Friday, 24 August 2012

Sharing the joy

I have decided to run another free ebook promotion to mark my first Royalty payment from Amazon!  Yes it's very exciting to receive that email confirming that payment of royalties for my ebooks has been deposited into my bank account. 

It might sound odd but I had forgotten that this would happen at some point.  I have been so busy keeping the girl's amused during the long school holidays and busy trying to keep up with marketing of ebooks, etc and enjoying the whole process of being a self published author that I forgot that I may be accruing royalties from downloads!

So I am going to share the joy and have made Anastasia Series II Omnibus free until end of Tuesday 28th August!

This Omnibus has all 12 short stories from Anastasia Series II where Anastasia is an established detective solving crimes and mysteries on horseback in the beautiful Kent countryside.  With each story we learn more about who she really is while Anastasia and her great friend Charlotte get the job done with a little help from an array of interesting friends and characters.

I loved writing these stories and I really hope you all enjoy reading them.  Reviews are very welcome so please leave a review if you enjoy the stories.  No Kindle needed as you can download a free reading app from the Kindle Store so you can read the stories on your iphone, ipad, pc, etc.

Join Anastasia on her journey... UK USA & India Germany Spain France Italy

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Fergus writes... and I comment!

"To really understand the Journey of Anastasia you really need to read Anastasia – Where Eagles Dare. I will say no more than that at this stage as Rachael has not finished it yet.
Yes I am lucky because I know what is going to happen and you, dear reader, have to wait. Believe me it is worth waiting for. It will be Rachael Phillips' best to date. She gets better with every book.
The type of book Rachael has written has been well thought out and is the first of its kind. It is a dynamic, fast moving, action detective adventure.
It is not Miss Marple or the Famous Five. Miss Marple would be too slow for most children and it has to be fast moving and set in 2012. Anastasia is every Adolescent boy’s dream. She is lightening quick, beautiful, tall, slim with a pony tail.
She is the daughter of every mother who reads the books and all have their number one concern as to Anastasia’s welfare and health. Many say it is breaking their hearts to read of her struggles with Haemophilia.
For horse mad girls it is the next stage forward after the Kent Junior Mounted Police and follows Anastasia into her teenage years.
The surprising element in her followers are adult men most of whom have served in the Forces either conventional or Special Ops. They all say they like the way Rachael writes the books in a way that touches on operational details without giving the detail of a Tiger Tank Manual which is what you always get from male writers. Rachael does not bog you down with details or specifications.
So many have commented on Rachael’s research and detailed knowledge of Special Ops methods. Some ask how she knows specific Special Forces call signs such as Broken Arrow which should only ever be used in the utmost emergency.
How does she know the geography of American Units in the European Theatre? Where did she learn how to shoot like that? Above the head of female hostages to target the male behind with one shot.
Where did she find Laszlo and Zoltan from. Are they based on actual Foreign Legion members? Are they that deadly yet have a heart of Gold? What of Joe and John? They are two men who will never forget the trauma of Cambodia and Vietnam and what of their German American background? Well that is another story.
Anastasia has no tattoo. Why do Special Service Operatives have a tattoo under their armpit? It is very simple. It is their blood group in case they are shot. In the field there is no laboratory to match. You need to have a solution immediately.
Some ex military men say Anastasia is a well oiled and highly tuned Nemesis Operative. They all say they love Series III and are unanimous on one thing. They all say they wish Anastasia was their daughter and are most paternal in their support of her.
Anastasia has reached all ages and I am certain she will make it to the movie screen.
One thing all the men say is just how much they are revolted by the practise of stealing children and forced marriages and what a good job Rachael Phillips is doing to keep the matter in the Public Eye.
Well done Rachael! Fergus Wilson"

