Saturday, August 31, 2013

a day off

After two sleepless nights I began yesterday morning anxious and tearful, but things improved. It’s amazing what a loving family, a good friend and two spirited grandsons can do for a person.
Zoe brought our grandsons to visit, and while Dave taught the older one to make a stained glass piece, I took the younger one on a super bike ride on the Trail, up through a tunnel, and then down to you-know-where for refreshment. That boy can get more ice-cream on his face than anyone I’ve ever met. But who cares, when he enjoys it as much as he does?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sue Hepworth is a ratbag - again

Sources close to Hepworth Towers say I’ve been grumpy and snappish, lately. This may be true. It’s sometimes hard to judge from the inside whether it’s you that is being irritable or whether other people are being particularly annoying and exasperating.

Whatever, I have been feeling stressed. At the height of tussles with Amazon and worries about the book, I saw an advert for a pot-washer in a local cafe, and it looked like an attractive option. I know, I know – I have no experience of being a PAID pot washer - but what I thought was – Oh, how restful, how undemanding -  a job with no decisions or anxieties. I’d be able to drift off into a quiet reflective reverie.

Junly2010 001

Yesterday afternoon, I filled in a US tax form concerning ebook sales on, and realised with horror that I’ll be contributing to America’s military aid to Israel. But it’s just as bad that my taxes over here are subsidising an arms industry exporting war and terror all over the world. Britain is the second largest exporter of weapons, which makes us complicit in wars all over the globe.

Yes, I know I said this is strictly a non-political blog, but sometimes, sometimes, the news is so awful, I just have to say something. You can be sure that Parliament isn’t listening to me, or any other voter.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


You’ve probably read here, or in one of my books, that the Derbyshire Peak District has millions of visitors a year, and is thought to be the second most visited National Park in the world.

This is never more apparent than on sunny Bank Holiday weekends. The tourists do tend to gather in hotspots, though, so it’s easy to find places where they aren’t.

Yesterday I cycled up the Monsal Trail very early before the visitors arrived. It was sunny and quiet and blissful.

On the way to the Trail -


A view from the Trail -


And another -


Sunday, August 25, 2013

An open invitation

Look what Lesley Draper – a journalist on the Sheffield Telegraph - tweeted about my book last night:


Yay! I am so chuffed!

Why don’t you come to my book launch for Plotting for Grown-ups at Hassop Station on Tuesday September 24th, 7 - 8.30 p.m ?

It would be great to see you.

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This is what’s on the back cover….

“At sixty you’re a dust bunny of society.”

But don’t let the b******s hoover you up. Stand up and fight!

On the eve of her sixtieth birthday, Sally Howe is hit by a double whammy – not only has her long-haul marriage ended, but her agent can’t find a publisher for her latest book, so it looks as if her writing career is also on the rocks. Although her best friend Wendy is scouring singles websites, and her brother Richard is obsessing over the Cupid Column, Sally is determined to avoid the dating inferno, resolving instead to stay single and to self-publish. But going it alone gets complicated when she tangles with irascible printer (hot-as-Daniel Craig) Kit Wyatt, a man with six Christmas trees and a fetish for Helvetica Neue Ultra Light. Wry and intelligent, Plotting for Grown-ups offers insights into what happens when you hit sixty and find yourself out in the world without a parachute.

The story is set in the Derbyshire Peak District.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why I will never make it big through social marketing (rewritten)

“Lucky old Charlotte Bronte, not having to consider her web presence, not having to bother with blogging and tweeting, not having to justify to her agent why she wouldn’t do Facebook.”   Sally Howe in Plotting for Grown-ups 

All the internet sites giving authors tips on how to market their books say you must get lots of followers on Twitter by following as many people as you can in the expectation that they will follow you - and then you sneak in subtle marketing for your book.

The experts say you mustn’t use Twitter like online advertising, as in “THIS IS MY BOOK! IT’S GREAT! WHY DONT YOU BUY IT?” or it puts people off. Well, it certainly puts me off when people do that.

The trouble with this strategy is that your twitterstream becomes cluttered with tweets from people you are not interested in, whom you are following only so that they will follow you. If I did this, it would take the pleasure out of Twitter.

I like Twitter for the occasional chats I have with friends and with people I have “met” on Twitter, and I also like it because I can follow my interests in writing, culture and politics, by following the links to interesting articles that people tweet about said topics.


If you are using it to market your book, you are advised to “engage” with your followers i.e. have conversations with them, reply to things they have said, retweet their tweets.

If you do this properly with hundreds of people it zaps your brain and take hours out of your days, days when you could be/should be writing or even doing normal things like living in real time in the real world – you know, like actually doing things with your body (such as walking, trying out recipes to find the perfect Bloody Mary, cycling, playing with your grandchildren, gardening, eating a curry with friends and laughing, playing table-tennis, knitting, playing the saxophone, sewing, visiting the sick, making jam, demonstrating against fracking or Israeli apartheid, etc, etc.).


I don’t want to waste my sunny days on a torrent of online blather in order to get peeps to buy my books. My sunny days are finite, and I’d rather have them than an exponentially burgeoning bank balance. Yes, I really would.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


OK, I am over my strop.

