I bought “How to Write A Sizzling Synopsis” by Bryan Cohen recently and read it yesterday at a coffee shop, where I had gone because I felt too ill to actually go into the gym even though I’d come into town to do just that.

It’s quite a short book, with large text, and normally I come out of these ‘how to’ writing books with the feeling that I’ve had maybe one sentence-worth of good advice after having read 100 pages of blather. But this one is really good, and I think quite worthwhile. I’ve taken on board most of its suggestions and re-written some of my book blurbs, in the hope that more people will be moved to buy my books. For example:

Under the Hill

Old Blurb

Voted Best multicultural fantasy of 2013 by the Swirl Awards, and now presented in one volume, Under the Hill is a contemporary fantasy adventure story featuring dragons, elves and world war two fighter planes.

Targeted for abduction by the Faerie Queen, Ben Chaudhry reluctantly turns to Chris Gatrell and his eccentric Paranormal Defence Agency for help.

But it’s hard to keep anything out of the snatching hands of determined elves. Chris himself was abducted from his own time – shot down in WWII, and shot forward seventy years in time, stranded far from his wartime sweetheart Geoff and his Lancaster bomber crew.

When the inevitable happens and Ben is abducted, he finds himself a major player in a game of elven politics that may lead to the invasion of Britain.

Chris has to convince the police he didn’t just murder Ben and hide the body. Determined not to lose another sweetheart to the elves’ treachery, he presses the ghosts of his old crew back into action for a rescue attempt.

But Geoff isn’t dead at all – he’s been on ice in Elfland all this time. Now he has a dragon and he’s not afraid to use it. If only he could be entirely sure which of the elf queens is the real enemy—the one whose army is poised to take back planet Earth for elf-kind.

In the cataclysmic battle to come, more than one lover—human and elf alike—may forced to make the ultimate sacrifice.


New Blurb

The fairies at the bottom of the garden are coming back with an army.

Ben is a modern, sceptical man but the fairies are trying to abduct him. When he hires Chris’s paranormal defence agency to protect him, he doesn’t expect to fall in love.

Chris is a refugee from his own time. He’s lost one lover to the elves already. Terrified, but determined that this time he’ll do better, he promises Ben that the elves will get him over his dead body.

If only that wasn’t looking so likely.

Under The Hill was voted Best Multicultural Fantasy 2013 in the mm romance Swirl Awards. Previously presented in two books, this new edition has the whole story in one volume. If you love KJ Charles’ Green Men and Magpie Lord books, you’ll love this.

Buy Under The Hill now and prepare to be enchanted.

Basically the advice was to simplify everything, focus on the characters, cut as much as you possibly could cut and include a clear call to action at the end. And considering that Amazon now only gives you about 200 words above the cut, you’ve really got no space to work with. Making it short is the way to go. What do you think?

Amazing SF/F novel sale bundle

Check out this fantastic bundle of SF/F titles available for 99c over December!


My Witch’s Boy is one of them, but there are thirty-four other books to choose from! Yes, you heard that right! THIRTY-FIVE sf/f books to choose from. You could buy five books for the price of a coffee

Must the sins of the father be passed down to the sons?

Peasant boy Oswy, sold to witch-lord Sulien FitzGuimar, thinks he’s destined to be carved into spell ingredients. Yet behind Sulien lurks someone even worse – his old master, Tancred, now the king’s mage.

When Tancred stages a coup, dragging the elves into his Empire-building plans, the woman he has set his sights on as a bride – aspiring nun, Adela – sets out to find someone to oppose him. But dark magic is addictive and hard to escape. With all their lives in peril, the fate of the world may balance on Sulien’s traumatized soul.

Writing Resumes

So… Anyone who read my blog in the summer will have seen me going through something of an existential crisis. I’m happy to report that (in so far as these things ever go away) it has receded and now I actually have A PLAN.

I’ve established my three pen names, and they all have websites and at least a few books out. They probably won’t all be blogging, given how hard I find it to keep up even one blog. But I’m converted to the usefulness of Facebook, and you can find me over there on my page:


After much soul searching, I’ve decided that I haven’t really given this self-published author thing enough of a try. I’ve only been doing it full time since April, and half of that time has been taken up in reorganizing everything and then writing and publishing Murder of A Working Ghost. It’s time to give it a good go now I AM re-organized.

Yesterday I took a good look at which of my books people were liking the best (measured by which ones people are buying,) and decided that I would give people more of what they want. No more of this artistic “I’m going to write whatever I want to and people will have to put up with it.”