I have to comment on this because Fergus has been a great inspiration to me.  What started as a project to write about a girl and her horses began to take shape as my imagination went wild and then so did Fergus' as he began to input more with his knowledge of history and Special Ops.  He knows so many things that I wish I could include it all in the stories and then some!
I think for me I want to express the values of co-writing because together we seem to create stories that are exciting and that we both enjoy hugely!  As do the many readers who express their passion for our Anastasia stories.
While I research and am thorough about the facts I include in the stories the military knowledge is definitely from Fergus and some of the interesting and often strange characters in the stories?  Well let's say Fergus knows and has known many interesting people.  
In honesty Anastasia and her great friend Charlotte in the first stories are both borne from aspects of my character (yes I know! - I am so afraid of the dark!)
The characters and how they develop is borne from how I wrote the stories and the effect it had on Fergus I guess.  Where he has inspired me I like to think that I too have inspired him to make the characters and stories bigger and better with every one.
I never envisaged that Anastasia would grow so much and become so loved, not just by the co-authors, but by her huge following worldwide.
If you don't understand how a character can impact on people's lives then you clearly haven't read the stories.  Written with hard work, passion, knowledge and lots of love... the journey has begun.  Rachael Phillips

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The power of emotion

I have to admit to sometimes assuming that people who read my blog know me but it is clear from the number of readers and the locations of the readers that not everyone reading my blog does know me.  I have had an emotional day from reading a blog post by Jason Manford and decided to share...  It evoked emotions in me that had long been put away and also feelings of anger that there are still so many ignorant people in the world.

It has been an emotional time lately what with the low of finding out my Dad has cancer, the highs of the Olympics, the low of poor Tia Sharp's life being taken away at just twelve years old... the list could go on.  I am not looking for sympathy but the power of emotion particularly hit me this evening when my four year old daughter sat silently as the end credits rolled for Disney's 'Enchanted'. 

I could sense something was wrong and I approached her and asked if she enjoyed the film.  She immediately began to cry, sobbing and huge tears falling from her eyes.  It broke my heart to see her in so much pain and after lots of cuddles she confirmed she was so happy she couldn't stop crying.  While I cuddled her I had glimpses of the future: the pain of 'breaking friends' at school, the hurtful comments that will come from other children and the first time a boy breaks her heart.  Yes I know it's all premature but the power of seeing a child distressed, especially when it is your child, is hard to take.  It's part of being a mum.  I tried to explain why she shed so many tears for something that should have made her smile and explain that it is a normal reaction.

I realised I have always reacted emotionally to hearing of babies and children being neglected, abused and mistreated.  When I was growing up I sobbed to news reports of the starving children in Ethiopia then as a teenager I sobbed to news reports of neglected children in Romania and the images of babies banging their heads on cot bars haunts me to this day.  Other stories of children being taken, abused and murdered affect me so massively I fight to keep them from my mind. 

I am beginning to think it is no coincidence that in my stories Anastasia is fighting to ensure crimes against the most vulnerable in our society are stopped.  If only there was more empathy in the world.

You forget that emotions are something that you have to learn to live with and deal with.  My daughter made me realise that she is learning every day and she is going to have to face some harsh things in her life and learn to cope with her emotional reaction to them.

I sometimes think I am fortunate to be surrounded by like minded people who are not ignorant to the plights of others however I recalled an incident when someone I had faith in let me down and this was brought to mind after reading Jason Manford's blog post about the comments he had about Gary Barlow's decision to perform at the Olympics Closing Ceremony after suffering his own trauma of losing a long awaited child.  I cannot go into more details because it is too personal and potentially detrimental.  

Many people have been affected by the very things they read others have been through and the power of emotions evoked is extraordinary.  When you see a small child react to an innocent film so powerfully and knowing that I can help her understand why we experience these emotions makes me wonder even more why anyone would have bad thoughts about those that are truly suffering.  Clearly they have never been shown how to handle their own, very powerful, emotions. 

Is it any wonder that we live in a society where children are robbing from children, children are acting so violently and shrugging as if it's because society owes them something, children are being treated so awfully because there are those who should never be parents and are raising said children to be just like them.

The power of emotion will endure and I can only hope that most parents have been guided on their emotional journeys from a young age so they can empathise with others when it is most needed and teach their children to 'do unto others...'.  That is how I was raised and it had a profound effect on me and stays with me always.

Please don't make light of the plight of others unless you can be sure you would be able to stand there and accept those jokes and throw away comments if they were about traumas you have had to endure.

We have one life; is it asking too much to offer a hand of support to those that are suffering even if it is only in thought and being thoughtful enough not to trivialise their plight?  Everyone has their own journey and all too often it is marred with trauma and loss.  The power of emotion can consume us but it can also make us better people.