After my aggravation and outburst yesterday, I did a smidge of work and then bunked off with Dave down the Monsal Trail to Hassop Station Cafe, where we sat outside on the terrace and drank coffee and chatted in the warm sunshine. When I am 75 I shall walk down the Trail and have breakfast there. Then I’ll walk home and mess about. Then go down for lunch, walk home and mess about some more, and then cycle down for tea. Who needs to be a writer? Who needs to be a publisher?

An old friend came for the afternoon and we caught up on news of our respective families, and then at teatime I cycled up the Trail to my favourite thinking spot.

I climb over the fence and sit amongst the wild flowers and look at the view of wooded hills, limestone cliffs and the river below, and I listen to the silence. Then I feel whole.

A similar view from the Trail but not one with wild flowers…

may 2011 monsal trail 022

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Kafka-esque Amazon (with update)

I had an interesting post to write today about how I hate shopping, but now I am in too bad a mood.

I have had a lot of trouble with the listings of all my books on Amazon. When there’s a problem, you’re supposed to email their help people, if you can’t solve it yourself from their FAQ section. So I email them, and they tell me they have solved the problem and I check and they haven’t. So I email again. Actually, you know what? I’m not going to bore you with all of this. It’s bad enough that I have to go through it, and I am going through it on a daily basis.

But what happened last night is that after failing to solve the linking and listing problems, Amazon has now lost the listing of the paperback edition of Plotting for Grown-ups altogether. I can no longer find it on their site. It does not exist!  AAAAARRRGGGHHH.

They say they are looking into it.

They will get back to me.

They always do get back to me.

But you can bank on this – I am never, ever going to publish another paperback myself.

P.S. I just calmed myself down by reading Mary Oliver’s poem “For example.” I will not post it here. I will not breach her copyright. But I do recommend it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Truth vs Fiction

A friend asked the other day if Plotting for Grown-ups is autobiographical, and I said “Aren’t all my books?” and then, after mulling it over and realising the import of what I’d said, I hastily corrected myself -  “Well, in this book, just the stuff about publishing.”

So the easiest way to tell you how I felt on Friday when the books arrived is to give you a quote from  the book itself -

“Oh – almost forgot – I’ve got something in my car you might like.” He jumped up and went to his car and brought back a jiffy bag. I looked inside. It was my book! The approval copy of my beautiful book!

“Thank you! Thank you!” I shrieked. “Isn’t it fab? Isn’t it, oh, isn’t it...”

I stroked it and sniffed it and opened it and flicked it, and put it to my cheek to feel the smoothness and the newness, then I stroked it again and laid it carefully on the patio table on top of the jiffy bag. And then I flung my arms round his neck and kissed him as if I hadn’t seen him for weeks. (Which I hadn’t.)

“Well, I don’t know,” he said between kisses. “I tell you it’s ‘game on’ and you sit there as limp as a left-over lettuce leaf, only manage a smile as paltry as PG Tips, and speak in a voice as quiet as a mid-list novel, and then I give you a book and you more or less ravish me. I’ll make a note for future reference.”

Reader, I took the book to bed with me.

bedside books

Last night Isaac sent me this beautiful photo of Lux and Cece, which filled me with a different kind of joy.


Friday, August 16, 2013

no longer lost in space

book stack pfg

sue with pfg

Lost in space

The 400 books didn’t come.

Who knows where they are?

The one consolation – and it’s not insignificant - is that whatever went wrong is not my fault.

Watch this space (like me).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bullet points from Hepworth Towers

  • I will see the first FINISHED FINAL HARD copy of the paperback of Plotting for Grown-ups today. Scary or what? Actually I’ll see 400 of them. These are the ones I’ll be selling locally. The others are going to the warehouse.
  • You can pre-order your copy now from Amazon, or from the Book Depository and the latter gives you free worldwide postage and currently 25% off as well! Follow this link! 

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  • I have two cataracts, which explains why night driving has become so difficult, and maybe why proof-reading was such a pain this time around?
  • Dave and I are itching, but we can’t see any fleas. What has the cat brought in?
  • I can’t bear to open emails from Amazon Help any more because they are only sometimes helpful.
  • My niece has had her first baby – Arthur Frederick. I’m so happy for the proud parents.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rural backwaters

aug 05 045

You have no idea how great it was to be away from the book and the PR for the book and the lawns that need mowing and the bathroom that needs cleaning and the list of jobs on my desk, at the top of which was RING PLUSNET.

Plusnet is our broadband and phone provider. They’ve been great for 4 years but lately we’ve been getting slower speeds as well as disconnections. I can never, ever, ever find the wallet file that contains our Plusnet contract and our scribbled password. After ten minutes of charging between Dave’s filing cabinet upstairs and mine downstairs I rang them anyway and after Dave had been hauled out of the bath to have a miraculously successful stab at the password, and to say it was OK for them to speak to me (the contract is in his name) a calm tech support chap with a soothing manner explained that we probably need a new router.