I’m currently writing a space opera with an asexual main character. That’s currently called Curiosity and is planned as a series for my SF/F side, Alex Oliver. When that’s done (which I hope will be before Christmas,) I’ll start on another Alex Beecroft book.

I promised my Newsletter folks that I would do both a Trowchester novel and a new Age of Sail novel, so that’s what I’ve got planned:

  • Finish writing Curiosity #1
  • Write Trowchester #4
  • Edit Curiosity #1
  • Write a third Dancing Detective book.
  • Edit Trowchester #4
  • Write Curiosity #2
  • Edit DD #3
  • Write another Age of Sail book
  • Edit Curiosity #2
  • Edit the AoS book

After which I will stop and see what things look like again. I know a lot of people joined up with me because they loved the Age of Sail books, and I might make the next AoS book the beginning of a series.

I’m currently writing 3000 words a day, which means that (illness and family crises aside) I can finish a 75K book in a month. But editing takes at least a half to a whole other month, and I need to work some time in here for:

  • researching and planning all these books
  • learning how to use Amazon Ads and Facebook Ads in a way that actually makes me money rather than losing it.
  • making cover art, formatting, uploading, making graphics, blogging, sending newsletters, getting involved in promotion etc…

So, realistically we’re looking at a new Trowchester book in early summer 2019 and a new Age of Sail book in winter 2019. But watch this spot because I may decide to shuffle round the order depending on how things are going.

It’s nice to have a plan!

Grab your free Asexual detective novel now.


Murder of a Working Ghost is currently at #27 in all the Kindle store, at #1 in “Traditional Detectives,” and #2 in “Cozy mysteries.”

If only that was in the paid lists, but alas, I put it on free for a week to try to boost its visibility. In that, it absolutely seems to have worked!

It was downloaded by 4,250 people yesterday. I really hope at least some of them leave me reviews 🙂

Still, I can call myself an Amazon bestseller, which is always nice, and what’s nicer is that people seem to be reading it and then coming back to buy Murder of a Straw Man, the first in the series. This is the one with the asexual sleuth and the gay sleuth who are housemates.

So far the cozy mystery audience seem to be much more open to reading books with LGBT characters than the SF/F audience.The “OMG, why is everyone gay?” comments on the mysteries are much less vitriolic than the ones I’ve been getting on Cygnus Five.

Anyway – enough waffling. If you are interested in getting Murder of a Working Ghost for free, grab it now, as the promotion only lasts until the 9th.


I didn’t mention that I’d changed the cover, did I? Also I changed the cover 😉

Sprucing up the cover of Under The Hill

You may have noticed there’s a lot of reorganization going on at the moment. Having now become an almost entirely indie-published author I’m trying to get my backlist into order. When I first put out the new versions of my Samhain books, I was doing it as fast as possible, just to keep them out there, but now I have time to give them the love they deserve.

To that end, I’m thinking that everyone hates getting half the story and then having to pay for the second half, so I may retire Under the Hill: Bomber’s Moon and Under the Hill: Dogfighters in favour of promoting the full story, just called Under the Hill.

In my previous version of the cover, I tried to illustrate a scene from the story, with a dragon attacking a Lancaster bomber. Which could have been epic if I’d had the skills and the photos to work with. But I didn’t. So this time I just decided to feature an element that told you there was something 1940s/WWII going on and an element that said “Spooky Celtic; maybe elves.”

Which one would you go for out of these, if any?


(Bear in mind that these are mockups. Strange lines and watermarks will be eliminated in the real thing.)

SF/F Giveaway Bundle – 17 books for free!

This is such a good deal, omg 🙂 I know I mentioned it on the 1st of October, but today is my designated day when I’m supposed to share it, so for anyone who missed it last time, this is a bundle of 17 SF/F novels being given away for free. You don’t have to have them all – you can pick and choose which ones you fancy. I’ve only managed to review one, so far, but that one was very good.

Go and have a look – it’s going to cost you absolutely nothing 🙂



Win a $50 Amazon voucher with BookBub

Heya, all! One of the things I’ve been turning over during my slight crisis following Samhain’s collapse and the scandal at Riptide has been what to do with myself now. There was a brief period where I considered giving up writing altogether. But then I thought ‘no, dammit. I’m just going to have to make a go of this indie business!’