So when I read about the thoughtless comments from people about a man they don't truly know, and how he has dealt with his tragedy, it upset me to the core.  I for one am impressed by a man that can make sure the show goes on because he has committed to it and I have no doubt his wife insisted he do it.  For the fools who feel they can judge - let's pray you never have to experience the true emotion that is the loss of a child.  One of my coping mechanisms in dealing with my Dad's illness is to listen to music and to write how I feel.  So if a singer/songwriter decides he wants to go out and sing then I applaud him and I do it with a standing ovation. 

Never underestimate the power of emotion and never criticise how others deal with it unless you have experienced the pain yourself.  As individuals we are on a constant emotional, learning journey but as parents we are there to guide.  Never underestimate the power of emotion...        

Monday, 13 August 2012

Hooray for the London 2012 Olympics!

Well the London 2012 Olympics ended with a spectacular closing ceremony last night.  Wow!  I was truly amazed by it and there were uplifting, emotional and thought provoking moments.  Huge congratulations to all medal winners across the globe - you did your countries proud as did all those who took part and helped make sure the 2012 Olympics was one to remember.

How fabulous to watch the USA, China and Great Britain top the medal charts with their truly well deserved Gold medal tally.  I am British but I have to say when I watched Great Britain and other countries get their Golds I felt the emotion and could only imagine the pride of their own countries and families.  The USA's David Boudia's diving was exquisite, Usain Bolt romping home for Jamaica so impressive but my highlights have to be watching Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah win their Gold medals and Tom Daley his bronze - each athlete having an amazing story to tell about how far they have come to achieve, despite pitfalls and setbacks along the way.  The work they had to put in is mind blowing and they all prove how resilient they are and indeed how each of us are.  Never doubt your capabilities.

If you have a will to achieve then you will achieve, is my belief.  There will always be those that will doubt you, criticise you and try to put you off your goal but there will also be those who champion you, will you to do well and have every faith in your abilities.  Sadly it is all too easy to listen to the negatives. 

I am sure everyone felt inspired by each and every one of those amazing Olympic competitors. 

I guess what it makes me realise is the importance of support.  All of our Olympic sportsmen and sportswomen said having the crowd behind them made all the difference.  The athletes journeys have been watched and supported by millions.

So I am here, hopeful, that I have the support out there too.  After all if you are reading this then hopefully I have piqued your interest. 

This blog has a big following and I find it amazing and humbling to realise it.  There is something about watching and learning of someone's journey and I appreciate that many are watching those of mine and Anastasia's. 

Our journeys have begun...   

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Fergus responds... to a great review

I write this Blog item after the Publication of M G Wells review of Anastasia Romanov - Private Detective
Anastasia has become very dear to the Co Authors and is most precious to both as well as all her fans and followers.
She has been an outstanding find as has been Rachael Phillips who must take all credit for the cliff hanger style of Adventure writing.
A number of readers have written in the past few days to say they are on EMOTIONAL OVERLOAD over Anastasia’s declining health and appreciate she has a terminal illness but it is so unfair with all the good she does.
I think Rachael Phillips is well aware of the Emotional Overload for so many readers around the world. One reader says she cannot stop crying but begs for more.
Anastasia now has a World Wide following and leads on many fronts. She is the Special Forces Sweetheart around the world. No one else has seemed to catch as much in popularity as our fictional heroine.
The dash to Frankfurt Military hospital using the forbidden Broken Arrow call sign and hanging onto the skids of an Apache Attack helicopter over the Mid Atlantic are memorable in my mind but what I like most is the compassion she has for disadvantaged people be they impoverished or disabled.
The Broken Arrow call sign is one that must be used only in the most urgent of situations. It is very seldom used.
Rachael has researched the Royal Family links to Anastasia extremely well. I find it fascinating.
At the time of writing this blog Rachael is still writing “Where Eagles Dare” and hence I best leave further comments until after publication.
Anastasia has brought attention to the plight of girls forced into marriage in Britain and taken back to the parent’s homeland against their will.
She is a roll model to so many in showing that you only kill when absolutely necessary and she saved the lives of many in None but the Brave.
Earlier she had dealt with instances of people being unkind to the less advantaged. Some would say they had Human Rights. I think it is the Human Rights of the victims we should consider.
Anastasia raises the awareness of Haemophilia throughout the world. I am pleased she leads by example of how anyone with a life threatening illness carries on.
She raises awareness of the theft of new born babies in Spain and this is very important.
She does much good and I am proud to be associated with her and Rachael Phillips.
What a find Rachael Phillips has been!
Some will say this girl Anastasia is a well oiled killer who acts smoothly and has a split personality. I disagree. She does what needs doing but takes no pleasure. She eliminates cleanly, clinically and professionally the Bad Guys.
The World is a better place due to our Heroine.
It is so sad that this young lady who has charmed everyone is dying from Haemophilia.
Fergus Wilson

