Three things you need to be a best seller

There three things every writer needs to be a best seller: JK Rowling

1 To be up there among the big guys and make loads of money from your writing, you need a series. Once you hook a reader with your first book, then they will be dying for the next one and the one after that etc, etc.

Genre is important too. Crime pays. So do historical books based on Tudor England and children’s books can do well too. Not to forget fantasy series.

2 A main character that appeals to your readership and can stay the course. Their personal lives must engage but not dominate the narrative and there must always been that hook at the end of each book, which leaves the reader longing to know what will happen next.

3 Location and/or world is also crucial. The world of Harry Potter is so well known that words like “Muggles” have become part of our language. Parts of Ireland are visited purely because they provide settings for “Game of Thrones.” In both these cases readers have so identified with the narrative that what is purely fictional has become real and spawned its own reality.

Now at the moment, I’m not doing very well on any of these points. As far as the first is concerned, my novels are all standalone books and quite different in in structure and genre. House of Shadows“House of Shadows” is a time slip novel,

shadows-on-the-grass“Shadows on the Grass”, historical and Picking Up The Pieces“Picking up the Pieces” women’s fiction.




I do have a specific location for all of them, however, as they are all set in Bristol, so I suppose I’m half way towards point no 3.

And while I hope all my characters are engaging, their stories end with the end of the novel. So a complete failure as far as point 2 goes.

However, now that I know what I should be doing, I’m putting myself on the right track.

My children’s book “City of Secrets” is due out in October and will be the first of a series (1) for eight to twelve-year-olds about Letty Parker (2) and her friends, who will be solving mysteries in an alternative world Bristol (3)

Will this be a recipe for success?

Who knows, because one ingredient I haven’t yet discussed is the question of luck, but that’s for another blog.




Books for Free?

Food for thought here.

Kathy Sharp

I’ve just read a cri de coeur on social media from yet another writer ready to throw in the towel. Not that she intends to give up writing, you understand – what she is giving up is the unequal struggle to make even a very modest living from it.

When I began writing novels I certainly never expected to earn a living from it – but even I was taken aback by the amount of effort (writing itself, promotion) that I needed to put in to receive even a tiny return. The increasing expectation for the written word to be provided for free, at least over the internet, certainly doesn’t help.

I have long since thrown in the towel myself. The struggle to sell reading material, even at a very low price, became more trouble than it was worth when it began to affect my health. I still have books…

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Paper Dolls


Paper dolls box of

A few years ago, when Mum was clearing out some of her cupboards, she found an old shoe box and opening it up found it was stuffed full of paper dolls. Since she never throws away any of our things without our permission, she asked if I wanted it.

Bringing it home, I put it on the list of things to do. One of these days I would get together with my sister and we would go through the contents and decide. Time passed. The box remained un-opened, but this is the year when I’m doing a life laundry and the box, taking up space in my office has to be dealt with.

What am I going to do with it, is the question. .

When  my sister, Anuk, and I were kids, we played endlessly with our paper dolls. Some were from magazines, large cardboard images of little girls, never boys, that could be cut out then dressed with the dresses that came with them. The dolls were always in their underwear, and their clothes were attached to their shoulders by fold up tabs.

Paper dollThese simpering children were never enough for our games. With some we added our own homemade and designed clothes, but as they took on lives and stories of their own we soon graduated to drawing our own dolls, complete with wardrobe of clothes for every season and period of history.Home made paper dolls 1

For these dolls were the embodiment of our imagination. Not having any tin soldiers were made our own paper ones, complete with princesses and castles. If we needed Indians for a story we drew them,Paper dolls Indian family but the story we told most often concerned neighbouring families. In what must have been a precursor to my novels, these families lived dramatic and romantic lives.

We set up their houses on our beds; each room divided by ribbons and furnished with whatever we could cut out of catalogues. What we couldn’t find there we cut out of women’s magazines, which was slightly tricky, especially with the men, who were few and far between in those days, but we managed, even if the picture was at an odd angle, or lacked feet. What mattered was what the character looked like and whether they fitted in to the narrative. Very much like the advice given to writers to find images and make story boards when they are building plot and character. Oddly enough this is something I never do.

Miss JulieThe matriarch of my family was the beautiful and mysterious Miss Julie. Haunted by a secret sorrow, her husband a shadowy, if not non-existent figure, she was the mother of many daughters, all of whom had very intense romantic relationships.

For my sister, who now makes her living as an artist and for me as a writer, those dolls were our training ground – to bin them seems wrong yet there is no point in keeping them shut up in a box and never looking at them. So what am I to do? Suggestions would be welcome.