Unfortunately, making a living at writing inevitably involves some promotion of one’s books. So I’m now trying to absorb all the knowledge on the internet about book promotion, as well as rationalizing my brand and all that.

That’s all a pain for me. But I hope for you it can be a series of opportunities. So, for example, this chance to win a $50 voucher:

Follow me on BookBub, and you might win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

I’ve teamed up with nine other authors of LGBTQ fiction to run a promotion on BookBub.

BookBub is a great source of information about new and discounted books. They are selective about which books they recommend to their readers and you can filter their recommendations based on your preferences.

We would love you to follow us on BookBub, so we’re offering a prize to one of you for doing so. Entering is simple. Click the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, and then click the names of each of the ten authors and follow them on BookBub.

You will need a BookBub account to enter, but it’s free to join, and you can decide how often or how little they email you. For each author you follow, you’ll receive one contest entry. You can also receive three more entries for sharing the giveaway on Twitter.

One winner will be selected at random to receive a $50 USD Amazon gift card – or the equivalent, if you’d prefer a different currency or source.

It’s as simple as that! We look forward to seeing you on BookBub.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway starts at 12:00 am (EST) 8 October 2018 and runs for seven days. The winner will be selected at random on 15 October 2018.


How to explain being an author to a bunch of kids at a church infant school

Look at this! I was invited to speak at our local Church of England infants’ school by the vicar, some years ago now, and I’ve just discovered the talk I wrote for them. I managed to get most of it out without consulting the paper, and they asked me all sorts of things. Good times!


Hello everyone. My name’s Alex, and I am an author. I should probably start by explaining what that is, shouldn’t I? Well, I suppose you all have favourite books? I certainly hope that you’ve all read *a* book and enjoyed it! But did you ever wonder who makes up the stories inside storybooks, from the little stories like The Gruffalo to the great big stories like The Lord of the Rings? The person who makes up the stories that go in books is called an Author – and that’s what I do.

I should explain how it all happens. It starts when I have an idea. Let’s say I’m doing the washing up or driving to Ely, when I suddenly think to myself “wouldn’t it be interesting to write a story about some girl Vikings. They’ve been left behind when the boys go off on a raid, because the boys don’t think the girls should be able to fight. But no one realized there was a dragon in the hill near their village, and now it’s woken up, and the girls (who can’t fight, remember) are going to have to defeat the dragon using their amazing skills with needlework and cookery.”

So, I get home (or leave the washing up) and sit down at my computer. I fire up my word processor and I start to write. I write books for grown ups, which means that my books have to be really quite long. This one [holds up False Colors] is One hundred thousand words long, which is Two Hundred and Thirty three pages. So you can see that I have to think up a lot of story to fill that amount of space. I’m going to have to decide what all the girls’ names are and what they like and are good at. Who they’re all friends with. I’ll need at least one boy because it’s not fair on boy readers if there aren’t any boys at all in the book – but I’ll need a reason why he didn’t go on the raid with the others. And perhaps we’ll find out half way through that the dragon is really sleepy, normally, but that trolls are making him attack. So then the characters will have to go and deal with the trolls.

It takes me a very long time to write a book because they can get very complicated, and I have to make everything up as I go along. So it takes a lot of thinking. I write from about 10.30, when my husband goes to work until about 5pm, when my children come home from school, with a break for lunch and a break for coffee, and it still takes me almost a year of work to write a single book.

When I’ve got my story finished, that’s not the end of it. That’s only the start of it, in fact, because at that point my story looks like this [Hold up a manuscript.] I have to send this off to people called Publishers. If they like it and they think that other people will want to buy it, then they will pay me for it. They’ll have someone called an editor work with me to make it even better, and they’ll get their cover artists to design a nice cover for it, and they will be the ones who turn my story into a book and send it out to the bookshops for people to read.

This is how I send it to them [hold up manuscript] and this is what it looks like when the Publishers have done their stuff [hold up False Colors.] As you can see, it looks much prettier, but all the words inside are still my words, every single one of them.

So, that’s what an author does.

I have always had stories going on inside my head, and I already knew that I wanted to be an author when I was 11, but it’s a very difficult thing to get into, and unless you’re very lucky, it’s not something that you can make a living at. The person who wrote the Harry Potter books is very rich now, but most authors need to have another job too.