This review is from: Anastasia Romanov - Private Detective (Anastasia Series III) (Kindle Edition) 
5* Intense YA thriller!
ANASTASIA ROMANOV - PRIVATE DETECTIVE was dramatic, gritty and intense. Anastasia is recruited into a specialized agency, whose goal is to rescue two kidnapped children.

I especially liked the relationship between Anastasia and Laszlo, who is a real hard-ass dude with the heart of a marshmallow. Laszlo teaches Anastasia how to handle firearms and to be rational in the most precarious scenarios, guide Anastasia to overcome her fears and expect the unexpected. He is most certainly an intelligent man and teaches Anastasia the reality of inhumane crimes.

Zoltan is also one of Anastasia's guides. He protects and shows her the in and outs of how to get the job done quickly and quietly. This story had a Mission Impossible feel to it. Anastasia is just a teenager engaged in a rescue mission from which most adults would shrink.

I admire Anastasia. She's bold, yet humble. Brave, yet cautious. There is much action, drama and intrigue in this story. Anastasia faces the Russian Mafia and ultimately manages to save the children.

Anastasia is a strong, heroic young lady, who is courageous during the most unbearable conditions imaginable. I have to admit I was surprised by Anastasia's resilience and strength and look forward to her next action-packed adventure. Horses, helicopters and travelling around the world with Anastasia was a thrilling ride!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Violence in children's literature

I am working on Series III of the Anastasia stories and have found myself thinking a lot about the level of violence in the stories.  Is it appropriate?  Is it sympathetically written?  Is it glamorised?   

The point is in Series III Anastasia is dealing with a crime world that is very real in our world today.  Is it wrong to bring this to the attention of teenagers?  I don't think so.  I think issues of baby napping, child trafficking and forced marriages are things that will affect some of our children and teenagers, and raising awareness can only be a good thing.  This is particularly focussed on in 'Anastasia - None But the Brave' and 'Anastasia - From Here to Eternity'.

There are many actual cases of children going missing, snatched from their families and never seen or heard of again.  There are cases of Asian girls missing, their own mothers having no idea what has happened then we hear how the girl has been shipped out to be married against her will.  These things are happening so frequently but such stories don't always make the news.

A lot of research would be needed to get a true picture.  In the stories Anastasia is using violence against the abusers.  She is working to put an end to the violence against the most vulnerable in our society.  Her gun could be any weapon but it is not intended to glamorise the use of guns in any way.  The people she is violent to are those responsible for awful crimes and there is no doubt about their input.

These stories are not suggesting we need to go out and try to stop these criminals ourselves but to raise awareness that something needs to be done.  The fact that our heroine is the one in the stories to infiltrate these crime worlds is a way to highlight just how these crimes are carried out.

Is the violence unnecessary?  No, I think it is necessary because, let's be honest, in reality these people wouldn't respond to a chat about maybe not committing the crimes anymore.  The stories are fiction but based on real crimes that happen every day.  

I find myself thinking of James Bond and how unrealistic aspects of those stories are and yet he had a huge following.  Why?  Because people want the bad people to be stopped and want good to prevail.  Why shouldn't the hero be a teenage girl rather than a man in a suit? 

If we want to bring about change then we need to highlight issues that may be being overlooked and that is what these books are about.  If the violence is too much then don't let your teenagers read the books because Series III has a large element of violence.

