionally critiqued.
Not being able to place a comma in the correct place or if an apostrophe is missed on a thread is IMO is just not relevant. Readers go to the look inside feature and then make their own decision. By the way the majority of readers are not pedantic and can forgive a few errors. And the majority of readers simply ‘do not see misplaced commas’. Unless they are reading a serious literary book; on saying that it’s still no excuse for not getting your book proofread. Even if you cannot afford a professional editor there is always someone in the community who will help you out.
Books with editing problems have been picked up by publishers on Kindle and published. It is always, always the story line that is important to a publisher, not whether it has been proofed to death. It is the same with articles. You do not have to have an article proofread before sending it to a magazine it is the idea and the writing style which determines whether an editor will pick it up or not.
Agents don’t just look at the Kindle top 100 list. Agents are constantly looking at all of the books on the site to see if they think it is worth following up.
As for the few posters who accuse authors of promoting themselves on the Amazon fiction and Kindle threads that is quite absurd. There are hardly any new readers visiting the Amazon Boards nowadays. Authors visit the boards to chat to other people who have a love of books and different discussions. Okay, someone might like your writing style and click on your profile to see your books. That’s one person out of the millions of readers who visit the Amazon online shop. Maybe readers left the Discussion threads because of all the attacks on the authors. Another reason could well be that in the main it was the authors who kept the threads going. When Amazon introduced the MOA authors found they did not need the fiction forum anymore.
So okay occasionally new readers slip up and promote their books. A polite word is all that is needed to point them in the right direction of the Meet Our Authors forum. No need for the over reaction that some posters come out with. It’s hardly a hanging offence to leave an accidental link to your book.

To sell as many books as they do, without the marketing arm of a publisher behind them I think self published authors are quite remarkable.
A regular poster to the Amazon Discussion Forum has made this interesting post.
Being interested in writing I've always had a foot in both camps so although I take breaks I didn't leave the forum for good but many clearly have.
And it's not just readers. Since Amazon created MOA most authors have had to adhere to their guidelines or risk being banned and many no longer even post on the kindle forum as they used to, which was always busier than fiction. On MOA too there are fewer chat threads than at its inception.
I think it's no one's fault but in the main authors and readers simply don't mix. They have different agendas for being here.
Thanks Ethereal.

Friday, 1 November 2013

A visit from my dog (in the spirit world) on Halloween

Boyden 2000 - 2013
Yesterday was Halloween. Tradition says that at midnight the veil between this world and the next is at it's most vulnerable. I wondered whether any of my loved ones would be able to make contact.
Midnight came and went. I received not at a sign. At 12.15 I thought I saw a movement on my dog's blanket. She -Sophie- had gone to lie in another part of the bedroom at just gone midnight. On seeing the movement I blinked, but could not see anything.
This morning when I looked at the blanket there were two white feathers lying on it. To me these tiny white feathers are always a sign of contact from someone in spirit. As they were both on the dog's blanket I can only assume they were a sign from my dog, Boyden.
I felt a lovely warm glow knowing that he had visited me. Not that he has ever really left me or ever will.