Also for a long time I thought that perhaps God wanted me to do something harder than writing. I thought he would much prefer it if I went out to the Congo as a missionary, or I devoted my life to ending hunger. I thought that God couldn’t possibly want me to do something that I was good at and I enjoyed, because how would that be any kind of proof that I loved him? I’d have to do something miserable, that I didn’t want to do, just to show him that I loved him.

I was very silly in those days. Nowadays, I realize that God gives people a special talent that they are good at, and that they are willing to practice and work at really hard, because they enjoy it – and he hopes that they will use it to do something good in the world.

For example, I write almost all of my books with gay heroes. When people grow up, they want to find someone to love and settle down with, someone to spend the rest of their lives with. Boys who grow up to fall in love with girls are called “straight”, and boys who grow up to fall in love with other boys are called “gay.”

Now it says in the Bible that God created all people in his own image – he created everything and he saw that it was good. So we know that God loves everybody the same, whether they’re straight or gay. But there are a lot of people in the world who get a bit silly the same way that I did, and they think that if you’re gay you should try not to be, in order to please God. This makes life quite hard for gay people, and other people use it as a chance to be mean and look down on gay people.

I don’t think that’s what God wants at all. So I write books with gay heroes because I don’t think it’s fair that only straight people should get to be heroes in books. Everyone needs to know that people like themselves can do exciting things and fight against evil, overcome all kinds of problems, fall in love and live happily ever after. And that’s something that I can tell my readers even when they might be feeling all alone.

I know that I have learned lots of wonderful things from books. When Gollum saves the world at the end of The Lord of the Rings, I learned how unexpectedly Bilbo’s mercy from the Hobbit – the fact that he felt sorry for Gollum, even though Gollum didn’t deserve it, and didn’t try to kill him after all – that tiny little act of compassion had lead to the entire world being saved. I always think I wouldn’t know nearly as much about good and bad if I hadn’t read The Lord of the Rings.

Books were often my best friends when I was growing up, because I was shy even then and I didn’t dare talk to people about things that were important to me. But I found books that showed me that there were other people like me in the world – that somewhere someone understood me. And that really helped.

So I like to think that being an author is quite an important thing after all, and that God knew what he was doing when he wanted me to do what I also wanted to do with my life. It would have been nice to feed the starving millions, but I was always rubbish at science, so I wouldn’t have done that very well. Probably there’s someone else who would do it better, and quite probably they would enjoy it more too.

I should probably finish by saying that if any of you already know that you have something you’re good at, and you enjoy, maybe you should think about how you can use that talent that God has given you in order to help make the world a kinder place. If you don’t know yet what you really want to do, that’s good too because there’s plenty of time, and plenty of opportunities that won’t even come your way for a while. But I think the one thing I learned was that God doesn’t want you to be miserable. Work is going to be a big part of your life, so pick something to do that you enjoy – if you can – because you’ll be happier, and you’ll do it better than anyone would who was only doing it because they had to.

Right. I think I’ve run out of things to say. Does anyone have any questions?


One of the things I’ve done an awful lot of recently was to read “How to be a self-published author” self-help books. The most recent was Marketing the Romance by Liam Livings. All of them seem to be in agreement that it’s important to market by genre. People buy by genre. Even people who like a particular author only read their books of the genre they like. I know this is true because I’m exactly the same.

And yet, for the past ten years I’ve tried to publish everything under the Alex Beecroft name, diluting my ‘brand’ to the point where nobody knew what to expect from me next.

Well, it’s never too late to improve!

I made a good start at detangling everything by at least writing cozy mystery under the Robyn Beecroft name, and now I’m going to continue that rationalization by separating out the SF/F novels under Alex Oliver.

This does mean that I’m going to be re-issuing some of my backlist under the new name. That should also give me a chance to re-edit them, tighten the storylines up, and maybe de-emphasize the romance.

So this should leave us with:

  • Alex Beecroft – gay romance
  • Robyn Beecroft – mystery
  • Alex Oliver – SF/F

I know in the past I’ve written books which were too much romance for the SF/F readers and too much SF/F for the romance readers, and therefore pleased nobody. So this should help me to know exactly what sort of a story I’m writing, and it will also hopefully let you know more accurately what sort of a story you’re buying.

Of course it lands me with yet another website to design and a whole load of books to rebrand, but I live for that sort of thing 😉

Every candle casts a light

aka “Do less, so that you can do more.”

If you read my last blog entry you’ll know that I’ve been going through something of a crisis recently. It’s been such an ongoing thing that I’ve decided to call it a mid-life crisis. I am in fact 54 this year, so I’m a bit overdue for one.