I do think it is unrealistic to shield children from the violence in our world today when many will be mugged for their mobile phones and it is likely that a weapon will be used to do this.  I think it's important to hope that someone will put an end to these crimes but we must all play our part in raising our own children's awareness of such issues not least to ensure they are mindful of their own safety.

It is a harsh world we live in and unrealistic to think we can shield our children from it all.

The stories are not all about violence, which isn't too graphic anyway, but about working together and a young girl's journey to discover who she really is and how she fits in the world.  If the violence worries you then these are not the books for you.  However if you want to read stories with action, adventure and crime then give them a go and make your own minds up.

The journey has begun... 

'Anastasia - None But the Brave' and
'Anastasia - From Here to Eternity' are both available to download now on Amazon

Monday, 6 August 2012

Fergus responds... to another reader question

"Sandy from Austin, Texas is a neighbour of Geraldine and asks whether the Yellow Ribbon is anything to do with the tradition in Texas?

The answer is 'yes'.

Sandy also says that she was so terribly upset when she realised Anastasia would die from her haemophilia and she and her neighbours, including Geraldine, talk of nothing else at their morning coffee sessions.

They think Anastasia is the best heroine ever and has done so much for the cause of stopping arranged/forced marriages, baby napping and child napping.

They say Anastasia faces the end very bravely but she really is just a teenage girl scared of dying and needs the security of Olga and Aunt Judith but most of all she wants closure on her life which means she must know finally about her biological mother.

I think you need to read 'Anastasia - From Here to Eternity' OUT NOW ON AMAZON.


Fergus responds... to another review from a familiar set of initials

"Our great Aunt is at it again.  She should be constructive not destructive with her criticism.  She did not like the first one she read but appears to have read Anastasia and the Three Wise Men in considerable detail and enjoyed it.

Why would a reader who did not like a previous one bother to read another?

When I go into a traditional bookshop I pick up whatever takes my eye and read the first couple of pages and if I like what I read then I purchase.  With an ebook store you can likewise read the first couple of pages which is presumably what our Great Aunt did.  She then downloaded it and read it all.

No doubt she will do the same with the next.

For a reader who says he does not like what she reads she is certainly an avid reader of Anastasia's adventures.

Great Aunt has the bug and cannot keep away in common with all Anastasia's followers.

One of the purposes of my funding new authors is to give them a chance but to also encourage literacy skills within children worldwide.

We have to move with the times!

When I was a high school noodle
and life was rather smug,
My mother owned a poodle.
My father owned a pug.
And every Sunday after three,
A strange procession you would see,
My dear Mama, Papa and me,
The poodle and the pug.

I have no doubt that dear Great Aunt will be reading more Anastasia books which she so obviously enjoys.  No doubt this will spur on those reading this blog to also read the ebooks to see whether they agree with our Great Aunt.

My diet begins tomorrow.  Today I am going to get stuck in.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Fergus responds... to another reader question

"Geraldine of Austin, Texas emails to say that her emotions are in turmoil over this unfortunate teenage girl Anastasia.

Geraldine has been crying herself to sleep every night thinking of Anastasia's decline in health and ultimate end.  She absolutely loves Series III and cannot put the kindle down reading each story repeatedly.

She says that surely this series must be made into a film by Steven Spielberg!  I hope you've told him, Geraldine!

Geraldine says she has long thought there must be descendants of Queen Victoria in the United States.  Well I cannot help you there but I do know there were 1100 descendants listed both dead and alive.

She asks about Prince Leopold.  He died at about age 30 years and his son Charles Edward was born shortly after Leopold's death.  Charles Edward is the Grandfather of the current King of Sweden called King Gustav.

Prince Leopold was a haemophiliac and survived to thirty whereas most haemophiliacs die far younger.  His daughter was Princess Alice and she was a carrier of haemophilia."


Thursday, 2 August 2012

For free or not for free - that is the question. The world of independent publishing as I see it.

The free promotions to mark the Olympics went really well and all of your support is greatly appreciated.  I love seeing that people from many different countries are reading this blog and hopefully those same people are amongst those downloading the stories too; just like the many countries are competing in the Olympics.  There have already been some fantastic moments and memorable Gold Medals during this London Olympics 2012 and you can't beat a high like that if you are the one achieving (not that I've ever won a Gold Medal mind you!). 