So that’s what we’re trying. But we are never going to get a download speed greater than 8mbps, because that’s all the village exchange will support. That’s living in the sticks for you.

The next thing on the list is to source some strong, clean cardboard boxes in which to store the 400 copies of PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS that will be arriving here tomorrow dressed in nothing but shrink wrap. (The majority of the books are going to the warehouse, and storing them there is not my problem.)

Friday, August 09, 2013


I’m going to Wensleydale for a few days  with my big sister. See you next week.

lady hill at sunset

bolton castle in the distance

may08 230

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

For publishing geeks…a long story about perfection, and more haste less speed

The last five days have been devoured by book production issues. (The paperback edition of Plotting for Grown-ups.)

A piece of advice for self-publishers – never, ever send a book cover design to the printer unless you have seen a hard copy and approved it. Things look so different on the screen to how they look on paper, and I’m not just talking about the colour.

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If you are foolish enough to do this you may end up agreeing that it is fine when it’s really not, because your head is muzzy and your eyes are sore, because you’ve spent the last three days proof-reading, discovering tiny glitches in formatting in the text that you never noticed before, and you’ve been worrying about how much it will cost to get the printer to make alterations in the text at this late stage. Does it really matter that for some reason Neighbours is not italicised(Neighbours) as it should be? and does it matter that several of your co-author’s apostrophes are lurking in the text –(her apostrophes being straight and yours being curly)? or that a page which is a list of bullet points has weirdly appeared in Lucida Sans and not Palatino Linotype?  – will Jo Public notice?????

Wondering how the hell it happened is a luxury you don’t have time for.

For the record, I went for the perfection option. (Despite the motto Dave gave me – Perfection is our aim. We must learn to tolerate excellence.) It costs £8 per page alteration on a print-ready proof, but £21 if you supply the printer with a brand new PDF. I did the latter.

Then I spent a sleepless night fretting over the cover because I’d realised that someone in a bookshop with no reading glasses would have difficulty reading the back cover text. By  3 a.m. I’d decided on the perfection option again. It’s bloody expensive being a perfectionist. It’s also expensive NOT thinking clearly and taking things slowly and dealing with each issue properly the first time round.

The nice friendly buffer between me and the guys in the print room told me that the printer had already made the plate for the cover but had not pushed the button yet, so it was not too late. But it would cost me


for them to make a brand new plate. I went for that option, and fortunately the lovely, patient and skilful Juliet Arthur, graphic designer to the stars (well, me and some others) was available and willing to make the changes. Her cheque will be in the post today.

So last night I slept.

I’ll worry about my mounting costs another day.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Book cover blues

I am wrestling with book production issues, and a bad night and a bad headache, and lists and lists of PR jobs, not to mention 6lbs of blackcurrants in the fridge awaiting their sticky fate. When I am less beleaguered, I will blog.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Real life? Fiction? There’s so often a confusion

From Plotting for Grown-ups, written last year…

I asked Richard again what the woman looks like. “What colour hair does she have?”


“Is she fat or thin?”


"Does she have a weird nose?"


Absolutely hopeless. It’s a good job the woman isn’t a criminal with Richard expected to give an eyewitness account to the police.

From real life at Hepworth Towers last week…

Sue: What does he look like?

Dave: I have no idea.

Sue: You spent four hours with him! What does he look like?

Dave: Really – I haven’t a clue.

Sue: What colour is his hair – is he dark or blond? Is he tall or small? Does he have a fat face? A flat face? You must remember something.

Dave: He has a blue anorak.


Friday, August 02, 2013

And another reason…

….for liking grandchildren, is that they tell you you look “epic” in your new rock chick sunglasses.


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Schedules pop out of nowhere

I’m sitting in bed relishing the fact that nothing is scheduled today until 2 p.m. Dave is in the shed and the house is quiet, though there’s a crow outside, making a fuss about something.
On Tuesday I was sitting at my desk with a day of work ahead of me, fretting over the new estimate from the printer, increased because there are more pages in Plotting for Grown-ups than I originally told them. Then the phone rang and it was the family member who declines to be named, wanting to come out for the day. Unscheduled - but who cares? It was so nice to see them.
Yesterday I was planning on working, but then Zoe was ill so I said I’d have Tate and Gil for the day. What a treat. I never thought I would be a doting grandmother. It’s taken me by surprise: ten years ago I thought women who droned on about their grandchildren were sad creatures and should get a life. Now I see that being with grandchildren IS life.

When I tell people that we have two grand-daughters in California, they usually say “Isn’t Skype wonderful?” and I say “Yes.” And it is when it works. But so often we get cut off. Yesterday, we managed to sing Happy Birthday to Lux, and then we got cut off. Connected again, I saw Lux with my present, about to open it, and we got cut off. It was precious to see her excited and happy, but the whole episode – after so many disconnections – left me feeling bereft. I never thought I would miss a granddaughter. I never thought I’d be sad I couldn’t be with her on her birthday. But aren’t I lucky to have any grandchildren at all?
Lux with her cake -
lux birthday 1
Cece -
cece aug 13