One of the things that has been afflicting me recently has been the knowledge that I will probably now never amount to anything. I’d better unpack that a little, so bear with me if I seem to be meandering.

You and I have been brought up on books, TV shows and movies where there is a hero. The hero, reluctant or not, is called upon to save the world. They meet various mentors. They refine themselves through various struggles. They meet their greatest challenge, face their foe and defeat them, and in the process they save the nation/world/galaxy and everyone in it.

People who model their understanding of the world on stories – ie, most people, but storytellers most of all – have therefore been primed to see their lives as a hero’s journey. I remember studying Dante’s Divine Comedy and learning that in Dante’s day, the great mass of people were considered so indistinguishable from each other that they didn’t even qualify for real Hell. In order to have an afterlife at all, you had to have achieved fame, or infamy. If you hadn’t done anything notable in your life, you literally didn’t matter even to God.

Elitist claptrap, right? But IDK. I had internalized the idea that everyone was the hero of their own story, and to me that meant that if I was a hero, I had to do something to justify my existence. In a dim and not very well thought out way, that meant I was responsible for the state of the world. Even though I had never voted conservative, I was responsible for the xenophobia and corruption of the government and the fact that my children were having things harder than I was at that age. Even though I was not even in America, I was somehow responsible for everything Trump was doing. Or I was responsible for saving everyone from it.

But that turned out to be more of a burden than I could carry. I ran into the wall of my own powerlessness and broke my nose on it. I’m not a bestselling author (except in certain small Amazon categories.) I can’t save the world. I don’t even know where I would start.

Perhaps it’s a little late in my life to be running into the knowledge that I’m only a very little person and there’s not a lot I can do, but I find myself without a story-framework for a life that is not the life of a hero. What is the point? I have been thinking. What’s the point of being alive at all if I can’t stop Trump, stop Brexit, make everyone be decent to each other? If I make no difference, what is the point?

Fast forward to this morning, and I was in church. Around the nave altar were four lit candles, and another four around the high altar. It occurred to me that a candle-flame is only a very little light, but it’s still a very beautiful thing. It may not be enough light on its own to illuminate a great big, dark, vaulted place like the church, but it will still glimmer from the brass and the gold leaf. Even if no candle-flame is larger than any of the others, each makes a light and the sum total of that light is greater than it would be if that single candle was not there.  With eight, twelve, twenty, a hundred candles, you have enough light to see, to read, to make a difference.

The loss of even one diminishes the whole, but no one candle is expected to light the whole room all by itself.

Recently I have found a lot of comfort in this saying from Rabbi Tarfon: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”

Time for another diversion. I’ve recently discovered that I actually enjoy exercise. Why has it taken me this long to find that out? Because for most of my life, I’ve been trying to do too much. I’ve gone to the gym or the pool and pushed myself to do as much as I possibly could, and then I’ve gone home feeling sick from over-exertion and got up the next morning so achy it took me a week to recover. After which I avoided going back for several years, certain that endorphins were a myth, or at least a thing that happened to other people, not to me.

Recently, however, I learned to start by doing less. I swam until I didn’t want to swim any more, then I went home and took anti-inflammatory painkillers so I didn’t stiffen up. Next time, I added two more lengths. Then again, building it up gradually so I never exhausted myself. In this way, I ended up doing less swimming per session than I had when I swam to exhaustion, but because I now was going often, I was doing way more swimming as a regular component of my lifestyle.

I call this the ‘do less in order to do more’ principle. If I do less, to the point where I can manage to do this thing on a regular basis, I am actually doing a lot more of it than I would be if I was intending to do an enormous amount of it, intimidating myself by the prospect, and eventually failing to do anything.

If I write 200 words a day, I am writing more than if I aim to write 2000 a day, fail, feel terrible about failing, and then avoid writing altogether for months.

And if I do something good to help the world – if, for example, I give money or time to a food bank, canvass for a decent political party, volunteer to help local LGBT kids or whatever I feel I can do on a regular, long term basis – that is better than feeling helpless to make everything better and doing nothing as a result.

I find this thought comforting. It is of more worth to the world for me to do the small things that I can do than it is for me to feel so overwhelmed and hopeless that I do nothing at all. Therefore I shall continue to do things.

(And if I do find the great amulet of doom, the casting of which into a fire will split open the dimensions and catapult us all into the good timeline, I’ll take it as far as I can. It may not be all the way.)