Like athletes competing in the Olympics there is much more that goes on before an event to prepare and it takes hard work and dedication, often years of hard work and dedication.  Being an independently published author you have to do all the preparation to get the book ready, all the editing, proofreading, formatting, creating covers, etc. and that's the easy bit!  Once your book is on Amazon sadly no fairy godmother with a sparkly dress and twinkling wand appears to make sure everyone knows about the book. 

The marketing of the book takes a lot of time and research too.  Finding the best ways to market your book is not easy and I have mostly used social networking to do this because I don't have a huge, magic pot of money to advertise in any traditional way.  I am still a novice in the world of independent publishing though and I'm sure I will discover may new things and pitfalls along the way.  This is part of the journey.

I have met some amazing, independently published authors through social networking who have helped to spread the word to bring Anastasia to more people and I happily do the same for them.  I am learning though that you can't trust everyone and I have recently realised I have been spreading the word about a couple of fellow authors only to find that they have unfollowed me but still continue to allow me to promote their work for them.  I will be much more careful in the future because time is precious and as a full time mum I simply cannot afford to waste my time on unscrupulous people.  Live and learn.  

I am very passionate about my stories because of the amount of work that goes into the whole process of getting a story on Amazon.  I work with Fergus and together we create the stories.  It can be daunting to receive his input and I have often thought 'where can I possibly take this?!' but once I start to research and write things just start to happen.  It's like magic seeing everything take shape.

The buzz I get from writing the stories, promoting them and running promotions is amazing (even when I got a 1 star review!) but now the promotion is over I am feeling a little flat.  I get verbal feedback that people are really enjoying the stories but reviews are so important to balance out any rogue 1 stars!  Now the promotion has finished I am sure downloads will continue however watching the word spread about a promotion is a true credit to social networking and I salute those hard working writers out there that give up so much of their time to help others.

There are many that say social networking doesn't sell books but I am inclined to disagree.  For one thing I know for a fact that I have reached a larger audience already than if I hadn't bothered using social networking; the number of downloads support this.  New books on Amazon aren't as easy to come across as you'd think so you need the reviews and for people to click 'like' on your book for it to be more visible.  Obviously increased sales are very important too!

I am followed on Twitter by teenage girls and young people from different countries and that in itself is proof that I am starting to reach the correct audience for my stories.  As people continue to talk about Anastasia then I will no doubt get more young people following Anastasia through me and hopefully it will encourage more young people to read more.  This is what it is important to me - encouraging young people to read more and firing their imagination, maybe even the first spark of a dream to become a writer themselves.

So onto the bit that causes major arguments among writers: should you 'sell' your book for free?  It is all very well to say NOOOO don't do it because you are encouraging the trend for readers to simply wait to see what books are free.  However, if I was fortunate enough to be supported by an agent and publisher then a lot of the marketing is done by them.  They get your book 'out there'.  Independently published authors, with no agent, publisher, etc. have to do all the work themselves and I believe allowing people to sample your work for free may encourage the reader to read other books of yours and recommend to their friends, etc.

Giving away books for free is not a new thing bred from t'internet.  Maybe traditionalist writers have forgotten the numbers of books that were given away with magazines, newspapers, and other press.  Some books were offered a chapter at a time inside the publications too so the readership could follow the story with each edition of their newspaper, magazine, etc.  This is to encourage more people to read the author's books and recommend to people they know while making sure as many people as possible get to hear about this fantastic author and his/her work.  What is happening now is an up to date version of that method of marketing at least that is how I see it.

Some genres are so saturated that it is necessary to stand out from the crowd to be noticed.  I often feel like a five year old trying to jump up to see over the heads of those that have been around longer than I have.  But the good thing is I have plenty of time to grow taller and hopefully stand out from the crowd in the future.

Until then I will continue to work hard and may well run more free promotions at some point because I like knowing that someone new may have happened across Anastasia and that thought makes me very happy.  

So please continue to read as many books as you can by independent authors - I am discovering some fantastic authors.  If you love a book you read for free then please buy more.  You will be helping to make someone's dream come true.

The journey has begun...